Strawberry Arugula Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette and Amy’s Frozen Dinners–Episode 2

Hello my name is Debra, and I serve my family frozen dinners. In Episode 2 you see how I jazz up two frozen entrees of Amy’s macaroni and cheese and lasagna by adding a bit of fresh grated cheese, and prepare a strawberry arugula salad and homemade balsamic vinaigrette to serve alongside them. First, let me share the ingredients for the salad and dressing, then I’ll talk more about the frozen dinners!

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

(Serves 2)

4 large handfuls of pre-washed Arugula

2-3 large Strawberries, sliced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss.

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette 

3 Tablespoons Light Olive Oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Combine ingredients in a mini Tupperware-type container that has a spill-proof lid. Shake vigorously to mix. Drizzle over salad.

I think what “makes” a dressing this simple is the quality of the balsamic; try to find one that’s rich, dark, viscous-y, and a touch sweet. You can also replace the balsamic with different styles of vinegar, or try lemon or lime juice instead for a refreshing flavor.

Now, lest you think frozen dinners are simply too much of a cheat in the semi-homemade vein, here are three reasons why I love frozen dinners, particularly the ones made by Amy’s Kitchen.

  1. They’re quick. This is the leading reason I choose frozen meals, in moderation. Having a stack of these in the freezer means a few nights a week, we don’t even have to think or plan what we’re having–and that’s very helpful (necessary, even) given our busy schedules. We just decide “Let’s do Amy’s” and go to the freezer well and pick whatever flavors we’re in the mood for. It’s simple, and clean-up is a breeze. 
  2. They’re portion-controlled. If I were to cook a pan of, say, lasagna, I would definitely eat more than the amount I’m supposed to eat (don’t we all?!). Let’s be honest: Over the course of a few days, I would probably polish off the WHOLE PAN eating it for lunch, dinner, and snacks (this might have happened to a certain bechamel lasagna we’ve made with each of my pregnancies). Seeing as that I like my jeans to fit, I sometimes prefer knowing an indulgent meal like lasagna or macaroni and cheese ends with a single serving. Buying individual frozen entrees, I know I’m eating a max of 380 or 420 calories, respectively.
  3. They’re tasty. Amy’s Kitchen Organic is one of my favorite brands of frozen meals (and other packaged foods). I like that they’re organic and have a good selection of low-sodium and ethnic flavors. Some of our favorite varieties include the low-sodium Vegetable Lasagna and Macaroni and Cheese seen in the show, Enchilada Meal, Cheese Tamale, Paneer Tikka, Palak Paneer, Mattar Paneer, Broccoli and Cheddar Bowl (this one’s gluten free). I also LOVE the eggplant parmesan by Trader Joe’s. On the average night, I don’t have time to cook any of these–unless we’re talking about heating an already cooked version in the oven.

P.S. I know it takes longer, but I do like to cook my frozen dinners in the oven. I think it tastes so much better than in the microwave!

Are you a frozen dinner fan? I’d love know your faves!

Photo: Lauren Hunter

Shredded Rosemary Chicken Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette – From Episode 1

Easiest way to reinvent the roasted chicken we made in Episode 1? Throw it on a salad. A quick note about salads: I tend to like mine with fewer ingredients. I generally think less is more– in food and in life– and I find salads with too many flavor profiles to be less enjoyable. Second, it’s laziness! You know I do my best to eat a salad-type-thing each day, but it takes a long time to chop up those vegetables! I’m much more likely to make it happen if I’ve only got 3-4 to cut up, instead of say, 7-8.

Shredded Rosemary Chicken SaladShredded Rosemary Chicken Salad

(Serves 2-4)

1 ½ cups (eyeball it) Cooked and shredded Lemon Rosemary Chicken

1 box prewashed Spring Mix

1 large carrot, chopped

Red or Vidalia onion, sliced

Red pepper, julienned

Grape tomatoes, quartered

Crumbled Feta cheese

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and serve.

If you want to be a bit jazzier in terms of presentation, you can arrange the toppings in groups of like items on the bed of lettuce, like the “pie chart” style shown here.

Simplest Balsamic Vinaigrette Ever

3 Tablespoons Light Olive Oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Combine ingredients in a mini Tupperware-type container that has a lid. Shake vigorously to mix. Toss with salad. That’s it!

A couple notes: I actually prefer light oil to extra virgin for dressings because it’s a milder flavor and less heavy on the veggies. Also, this dressing is all about the balsamic. I’ve tried a zillion kinds and my favorite is the Barrel Aged kind by Wine Country Kitchens. I don’t love vinegary flavor, but this one is sweet and thick and has just the right amount of tang. It basically makes the dressing—and is well worth the $10 per bottle. If you don’t have that one available, look for one that has a rich, dark, caramel color and almost viscous-looking consistency (not too thin) at the grocery store.

Photo by Lauren Hunter