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Old 11-04-2006, 01:51 PM   #1
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Boxed Mixes (convenience food) - how do you feel about them?

I'm referring to boxed mixes such as for rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. I'm not a big fan of prepared mixes. I will say I like Zatarain's (Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice for example). I've cooked these items from scratch and they take a ton of ingredients and lots of prep work. Zatarain's mixes actually taste good (although as with anything along these lines the sodium content is too high).

I tend to draw the line at trying any boxed mix which contains powdered cheese (shudder). My mom didn't like to cook but she didn't subject us to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. (Granted, she used Velveeta but it still beat powdered cheese by a mile IMHO.)

I make au gratin potatoes or scalloped potatoes from scratch. Same thing with mashed potatoes. There's just something funky about dehydrated potato flakes. I can make my own broccoli & cheese rice without buying a packet or a box. The price of broccoli where I live has been outrageous the last couple of years but frozen florets (not the block of chopped broccoli) can often be had, two 16 oz. bags for a dollar and they work just fine in a rice dish that has to simmer 20 minutes anyway.

What say you?

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Old 11-04-2006, 02:18 PM   #2
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I hate pre-prepared, boxed meals/food, full stop. I notice that I always feel slow and overloaded and yet hungry after eating it. As my mother has got older and cooks less she relies on it and we bicker about that because I think it correlates with her bouts of ill health. I loved "Smashed" potato when I was a kid, but its the real thing or nothing for me nowadays. I consider take outs a huge concesion to my regime, and the occasional pudding,but boxed meals or sides, NO WAY!

edited to add: I do use canned consomme and the occasioanal thing, so I guess I am more mouth than trousers, but I do TRY and stick to cooking from scratch most of the time.
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Old 11-04-2006, 02:27 PM   #3
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Fraidy, I say they're OK. I like the convenience, frankly. Some days there's been just too much going on to do otherwise.

I use Zatarain's fairly regularly when I need to use up leftover bits and pieces of pork, chicken, or beef.

I'm with you on the potatoes, thing, though. Taters seems to be so cheap and the prep work so minimal that it's silly not to make your own. Although some folks like to have the box of potato flakes around for thickening soups and sauces and whatnot.

Yeah, powdered cheese is kind of skanky, but so what? We all have skanky nights in the kitchen and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

I say whatever works for you is what you should do. Those who have the time to do every little bit from scratch are fine people but with more time than I have every night.
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Old 11-04-2006, 02:36 PM   #4
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I have to admit that I am a BIG Zatarains fan. No, I'm not using it constantly, but it tastes fresh, is never too salty, & is a great way to toss together a quick meal. Adding some cooked chicken thighs, andouille sausage, & fresh okra to either the Gumbo or Jambalaya mixes yields a wonderful one-pot meal; the yellow rice is a nice base for a sauteed seafood mix; the rice & bean mixes go wonderfully with plain roasted chicken; and the new French Market Vegetable mix makes a terrific base for scampi or any type of meat or fish stew.

As far as other brands, I've definitely slacked off. Once in a blue moon I'll buy a "Spanish Rice" mix or a packet of pasta mix in a pinch, but those times are far & few between. As far as the potato mixes, I tried one once, many years ago, & just didn't find it good enough to try again.

I'm not a big fan of processed foods, but do admit that I do enjoy Zatarains' products. When I use them, I just consider it a slightly healthier "fast food" - lol!!!!
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Old 11-04-2006, 02:43 PM   #5
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I don't use many processed foods, HOWEVER, they are good in a pinch. I'm not a purist and sometimes I want something I'm not willing to spend hours making.
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by licia
I don't use many processed foods, HOWEVER, they are good in a pinch. I'm not a purist and sometimes I want something I'm not willing to spend hours making.
No joke! If you've ever made Paul Prudhomme's Red Beans & Rice from scratch you appreciate the convenience of Zatarain's all the more! The ingredients list is something like (without my getting out the cookbook to check) 28 items! And the prep time, sheesh!

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Old 11-04-2006, 03:13 PM   #7
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jeez, Fraidy - I'd have to put red beans and rice in the Easy category in my house. Throw a bunch of stuff into a pot and walk away and watch a football game or something. Stir at halftime.

I'll try to dig up my recipe for you if you want.
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:20 PM   #8
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FraidKnot - I COMPLETELY agree with you!!! (And Mudbug - yes I HAVE - quite frequently made authentic from scratch beans & rice dishes.)

But you know - I have 7 horses, 4 dogs (3 of which are old & incontinent), 5 cats (again several of which are old & on their way out), an attention-demanding cockatoo, & a tank of fish to take care of. Not to mention household duties & a husband whose evening arrival time can be anywhere within a 4-hour range.

It's far far easier for me to dump a box of Zatarains into a pot for 20-25 minutes & be done with it than go thru the regular business. I'm not at all saying that Zatarains compares to the "by scratch" method - but for some of us it really does make a nice meal when we need one in a minute.

To each his own. : )
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:23 PM   #9
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Oh, absolutely, Breezy. I usually make from-scratch beans and rice on a weekend, when I've got the time to stir. As I said, I use Zat's a lot (during the week). And to repeat something I also said - those who have the time to do it all from scratch don't have the issues you identified.
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Old 11-04-2006, 06:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lulu
I hate pre-prepared, boxed meals/food, full stop. I notice that I always feel slow and overloaded and yet hungry after eating it. As my mother has got older and cooks less she relies on it and we bicker about that because I think it correlates with her bouts of ill health. I loved "Smashed" potato when I was a kid, but its the real thing or nothing for me nowadays. I consider take outs a huge concesion to my regime, and the occasional pudding,but boxed meals or sides, NO WAY!

edited to add: I do use canned consomme and the occasioanal thing, so I guess I am more mouth than trousers, but I do TRY and stick to cooking from scratch most of the time.
My view is pretty close to Lulu's. I'm a little puzzled by the references to red beans and rice. Granted it takes a little time if you start with dried beans but it is really a simple meal made on wash day using Sunday's ham bone. It might get a little time consuming if you made tasso or andouille specifically for this dish, but that would be kind of like making cheddar for mac and cheese.

I enjoyed the "more mouth than trousers" phrase. I'm guessing it is the British equivalent to "big hat, no cattle."

I have some dehydrated cheese that I intend to use in cheese crackers so I'm not really a purist either.
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