Thursday, February 28, 2013

Habanero-Cheddar Bread Pudding

I love having breakfast for dinner. Actually, I could easily have breakfast foods at every single meal (and on somedays, I do). So when Quirk Books asked me if I'd like to review a copy of Lindsay Landis' and Taylor Hackbarth's (of Love and Olive Oil's) new cookbook, "Breakfast for Dinner," I quickly said yes.

The cookbook itself is beautiful - a hardcover chocked full of gorgeous photos, featuring innovative and more traditional breakfast dishes. Recipe variations and cooking tips are also provided along the way. Some recipes that immediately caught my eye were the Pizza Over Easy, Savory Lentil & Carrot Stuffed Crepes, and the Rosemary & Olive Oil Scones. The book also features some drink and dessert recipes, including Grapefruit Herb Sodas and a Bananas Fosters Crepe Cake.

I also love how the cookbook devotes a page to the authors' three favorite ways to poach eggs. As someone who has yet to attempt the intimidating task, their tips made the process seem much easier. 

Last weekend, my family came over for brunch, and I knew I wanted to make something from Breakfast for Dinner. Since I was cooking for a crowd, I decided to go with the Habanero-Cheddar Bread Pudding, but changed a few ingredients to use up what I already had on hand (see revisions in recipe below).

Habanero-Cheddar Bread Pudding
Yields: 6-8 servings
From Breakfast for Dinner (my revisions are marked in parentheses)
-1 (10-12 ounce) loaf day-old French bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 9 cups)
-1 poblano pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered (I used two small Anaheim chilis)
-1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
-1 large yellow onion, chopped (I used a white onion)
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-4 slices of prosciutto, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces (I obviously skipped this ingredient altogether)
-1 habanero pepper, cored, seeded, and minced (I used 8 jarred jalapeno slices)
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 ounces), divided
-5 large eggs
-2 1/2 cups whole milk
-1/2 teaspoon salt (I also added black pepper)
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1.) Preheat broiler to high. Spread bread cubes in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. (I used the same baking sheet, to cut down on dishes). Broil, 1 sheet at a time, until bread is toasted and lightly golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with second sheet. Transfer toasted cubes to a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
2.) Arrange poblanos (or Anaheim chilis) on a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil until skin starts to blister and darken. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, and then roughly chop.
3.) Turn oven temperature to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add prosciutto (if using) and habaneros (or jalapenos) and cook until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Finally, add roasted poblanos (or Anaheim chilis) and toss to incorporate. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.
4.) Sprinkle onion mixture evenly over bread cubes, followed by 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt (and pepper), and oregano and pour over bread mixture. Toss to combine. (I also added a little extra salt and pepper to the pan after tossing). Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top.
5.) Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until top of pudding is puffed and golden brown and center is set. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

My brother, who rarely admits my cooking is good, admitted he liked this dish. The small variations I made were probably not enough to make a big difference from the original recipe, either. This will definitely become my new go-to brunch recipe for when we have a larger group over!

Plus, what can be bad about baking cheese, bread, and peppers together? Absolutely nothing.

Do you like having breakfast for dinner?

I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook, but the opinions expressed in this post are 100 percent my own.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Brunch at The Blue Room

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining The Boston Brunchers for a late brunch at The Blue Room in Kendall Square. Normally $27 per person ($13 for kids 12 and younger), this buffet-style brunch, featuring local, quality ingredients, is one that's not to be missed.

Our small group had to wait a few minutes for a table, and while we waited, we sipped on these delightful gin fizz creations. Despite it snowing/raining outside, the cold cocktail was a welcome refresher.

Once we were seated, our waitress explained that we could go up to the buffet anytime. The buffet was set-up along the restaurant's open kitchen, so you could see your food being made right in front of you. The Blue Room's buffet options are also put out in small batches, so your food is fresh, hot, and not chocked full of other patrons' germs (a pet peeve of mine at typical buffets).

The buffet had a wide variety of meat- and veg-friendly options to choose from. I tried a little bit of everything veg-friendly.

My favorites: Patatas Bravas, Spicy Tomato Soup, Marinated Beets, and the white beans (I forget the name of this dish). The beans were full of flavor, and had a luxurious texture to them. Each dish was also extremely well-seasoned - I almost always add black pepper to my restaurant plates, but this plate didn't need any.

My only gripe: The Iggy's roll I tried was really hard to bite into. It was chewier than it should have been, despite it not yet being stale. It was disappointing - I love my carbs, and the roll would have been a nice accompaniment to the rest of the meal. 

Next up was dessert, and The Blue Room also has a small, buffet-style table set-up for their sweet offerings.

Close-up of the Homemade Granola.

Despite the wide variety of treats to choose from, I sampled only a few, including the Flourless Chocolate Cake, Apple Cinnamon Muffins, Orange Anise Biscotti, and a Meyer Lemon Scone.

I loved the Flourless Chocolate Cake the most. It was incredibly moist, and packed with a rich, delightfully bitter dark chocolate flavor. I also loved how the biscotti only had a hint of the usually intense anise flavor. 

Around dessert time, Chef Robert Grant came out and presented the beautiful Black Currant Pain Perdu he made for our table.

I'm not sure if this is currently on their menu - their options change often to utilize the freshest, most seasonal ingredients - but this was a damn good dish. It reminded me of an Entenmann's Danish (which I loved as a kid), but much, much, much better. And not chocked full of preservatives.

I had only been to The Blue Room once before, for dinner, but I am so happy I had the opportunity to check it out for brunch, too. The wide variety of food options, use of local, seasonal ingredients, and a "clean" buffet (I've been to one too many "unclean" buffets) makes The Blue Room a fantastic choice for a lazy weekend brunch.

Are you a fan of buffet brunches? Where have you had a good (or bad) buffet brunch? 

My meal and drink were complimentary, but the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own. 

Blue Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hippie Joes

Whenever we walk down the organic aisle at the grocery store, Z asks - out loud - why we're in the "hippie aisle." Despite the fact that we actually buy quite a few items from the organic aisle each week (the affordable items, at least),  he still feels the need to poke fun at it. 

As a result of his teasing, I thought "hippie" was the perfect play on words for these lentil "sloppy joes." They're definitely tasty, sloppy, and incredibly filling, but they're also a "crunchy granola" version of the original dish. I came up with this recipe Friday night, after researching a bunch of different recipes online, and it was a big hit with Z and our good friend, Dave (an omnivore). 

Hippie Joes
Yields: 4 servings
-1 cup uncooked lentils
-4 cups water
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-6-8 jarred roasted peppers (or 1 bell pepper), chopped
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-2 tablespoons chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-1/4 cup ketchup
-2 tablespoons maple syrup
-1/2 teaspoon mustard
-4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
-4 slices pepper jack cheese (optional)
-Bread and butter pickle slices, for garnish (optional)

1.) Place lentils and water in a small sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
2.) Heat the olive oil in a medium-size sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onion until softened, about 5-7 minutes (if you're using bell pepper, add that in with the onion). Add the roasted peppers and garlic and saute one minute more. Add the cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and ketchup; stir. Lower heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
3.) Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through. Turn the heat off and let sit for about 5-10 minutes.
4.) Serve lentil mixture on toasted hamburger buns, garnished with pepper jack cheese and pickle slices (optional). 

The sweet maple syrup combined with the tangy hint of mustard, salty ketchup, and spicy chili powder really helped to make these hippie joes a winning dish. I also loved the varying textures from the onions, peppers, and hearty lentils. This is also one of those meals where the leftovers are even better the next day, because the flavors have had even more time to fall in love with one another. 

Despite the fact that, all day Friday, I had this song in my head...


...I'd say this was one winner of a meal in our house.

(Bonus: I used the leftover lentils we had from this soup to make these Hippie Joes).

Where do you do your grocery shopping? We alternate between Shaw's and Trader Joe's.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cucumber-Dill Gin Fizz

Most people share cocktail recipes on Fridays. I don't know about you, but the day I tend to need a cocktail the most is Monday. 

Now that I work for myself, I love Mondays. They mark the start of another [hopefully] productive week, five new days of new opportunities. But I also tend to pack Mondays with a lot of work and writing assignments. Why I do that to myself, I'll never know, but by the time I'm done with my work on Mondays, I'm ready for a drink.

Last week, I asked my Facebook and Twitter peeps what kind of cocktail they would make with dill simple syrup (I had leftover dill in the freezer, and decided to make simple syrup with it). A lot of you had some fantastic suggestions (thank you!), and, as a result, this cocktail was born.

Cucumber-Dill Gin Fizz
Yields: 2 cocktails
Dill Simple Syrup:
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup water
-1/3 cup fresh dill 
-5 peeled cucumber slices (plus extra for garnish)
-Pinch of granulated sugar
-2 tablespoons lime juice
-3 ounces gin
-1 ounce dill simple syrup 
-Ice cubes
-Club soda

Directions (Dill Simple Syrup):
1.) Place sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Right as mixture begins to boil, add dill, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved completely.
2.) Strain simple syrup into an airtight container (discard dill leaves), and keep in fridge for 3-4 days.

Directions (Cocktail):
1.) Place cucumber slices in a cocktail shaker with sugar and lime juice; muddle with a wooden spoon. Add gin and simple syrup, and shake for 1 minute.
2.) Fill a glass (we used whiskey glasses) with ice; fill each glass halfway with the gin mixture. Top off each glass with club soda. Stir, and garnish with a cucumber slice.

The fresh cucumber with the subtle hint of dill - mixed with the bright flavor of the lime juice - made this one refreshing and somewhat savory cocktail. The sweetness from the simple syrup also helped to calm the typically strong flavors of the dill and gin. I will be making this cocktail a lot in the future, especially once the summer is here!

Unfortunately, I don't have any leftover for tonight, but I'm sure I'll manage to still end this day with a strong drink. You should, too. Because why wait until Friday?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bruegger's Bagels 30th Anniversary

On Tuesday evening, I went to Bruegger's Bagels in Melrose to help celebrate the national chain's 30th anniversary. As part of the celebration, myself and a small group of bloggers had the privilege of learning all about Bruegger's, straight from their executive chef, Philip Smith, himself.

We learned a lot about Bruegger's this evening - and even got a tour of the Melrose walk-in freezer and kitchen - so I am going to sum up the main takeaways that I learned from Chef Philip for you.

#1: The coffee.

Bruegger's coffee is made from a wide variety of high-grown Arabica beans, handpicked and roasted to smooth deliciousness. I tried the French Toast flavor at this event, and was pleasantly surprised at it's obvious maple flavor, without being overly sweet.

#2: The bagels.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bruegger Bites.

Bruegger's bagels are made in-house at all of their 300 locations across the United States. Made with just five ingredients - flour, water, malt, yeast, and salt - these bagels are only served fresh. Since they don't contain any preservatives, they don't last very long (a Bruegger's bagel can get stale in just 3-4 hours).

So, what does Bruegger's do with any leftover, stale bagels? They do sell them in "day old" packages for a discount, but they also suggest recipes for those hardening bagels. Chef Philip shared one of his recipes with us bloggers on Tuesday night: a decadent Smoked Salmon and Dill Strata, containing his signature plain bagels, Chive and Onion Cream Cheese, and Bruegger's smoked salmon.

#3: The bakers.

Bakers like this one stick their hands in 400 degree ovens all day, every day to ensure you have fresh bagels:

Bruegger's in-house bakers are hand-selected and trained in the Bruegger's artisan style. Each bagel is kettle-boiled and baked in a stone hearth oven in small batches. As a result, the bagels have a crisp shell and soft, chewy center.

#4: Executive Chef Philip Smith.

Chef Philip has been with Bruegger's for 11 years, and it's obvious he is passionate about his bagels. Philip is constantly testing and developing new recipes, including everything from salads and sandwiches, to soups and new cream cheese flavors. He takes his ingredients seriously, too: everything from the sesame seeds on his bagels to the raisins and cinnamon in his cinnamon raisin bagels (his recipe ensures you get a plump raisin in every bite), it's clear that this guy cares about what you're eating at his restaurants.

#5: The cream cheese.

Bruegger's direct set cream cheese comes exclusively from Franklin Foods in Vermont (the same state where Bruegger's is headquartered), and is made with pure, fresh milk and real ingredients. ("Direct set" means they use natural organic acids to "directly" set the cheese). For example, Chef Philip explained that his Garden Veggie is made with all fresh vegetables and no preservatives so you get a crispy veggie in every bite. Each year, Bruegger's sells more than 2 1/2 million pounds of its cream cheese.

In addition to bagels and cream cheese, Bruegger's also sells a variety of salads and sandwiches (guests can make up their own of either, too), as well as soups.

Although I was impressed overall with Bruegger's dedication to fresh, quality food, I was more pleased with how the company gives back. In addition to simply not being wasteful (for instance, they cut their bagels into thirds for their Skinny Bagels, and save the middle slices for samples), the company also donates to their communities. Across the nation, Bruegger's works with their customers to support local non-profits in their communities, and they support local children's hospitals across the U.S. through local and national fundraisers throughout the year (including Boston Children's Hospital). Pretty neat, right?

As a bonus, it was also great to meet a few new (to me) bloggers, and to also catch up with some familiar faces, like Lisa. I also finally got to meet Sues from We are not Martha, after many months/years of tweeting and reading each other's blogs!

For a company that started in a garage, I'd say Bruegger's has come a long way over 30 years. I also love how they never "sold out." They really stayed true to what they're good at it, which is bagels. Chef Philip also never found it necessary to meet the demand by packing his products with long-lasting preservatives. That alone is admirable, and will make me a customer for as long as I love bagels (in other words, for life).

Have you ever been to Bruegger's before? If so, what's your favorite thing to order? Personally, I love the Rosemary Olive Oil bagel with Garden Veggie cream cheese!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Easy Tomato Sauce

Growing up, my aunt used to make us homemade tomato sauce almost every time we went to her house for dinner. I remember how the smell of the sauce, bubbling away on the stove, greeted us every time we visited her. And the taste was nothing like the jars of Prego and Ragu we consumed at home. 

The other night, I randomly found myself craving my aunt's tomato sauce. She unfortunately isn't in my life anymore to get her recipe, and I'm assuming her version took a lot longer to make, but the taste of this simplified version brought me back to her dinner table. 

Easy Tomato Sauce
Yields: 3-4 servings 
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
-1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
-1/2 teaspoon dried basil
-Pinch of crushed red pepper
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) In a large saucepan over medium to low heat, heat olive oil. Add tomatoes (without puree - reserve puree for later) and break down with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree and seasonings.
2.) Reduce heat to low and semi-cover the saucepan with a lid. Allow the sauce to cook for 45 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally. (If sauce is too chunky for your liking after cooking, puree with a hand blender).

It really doesn't get much easier than this. Just make sure you use good quality whole tomatoes (I used San Marzano - they were on sale at Shaw's, and I had read in other recipes that they're the best for homemade sauce). 

This ended up being an incredibly easy way to enjoy the taste of homemade tomato sauce, and it was nice to reminisce about all of those delicious dinners at my aunt's house. 

What do you call it: red sauce, marinara, spaghetti sauce, something else? Growing up, we always called it spaghetti sauce, but I think tomato sauce is more appropriate for this recipe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cold-Fighting Lentil Soup

This past weekend was what I'd call an "ideal weekend." Lots of relaxing, hanging with friends and family, and eating delicious food (with a little productivity mixed in). We went to a concert (and Falafel Corner) Friday night, met up with friends at Stoddard's Saturday night, and watched a ton of TED Talks and "Shameless" on Sunday. Yesterday, we both did a little work before getting a new TV stand for our office, and gorging on Stone Hearth Pizza.

My friend Lisa and I at Stoddard's.

The beer I drank while watching "Shameless" (highly recommend this brew).

Our new TV stand and TV - we used to have a giant armoire in its place.

Despite having such a lovely weekend, Z and I are both getting over colds. Mine's been lingering for a solid 1 1/2 weeks, and Z's showed up a few days ago. On Valentine's Day, Z requested some kind of lentil soup for dinner, so that's what we had - but I made sure to pack the soup with a ton of cold-fighting nutrients, too. 

Cold-Fighting Lentil Soup
Yields: 8 servings
Adapted from Real Simple
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 yellow onion, diced
-1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
-6 cups water or low-sodium vegetable stock (I used 2 cups stock, 4 cups water)
-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
-1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
-1/2 cup brown lentils
-Dried thyme
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Salt and black pepper
-Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

1.) Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.
2.) While the tomatoes cook, heat the sweet potatoes, in batches, in the microwave for 3 minutes per batch. (This will help prevent the potatoes from having the texture of rocks; I find the potatoes take much longer to cook than the lentils).
3.) Add 6 cups water/stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
4.) Spoon into bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese, if using.

This soup is very similar to my Hearty Kale, Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup, but this version's much more packed with vegetables. It also made a bigger batch, and I love the simplicity of flavors in this version. Z and I both definitely felt healthier after a big bowl of this!

Have you come down with a cold yet this winter? I feel like I'm catching a cold every two weeks this year!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vegan Potato Tacos

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day! We kept our's low-key and enjoyed dinner at home, washed down with some locally-made Idle Hands beer. After dinner we played Mad Libs (I know, we're nerds) and watched "Archer." Perfection.

The night before Valentine's Day, however, we decided to recreate one of our favorite dishes from Five Horses Tavern: potato tacos. These are seriously addicting, and I've been wanting to make my own at home ever since I first tried them...probably about a year ago. Thankfully, I can say these turned out to be a huge success at home, and just as dangerously addictive.

Vegan Potato Tacos
Yields: About 8 tacos
-2 Russet potatoes, chopped
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-Chili powder
-Dried oregano
-Salt and black pepper
-8 flour tortillas
-1/2 cup of white bean hummus (we used Eat Well Enjoy Life's version)
-2 avocados, sliced
-Balsamic vinegar and chili pepper oil (or regular olive oil)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange potatoes evenly on a baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and spices; stir. Roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so to ensure even browning. The potatoes are done when browned and fork tender. Sprinkle with a little bit more salt as soon as potatoes come out of the oven.
2.) Warm the tortillas in a microwave. Spread about 1 tablespoon of white bean hummus on each tortilla; top hummus with avocado slices. Place potatoes on top of avocado, and drizzle very lightly with Balsamic vinegar and chili pepper oil.
3.) Devour.

[Print this recipe]

Trust me: The drizzle of vinegar makes these tacos. I originally didn't include them on our tacos, but Z and I both agreed something was missing (and Five Horses uses an herb vinegar on their tacos). I don't know what it is, but the vinegar is necessary.

Crispy potatoes, creamy avocado and hummus, tangy vinegar...I'm literally drooling as I type. Thank god we have leftovers.

How was your Valentine's Day? Did you go out, or did you stay in this year?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Current Obsession: Hummus, as a Condiment

It's no secret that I'm a hummus fan, but I don't just enjoy it as a dip.

In fact, I eat hummus just about my sandwich at lunch. I'm sure you've all heard of hummus sandwiches before, but instead of eating nothing but bread and hummus (which does not sound appealing), I slather hummus on my sandwich like a condiment.

Typically, I have a wrap for lunch and fill it with sprouts, arugula, cheese, Tofurky, and a hearty smear of creamy hummus. Z and I almost always buy this brand of hummus, and it never disappoints - especially in a wrap or sandwich. Z, too, almost always puts hummus in his egg sandwiches in the morning, and loves the added protein it provides before he bikes to work. 

Hummus is not only rich in protein, though. The chickpeas in traditional hummus do not contain any cholesterol or saturated fats, and they've been known to be effective in preventing build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels [source]. Hummus in general also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, iron, and vitamin B6, to name a few.

Despite it's health benefits, I just love the delicious, creamy addition hummus gives to my lunches. It's a welcome change from my usual tangy mustard.

Have you ever tried hummus in your sandwich before? If not, will you now?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trout River Brewing Company

I hope my fellow Boston peeps made it through the storm OK! We escaped it and drove up to East Burke, Vermont for a weekend of snowboarding and relaxing. It was a really wonderful few days away, despite the lovely little cold I picked up Thursday night. Although I couldn't taste much of anything the entire weekend, I did still manage to thoroughly enjoy our dinner at Trout River Brewing Company in Lyndonville Saturday night (only a short drive from East Burke). Delicious pizza, freshly brewed beer, and great friends made for one delightful evening.

Mr. Mushroom 

Greek Special

The beers in my sampler were the Knight Slayer, B.A.D., Trippel, Boneyard Barley Wine, Northern Brown, and Nitro Stout, all picked by Dan, the owner - and brewer - himself. In terms of atmosphere, we went on an unusually quiet night (as I was told by my fellow diners, who had been there before), but that gave us more of an opportunity to chat with Dan. Dan is quite the character - a really down-to-earth guy who clearly loves his beer, and will chat with anyone who shares in his passion. I love how he keeps his restaurant menu simple, too, serving only pizzas made with quality, sometimes innovative ingredients (I hear the Trout Pizza is a must-try). I mean, how can you go wrong with beer and pizza, especially after a day on the slopes?

If you ever find yourself in Lyndonville, Vermont, I highly recommend paying Trout River Brewing Company a visit. (And, in East Burke, The Northeast Kingdom Country Store is a must for breakfast sandwiches...and antiques).

What did you do over the weekend? Did Nemo hit your area?

Trout River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lean Cuisine's Culinary Collection

If you've been reading this blog for a while, it's probably clear that I'm not a huge fan of frozen, packaged foods or meals. While the occasional frozen product has surprised me, I'm the type of person that would much rather use fresh, whole foods in my cooking.

However, when DailyBuzz Food contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be willing to sample one of Lean Cuisine's Culinary Collection dinners as part of their Tastemakers Program, I was surprisingly intrigued. The "Chef's Pick" Culinary Collection meals were crafted by talented chefs like Michelle Bernstein, Paul Kahan, Anita Lo, and Brad Farmerie, to name a few. I figured, with big names like that behind these frozen meals, they must be somewhat tasty.

For my pick, I decided to sample the Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli, which consists of ravioli filled with portobello and button mushrooms and romano and ricotta cheeses, smothered in a marsala wine sauce with spinach and red peppers.

Like all Lean Cuisines, the preparation for this dish was easy: Remove plastic bowl from carton, heat for 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave, remove plastic wrap and stir, replace plastic wrap and heat for an additional 2 minutes.

My favorite aspects of this meal were the creamy marsala wine sauce, the abundant pieces of spinach and red pepper, and the fluffy, large raviolis.

What I didn't love about this dish was the sodium content (610 mg), the fact that there was too much sauce (not a good ravioli to sauce ratio), and the extensive ingredient list. 

Lean Cuisine's Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli is definitely tasty, but not something I would eat on a regular basis - mainly because of its sodium content and scary ingredients. It's also made with chicken broth, which would have been nice to know before eating it, as one would assume - given the description of the dish on the front of the box - that it was vegetarian.

Are you a fan of frozen meals like this one?

I have partnered with Lean Cuisine through DailyBuzz Food to help promote their new line of Chef's Pick products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Lean Cuisine!