"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

April 7, 2011

Stouffer's Frozen Food

Stouffer's––"Every dinner should feel this good."™
[And yes, the box is huge: 9x13, give or take an inch.]
I had a power-shopping day today with several Mennonite friends. [It was also my friend Anna's birthday and this is what she wanted to do, natch!] Well, let me just say that these women put the SHOP in shopping! They don't go out a lot as they are allowed no cars (they are Old Order Mennonites so only horses and buggies). They rely on their pantries and cellars for provisions––and they can most everything––they shop for staples in the traditional way of buying supplies from bulk foods places (like Sunny Valley Store in Casey County), or Walmart™ or wherever there is a good deal. And they know how to pinch a penny and get full value from it. I've learned so much from them in these past few years.

I am usually just happy to go along for the ride, as the driver, and pick up my own list of things (however, saving most room for their prodigious amounts!). Today I was delighted to find cases of Progresso® Creamy Mushroom Soup for $1.25 a can at Big Lots™so I bought 2 cases for the pantry. It's great in casseroles and there is no MSG and also ingredients you can read (and big chunks of mushrooms). It was at Walmart™for a short while last year and then wasn't any more so you get these things where you can find them [and do you find that once you really like a product that they discontinue it on you?].

Epiphany in Frozen Foods––The Lean Cuisines and Banquet frozen dinners, and even Marie Callender, just parted out of the way, lighting the path to culinary truth from the Gods! 

I also went on a hunt for six sympathy cards (at middle age I find that people I know are dying, or parents of friends and even friends of friends: it is a sad, but inevitable, phenomena). These cards are unbelievably maudlin and sappy and just come off as mawkish. And yet, it is hard to find words for such occasions. So, I try to find the right words in my own heart and hand. [There's an untapped market for the greeting card industry: just the right sympathy card.]

So, two things off the list. I made very few impulse purchases today and that was useful for the budget. I haven't been shopping in ages and now with four hogs ready for the freezer, a bull about to go to the butcher, various canned and frozen items still to use up, our own eggs (2 dozen a day now) and a pantry that is still full to bursting, we only really need fresh food, milk, and the occasional deal.

Presentation is Everything––I was dazzled that the lasagna came out of the pan easily and looked exactly like it did on the front of the box: creamy sauce, perfectly cooked vegetables (previously frozen and likely blanched) and an addictive buttery Ritz-crumb style crust on top.

Well, enough blather about my day in town. What is so exciting is that, in our long day, I realized that I needed to make dinner upon return home (not having thawed anything out or planned ahead, either). I love vegetable lasagna and am still seeking the perfect recipe. There in the freezer section at Walmart™was a giant "Party Size" tray of Stouffer's® vegetable lasagna! I was beside myself. I hadn't had Stouffer's in ages and quickly looked around for my old childhood favorites like scalloped apples, corn soufflé and spinach soufflé (no such luck). I still recall with fondness the occasional sentimental convenience foods from my childhood: after all, I was born in the era of these foods.

As I write this, the lasagna is in the oven. It takes 1 hour and 55 minutes if it's frozen. That means we will eat dinner at around 9pm. That's OK because the boys and Temple are moving some pregnant cattle, feeding three calves (another mother is not interested) and all of this after bringing two puppies home (more on them later). It is never a dull moment around here and that's what I love about our lives on our Kentucky farm. Once spring starts, we're on a tear until winter again.

On the way home my friends and I all spoke of life, and death––as someone in their community has just been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer––and how we might cope with such news ourselves. I appreciate how fatalistic my Mennonite friends are because they truly believe that we are all in God's hands. That is a liberating belief as much as it is a comfort. I still rationalize everything or try to figure it all out in my mind, to get to the bottom of things or just try to suss it all out. At the same time, I appreciate the mystery and the joy of each day, especially in springtime.

Yes, kids, there are no surprises in this household! If Mama don't make it, you sure will know it!

And then we all marveled at the pageant of pink in the redbuds which now dot the green landscape along highways and byways. We spoke about our emerging heirloom tomato plants and what each of us would be feeding our families upon return from our day out. One thing is certain: life goes along each day and there is always dinner at the end of it. And my family can delight in the fact that this is the very first time––and possibly the last time––in nearly 15 years of marriage, that I've prepared for them a frozen, pre-made Stouffer's dinner: but hey, it's cheaper than a pizza or a bucket of chicken.

You come back when you're ready!


UPDATE––No lasagnas were harmed in the making of this blog-ad, no endorsement was taken from Stouffer's®, and neither was permission granted. They are, however, welcome to pay me, any time. Except there could be a problem with that because Eli and Henry both said, "Mom, we like yours better...you know, the stuff you make with the meat sauce." There was also a sodium overload as I'm still guzzling lots of water tonight before bedtime.


  1. Catherine! What a treat to see your beautiful face alongside tonight's dinner. You are adorable and a sight for sore eyes. I don't even want to think about how long it's been...

    I remember Stouffer's. Also loved their spinach souffle, and Welsh Rabbit. Haven't had them in years--let us know what you think about the lasagne.

    Give those new puppies lots of hugs from Aunt Peaches. I so miss having dogs underfoot.

    Love from P.

  2. The only thing I would do to improve the Stouffer's lasagna is pour a can of spaghetti sauce over it.

  3. LOVE the photos!

    Glad I'm not the only one who prefers real lasagna over the box variety!

    And look your pageviews are blowing up the internet. Yours is one of the few blogs that keep my interest.

  4. Thanks, all! P. I will probably come out of hiding a bit more like this. YES, it has been too long! Joberta, you are wise beyond your years. Mud-E, you are too kind. I enjoy writing this new blog very much as it is in keeping with our lives now -- and more mayhem is definitely needed!

  5. Sounds like you had a good day!

    Sympathy cards...how I hate trying to find one! They all seem to be 10 paragraphs long and just awful. Simple is best, but so hard to find. I have often just bought a blank card...then spent forever thinking of the right words to say. The words are never just right, but we can only do our best...so hard.

    I loved Stouffer's spinach souffle (haven't had it in a very long time). I still love their mac n cheese, but, oh the thirst...totally agree with you on the "sodium overload"!!! When I was young the sodium thing never bothered me, what happened?!

    Hey, at least you didn't have to cook. :)

  6. I forgot to tell you something. Family Dollar in Liberty has some sympathy cards that are simple and to the point. AND THEY'RE CHEAP! I stocked up several months ago but need more. Try there.

  7. Dear Catherine,

    I hope you remember me from some previous comments I've posted because I admire your blog so very much. It's delicious!
    I haven't been online for quite some time. Geoffrey and I have been in the moving mode. We had planned to go to faraway places with strange-sounding names (and that were warmer than Colorado) but things changed. Geoffrey was offered a wonderful job in Ohio that would advance him professionally and fiscally. Needless to say, we couldn't turn it down. I'm even thinking of opening a small antiques business in the Cincinnati area.
    I seem to recall from your blog that you are in Kentucky. Am I correct or is my memory failing me? Kentucky used to have some delightful antiques shops that I have enjoyed over the years when I've been visiting for the horse races or for business. The Owensboro area was always quite fruitful for me. Are you familiar with any businesses in your area?
    There used to be a blogger (I so hate that term) from a rural area in Kentucky whom I followed a bit. As a matter of fact, I found your pantry blog on hers but it later disappeared, as did her blog. I think she had potential but she had some ideas that just simply didn't hold together. I have lost her in the great blog wasteland. Perhaps you knew her since she had your blog listed. I can't remember her name but she said she worked in a library. Does that ring a bell with you?
    I am looking forward to hearing from you. Your blog is a masterful combination of good food, fun, and common sense and I hope you will continue in this vein for a long time.

    Michael from Colorado (now from Ohio)

  8. Dear Michael,

    I was born and partially raised in northeastern Ohio so I am partial to Ohioans (and transplants, too).

    I do believe I know of whose blog you speak. I'd rather not elaborate here. Let's just say that, try as I might, I will not understand the behaviors there (I will say, however, that her blog persona is quite different from her in person one, if that makes any sense).

    Maybe we'll meet in Ohio: I've been dying to go to Trader Joe's in Cincy as well as this huge gourmet food store called "Jungle Jim's" (I think that's the name of it!). As for an antique shop, I'm there.

    Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll continue to enjoy my blog.

    ~ Catherine


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