Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

Product Review: Campbell’s Skillet Sauces — July 16, 2013

Product Review: Campbell’s Skillet Sauces

Disclaimer: I should probably say something here about how Campbell’s didn’t pay me or ask me to write this. I just really liked these, and wanted to share them with you! They’re great for a lazy cook who wants a good meal!

When I was growing up, my grandma always joked that I had “champagne tastes on a beer can budget,” and I never quite understood what she meant. It dawned on me, eventually, but I was reminded of this little joke the last time I went to the grocery store. After spending way too much money for one (or even two, since I often only cook when I’m cooking for me and the boyfriend), I had to laugh. I really do want to buy the finest things I can, but I have to acknowledge that I don’t often have the means to buy the nicest of everything. Sometimes, this means I don’t really have the money to buy all the ingredients needed to make a really good dinner, especially when I can’t quickly or easily reuse leftover ingredients. Case and point: I have a bottle of Dashi granules in my refrigerator that I have only used a couple of times, when I get a craving for that delicious miso soup. But it’s summer and who’s craving miso soup now? Not quite yet, anyway. I will be lucky to use up the whole bottle of Dashi before it expires.

So I was pretty excited when I stumbled upon these skill sauces the other day at the grocery store.

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Overall, I was really pleased with both of these products. I made the Marsala with chicken breast and served it over veggie pasta tonight. Last night, we had the Thai Green Curry with mushrooms (a whole pound of them!) and Basmati rice.

I personally preferred the Marsala, but it’s more of my taste. The Thai Green Curry was good and very spicy! But while it was hot, to me it felt a little bland. Maybe that’s just the way curry is–I’ve never had it before now, other than sampling a small bite of mushroom curry at the local Indian restaurant. I’m more of a Chicken Tikka Masala person, myself. So I wasn’t too surprised that I found the Thai Green Curry edible, but didn’t exactly love it. I would probably try it again, though, because the boyfriend seemed to really like it.

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Thai Green Curry

Tonight, we both (I think) equally enjoyed/loved the Marsala pasta. At first I was worried because there was a faint orange-y smell when I first poured the sauce into the skillet, but the taste was very good. I do wish it had come with a few more mushrooms in the sauce–there were only five or six large ones and a few smaller mushroom bits. I love mushrooms, so might switch it up next time and use a half pound of mushrooms and a half pound of chicken–because really, two people probably do not need to split a pound of chicken in one meal.

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Delicious Marsala!

Even better is that these sauces are less than 3 bucks around here. Even factoring in the cost of other ingredients, it was a pretty inexpensive dinner. The twenty-minute cook time (approximate) is really nice, too, because I never realize I need to start making dinner until my stomach is demanding food RIGHT NOW.

So, if you can spare the time it takes to saute up whatever meat or meat-substitute you want to cook and stir in the sauce, these make for a great meal. I’m sure actually making Marsala would have taken up a lot more time and probably made me cry. But this is a no-tears meal! Maybe one day I will work up the courage and start cooking more fancy things from scratch, but for now, I am pretty pleased with these quick-fix meals (and only 60 calories per serving for the sauce itself!)

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Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies — July 15, 2013

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies

If you are anything like me, the cravings for all things sweet and chocolaty hit you at the worst possible times: when you’ve just finished what should have been an overly-filling meal; when you’re in the middle of your elliptical work out at the gym; when you are in your pajamas, curled up on the couch reading a book. At least for me, these cravings are very hard. Once I realize I might want something chocolaty, the desire doesn’t go away until I’ve indulged. It would be great if there were a bakery or something similar close by, where I could pop in and by a single, small item really quickly. But that just isn’t the case. So I’m often left with choosing between going through the McDonald’s drive-thru for cookies, buying ice cream, or going to the grocery to buy something to make or something pre-packaged. The other day, I knew nothing pre-packaged was going to get rid of my desire for something warm, gooey, and chocolaty.

This is a bad predicament to be in.

Luckily, I remembered the simplest recipe for cookies I have ever made. It had been a similar night, when I was bored and had spent hours looking at food on Pinterest (this is a great way to create those sugary sweet cravings, by the way), and I ran to the store at ten at night to make this cookies after finding the pin. The recipe for these cookies is so easy, it’s really hard for me to resist going out and buying everything I need to make them again.

The recipe seems to originate over at The Lazy Mom, and I’m sure these cookies (bars?) are as great a treat for kids as they were for me and the boyfriend and friends. In fact, I’m so pleased with them that I have spent the past several nights thinking about different combinations that might be fun to try.

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookie Ingredients

  • one box chocolate cake mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5 TBS melted butter
  • 2 cups M&Ms (I used a medium-sized bag, which I think is equivalent)

Directions

Melt the butter and beat the eggs. Mix with the chocolate cake mix. Mix in M&Ms.

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It really is that easy.

Spread it all into a pan. I added an extra layer of M&Ms on top for prettiness. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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They look delicious and crackly when they come out of the oven!

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Serve however you want. I think in a bowl with ice cream is best, but these were just as wonderful eaten straight from the pan. Of course, the night I made them I couldn’t quite wait for them too cool all the way.

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There are a lot of combinations of these that would be oh-so-good! I’ve made ones with white cake (which the Lazy Mom recommends) and mini Rolos. I was thinking recently that strawberry cake and mini chocolate chips would be a nice summer treat, too. With all the candies available–and the numerous ones that are currently marketing mini and bite-sized versions–the flavor combinations will keep me making these cookies over and over and over again!

Post-It Problems — July 8, 2013
Life After the Thesis — July 5, 2013

Life After the Thesis

It’s hard to believe, but just a week ago I completed the last major requirement of my master’s degree: my thesis defense. I fully intended to update a bit more through the month of June (if only for sanity’s sake!) but I guess that didn’t actually happen. It’s okay, though, because I survived!

Now I have some final edits to make before I turn it into to the Graduate School and my August graduation is “official,” but I’ve enjoyed taking a bit of time away from it and just kind of stewing in the fact that it’s done and over with. If this makes the defense sound awful, that’s only partly representative.The defense itself was great! I really enjoyed sitting down with the professors on my committee and talking about the work I’ve been doing and the work I would still like to do in the future. It was the few days leading up to the defense that weren’t very fun. It was, unfortunately, mostly because I am horrible at de-stressing, especially when I am really, really nervous about something. I have a habit of imagining things way worse than they could ever be, so that when whatever it is eventually rolls around, I can cheerfully say “It wasn’t that bad!” Defending my thesis was really no different, but it did take a while for it to really set in that I had accomplished the goal and didn’t need to be stressed out anymore. Hearing my committee’s congratulatory remarks was strangely anti-climactic while still being fulfilling.

So what now? I am in post-graduate-school limbo, waiting to hear back about job applications and praying every day to be blessed with a full-time position rather than working part-time next year. Other than that, though, I’m finding a lot of ways to wind down: I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which is extremely addicting. I’ve also gotten back into playing The Sims, but that is a huge time commitment, if only because my computer takes forever to start up and load the game.

And, a few days ago, I finally got around to deciding what fun book I wanted to read first. I have been devouring Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. I can’t quite explain everything that is so intriguing about the book, but it’s so, so good! I’m about halfway through already (even though I just started it a couple of days ago) and I’m sure I will post again after I’ve finished reading it.

Anybody for a Homer pun? — July 4, 2013