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Product review: Barilla microwaveable meals

This has nothing to do with the fact that one of my publicist contacts sent me some pasta to review–but Barilla is my favorite store-bought pasta. So I was thrilled that Barilla has new microwaveable meals. I’ve tried other versions of easy pasta like this, and kind of went into this a tad skeptical, but Barilla exceeded my expectations. There are five varieties–Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil; Mezze Penne with Traditional Marinara Sauce; Mezze Penne with Spicy Marinara (my favorites); Whole Grain Fusilli with Vegetable Marinara Sauce; and Whole Grain Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil Sauce.

Not only does Barilla have delicious pasta that cooks up nicely al dente, but this pre-cooked variety was very similar to Barilla pasta that you would make yourself. And these microwaveable meals are incredibly easy to make. You fold back the edge to “vent” the sauce, and warm for one minute. You peel back the entire top, and the sauce portion comes out, after which you pour it over the pasta and stir. A monkey could do this, and I mean that literally. Not only was it easy but tasty–we tried all but the fusilli, and the pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce tasty as well. The best part of these meals is that they do not taste processed. So often meals like this have sauces that taste like (and probably are) re-constituted powder–not these Barilla meals. They are a home run in every way.

Oh, wait, since we’re talking baseball, here are the other stats–all of the meals are 320 calories or less with no artificial ingredients; they have 9 to 11 grams of protein and are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin A; and the whole grain varieties are a good source of iron.

Classic BLT

One of the best things about bacon is the BLT–bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. I’m not quite sure why it all goes together, but it does. You can come up with all kinds of variations, but to me, the simplest form of BLT is the best–bacon, iceberg lettuce, ripe tomato, and mayo on white bread or a white roll. Today I bought some white sandwich rolls and ate two of them, pictured above.

Here is how to do it. First, cook some bacon (yesterday we went over a few ways to do this). I chose to make two kinds–Oscar Mayer center cut bacon and a maple bacon I found today. I mixed the two on my sandwich and they came out amazing. After cooking the bacon (2-4 slices per sandwich), spread some mayo on the bread. Layer cooked bacon, tomato and lettuce, and that’s it! You can add a bit of salt and pepper if you like, or use rye or wheat bread, or even use a wrap, but the basic flavors are key.

Okay, on to come up with more bacon ideas!

Summer Tomato Sandwich

One of the best parts of summer is the fresh tomato. And I do mean fresh, as in the ones you get from a farmer’s market, farm stand on the side of the road, or CSA. Or of course, the ones you grow in your backyard. I wrote recently how I have a pet peeve about crappy grocery store tomatoes, because in grocery stores, it’s always the middle of winter when it comes to tomatoes.

But for as awesome as fresh tomatoes are and the recipes you can make range from pasta to pizza to salads, there is nothing as simple and delicious as this–the open face tomato sandwich. You toast a couple slices of bread, slather some good mayo, put a few tomato slices on top and sprinkle with salt–maybe a bit of pepper too, but that’s optional. That’s it. Of course, you can close it up like a traditional sandwich, but it’s better open faced for some reason. And sorry health nuts and low-carb supporters, it’s always best with a good white bread.

Man, I’m hungry.

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