A Can a week: Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli

Chef JimThere is something innately comforting to me about Chef Boyardee products. I grew up eating them on cold winter days when I was a kid, and in particular was thrilled when my mom taught me how to open a can and heat it on the stove. I mean, it wasn’t like I was learning to cook, but it’s liberating to a kid knowing that he can heat up his own lunch (I’m dating myself here, but we didn’t own a microwave until the mid-’80s.

Anyway, Beef-a-roni is still awesome, and so are the raviolis and standard spaghetti and meatballs. But the one small drawback to some of these items is the lack of meat. Enter the Overstuffed Beef Ravioli. I mean, it’s not exactly premium beef here–I’m guessing it’s akin to ground chuck and/or the kind of ground meat used at Taco Bell. And it has fillers in it, but so do standard meatballs or the filling in your typical ravioli.

But I digress. The Overstuffed Beef Ravioli is delicious, and it really does have 25% more meat as promised, and it seems like even more than that. It’s also nice that it is doused in a rich meat sauce as well. Yum. And Chef Boyardee’s tomato sauce is really tasty, and always has been. For you guys who need some quick meals to have on hand and do not have time to make something from scratch or even from a box, you should keep a few cans of this meaty pasta in your pantry.

One word of advice though–one can equals two servings, and that equals 500 calories. If you are not watching your waistline (and I’m guessing most of you that are reading this are not), and you like meat, this is some good stuff right here. You done well, Chef!


A can a week: Swanson Chicken & Dumplings

Chef JimA can a week is back! We hope to bring this feature each week, since grocery store shelves are lined with the stuff…canned food, that is. Anyway, this week we tried Swanson Chicken & Dumplings. It’s not soup, but rather chunks of chicken and small dumplings in a rich chicken gravy.

The pros–very tasty and satisfying, especially on a cold day like today; quality chicken meat and nicely made dumplings; perfectly seasoned
The cons–a bit thin, and if I would have known, I could have tried it over noodles or rice; the chicken chunks were small; and I would have liked some carrots, peas or celery in addition to the chicken and the dumplings.

But overall this is a winning can of food, and as I said a very satisfying cold weather lunch.


Mikey’s Food Resolutions for 2012

The last few years, Mrs. Mike and I have done New Year’s resolutions together on New Year’s Day. And I must say, we’ve stuck to many of them, often referring to our lists as the year wears on. That’s what resolutions are intended for, but many of us forget about them on or around January 3. But I thought it would be fun to put together a few food resolutions for 2012–feel free to add yours below or on Facebook:

Try one new kind of cheese per month–I started doing this in 2011 and got sidetracked or disinterested. But wait, I live in Wisconsin. Disinterested? Not an option, so I’m going to follow through this time. There are simply too many good cheeses to try in this part of the country.

Try a few things that are out of my comfort zone–I’m not a big fan of seafood, or anything in the organ meat vicinity. But in a meal at Graham Elliott in Chicago this past September, Mrs. Mike and I had a meal that had cooked fish; a deconstructed Caesar salad with a whole anchovy on top; and a foie gras lollipop with watermelon pop rocks. That was enough out of comfort zone for a whole year for me, but the foie gras was phenomenal–and I’m glad I took a step out of my comfort zone to try it.

Eat less junk–and by junk I mean stuff like candy, snack cakes and greasy chips. I am vowing to get back into shape in the New Year, and especially after having back surgery in February. And while I don’t think there is anything wrong with occasional junk food, I ate far too much of it in 2011. Time to start eating more nuts, dried fruit and sensible snacks when possible.

Work even harder to eat what’s in season–we belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) but found ourselves not using everything in our box before some of it went bad. I want to make more of an effort on that one.

Teach our son to eat better–our four year old, who has autism, is very picky about his food. We work hard on this, but it’s extremely difficult to get him to open his mind with food. I think we can work harder at it.

Revive “a can a week”–that was a fun column I started here but need to revive it, reviewing a canned food item per week, be it a new product or one that we’ve been eating for decades.

Use the deep fryer more–I don’t think I took that thing out at all in 2011, and that’s a shame. Who doesn’t love fried food (except me, when my doctor is reading this!)?

Find more cool restaurants and review them here–We live in Madison, one of the coolest food cities on the planet. Mrs. Mike and I love trying new places to eat but need to do so more often. And I’ll bring you the play by play here.

DVR more food shows–I keep seeing press releases and then forget to DVR the shows.

Eat more tofu–seriously? No, that was a joke. Blech.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year!


A can a week: Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Beefaroni

Whole grains are all the rage these days. You can thank the fact that low-fat diets went out of style over the past ten or so years, and the focus was once again on low-carb diets for losing weight and burning fat fast. Whole grains, as the South Beach Diet will attest to, are “good carbs,” because they’re less processed than their white flour-based counterparts. Whew…you’d think I was a doctor or a nutritionist, but alas, I’m just a dude like you that likes to eat.

I also like to have healthy options once in a while, so I’m kicking off this new weekly feature with a a review of the new line of Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, in this case the Beefaroni.

I grew up on Beefaroni, so it’s not like I was trying the product for the first time. I was, however, trying this new “healthier” version for the first time. And quite honestly, there is almost no way to tell the difference. I didn’t taste the regular Beefaroni side by side with it, but I have had that enough times in my life that I didn’t have to.

Whole Grain Beefaroni is absolutely delicious and satisfying, with just the right amount of ground beef and tomato sauce. Typically canned pasta is cooked more than pasta you’d cook at home or that you’d eat in a restaurant, and that’s the case here, but I’m sure they do that for a reason.

This still isn’t exactly diet food, and if you eat the whole can, you’re talking 480 calories and 18 grams of fat. And who wouldn’t eat the whole can? But here is the good part–there are 18 grams of protein in the can, and a whopping 6 grams of fiber. If you read the ingredient list, whole wheat flour is right near the top. So really, if you’re going to eat Chefboyardee products, you may as well get some fiber into your diet…..especially when it really does taste this good.


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