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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Rice Mac and Cheese, Thin Crisp Pizza Are Crowd Pleasers

Amy’s Rice Mac and Cheese took the The Frozen Food Guy’s unofficial “Best of Show” award at the Taste of Excellence opening night reception Sunday evening at the annual frozen food convention being held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Rice Mac and Cheese was just one of a number of tasty new products showcased by the frozen food manufacturers at the Taste of Excellence event, the official kickoff of the annual frozen food industry gathering, Oct. 18-20.

Rice Mac and Cheese hits all the right buttons. It has the taste and consistency of regular pasta-based macaroni and cheese, yet it’s made with an organic gluten-free rice pasta. The cheese sauce looks and tastes cheesy, which is a testament to the good folks who create the recipes at Amy’s Kitchen of Petaluma, Calif. Rice Mac and Cheese also scores points for being all-natural (as are all Amy’s products). Amy’s gets extra props for offering a tasty option to food shoppers who are gluten intolerant.

Other highlights from Taste of Excellence:

* “Buffalo-style” looks to be an emerging trend as two companies--Rosina and Kahiki--both made a good showing with new Buffalo-style items. Rosina, a frozen pasta company actually based in Buffalo, N.Y., the birthplace of the popular “Buffalo chicken wings,” showed off its Buffalo Style Chicken Meatballs, a tasty and tangy treat that will be sure to wow party guests. It’s a great item to share with fans as they gather around the TV this fall to root on their favorite baseball team during the playoffs or their favorite college and pro football team on the weekends.

Bill Barsotelli, Rosina’s sales manager, tells TFFG that Buffalo Style Chicken Wings “are made with all-white chicken breast and just the right amount of hot sauce.” TFFG says the result is a nice burst of spices on the top of the palate that nicely enhances the chicken.

Kahiki, a Columbus, Ohio, company that takes its name from the longtime popular Kahiki restaurant in that city, earns high marks for its Buffalo Style Tiki Stix, which Kahiki’s chef Jeff Tsao says is “an all-time favorite snack flavor packed into a convenient and fun, hand-held wheat based Tiki Stix wrapper.”

Similar to Rosina’s Chicken Meatballs, these Tiki Stix offer a nice taste tingle that lingers pleasantly after the last bite.

* Thin crust pizza continues to make inroads in the frozen convenience sector. Kashi has a hit with its new Mexicali Black Bean Pizza. Palermo’s Pizza of Milwaukee scores big with its Primo Thin Garden Pizza, which features fire roasted red, yellow and green peppers along with red onions and black olives, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and a zesty marinara sauce on a multi-grain crust.

Kashi’s Mexicali Black Bean offers a South of the Border pizza taste and the crust may be “thin,” but it offers what TFFG calls “crunchability”-- the aspect of getting a big bite of flavor combined with the experience of eating something crunchy, like a snack cracker or a heavy chip. It’s a winner.

* Kraft proves that with Bagel-fuls you can put a bagel and cream cheese and a fruit filling all into one product and make it edible. This convenient grab-and-go product has been a real success for Kraft since they rolled it out last year with six bagel-and-cream cheese combinations. New to the Bagel-fuls line this year are three flavors that add fruit fillings along with the bagel-and-cream cheese combo: strawberry, apple cinnamon, and cherry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


TFFG Rates Morningstar Farms “Meatless” Meat Products

The Frozen Food Guy recently assembled an unbiased taste test panel to answer the burning question, “can Italian sausage, hickory barbecue ribs, and maple-flavored sausage patties ever be meatless?”

Our intrepid TFFG panel took on the “meaty” task--or in this case, non-meaty--of taste-testing three new meatless products from Morningstar Farms: Italian Sausages, Maple Flavored Sausage Patties, and Hickory BBQ Riblets.

Each of the three products was prepared by following the cooking directions printed on their respective packages. The patties were prepared in the oven; the sausages on the stove top; and the barbecue ribs in the microwave. Prep times ranged from 7 minutes for the ribs to 12 minutes for the patties.

The package indicates that the oven is the preferred method for the patties but they can be prepared in a skillet on the stovetop or in a microwave. The riblets can also be prepared in the oven, but requires 30 minutes for heating and up to 3 minutes for cooling. The sausage offers the most flexibility as it can also be prepared on the grill (just 4 1/2 minutes) or in the microwave (even less time--2 minutes and 45 seconds).

Our four panelists were asked to sample each product and rate them on three key criteria: taste, texture/appeal, and similarity to their meat counterparts. The panelists were asked to rank each category from 1 (excellent) to 5 (bad). Our panelists were Mike, Mercedes, Patty and Massimo.

Let’s break down the results for each product individually:

HICKORY BBQ RIBLETS: MorningStar Farms might have bitten off more than it could chew, so to speak, in trying to replicate ribs and the barbecue sauce. It seems to have gotten the sauce right, but not so much with the ribs. “The meat dish this most closely resembles is meat loaf,” said Mercedes. “It only looks like ribs. The sauce is overwhelming but the after-taste is good.” Mike agreed: “The sauce stands alone as acceptable but the rib texture and taste fails. The smoky flavor is retained, but what is missing is the fatty delicious flavors of ribs.” He added that it was “somewhat mushy,” but said the visual of the ribs--indents on the surface like bone indents--was “nicely accomplished.”

Massimo said the “sauce overwhelmed but it grows on one,” whereas Patty said the “after-taste is delicious,” adding “I would definitely get full on it.”

Not surprisingly, Patty gave BBQ Riblets a solid 2.3 score and Massimo came in right down the middle with a 3. It went downhill from there though, as Mercedes found it no better than a 4.3 and Mike was even less impressed, giving it poor marks across the board for a very low 4.7. TOTAL SCORE AVERAGE: 3.6

MAPLE FLAVORED SAUSAGE PATTIES: The panel gave this one an “almost there but not quite” score. The taste made an impression with all four panelists. Patty found it “very tasty, nice spices. I like the maple taste. But two [a serving size is one patty] is not enough to get full.” Mike also said it was a nice taste but a “bit mushy.” He added that it “needs a firmer texture” For Mercedes, the taste “starts out too bland, then settles into a salty aftertaste. It lingers too long. The texture is too chewy and grainy.”

Mike further waxed poetic about the sausage patties, noting that “maple gives it a flavor aspect, a mirage of what it aspires to... a bittersweet mirage...for once in your mouth, it dissolves and leaves you hungering for the real thing.” Hmmmm. Massimo made note that “it shouldn’t have to be too meat-like in taste.” So, points earned there for being meatless!
A 2.7 was the highest mark given to the Maple Sausage Patties (Patty), while two panelists scored it much lower at 3.7. Our fourth panelist, Massimo, was right in the middle again with a 3 rating. TOTAL SCORE AVERAGE: 3.3

ITALIAN SAUSAGE: This product fared well with the panel overall, but it did lose points for being “chalky” and “mealy.” Mike suggested adding a “moisturizing agent” and further charged that a pepper spice flavor was added to “disguise its phoniness.” Ouch.
Italian Sausage was the only product to receive a coveted “1” rating in any of the three judging categories with the high honor coming from Patty for taste. She scored it at “2” for texture and appeal. She remarked that the sausage looks like its meat counterpart “but doesn’t taste that much like it” and gave it a right-in-the-middle 3 for her third score. Her average score of 2 was the highest for any of the 3 products rated by each of the four judges.

Overall, this product not only got the highest marks, but it spurred the most comments in regard to pairing it with other foods for enhancement. “It would be great with tomato sauce or a Dijon mustard sauce or a balsamic-based vinegar sauce to cover the taste of chalkiness,” said Massimo. “It would work as a pork dish or with a sauce that disguises the mealy texture,” Mercedes suggested.

Mike noted that “on its own, the differences stand out. It might be better on a roll with other foods.” He said it was an “OK substitute” to its meat counterpart “in the taste area but not in the texture.”

After Patty, the second highest score came from Massimo with a 2.3. The other two panelist had identical 3.3 ratings. TOTAL SCORE AVERAGE: 2.7.

TFFG SAYS: These three products were served with both red and white wine, and the kitchen and dining room were rich in pleasant aromas and wonderful food-related conversation. The panelists provided some very thoughtful commentary and we hope the folks at Morningstar Farms and Kellogg will take that to heart as they fine-tune these three products and explore other new endeavors in the line. Overall, of the four panelists, Patty has become a real Morningstar Farms product fan and has further inquired about these and other products under the brand.

Morningstar Farms suggested retail price for each product is $4.29. The riblets come two to a package while the sausages are four to a package. Each package of sausage patties contains six patties. For more information, go to

Saturday, October 3, 2009

‘Peachy Paterno’ At Penn State

During last Saturday night’s prime time college football telecast of Iowa vs. Penn State on ABC-TV, the network ran a little feature filler of the Penn State dairy. Animal husbandry, veterinary medicine and agronomy are common to many State U’s (Kansas State, Iowa State, Michigan State, etc.) across the country in states with large agricultural areas, in this case, Pennsylvania, so it was a neat little look behind the scenes at the less-than-glorious State U universe.

The footage showed packages of ice cream rolling off the dairy’s assembly line and a close-up of a popular flavor, “Peachy Paterno,” named in honor of the Nittany Lions’ longtime and legendary football coach, Joe Paterno.

Unfortunately for Penn State and Coach “Jo Pa,” the game against Iowa was not at all “peachy,” as the home town crowd of 109,000 screaming fans in “Happy Valley” (a.k.a. Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa.) were not enough to overcome the visiting Hawkeyes (who knocked Penn State from a lofty high-ranked perch last season in Iowa City).

Iowa whipped the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions 21-10, pushing them out of the Associated Press Top 10 rankings and leaving them with an ignominious 0-1 record to start the Big 10 Conference season.

At least they’ve still got “Peachy Paterno” to help “lick” their wounds.

Friday, October 2, 2009

‘Hearty, Healthy’ Breakfast Options From Cedarlane Natural Foods

Cedarlane Natural Foods is helping Americans get their day off to the right start with a new line of all-natural frozen breakfast items. The line includes three flavors of breakfast omelettes and two flavors of breakfast burritos.

Cedarlane says its egg white omelettes are gluten-free, high in protein and low glycemic. The flavors are Spinach & Mushroom; Green Chile, Cheese & Ranchero Sauce; and Vegetable & Cheese with Turkey Bacon. The breakfast burritos are available in Vegetable & Cheese and Vegetable & Cheese with Turkey Bacon flavors. The company touts them as a “hearty, healthy and high protein breakfast.”

Cedarlane says its egg white breakfast items are the first such products in the frozen food sector and are on trend with the 5% growth in frozen breakfast foods as tracked by Packaged Facts.

“We are thrilled to bring to market our new, first-of-its kind egg white breakfast items,” says Robert Atallah, founder and president of Carson, Calif.-based Cedarlane Natural Foods. “In keeping with our legacy of providing great-tasting natural food products, we created this breakfast line with our customers’ health in mind.” For more information, go to

TFFG SAYS: These breakfast burritos and omelettes make for a good meal any time of the day. Of the two burritos, the Scrambled Egg, Vegetable and Cheese is a hands-down winner. The turkey bacon and egg white flavor is a bit bland at first, but is OK overall. The ends of the burritos tend to come out hardened after heating in the microwave, but that could just be an issue with TFFG’s microwave oven. The consistency of the scrambled egg in each was quite good.

The omelettes delivered on both taste and aesthetics. After being heated in the microwave, they came out looking very much like the photography on their packages (boxes; the burritos are sealed in a plastic wrap). The cheese in the omelettes had good texture and a nice color.

Each of the omelettes could suffice as an entree--paired with a vegetable and possibly another side dish-- for any meal, and the burritos make for a great on-the-go snack. The omelettes are filling and hearty. At 8 oz. each, they pack a nice punch. So do the 6 oz.-burritos.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jane and Julia 'Go Frozen'

TV stars Jane Krakowski and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are currently starring in two major frozen food brand promotions. Krakowski, star of the mega-hit “30 Rock,” is the central figure in an online campaign for Breyers Smooth & Dreamy ice cream from Unilever. She is featured in webisode parodies of classic movies “Gone with the Wind” and “King Kong.”

The online campaign features a contest for a trip to Hollywood and incorporates face and mapping technology allowing visitors to a Smooth & Dreamy website to place themselves into three webisodes.

Louis-Dreyfus, a comedic actress known for her lead role as Elaine Benes in the longtime NBC hit, “Seinfeld,” stars as herself in a TV spoof ad supporting ConAgra’s Healthy Choice Brands. In the ad, she is shown discussing in her agent’s office debating the merits of her accepting an offer to be the Healthy Choice spokesperson with most of her dialogue indicating she’s not that interested.

TFFG Says: Both Unilever and ConAgra got a boost here because both of these very talented actresses received Emmy nominations just a few weeks into each campaign. Krakowski, already an established Broadway actress with two Tony nominations and a Tony Award for “Nine,” has been nominated in the Best Featured Actress category for her role as Jenna Maroney in “30 Rock” on NBC while Louis-Dreyfus got the nod as one of the nominees in the Best Lead Actress category for her starring role in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” on CBS. The Emmys will be presented on Sept. 19.

Healthy Choice has clearly hit a home run here with these clever spoof ads, which are very a la “Seinfeld.” It’s easy to see consumers stopping in front of the frozen entrees in the freezer case, making that mental connection to “Elaine” although Louis-Dreyfus is already onto a completely different sitcom. Outcome: shopper reaching for Healthy Choice product.

And Smooth and Dreamy? Not so much. First of all, this brand name is confusing. Seems like it should be “smooth and creamy” or “sweet and dreamy.” And the online gizmos that Breyers came up with are interesting, but what do they have to do with selling ice cream? This is certainly great branding for Jane Krakowski, but what does it really do for Smooth and Dreamy or Breyers? All this really does is ask the prospective shopper to stay online and use photo and face mapping technology to place themselves into the webisodes “enabling users to ‘act,’” according to Breyers’ press materials promoting the campaign. To be fair, the campaign does have a TV component, but it is not robust enough.

Sadly, there is no urgency for the viewer to “act” (pun intended) on the information presented. Meaning: shop for ice cream in the store and connect with the Smooth & Dreamy product (as in reaching onto the freezer case and taking the product out and over to the checkout). End result: No Ka-Ching! Ka-Ching! at the cash register.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bunny Makes Friends in NYC

July is National Ice Cream Month and the folks from Wells’ Dairy in Le Mars, Iowa, got into the spirit of it all by heading to the Times Square area in New York to promote their Blue Bunny Champ! ice cream cones and Aspen frozen yogurt bars.

From Tuesday through Thursday last week representatives from Blue Bunny and its agency, The Barkley Group, Kansas City, fanned out along 50th Street, Broadway and Seventh Avenue Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passing out free ice cream samples of the Champ! cones and Aspen frozen yogurt bars.

The promotion tied into a Blue Bunny’s first-ever billboard in the upper Times Square area promoting the Champ! cone, which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream packed on a sugar cone, dipped in chocolate and rolled in peanuts.

The billboard features a carnivore-like creature’s upper and lower teeth in a menacing manner. The simple tag line beneath the image is “Champ Cones. Devour Them.” Upon closer inspection, all the teeth are ice cream cones. The upper “teeth” are cones in the usual form while the bottom “teeth” are the same cones inverted.

Blue Bunny distributed 50,000 of the Champ! cones samples while in New York.
Dave Smetter of the Wells’ Dairy marketing department says the weather was really cooperative and busy New Yorkers were not at all too busy to stop for a cool, free treat. Emphasis on the free, as Smetter noted well dressed businessmen carrying briefcases would take two or three and throw them in their briefcases. “I really wondered if they realized that was ice cream.”

Smetter says his throwing arm got a good workout out as their busy Midtown turf was chock-a-block full of double-decker tourist buses. Visitors to New York flock to the upper deck of these vehicles for sightseeing, and when they realized there was free ice cream available on the street level below, they challenged Blue Bunny’s demo team to oblige them--upper deck and all. “And we did,” says Smetter. “I did real well in tossing the samples to them. Got them all up there.”

The Blue Bunny team also got a taste of food retailing, New York-style. Some of the local mom-and-pop vendors smelled opportunity, so when there didn’t seem to any set limit on the number of free samples, these savvy businessmen took as many as they could and then put them in their own freezer cases, all marked up and ready to sell. Smetter didn’t reveal any details but he said they did manage to put a stop to that.

He also found some appreciative New York bus riders as he hopped on an uptown bus and spread the good word of ice cream via the free samples to the bus driver and some very thankful passengers.

TFFG SAYS: The Frozen Food Guy sat down with Dave Smetter from Blue Bunny and Kaylan Viveros from Barkley on Friday morning and they regaled him with tales of their three days spent on the busy streets of New York handing out free ice cream. The weather cooperated, as there was no rain, and thankfully for this “Bunny team” the heat and humidity had returned to more normal July temperatures after a relatively run of mild weather--perfect summer ice cream weather. TFFG was relieved to hear the cops didn’t hassle them, as Blue Bunny got all the various permits needed to “vend” on the city streets, so to speak. The total team of Blue Bunny distributors was about a dozen they said, and a van equipped for refrigeration purposes was used to handle the inventory. They were most impressed how friendly New Yorkers are but noted how they were at first a bit skeptical about what was going on. Yet once these city folk found out the ice cream samples were free--they were all for it!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sukhi’s Named Best in Frozen Savory

Sukhi’s Samosa with Chutney from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods took top honors in the Frozen Savory category, winning a Sofi Gold Award at the 55th Summer Fancy Food Show last night, Monday, June 29, at the Javits Convention Center in New York.

Sukhi’s got the top nod in frozen savory over two other finalists: Callie’s Charleston Cocktail Ham Biscuits from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits and Greenwich Spinach Crepini from

The awards are presented annually at the Summer Food Show by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). Chef Ming Tsai, star of his own PBS television show “Simply Ming” and the owner-chef of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass., presented the keynote address. He also assisted NASFT staff in presenting the 33 Gold Award winners with their Sofi statuettes.

Finalist in each of the 33 categories are awarded silver Sofi statuettes and the winner in each category is presented the coveted gold Sofi at a special awards ceremony at the annual summer gourmet food show in New York.

Other freezer case delectables that took home honors at the Sofi awards were Cia Bello’s Key Lime Graham Cracker Gelato, which won the gold award in the Perishable Foodservice Product category, and Silver Moon Ice Cream and Sorbet from Silver Moon Desserts, a silver Sofi finalist in the Product Line category. Pink Grapefruit Super Sprint from Pregel America was a silver finalist in the Dessert or Dessert Topping category.

TFFG Says: I was on hand for the reception prior to the awards ceremony and was able to enjoy some of the other finalists and gold award winners in non-frozen categories. Some standouts were:
* Wild Maine Blueberry Jam from Stonewall Kitchen.
* Wimmer Gruener Veltliner, a delicious white wine from BittnerAmeria Specialty Imports. A Bittner rep told me this wine from Wimmer in Austria retails for about $20 and is distributed from Florida and now New York.
* Grafton Duet from Grafton Village Cheese Co.
* Acai Black Currant Superfruit Syrup from Sonoma Syrup Co. is a terrific non-alcoholic beverage for summer entertaining. A Sonoma Syrup staff member told me that bartenders in Sonoma County (California) and the Bay Area are using the Acai Black Currant Superfruit Syrup as a key ingredient in their summer cocktail recipes, using it as a base for gin- and vodka-infused drinks.
* Cucina Viva Roasted Red Tomatoes from European Imports Ltd., great with an appetizer-size piece of bread or gourmet wheat cracker.
* Danielle Fruit Chips--Roasted Coconut from New England Herbal Foods, which won the coveted Sofi gold award for New Product.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Smooth Moves From Chiquita

Capitalizing on the popularity of smoothies, Old Orchard Brands, Grand Rapids, Mich., has teamed up with Chiquita Brands International to develop Chiquita Frozen Fruit Smoothies, a frozen fruit smoothie concentrate.

Chiquita Frozen Fruit Smoothies are packaged in recyclable 12-ounce plastic cans. When blended with ice and water, each can of smoothie concentrate will make three, 8-ounce servings. The smoothies are available in four flavors: Strawberry Banana, Banana Colada, Peach Mango, and Mixed Berry. Suggested retail price is $2.69.

“At retail storefronts, the average cost of a smoothie is between three and four dollars each,” says Mark Saur, president, Old Orchard Brands. “An 8-ounce serving of Chiquita Frozen Fruit Smoothie is well under a dollar and provides a full serving of fruit, so it’s a great way to integrate the health benefits of fresh fruit to your diet.”

For more information, visit

Ahoy! High Liner's Sea Cuisine

High Liner Foods USA Inc., Danvers, Mass., has introduced the High Liner Sea Cuisine brand with a portfolio of 12 frozen seafood products that feature shrimp, salmon, tilapia and cod.
High Liner Sea Cuisine is the culmination of High Liner’s acquisition in early 2008 of the Fishery Products International (FPI) and its Sea Cuisine brand and new recipe development by Owen Tilley, executive chef and culinary director, High Liner Foods USA.

Three of the products in the new High Liner Sea Cuisine line are quick-steamed, glazed frozen fillets that are microwaveable: Lemon Pepper Tilapia, Lemon Dill Salmon and Teriyaki Salmon.

Nine products comprise the “premium encrusted” lineup: Summer Herb Crested Cod, Parmesan Crusted Tilapia, Coconut Crusted Tilapia, Lemon Dijon Crusted Tilapia, Tortilla Crusted Tilapia, Potato Crusted Cod, Mediterranean Crusted Salmon, Tuscan Parmesan Crusted Shrimp, and Coconut Crusted Shrimp.

“With High Liner Sea Cuisine, consumers can now enjoy an authentic, restaurant-style experience at home, without the expense or hassle of dining out,” says Chris Trosin, vice president of sales and marketing, High Liner Foods USA.

“We’ve taken an innovative approach to developing premium quality value-added frozen seafood by tapping into the expertise of chef Owen Tilley to create new and exciting flavors,” says Trosin.

Suggested retail price for each High Liner Sea Cuisine item is $7.99. For more information, visit

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Score Big with ABC Tater Tots

The folks at Ore-Ida have come out with a new product that seems to be a hit with kids of all ages. ABC Tater Tots features the classic Tater Tot in an alphabet shape.

Tater tots are very popular with the under 10 set as I discovered when visiting my cousin at her home at dinnertime last winter. I was impressed how kid-friendly they were as both her daughters (ages 7 and 4) really enjoyed them. I snatched a couple for myself and had forgotten how tasty they were.

So when Ore-Ida launched ABC Tater Tots this fall I was eager to give them a try. They have the same flavor I remember as a teen-ager, when my mom seemed to dish them up in every way possible (side dish, casserole, etc.).

I also shared some with my neighbors, Ken and Karen, who are the parents of two kids, ages 8 and 4. Their housekeeper, Earline, has two sons, so I gave her a couple of bags also as Ore-Ida was very generous with the ABC Tater Tots samples they sent me.

Both Karen and Earline reported their kids really liked them, especially Earline’s younger son (age 6). Both moms did say they tasted a little “salty.”

I myself did not really notice any salty taste but was amazed how quickly they heat up and how yummy they are. I really like those alphabet letters too. Kinda fun! Each bag has seven servings (nine Tots each). You can heat up half a bag in just 7 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees, so it’s a quick and easy side dish or snack.

Kids clearly go for these Tater Tots (shaped in letters or regular size) but I think they have great potential for adults as party appetizers. Just heat ‘em up, scoop ‘em on to a plate, and pass them around. Voila! Hot hors hors d‘oeuvres.

Now that it’s March Madness time, ABC Tater Tots make the perfect party snack for guests gathered around the TV cheering on their favorite college hoops team. Tell your guests they can only choose letters in their basketball team’s nickname....Tigers, Huskies, Eagles...or make have them pick out the initial names of their school.... NC, MSU, UCLA ..or see who can spell out their entire school Duke or Texas.

All together now, “A! B! C! Go college hoops teams! Go ABC Tater Tots!”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Frozen Veggies Keep Good Eating On Track

Here we are at the point in the yearly calendar where January morphs into February, and as expected, much of the nation is coping with an onslaught of sub-freezing temperatures, ice, slush and snow. Most every day seems the same--cold and miserable.

When your fashion statement is clunky boots, two sweaters, a scarf and gloves, and your day starts by scraping snow and frost off your windshield, well, it's hard to recapture that "new you" who pledged to eat better, exercise, and live healthy and stress-free back on National Resolution Day--the first day of the first month of the brand new year.

But get back on track with frozen, yes that’s frozen foods. One of the healthiest yet overlooked sections of the supermarket are the frozen vegetable cases. The Frozen Food Guy recommends keeping your kitchen freezer stocked with at least two packages of frozen vegetables at all times.

The Frozen Food Guy likes to keep one regular package of a nationally known brand (say Green Giant or Birds Eye) or store brand of broccoli or leaf spinach and one package of a steam-in-the-bag vegetable on hand at all times. I let the actual selection be my in-store impulse purchase, figuring the more time I spend dickering over corn vs. mixed vegetable vs. spring peas is less time spent fending off the enticing but non-nutritional offerings found in the chips and cookies aisle, and that ultimate grocery store danger zone--the in-store bakery.

Not only are frozen veggies nutritionally sound, they are a meal-planning lifesaver. Often I've perused the insides of my refrigerator, and having made the commitment to cooking chicken breasts or, say, a pork chop, I still can't formulate what to prepare for the rest of my plate. Sometimes the effort of making a salad is a complete turn-off. While “eat a healthy salad” sounds good in theory, the actual practical application of rinsing, chopping, scraping and discarding the unused detritus of onions, leafy greens, mushrooms, etc. seems an insurmountable task. And the quality of the prepackaged salads in my area stores has decreased while commensurately the prices have increased.

I like to heat up the entire package of frozen veggies either on the stovetop or in the microwave, and use some as a side dish while leaving the rest for the following day (an average size package serves 3 to 4.) They are great for soup stretchers. I like to make a big pot of homemade vegetable soup about every two weeks or so and then freeze it in one large and several smaller containers, so I can later use the soup for single or multiple servings. Often, I'll reheat my homemade soup and add in my leftover veggies. Ditto for any of the canned soup varieties I have on hand. I'll also add in some fresh chopped onion, maybe some garlic, and a sprinkle or two or oregano or basil. Leafy green spinach and chopped broccoli mix up particularly well as “soup stretchers.”

My personal shopping comfort index (SCI) scores pretty high when I can glance down into my cart and see my frozen broccoli, spinach or mixed veggies. I know the payoff will come days later when faced with that meal solution conundrum--what to make for dinner? And what can I make that has at least a semblance of good nutrition?

Plus, it takes the guesswork out of assessing the life expectancy of some of the fresh produce sold in the store these days.