DIY – Simple Homemade Jam


jam

My Home-made Peach Jam

This is a jar of some “DIY fast-and-easy peach “jam” or “preserves”. I’m using the quotation marks because it is not the fully “preserved” type that will last months and months. Rather I make this to keep in the fridge, aka “refridgerator jam”. Its EASY and DELICIOUS, fast and much cheaper than store jams. You can make it in half hour. 97210-turbinado-sugar

      Of course one could make this with Trader Joe’s very nice

TURBINADO RAW SUGAR

    Or that plus half plain sugar…experiment!

Here’s a basic recipe:

Buy some fruit. It should be fairly ripe. To make these fast jams, I usually buy the “quick sale” stuff at the supermarket that is over ripe, not perfect looking…but this is exactly what is perfect for making jam. Fruits: you can use peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, figs, strawberries, other berries. Have a fresh lemon on hand too. Sugar – Trader Joe’s sugar is perfect. But honestly almost any sugar will do (real sugar not fake). What matters is that you need to cook this a fairly long time. Use a heavy sauce pan.

    Its not a hard and fast recipe. More like a basic recipe / ratio with many, many variations.

    SIMPLE HOMEMADE FRIDGE JAM

    Ingredients: About 1-2 lbs of fruit. Eg – Peaches, about 6 large.
    Wash and cut up the fruit into small pieces. I do this directly into the pan. I throw in the pits too (will fish out later, or not) as I think they have natural pectin which will help with the ‘jelling’. I put about 1/2-cup to 1 cup of sugar. While that may sound like a lot its not, as it will all cook down, and the sugar will make it jell in this recipe.
    Cook the mixture at a medium-high heat. You want a low boil that will not boil over (your pan should be big enough so that it has high sides and room). Watch it. Cook it stirring occasionally, for about 40-45 minutes total. Check it and stir it every 10 minutes. What you want is for it to all fall apart, and the fruit to mostly disintegrate. What looked like a lot of fruit will become a much smaller amount after its cooked down. At the end, I squeeze in half a lemon or lime’s juice. Let it cool, place in a jar and refrigerate for a few hours. It should thicken up. Use within a few weeks. This won’t be hard, trust me! It probably won’t last that long.

Melissa Clark of the NY Times has a wonderful recipe for jam here which you can use to experiment more with…

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Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


Yesterday I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH had undergone a price hike. It had cost 99 cents for as long as I can remember, ever since our TJ’s opened. Yesterday I noticed TJs raised its price to $1.19 (thats in NY area) Does not seem much you say, true, but if I told you they raised its price 20% you might think “thats a bit steep”. OK rant over, now here’s the good part of this post!

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah Baby!)

Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner recently using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough. To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can in the fridge!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home. Its EASY! No, really, it is pretty dam easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine.

Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course generally way cheaper than buying one. There is *nothing* like eating a pizza you just pulled fresh out of the oven a few minutes before. If you have never made pizza at home before, you absolutely must try making one yourself at least once, and promise, once you do make one, you’ll want to make a pizza every week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight). Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres one:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some SAUCE (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb Cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better, Fresh Garlic, (optional: diced tomato, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course, Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but longer is better). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out.  (around the 1/2 hour point, you can turn on, pre-heat oven to 450-500)

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work on and lightly dust it with FLOUR. Remove the dough from the package (I invert the plastic bag to remove and just pull till it all comes out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I used a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square shape instead of a round shape but I like it like this. If using this kind of square pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put some on top of the dough and work it with your fingers…keep pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough into shape. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ to you and keeping the shape you want and pulling back in (thats normal, let it rest a bit then do some more work). Be careful not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. Or too thick. Get it just right. Build up the edges to make your crust. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want -this is optional.

Shaping your dough is the only “hard part” of this project and the more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling pizza dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time dont fret! I promise it will still taste mighty good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit and practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it getting much easier in future.

Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin sparse layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Ie, very hot (real pizza ovens are even hotter). Bake on middle or top oven rack. Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pizza, if your oven bakes unevenly after 10 minutes). The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes or so for the pizza to come out of the oven. The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really that not hard to do, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself. Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

TJ’s Refried Black Beans “With Jalapeños”


“High in Fiber and a Good Source of Iron”

Says so right on the front label and all true. This is a very healthy thing for you to eat. And since a can costs just 99 cents, it’s very economical too. Now if you are not familiar with “Refried Beans” there are a few things you should know. One is in Spanish “frijoles refritos” is slightly misleading in that while it literally can be interpreted as “re-fried beans” they are not “fried” twice, they are “cooked twice”, first the beans are boiled, then they are mashed/fried with some kind of fat. Authentic Mexican frijoes refritos are either pinto, black, or other beans, that have been cooked till very tender then cooked and mashed till they are a smooth paste. The mixture is cooked with onions and garlic and spices in some oil or fat (traditionally manteca (pork fat) is used but more ‘modern’ versions use olive oil).  Its generally eaten with corn tortillas in one form or another. Corn and beans together create a complex protein that is equal to any meat protein. In Mexico this is both a high quality protein and a relatively low cost, and is a staple eaten daily by MILLIONS of people.

However Trader Joe’s Refried Black Beans ingredients simply say: Prepared black beans, water, sea salt, spice, jalapeños. So actually since there is no fat of any kind listed, in truth these are not really “refritos” at all. You could eat them this way just out of the can, but I find them just so-so that way, I think of them as a time-saver over making my own beans (soaking overnight, etc) and mashing them. If you invest a mere 5 minutes to improve them, to make them tastier and more authentic, you will be rewarded with something twice as good as the way they taste right out of the can. And you will say as I did, where’s the jalapeño’s. They seem non-existant, so I assume the amount is miniscule.

Here’s what I suggest you do once you open the can:  Smash or chop a fat clove of garlic and toss it in a non-stick pan, over medium heat with a nice slug of Olive Oil (I used TJ’s Spanish EVOO). Add the bean paste from the can and perhaps some more diced fresh jalapeños ‘to taste’ (TJ’s label say “with jalapeños” but damn if I taste any!) Or add one small can of TJ’s Roasted Green Chiles, chopped up. A little diced onion to the oil for 5 minutes before the beans couldnt hurt too! Add some spices: oregano, a dash of red pepper flakes plus a good sprinkling of black pepper. Taste for salt. Cook the the beans, pushing down with a wooden spoon, mixing into the oil and every now and then stirring and making sure they don’t burn. Cook the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until the paste softens up, moves freely (If too thick, add pinch water) and the refritos look smooth and smell wonderful. If you like spicy, a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce and then Eat!

Are you Super Lazy and say that sounds like too much work? Wow you are a lazy bum! OK then if you do nothing else, when you heat these up just add some olive oil and lots of black pepper and some hot sauce.

Eat your Frijoles Refritos with tortillas, tostadas…. Use as fillings in burritos. Add salsa, cheese, tomato, greens. Refritos are also fine served as a side with a sprinkle of cheese, maybe some mexican style rice, and possibly some Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo.

When you open up up the can, be aware these refried beans don’t look too appetizing till cooked (frankly one could say it looks like dog food) but it will look fine after you heat them up and hopefully gussy them up as I suggest above .

If you’ve never had these before, try them, or their cousin Trader Joe’s Pinto Refried Beans with Salsa.  They are very tasty when jazzed up a little, so filling, healthy and economical it’s not even funny. Your heart and cholesterol will thank you, especially since you made them with olive oil and not lard (thought authentic manteca does taste best, sorry!)

RAVE.

VEGAN FRIENDLY


Homemade Pizza (Recipe) with TJ dough


Here’s a Pizza I made for dinner last night. I used Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough.  Its in TJ’s refrigerated section. The bag of fresh dough sells for the super price of just 99 cents (1 lb package). Thats correct, 99 cents. Whole Foods has pizza dough too- however  they sell it (frozen) for almost double the price Trader Joe’s sells dough for.  Trader Joe’s sells three varieties of Pizza Dough. Regular, Herb, Whole Wheat. I amost always buy the “regular” (ie, “white”) dough, I tried but didn’t care for the herb and garlic version. I found it a bit bitter and off tasting, though I like the idea of having fresh herbs and garlic.  There is a whole wheat dough too, which I also tried and while “noble” in thought, in reality I found it came out a bit too hard and tough. Oh well. You can try them all and see what you think. I find a package of dough makes a really huge pizza for two people, with a bit leftover. It should easily feed three and might feed four with some side dish(s). As pizza dough is after all “bread dough” of course one can use this to make a loaf of bread ,or some breadsticks (see below). This is a good idea too. So this is one of those TJ items I ALMOST NEVER LEAVE THE STORE WITHOUT. Freeze it and you have this handy stuff on hand always!

HOME-MADE PIZZA

Ingredients:
This time, believe it or not I did not use tomato sauce. Though I usually do, I was a bit unorthodox this time and used only fresh tomatoes. Plus a ton of other vegetables: zucchini, mushrooms + peppers (I cooked both before with oil and garlic), more fresh garlic, olive oil, Mozzarela, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, hot pepper flakes, more fresh tiny red peppers I had on hand, plus anchovy paste… oh yeah and a simple homemade pork sausage with peppers and garlic (which I browned up first) and crumbled on top. It was “almost” a vegetarian pizza, and you could easily make it that way. Maybe use some TJ Soy Chorizo, perhaps for the sausage component…Or not.

(READY FOR BAKING)

Method:  Its not perfect one but very usable.  Take the Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough out of the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour to warm up a bit. Flour a work surface and stretch out your dough to your pan. I used a large non-stick half sheet pan. I stretched the dough to fit the whole pan and used my fingers to build up the edges. I dabbed some anchovy paste all around the body of the pizza, and gently smushed it in with my fingers with a good dollop of Olive Oil (TJ’s Spanish EVO). I cut my zucchini into paper thin slices and laid them out all over in neat rows, laid tomatoes sliced thin all over, added my cooked mushroom and pepper I made the night before, laid out the Mozz (shredded) all over, hit it with red pepper, sliced garlic, Italian seasoning, a little arugula, and more olive oil which I brushed on the edges with my fingers. Some more tomato on top which got “roasted”, some more fresh red peppers, a pinch of salt, plus lots of black pepper.

Baked it at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes (The TJ dough package says bake 9 minutes, thats sounds crazy short unless you have a very very hot pizza oven) In the style of my idol, Dom DeMarco (of Brooklyn’s DiFara’s Pizza) I tossed on some grated cheese (Parmesan, or Grana Padano as Dom uses) AFTER it comes out of the oven. This gives your pizza some extra zing for sure.

OUT OF THE OVEN

Also like Dom, I was fairly liberal with the Olive Oil especially on the pan for this squarish rendition, as I wanted that crust to get really crispy and brown -which it did thanks to that oil. After it was ready, I hit it with more fresh arugula on top (was tempted to use lemon juice like Paulie Gee too but didn’t…next time. Lemon juice on pizza? Trust me, with the arugula, its fantastic. Paulie Gee has some real pizza chops).

Result: Due to all the veggies honestly I felt the center was too thin and came out too wet  with all the veggies I had loaded it with. If I did it over, next time I would not stretch out the dough quite as much and leave it much thicker all over to hold up to the veggies. The zucchini and fresh tomato produce a lot of moisture. In the center it was too moist. However other than the center the pizza came out perfectly. The outside edge crust (aka cornicone) was really crunchy and good, especially for something made in a regular home oven. Would it be better with a pizza stone? Maybe, I just don’t have one, nor do I have a Pizza Peel so would be a bit hard to get in the oven, without using the sheet pan I felt. I’m a very adaptable cook.

Tell me the finished pie doesn’t look good! Taste-wise? EXCELLENT. I got a high five from the Mrs, who deemed it one of the best pizzas I’ve made. First time I used the anchovy paste, which added a wonderful undernote of flavor. And the homemade sausage was fantastic on top. So basically I made the “sauce” right on the pizza in the oven. It does look tasty, no? I hope this picture inspires you to make a pizza at home; Its easy and delicious.

Oh and I tested out making a few breadsticks with a bit of the extra TJ’s dough. They were good! Try doing some of those too with this dough. You could of course even make a fresh baked bread with it too. I am now buying at least 2 packages of TJ’s Pizza Dough, and throwing one in the freezer to have on hand at all times. I do make my own dough on occasion but it requires some thinking ahead.

Now I know this isn’t exactly a “recipe” but to me, Pizza is a basic idea, that is improvised depending on your mood, ingredients, etc. So for the most basic “recipe” buy this dough, stretch it out on to a half sheet pan, add some homemade or good jarred marinara or tomato sauce, some mozzarella, olive oil, fresh garlic, etc. (add preferred toppings here). Bake it in a HOT oven. Check it at 15-20 minutes and make sure its brown and bubbly. Cook for another 5-10 minutes if not. When done, take it out and toss on some (fresh I hope) grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese. Remove from pan to a surface you can cut on and slice it up. Once you do this, you may never go back to “ordering in pizza”.

TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH =

RAVE

Moroccan Couscous (Recipe)


Heres a fairly easy recipe for a Moroccan-style Couscous. Trader Joe’s sells thier packaged brand of a whole-wheat “instant” couscous which is quite good, and could not be easier to make. The term “couscous” refers both to the dry, uncooked semolina pellets themselves and to the ready-to-eat dish of light, fluffy steamed grains topped by the marga.  The marga is the vegetable laden stew portion of a “couscous”. Chickpeas are one of the main ingredients in the marga. If I can, I generally start with dried chickpeas which like most beans need to be soaked overnight, and then cooked for an hour or two. In a pinch, canned chickpeas can be used too, and Trader Joe’s sells both regular canned as well as organic canned chickpeas (garbanzos). Chickpeas are a legume which are very healthy, and very high in protein, high in fiber, and to me, mighty tasty, probably my favorite of all beans or legumes. Of course they are the major component in hummus, which TJ’s sells tons of too. BTW I have a feeling if you used Trader Joe’s Indian “Spiced Chickpeas” which come in a foil pouch they might work great in this dish and give you a good deal of lovely spices that would work perfectly with this dish. Try it, experiment!

Moroccan Couscous

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, sliced
3-4 stalks celery, sliced thick
3-6 big carrots, sliced thick
Chickpeas, dried or canned (use either 1/2 lb. dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked 1.5 hrs -or-
1 can Trader Joe’s Chick Peas (garbanzos) rinsed, drained
1-2 med. potatoes, diced
1-2 turnips, or daikon, peeled, cubed
2 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced thick (add during last 10 mins to not overcook)
1 lg (28oz) can tomatoes with basil
Stock (chicken or vegetable, fill empty 28oz can)
Cilantro, chopped
Parsley, chopped
Asstd Morocan spices (tumeric, cumin, coriander, ras el hanout, red pepper, pepper), or you can use Curry Powder, which has most of these. About 1tbs; Salt, Pepper
(optional) Raisins

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil, for 3-5 minutes. Add the vegetables and saute for five minutes, stiring occasionally. Add the tomatoes (break up with fingers), the liquid (stock), and the chick peas. Add the spices and salt. Simmer the “marga” for 30-40 mins on low-med heat. Taste for seasonings. When done, add a handful raisins (even some dried cranberries). Garnish with cilantro.


Couscous: prepare according to directions. Fluff. To plate, put down a bed of couscous and create a “hole” in the center. Add the stew to the center. Serve with Harissa, or hot sauce, or Sriracha

ADDITIONS: Serve with your protein of choice (roast chicken, lamb, or merguez sausage, or shrimp or fish) A Mixed Grill makes a “couscous royale”. Keeping it Vegetarian is fine too of course (You could try SOY CHORIZO and see if that is good in this)

If you want to know a lot more, here is some detailed background about authentic couscous.

Couscous also makes a good side dish or a subsitute for rice or another grain. Its great in salad, room temperature or cold, so excellent for summertime (and as you only need to boil water and turn off the pot, does not heat up a kitchen.

I keep a box of CousCous in my pantry at all times. One of the handiest things you can have.

RECIPE: Veg. Tacos, Roasted Corn & Soy Chorizo with homemade tortillas


Made this for dinner the other night. I had some very interesting looking corn I had gotten, check out the color: Purple! I’m not sure I ever saw this before (no, it wasnt from Trader Joe’s, I got it at uptown Fairway) This omnivore decided to go vegetarian that night and make dinner featuring the corn with Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo. I even went whole hog and made fresh, homemade Tortillas de harina (flour), something I’ve been working on, trying to get better and better at. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube for tips.

To go with the tacos, I made a quick Salsa in five minutes, and let it blend for a 1/2 hour. When all was ready the Tacos got topped off with the salsa, some shredded cheese (Jalapeño Monterey Jack from Zabar’s) and some Arugula (TJ’s Wild Arugula).

How did it taste? Great. The roasted corn was excellent with the TJ Soy Chorizo, which really adds a lot of mexican flavors and spices, and the potato in the filling makes it taste hearty. Topped off with some salsa and jack cheese this was a damn tasty taco, vegetarian or otherwise.

Isn’t this pretty wild looking? No photoshopping here; this is the color!

I got my little assembly line to roll out the flour tortillas; Did about 6 for two people. Below, cooking on the griddle. If the griddle or pan is hot, they do not take long. About 1-2 mins on the first side and less than 1 min on the second side. Keep them warm in a cloth covered basket while you finish cooking all of them.

Dinner is served.

RECIPE: Vegatarian Tacos made with Roasted Corn, Soy Chorizo, and potato with Homemade Flour Tortillas

Taco Filling
2 ears, fresh corn, taken off the cob
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 “tube” of Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo (ie, about 3 oz?)
1 med. potato, diced
1 med. onion, diced

Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Carefully take the corn off the cob using a sharp knife. Get it all and be sure to scrape the cob with back of your knife to get the good healthy germ. Heat a skillet with 1 tbs of olive or veg. oil. Toss in the corn, minced garlic, 1/2 the diced onion.
Cook on high heat till corn browns a little bit; five to ten mins. Remove from pan and set aside
Add diced potatoes, another tsp. oil, lower heat, cover the pan and cook 10 mins, turning occasionally; Cook, stirring occasionally another 5-8 mins till evenly golden brown; Add the Soy Chorizo. Add the roasted corn in and stir gently to combine all. Taste for seasonings,turn off heat, keep warm.

Quick Salsa
(Easy but you can also just buy your favorite TJ salsa)
1 ripe tomato, diced
clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
fresh or pickled green chili, or a can or TJ’ Roasted Hatch Chilis (
Mix all above, add little salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, pinch cayenne

Flour Tortillas

This would be a little complicated to document in full. The easiest way is to learn the way I did, via YouTube. Heres one video that should show you how to ‘roll your own’ . Personally I use oil not shortening and much less than the amount in the many recipes to cut down on the fat, and find it still works pretty well. I did as you see use TJ flour (and baking soda! and Olive Oil!) Not too mention the Soy Chorizo =Trader Joe recipe!

Now of course if you don’t feel like doing all the “work” you could accomplish something close by picking up at TJ’s, tortillas (flour or corn, the Chili Lime ones would be good!) and salsa, and use the soy chorizo on its own (or with thier frozen corn?) and whip a similar dinner together in no time.