Tonight we had the opportunity to try one of the new T.G.I.Friday's Complete Skillet Meals. I was contacted by a PR company and was offered a coupon to try the meal for free in exchange for providing a review. I had clipped the $1 coupon that was in the Sunday paper about a month ago and was planning to try the Skillet Meals anyway, I was just waiting on a sale, so I accepted the opportunity.
Surprisingly, I can't find anything about the skillet meals on Heinz.com or TGIFridays.com. From a news release on Frozen Food Age : "T.G.I. Fridays’ Complete Skillet Meals feature a variety of tastes and seasonings inspired by Friday’s signature flavors. The meals feature individual components that be can be prepared in the skillet within 15 minutes. The line has five varieties and each serves two people: Sizzling Steak Fajitas, Sizzling Chicken Fajitas, Creamy Chicken Pasta Carbonara, Firecracker Sesame Chicken, and Cajun-Style Alfredo Chicken & Shrimp."
We chose the Cajun-Style Alfredo Chicken & Shrimp. The description of the meal on the bag says "Ciufetti pasta in a Cajun-style Alfredo sauce, with grilled chicken, shrimp, topped with spicy seasoning".
One of the first things I noticed is that it is "Ready In 15 Minutes". This convenience factor is one thing that I really liked about the meal. Tonight was Trick Or Treat, I knew that I had under an hour after I got home to get dinner on the table and kids in their costume so we could head out for Trick or Treat. The steps to prepare the meal are very easy and everything you need, except 1 TBSP of oil is included in the kit. There were several packets inside the pouch - the sauce, the chicken and shrimp, the pasta and peppers, and the extra Cajun seasoning. I like the separate packets, I felt like it gave the meal a more "fresh made" flavor than a premixed frozen meal would have.
I felt like there was a decent amount of both chicken and shrimp with the meal, but after adding the pasta, the total volume seemed a little light to me. I checked the bag and noticed that it was 2.5 servings in the bag. I hadn't checked that ahead of time and for whatever reason assumed it would be enough for the 4 of us. The press release clearly defines the product as making a meal for two, but I didn't read that until after I made the meal. I think the meal would work well for empty-nesters and Newlyweds, but with a family of four, I had to adjust on the fly. Since the meal was Cajun spiced, I was concerned my youngest might not like it, so I decided to make a small side of elbow pasta. When I served it, I gave my 2 year old some of the chicken and shrimp from the meal with the elbow pasta. I gave my 5 year old some of the elbow pasta topped with the skillet meal (to cut the spiciness). Then I mixed in some elbows to the skillet meal. There was plenty of sauce to cover the small amount of additional pasta that I added, but there wasn't any "dipping" sauce left. I had a serving and my husband had two servings. We had plenty in the end with the additional elbows, so maybe it looked like less than it was.
My son still found the meal to be a little spicy even with the addition of plain pasta, but ate it like a trooper (drinking a full cup of milk to tame the heat). I thought the meal had a decent flavor. I would have liked for there to be more of the red bell peppers to enhance the flavor, but thought the sauce had a nice level of spice. My husband used the added Cajun spice packet to spice it up a little more, not finding the sauce to be hot enough for him without the added spices (he likes his food pretty spicy).
I prepared the meal (except for the addition of some pasta) the way that it was intended. I have a tendency to add my personal touch to meal kits and would likely doctor this one with some additional red peppers or other fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor of the meal.
I liked the convenience factor of the full meal being in a bag and only taking 15 minutes to cook. I liked the simple to follow directions and that the ingredients were packed in separate packets inside the pouch. I liked the flavor of the meal and that it allowed us to have something different than what I might normally cook. The 2.5 serving portion that is included is small for a family of four, although the addition of a salad, vegetable, and/or bread would make it go further. I could probably make something similar from scratch for less than the $6.99 retail, but I would lose the convenience factor.
On sale, I would likely buy one to keep on hand for a quick meal.
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