Frozen Food Reviews: Summer Edition

So, some of this stuff isn’t frozen, but it’s just easier to call it that.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the prices on most of these items. Costco trips are a blur since we take the two kids. They always end up with us sharing a hot dog and slice of pizza in the food court until the baby has a melt-down.

This summer has gone by fast. Work has had some unexpected twists and turns – and then the weekends are busy with trying to entertain the kids at parks or family parties. We’re really looking forward to the state fair.

This might be the first year in seven that I can actually celebrate Halloween! I’ve either had a job that was involved in Open Enrollment on Halloween – last year, I had just given birth to Artie. As always, I’m planning to get an early start on celebrating fall.

Such is life taking care of two tiny ones, some weeks we’re thriving, other weeks we’re surviving.

Here’s a run down of frozen/refrigerated foods we’ve tried from Costco + Fresh Thyme. Plus a few bonus favs at the end.


We’d never actually ordered naengmyeon, a cold Korean soup before, but my friend really likes it so we tried this pre-made version from Costco.

Korean restaurants serve in the summer – it’s served with a scoop of ice to keep it cold and garnished with hardboiled egg, cucumber, pickled radish, slices of asian pear, and Korean hot mustard and vinegar on the side to season.

My friend said this a decent version, for being prepackaged.

The package contains four servings of soup. Each kit comes with a packet of noodles, a pouch of broth, and mustard packet.

First, you boil the noodles and then rise in cold water, before adding to the cold broth. You will definitely need to add the other garnishes. Below is a terrible photo of our attempt.

I ordered a squeezy tube of Chung Jung Korean mustard on Amazon. It’s wasabi paste-level hot. I’ve been enjoying it with other Asian foods in place of their hot mustard.

We found the soup very unusual but also refreshing. I’ve never tasted anything like it before. The broth is a little radishy, tangy, sweet, savory.

I should probably try this dish in a restaurant so I can compare.

Beef JapChae – Pulmuone

This is from the brand Pulmuone – I haven’t been impressed with the other noodle dishes I’ve tried from Pulmuone.

Their Japchae is. . . fine. . .

As positives, the dish was very easy to make in a skillet. Also the beef tasted pretty good.

There is a predominant flavor of dried spinach that I didn’t enjoy, and this is coming from someone who really likes spinach. Oddly enough, the kids really liked it.

Peruvian Fried Rice – A La Carte

This was definitely a Jake-pick.

Inside you’ll find a giant pouch of chicken and rice and a packet of green sauce. To prepare, you simply cook the rice mix in a pan and then drizzle over the sauce.

This dish is less terrible if you don’t think of it as “fried rice.” The main reason is because it’s so very (brace yourselves) moist.

I cooked the shit out of it in the pan to eliminate some of the moisture and it was still very moist.

“This isn’t like any fried rice I know,” I kept muttering to myself as I frantically stirred the moist rice.

As positives, the chicken was also. .. moist. . . and plentiful. The best tasting component was the tangy green sauce.

The seasoning is cuminy and slightly spicy.

All in all, I just didn’t like it very much and no one touched the leftovers

Maybe Peruvian fried rice is actually really good. This was just an ok chicken and rice dish.

BBQ Flavored Chicken Flatbread

This was also another Jake-pick.

Please note, it’s not a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, it’s a BBQ Flavored Chicken Flatbread, whatever the fuck that means.

We found it in a refrigerated end cap –  two flatbreads come in a pack.

The best way that I can describe this is that it’s a very utilitarian BBQ chicken pizza that you can technically eat.

It tastes vaguely of BBQ sauce. The chicken pieces are sparce but edible. The cheese is even sparcer. There are little bits of onions. Shrug.

Unlike the Peruvian rice, this was very dry. Dip it into some ranch or choke.

Smoked Salmon Poke

This should have tasted really gross, but actually tasted really good!

It’s probably better not to think of it as “poke.”

If you like the idea of a smoked salmon rice bowl you will enjoy this.

Each box contains a pouch of microwavable rice that becomes soft and sticky, a pouch of silky smoked salmon, sweet soy sauce and some spicy seasoning.

I added fresh cucumber, onion, and tomato. I liked the sweet, salty and spicy flavor of the sauce and seasoning packet.

All in all, this is a very tasty dish if you add fresh veggies.

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Thyme grocery store has the weirdest mix of brands and products. The produce is very fresh and reasonable priced. The other stuff is hit and miss in terms of pricing and selection.

They also keep running the amazing $6.99/lb snow crab leg sale this summer.

If you are looking for a particular item, you may find exactly what you need, or a strange, limited and very eclectic selection of brands to choose from.

It’s the closest grocery store to our house so we go a lot.

Northern Chef Sea Salt & Pepper Calamari ($7.99)

Fresh Thyme had a BOGO sale on frozen seafood. I bought a couple types of seafood dishes from this Northern Chef brand.

Is the dream of a convenient bag of frozen salt and pepper calamari that you can just throw into the oven (or air fryer) too good to be true?


Please. Erase any memories of the delicious S&P calamari you may have had at Mai Lee or your favorite Chinese restaurant.

I cooked some of the calamari pieces on the air fryer setting in my oven and ended up with this:

Right out of the oven, the squid rings tasted pretty good. The coating has a strong salt-black pepper-cayenne bite. However, the batter gets very soggy quickly.

The tentacles tasted like a fish tank.

I can’t recommend buying this. We’ll see how the walnut shrimp pouch turns out. I’m not really rushing to make it now.

SPUDZ Frozen Fries ($6.99)

I am the biggest sucker in the world.


Forks over $7.

These actually are the best fries we’ve ever made at home (in an oven). I’ll go that far.

The bag is much smaller than the mainstream brands in the frozen food case – and I do find those are pretty good. The fries are skinnier, appear handcut, and have the skin-on.

Once baked, they are crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. I didn’t find these to have enough salt, but that’s easy to fix.

I would highly recommend.

Other dining favs:

  • One of the most delicious meals I ate this summer was at La Costa Mexican Grill in West St. Paul. It’s a Mexican sports bar where they open the front so it has an open air atmosphere. They do offer a happy hour and the service was A++. The Torta Ahogada (a torta topped with a spicy chili de arbol sauce) with carnitas was ridiculously delicious. And the fried shrimp dinner, also above and beyond in terms of quality and portion size.
  • Impressed with the food and service at Manitou Bar & Kitchen.  The employees were extremely nice to our kids and the food was made with a lot of care, even the kids meal mini corndogs. Best walleye fingers we can remember having, plus a really good ahi tuna sandwich. Plus, they also have a happy hour.
  • Our Friday night go-to is Casa Azul Agave in East. St. Paul (located in same strip mall as Karen Thai). I’m not sure I would tell you to travel across the cities to go here, but if you are nearby, it’s a nice family-owned restaurant that serves tasty Mexican food. Chips and queso is A+.
  • Ordered take-out from Eastside Thai.  Very impressed – best Thai food we’ve tried other than Bangkok Thai Deli which is still our leading fav for flavor and value.

1 Comment

  1. Amy Dalrymple

    I get the Northern Chef shrimp whenever I visit Fresh Thyme! As someone with Celiac disease/need to be gluten free, it’s nice to have something that feels like “normal” food. I think the shrimp tastes fine; it’s really the sauce that helps. Calamari is not for me, though, so I haven’t tried that one.

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