Sunday, November 12, 2006

Frozen but not chosen

I’m a busy person. And while I’d like to cook everyday, it’s just not possible. Now I make a mean batch of cheese enchiladas and soon I’ll share my recipe. But as I don’t always have the time to make these when I have a craving, and since there’s no local Tex-Mex joint in my neighborhood that serves decent enchiladas, I decided I’d check out what my options were in the frozen-food section. I figured Whole Foods’ frozen cheese enchiladas were worth a try, it being a Texas company and all. I also grabbed Trader Jose’s cheese enchiladas and Amy’s Enchilada Cheese (her ridiculous name, not mine).

Out of the box, there were some noticeable differences. TJ’s ($4.29) is huge, comes in a family-sized pan and is dotted with tons of cheese and green things. It’s made to serve 4, but there’s only six enchiladas (220 calories each). I guess each person will get one and a half. Amy’s ($3.49) looks Spartan, two enchiladas covered in red sauce with just a slight dusting of cheese. She says her box will serve two. Eh? One enchilada per person? Who’s the under-eater writing Amy’s box copy? Or is it one of those nutrition-label tricks were you see the calories (240) and think it’s for both enchiladas when it’s really just for one—I hate it when labels pull that scam. Whole Foods’ ($2.39) entry looks pretty good. You can see two nicely griddled corn tortillas covered in sauce, cheese and what I thought were jalapeno peppers. But, on the ingredients list, there are no peppers listed. Odd. What is that green stuff? Oh, I see, it’s chives. Pretty sneaky—I think they want you to believe they’re jalapenos. Who the heck sprinkles chives on their cheese enchiladas? Maybe in Boise, Idaho where they have buckets of chopped chives left over from their endless diet of baked potatoes, but not in Texas and never in my kitchen. Sigh. Whole Foods has broken my heart. At least they don’t try to trick you with their nutrition facts: serving per package is one, and the number of calories is 330.

So how do they taste? Amy’s came out of the oven first, even though she recommended you bake her Enchilada Cheese at 400 degrees for 55 minutes. I baked it at 375 degrees for 40 minutes and it was already pretty crispy on top. The bottom was another story. She’s ladled about a cup of sauce in the tray and it’s all underneath the enchiladas. So while the top is crunchy, the bottom is mush. But the sauce isn’t too bad.

Whole Foods decided to use hardly any sauce. So its cheese enchiladas were not mush, but they could have used a bit more flavor. There was plenty of cheese, but that’s what they tasted like: melted cheese and corn tortillas. If I were eating these for a meal, I’d have to dump some hot sauce on them to not only make them more moist but to give them some kick.

Trader Joe’s, er Jose’s, enchiladas were the worst of the bunch. I had high hopes for these because there are so many TJ fans out there raving about how delicious its frozen foods are. After a trip to the Manhattan TJ’s, however, I concluded that the store is designed for people who don’t cook. And you don’t have to be a cook to appreciate good food, but these cheese enchiladas are almost inedible. The sauce tastes Italian (those are bell peppers on top, not jalapenos) and it’s hard to tell where the tortilla ends and the cheese begins. The jumbo-sized package may be a bargain, but if you want to keep your friends and family, don’t serve these to the recommended three other people.

Is there a winner? Not really. I reckon I’d buy Whole Foods' cheese enchiladas based on the price and taste, but I think I’ll just double my batch next time I make some and keep those in the freezer instead.

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Yvo said...

Hey! I just thought of you because I'm watching Food Network (Iron Chef pitting Rachel against Giada) and there was a commercial for Rotel Spiced Tomatoes!!!

I was going to suggest trying whatever Fresh Direct had, but it looks like it's only Amy's. :)

Kung Foodie Kat said...

Hallo! I stumbled across your blog on

I've tried the TJ's family size frozen enchiladas and thought they were pretty horrible too but they have a smaller chicken and green tomatillo one that's pretty darn good, definitely better than any other frozen ones I've tried. I can't remember the exact name but I think it's the only enchilada they have with green sauce.

County Clerk said...

None of the above excite me.

I'd rather have a sandwich.

Homesick Texan said...

Yvo--I saw that ad! Very cool. Now I need to call them and bug them about getting Rotel in more stores.

Kung Foodie Kat--Thanks for stopping by! I love Joe T's so perhaps I'll order some of the frozen chicken enchiladas.

County Clerk--A sandwich is a good choice with this lot.

Julie said...

Looking forward to your enchilada recipe. Something my husband dearly, dearly loves and which I've never turned my attention to.

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--I'll probably post it after Thanksgiving.

Elise said...

How disappointing! TJ's usually gets things right. Bell peppers on enchiladas? Yikes.

Homesick Texan said...

Elise--They may have dropped the ball on this one, but I'm a big fan of TJs tamales (excellent fodder for a future post, I reckon).

Anonymous said...

Hi, HT... Texan here.

I'm making enchiladas for a fundraiser... I feel a little crazy, actually, making ridiculous amounts of Mexican food late at night, but it's actually for the kids!

I stumbled across your website looking for adequate reheating directions, and I just wanted to let you know that I think your site is great! I think if I was in NYC, I would definitely miss Texas, too, although I've actually been a bit restless lately. Your site makes me appreciate my current location, to say the least!

If you were here, I'd certainly serve you up a HEAPING portion of my enchildas... right now, I'm in the middle of making some cheesy-tomatoe sour cream, double-mushroom sour cream, and cheesy-spinahc chicken versions.

Great site - keep it up!

Carrie said...

having lived in boise and now in eastern idaho, where most of the potatos really come from, i was laughing at the chive comment. so excited to find your blog when searching for a Tinga recipe on google. your recipe looks great, i can't wait to serve it to my husband. we're quite competative in the kitchen and he thinks his mexican food rules. (it is pretty bada$$) i'll be using your site for all my future research.

Anonymous said...

Some time ago WalMart had what I thought were the greatest frozen cheese enchiladas. They were made in Texas so they had to be good. Right. And they were great. There were 8 (I believe) in a microwavable paper plate. They were full of cheese and good taste and covered with a tasty sauce. Of course I always add extra cheese to the top of most every thing Mexican or Italian that I cook. The Hispanic community must have also thought they were good, since they were often not in stock. Finally the WalMart geniouses did what they do to everything good, they discontinued them. Booo on WalMart.

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