College Kitchen: lean cuisine machine

The College Kitchenista reinvents the revolving wheel of frozen dinners.

Spaghetti with turkey meatballs, a meal easily frozen and reheated for a future meal.

Spaghetti with turkey meatballs, a meal easily frozen and reheated for a future meal.

by Lucy Nieboer


TV dinners aren’t just for the middle-aged bachelor as he watches reruns of “Jeopardy“ anymore. Nowadays everyone from career-driven workaholics to busy parents is guilty of consuming the frozen meals that are as bland as the cardboard box they come in. Why continue the monotony when there is a whole world of flavor out there?

After delving into the world of frozen food fan message boards, the answer was clear. Frozen meals are here to stay. Their ease is invaluable and their price tags small. Rather than trying to do away with them all together, the College Kitchenista has responded to the fanatical reviews on the Lean Cuisine website and has come up with several recipes to help make dinners just as easy — if not a little tastier.

Rather than sprinting trying to make a 30-minute meal, take an afternoon to complete a cooking marathon. Each of these dinner recipes should make enough for 4-5 frozen dinners.


Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry

“I LOVE this stuff. It’s too bad I have to eat like 10 of them to get full. I wish they came in larger sizes, it’s DELICIOUS. Love it love it love it.”


1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 onion

1 carrot

1 cup snow peas

1 orange

1/4 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 dash cooking sherry

1/4 cup green tea (or water)

3 cloves garlic

1 1-inch piece ginger

Olive oil



First, cut the chicken into small cubes. Set aside. Roughly chop the onion and carrot. Mince the garlic and ginger.

In a small bowl, mix together the orange juice, sherry, tea, sugar and soy sauce. Set aside.

Before adding the chicken, coat the wok in a think layer of oil over medium heat. Also throw in the garlic and ginger. Cook the chicken until all the pieces are done all the way through. Add a pinch of salt to the meat. Remove the cooked pieces from the wok and set aside. Drain all the liquid from the pan.

With another dash of oil, add the carrots to the wok. As they begin to soften, add the onions then the peas. When all the vegetables are cooked but not soggy, add the chicken back to the wok.

Toss the stir-fry in the sauce until it is all coated. Freeze over brown or white rice.


Linguine Carbonara

“I tried Pasta Carbonara at the Cheesecake Factory. Let’s face it, that version is a heart attack on a plate. Lean Cuisine’s version tastes just as good. Healthy food my butt, this is good!”


1 package linguine

1/2 cup skim milk

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 dash olive oil

1 clove garlic

4 slices lean ham

1 cup frozen peas



Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a shallow skillet over low heat, begin to heat one dash of olive oil. Mince the garlic, and cook it in the hot oil. Chop the ham into small pieces, and toss it in the pan. It should begin to brown on the edges. Add the milk, cheese and peas to the pan. Finally, toss the pasta in the sauce. Let cool before freezing.


Spaghetti with Meatballs

“MOOOOVE over Pizza Hut Spaghetti and Meatballs!!! I”m on Weight Watchers and I save 13 POINTS by eating this for only 5. YUMMY!! Even my little nephew enjoys this meal. Now That”s Itallian!!! (:”



1 onion

1 carrot

4-5 button mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1 can tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon oregano

1 teaspoon smoked paprika


Olive oil



1 pound ground turkey

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt


Dice onion and garlic. Add both — along with a dash of olive oil — to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Shred the carrot, and add it to the pan. Finely chop the mushrooms, and add them to the mix. Continuously stir. When all the vegetables begin to soften, add the tomatoes, tomato paste and one can of water. Add the spices. Let the sauce simmer over a low flame for at least one hour.

For the meatballs, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl using your hands. Form small round lumps, and roll them into compact shapes. In an oven-proof skillet, brown them on each side. When they are almost done, add a spoonful of sauce to the pan. Let them sit in an oven set at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes to make sure they’re cooked all the way through. Add them to the sauce. Serve over spaghetti.


Although Lean Cuisine devotees are adamant about their mini-meals, my guess is they’re tasting the convenience of a pre-packaged dinner and forgoing quality.

Get the skinny on healthy recipes, pop them in the freezer and go. You never have to sacrifice flavor for calories.