Have you wondered why "celebrity chefs" sell mass-market prepared food?

In the past few months, food stars Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and Lidia Bastianich have launched branded lines of prepared meals. Garten's are frozen and are widely available in supermarkets; Bastianich's are refrigerated and sold exclusively at Whole Foods.

I tried four of Garten's nine "Saute Dinners for Two." All are prepared on the stovetop in a skillet and require the addition of water or oil, some stirring and a degree of attention. All cost $7.99 and serve two.

The chicken and beef dinners I tried weren't terrible, but they had the canned, salty taste and gluey sauce of airplane food. The penne was the best, but it was markedly less good than if I'd boiled my own pasta and added a jarred sauce.

I was even more disappointed in Bastianich. All six of her meals cost $9.99 and serve one. I gave three a test drive. First up, lemon chicken. The flavor was OK, but there was something odd about the chicken - the pieces had a funny grain.

"All-natural chicken" turned out to be "chicken breast filets," which, in turn, contain "chicken breast meat, water, wheat flour, salt and pepper. Chicken set in hot soybean oil. Soy lecithin used as a processing aid."

Bastianich's lasagna with chicken Bolognese sauce was acceptable, but no way worth $9.99 for a small portion.

A culinary star looking to "grow her brand" may well wonder what she can sell to fans who like to watch food prepared on TV but don't like to make it themselves.

That's the reason for prepared foods.