Taste test: frozen meals

Back to school means back to busier schedules and the need for quick and healthy dinners. Several food manufacturers are trying to ramp up their offerings of frozen, microwavable meals with more flavor, less fat and fewer calories. Our panelists found several that offered good nutrition and good flavor as well.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent



Product

serving

Birds Eye

Alfredo Chicken

one cup

Lean Cuisine

Chicken Alfredo

one package

Newman's Own

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

one-and-a-half cups

Calories/Fat/Fiber/ Sugars Sodium/Carbs/Protein

280 / 13g / 3g / 5g

630mg / 27g / 14g
310 / 7g / 5g / 5g

690mg / 39g / 23g
350 / 7g / 3g / 5g

880mg / 46g / 24g
Judges'

comments
This familiar frozen food maker produced a nice dish of penne pasta with sauce that stuck to the ribs of our tasters. They liked the fresh-tasting peas and carrots and thick chunks of chicken. "It has a nice, black pepper burn and more pizzazz than some of the competition," said one. "This looks like my great-aunt's tuna casserole, but looks are deceiving," said another. "It's got a nice flavor." One judge compared the flavor to a chicken pot pie. "I would serve this to my family," said another. "Even the chicken is a nice, roasted color."Really fresh-tasting vegetables made this a standout for panelists. "This would be great on a cold evening before my kid's sporting event," said one. The creamy sauce had an intense Parmesan flavor and the penne pasta and chicken were blended with bits of yellow bell peppers, carrots and tiny florets of broccoli.Thick fettuccine noodles made this dish look appetizing, although a couple of panelists complained that the noodles were a bit gummy. "They kind of clump together," said one. She compared the noodles to dumplings. The pasta was coated in a smooth sauce with roasted red peppers. The chicken, though, was the highlight of this dish. "It's nicely roasted with a good texture," said another.
Would they buy?All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping

information
$4.83 for a 21-ounce bag from Publix.$3.17 for a 10.5-ounce bag from Walmart.$5.99 for a 24-ounce bag from Sweetbay.
Product

serving

Birds Eye

Alfredo Chicken

one cup

Lean Cuisine

Chicken Alfredo

one package

Newman's Own

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

one-and-a-half cups

Calories/Fat/Fiber/ Sugars Sodium/Carbs/Protein

280 / 13g / 3g / 5g

630mg / 27g / 14g
310 / 7g / 5g / 5g

690mg / 39g / 23g
350 / 7g / 3g / 5g

880mg / 46g / 24g
Judges'

comments
This familiar frozen food maker produced a nice dish of penne pasta with sauce that stuck to the ribs of our tasters. They liked the fresh-tasting peas and carrots and thick chunks of chicken. "It has a nice, black pepper burn and more pizzazz than some of the competition," said one. "This looks like my great-aunt's tuna casserole, but looks are deceiving," said another. "It's got a nice flavor." One judge compared the flavor to a chicken pot pie. "I would serve this to my family," said another. "Even the chicken is a nice, roasted color."Really fresh-tasting vegetables made this a standout for panelists. "This would be great on a cold evening before my kid's sporting event," said one. The creamy sauce had an intense Parmesan flavor and the penne pasta and chicken were blended with bits of yellow bell peppers, carrots and tiny florets of broccoli.Thick fettuccine noodles made this dish look appetizing, although a couple of panelists complained that the noodles were a bit gummy. "They kind of clump together," said one. She compared the noodles to dumplings. The pasta was coated in a smooth sauce with roasted red peppers. The chicken, though, was the highlight of this dish. "It's nicely roasted with a good texture," said another.
Would they buy?All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping

information
$4.83 for a 21-ounce bag from Publix.$3.17 for a 10.5-ounce bag from Walmart.$5.99 for a 24-ounce bag from Sweetbay.

also sampled: Kashi Chicken Fettuccine ($2.97 for a 9.5-ounce bag from Walmart) and Smart Ones Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo ($3.18 for an 11.7-ounce bag from Walmart).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Patti Ewald, Times staff writer; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Taste test: frozen meals 09/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 5:30am]

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