Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne

March 16, 2009

tomato-basil-penneSince I’m always on the lookout for new things to try, I tend to notice boxes with bright red “new!” flags on them more than those without.  In the case of Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne, it was also the modernized packaging.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw that the streamlined green and white box was not, in fact, an entirely new brand of frozen dinners (but Healthy is now spelled Hea!thy, which I guess will entice us to buy it).  At any rate, I couldn’t pass this one up.  For a long time I’ve been skeptical about Healthy Choice’s ability to deliver a decent-tasting meal, but ever since trying their Cafe Steamers Chicken Marghertia (delicious by the way, review to come) my opinion of the brand has improved substantially.  Not to mention the fact that this frozen meal claims to be “all-natural”.

So what is this new line by Healthy Choice?  They describe the all-natural meals as high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A and C, low in saturated fat and cholesterol and free of preservatives and artificial flavors.  Ever since reading the article in Women’s Health about the truth behind the ingredient list in frozen dinners, I’m always on the lookout for items that are preservative-free.  The other items in the line are Portabella Marsala Pasta, Portabella Spinach Parmesan, Pumpkin Squash Ravioli, Sweet Asian Potstickers and Mediterannean Pasta.  I figured if they could get the Tomato Basil Penne right, the other ones would be worth a try.

In their words: “Wholesome nine-grain penne pasta topped with tomatoes, onions, sweet basil, and mozzarella cheese is prepared with 100% extra virgin olive oil for a great-tasting meal with just 280 calories and 7 grams of fiber”.

I must admit, reality came pretty close!  I nuked the dinner according to their directions and in under 7 minutes it was nice and steamy and ready to eat.  The first thing I noticed was the portion size.  Despite being only 280 calories, this seemed like a well-sized meal.  Unlike Lean Cuisine’s rabbit-sized Cheese Ravioli, this pasta looked like it might fill me up.  Tasting revealed to be a pleasure.  While the penne is clearly whole-wheat (and I always prefer regular pasta), the flavor actually added to the dish instead of detracting from it.  While I couldn’t really taste much cheese, the basil added a nice note and the sauce was plentiful and tomato-y.  I even detected a hint of a brown sugar giving the meal a hint of sweetness.  Even though there was 600 mg of salt in the dinner (a large amount, although less than a lot of frozen meals), I still needed to add a little more.  Mrs. Dash’s salt-free tomato basil seasoning would’ve done the trick, too.  While it wasn’t the absolute best frozen pasta dish I’ve ever had, it’s still one that will be going on my weekly shopping list!

Stars: 4/5

Nutrition Facts: Serving size: 1 Meal.  280 Calories.  60 Calories from fat.  6g Fat.  2.5g Saturated Fat.  0g Trans Fat.  15mg Cholesterol.  600mg Sodium.  39g Carbohydrates.  7g Dietary Fiber.  6g Sugar.  13g Protein.  2% Vitamin C.  10% Vitamin A.  10% Iron.  20% Calcium. 5 WW Points.

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Lean Cuisine Cheese Ravioli

March 5, 2009

Lean Cuisine Cheese Raviolo=i Furthering my quest for a good frozen pasta dish, I picked up Lean Cuisine’s Cheese Ravioli at the grocery store yesterday. Ravioli may qualify as the best invention ever, and if I can eat it every day for only 240 calories I would be in heaven. Lean Cuisine offered just that, saying the dish contained “delicate ravioli stuffed with Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, then topped with a robust tomato sauce accented with basil, onion and garlic”. You’ve got to love it when Lean Cuisine starts using “robust” in their product descriptions.

Needless to say, the ravioli was not robust. Even though microwaving it smelled incredible, when I took it out I was disappointed to find only 6 small ravioli pieces. They were only just covering the bottom of the little plastic container! Deciding that this would be better suited as a side dish, I reheated some chicken Parmesan and served myself the ravioli to go along with it. Were I eating just the ravioli, this would be massively disappointing. I would have to eat at least two of these for them to qualify as a dinner.

As far as taste is concerned, the ravioli definitely ranked well above the previously reviewed Angel Hair Pomodoro. The pasta shell had a much better texture and the sauce was not as runny. Despite all this, they were not packed with flavor. You could taste the cheese (although the ravioli could have contained more of it) and the tomato sauce had some hint of the basil, onion and garlic. All together, though, this did not hit the spot. If you’re looking for a full meal, you’re better off going a different route. As a small side dish to something more substantial and tastier (I served myself about 2/3 of the package), it actually works decently well.  Massive reduction on the overall rating due to the serving size, though.

Stars: 3/5

Nutritional Facts: Serving Size: 1 Package.  240 Calories.  50 calories from Fat. 6 g Fat.  3.5 g Saturated Fat.  40 mg Cholesterol.  600 g Sodium.  540 g Potassium.  38 g Carbohydrates.  3 g Dietary Fiber.  10 g Sugar.  11 g Protein.  5 Weight Watchers Points.

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Lean Cuisine Angel Hair Pomodoro

March 4, 2009

Lean Cuisine Angel Hair Pomodoro

From Lean Cuisine: “Delicate angel hair pasta in a chunky marinara sauce and topped with melted Parmesan and zesty Asiago cheese”.

If I had to describe Lean Cuisine’s Angel Hair Pomodoro in word word, it would be forgettable. Craving pasta again last night, I popped this in the microwave looking forward to what I was hoping would be a satisfying, healthy alternative to ordering out from an Italian restaurant. Size-wise, this was fairly substantial for only 250 calories. Taste-wise, this wasn’t what I would call a winner. Despite subtracting 30 seconds from the cooking time, the angel hair pasta was a little overcooked and gummy (by no means al dente). The sauce, while it wasn’t incredibly watery, didn’t really taste like much at all. While the chunks of tomatoes were tasty and sizable, they were also somewhat sparse. As for the Parmesan and Asiago cheeses, I could barely tell they were there.

While I wouldn’t describe it as bad, it wasn’t necessarily good, either. There was enough pasta to make it a full meal, but the only way I would buy this again is if I needed a 5 minute side pasta dish to something more flavorful and filling. Also, its good to keep in mind that this contains a whopping 620 mg (26% DV) of sodium. Better bet? Boil a small pot of water and drop some pasta in it and add some marinara sauce. It seriously only takes about 12 minutes longer and you will be a much happier camper.

Stars: 3/5

Nutritional Information: Serving Size: 1 package. 250 Calories. 45 Calories from Fat. 5 g Fat. 2 g Saturated Fat. 0 g Trans fat. 5 mg Cholesterol. 620 mg Sodium. 470 mg Potassium. 42 g Carbohydrates. 4 g Dietary Fiber. 10 g Sugar. 8 g Protein. 5 Weight Watchers Points.

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Marie Callendar’s Pasta Al Dente Tortellini Romano

March 3, 2009


While browsing the frozen food aisle because I was too lazy to actually cook anything, I came across Marie Callender’s new Pasta Al Dente “steamed to perfection” pasta dishes. Who was I to turn down perfection? Especially when what is promised are cheese-stuffed pillows of heaven covered in a creamy marinara sauce topped with basil and Parmesan cheese. And on top of all that, it contains no preservatives and is “authentically Italian!”. Since apparently the frozen dinners aisle had turned into a free flight to Italy, I quickly snapped up the Tortellini Romano.

I popped it in the microwave later that night to see what perfection tasted like. The dish comes with the tortellini and tomatoes inside a colander-like basket nestled inside a plastic bowl containing the sauce at the bottom.  While it seemed a little elaborate for a frozen dinner, the system worked wonderfully.  After letting the dish set for the recommended 2 minutes, I dumped the tortellini in the sauce and mixed it all together. While it was no Hungryman mega-meal, the serving was fairly substantial and satiating. The tortellini actually steamed nicely with only one or two pieces being just a little harder than the others and the tomato pieces were decent-sized, tasty and not soggy. While I would’ve liked to see a little bit more cheese inside and the sauce was a little more watery than creamy, altogether the meal was flavorful and satisfying.  If you’re craving an easy, quick, tasty pasta dish, this is a keeper.  Definitely one of the better frozen meals I’ve ever had.  Keep in mind, though, that this is just tortellini.  If you’re looking for some sort of a meat portion to your meal, you’re better off going with something else.

Stars: 4/5

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1 meal. Calories: 460. Calories from fat: 140. Total fat: 15 g. Saturated Fat: 7 g. Total Carbohydrates: 62 g. Dietary Fiber: 7 g. Sugars: 7 g. Protein: 19 g.  10 Weight Watchers Points

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