Healthy Choice: A Foray into the Frozen Foods Section
What does Top Chef-inspired really mean?
Photos by Christina Uticone
In case you hadn't noticed, some of us here at EOW have been trying to clean up our diets a bit since the holidays. Personally, it's been a struggle since my household has tried to balance travel, illness and the general insanities of everyday life. There are some days that I simply give in, and look for something I can prepare and eat as quickly as possible.
After a recent stop at Snap Kitchen, I was telling my husband how much better these fresh meals are than the usual fare in the frozen food aisle.
"When is the last time you tried out a low-cal grocery brand?" he asked, and I had to admit that other than the occasional Amy's meal, it had been awhile. On our next trip to the grocery store, I challenged myself to check out some of the new Healthy Choice meals, some of which, the packaging claims, are "inspired by" Bravo's Top Chef.
I selected three items to test out. First, the "Baked Taste" lasagna, because I find pasta dishes are often the best of any frozen line. Then I picked the Honey Glazed Turkey & Sweet Potato because it sported the Top Chef logo that made me choose this line in the first place. Finally, I grabbed a package of blueberry "Greek frozen yogurt" because, um, dessert.
I was in a "dessert first" kind of mood, so I dug right into the frozen yogurt. No product I have purchased in recent memory has been so aptly named; this is, quite literally, frozen yogurt. And not in the "vaguely like ice cream" way we usually associate with frozen yogurt. The texture, while not outright unpleasant, is definitely strange. It's sort of gritty and chunky, and certainly no substitute for ice cream. You can freeze your own blueberry yogurt for half the price, so go crazy, kids!
Doesn't look like much, but the sauce is surprisingly hearty. (Stop reading, Dad.)
The entrées were a mixed bag. As I suspected, the lasagna emerged as the victor. The pasta cooks to a good consistency, and there is a decent meat sauce that really lets you feel full -- lots of cheese, too. At 280 calories, the 18 grams of protein and six grams of fiber are going to keep you feeling full for hours. This is a solid frozen lasagna option, especially when considered up against those in the "healthy" category.
Like a mean practical joke.
Less successful was the Top Chef-inspired Turkey & Sweet Potato entrée. Two words: sugar bomb. The honey sauce is cloying, and especially unpleasant with the already-sweet sweet potatoes. It's a shame, because visually this is gorgeous -- it comes out of the microwave looking beautiful, with the bright green of the beans in sharp contrast with the beautiful orange sweet potatoes. I've rarely eaten something that looked so lovely but that so utterly failed the taste test. I'm completely confused as to what this has to do with Top Chef, besides as a cross-promotion opportunity. No way does this dish keep anyone in any kind of cooking competition.
It was a fun experiment, but I think I'll stick with Amy's and Snap Kitchen when it comes to healthy prepared meals -- unless you have a suggestion? What am I missing in the frozen food case?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.