Fast Times

Amy's Kitchen Light & Lean Lasagna Letdown

I'm a big fan of Amy's Kitchen frozen meals. I like their focus on natural ingredients, that everything is vegetarian or vegan and that for the most part all of their offerings are portioned to within 400 calories (give or take 50).

Compared to most of the stuff I have found in the single-serve frozen-food aisle, Amy's meals taste phenomenal, so I was intrigued to see that the company had introduced a new "Light & Lean" line. Amy's lasagnas are among some of my favorites -- my father is appropriately horrified, I'm sure -- so I thought why not check out the Light & Lean version? Amy's Light & Lean meals promise less than 300 calories, five grams of fat and 590 mg of sodium each, and as always are made with natural, organic ingredients.

Rather than grab my usual favorite -- Amy's Roasted Eggplant Lasagna -- I decided to see if the Light & Lean Spinach Lasagna would deliver equally delicious flavor for 60 fewer calories and six fewer grams of fat.

Although I was tempted to cook this in the oven for "best results," 35 to 40 minutes of cooking time doesn't quite qualify as "fast times" (also, I was hungry), so I went with the microwave method. On a totally unrelated side note, I nuked this for the 3 minute-plus-2 minute recommended cooking time, but on HIGH POWER rather than on HIGH POWER then MEDIUM POWER given in the directions. I don't know how to change the power on my microwave and I can't find the manual in my appliance manual file. Yes, I have one; yes, I keep them.

Anyway, the dish did not seem to be worse for wear, having been cooked on high for the entire five minutes. I let the pasta sit for two minutes, and then dug in. One of the things I like best about all Amy's meals is also true about this one -- they really hold up to microwave cooking. Sure, it's always better in the oven, but the pasta texture stays relatively firm; the edges don't get too hard, and the middle never gets too gummy. Yet another reason to give Amy's Kitchen high marks overall.

Unfortunately, this was a pretty blah piece of lasagna. I would really rather spend an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill and enjoy the superior taste (and additional 60 calories) of the regular Amy's lasagnas than this mediocre dish. The sauce is boring, bordering on sweet, and in spite of a pleasant aroma of garlic, I didn't detect any garlic flavor. The spinach isn't flavorful enough to power through the tomato sauce, and there is a decided lack of filling between the layers of pasta. Although the dish is overall satisfying in terms of satiating hunger, I can't recommend Amy's Light & Lean instead of her other lasagna options. I say try her regular line of lasagnas and then go for a 20-minute walk -- you'll break even on the extra 60 calories.

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Christina Uticone