Food Fight: Sante Fe Rice and Beans

As I did with my first Food Fight, I hit up the frozen section at the grocery store for this one. Being healthy was on the brain this time around, so I checked out the section for "lean" meals. It wasn't easy finding two brands that served the same dish. But my persistence paid off, and I present to you: Battle Santa Fe Rice and Beans.

Michelina's Lean Gourmet Michelina's boasts on their box, "Taste beyond words-SAVOR and COMPARE." How did the fine people at this company know that's exactly what I was up to -- well, at least the comparing part? No surprise here, the taste was not beyond words. In fact, what exactly is "beyond words"? Is that speechless? Anyway, the taste was nothing special, but it certainly wasn't disgusting. The dish wasn't bland (probably a little too salty), and the cheese, red beans, corn, sour cream and rice blended together quite well. At nine ounces, the portion size was adequate. What was beyond words was the appearance. It resembled a pile of puke. Michelina's version of Santa Fe Rice and Beans was 320 calories (70 from fat), and at 88 cents, an excellent value. The cooking time took a total of four minutes, but proved to be a little annoying, since I had to cook for two minutes, mix, and heat for another two minutes in the microwave.

Lean Cuisine Lean Cuisine invited me to "Discover the Goodness." My search for goodness proved to be worth my time -- six minutes in the microwave, to be exact. This was longer than Michelina's, but it was a straight six minutes with no mixing. Lean Cuisine's Santa Fe Rice and Beans also resembled a pile of vomit, but it was a prettier pile of vomit. And it was lower in calories at 290 (45 from fat). The overall dish proved to be somewhat bland, but it was creamy and the addition of black beans (along with pintos) was a nice touch. All the flavors worked well together, and the rice was moist. The portion size weighed in at ten ounces, and although bigger than Michelina's, the price was considerably higher at $1.88 but still was a decent value.

The Winner Both were better than I expected, and neither was terrible. The slightly bigger portion, better health stats and the addition of black beans allowed Lean Cuisine to edge out Michelina's. That said, if you're looking to save a few bucks, go with Michelina's. Lean Cuisine is twice the cost, but the difference in taste is minimal.

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