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There are a few refreshing things off the bat about EatingWell's new line of frozen foods. First off is that when they include rice, it's brown rice, and therefore the fiber content in many of their dishes is at least 5 grams. Likewise, the added sugars are low. We think they could do better with the sodium content in their Steak Carne Asada, however. 640 milligrams of sodium for a 340 calorie meal is a bit high. Sometimes we can forgive the extra salt, but I believe that the target of under 500 milligrams for most meals is both realistic and achievable. The perennial question is, would this dish be worth it?
Our second impression was that their meals are heavy on the packaging. There is a cardboard box, plastic plate, and a plastic wrap overlay. Frozen food companies have cleaned up their acts regarding nutrition in many respects: we can only hope they begin to do the same with respect to the wasted packaging.
Packing aside, the dish looked and smelled good coming out of the microwave. There is an abundance of corn, black beans, and brown rice, with a bit of thinly sliced beef and diced red peppers. The aroma is decidedly South of the Border and those flavors come through with cumin, smoked paprika, and a hint of chipotle. It's good - but not great. "It tastes like the taco filling that you made a couple of days ago and have brought out of the fridge to reheat for lunch," said a panelist.
"Just a bit, well, ordinary," another said. The texture is good, the seasonings are OK, but overall this is not really anything very special.
In the end we give this a thumbs down. Not just because it is ordinary, but because it really is too salty. That extra 150 milligrams of sodium make the dish harsh and don't let the other natural flavors come through. Overall, a disappointment.
The Cherry Port Pork fares about as well, with 690 milligrams of sodium for 280 calories and 4 grams of fiber.
On the one hand, the description isn't very accurate: it claims it contains "pulled style pork" and as one panelist observed, "It looks like chunks to me." Yet the flavor of said pork is excellent, with plenty of pork savor, enlivened by the cherry sauce (there's only a hint of port). Nor is the pork tough or stringy: it may well be some of the best pork we've eaten in a frozen meal (damned with faint praise, I know).
The red potatoes in the dish are much like those we had in another EatingWell dish - once again, perfectly cooked, nice bite to the skin, plenty of sweet and tender potato flavor.
The "big drawback" here are the vegetables. French-cut green beans and julienned carrots "just look tired," and worse yet, "taste canned." They might have good texture, "but who cares? You don't want to eat them."
The final straw?
A panelist who read the packaging noted that it claims that this meal includes "a full cup of delicious vegetables." Given that there's perhaps a scant quarter-cup of green beans and carrots, we can only conclude that this is true if you happen to know that potatoes are technically vegetables.
We can't give EatingWell a thumbs up for either of these.
Reviewed: January 12, 2018