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Remember Lean Cuisine's Market Creations? They're the Lean Cuisine line that comes in a plastic pouch with a steam valve on the back: microwave, pour into a bowl, eat. We reviewed a couple of these several months ago, and they were quite good. We've kept an eye out for others from this line that fit our criteria of under about 600 milligrams of sodium, but so far haven't seen any more than the Chicken Poblano and the Chicken Margherita that we've already reviewed.
But it looks like Kashi has gotten into the meal-in-a-pouch act, as well. The good news is that we found these in my local Winn-Dixie, so they should be fairly easy to find. As with the Lean Cuisines, these are single-serving meals that come in a plastic pouch that you microwave, unopened, for 4 minutes or so. Allow to sit for one minute, open the pouch (carefully!) with scissors, pour into a bowl, stir and eat. I definitely like the idea for the simple fact that it seems to use so much less plastic than other packaging options, although they are all improving.
The first variety we tried today is the Roasted Garlic Chicken Farfalle. There are few things I love more than the scent of roasted garlic, and you get a great big whiff of it while this meal is microwaving. And the meal itself is almost better. With 280 calories with 570 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of fiber, this is a nice plate of farfalle (bow tie) pasta that Kashi has made from its proprietary 7-grain combination. I wish they sold the pasta by itself, because this comes out perfectly al dente, and if you've read our Food Reviews for a while, you know how rare it is to find properly cooked pasta in a frozen meal. Even better, the tomato sauce is bright and tasty with lots of garlic and a nice hit of red pepper to give it zing. The chicken, while a little dry, comes in generous chunks and the asparagus and spinach balance the savory sauce with just a little bitterness. Thumbs way up!
Unfortunately, the Chicken Fettuccine we tested next (270 calories, 450mg sodium, 5g fiber) suffers by comparison. After all of the flavor in the Chicken Farfalle, the white wine and parmesan cream sauce seems bland and more parmesan-scented than flavored. Again, the 7-grain pasta is al dente and the yellow squash and broccoli are nicely steamed to still have crunch, but the chicken is drier than in the Farfalle. Despite the presence of tomatoes in this dish, I'd say that those with heartburn or GERD who can tolerate overcooked tomatoes would find this one safe to eat. And although your food doesn't have to be bland and boring to be GERD-friendly (just look at the GERD-friendly recipes on DrGourmet.com), this is definitely on the blander side. We'll give this an overall thumbs down because the Chicken Farfalle shows that the flavors could be much better.
Reviewed: February 24, 2012