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"New Recipe!" they both say on the box. These are full meals from Healthy Choice - entree, veg, starch and dessert. This week I chose their Beef Tips Portobello and their Classic Meat Loaf, which have 270 and 360 calories respectively. The amount of sodium in each meal is fairly reasonable - for processed foods: the Classic Meat Loaf comes in at 550 milligrams of sodium while the Beef Tips Portobello is at 600 milligrams of sodium. Again, not outrageous. What drew me to these meals in particular, other than the comfort food angle, is the amount of fiber in each meal.
We started tasting with the Beef Tips Portobello. You don't see a lot of beef options (that aren't ground beef) in the frozen food case. (I suspect it's the cost of the beef.) This is a fair choice: the beef chunks are about the quality you'd expect from a frozen meal, but they have a good beef flavor and there's rather a lot more beef than I would have expected. The meal does offer 18 grams of protein, however.
I expected the gravy to be salty, but in this case it was not overly so. The mushrooms are evident and tasty. Another surprise was that the whipped potatoes didn't become grainy after microwaving and were not pasty, either. The vegetables are a bit of a disappointment. While the corn, green beans and pearl onions come out al dente, they're sadly flavorless. A bit of fresh ground pepper would be a good addition here.
Finally, the "Caramel Apple Multigrain Crisp" looks rather more like an apple cobbler and is so sticky-sweet as to be almost inedible. In order to get the 5 grams of fiber in this dish you have to eat it all, though - the oatmeal flakes in the topping are a major source of the fiber in this meal. We'll give this one a cautious thumbs' up.
When I was a kid these sorts of meals were called "TV Dinners" and came in metal trays. The one I especially hated was called Salisbury Steak and consisted of a bland patty of low-grade ground meat. I felt a sense of deja vu as I tasted the Classic Meat Loaf, which is definitely more Salisbury Steak of the 60's than Meat Loaf of this century (or even the 50's). This is an exact copy of the featureless, flavorless ground beef patty of my childhood, covered with a gravy so salty I had to look at the box again to confirm that this meal actually has less sodium than the Beef Tips: only 550 milligrams of sodium in this as opposed to 600 milligrams in the Beef Tips.
The same whipped potatoes appear here along with corn, which again is properly cooked, but this time much more flavorful. The dessert is an "Apple Cranberry Multigrain Crisp" that contributes a cloyingly sweet finish to this meal. Veg and starch: good. Entree and dessert: inedible. Leave this on the shelf and make your own Meat Loaf. (Or Beef Tips in Brown Gravy.)
Reviewed: May 21, 2010