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Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed over 800 common convenience foods, ingredients, and restaurant selections so that you know what's worth eating - and what's not. View the Index of all Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Birds Eye Voila!

Alfredo Chicken and Sweet & Sour Shrimp



Dr. Gourmet reviews Alredo Chicken from Birds Eye's Voila! line of skillet mealsWhen I was a kid, "Birds Eye" meant frozen vegetables. Recently a reader asked about the 'meals in a bag' he had seen in the frozen section of the grocery, so I was surprised, and I'll admit, a little pleased, to see that Birds Eye had branched out into meals: specifically, meals for two, which are a growing section of the frozen food market. The vegetables had to be good, right?

Even better, one of the varieties on the shelf at my local market offered shrimp, which as you likely know if you've been reading our reviews for a while, is quite a bit harder to find than meals offering chicken or even beef. Fish or shellfish are just that much harder to cook, freeze, and then reheat and have them taste like pretty much anything.

The idea behind these meals could hardly be easier: no need to add anything at all, except maybe water. Far too many of these "meals in a bag" require that you add your own protein, which in the long run seems no better than Hamburger Helper (and about as good for you). The Alfredo Chicken (240 calories, 590 mg sodium, 3g fiber) requires that you pour the contents of the pouch into a 10-inch non-stick skillet, add 1/3 cup water, cover, and cook for about 11 minutes, stirring occasionally. It could hardly be easier, and indeed, the instructions worked perfectly.

Birds Eye Alfredo Chicken after cookingThe moment you open the package for this meal, you're ready for something good: it has a strong scent of roasted garlic and cream. The bad news is that the actual product doesn't live up to the scented hype - the rather thin sauce is more peppery than garlicky, as if someone ground a lot of black pepper over the top just before serving. The chicken chunks are a little salty, but not unacceptably so, while the vegetables (julienned carrots, broccoli chunks, and peas) are only a little overcooked. Likewise the pasta is a little overdone - which as a panelist pointed out, is probably just about where most people think pasta should be (I like my pasta fairly firm). The other problem with this meal is that the package actually serves 3, not 2. This could be ok - two people eat a serving each and one take a serving for lunch the next day.

More likely, however, is that two people split the bag, leaving you with 360 calories, 885 milligrams of sodium, and it's not worth doing the math on the fiber because you can make a version of this dish yourself in about the same amount of time it would take to cook the pasta: here's the recipe for Fettuccine Alredo with Shrimp and Broccoli (GERD-friendly version).

Birds Eye Sweet & Sour Shrimp after cookingWe'd hoped for better with the Sweet & Sour Shrimp, which is 2.5 servings per bag (for 1/2 the bag, effectively 300 calories, 725 mg sodium, 2 mg fiber). On the one hand, the shrimp come out nearly perfectly cooked: tender and crisp. (These shrimp are cooked from raw/frozen, which is why the package cautions you to cook the shrimp until they are opaque white in the center.) The vegetables have a bit of crunch, with the julienned carrots suffering from the cooking process somewhat more than the red or green bell peppers and onions. The white rice is, unfortunately, about what you'd expect from re-simmered, pre-cooked white rice: while the individual grains retain their shape, the overall texture is still gummy.

This isn't helped by the sauce, which is sweet, sweet, sweet. There is no spice whatsoever in this dish, and the "sour" of the name is provided only when you bite into a chunk of green bell pepper. Ah, what might have been.... Stay away from these two.

Reviewed: July 15, 2016