Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed some 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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I know we reviewed Healthy Choice products last week. We do strive for variety in our reviews here at Dr. Gourmet, but this new product line from Healthy Choice was intriguing. It's so new, in fact, that it doesn't even appear on their web site.
The packages say "Fresh Baked Taste in the Microwave" and tout a "unique even bake tray" which is supposed to "cook evenly and minimizes burnt edges." I admit to being dubious. Isn't baked pasta all about crusty edges?
And if anything should be baked, it's lasagna, so we tried that first. The numbers are really good: 280 calories, a suprisingly low 380 milligrams of sodium, and 6 grams of fiber. This dish requires an unusually long cooking time: 6-7 minutes in the microwave, followed by letting it stand for 5 minutes. After all that cooking and sitting, you would expect a fairly dried out product, but because you just slit the plastic covering, you just end up with tomato sauce spilled into the microwave and dried onto the inside of the microwave. The food itself looks... watery.
It does thicken up a bit as it cools, but this was not a good sign. Although the dish does smell strongly of garlic while it's cooking, the flavor does not extend so strongly into the sauce. That said, it's a good, hearty meat sauce with a strong oregano component that's not sweet but savory. The panel reported a fair amount of ground beef evident and the ricotta was well represented as well. Even the lasagna noodles stood up well to the microwaving, leaving this not great, but good. The overall verdict: not "baked," certainly, but on a par with other meat lasagnas we've tried.
We had lower expectations for the Fettuccini Alfredo Bake because, well, you might not necessarily bake Fettuccini Alfredo. This has a comparable number of calories (270) but far more sodium at 580 milligrams. Less fiber, however: only 4 grams.
This dish calls for cooking 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes and then standing for 2 - much more in line with other microwave dishes. This comes out smelling strongly of fresh-cooked broccoli and classic Alfredo sauce (parmesan and garlic, mostly). There's a lot of broccoli here and it's still crunchy and flavorful. While the noodles are overcooked, there's a generous amount of sauce that's a little thinner than I might like, but still has a fairly well balanced, if subtle, Alfredo flavor.
All in all, both dishes get an "eat," rather than a "don't eat" - as long as you don't expect them to be "baked."