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Two With Seafood

I can't say that I am ever excited by frozen meals, but when we find a new fish dish to test it is unusual. Face it, cooking fish in the microwave is not great for it and the challenge of a food manufacturer to create a seafood dish, freeze it, ship it, to be reheated and have it taste like anything is nearly insurmountable. That's why I was intrigued by two new products.

Organic Bistro Alaskan Salmon CakeThe first by a company we have not seen before, so I am not sure how widely available it is. Organic Bistro makes an Alaskan Salmon Cake with Three Bean Medley and Confetti Pilaf. I was dubious, but we have had some success with fish cakes in the past. I am here to report that our tasting panel loved this meal (as much as one can love frozen food). The salmon cake was moist and meaty with a slightly spicy flavor and the veggies were good quality frozen snap peas, green beans and edamame. This is served with a brown rice pilaf.

Amazingly, this dish contains only 250 mg of sodium. We had to sprinkle a bit of salt on the pilaf to give it some flavor. But the rest of the meal was plenty salty and all in all a great choice if you are going to have a convenience meal. It's only 410 calories and has 8 grams of monounsaturated fat. There's even 8 grams of fiber. We'll be looking for more of their products soon.

Cedarlane JambalayaThe CedarLane Shrimp and Turkey Sausage Jambalaya is an OK choice at best. Not great, not good, but OK. Like most frozen meals, it's too salty. There's 700 mg of sodium per serving. As one taster pointed out, however, "all jambalaya is too salty," so it's just keeping with tradition I suppose. (Living here in New Orleans I have had some good jambalaya, but far more really bad jambalaya.) Less salt would let the spicy flavors come through better, but even so this has a good Creole taste.

It's close and the folks at CedarLane could make this better with a few simple changes. The blurb on the side of the box says, "If it doesn't taste great, we won't make it," and we think that's a wonderful philosophy. This meal tastes good at best, however, and not great. The shrimp is a little tough, as is the turkey, and the rice is gummy. The spices are good, but the dish is too salty. This is one place where they could have used brown rice: no one would have known, there would be more fiber and the texture would be better. We have to give this one a pass since it's OK but not good or great.

One note, both of these came in paper dishes. This is something we like to see here at Dr. Gourmet and want to challenge the manufacturers to take this even further. Even though both dishes were paper, they did come packed inside wasteful boxes. While Budget Gourmet brand meals are universally terrible, their packaging is far less wasteful. All of the companies could take a lesson in efficient packaging from them.


Reviewed: January 7, 2011