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Two Good Options from Lean Cuisine

Sometimes it's really difficult to choose something to review. This is mostly due to the very high levels of sodium in convenience meals. I simply won't recommend anything with more than about 600 milligrams of sodium in it (although there have been exceptions, of course). This upper limit for sodium means that a good 2/3 of the meals on the market won't even be considered for review.

The good news is that there do seem to be more and more lower-sodium options. Amy's, for example, makes many of its foods in a reduced-sodium version, and we've found many of them to be quite good. The larger companies, however, are more hit and miss when it comes to minimizing the salt in their foods, and Lean Cuisine is certainly one of the culprits.

Ginger Garlic ChickenThis week's Lean Cuisine reviews might not have happened at all if it weren't for the fact that their Ginger Garlic Stir Fry with Chicken sort of reminded me of one of my own recipes: Asian Peanut Chicken with Noodles. (The box also says, "New Recipe!") And the numbers are pretty good: 550 milligrams of sodium, 280 calories, and a whopping (for convenience foods) 5 grams of fiber.

This meal is cooked for 4 1/2 minutes in the microwave, so I'd expected the chicken to be overcooked, the vegetables mushy and the pasta equally mushy. Not at all! This more gingery than garlicky sauce doesn't overpower the flavor of the chicken, which is well and not overly cooked. The broccoli and snap peas still have some body to them, and the pasta, while not overcooked, tends a little more toward rubbery. All in all, not a bad offering and better than I expected.

Fiesta ChickenThe other review item today happened to be the next dish on the shelf. I thought for sure we'd reviewed the Fiesta Grilled Chicken with Mexican-Style Rice before, but I was thinking of the Santa-Fe Style Rice and Beans, which this definitely reminds me of.

This dish is a grilled chicken in a creamy sour cream-tomatillo sauce with a hint of lime. Not too spicy and the chicken again is well cooked and not dried out. The rice this comes with includes cheese, corn, red and yellow peppers, and black and kidney beans with cumin and a light touch of cayenne. While I'm not sure that's "Mexican-Style" it does have a lot of flavor and the rice is neither soggy nor overly dry. Definitely reheated, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case.

The numbers are not quite as good as the Ginger Garlic Stir Fry, having only 4 grams of fiber in 260 calories and 600 milligrams of sodium. Another good choice for your freezer or lunch at your desk.

Reviewed: February 5, 2010