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From time to time it starts to look as if we've reviewed everything that fits our criteria. We'll go to our local grocery stores and scour the shelves in the freezer case only to turn to re-reviewing things we tasted ten years ago. While that's certainly a worthwhile endeavor, as we saw just a few weeks ago as we revisited two burritos from Amy's, we'd much rather try something new. Wouldn't you?
Fortunately for us, Lean Cuisine keeps churning out new varieties, which probably explains why their products seem to dominate the frozen food aisle (in our utterly unscientific view). This week we happened upon two items from their Culinary Collection, one beef, and one chicken.
Lean Cuisine's track record with beef is not good at all. The only beef product of theirs we've liked was their Spaghetti with Meatballs, which makes sense when you remember that cooked, frozen, and reheated beef dishes made from cheaper cuts of meat already have the flavor and texture decks stacked against them. Ground beef is far easier to reheat, but even ground beef can go very, very wrong, as we saw a few weeks ago with their Meatloaf and their Salisbury Steak (ugh).
So our expectations could hardly have been lower as we microwaved their Beef Pot Roast (210 calories, 640mg sodium, 3g fiber).
Our tasting panel was pleasantly surprised: "It's a little on the salty side," they admitted. But the 1 inch by 1/2 inch chunks of beef were hardly stringy at all - a common problem with beef pot roasts of all kinds. In fact, the beef is pretty tender ("as roast beefs go," according to one taster). The carrots are "chewy," oddly enough, but the green beans still have a little crunch, and the chunks of russet potatoes are not dried out. There's even a faint red wine flavor in the reasonably thick sauce. The whole panel, including myself, was rather nonplussed: "Not spectacular, but pretty darn good - for pot roast," was the verdict. (At least one panelist admitted that their mother's pot roast had not been as good.)
With that surprising result, we turned to the Roasted Chicken & Garden Vegetables. At once we felt to be on more familiar ground: this is a pasta dish with chicken, vegetables, and what is described as "a spicy fire-roasted tomato sauce."
If you've been reading the Dr. Gourmet Food Reviews every Friday for a while, you can probably guess what the problems are with this dish: Dry chicken (and not much of it). Mushy, mushy pasta (even worse than usual). Metallic aftertaste to a fairly sweet sauce that has only the tiniest afterburn - hardly enough for the "spicy" descriptor. The best part of this dish are the vegetables: three small broccoli florets and a few scattered yellow and orange julienned carrots are the best and freshest flavor and texture in the whole dish. Don't bother with this one ("Unless you like mouthfuls of goo.").
First posted: June 5, 2015