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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Healthy Choice Simply Cafe Steamers

Sweet & Spicy Asian-Style Noodle Bowl and Three Cheese Tortellini

Dr. Gourmet reviews the Sweet & Spicy Asian-Style Noodle Bowl from Healthy Choice's Simply Cafe Steamers lineThis week we review two varieties that are so new they don't even appear on the Healthy Choice website. These are from their "Simply" line, which touts "nothing artificial" and some organic ingredients. The numbers for Healthy Choice's products get better and better: today's Noodle Bowl has 240 calories, with only 490 milligrams of sodium and 5 grams of fiber, while the Tortellini is even more impressive with 230 calories, only 390 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of fiber.

Unfortunately, neither of these are particularly good. One panelist walked in as we were taking the Noodle Bowl out of the microwave and remarked, "That smells terrible." It certainly looks good, brightly colored with plenty of edamame and diced carrots and dotted with red bell pepper. But the spicy sauce is "awfully soupy" and there are far fewer noodles than you might expect from something with "noodle bowl" in the name. (These are really udon noodles: thick and chewy.)

The problem here is the sauce: while it's not excessively spicy (and not very sweet, either), the flavor is strong enough to overpower nearly all other flavors in the dish. The individual elements are pretty good on their own, with crunchy vegetables, chewy noodles, and the spicy sauce... but they don't work together. "Overall, it's very one-note," said a panelist.

Dr. Gourmet reviews the Three Cheese Tortellini from Healthy Choice's Simply Cafe Steamers lineUnfortunately, so is the Tortellini. A sugary-sweet sauce that smells oddly acidic (one panelist thought too much oregano might be the culprit) tops a dish heavy on chopped spinach and diced tomatoes. The dish claims to be "three cheese" but we couldn't find any cheese or even cheese flavor in the undercooked, chewy tortellini. The big chunks of mushrooms should have added umami to the dish, but again, the sauce effectively drowns out all other flavors. Both of these dishes show that "simple" and "nothing artificial" doesn't necessarily mean "good." Leave them on the shelf.

Reviewed: July 1, 2016