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A couple of months ago we discovered Luvo Foods and those meals, their Orange Mango Chicken and Chicken Chile Verde, were really, really good. Pricey at $5.99 each, mind you, but good. It's happened before that the first several meals from a promising new company were excellent, but then subsequent offerings were not so great (we're looking at you, evol!). With this in mind, the panel approached today's meals with hopeful caution.
Our first tasting was of the Nine Grain Pilaf, which is much more than it sounds: it includes "sweet chile beef & steamed vegetables." The beef in this dish is about a dozen small bits of beef ranging from the size of a dime to that of a quarter. While the beef itself is fairly tender and has good beef flavor, no "sweet chile" flavor was detectable.
Equally disappointing was the "steamed vegetables" which are a scattering of very small broccoli florets (a little overcooked, but not excessively so), tiny strips of wilted kale, and diced red bell pepper (mushy). This is served on a bed of a the aforementioned nine grain pilaf which includes quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and brown rice, giving it a nice, crunchy texture.
All in all, this dish is oddly bland. Everything is cooked well, but the spice seems to have been forgotten. It doesn't matter what the numbers are on this: at $5.99, we can't recommend it.
We had higher hopes for the Whole Grain Penne Pasta with Turkey Meatballs. One of the first things we noticed, however, was that there are only 3 grams of fiber for what is touted as "whole grain" pasta. Remember last week's Healthy Choice Balsamic Garlic Chicken? That had 6 grams of fiber and didn't have oatmeal added to the protein, which Luvo has done with their turkey meatballs in this meal.
The scent is promising just out of the microwave, however. There's a real meaty scent to the five meatballs, but the sauce smells a touch sweet. The whole is topped with a respectable amount of cheese.
The penne in this dish is overdone about as much as the pastas in far cheaper meals. If they had used actual whole wheat pasta it would have stood up to cooking far better than what they seem to have used. The sauce is good, however, not too sweet, with a nice roasted tomato and roasted red bell pepper flavor. The meatballs are also good, with a clean turkey flavor with a touch of cheese and oatmeal to bind them plus a hint of oregano. They melt in the mouth rather more than the panel thought they should, but the panel agreed that they were satisfying.
We were debating the verdict, but then we asked ourselves: is it $5.99 worth of frozen meal goodness? It's certainly cheaper than what you'll spend at a fast food restaurant. That said, could you probably find something nearly as good in the frozen food aisle for half the price? Yeah, we thought so too. Sorry, Luvo, but these varieties just weren't worth the price.