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Simple Favorites from Lean Cuisine

According to the Lean Cuisine website, their Simple Favorites line is "the perfect way to indulge in a wide variety of classic dishes." The line includes the Chicken Enchilada Suiza and Macaroni and Cheese we re-reviewed a couple of weeks ago along with familiar foods like Chicken Fried Rice and BBQ Chicken Quesadilla (we'll review those in a couple of weeks). Today's dishes look equally promising.

Classic Macaroni and Beef

Lean Cuisine Macaroni and BeefFor some reason, the smell of this one cooking reminded me of hospital cafeterias. I suspect it has something to do with the combination of tomato sauce and ground beef. In any event, I hoped this wouldn't be as bad as the food can sometimes be in hospital cafeterias (although I'll admit that the food in hospitals has gotten somewhat better since I was in residency).

The good news is that this definitely is not bad hospital cafeteria food. But it's not great, either. Sure, the numbers look good: 260 calories, 3 grams of fat (1 of saturated fat), only 500 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of fiber. As you'd expect, the pasta's a little mushy. And the ground beef is about what you'd expect ground beef to be. Certainly the tomato sauce that I fully expected to be too sweet... isn't. But it's not particularly flavorful, either. And that's the problem. Although the back of the box claims that it's "a tasty herb tomato sauce," I'm hard pressed to identify any herbs in it.

It's not bad... but it's not good, either. The best I can say for this is that it's inoffensive.

Cheddar Potatoes with Broccoli

Lean Cuisine Cheddar Potatoes with BroccoliRight out of the package this one looks promising. It's a little higher in sodium than the Macaroni and Beef, at 600 milligrams, but that's not surprising, considering that there's a sizable dollop of cheese in the middle of the frozen potatoes and broccoli. The potatoes still have their skins and the broccoli is a nice bright green.

Once cooked this still has a lot going for it: the broccoli retains some bite and the potatoes are nicely steamed. It smells good, too. But that's where the good ends, just like the Macaroni and Beef. Once again, the dish fails at the sauce. Once that dollop of cheese melts, you realize that it has the sheen of melted Velveeta - but none of the flavor. Where Lean Cuisine found cheddar cheese with no flavor whatsoever is quite beyond my ability to guess, but they did. Once again, the best that can be said is "inoffensive."

Life is too short to eat boring food, and when it's Lean Cuisine boring food..... Leave these on the shelf.