Fried Rice Vice (Lean Cuisine Chicken Fried Rice)
Now here's some information that will make your hair stand on end – according to Grocery Retail Online™, "[a]ccording to several research studies, the typical shopping cart handle carries 1 million germs, shopping carts have more germs than a public restroom and food-borne bacteria cause 75 million illnesses annually." More germs than a public restroom? Ick. This may put me off shopping for the entire holiday season! Fear not, though, because apparently there is a company – serendipitously named "Pure Cart Systems LLC" – which is swooping in to save you from those germs, by having developed a cart "purifier." The device seems to work like a car wash…store employees push the unused carts through this large box and 99% of all bacteria and viruses are eradicated with a lemon-scented disinfecting wash which dries rapidly. (Yessirree, you couldn't make this stuff up if you had to....)
I guess plain old Lysol wipes just aren't going to cut it any more.
Turkey turkey everywhere this past week, and yet I threw myself upon my frozen food sword for you, to save you the brain damage of buying bad products. I have two quick reviews for you – one product was edible, the other was dreadful. You say you want the bad news first? So be it:
Lean Cuisine Café Classics Bowl Chicken Fried Rice.
I bought this because (sucker!) the picture looked great. Yes…even I, who know better, can be seduced by the dark side of Stouffer's. Ten ounces of rice, white meat chicken, crispy vegetables and eggs in a sesame sauce; it sounded great. Sadly, it was awful. I try to remember, when I'm eating "diet food," that it's low-cal or low-fat or whatever it is, but this meal flat out sucked. Yes, it was only 280 calories – but who cares? The chicken was edible, although I did get a gristle-y piece; the rice and the vegetables were cooked and mostly inoffensive. The sauce was non-existent in flavor, although evident in a brownish color that became evident when you stirred the "bowl." Nothing I added helped, not even walloping big splashes of Soy Sauce. The meal had that "kiss-of-death-blandness" that cannot be overcome. You might as well be eating cardboard with a splash of teriyaki, because there was no hint of sesame sauce to be had. Not so dreadful that you wouldn't finish eating it, but dreadful enough so that you wouldn't purchase it again, at least not deliberately. Save your money. If you're in the mood for chicken fried rice, grab a $1.00 box of Rice-A-Roni brand Fried Rice and add some shredded or cubed cooked chicken. You'll be far, far happier with the result, trust me.
Banquet Crock Pot Classics Chicken and Dumplings
I've recently had several emails from readers moaning that they can't find Banquet's outstandingly great Chicken and Pasta Crock Pot Classics dinner in a bag, and I'm having the same problem. I seriously hope that Banquet hasn't discontinued this dinner, because it is genuinely comfort food in a bag that I love, and judging from the email I'm getting, I'm not alone in this. I'll keep you posted if I'm able to learn anything further about this particular dinner.
In the meantime, however, when I wasn't able to find the Chicken and Pasta version at the grocer's, I picked up their Chicken and Dumplings dinner instead. The bag is about the same size – 41.5 ounces, or just under 3 pounds – and from the description on the bag, I thought this would be essentially the same dinner as the Chicken and Pasta, but with dumplings instead of the noodles. Same creamy, chicken-y sauce, same vegetables, same chicken, right? Oddly enough, it wasn't.
The Chicken and Dumpling dinner uses thigh meat, instead of white meat, which I do not like nearly as well. It contains carrots, onions and celery as its primary vegetables, while the Pasta dinner uses carrots, peas and celery. There are clearly some seasoning differences, as well; the Dumpling Dinner has a more peppery taste than the Pasta dinner. Nonetheless, there's certainly nothing inedible about the chicken, sauce and vegetables – just not as good, in my opinion, as the chicken, sauce and vegetables contained in the Chicken and Pasta Crock Pot Classic dinner.
I wasn't thrilled with the dumplings. They are modeled on the more southern-style dumpling which is basically a large noodle that gets cooked in the sauce or gravy, as opposed to the old-style dumplings that get cooked on the surface of the sauce, and puff up (rise) like biscuits. I actually like both types of dumplings, provided they are done well, but these are not. They came out like fairly heavy noodles, and were just too doughy for me. I felt like the amount of doughy dumpling overwhelmed the rest of the dinner…that I had to dig over and under the dumplings to find the chicken and veggies. On the other hand, if you're looking for a "stick to your ribs" type dinner, this might be just the thing for you, because it certainly thumps your appetite into submission, and you do feel full for quite a while after eating.
The bag claims that it feeds 8 with 2/3 cup servings, but even with a meal as heavy as this one is, that is probably too small of a serving size. I suspect 5 servings is a more realistic figure, but your mileage may vary. (Served with a cheap roll of Pillsbury biscuits and a side of salad, you could probably feed 8). Each 2/3rd cup serving contains 200 calories, 8 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. At $5.99, not a bad deal.
Overall, a decent dinner, but I wouldn't look for it like I do with the Chicken and Pasta.
I'm glad to be back on the job! Email us with your suggestions and questions.