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Choice 'Adventures' are big, bold

Universal Press Syndicate

Healthy Choice Flavor Adventures Frozen Dinners. Chicken Tuscany, Grilled Basil Chicken, Roasted Chicken Chardonnay, Grilled Whiskey Steak, Princess Chicken, Beef Merlot, Grilled Chicken Marinara, Grilled Steak in Roasted Garlic Sauce, Oriental Style Beef, Grilled Chicken Caesar, Chicken Margherita and Creamy Herb Roasted Chicken. $2.99 per 9.5- to 10.75-ounce box.

Bonnie: At a recent supermarket convention, we met the chef who created these new Healthy Choice Flavor Adventures frozen entrees. When I asked him what the CEC after the name on his chef's jacket meant, he teased, "Can't even cook." (I later learned it really meant certified executive chef.)

I kept thinking about his joke as I tested out his 12 attempts to bring a restaurant experience to the supermarket freezer case. I admit these have more interesting ingredients than many other frozen entrees and also more food, despite their modest 220 to 340 calories. But restaurant-quality food? I suspect that chef was joking again.

Carolyn: This is the best line of TV dinners to hit the freezer case since Stouffer's unveiled Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics, its obvious inspiration. Cafe Classics, Flavor Adventures and Weight Watcher's Smart Ones Bistro Selections all attempt to bring vegetables and spices from upscale restaurants to frozen entrees. But Flavor Adventures is bigger than either of the others, both in its ambitions and its culinary reach. It's also bigger in size. Even I have to supplement the Cafe Classics with bread and a salad, but Flavor Adventures fill me up all by themselves.

They also taste great. The best of them — the Chicken Tuscany, Grilled Whiskey Steak, Grilled Steak in Roasted Garlic Sauce, Chicken Margherita, and Creamy Herb Roasted Chicken — are among the very best-tasting offerings in the supermarket freezer case. I'm talking about big, crisp vegetable pieces, moist and tender meat, and spicy, flavorful sauces. Anyone who has found restaurants that regularly serve better is either very lucky or very rich (and that means you, Bonnie).


Jell-O Pudding Bites. Chocolate, Chocolate & Vanilla, and Strawberry & Vanilla. $2.59 per 5.4-ounce box containing six pouches.

Bonnie: What were they thinking, I wondered as I looked at these Pudding Bites. These chewy bites of pudding-like gunk taste similar to the rubbery crust that forms on pudding after it sits too long in the refrigerator. Or imagine a stale marshmallow before it gets too hard to bite into. That's what these odd new snacks seemed like to me and the folks I tried them with.

The package says they're made with real milk and are a good source of calcium. True, but there's more sugar and corn syrup in Pudding Bites than milk. These also contain mineral oil and carnauba wax. Sound good to you, Carolyn?

Carolyn: Not really, Bonnie. I've never met anyone who likes week-old pudding's tough tops. But if such people exist, they'll probably like these. The chocolate also harbors a faint resemblance to softened Tootsie Rolls, and the strawberry, to pink pencil erasers.

I don't recommend them as a snack. But they do a great job of showing the depth of Jell-O's desperation to make its pudding portable.


Naked Just Juice Pomegranate Food Juice. Pomalicious, and Pomaberry Blue. $2.69 to $2.99 per 16-ounce container.

Bonnie: The pomegranate is one of the world's most labor-intensive fruits. Recent research has shown it to be worth the work since it contains antioxidants good for a healthy heart. The good news is that you no longer have to get through the pomegranate's leathery skin, remove the membranes, soak the fruit and squeeze the juice from pulp surrounding the hundreds of seeds, because the Naked Juice Co. has done that for you while making its new Pomalicious and Pomaberry Blue 100 percent juice drinks.

Although the juices are delicious, they are very sweet and don't have much pomegranate flavor. The Pomalicious tastes like grape juice; the Pomaberry Blue, like blueberry with a hint of apple. The Pomalicious is the more nutritious of the two, with 80 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C to Pomaberry Blue's mere 15 percent (compare that to OJ's 100 percent).

Carolyn: A pound of fruit gave up their lives for each of these pint pomegranate drinks. What a waste of food compared to eating the whole fruit! It does explain why these have so many calories (as many as most TV dinners I eat) and are so filling. The Pomalicious tastes like grape juice and is as sweet (i.e., incredibly). The Pomaberry Blue is less sweet and tastes like blueberry.

Both appear to have powerful clothes-staining potential: I recommend drinking them over the sink.


Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Jell-O: A Biography" (Harvest/Harcourt). Each week they critique three new food items. © Universal Press Syndicate