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Warm Delights quick, yummy

Universal Press Syndicate

Betty Crocker Warm Delights. Hot Fudge Brownie, Molten Chocolate Cake, Molten Caramel Cake, Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cinnamon Swirl Cake. $1.99 per 2.9- to 3.35-ounce serving.

Bonnie: Betty Crocker is sure innovative, I'll give her that. To prepare one of these new desserts, just add water, stir, and microwave about a minute. Now that's about as fast as "baking" gets! Of course I could do without all the gums, preservatives and other additives these contain, which homemade does not.

But my main complaint has to do with portion size. With up to 400 calories and 12 grams of fat, these are not single servings, at least not for anyone of normal size. If you do decide to try one of these, make sure to share it with a friend or two, or even three. And follow it with a brisk 30-minute walk.

Carolyn: Pepperidge Farm frozen single-serve desserts, Pillsbury OneStep refrigerated brownies, even Betty Crocker MicroRave Singles (a similar dessert from the maker of Warm Delights): The new-product graveyard is filled with delicious, convenient single- or small-serving desserts. Why they didn't succeed, I can't say. My praise apparently wasn't enough. So this time I'm going to be more pointed: Please buy Warm Delights.

Why am I reduced to begging for some miniature cake and brownie mixes? Cause they're Easy Bake Oven-cute and easy to make (just open the little packets, add water and microwave a few seconds), yet they have a made-from-scratch taste. Initially I thought this had to do with how almost anything tastes great freshly baked. But when I ate half of the Hot Fudge Brownie the next day, it tasted almost as good.

That brownie and the blondie-like Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie were my favorites. But there's not a dud in the bunch.

It's true that you pay for Warm Delights' quality and convenience. You can buy a full-size Betty Crocker cake mix for less. But making a whole cake is a project. And who wants a whole cake sitting around the house, calling out for you to eat it anyway?

So I'm counting on you to at least try these. But given the sad history of single-serve dessert products, I'm going to build a stockpile of Warm Delights brownies and chocolate chip cookies, just in case.

Kraft Cheese Nips Chips. Nacho and Bold Cheddar. $2.99 per 9-ounce bag.

Bonnie: Kraft has just made thin, crisper versions of Cheese Nips baked snack crackers in hopes you'll consider nibbling them in place of cheese-flavored potato chips. I say this because the bags boast that these Cheese Nips Chips contain 50 percent less fat than regular cheese-flavored, fried potato chips. But I can't think of anyone who'd reach for these in place of any potato chip, at least not after they've tasted them.

These are just very thin crackers, and not ones that I'd recommend, given the long list of ingredients, including lots of additives. This is just another snacking temptation that our overweight, underactive nation surely doesn't need.

Carolyn: Cheese Nips Chips are a new thinner, crispier, more anemic version of square, rich Cheese Nip snack crackers. They are for healthies only.

At the same time, Kraft just announced that it is doubling the cheese in the original Cheese Nips Cheddar. If you like cheese (and if you don't, why are you buying something called Cheese Nips?), that's the one you should buy. Make sure that the bag is orange (the color of the original product) rather than blue (signifying the chips). Now that all Cheese Nips have a big wavy-edged shape and come in standup bags, it's really easy to mistake the Chips for the Nips.

Red Baron Gold Edition Thin Crust Pizza. Ultimate Pepperoni, 5 Cheese, Supreme, Meat Trio, Italian Sausage & Pepperoni, and Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil. $5.49 per 12-inch frozen pizza.

Bonnie: Fresh from reviewing the delicious new line of thin-crust pizzas from California Pizza Kitchen, I looked forward to testing these new Red Baron Thin Crust pizzas. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. These are awful — awful in both taste and nutrition, compared to the California Kitchen competition.

Nutritionally, a quarter of any pie provides way too much fat and sodium. Ultimate Pepperoni is the fattiest, with 21 grams of fat per serving, or a third of the recommended daily fat limit. Meat Trio is the saltiest, with 1,060 milligrams of sodium, or half of the recommended sodium limit.

Americans eat 1.8 billion slices of frozen pizza per year. Think of how much sodium, fat and calories we would save by eating California Pizza Kitchen instead of Red Baron.

Carolyn: "We wanted to create the best thin-crust pizza on the market," says Bryan Olson, brand manager for Red Baron Pizza, about Red Baron's Thin Crust Pizza. If that was his goal, he failed miserably.

Although crispy, the crust on this is utterly tasteless. We are talking department store lunch-counter quality here, folks. It's also not all that thin. No amount of package superlatives — "Premium Quality," "Gold Edition," "Ultimate Pepperoni" — or better-quality toppings (cheeses other than mozzarella, prominent seasonings, tomato pieces) can change that.

The good news is that Red Baron owner Schwan already makes the best thin-crust frozen pizza on the market: Freschetta Brick Oven, which is well worth the few extra bucks it costs over Red Baron. I particularly recommend the Portabella Mushroom and Spinach variety. If you need to save money, even store brand rising-crust pizzas deliver better crusts.


Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat (Quirk). Each week they critique three new food items. © Universal Press Syndicate