Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers

I was recently invited to try some new frozen entrées from Healthy Choice. I have eaten Healthy Choice entrees in the past and liked them, but I was especially excited to try these because Healthy Choice has partnered up with one of my favorite reality shows – Top Chef – to come up with some new and different meals that are both tasty andout! Finished! DONE! I can’t even think about taking another bite. But I hadn’t had a problem with Healthy Choice meals before (though I have tended to buy non-chicken meals in the past), so I was hopeful.

And, as it turns out, I had good reason. I’m pleased to report that the chicken in both of these meals tasted fresh, and was without even a trace of anything gag-worthy. I realize that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but I know there are other chicken-phobes out there like me who will be happy to hear it. Anyway, on to the meals.

The first one I tried was the Grilled Chicken Marinara with Parmesan, which was grilled chicken tenderloins & broccoli in a marinara sauce over whole grain pasta. I had to threaten my son with bodily harm to stay away from it, because he thought it sounded and looked delicious. In the end, I shared it with him because he put on his “poor starving me” face. We both really liked it. I didn’t tell him that the pasta was whole grain (because heaven forbid he know it is healthy), and he didn’t notice any difference. I’ve never been a big fan of chicken and tomato sauce pairings, but this entrée had just the right amount of sauce – it didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the chicken, which I liked. And the broccoli was perfect – not mushy, like it often is in microwave meals.

My son liked it even more than I did, because he loves chicken parmesan, so I will definitely buy this again for him, since this – at 280 calories, 6g fiber, 20g protein, and only 4.5g fat – is far healthier than your average chicken parmesan, which often has more than twice the calories and more than three times the fat. Sometimes even more in popular restaurants.

Next up was the Chicken Linguini with Red Pepper Alfredo, which I was pretty sure I would like, and I was right. In fact, I loved it. As most of us know, on the “healthy scale” anything with the word “alfredo” in it falls somewhere between Heart Attack on a Plate and SATAN. In fact, a popular Italian chain restaurant lists their fettuccini alfredo as having 1,220 calories and 75g fat! So, at only 260 calories, 6g fat, 5g fiber, and 22g protein, it’s already a win. But even better – it was good. Again, the pasta didn’t have that weird texture that whole grain pasta has, the broccoli was perfectly cooked, and the chicken tasted fresh and was perfectly seasoned. And the red pepper gave the alfredo sauce an extra flavor boost.

I think the one if the reason these entrees are better than most of the microwave meals I have tried in the past is the unique way of cooking them. Instead of all the ingredients in a frozen chunk, which usually cooks unevenly, these are steamed in the microwave, with the sauce cooked separate from the rest of the meal, which you then stir together. This gives it a much fresher taste and better consistency than your average microwave meal. The pasta is al dente, the vegetables stay crisp and the meat stays tender. I will definitely be trying more varieties. In addition to the ones I tried, there are:

-Barbeque Seasoned Steak with Red Potatoes

-Chicken Fresca with Chardonnay

-Chicken Margherita with Balsamic

-Grilled Chicken Pesto with Vegetables

-Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean with Rice

-Roasted Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms

I think they all sound delicious! Like I said, I have enjoyed Healthy Choice in the past, but the partnership with Top Chef is bringing new, bold recipes that are often missing in meal choices for people looking for meals that are lower in calories and fat.

You can go to the Healthy Choice website to get more information, and their Offers & Promotions page has a $1 off coupon you can print and use if you want to try them out for yourself.

I was compensated by Healthy Choice & The Motherhood for reviewing these products, but I was not asked for a favorable review and the opinions expressed are all mine.

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Friday, November 4, 2011


Before I met my husband, I was an “early person”. Not only was I never late for anything, I was early most of the time. Sometimes to a fault. But honestly, I’d rather get to where I am going too early and have to go in search of a cup of tea or spend some time reading a book until it’s time to do whatever it is I am doing than keep anyone else waiting for even one minute.

I’m not sure why I’m like this. My family, while not “late people,” certainly aren’t early-to-a-fault people like me. And I know that my early-itis isn’t exactly normal. I try not to show up too early and inconvenience anyone. I don’t expect other people to be as early as me, and I try (TRY) to be patient when others are late (and believe me, it is NOT easy). But while waiting for other people who are running late can drive me crazy, actually being late makes me absolutely INSANE.

So who did I marry? I’ll tell you who I married: Latey McLatepants, that’s who. He comes by it naturally. His family is chronically late for everything. Their last name should seriously be LateForEveryGoddamnedThing. And before you think I am exaggerating, here are some examples: There is one niece who – despite being charged with bringing food – will show up hours after an event starts. So four hours after the party starts, we finally get to eat. An entire branch of the family was so late to Mr b’s 50th birthday party that half the people already left before they got there (with some food and the cake, of course). One of my sisters-in-law’s surprise birthday party was unsurprising for her because several relatives showed up late: Just as she herself was arriving. And my own personal favorite: one sister-in-law was my wedding florist. And she was late. Despite my having told her that she time to arrive was a full hour earlier than reality. So all my pre-ceremony photos are sans flowers.


And now I have two kids, who are also making me late because a) they take after their father, and b) because they are kids and kids are slow-moving pains in the ass. So needless to say, my life is a constant struggle to try to be on time. A failing, miserable, anxiety-riddled struggle. Here is an average “getting ready to go somewhere” experience:

2 hours before we need to leave: I am ready.

1 hour 50 minutes before we need to leave: Start telling the other people in this house that we have less than two hours.

1.5 hours before we need to leave: I start asking people politely to start getting ready.

1.25 hours before we need to leave: No one is moving. I remind them again, still mostly polite.

1 hour before we need to leave: I make the girl start getting dressed.

50 min before we need to leave: I try to make the boy start getting dressed.

45 min before we need to leave: The girl is dressed. I tell her to brush her near-dreadlocked hair.

40 min before we need to leave: I yell at boy to start getting ready. I notice the girl still has dreads. She can’t find her brush. I find the brush & tell her to brush her hair.

35 minutes before we need to leave: Boy still not dressed. Girl? Dreads.

30 minutes before we need to leave: I rip the plug out of the TV/Xbox/computer/whatever it is that the boy is doing. Girl? Dreads.

25 minutes before we need to leave: Boy is (mostly) dressed. Can’t find socks. Girl? Dreads.

20 minutes before we need to leave: Boy still can’t finds socks, despite my very specific instructions. Girl has brushed her hair, but only the front and sides. The back? Dreads.

15 minutes before we need to leave: I have retrieved socks for the boy. Girl is crying about me brushing her hair.

10 minutes before we need to leave: Girl is ready. Boy is sitting on bed holding socks, looking dazed. I notice Mr b isn’t dressed. I tell him to GET DRESSED DAMMIT! His reply? "I can’t just get dressed – I need to shower!" Me: WTF?

5 minutes before we need to leave: Mr b is checking email. I threaten him. Boy is now holding one sock. The other is missing. I notice the girl has no socks on. Repeat missing sock dance from above.

Time to leave: Mr b in shower. Boy has one sock on. Girl is ready.

5 minutes after we needed to leave: Mr b can’t find clothes. Boy has found second sock, but is holding it, looking blank. Girl is loading up 17 bags with all her “necessities.” I am dying a slow death.

10 minutes after we needed to leave: Mr b is dressed, but can’t find comb/socks/belt/whatever. Boy? 2nd sock is halfway on. Girl? 18 bags. Me? Dying!

15 minutes after we needed to leave: Mr b is ready. Boy? Still only halfway with the 2nd sock. Girl is ready.

20 minutes after we needed to leave: Heading out the door. Oh wait – Mr b needs to take the dog out. The rest of us stand there, me fuming.

25 minutes after we needed to leave: Mr b is ready. I am ready. Boy? Needs his headphones. Can’t find them. Girl wants to change her shoes.

30 minutes after we needed to leave: Boy losing his shit because someone must have taken his headphones. Girl losing her shit because she wants different shoes. Mr b getting pissy because the rest of us (!) aren’t ready.

35 minutes after we needed to leave: boy is ready and still pissed about headphones. Girl has now added another bag of crap to carry. Mr b now has to pee. Me? DEAD.

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