Archive for the Food Fight Category

Food Fight: Frozen, Zapped Mac’n’Cheese

Posted in Food Fight with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by bl1y

Once again it’s time to subject my already punished body to needless experimentation with processed food products.  In this installment we’ve got a side-by-side-by-side battle between three frozen, microwavable macaroni and cheese products.  I originally was just going to compare Lean Cuisine to Smart Ones, but figured I should throw in a third, non-diet brand to give a good taste comparison, so I’ve added in Stouffer’s as well.

Both the Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine came in single serving packages, and while it looks like Stouffer’s does to, my store only had the large size.  The two diet brands weighed in at 283g, while one serving of the Stouffer’s was 225g, so the Stouffer’s nutritional data will be increased by 25% to compensate.

Round One: Bad Nutrition

Calories

Stouffer’s: 438

Lean Cuisine: 290

Smart Ones: 270

Fat

Stouffer’s: 21g

Lean Cuisine: 6g

Smart Ones: 2g

Sodium

Stouffer’s: 1150mg

Lean Cuisine: 630mg

Smart Ones: 790mg

Carbs

Stouffer’s: 43g

Lean Cuisine: 43g

Smart Ones: 52g

Winner: Close class, but this round goes to Lean Cuisine.  Smart Ones smashed Lean Cuisine for fat, but I’ve found finding low fat options fairly easy to do.  Low sodium is harder, so the higher sodium count of Smart Ones costs it this round.

Round Two: Good Nutrition

Protein

Stouffer’s: 19g

Lean Cuisine: 15g

Smart Ones: 11g

Calcium

Stouffer’s: 38%

Lean Cuisine: 30%

Smart Ones: 15%

Iron

Stouffer’s: 10%

Lean Cuisine: 6%

Smart Ones: 10%

Potassium

Stouffer’s: 0%

Lean Cuisine: 16%

Smart Ones: 0%

Winner: Stouffer’s.  No contest here.  Stouffer’s ties or beats the other in everything aside from potassium.  Not too difficult for the fattening product to win on protein and calcium though, especially in a cheese dish.

Round Three: Cost

Stouffer’s: $1.31 per serving ($2.63 for the box).  The box says it has 2 1/2 servings, but the 25% we’re using here brings that number down to just 2.

Lean Cuisine: $2.53

Smart Ones: $2.53

Winner: Stouffer’s, by a good margin too.  I’m not entirely sure on the prices for the Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones, since I got them on sale (5 for $10), and the receipt was confusing about the original prices.  So, I distributed the discount evenly over the 3 items I got on sale, and reached a price of $2.53 for each.

Round Four: Convenience

Stouffer’s: Cook for 8 minutes, stir, cook for another 3.  Keep in mind that this is a large container, so it will have a longer cooking time.

Lean Cuisine: Cook for 3 minutes, stir, cook again for 90 seconds.

Smart Ones: Cook for 3 minutes, stir, cook again for 1 minute.

Winner: Draw.  Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones are too close to make a difference, and Stouffer’s large size means it can’t really be compared.  All three require stirring in the middle, which I find annoying.  Where am I supposed to put the fork after I’ve stirred?  (I know, on the box, but I’ve usually thrown it out by then.)

Round Five: The Main Event – How Was It?

Stouffer’s: I expected Stouffer’s to come in as the tasty-but-bad-for you contestant, but it just wasn’t very tasty.  The noodles were soggy, tiny grease pools were visible on the surface, and the cheese was down right bland.  C

Lean Cuisine: Just by looking at it, I could tell that the pasta had a better texture than the Stouffer’s.  But, just from eating it, I probably could not have recognized it as macaroni and cheese.  The color is spot on, but the cheese sauce just tastes thin and watery.  D

Smart Ones: After Smart Ones triumphant victory in the mini pizza battle, I expected them to do well with another classic junk food item, but they didn’t pull through, not in the slightest.  While Lean Cuisine was edible (if awkward), Smart Ones is just disgusting.  I can’t place what’s wrong with the cheese sauce, my only because I refuse to eat enough to really figure it out.  F

Winner: Stouffer’s wins this round, but I’d consider it more of a loss for all three.  I wouldn’t want to have to finish any of them.

Final Verdict: Total Failure

None of the three products is worthy of a victory today, and my recommendation is to simply avoid them at all costs.  The boxed mac’n’cheese options are far better, and there’s definitely better frozen food choices.  No need to ever try any of these.

Full disclosure requires me to mention that each also has instructions for preparing it in a conventional oven.  These cooking times are much longer and I wanted this to be a straight up microwave battle.  I don’t think the oven would have improved them much.  It might have given the pasta a better texture, but all three fell flat in the taste department, and I doubt the oven would have helped that.

Frozen pizzas have managed to get some really nice blends of multiple cheeses and herbs.  I think that technology needs to be applied here.  A combination of cheese sauce and actual cheese would have given them a nice, stringy texture and could have resulted in an actually pleasant flavor.

Food Fight: Arby’s Southwest Mini Egg Rolls

Posted in Food Fight with tags , , , , on January 11, 2010 by bl1y

It’s only the first day of the new week, and I’m already subjecting myself to disgusting food products out of my sense of duty to provide you with desperately needed information.  Today won’t be a competition, but just an exhibition of the new limited time item on Arby’s menu: Southwest Mini Egg Roll.  They have a typical egg roll wrapping and are filled with a mix of chicken, corn, black beans, (I think) a little green chili, and some sort of liquid cheese sauce (I think a blend of the cheddar ooze they put on the melts and some other cheese).

Let’s start with a run down on the nutritional information for a small order (of four): 250 calories, 10g fat, 450mg sodium, 31g of carbs, 11g protein, 8% iron and 10% calcium.  You can find the nutrition information for the chili-lime ranch dipping sauce online, but since you’ll consume only a small amount of it, I’ve left it off.

I was surprised by how much protein they managed to get in, given the small amount of chicken.  But, I was more surprised by how much sodium and carbs they packed in there.

Nutrition wasn’t the worst thing going for these little guys though.  What makes the Arby’s mini egg roles a real loser is the value.  Each mini egg roll is truly mini, only maybe a little over an inch long, about the size of a large tatertot.  A small order of four weighs in at only 91 grams, but it’ll set you back $2.89.  With tax, you’re paying about 75 cents for each miniature ripoff.  My medium roast beef sandwich weighed in at 210g and only cost $3.99.  And now with Arby’s value menu, a small order of curly fries is a measly $1.  The mini egg rolls are definitely topping the list of worst values, not just at Arby’s, but at any fast food chain.

The only really redeeming there about them is they weren’t as gross as I expected.  The cheese sauce was a bit unappetizing, especially when you don’t expect a quasi-molten liquid inside an egg role.  But, after accepting what they were trying to create, I found myself not particularly inclined to vomit.  If I was to grade all fastfood flavors on a curve, this would probably get a B-.

The verdict on this can only go one way though: unless you have three friends who are curious and want to split an order with you, skip this one.

Food Fight: Mini Pizzas!

Posted in Food Fight with tags , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by bl1y

This is the first of what will likely be many side-by-side(-by-side) comparisons of various junk foods.  I got the idea when I happened to see kosher Maca Babies in my local grocery store, and I thought to myself “Self, those look pretty disgusting, let’s try them!”  And, since I’m unemployed and have little better to do than subject my body to various disgusting processed foods, here we go.

Maca Babies, produced by Macabee, are essentially the kosher knockoff of Bagel Bites.  They’re microwavable mini bagel pizzas and come on a sheet of 9.  Pretty much the exact same concept.  But, I don’t really get what’s not kosher about bagel bites.  I know you’re not supposed to have meat and cheese without sight of each other, but what’s wrong with cheese bagel bites?  Cheese is okay, right?  I know bagels are, and I can’t think of pizza sauce of particularly offensive.  Maybe pizza sauces secretly contain anchovies (like Worcestershire and sweet and sour sauces do)?  Who knows.

I also saw some Smart Ones had created their own version, “Cheese Pizza Minis,” but these were on something similar to a very thin English muffin, but more of a shell than just a lump of dough with toppings.  I figured what the hell and added them to my shopping cart.

Before getting to the real taste test portion, let’s start with analyzing the nutrition information of these three products.  All three contained “two servings,” but the Bagel Bites and Maca Babies consolidated the two onto one microwavable tray.  Since that’s generally how they’re eaten, as one serving of 9 mini pizzas, the nutrition info below is for the whole box.  The Smart Ones were a little more complicated.  The two servings were each of 4 mini pizzas, divided onto two trays.  One serving of Smart Ones weighed 124g, while Maca Babies and Bagel Bites came in at 170g and 176g (for the entire box).  So, all the data for Smart ones will be increased 40% to give a more even comparison.  You don’t get points for smaller servings.  No way.

Round One: Bad Nutrition

Calories

Bagel Bites: 400

Maca Babies: 400

Smart Ones: 378

Fat

Bagel Bites: 12g

Maca Babies: 16g

Smart Ones: 9.8g

Sodium

Bagel Bites: 700mg

Maca Babies: 840mg

Smart Ones: 672mg

Carbs

Bagel Bites: 58g

Maca Babies: 50g

Smart Ones: 53g

Winner: No surprise here, Smart Ones edged out the competition.  But, not by as much as you would think.  What gives Smart Ones a real advantage in this category though is that the two servings are individually packaged.  Remember that the Smart Ones numbers were increased by 40% to adjust for weight.  If you’re looking for a small snack, one tray of Smart Ones is the clear winner, since you know you won’t just microwave 4 Bagel Bites and save the rest.

As for the other two, I think Bagel Bites clearly take second place.  Sure they have more carbs, but Maca Babies lose this round with their higher fat and sodium.

Round Two: Good Nutrition

Protein

Bagel Bites: 16g

Maca Babies: 20g

Smart Ones: 18g

Vitamin A

Bagel Bites: 8%

Maca Babies: 8g

Smart Ones: 3%

Calcium

Bagel Bites: 20%

Maca Babies: 40g

Smart Ones: 35%

Vitamin C

Bagel Bites: 0%

Maca Babies: 16%

Smart Ones: 0%

Iron

Bagel Bites: 12%

Maca Babies: 16%

Smart Ones: 10%

Potassium

Bagel Bites: 8%

Maca Babies: 0%

Smart Ones: 0%

Winner: This is a little hard to judge, since Maca Babies gives Vitamin A and Calcium in terms of grams, while the others give percentages, and I don’t care to figure out a conversion.  I’m going to call this one a wash, but with an asterisk:

*If you’re hungover, go for the Bagel Bites.  Potassium can really help out in your recovery.

Round Three: Cost

Bagel Bites: $2.39

Maca Babies: $4.39

Smart Ones: $1.77

Winner: Smart Ones.  This was a little tricky to calculate, since the Smart Ones I got where on sale and the receipt was a bit unclear about the original price (there were a few items marked at 5 for $10, but the discounts listed weren’t evenly distributed; I had a total of $1.58 in discounts for 3 items purchased as 5 for $10, so I assumed a discount of $0.53 each, and added that to the price, divided it over the two servings, and then multiplied by 1.4 to adjust for size).

It’s odd for a diet food to come in so cheap, but there you have it.  The Maca Babies are a clear loser here, almost twice as expensive as the Bagel Bites, and nearly three times as much as Smart Ones.  I’m sure there’s some inappropriate Jewish stereotype to reference here, but I’m not sure whether to go with the higher price reflecting all the money Jews have, or if Macabee is trying to Jew its customers out of a few more bucks.  Since I can’t decide what joke to go with, I’ll just settle for neither.

Round Four: Convenience

Bagel Bites: 2:30 cook time

Maca Babies: 3:00 total cook time, divided into two 1:30 sessions (then rotate), cooked at power level 5

Smart Ones: 1:45 cook time

Winner: Again, Smart Ones carry the day.  The shorter cook time doesn’t really make much of a difference, since all three were so low.  But, since Smart Ones individual package their two servings, you have the option of just cooking half if you want a smaller snack.  That makes Smart Ones the clear winner for convenience.

Round Five: The Main Event – How Was It?

Bagel Bites: Pretty basic flavor, not exciting but not particularly disgusting either.  The bagels are a bit chewy though, giving the whole thing an amorphous, globby texture.  B-

Maca Babies: Completely flavorless, not far from eating cardboard.  The only redeeming qualities were that the bagels had a decent texture and they weren’t offensive in flavor.  The appearance was a complete failure though.  Not even recognizable as mini pizzas, they were just a weird smattering of unappetizing off-yellow color.  D-

Smart Ones: Huge surprise here, they were actually pretty good.  Smart Ones opted for a more complex flavor by adding in some herbs and a sauce that seems like someone actually tasted it before sending it off for mass production.  Plus, the shell shape makes them less messy and they look more appetizing.  Only thing really holding it back is the medium of microwave mini pizza.  B+

Final Verdict: Smart Ones Cheese Pizza Minis

This comparison wasn’t even close.  Smart Ones win in nutrition, cost, convenience, and most importantly, actually tasting good.  I was expecting a battle between Bagel Bites superior flavor and Smart Ones better nutrition, but Smart Ones simply dominated the contest.

And Maca Babies…I guess the only thing redeeming here is that you won’t go to Jewish hell for eating them.  Better to just stick to something Jews are good at making though, like guilt.