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EatingWell magazine has been around for over 20 years, and I'll admit, when I saw their name on packages of frozen food I immediately wondered if they had sold out. The EatingWell mission is very much like that of Dr. Gourmet: they state, "We are about moderation and balance - not strict rules or fad diets - because in order for healthy eating to become a way of life, it should be accessible, sustainable, inspiring and - above all - delicious." I've been approached more than once to lend the Dr. Gourmet name to frozen foods, but the deals most often fail because the manufacturer wants to cut corners somehow. If EatingWell has succeeded in creating frozen foods that meet their goal of health and flavor, fantastic!
That said, I'm sure you'll understand that we approached our first tasting with some degree of trepidation - and pretty low expectations. So many companies claim their frozen foods are healthy but their definition of "healthy" is pretty loose (I'm looking at you, Amy's.)
Of the two my wife brought home for our tasting, we chose to start with the meal with the lowest amount of sodium. This proved to be the Creamy Pesto Chicken. These frozen meals from EatingWell are all packaged similarly to the Tastefully Plated meals we reviewed earlier this year: the meals are individually shrink-wrapped, frozen, and packaged with a window in the front of the packaging so that you can see exactly what you are getting. Kudos to EatingWell for that bit of truth in packaging, although I think the "Fresh-Seal™ for freshness!" emblazoned on the front is a little cutesy.
As we pulled the dish out of the packaging, one panelist remarked, "That eggplant looks good." It does - except it's not eggplant: it's zucchini. We could only surmise that the zucchini looks so dark because it's been fire roasted: it says so right on the package. There are "fire roasted zucchini" and "fire roasted red bell peppers" in the ingredient list, which led a couple of the panelists to wonder if there was someone at the manufacturing plant standing outside next to an open fire, roasting zucchini and bell peppers on a stick, a la marshmallows. (We do get a little silly sometimes.)
In any event, while those zucchini are a bit overcooked through the center, being very soft, the edges still have crunch and the zukes themselves have plenty of sweet zucchini flavor (we couldn't detect much in the way of "fire roasted" flavor, however). The three strips of red bell pepper we could find were similarly overcooked but without the crunch. The good news is that the chicken is tender and juicy, the orzo is only a little overcooked (which is easy to do with orzo even at home), and the pesto is light and creamy without a hint of greasiness and a "not in-your-face" basil flavor. At 310 calories, 450 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of fiber, the panel gave this a thumbs up. "Pretty darn good," they said.
If the Chicken & Fingerling Potatoes smells "vinegary" while it cooks, that's because of the mustard sauce, which is mildly tart and creamy. It tastes like something you would get at the Magic Pan (a fondue restaurant) in 1986 - which is not a bad thing. While the asparagus is a bit gummy and almost canned-tasting, it's canned tasting "like the really good canned asparagus you get in Spain" - great flavor, but the texture is definitely canned. Once again the chicken pieces - about 3/4 of an inch across - are flavorful and not dry at all, while the potatoes are, in a word, perfect. Soft and fluffy on the inside and with a firm bite on the outside, I'd be happy with these at any restaurant. The sliced carrots are definitely overdone, and a couple even get dried out from lack of contact with the sauce, but overall this is a very good frozen dish (260 calories, 610 milligrams sodium, and 4 grams fiber - impressive for a gluten-free dish!).
I'm happy for EatingWell - they seem to have managed to enter the frozen food market without losing their principles. We'll keep an eye out for more opportunities to review their products.
Reviewed: December 2, 2017