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A Surprise in the Freezer Case

My wife tells me that when she was going to Tulane University here in New Orleans about fifteen years ago, the fresh vegetables that were available to her at the local Winn-Dixie were not nearly as good a quality as what she was used to in her native Southern California. Fortunately, that's changed. Now it seems that almost every grocery store has at least a few organic offerings in addition to the good selection of conventionally-grown vegetables and fruits.

Our local Winn-Dixie is a great example of how much the selection has improved: not only do they have organic fruits and vegetables, they actually have an entire section of organic and specialty foods as well as a dedicated freezer case for frozen foods. We've gotten a fair number of our gluten-free review items from this very case, in fact.

After this many years of doing frozen food reviews, I'm always pleased to discover a whole new brand offering healthier options. I'm sure you get as tired of reading about Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers as we do of eating them! This week, in our very own Winn-Dixie freezer case, we discovered Mediterranean Meals, a family owned company led by a fellow physician and member of the American College of Nutrition. This company creates meals based on the Mediterranean Diet principles and made from all organic ingredients. We took two home to review.

Spaghetti alla RomanaThe first one we tried is the one that caught my eye in the supermarket: Whole Grain Spaghetti alla Romana. Whole grain spaghetti! I could hardly believe it. 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, 340 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of fiber. NINE! "How disappointing would it be if it didn't taste good," I thought.

No disappointment here. Whole grain pasta, as I've said over and over, stands up well to microwaving and this has a good, nutty flavor. The pasta sauce has a bright, tomato flavor with a touch of basil and is topped with spinach and artichoke hearts. The only complaint I could come up with was that there could stand to be a little more sauce. This meal comes with a side of broccoli in its own section of the tray, and it steams up perfectly. Definitely a meal you'll enjoy.

Mushroom FusilliEven better was the Creamy Mushroom Whole Grain Fusilli. This comes with a side of cut green beans that remain al dente and have great, fresh flavor. The pasta is easily some of the best frozen pasta I've ever had - firm bite, creamy oregano sauce, lots of mushrooms.... I'm really pleased. Slightly less fiber in this one, at 8 grams, with 280 calories and only 450 milligrams of sodium. Proof that frozen meals can be made without a ton of sodium. We'll be on the lookout for the other two offerings from Mediterranean Meals, but in the mean time, if I can find them in my local Winn-Dixie, your grocery store should be able to get them, too. Ask the store manager to carry them if they don't already - you don't want to miss these.

Reviewed: January 21, 2011