Universal Press Syndicate
Pam Professional High Heat. $3.99 per 5-ounce can.

Bonnie: The makers of Pam have introduced yet another variation on its nonstick spray. The company says this new "professional" spray is specifically designed to resist residue buildup on the pan during high-heat cooking, such as sauteing, stir-frying and oven-roasting. I say this product just confuses consumers even more.

Which to choose: Pam Baking? For Grilling? Olive Oil? Canola Oil? Organic Olive Oil? Organic Canola Oil? Butter? For Vegetables? Or Professional?

This is just a ploy to get your closets stuffed with Pam, when most people can easily get away with a single can of nonstick spray.

Carolyn: The can touts this new Pam Professional cooking spray as being "a patented oil blend (that) resists breaking down and browning at high temperatures, so there's less for you to clean up."

But when I used it on a pan alongside Pam Olive Oil and Pam for Grilling (also promoted for high-heat situations) in a 400-degree oven, all three oils became browned and required cleaning. If anything, the professional oil was harder to clean off because it was sprayed on more thinly than the other Pams.

The biggest difference between this and other cooking sprays would seem to be the stylish metal can resembling the restaurant appliances that Food Network junkies are now putting in their home kitchens and whom Pam is obviously courting with this new product.

Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis. Molten Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Decadence, and Molten Caramel Cake. $2.49 per package containing two 1.23-ounce dessert bowls.

Bonnie: When we reviewed Warm Delights about two years ago, I complained about their large portion size, serving up about 400 calories and 12 grams of fat. Betty seems to have been listening, because she's now offering miniature versions with a mere 150 calories and 3.5 to 4.5 grams of fat — a much more appropriately sized dessert.

As with the larger versions, you just add a bit of water, squeeze the sauce pouch over the batter, and microwave for less than a minute. Despite the gums, preservatives and other additives that both the big and small versions share, I have to say "Nice going, Betty" for these nutritionally reasonable desserts.

Carolyn: Bonnie says Betty Crocker must have been listening to her plea to make Warm Delights smaller. And you, dear readers, must have listened to my simultaneous plea that you buy Warm Delights and keep them out of the new-product graveyard. Because not only has Betty Crocker kept making these delicious little cake mixes, she's expanded the line with these new smaller versions of the original Molten Chocolate Cake with three different sauce toppings (chocolate for the Molten Chocolate, caramel for the Molten Caramel and raspberry for the Chocolate Raspberry Decadence).

The Molten Chocolate Cake was not my favorite of the original Warm Delights, mainly because it is not true restaurant-style molten cake with a fudge center and is not quite rich enough by itself. But a little bit of vanilla ice cream does wonders for the taste and would still make this dessert clock in at a quite reasonable 250 calories.

I can't help but hope that mini versions of my favorite regular-size Warm Delights (the Hot Fudge Brownie and the Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie) will not be too far behind.

Simply Asia Stir-Fry Meals. Mandarin Orange, Honey Teriyaki, and Spicy Kung Pao. $4.99 per 17.3-ounce bag containing noodles, sauce and vegetables.

Bonnie: At first glance, Simply Asia's new stir-fry meals in a bag appeared appetizing and easy. Each shelf-stable variety contains noodles, Asian veggies and a stir-fry sauce that you make into a meal in 15 minutes with the optional addition of 8 ounces of shrimp, chicken or tofu, and fresh-cut green vegetables.

My complaints include the serving size and the saltiness. Simply Asia claims that one serving is a half-cup. I'd say that's minuscule even with the suggested protein addition, unless you're serving this as part of a multidish Asian buffet. A more realistic 1-cup serving, using the 2 tablespoons of suggested oil, provides 710 to 730 calories, 16 to 20 grams of total fat and a hefty 1,260 to 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which had me reaching for water all night.

Carolyn: First, the good news: The Asian vegetables and noodles in these shelf-stable kits are much better than I expected. The vegetables were crisp, and the noodles were as good as if I had boiled them myself (I just had to heat them in the microwave for 90 seconds). And the kits can easily be assembled into a substantial meal in the promised 15 minutes.

The problem is the sauces, especially the Spicy Kung Pao, which is so acidic that it's almost inedible. It also doesn't taste like peanut or any restaurant Kung Pao dish I've ever ordered (and usually like). The Mandarin Orange is better but tastes more generically sweet than like oranges. The Honey Teriyaki is the only sauce that tastes like its name, and even then it's not at the level of the other ingredients in these kits.

My advice? Buy one of these and dress it with another, better sauce, such as Mr. Yoshida's Cracked Pepper & Garlic.


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. For previous columns, visit www.supermarketsampler.com, and for more food info and chances to win free products, visit www.biteofthebest.com. © Universal Press Syndicate