Stouffer's Corner Bistro Stuffed Melts and Soups. Three Cheese & Ham Stuffed Melt With Creamy Tomato Bisque, Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt With Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed Melt With Baked Potato Soup. $3.89 per 10-ounce box.
Bonnie: Soup and a sandwich are a great combo. Packaging them together in the frozen food case has not been so hot.
In 1987, Campbell's introduced Souper-Combo, frozen versions of such traditional soup-and-sandwich combinations as tomato soup and grilled cheese, chicken noodle soup and a hot dog, and vegetable soup with a cheeseburger. The problem was the complicated microwave preparation needed to get both components on the table hot within 7 minutes. Souper-Combo wasn't long-lived.
Stouffer's is trying the concept with this line of three Stuffed Melts and Soups. The instructions are much easier to follow, but they didn't get the soup hot even with heating extra minutes. I hated the sandwiches, with bread that oozed meat and melted cheese, and reflected the taste of their cooking sleeves.
Nutritionally, these are also no bargain.
I'd call Stouffers Stuffed Melts and Soups frozen soup-and-sandwich combination flop No. 2. Here's hoping soup-king Campbell's tries again, as some company should be able to get this combo right!
Carolyn: A lot of the pleasure and excitement of eating food — and of many other aesthetic experiences — comes from contrasting colors, flavors and textures. This observation was prompted by trying these new Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup combos from Stouffer's, with their almost total lack of contrast. Two of the three varieties rival fondue in being creamy-cheesy-fatty. And the only non-creamy food in the line — the tomato bisque — is boring.
The other two soups are quite tasty and would be delicious served beside a sandwich made with real bread and fresh lettuce and tomato — too bad you can't get them out of a freezer. And so we're stuck with these mini Hot Pockets.
But these new Corner Bistro combos do prove that frozen soup tastes better than canned. I wish Stouffer's would sell bigger bowls of it alone and let us supply our own better, fresh sandwiches.
Dannon Activia Dessert. Peach Cobbler, Strawberry Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Vanilla Bean. $2.79 per 16-ounce package containing four, 4-ounce cups.
Bonnie: Marketing sweet yogurt as dessert, as Dannon is doing with these new Activia Desserts, is nothing new. Yoplait's Whips and Delights are also dessert-like lines. One of any of Dannon's four new flavors provides 140 calories, only 2.5 grams fat and 17 to 20 grams of sugar, which could be considered a nutrition bargain compared to the cheesecake or cobbler these are intended to replace.
What makes Dannon different is its intestinal health claim, as these desserts contain Bifidus Regularis, an added probiotic culture, which purportedly helps regulate your digestive system by aiding intestinal transit. Dannon's marketing claims that it works only when "consumed daily for two weeks as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle." According to a lawsuit filed by 39 state attorneys general that Dannon recently paid $21 million to settle, the majority of studies demonstrated a benefit only when it was consumed three times each day for two weeks. And this is after a private, 2009 class-action lawsuit about some of the same issues that Dannon settled for $35 million, making me surprised that Dannon even brought these new dessert Activias to market.
As for the taste, I found both cheesecake flavors palatable, but not enough to eat them anywhere near as often as required to get intestinal results.
Carolyn: I can tell you why lawsuits are not stopping Dannon from rolling out new Activia lines, Bonnie: Activia has been an incredible sales success for Dannon, with that $56 million in settlement payments representing only about an eighth of annual Activia sales.
Where yogurt competitors have created a dessert aura with sweet syrups (Stonyfield Farm's late Moo-la-la), differently flavored layers (Yoplait Delights Parfaits) or evocative names (Yoplait Light's Red Velvet Cake and Lemon Cream Pie), Activia has done it by going indulgent, upping the fat and sugar content to levels not seen since Dannon discontinued its cream-containing gourmet La Creme. Activia Dessert is made with whole milk instead of the reduced-fat milk used in regular Activia or the fat-free kind used in Activia Light.
Although Activia Dessert is tasty, it's not as richly delicious as La Creme or Stonyfield Farm's whole-milk YoBaby. That's why I recommend YoBaby (yes, even to grown-ups!) — supplemented by prunes or medication for those with regularity issues.
Amy's Organic Soups. Golden Lentil, Hearty French Country Vegetable, and Hearty Rustic Italian Vegetable. $3.49 per 14- to 14.4-ounce can.
Bonnie: Rachel Berliner turned to a company chef's brother and the owner of a Himalayan restaurant for recipes to expand Amy's soup offerings. The chef's brother, who runs a cooking school in Tours, France, supplied the concepts for the Hearty Rustic Italian Vegetable and Hearty French Country Vegetable soups; a restaurateur in her California neighborhood supplied the concept for Golden Lentil soup. All three are winners!
Each is nourishing, tasty and chock-full of organic vegetables and beans, providing good-for-you fiber, vitamins and minerals. My only issue is a bit too much sodium — especially if you eat the entire can. Just eat lower-sodium foods the rest of the day.
Although they're all delicious, my favorite is the unusual Golden Lentil, made with mildly spiced yellow split peas, red lentils and veggies, and providing a hefty 7 grams fiber per cupful.
Carolyn: Amy's Hearty soups are sort of the natural-food-world's answer to Campbell's Chunky line. Like Chunky, Amy's Hearty soups eat like a meal or at least a stew. Unlike Campbell's, Amy's Hearty soups are organic and contain no meat. In its place, Amy's Hearty soups have beans, brown or red rice, and big pieces of veggies that give the Italian and French varieties as many interesting textures as they have tastes (although the French is slightly more interesting).
The Golden Lentil is a puree, kind of the Indian-spiced equivalent of the pumpkin or squash soup that starts many Thanksgiving feasts. Its primary draw is authentic Indian spices, rather than texture or ability to fill you up (though if served over some basmati or brown rice, it could do that almost as well as a more expensive vegetarian dal dinner).
In short, I "heartily" recommend all three of these.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. She has an interactive site (www.biteofthebest.com) about products she recommends. Follow her on Twitter: BonnieBOTB. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book" (Running Press). Each week they critique three new food items. © Universal Uclick