Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Dinner Kits. Nacho Supreme, Chicken Alfredo, Zesty BBQ Chicken, Chicken and Broccoli, Ultimate Cheeseburger Mac, Chili Cheese Mac, and Tuna Melt. $2.69 per 11.3- to 15.66-ounce box.
Bonnie: Restaurants turned mac and cheese into an upscale comfort food with the addition of fresh lobster chunks. Kraft is similarly attempting to elevate its regular boxed mac and cheese with these new Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Dinner Kits.
But these kits are actually more reminiscent of Hamburger Helper skillet meal kits: Like Helper, these are processed belly fillers for folks on a tight budget. Each kit has a Velveeta cheese sauce pouch plus another flavor packet or two. With the addition of your own chicken, ground beef or tuna, you have enough food to feed five youngsters, or perhaps two to three college students or adults hungry enough not to mind the gloppy concoctions these produce.
A serving provides about 400 calories, up to 20 grams total fat and 6 grams saturated fat (depending on the protein added) and from 620 to 850 milligrams sodium. That makes them filling but not satisfying, at least not to anyone who's ever sampled from-scratch macaroni and cheese — with or without lobster.
Carolyn: This new line of skillet dinner kits from Velveeta launched with the goofiest ad campaign since Fabio's spots for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!
The cheesy (in more than one way) TV spots feature a 19th-century blacksmith who materializes to stop a modern-day mom from reaching into her freezer, urging her instead to "wield the skillet" and "forge" a Velveeta Cheesy Skillets stovetop dinner.
The ads target working women's funny bones and their research-proven guilt about serving their families frozen food.
To which I say: Women of America, lose that guilt. While not horrible (especially the Chicken and Broccoli and Ultimate Cheeseburger Mac varieties), Velveeta Cheesy Skillets are gooey and bland and generally not worth the minimal packet-opening and skillet-cleaning they demand. Most Stouffer's, Birds Eye and Green Giant bagged frozen meals come with a similar price tag, take less time and taste better.
Kashi GoLean Crisp! Cinnamon Crumble Cereal. $3.99 per 15-ounce box.
Bonnie: Cinnamon lovers will enjoy this new GoLean Crisp! cereal while staying full long after breakfast. That's because this cereal is full of satiating nutrients. In addition to 190 calories, a bowlful has 4 grams fat, with only 0.5 grams saturated; 10 grams protein, not counting what's added with milk; a hefty 9 grams fiber; and 20 grams whole grains, or more than one full serving of the three recommended daily.
I only wish these whole-grain clusters had a bit less than their 10 grams of sugars per three-quarter-cup serving. That's as much as Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Chocolate Lucky Charms, and too much for me.
Carolyn: GoLean Crisp! Cinnamon Crumble has a lot of calories for a cereal called GoLean. That's because it's more granola than cereal.
Cinnamon Crumble is lean only in the new sense of being satisfying enough that you won't feel the need to eat a lot of other stuff before lunch. That's because of its cinnamon-dusted multigrain clusters' heft, appealing flavor and crunchy texture.
It actually tastes a lot better than I expected, given some of the healthy-sounding stuff that's in it — soy protein concentrate, wheat sticks, brown rice syrup, chicory root fiber and oat fiber, among them.
Swanson Unsalted Cooking Stock. Chicken, and Beef. $3.15 per 26-ounce carton.
Bonnie: There's a subtle difference between stock and broth. It's in the seasonings.
Broth is a highly seasoned (generally salty) stock that can be eaten alone or used in cooking. By contrast, stock — like these new unsalted ones from Swanson — is an extraction of liquid from simmering meat, bones, veggies and aromatics. It's generally not eaten on its own, but used instead as a base for soups, in risotto, or in any dish where you'd think of adding broth. But with stock, you can add your own seasonings and salt, making it a good choice for people trying to control their sodium.
This is especially true of these new unsalted stocks, which contain only about 130 to 140 milligrams sodium, compared to 550 to 860 milligrams in their broths.
Carolyn: Swanson Unsalted Chicken Stock is part of the Cooking Channel-inspired gourmetizing of the American supermarket. If Emeril uses chicken stock instead of broth, then people think they should too, even if they don't know the difference.
Is there a difference, or is this just another case of culinary snobbery? Based on a side-by-side taste comparison of Wyler's bouillon-made chicken broth and this new no-salt Swanson stock, I have to say that there is: Broth smells and tastes like chicken soup, whereas this new Swanson stock smells and tastes like chicken boiling water. In other words, like real chicken versus a commercial chicken product, as well as a little fatty and dull.
I used to use my cheaper bouillon cubes for any recipe calling for broth or stock. I'll still be using them to make express chicken soup and in other everyday cooking. But this new Swanson Unsalted Stock will be my new go-to product to make any recipe I really care about.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. She has a blog (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.
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