Bonnie: Bertolli is a sister Unilever company to Ragu, which recently introduced Ragu Fresh & Easy pasta pouches. Those contain no added sugars or artificial ingredients and cook in only 90 seconds, as do these new ones from Bertolli. So what's the difference?Bertolli pasta sauces are aimed at a more sophisticated palate, with their chunky crushed tomatoes, olives and mushrooms. Nutritionally, a half-cup portion contains 70 to 100 calories, 3.5 to 6 grams of total fat, 2 grams of fiber, 430 to 450 milligrams of sodium, and 1 or fewer gram of sugar. As for flavor, they're mediocre not at all special-tasting enough for their upscale target market.
Carolyn: These new Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauces look a lot better than they eat. My pouches contained none of the big vegetable pieces pictured on the Gourmet magazine-quality photos on the package fronts. I couldn't see, and could hardly taste, any mushrooms in the Champignon & Portobello Mushroom variety. The Summer Crushed Tomato & Basil and the Sun Ripened Tomato & Olive did taste like basil and olives, but not as strongly and distinctively as the package photo had led me to expect. Perhaps it's because these are more natural and healthful than indulgent. They contain neither cream nor meat and aren't that filling. I recommend Bertolli's own more filling and tasty gourmet skillet dinners from the freezer case instead.
Hershey's Bliss Chocolate. Dark, Milk and Milk Meltaway. $3.99 for 9.6-ounce bag.
Bonnie: Where were you the weekend of April 25? Perhaps you were one of 10,000 women who signed up online to host a Hershey's-sponsored party to be introduced to these new Bliss chocolates. Or perhaps you were one of the 12,000 who missed the party but got a gift sent to them.
Hershey reached out across the Web as it had learned that more than half the women in the country now get their recommendations online from blogs and other Web sites second only to word of mouth. (As a blogger, it's "bliss" to hear that.)
But what about these chocolates? A 6-piece serving (43 grams) of these individually wrapped pieces contains 200 to 220 calories, 14 to 15 grams of total fat (of which 9 to 10 grams are saturated) and 20 to 22 grams of sugar. That's compared to nine Kisses (41 grams), containing 230 calories, 13 grams of total fat (of which 8 are saturated) and 21 grams of sugar.Bliss? Not exactly, as I'm used to much more indulgent European chocolates. But these are decent-tasting pieces of chocolate.
Carolyn: Bliss chocolates are Hershey's answer to Mars' Dove Promise Miniatures: the domed shape, soft and creamy texture, foil wrapping and a manipulative touchy-feely name. Mars and Hershey are not just selling candy, gals, they're selling happiness or, in the case of Dove, some vague "promise." I give Dove Promise's ad agency a "D" for the name but their food scientists an "A" for chocolate that is richer and tastier than Bliss.On the other hand, Bliss has 10 fewer calories than Promise (35 versus 45), and bliss to me is not being confronted with one of Promise's corny wrapper sayings (such as, "The heart has its own reason which reason does not know") every time I open a chocolate.
Cranergy Energy Juice Drink. Cranberry Lift and Raspberry Cranberry Lift. $3.99 per 46-ounce plastic bottle or 12-ounce four-pack.
Bonnie: I've always been a fan of nutritious cranberry juice. Research says it's good for urinary tract health, as it helps keep certain bacteria from sticking to the tract wall. It also is an excellent source of vitamin C and tastes good. So I like the cranberry component of these new so-called energy drinks.
That's about where my enthusiasm ends, as these contain more grape juice than cranberry. The grape functions as a sweetener along with the artificial sweetener Splenda. And I don't like the aftertaste of any product containing artificial sweeteners.If you don't mind artificial sweeteners, you might like knowing that the drink contains 100 percent of your daily vitamin C plus lots of added B vitamins and 75 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces from the green tea extract. That's about twice as much as a Coke. But the main "energy" you'll get from these is calories 50 per 12-ounce bottle.
Carolyn: It's a bit hypocritical for Ocean Spray to promote Cranergy as "a natural way to energize" when it is partially sweetened with artificial ingredients. I still like this product and the way it allows me to drink a good-tasting and good-for-you juice drink without having to suffer juice's full calorie hit.
If the Cranberry Lift variety is any indication, cranberry juice is one of the few drinks strong enough to mask green tea's bad taste. The green tea, in turn, tones down cranberry's tartness. It's a great combination reminiscent of some delicious, juicy, now-defunct fruit teas of the 1990s.I don't recommend the Raspberry Cranberry Lift variety: The raspberry addition makes it taste too watery.
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