Universal Press Syndicate
PhillySwirl Ice Cream Cupcakes. $4.99 to $5.99 per 19.5-ounce package of six frozen cupcakes or $7.99 to $9.99 per 39-ounce package of 12 frozen cupcakes.

Bonnie: These new frozen ice cream cupcakes could come in handy for any gathering of small children. That's because they're ice cream, cake and icing all in one small portion, packed in a resealable muffin-tin package. Each includes vanilla or chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate or vanilla icing and sprinkles. They're the perfect size for kids' birthday parties and for recognizing the birthday person at your dinner party when you don't want to serve an entire birthday cake. Be sure to add a candle.

The nutritionals are even reasonable: 160 calories, 9 grams of total fat (of which 6 are saturated) and 15 grams of sugar per cupcake.

Carolyn: PhillySwirl Cupcakes is the perfect product for our individualistic, time-pressed, weight-obsessed society.

These Carvel-like ice cream-topped cupcakes seem especially tailor-made for kids' birthday parties. With these, you can forget the trouble and mess of cutting cake and scooping out ice cream, not to mention complaints about unequal-size servings or the wrong cake flavor (since PhillySwirl multipacks come with half-white, half-chocolate cake). They're also great for celebrations in small families or as an everyday, not-too-indulgent treat.

In fact, I'd like to see these in supermarket three-packs, or individually wrapped in the ice cream cases at convenience stores.

Oscar Mayer Deli Creations Flatbread Sandwiches. Buffalo-Style Ranch Chicken, Chicken and Bacon Ranch, Fajita Beef & Salsa, Steakhouse Beef With Garlic Parmesan Sauce, and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken. $2.99 to $3.99 for 4.9-ounce to 5.1-ounce package.

Bonnie: I bet there's no environmentalist on Oscar Mayer's R&D team — not with all the packaging used in these flatbread sandwiches. First, there is the main box. Then the flatbread comes in a sealed tray that you use for cooking. And the shredded cheese, sauce, and cubes of meat or chicken are each separately packaged. This makes no sense for our planet, but it does for "freshness." And I use that term very loosely, as the chicken in these tastes more like ham from all the preservatives.

To make a sandwich, you top the flatbread with the meat, cheese and sauce, microwave about a minute, and then fold and eat. One sandwich has a modest 280 to 330 calories, a modest to high 9 to 14 grams of total fat, a modest to high 590 to 910 grams of sodium (from all the additives), and almost no fiber.

That's a lot for a middle-aged office worker but not too bad for a hungry teenager. Me? I prefer fresher-tasting food.

Carolyn: Oscar Mayer's Deli Creations obviously aim to compete with gourmet sandwich shops. But those shop owners have nothing to fear. Deli Creations are basically Lunchables for grown-ups.

Like Lunchables, these involve opening a lot of little packages and mixing stuff together. Kids might see this as fun; adults in a hurry, as just a pain in the neck. The flatbreads remind me a lot of Lunchables pizza crust — OK but hardly gourmet. The sauces taste like warmed salad dressings. The meats are tender but very salty. In fact, salt is the main taste of all but the Buffalo-Style Ranch Chicken and the Fajita Beef & Salsa, but even these aren't good enough to recommend.

The concept of a packaged, refrigerated meal kit works better for less-ambitious foods such as hot dogs and pizza. People looking for a quick cheap lunch should buy those Lunchables. Everyone else should take the extra 15 minutes (and extra dollars) to get a freshly made sandwich from a corner shop.

Amy's Mexican Quesadilla With Beans & Rice Kids' Meal. $4.29 per 8-ounce frozen package.

Bonnie: Amy's new organic Mexican Quesadilla is a kids' meal I can recommend to all ages — except for active teenagers, for whom it would only be a light snack.

It contains two cheese-filled quesadillas, refried beans, Spanish rice and an odd-shaped, unfrosted chocolate cake — which makes this a kids' meal. That and the game on the back and the picture to color on the inside of the box.

The 7 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein are impressive, the latter especially so, considering this contains no meat. And the calories (420) and fat (15 grams of total fat, of which 5 grams are saturated) are reasonable. The high sodium (680 milligrams) is the only downside, but it's not high enough to keep me from recommending this.

Carolyn: I continue to be impressed by Amy's knowledge of good taste and nutrition. This new kids' meal is another great example. It's as good a Mexican meal — frozen or otherwise — as I've ever had. The cheese quesadilla, with its healthy and flavorful wheat tortilla, is like a Mexican-style grilled cheese sandwich. I even liked Amy's unorthodox (and presumably also nutrition-boosting) addition of broccoli to the Spanish rice. It added flavor and texture without overwhelming the rice's identity.

The box's cover should tell people that this meal contains a cake dessert, so they can plan accordingly. That's the only bad thing I can say about this.


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