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Tidbits: Lean Cuisine, Kraft microwave mac-and-cheese

  • Article by: AL SICHERMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 23, 2014 - 12:43 PM

More Lean Cuisine

The ever-expanding Lean Cuisine brand, apparently aiming to take over the entire frozen-food aisle, has added two new lines. There were already 144 Lean Cuisine items, in hard to differentiate “collections”: Culinary Collection (71), Spa Collection (15), Market Collection (15), Simple Favorites (31), Honestly Good (6), and Salad Additions (6).

That last one, Salad Additions, which premiered a year ago, consists of six varieties of makings for a salad, for which you supply your own greens. Now there are four Wrap Additions: Makings of a wrap (Turkey Ranch, Buffalo-style Chicken, Creamy Balsamic Chicken, and Chicken Teriyaki), for which you supply your own tortilla.

And there’s a brand new group: the Morning Collection, consisting of three kinds of English muffin egg-white sandwiches (four to the box) and three kinds of oatmeal (two servings to the box). Why buy frozen oatmeal? Possibly for the interesting additions. The choices are cranberry, pistachio & orange zest oatmeal; apple, cinnamon & almond oatmeal; and wild blueberry & pomegranate oatmeal.

Bowled under

Kraft’s single-serve Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese Dinners aren’t new, but Mr. Tidbit (having just bought one) has noticed a significant fact: The deep microwave bowl in which they are packaged, which the shopper sees inside the cardboard sleeve, is much larger than the serving they produce.

To prepare one of these, you add water to the macaroni-seasoning mixture — up to the “fill” line fairly low on the bowl — stir, microwave and then stir in the cheese sauce and sprinkle with the bacon bits. Surprise: The finished product, although tasty, doesn’t occupy significantly more of the bowl than that initial “fill” line.

To be fair, the package front does mention that it “makes about 1 ¼ cups” (so those who can accurately picture 1 ¼ cups really shouldn’t be surprised), and the bowl must be large enough to contain the mixture while it’s bubbling in the microwave. But Mr. Tidbit measured the capacity of the bowl to be almost 3 cups — more than double the amount of food it ultimately contains. To what Mr. Tidbit likes to think of as his mind, the word “deceptive” springs.

Al Sicherman

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