Saturday, August 20, 2011

New product: Birds Eye Chef's Favorites

As a member of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, my blog was recently chosen to sample four new Birds Eye Steamfresh Chef's Favorites side dishes, which will be available in stores next month. The parcel, packed in dry ice and shipped overnight, contained the following:
Lightly Sauced Creamed Spinach

Creamy Vegetable Primavera Risotto

Lightly Sauced Roasted Red Potatoes & Green Beans

Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto

All are vegetarian except the Mushroom Risotto, which contains chicken broth, so my husband volunteered to sample and review that one.

Primavera Vegetable Risotto

Veggie risotto

The first one we tried was the vegetable risotto. I really liked the convenience of being able to have a risotto ready in about four minutes. The cream sauce is flavorful, although I found it to have a slightly metallic aftertaste. The vegetables are of good quality; carrots are thickly sliced, peas are fat and juicy. I also like that the risotto is only 180 calories per serving. Although it is a side dish, I made it a full meal by adding diced chik'n to it after cooking.

Instruction arrows

The bag instructions are easy to understand and follow. The bag is placed seam-side up into the microwave, and red arrows show where to hold the bag when removing it. Another arrow points to a notch on the side, which notes where to begin tearing open the bag. While I followed the directions exactly, I could only get the bag to open halfway and I found it difficult to get the entire contents out of the bag. This wasn't a problem with any of the other sides we tested. I don't know the retail price so I can't say whether or not it is good value for money, but I give it good marks for quality and convenience.

Next we tried the Creamed Spinach. We tried it by itself, on top of buttered toast, and with Ritz crackers.

Creamed Spinach

Creamed spinach with crackers and buttered toast

I'm sorry to say that neither of us cared much for this one; the garlic-Parmesan sauce tasted "fake" - for want of a better word - and even after giving it a good hearty stir, it was still clotted, clumpy and unappetizing. We followed the microwave wattage cooking directions correctly, but perhaps if we had let it steam a little longer we wouldn't have had the clumping problem. About the only good thing going for this one is that it is only 90 calories per serving.

Later in the week Steve decided to try the Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto. His review is below:

Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto

Mushroom and green bean risotto

The Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto suffers in the same way the spinach does. I twinned it with some tiny chunks of chicken breast and whilst the risotto did allow the flavor of the chicken to come through, the overall experience felt 'fake.' Unfortunately, there was a strong aftertaste too. A buyer would have to balance taste against convenience and whilst the latter is undeniable - a mere five minutes from freezer to plate - the former remains very much the compromise.

Quite by accident, we saved the best for last. The Lightly Sauced Roasted Red Potatoes & Green Beans was by far the most natural tasting of the lot. It worked surprisingly well with falafel croquettes (shown in photo below), and in fact is probably the most versatile of all the packages we tried. I could easily imagine having this side with a wide variety of meals. The Parmesan-olive oil sauce was a tad salty but not overpoweringly so, and the veggies were of excellent quality. I'd certainly have it again.

Roasted Red Potatoes & Green Beans

This side serves two, but I ate it all

It was fun to experiment with these new Birds Eye Steamfresh offerings. I do not usually buy frozen meals and really didn't know what to expect when the box of goodies turned up. I wish I could have said that I liked all four, but one wasn't vegetarian and the other one just didn't do anything for us. The veggie risotto is worth another try, and the roasted potatoes with green beans was very good. I look forward to seeing both of them on my grocer's shelf.

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