Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cedarlane Spinach & Monterey Jack Cheese Tamales

Cedarlane is a staple of the organic freezer section in my local grocery store. They make quite a few alluring entrees and they all sit on the pricey side. This entree was about $4.00 or so, although that will vary heavily depending on your location. These looked pretty good in the case, so I picked one up to try it out. Now I know that this product is probably insulting to all of those Hispanic mothers and grandmothers that have a tamale recipe that's been in the family for generations, but I'm just a white suburban guy. I'm fairly certain we won't be finding any corn husks in here, and the addition of the pesto means that Italy and Mexico are both represented by Cedarlane here.

So here are the specs:

Serving Size 9 oz. (256 grams)
Servings per Container 1

Amount Per Serving:
Calories 320 Calories from Fat 120
% Daily Value*

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g

Total Carb. 40g
Saturated Fat 6g

Dietary Fiber 5g
Trans Fat 0g

Sugars 5g
Cholesterol 25mg

Sodium 760mg

Protein 12g

Vitamin A

Vitamin C



This meal appears pretty low in calories, which isn't really a big deal to me, but it may be to you.

Upon opening, I noticed there were two oval shaped dough balls bathed in a green mystery mush which was presumably the "Spicy Pesto Sauce." I stuck these puppies in the microwave for 4:00, although my microwave is old and weak and this time is the maximum recommended time.
They smelled very good when I opened up the microwave. The subtle corn dough and pesto sauce had a very saliva extracting (yummy, huh?) smell. I removed the plastic and surveyed the two mounds of dough. They looked very soggy, which did not surprise me. My fears were confirmed when my fork entered the dough, they were indeed VERY soggy. Inside, there was cheese and spinach galore, no false advertising there. I took a bite, and although very soggy, it really didn't affect the wonderful taste. The pesto sauce, although not spicy enough for my taste, was very flavorful. The filling of the tamale was quite good as well, with a fervently spiced flavor.
My one gripe is the texture. There are conventional oven directions, but for the sake of convenience, I used the microwave. For some meals, this being one of them, they are far better suited to oven heating over microwave heating. I shall remember this for the next time I make these. At least now you know.
Also, if you're curious, I will not let the price affect the overall rating a product receives; the rating is strictly based on taste, unless the price is severely disproportionate to the quality.

My ratings are as follows:

Price: $4 for one entree (3.5 stars)
Preparation: Easy, oven is recommended though (4 stars)
Texture: Soggy (2.5 stars)
Taste: Really flavorful (4.5 stars)


The rating may very well have been higher had the texture been improved. I would recommend this only if oven preparation is used, as this meal is just far to mushy when prepared in the microwave. But who knows, it may have been mushy either way.

My First Frozen Entree Review

Hello there! My name is Dan, the "Freezer dude." I eat a lot of frozen food. Some would commend me, some would condemn me. Regardless, I find myself eating more frozen food than anything else. I figure as long as I'm eating everything known to come out of a freezer, I may as well help out others by telling them whether or not I recommend something; after all, another opinion never did anybody any harm.

I'll kick off my reviews with a Healthy Choice meal. Now I ordinarily don't nitpick about whether a frozen item is healthy or not, I usually just buy it if it looks good. I like to be conscious of what I eat, not regulatory. I have no bias either way, I just eat what looks good, so you health food and junk food activists can relax.

So here's the preliminary specs on this meal:

Serving size: 1 Meal (10 oz.)
Calories: 280
Calories from fat: 60

Amount/Serving %DV*
Total Fat (6 g) 9%
Saturated Fat (2.5 g) 13%
Trans Fat (0 g)
Cholesterol (15 mg) 5%
Sodium (600 mg) 25%
Vitamin A 10%
Calcium 20%
Total Carbohydrates (39 g) 13%
Dietary Fiber (7 g) 28%
Sugar (6 g)
Protein (13 g)
Vitamin C (2%)
Iron (10%)

So far, so good. This meal is pretty healthy; the ingredients list has actual familiar words in it, and the sodium and fat content is pretty under control, however, if it tastes like cardboard, I'm not on board. So I put it in the microwave for a minute longer than the directions said (because my ghetto microwave is from 1986), and the intoxicating smell erupting from the direction of my kitchen was heavenly. Upon opening the microwave and inspecting the meal, everything was steamy and looked well heated and perfectly cooked.

I usually find "healthy" frozen food lacking that special something that "unhealthy" frozen foods seem to have (Fat? Salt? Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil?). However... This Tomato Basil Penne rocked my face off. It was so damn good! Usually frozen pasta entrees come out of the microwave with pasta that feels, looks, and tastes like plaster. This pasta was surprisingly firm and not at all overcooked and gummy. The pasta sauce was exploding with flavor, with noticeable pieces of tomato and onion. The mozzarella cheese added was a nice compliment, and it didn't end up rubbery and chewy like so many low-fat cheeses added to these healthy entrees.
Overall, I was very surprised and impressed by Conagra's effort here.

The rating results:

Price: 3 entrees for $9.00 (8)*
Preparation: Easy (8)*
Texture: Good, slightly off textured tomatos (7.5)*
Taste: Fantastic, onions only slightly overpowering (8)*

Overall: Recommended (8)*

(#)* rating