companion blog to the e-book the 24/7 Low Carb Diner

Companion blog to the e-book
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Frozen Dinners When You Can't Make Your Own

If you know the Diner system, you know that I prefer to feed my freezer--then my family-- with home cooked meals. Although I have done my best to make a system that leaves no excuses for advance food prep, there are times when that is impossible--say like when a tornado rips your roof off. Or for the rest of you who might just get too busy fir your prep days this time of year--I introduce the Atkins line of frozen dinners.

You will probably be seeing lots of reviews for these new products if you travel anywhere around the low carb blogosphere. The Atkins crew has been very generous feeding many of several meals for our evaluation. My review will be one of many, but here goes.

I was happy to receive this. Always a penny pincher, I love a good sample or trial version of anything! These arrived at our door at school packed in dry ice. The students played with that and had a fabulous time, btw. Definite fringe benefit and they did not try the dry ice bomb although it was suggested.  Now on the to food.

The first meal I tried turned out to be my favorite. The Beef Marsala. The sauce was flavorful and the hint of wine did come through. Most assuredly my favorite part. The broccoli had a nice texture too. The beef was tender, although I have to admit that is probably because of the processing. It was more shredded than it looks in the photo on the box, but commercial food photography always does seem to be a lie. The Atkins makers say there are no fillers, but the meat has a different texture than what I make and freeze from fresh. That is my least favorite part of the whole commercial  frozen meal concept. The additives and enhancers. Our promotional materials say no fillers and no added sugars or preservatives. True, but additives like potato and modified food starches, soy and maltodextrin are listed. They are low on the ingredient list and therefore minimal, but they are there. I suppose it is a necessary thing. Since I try to not the be dietary police, I enjoyed it anyway. This is certainly a better option than most of the frozen dinners on the market. Those are certainly Frankenfood. These meals have the benefit of being high protein with low net carbs. In the 4-7 net carb range with the carbs coming mainly from the veggies, I think. If you need to be an additive purist, like I was when feeding my boy the SCD diet,  plan to stay in the kitchen to make your own from scratch.

The entrees are low calorie too, which I think will be an added benefit when it comes to the inevitable calorie counting I do in January after too many red velvet brownies during the holidays. The portion sizes are a little too small for me. I was left with a little edge of hunger. The kind where you could use a little more, but not the kind where you find yourself licking the bowl. Yes, in my Nutrisystem days I would remain so hungry that I threw manners out the door and literally put those tiny little cups up to my face trying to get the last morsel of nutrition. I hated that diet with a passion. While I could use a little more food, this is not that experience by any means. Plus, the food tasted so much better as well.

The next favorite was the Chicken Broccoli Alfredo. It was not nearly as rich as my home made, but far better than most frozen meals. The flavor of the chicken was nice, while again, the texture seemed a little processed. Once more, I could have used a little more--maybe I could add a fresh side salad to go with the entree. That keeps it in the easy zone.

The Roast Turkey Tenders with Herb Pan Gravy--the name was so promising. I thought this one needed a little more flavor. I found myself wishing for a salt shaker while I ate at my desk. (In all fairness, the Atkins box does describe it as a "delicate rosemary and thyme herb pan gravy" though I am trying to visualize how big that pan must be) Now understand,  I come from Southern stock, those who advocate overcooked, salt pork green beans. I have never been a fan of the lightly steamed french cut green bean. For those of you who prefer crunch, you will love these. I liked the touch of red bell pepper--a gourmet touch that actually did add to the flavor. It is just the texture that got me, and that is just a personal thing. And note--I did still eat them all.

Overall, if you don't mind a few processed ingredients, these frozen entrees could save you from many dietary mishaps. For those new to the low carb way of eating, they are great to model of how to do it. You can always cook more on your own later and lose the added starches and flavor enhancers. For those surrounded by carbivores, these will still be satisfying for you while others are eating pasta and Chinese take out. They don't taste like diet food at all. But at 310-390 calories each, they will help you lose weight, I am sure. I am fortunate to have a little freezer space at school. I think I will keep one for days when life happens and I don't get my lunch packed.

These frozen entrees are hitting select Wal Mart stores now, and should be in many retailers by January 2nd. If you give them a try, let me know what you think. My fellow Low Carbing Among Friends author, Kent, didn't care for the Beef Merlot, while that was my favorite. We are all different, but overall in the world of frozen food, you should find something to like here.


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