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Taste-Testers Find A Lot To Love In Pot Pies And Pudding

By Rick Bonino Food Editor

Few things are as comforting on a cold, damp day as a warm, welcoming pot pie, straight from the oven. Followed, of course, by some velvety vanilla pudding to soothe the soul.

That’s the delightful combination we served up to The SpokesmanReview’s reader food panel one recent evening, when the weather was still doing a reasonable imitation of winter.

Fortunately for panel members, some of the samples - featuring pot pies from freezer cases, and powdered puddings out of the box - did a reasonable imitation of real food.

Marie Callender’s beefy Yankee Pot Pie was easily the class of its category, although a routine turkey pie from Banquet delivered decent taste at less than one-third the price.

An even more expensive chicken pot pie from the Rosauer’s deli was disappointing, but it may have been half-baked - literally.

A subsequent home test of Rosauer’s pies showed that the texture of both the crust and filling improved noticeably after about an hour in the oven, almost twice the 30- to 40-minute cooking time marked on the package.

In the pudding division, Bird’s Dessert Mix, a staple in every English kitchen, lost out to Nabisco’s rendition of a classic custard, the Spanish flan - thanks in part to tepid support from the token Britisher on our panel, Maria Ranniger. (“What did you do to it?” she shrieked when the Bird’s identity was flushed out.)

As for Jell-O’s instant, sugar-free vanilla version … well, we all know how embarrassing a bad imitation can be.

Marie Callender’s Yankee Pot Pie

Price: $1.89 for 10 ounces.

Nutrition: No label provided.

Taste:< ****

Value:< ****

Comments: “Good. Tastes like stew in a pie shell. Tastes homemade.” - Jan Robison.

“Good taste, nice crust, hearty gravy, real good.” - Jim Eggers.

“If it were just a little less salty it would be excellent.” - Paul Norris.

Banquet Turkey Pot Pie

Price: 59 cents for 7 ounces.

Nutrition: 370 calories (31 percent fat calories); 850 milligrams sodium in one pot pie.

Taste:< ***

Value:< ****

Comments: “The crust was flaky and the filling good, but it could use more filling.” - Jarretta Manning.

“Meat was rubbery - should have had some white meat in it.” - Mike Lax.

“Grey pastry, smells a little like chicken stock cubes. Large bit of chewy fat in my second bite.” - Maria Ranniger.

Rosauer’s Delicatessen Chicken Pot Pie

Price: $2.39 for 13 ounces.

Nutrition: No label provided.

Taste:< **

Value:< **

Comments:”Lots of vegetables! Colorful but too green to be appealing. Not appetizing.” - Susi Faville.

“Meat: poor. Crust: bland. Vegetables: OK.” Larry Kelly.

“Bad color … too mushy, and crust doesn’t taste cooked.” - Jan Robison.

Nabisco Royal Flan Caramel Custard

Price: 69 cents for 3 ounces.

Nutrition: 80 calories (no fat); 25 milligrams sodium per cup.

Taste:< ****

Value:< ***

Comments: “Not bad - like a real custard.” - Susi Faville.

“Slimy - coagulant texture.” - Jim McGinty.

“Very nice - texture nicely flanlike and tastes good.” - Mary Aegerter.

Bird’s Dessert Mix

Price: $2.19 for 5.29 ounces.

Nutrition: No label provided.

Taste:< ***

Value:< ***

Comments: “Nice texture, quiet but pleasant taste.” - Mary Aegerter.

“Seems a feeble attempt of tapioca. Not enough fish eyes, not enough flavor, not a pretty color.” - Meagan Coffey.

“No smell to speak of, smooth consistency, no flavor. Very boring, non-threatening. Nursery food - embarrassing!” - Maria Ranniger.

Jell-O Sugar-Free Instant Vanilla Pudding

Price: 59 cents for 1 ounce.

Nutrition: 70 calories (no fat); 330 milligrams sodium per cup.

Taste:< **

Value:< **

Comments: “Tastes like a bad cake mix with a diet aftertaste.” - Paul Norris.

“You can taste and see the imitation vanilla in it - YUK.” Jarretta Manning.

“Too yellow … far from the pudding mom used to make.” - Mike Lax.

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