After serving pizza to The Spokesman-Review’s reader food panel for two straight months, we started to get a little concerned about their nutritional needs.
So, to balance things out, we treated them to the kind of multicourse meal Mom would have made back in the “Leave it to Beaver” days (if Mom was really, really busy and had lost her taste buds in a terrible accident, anyway).
There was frozen green bean casserole (which you read about last week), and boxed mashed potatoes (which you’ll read about next week). And we offered not only three brands of frozen, breaded chicken for an entree, but raspberry Jell-O with three brands of fat-free whipped topping for dessert.
The best of a paltry poultry lot was Butterball’s new Chicken Requests, decent-sized breast pieces in a fairly spicy breading.
Banquet’s tiny, fat-free Breast Tenders took a distant second, despite the disturbing label acknowledgement that they were “formed and breaded” (“I don’t want to know what parts were used,” shuddered panelist Jim McGinty).
Even worse were the medium-sized Tyson breast fillets, bland with a breading that was as overbearing as Eddie Haskell, and only slightly less oily.
Among the fat-free toppings (which fooled no one, for even a moment), the thin, airy Cool Whip and thicker, sweeter Janet Lee store brand were deemed equally mediocre.
Reddi-wip’s canned version - which actually contains some cream, although not enough to register on the official fat scale - looked good but seemed to “melt” on the Jell-O (the result of not being shaken enough first, some panelists surmised).
As they departed, panel members seemed lost in the kind of nostalgic reverie that follows a true comfort food experience.
Then again, maybe they were just plotting their course to the closest Pizza Hut.
Butterball Chicken Requests, Crispy Baked Breasts
Price: $3.99 for 14 ounces (4 servings).
Nutrition: 180 calories (28 percent fat calories); 430 milligrams sodium per serving.
Comments: “It’s nice that the chicken is thicker than the breading. Peppery flavor.” - Sandy Davidson
“Crunchy breading, spicy breading, salty breading … I forget: is there supposed to be chicken inside the breading?” - Jim McGinty
Banquet Fat Free Breast Tenders
Price: $2.79 for 10.5 ounces (3 servings).
Nutrition: 130 calories (no fat); 480 milligrams sodium per serving.
Comments: “My dishwashing sponge has approximately the same texture as this, when wet.” - Helen Span
“Weird. That does it … I’m a vegetarian! The texture is un-American.” - Jan Robison
Tyson Breast Fillets
Price: $2.79 for 9 ounces (3 servings).
Nutrition: 180 calories (39 percent fat calories); 440 milligrams sodium per serving.
Comments: “Don’t take this one home unless you want to be disappointed. Can’t taste the chicken, the batter is greasy and leaves a pungent flavor in your mouth.” - Ken Peters
“The Howard Stern of chicken - totally tasteless.” - Karen Buck
Janet Lee Fat Free Whipped Topping
Price: 99 cents for 8 ounces.
Nutrition: 15 calories (no fat); 10 milligrams sodium in 2 tablespoons.
Comments: “Very dense and rich in flavor, especially for fat-free.” - Christie Coleman
“Gooey, marshmallow texture - artificial flavor.” - Beverly Smick
Cool Whip Fat Free Whipped Topping
Price: $1.19 for 8 ounces.
Nutrition: 15 calories (no fat); 5 milligrams sodium in 2 tablespoons.
Comments: “Creamy, not from a can … good flavor … not overly sweet.” - Meagan Coffey
“Bland. What is this, all egg white?” - Larry Kelly
Reddi-wip Fat Free Whipped Topping
Price: $1.79 for 7 ounces.
Nutrition: 5 calories (no fat); no sodium in 2 tablespoons.
Comments: “Leave it at the store; doesn’t hold up, and lacks flavor.” - Jim McGinty
“Will never replace fresh whipping cream.” - Bob Bates
, DataTimes MEMO: Products sampled by The Spokesman-Review’s reader food panel are prepared according to package directions. Panelists are not aware of a product’s brand name or price until after they have tasted it. Products are rated from one to five stars for taste and for value, based on quality compared to price.
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