Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lean Cuisine Marketplace Sweet and Sour Chicken - Target: Marlton, NJ

Lean Cuisine Marketplace Sweet and Sour Chicken - Target: Marlton, NJ
Sweet and Sour Chicken is something that all frozen dinner brands seem to offer. It's one of my guilty pleasures that I always keep on hand, although I'm not loyal to any one brand over another. I usually go with what's the cheapest, but I saw there was a new contender in the freezer aisle, and it's packaging was much fancier than the others, so I thought I'd pick it up and do a review. (Plus I was already tired and hungry after work, so it was the perfect lazy dinner night.)

All freezer meals use a similar packaging and design. Here we have a cardboard box containing a plastic tray of frozen food. Functionality-wise, this is typical, and there's nothing new or innovative about it. However, the graphic design for this specific product is pretty nice. There is a chalkboard-like quality to the black background, which has some nice texturing, and the images of the food provide a refreshing pop of color. It may not be worthy of being hung in a museum, but compared to the other frozen Sweet & Sour Chicken meals in the freezer aisle, this makes the same old meal look much fancier, plus the "Lean" aspect tricks you into thinking that you're making a healthy food decision. Now is it really a better option than cooking at home? No, but the packaging is enough for you to falsely rationalize that it is, which is pretty impressive.

Inside the box is the usual freezer tray with a plastic film on top, I cooked it according the the instructions on the box, which sounds silly, but all these freezer meals have their own subtle differences in their baking directions. (Peel up a corner, pierce film, etc.)

Oh wow, this is pretty photogenic for a microwave meal. There's a nice range of colors, the veggies are diced into different sizes, and the chicken looks like actual bits of chicken. All of those point might seem really basic and silly, but if any of you have ever had this frozen meal from other brands you know it can look pretty pathetic. 
The aroma is practically the same as any other frozen Sweet & Sour Chicken I've tried, it's pineapple-heavy and tangy. Since it smells the same I'm guessing it's going to taste the same.

I took a bite of the chicken first, which had a better texture than other frozen chicken meals I've had in the past, but it's still not great. It's slightly better than the chicken strips you find in the Cafe Steamer line, but it's still not something I'd consider to be fresh chicken breast.

Other than the chicken being a slightly better quality than other Sweet & Sour meals I've had, it was very much the same, if not slightly spicier. I can taste pineapple, bell peppers, carrots, chicken, and a hint of sweet chili sauce. It's pretty good. I think this might be the best frozen Sweet and Sour chicken meal I've ever had, but I still wouldn't pick this over a real meal at a restaurant.

Freezer meals are a wonderful thing for those of us that are tired after a long day at work and don't feel like cooking. We all know they aren't great for you, and I am guilty of lazily tossing something into the microwave a few times a month, but I think we all have to admit, frozen dinners are a last-ditch effort against hungriness. No frozen meal ever stands up to something actually cooked in your home or at a restaurant. If you had someone in your house willing to cook you a meal right now, vs. one of these frozen boxed dinners, you'd go with the yummy home cooked meal. So whenever I review one of these freezer dinner meals you have to take it with a grain of salt. Is it good? Sure. Would I prefer eating this over a home cooked meal? No way. It is what it is, a frozen dinner that suits tired and lazy people and prevents them from staving, and out of all the other boxed dinners offering Sweet & Sour Chicken, I think this could possibly be the best.
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