Friday, October 26, 2007

Dinner as Usual

As usual, the Nutrisystem meal fall waaaaaaay short of looking anything like the package and pretty short on the taste evaluation. Jill gave the BBQ Sauce Over Beans and Rice a 4+ and added it to the list of items to make sure don't get sent with the next shipment.

I had a Lean Cuisine Chicken Parmesan with Broccoli, Fettuccine Pasta and Apple Caramel Crisp. I expected the chicken to be processed, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was whole breast meat. It was a decent tasting patty. The broccoli was actually delicious and the fettuccine was passable. After finishing it, I was looking forward to the caramel apple crisp. One taste and my hopes were dashed to bits. It was by far the worst part of the meal. I passed it up and it dropped the meal score from a 7 to a 6.

Between meals, I've been hitting the fridge and nibbling on cucumber slices, celery chunks and green pepper wedges that I cut up and put in water. I had forgotten how much I used to like doing just that growing up on the farm as a kid.

Soured on Sweet Potatoes for Lunch

George Bush couldn't spell potato and we couldn't eat Nutrisystem's Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Cheese.

When I walked in the door, Jill greeted me with, "You have to try this and tell me if I'm being over critical, because I gave this a ZERO."

Not being a big fan of whipped sweet potatoes and cheese in the first place, I was reluctant, but she insisted. One small spoonful and I was absolutely convinced that she had been overly generous.

I would like to know who taste tested this concoction and when they had their taste buds surgically removed. They were so bad that Jill said that if this had been the first item she tasted, she would have sent the entire order back.

Knowing that there was nowhere to go but up, she then tried the Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli. She gave them a 6, which only makes one wonder more about the disparity. On the other hand, just look at the packaging. They only way they could make it look appetizing was to supplement it with generous slices of whole sweet potatoes.'

I had a SmartOnes Chicken Enchilada Monterey. You have to understand that my best friend is from New Mexico and I've visited him enough to have a good appreciation of real Mexican food. So my expectations were not high. The food lived up to my expectations. It would rate it at about the quality of Taco Bell and gave it a 5.

The bight spot was Nutrisystem's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pudding. It had a nice thick consistency and was on par with most instant mixes. However, if Guinness has a record for the smallest chocolate chips, Nutrisystem must hold the record. There were enough of them, but they were the size of those tiny kernels that rest between two halves of a cashew nut. We gave it a 7+.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dinner's a 6... No, it's a 7.

The Nutrisystem Chicken and Pasta Parmesan was shaping up to be the usual five or six, because when Jill took her first taste, she said, "We're back to Chef Boyardee again." She quickly added, "But it's not that bad."

As I got up to get some salad dressing she asked me to get the garlic powder. After a little salt and garlic powder she decided it was ok and actually gave it a seven.

I had one of her rejects. It was Nutrisystem Tomato and Corn Chowder. While preparing this dinner, I realized that I may have been too harsh about the appearance of SOME of the foods. Here we had an example of a dish that wasn't all that appealing on the package, but looking completely unappetizing when I opened the container. However, but it presenting much better after cooked and put on a white plate with a few shrimp.

With the shrimp, a salad on the side, some salt and a few drips of hot sauce the chowder, and you have a tasty, satisfying meal. I gave the chowder an 8 and the meal itself a 9.

Just one parting word about our ratings. When I give something a 9 out of 10, that's NOT compared to a restaurant meal. It's compared to the best you could expect from a frozen or prepared meal.

There's Pizza and There's Pizza

It was pizza for lunch today. I had Lean Cuisine Deep Dish 3 Meat Pizza and Jill had Nutrisystem's Thin Crust Cheese Pizza. I popped mine into the over and four minutes later removed a pizza that looked and smelled great. It didn't quite live up to the picture on the box which obviously was cheese enhanced. However, the flavor left nothing to be desired. If it had the same amount of cheese as in the picture, I would have actually given it a 10, but I'll still give it a 9.

Now let's talk about the Nutirsystem Pizza, and I use the term loosely. Some assembly is required. The thin crust is thin indeed. It's in the from of what looks to be a round wheat cracker on steroids. You add sauce and cheese from separate packages and microwave it for a little more than a minute. What comes out has almost no resemblance to the package. Now it might have been a wee bit over cooked which changed the color of the cheese, but even at it's best it wouldn't come close to the picture.

Jill said that 40 years ago her brother loved frozen pizza that tasted like cardboard with sauce on it. This tasted exactly like that. She gave it a 3 and said she was being generous. The other two pizzas are going back for exchange.

So if you are like Jill's brother, this might be for you, but then again 40 years ago that was the best they had.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Here are 2000 words worth of commentary on our dinner today.

I don't think I have to do much more than give you the ratings. The Pot Roast with Gravy, Potatoes, and Carrots got a 5 and the Shrimp and Spaghetti in Garlic Lemon Sauce got a 7.

I told Jill that she might be a bit harsh with her ratings. She's not a pot roast person. That was an item they sent that she didn't order. She gave this a 5, but I have a confession to make. I tasted it and she is being overly generous. I would have given it a 3.

On the other hand, I might be a bit generous with my ratings. My seven rating was partly because of that, but it's also because of the fact that garlic and lemon sauce is something that has to be done just right for me to really enjoy it.

The only other commercial meal we had today was enjoyed by Jill. I say "enjoy" with absolutely no sarcasm, because the Nutrisystem Chili with Beans got the highest marks yet from her. She gave it a whopping 8 out of 10. The gravy was thick and zesty. She said it would have been even better if she had something to sop up the gravy with.

The reason she had nothing is that she refuses to eat anything by white bread and that's taboo on the diet. Too bad I wasn't around for lunch. For a week I've, been badgering here to try some whole wheat bread, but her past experience precluded it. She finally broke down and tried some with the Pot Roast. Guess what? She said it wasn't bad. Maybe that accounts for her five.

A little later it was on to the Zesty Herb Mix snack and another record is set. Despite the fact that it had a slight artificial butter taste, Jill rated it a 9. I think her favorite similar treat is Chex Mix and this was every bit as good. In fact the garlic probably scored it a bit higher than Chex.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It Was a Good Week

Well, Jill might not have been overly enamored with some of the foods, but she and I both did loose two pounds the first week.

One thing that upset her was the fact that the deal she signed up for came with two weeks of free food. Unfortunately, she didn't have any say in what that food would be. I guess they figured they would send things that she didn't order so that she would try them. WRONG!

Today I called up to arrange for an exchange of unwanted foods. The exchange process was relatively painless except for the fact that she had to talk to them to authorize me to talk to them. It didn't matter that I did all the ordering and it was on my credit card, but it's a privacy and security thing and I understand.

The resulting phone call set up the exchange and when we receive the exchange form in an e-mail, about 40 items will be going back, including eggs which she had for breakfast.

Breakfast - Jill likes her eggs over light with some toast for dipping. The only time in the past 40 years that I've seen her eat scrambled eggs is when we were on diets and she couldn't have toast. She did order some Scrambled Eggs, but they didn't pass her taste test. They were about what you would expect from powdered eggs. Jill give the eggs a 5-, so they are all going back to be exchanged for Chocolate Chip Pancakes.

My breakfast was two real eggs over light with a piece of wheat toast and strawberry jam. I gave them an 8, but then again, I made them myself. :-)

Lunch - The picture on the front of Nutrisystem Pasta Parmesan with Broccoli shows nice chunks of broccoli... That pause was the time it took me to stop laughing. I have no way of comparing the overall weight of the broccoli in the picture to the broccoli in the actual product, but if it is the same, it was put in a shredder first. Jill said it smelled great, but she may not have followed the cooking instructions exactly right, because some of the pasta was very al dente and the mixture was very watery. She's going to give it another try, so I'll hold off giving it a rating until Pasta and Broccoli Parmesan take two.

My lunch consisted of a bowl of Campbell's Chicken and Rice Soup and an Oscar Meyers Hot Dog on whole wheat bread. What can I say? For me it's a diet meal. For a kid, it's a banquet.

Dinner - I finished the other half of my soup from lunch along with a Lean Cuisine Panini and Jill had a Nutrisystem Potato Wedges and Beef Steak. I keep forgetting to bring my digital camera to the table to show you how much the food resemble or doesn't resemble the packaging.

The panini was very tasty and looked very much like the packaging. I gave it a 7+ for taste. On the other hand, it's becoming increasingly obvious that if appearance of the product and the picture on the label were covered under the truth in advertising act, Nutrisystem would be in trouble. Jill gave the taste a 6+ and that's considerably higher than I would give the appearance in relation to the packaging. But hey, it's the taste that counts and she didn't select Nutrisystem for presentation.

We shared Nutrisystem Cherry Jubilee Pudding for dessert. I made it last night and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

As a kid, we both loved cherry flavor, but as adults neither one of use are crazy about it and given a choice, we go with a different flavor whether it is ice cream, pie, candy or whatever. Keeping that in mind, we both gave the pudding a rating of 7+. It had typical pudding consistency. The first few bites were "very cherry", but after a few bites it grew on us. I was worried that there would be an after taste, but there was none.

Not surprisingly, the packaging and the product look almost alike, but hey, how can you mess up on that one.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Less than Stellar Entrees, but the Desserts Soared

Lunch - Jill loves chicken cacciatore and it's one of her specialties. As a result it's going to be tough for her to give high grades to anyone else's recipe whether it be diet food or Italian restaurant. So it's no surprise that she gave the Nutrisystem Chicken and Pasta in Cacciatore Sauce a rating of 4 out of 10. She likes a sauce with some zest and garlic. This was distinctly lacking in garlic, had a sweet sauce, and was VERY thin on the chicken.

She also had a peanut butter cookie with her coffee. That faired better in her evaluation. She gave it at 7 out of 10, and she makes a mean peanut butter cookie.

I had a SmartOnes Pepperoni Pizza for lunch. As frozen pizzas go, it was pretty good. I liked the consistence of the dough which was thicker than many, and it was balanced well with appropriate amounts of pepperoni and cheese. Compared to my favorite pizzaria pizza, I'd give it a 5 or 6 out of 10. On the other hand, compared to other frozen pizzas, I've give it an 8+

Dinner - Have you ever see the tacos in a Taco Bell commercial and then bought one? If so, there are a few things that are evident. First, it's not real Mexican food and second, the actual product resembles the real thing as much as the administration's promises resemble the reality of our world. When it comes to the Mushroom Risotto, the previous two sentences tell the story. Jill give it a 3+ on our 10 scale, and while she IS a picky eater, I tasted it and would have to second her assessment.

I had a Lean Cuisine Beef Portabello, and while the picture was more attractive than the actual meal (isn't is always), the taste was good. The consistency of the potatoes was closer to mashed than what is pictured, but the beef was an accurate representation. I gave both of them a 7+ and wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to give it an 8.

Then we went on to dessert and I'm happy to report that Nutrisystem did very well. Jill had a Mint Chocolate Crunch Bar and I had a Hot Chocolate Drink. Jill's a mint person. Peppermint Patties are one of her favorite candies. She said that the mint was very minty and the chocolate was a nice consistency. She gave it an 8+.

I'm a chocoholic and my favorite hot chocolate drink is real Hershey's cocoa, sugar and milk. If that's not available, Swiss Miss is a somewhat distant, but perfectly acceptable second. I give Hershey's a 10 and Swiss Miss and 8.

The Nutrisystem Hot Chocolate calls for 6 oz. of hot water. When I made it that way, it was much too sweet for my taste. I added an additional 10 oz and it was just very good. I would score it on par with Swiss Miss.

Jill's Rejects

The diets are underway. I started with Jill's Nutrisystem rejects of 40% Bran Flakes and Orange Cranberry Pastry. The bran flakes flavor compares well to commercial bran flakes, but can definitely benefit from a little Splenda and fruit. I think their sog quotient is a little be high. However, consuming the 1 oz serving size takes very little time and precludes it from getting too soggy, but don't stop to answer the phone.

On the other hand, the Orange Cranberry Pastry that Jill rejected out of hand was absolutely outstanding. While neither the orange nor the cranberry taste stood out, the mixture of the two was delicious. The consistency was firm and the moisture index was perfect. It's a good thing I'm on a diet or I would have had about three of them.

Jill tried the Chocolate Chip Pancakes and gives them a two thumbs up. I'm not a pancake eater, but I tasted one and would have no problem eating them. You get three medium sized pancakes out of the mix. Jill said that if she really wanted to be strict and eat them without syrup, she could do it. That's high praise indeed.

We had to be out of the house for lunch, so we hit Subway and had one of their lightweight subs.

For dinner, I had a SmartOnes Chicken Parm with Spaghetti. It goes without saying that with all the meals the portions are controlled, but taste wise this was a ten. In a non-diet mode, I could put away three of them. LOL

Jill had the Nutrisystem Cheese and Spinach Ravioli. She wasn't raving about this one. In her words, "For the first few bites, it reminded me of when I was a kid and ate Chef Boyardee." I can relate to that. As a kid, I liked Chef Boyardee, but as we grow up so do our tastes.

I also had one of her rejects, the Nutrisystem Chocolate Drink. The taste wasn't bad but the thick consistency turned me off. There simply is no natural drink that has that consistency. As a result, one will either like it or dislike it based on their perception or past history. In my case, it was past history that turned me off of it. When I was having my gall bladder x-rayed, I had to drink a "fatty meal". It was a white liquid that wasn't bad tasting, but had the idea of DRINKING A FATTY MEAL less than appealing. The chocolate drink had the same consistency.

Nutrisystem Arrives

Shortly after my shopping trip, Jill's Nutrisystem order arrived. One of the things the girls at curves warned Jill about was the fact that ALL of the plans make substitutions if they are out of stock on an item.

While there were not an inordinate number of substitutions in this order, there were two major disappointments. The two dessert/snack items that she was most looking forward to were both substituted.

It seems that Carmel Popcorn and Chocolate Covered Carmel Popcorn were both among the missing. I'm doing to have to give Nutrisystem a big D- on that count. If any food is critical to anyone's diet, it is the dessert. If anything, the Nutrisyste gnomes should make sure they are over stocked on this kind of item.

But enough of the disappointment. The order came with two weeks work of free food that they get to choose. It would be nice if we could choose, but I guess even more people would be disappointed in not getting their Carmel Popcorn if that was the case.

Since they don't indicate which items are substitutes and which are free, it's difficult to judge in how close they try to match items when they substitute.

When all the food was sorted, there were three groups. There was the ordered foods, the not ordered foods that Jill would give a try, and the not ordered foods that Jill would only try if you held a gun to her head, and then only after considerable thought. That's the group that got passed on to me.

As I said, I'll try just about anything that isn't moving. Of course there were foods that I have tried in the past, but don't like. As a result, the blue berry pancakes, oatmeal, and melba toast will go to Curves with Jill on her next trip, but I'm looking forward to trying the Nntriflakes Cereal, Chocolate Drink, Hot Cocoa, Mixed Berry Drink, Cherry Julilee Pudding, and Trail Mix Bar.

Check back regularly to read about our progress and our reviews of the food that will hopefully make us thinner, healthier, and happier.

The Diet Starts Today

Jill has decided she is going on the Nutrisystem diet. The girls at Curves where Jill works out, seem to favor Nutrisytem over Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Earlier this week we went online to order a month's supply of Nutisystem food.

Being the dutiful husband and having a few pounds I would like to shed, I've agreed to help her out by starting a diet of my own. While I'm not doing any of the formal programs, I'm cutting out the junk foods and drinks.

I'm not looking for the glycemic advantage, ketonosis, chemoprevention, nutraceuticals, and phytochemicals or any of the diet catch phrases. I'm just going to eat better, eat less, and exercise.

This could actually be fun. Jill is a very picky eater and while we eat well and what we eat and she cooks tastes great, there isn't a vast variety of meal selections. Mind you it's ample and supplemented by eating out, but I'm adventurous and will try anything that isn't moving (within cultural reason).

Since she will be eating her Nutrisystem meals, I have the opportunity to roam the isles of the supermarket in search of variety. Of course I'll be sticking to healthy foods. I made my first trip a few hours ago and stocked up on breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, soups, and a selection of Healthy Choice, SmartOnes, and Lean Cuisine entrees.

I also picked up a Nissin Chicken Flavored Chow. It's dried noodles, dried veggies, and a liquid flavor pack. Add water, microwave and eat. It was only 240 calories. It was simple enough and it looked good.

Well was filling enough, but looked better than it tasted. While it didn't taste bad, I'm not going back for more. Oh, one other thing. I just dug the label out to get the name spelled correctly and I realized that it's 240 calories per serving and there were two servings per container. It was filling because I ate for two.

I guess the diet starts tomorrow.