Our Favorite Food Products of 2007

After 11 months of shopping, we reveal the 10 new products we buy ourselves and why we love them.

By Diane Toops, David Feder, Dave Fusaro and Jill Russell

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Choctál's also introduced a <B>Pure Madagascar Vanilla.</B> But be prepared: This is a real vanilla, and lots of it. Not only is Choctál generous with the beans, the care they put into preserving the deep, floral quality is front and center, with vanilla's identity as an orchid in full bloom. Some might find this one too intoxicating, but that would be a reflection on how unfamiliar our palates have become to the real deal. This vanilla ice cream is as near to flawless as can be.

All five Choctál products were released in spring and are, in my opinion, underpriced at a suggested $5.99 per pint.

- David Feder, Managing Editor & Editor-Wellness Foods


Kraft Grate-It-Fresh Parmesan Cheese: A taste of the old world, without the work

After returning from a visit to Italy a few years ago, I immediately began to miss the great wines, pastas and cheeses - especially the grated cheeses that topped practically every dish, from appetizers to salads to the main course. When Kraft Foods released Kraft Grate-It-Fresh Parmesan Cheese this past February, I was elated.

The fresh Parmesan cheese comes in a convenient built-in-grater that brings the fresh taste of Italy or your favorite restaurant home. Forget the scraped knuckles and hard-to-clean grater or micro plane, Kraft Grate-It-Fresh brings old-world taste and modern-day convenience home to your refrigerator.

With a few twists of the wrist, you can add fresh, Parmesan cheese to your most-savored dishes. The block package features a mechanism that keeps the cheese in place during grating, and secures it where you left off until you're ready to grate the next time. No searching for the grater or fumbling with peeling the packaging back, this cheese is ready to go out of the refrigerator. The built-in grater provides the perfect grated cheesy "gooeyness" to any dish.

- Jill Russell, Digital Managing Editor


Promise activ SuperShots: Taking a shot at bad cholesterol

Nearly 76 million Americans are living with high or elevated LDL, otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol, and many others are concerned about their cholesterol levels.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Unilever North America rolled out Promise activ SuperShots, the first fruit and yogurt mini-drink (3 oz.) with added natural plant sterols, ingredients clinically proven to help actively remove cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. In fact, some 150 clinical studies show that 2g of plant sterols a day can lead to a 15 percent reduction in cholesterol.

Plant sterol-containing foods should be used twice a day with meals. That may sound like a lot but, put into perspective, Supershots contain about 5 to 10 times the average plant sterol content of a regular diet. You would need to consume 425 tomatoes, 150 apples or 70 slices of whole-grain bread to get an equivalent level of plant sterols. Unilever is betting concerned consumers would rather opt for a 3-oz. shot of yogurt with 70 calories, 3.5g fat (zero saturated fat) and fiber.

According to a survey by St. Petersburg, Fla.-based HealthFocus Intl., 30 percent of shoppers say they are more likely to choose foods and beverages because they are fortified with extra vitamins, minerals or other nutrients, up from 24 percent in 2002 - so this is a good gamble.

Available in three flavors - Strawberry, Peach, and Raspberry - the mini-drink also contains heart health essentials omega-3 alpha linolenic acid and omega-6 and it is a good source of vitamin E.

"Promise activ SuperShots provide two grams of plant sterols in each 3-oz. drink," says Douglas Balentine, director of nutrition and health. "Plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol for most people, when used daily as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This new product is an example of Unilever's commitment to helping people maintain a healthy heart and to stay healthy for longer."

- Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor


Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Chicken Breasts: Chicken in 30 seconds? Is that for real?

Two years ago in this space, we marveled at the arrival of tuna fillets in shelf-stable pouches from all three of the top tuna companies. Once feared by many home cooks, this seafood was of prime quality, already marinated and ready in 15-30 microwave seconds. This year saw the arrival of "America's favorite protein" in apparently the same pouch from one of those same tuna companies.

Bumble Bee in January launched Prime Fillet Chicken Breasts: 4-oz. of skinless, boneless, grilled chicken, fully cooked and kept fresh, even shelf stable, in that vacuum-sealed pouch. Varieties are Garlic & Herb, Southwest Seasonings and Barbecue Sauce.

Chicken may be a familiar and simple dish, but it's one of those animal proteins that needs to be cooked for a long time. And unless it's breaded and fried (and that's unhealthy!), it's not the most flavorful meat. So imagine the taste of a chicken fillet that's been sitting in its marinade for months (don't let that frighten you!) at ambient temperatures. Further imagine it cooking in 30 seconds.

The packaging may have been familiar for the company, but the protein was not. This is Bumble Bee's first venture outside of seafood. In announcing this stretch for his company, Christopher Lischewski, Bumble Bee CEO, said research indicated more people would buy poultry if it were easier to prepare.

Why didn't Tyson think of this? In all fairness, Tyson and other poultry companies have quick-fix, fully cooked products, but they take 2-3 minutes. That's not an eternity, admittedly, but it's a lot more than 30 seconds, and they're not shelf stable.

At $2.99 a pack, it's simultaneously a reasonably economical entrée and an amazing $12 a pound up-sell for chicken. As a guy who often gets home late but tires of cold meals or the typical microwave oven fare, this is a delicious and elegant item for the center of the plate. Now, the slow part is waiting for the Minute Rice to catch up.

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