Progresso vs Campbell’s

Just like many, I’ve been trying to save money and eat healthier at the same time. But it is somewhat difficult to put together a tasty, healthy and quick lunch for work every day. There are only so many frozen food meals I can handle in a month, so I thought I would turn to something tasty and still simple – soup.

After watching those funny Progresso soup commercials, I decided to do my own taste test and compare the new Weight Watchers-endorsed Progresso soups with the Campbell’s Healthy Request line of soups.

I thought I would make it fair and choose a similar soup flavor so I went with Progresso’s Italian-Style Vegetables and Campbell’s Select Harvest Italian-Style Wedding.

 

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Campbell’s site says their “Healthy Request soups are 98% fat free, contain up to 50% less sodium than our regular soups and are made with high quality ingredients. And we’ve added lower sodium natural sea salt — so they taste great! All Healthy Request soups are certified by the American Heart Association.”

Campbell’s Italian-Style Wedding soup can said it had meatballs and spinach in chicken broth, with real parmesan cheese and no MSG added. One serving of about 9.3 ounces had 130 calories, 5 grams of fat with 0 grams of trans fat. It had 480 mg of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber and 7 grams of protein. The ingredients were pretty basic and seemed all natural.

With all those natural ingredients, this soup tasted about as empty as its calories. The broth had no flavor and there wasn’t enough spinach and sausage meatballs to offset the plain taste of the little macaroni balls that looked like corn kernels. If I were at home, I would have added a little salt and pepper and probably some hot sauce, but I was at work, so I settled for what was quickly available – hot Cheetos.

The softened hot Cheetos helped me finish at least half the serving of soup before I just gave up on it altogether.

Progresso Light’s Italian-Style Vegetable soup said it had only about 60 calories per 8 ounce serving with no grams of fat listed, 700 mg of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. It also had about 14 percent of the recommended daily value of potassium, 20 percent of vitamin A, 4 percent each of calcium and iron and 8 percent of vitamin C. Most of the ingredients made sense to me also.

One serving equals 0 points in the Weight Watchers point system and one package, about 2 servings, equals 1 point.

Though this soup didn’t have any meat, there was plenty of chunky penne pasta and vegetables like carrots, celery, green beans and tomatoes. The broth was pretty flavorful, it was hard to believe it had fewer calories than the Campbell’s soup. I didn’t even feel the need to add any hot sauce – or hot Cheetos – to this soup.

Maybe it was the vegetables adding some real flavor to the broth, but to me Progresso was the winner – by far.

Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe in Paseo Colorado

After a some-what quick run-through at a bridal show last month held at the Pasadena Convention Center, my sister and I were famished and in need of something refreshing to wash down the sweets we sampled at the show.

As we walked back to our parking in the Paseo Colorado structure, we spotted Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe off of Green Street and decided to check it out.

The menu looked pretty expansive with salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups, paninis, smoothies and more. I opted for the Spicy Chicken Tender wrap while my sister went with the Peach Paradise smoothie.

The wrap has bacon, spicy chicken tender pieces, provolone cheese, romaine lettuce, sprouts, salsa and ranch dressing wrapped in a jalapeno-cheddar tortilla. It came with tri-colored tortilla chips and salsa.

 

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All the flavors blended well with each bite. The refreshing crunch of the romaine and alfalfa sprouts with the spicy and warmth of the chicken, saltiness of the bacon cooled with the ranch dressing. It was a very tasty and satisfying wrap, and although it seemed healthy, this 10 ounce wrap comes with 799 calories. Definitely more than I thought or planned.

The Peach Paradise smoothie also refreshing and tasty and although it said it had peaches and honey, I don’t believe I tasted real peaches in it, but still pretty tasty and not too sweet.

Camille’s also has some breakfast selections and offers catering and lunch boxes to-go. Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe has various locations throughout California.

The Pasadena location is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. It is located at 285 E. Green St., 626-440-1212.

Shrimp tacos at Taco Bell

I love Mexican food and I love shrimp. Now, one wouldn’t consider Taco Bell to have authentic Mexican food, and I agree, but it sure does the trick when all you have time for is the drive-thru, or it’s all that’s nearby on a late night.

So when the taco chain announced their new Pacific Shrimp taco offerings, I had to try. Their site describes them as: “A warm, soft flour tortilla filled with six succulent shrimp marinated in a mix of spices, then topped with crisp shredded lettuce, Fiesta Salsa, and Avocado Ranch Sauce.”

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They were the size of any other soft tacos but still not much filling. There were six shrimp (I had to check), decent size, not huge but also not cup o’noodles-soup-size either.

The sauce absorbed the spices, probably from the shrimp, and it did have a little kick. All in all, it was a tasty shrimp taco, tasted as fresh as possible, considering it was from Taco Bell.

At 180 calories, these tacos aren’t bad, but I don’t know if I would have priced them at $2.49 each, (you can get a combo of two shrimp tacos with a very large drink for $5.99). I mean it is Taco Bell. But seafood isn’t the cheapest thing on any other menu either.

I would get the tacos again, whenever I’m craving shrimp and don’t have much time for a sit-down seafood joint. Or I could make a stop to Baja Fresh for their Diablo Shrimp Burrito - spicy and filling.  

Celebrating with a green feast

I have always liked St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s the fun activities we did in school or the fascination with rainbows and pots o’ gold, but I do enjoy the day somehow.

As I became of age, I loved the idea of enjoying “green” beer or drinks to celebrate the occasion. More recently though, I get really excited when the day draws near because I look forward to a great feast.

My fiance’s mom began a tradition in her family many years ago of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish meal – corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. Whether it is really a traditional Irish meal served on this day or not, she serves it proudly in honor of the saint – St. Patrick – more than the day.

Whatever the reason, it’s a feast of tasty, juicy corned beef, red potatoes and cabbage, and rye bread. I try not to miss it, I’ll go as far as having my fiance bring me leftovers if I can’t make it for dinner time. My mouth is watering just thinking of the beef.

Do you have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions? How do you celebrate?

It’s cookie time!

If you haven’t spotted your favorite girl scout troop tempting you with boxes of their delicious cookies outside the local grocery store, don’t despair, just visit the cookie locator at www.girlscoutsLA.org to find a cookie booth near you.

I recently picked up a few boxes of my favorites – Samoas, Tagalongs – and some of my fiance and family favorites – Thin Mints, Do Si Do’s.

But I couldn’t help but wonder about the most recent flavor – Thank U Berry Munch, made with real cranberries and white fudge chips. I am tempted by the white fudge chips but I’m wary of the cranberries. It’s an ingredient that needs a good balance as it can easily make a dessert either too tart or too sweet.

They should have samples available.

Anyone try the new flavor? If yes, what do you think?

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Weekday special in West L.A.

I humbly admit this food blog may not always be the ultimate source for diners seeking somewhere new to eat or something new to try, but still I receive plenty of emails from restaurants near and far, offering me to come in and enjoy their new offerings so I can include them in the blog.

And although I am all for trying something new, most of the time I am not able to make it to these places for various reasons – the restaurant’s in New York, they are not in my price range or such as the recent one I was tempted by, their specials are midweek and are located farther than my 20-mile radius of cities I frequent. 

I don’t always have the time or energy to drive far for dinner after work, let alone in traffic to go to West Los Angeles. So even though I may not be heading here any time soon, maybe some of you out there are more adventurous than I, and are willing to go try Taco Tuesday at The Spanish Kitchen.

The special taco menu on Tuesdays sounds amazing, with tacos such as the Mexican BBQ Pork with chipotle cabbage and cotija cheese, or the Beer Battered Halibut with corn avocado salsa – YUM! There’s also some vegetarian selections. 

Let me know if you go and if the tacos are as tasty as they sound.

Carl’s Jr’s “grilled sandwich” burger

Even though I knew it may disappoint, I gave Carl’s Jr’s new Grilled Cheese Burger a try anyway.

There are four ways to get the sandwich – single burger, double burger, six-dollar burger size or vegetarian with no burger or bacon – starting at $2.49 and up.

I thought I would try it the way they advertised it – with a single burger patty. It was exactly what I thought it would be – see my rant here.

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It wasn’t horrible but it was definitely not a grilled cheese sandwich. Carl’s Jr. burger patties are generally good and the bacon is tasty, the cheese was plenty and tasty, but the sourdough bread was not the buttered and grilled toast we love about having a grill cheese sandwich. It didn’t even taste freshly grilled.

Again, it wasn’t a terrible burger or sandwich, but I don’t think it was anything spectacular and I definitely wouldn’t call it a grilled cheese.

HAVE YOU TRIED THE CARL’S GRILLED CHEESE BURGER?

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR FAVORITE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH?

Restaurant critics wanted

Zagat Survey, the most recognizable and trusted name in reviews, is looking for your opinion. The group is currently conducting its online survey of restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Diners can go onto www.zagat.com and share their opinions on food, decor, service and cost on L.A. area eateries they visited in the past year.

And as a thank you for your honesty and time, diners who vote by April 11 will receive one of three free rewards: a copy of Zagat’s 2011 Los Angeles/So. California Restaurants guide, a 90-day subscription to ZAGAT.com, or an entry into the “Night on the Town” sweepstakes valued at $500.

Diners can easily submit feedback at their convenience on the Zagat website, save reviews to finish at a later time and even make revisions if a second visit to a restaurant causes a change of heart, or stomach for that matter. The survey can be found at http://www.zagat.com/votela.

Grilled sandwiches at Jack in the Box

I was one of probably many that took advantage of Jack in the Box’s promotional offer this last Tuesday – get one of their new grilled sandwiches for free with the purchase of a large drink.

The sandwiches come in two choices – there’s the Grilled Turkey Bacon Cheddar with roasted turkey, cheddar cheese and bacon, and the Grilled Deli Trio, with salami, sliced ham, roasted turkey, provolone cheese and pickles. Both served on toasted artisan bread 

I decided to give the turkey bacon cheddar sandwich a try first.

When I first unwrapped my sandwich, sliced in half, I reached for one piece and as the melted cheddar cheese stretched from one slice to the other, so did my smile. I love melted, stringy cheese!

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I’m not a huge fan of turkey but I love bacon. The cheese, turkey and bacon blended so well, there wasn’t one flavor that overpowered the other.

The bread was nicely toasted, a little greasy but it was more like butter grease than oil grease, which is fine with me. It reminded me of grilled cheese butter. I can’t confirm but I believe the artisan bread is sourdough, or that’s what it closely tasted to, to me.

For $4.19 plus tax, it’s a little pricey for Jack in the Box, but I believe the taste and size was worth it. The $2.29 I paid for the drink and free sandwich was a good price, even though I couldn’t finish the monstrously sized “large” drink.

I’ll have to give the Deli Trio a try soon…

DID YOU GET YOUR FREE SANDWICH? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT JACK’S NEW SANDWICHES OR WHERE YOUR FAVORITES ARE.

A grilled cheese burger? C’mon Carl’s Jr!

Of all the fast-food choices out there, Carl’s Jr. is one of my top choices if I want to grab something tasty to go.

But their new menu item had me excited and then disappointed all in one commercial.

I love grilled cheese sandwiches – they’re so tasty, buttery, and cheesy. Simple but they can hit the spot perfectly every time.

So when I saw the commercial about Carl’s new “grilled cheese,” I was ready to go out and try one until I realized their “grilled cheese” is just another big Carl cheese burger with bacon and extra cheese on sourdough bread.

Not to insult either fast-food chain restaurants but I would call it a Sourdough Jack with bacon and extra, extra cheese.

Saying they want to give their customers that comfort food they crave, the fast-food chain’s newest creation started out as a menu item for vegetarian customers but instead created Carl’s Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger – a charbroiled burger patty, bacon, four slices of melted American and Swiss cheeses in between grilled sourdough buns.

Though the vegetarian is also available, I wish they could have just given this new burger another name so as not to confuse (and excite) customers for no reason.

I have not tried the “grilled cheese” yet but not sure if I want to – I could just go order a grill cheese from my local Rick’s.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? REAL GRILLED CHEESE OR JUST ANOTHER CHEESY BURGER?