Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whole & Simple Taco Fiesta Frozen Protein Bowl (Aldi)

The tastier of the two Whole & Simple flavor options.
We just looked at Whole & Simple’s sole other offering, a pasty sweet and sour bowl with not a lot of flavor, so now we turn our attention to their taco fiesta bowl, which is made up of one of my least favorite ingredients: rice. Now, I love it with Chinese food, but outside of that sole exception, I’m struggling to think of a delicious rice-heavy dish and am coming up with nothing.

Based on the packaging, though, this one does have some other things that do work in its favor: There are a couple of cheeses at work here, which one would hope could provide some flavor sorely missing from the last bowl, as well as a topping of “tomatillo and salsa roja sauces.” I’ve no idea what salsa roja is, but I enjoy salsa, so if it’s along those same lines, we should get along just fine. And again, I would assume that would provide some extra tastiness. Let’s dig in and see if it does, shall we?

Oh yeah, this is a pretty tasty dish. The rice does play a pretty big part in the flavor—and it also plays an even bigger role in the texture—but that’s okay because there’s a lot surrounding it. The combination of Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses are fantastic, and there’s a generous helping of both to ensure many stringy, cheesy bites. The tomato-heavy sauces are fantastic, but don’t taste too tomato-heavy, so even those with an objection to tomatoes still might enjoy them; it just tastes like a good salsa. There are also lots of beans, but they don’t dry out the dish the way they sometimes tend to, and just like the rice, there’s enough flavor to counterattack the general bean blandness.

It’s good, but comparing the two bowls, it seems like an apples to oranges comparison: These don’t seem like two foods that are a part of the same line. This one has more protein, but with the trade-off of a lot more sodium (600mg), and way more fat (10g). The sweet and sour bowl, for all its imperfections (and there were plenty), at least tasted healthy and fresh, while this one just tastes like a standard bean and rice frozen entrĂ©e, even down to the noticeable sodium content, which likes to dance on your tongue. Again, there is some good flavor here, and it was surprisingly a lot more filling than I was expecting (way more so than the sweet and sour bowl), but it just doesn’t feel very light or wholesome at all, which I thought was the whole idea behind this line.

For $2.49 per one-bowl serving, it’s a decent price, though I do feel like every “lean” frozen food line offers something similar for somewhere in that price range, at least on sale, so it doesn’t really scream “savings” to me. The ingredients largely are “natural”, but there are quite a few anti-caking agents and some preservatives; moreso, it would seem, than the sweet and sour bowl above. I'm recommending this, if for no other reason than it's tasty and pretty filling, but as for whether or not it's “whole” or even “simple”, I'll leave that up for you to decide.

Overall: 6.5/10. I usually don't like rice-based dishes, but this had a lot of flavor thanks to the “black bean salsa”, two types of cheese, and two types of salsas on top. But with those added ingredients come some added health hits, as this has quite a bit more fat and sodium than the sweet and sour bowl above. I also feel like every “healthy” frozen food line has a similar “bean and rice”-based offering, and for a similar price, too, so I'm not sure that $2.49 per package really constitutes all that much in the way of value. I must say it was pretty filling, though, so at least there's that. I'm recommending it, because I would get it again, but not sure if it's really as “healthy” or “fresh” as its packaging would lead you to believe.

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