02/05/2012Honey Maid Lil' Squares Grahams. Cinnamon, and Honey. $4.19 per 13-ounce box. (photo sm120205c.jpg)
Bonnie: Graham crackers have always been a decent snack for kids, as they're made with whole grains while having modest calories and few added sugars. These Honey Maid Lil' Squares Grahams are no different.
What is different about these new snack-size grahams compared to the full-sized originals are boxes touting their 8 grams whole grains per serving. And these new Lil' Honey Maid boxes are 1.4-ounce lil'er.
Lil' Squares don't contain the full-size version's artificial flavor, and both varieties have 1 gram more fiber. These two improvements to the ingredients make this good snack even better.
Carolyn: Honey Maid Lil' Squares are old-fashioned graham crackers in modern, miniature, more snackable guise. Which is also almost exactly how I described Teddy Grahams when they were introduced to great sales success almost 25 years back.
I would say that these new Lil' Squares are a rip-off of Teddy Grahams, if both were not Nabisco products. Instead, they're more of an alternative for people who are too old for Teddy Grahams' cuteness or don't need (or want to pay for) the convenience of Teddy Grahams' on-the-go snack packs (a type of packaging that Lil' Squares as yet doesn't offer).
Lil' Squares also have a lighter texture and slightly improved nutritionals (at least if you care about the whole grains touted by Lil' Squares more than the calcium, iron and zinc advertised on the Teddy Graham boxes).
Monterey Pasta Company Ravioli. Artichoke & Colby Jack, Fire Roasted Mushroom & Four Cheese, Creamy Ricotta Florentine, Butternut Squash, and Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella. $4.99 per 8-ounce refrigerated tray. (photo sm120205b.jpg)
Bonnie: Monterey Pasta Company started as a neighborhood fresh-pasta shop in its namesake California city in 1989. It's now part of a larger company that adheres to principles that include not using hydrogenated oils, GMO ingredients or artificial coloring, flavorings, sweeteners, preservatives and/or synthetic substances. I applaud that.
Its newest line of raviolis is made with premium fresh ingredients; the Creamy Ricotta Florentine and Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella with organic ones. Each one I sampled was better than the last, all featuring tender pasta with delicately flavored fillings.
Nutritionally, they're modest in calories (260 to 310), moderate in saturated fat (4 to 7 grams of 7 to 12 grams total fat) and a tad high in sodium (380 to 590 milligrams). That sodium shouldn't be a problem if you eat these fairly unadorned, which I recommend. After boiling, saute in a smidgen -- about a teaspoon per portion -- of butter to lightly coat, letting the fillings' flavors shine through.
Carolyn: Refrigerated pasta is a quick, quality weeknight dinner option for people who can afford it. You'll need even more moolah for these new all-natural or organic raviolis from Monterey Pasta Company.
The Fire Roasted Mushroom, and Creamy Ricotta Florentine, for two, are both well worth the extra money, thanks to their mushroom and spinach flavorings -- so strong that I agree with Bonnie that no sauce is necessary beyond olive oil or butter.
I liked the sound of the Butternut Squash and Artichoke varieties better than their too-subtle tastes. The artichoke in that variety was overwhelmed by the Colby Jack cheese, and the promised orange flavor in the squash pasta dough was disappointingly MIA.
Yoplait Greek Yogurt. Cherry Pomegranate, and Coconut. $2.99 per box of four, 4-ounce cups. (photo sm120205a.jpg)
Bonnie: Greek yogurts continue to be the fastest-growing category in the dairy case, with these two Yoplait flavors the latest additions. I, for one, am thrilled, as I like the thicker consistency, creamier taste and higher protein resulting from the way Greek yogurts are made by straining off whey.
Yoplait's Greek yogurts are made with skim milk from cows not treated with rBST or rBGH. They have live active cultures, contain nothing artificial, are fat-free, are a good source of vitamins A and D, and an excellent source of calcium at 25 percent of the recommended daily value.
Although I liked the flavor of the new Coconut variety, I like the original plain better, as it's less sweet, containing only 8 grams sugars instead of the 13 to 14 in these new varieties.
Carolyn: I can't understand the incredible, sudden popularity of Greek yogurts. Their taste and texture are just so inferior to regular yogurt. Is all of America that desperately in need of the extra protein Greek yogurt contains?
The best I can say about Yoplait Greek is that it isn't quite as offensively chalky as most other Greek brands. As with other brands, its Honey Vanilla flavor is the sweetest and therefore my favorite. But the new you-mix-it Cherry Pomegranate isn't bad, and coconut fans will like finding threads of it throughout its eponymous new flavor.
If you truly enjoy Greek yogurt, you needn't fear either of Yoplait's new flavors. But if what you're really after is more protein, why not eat more great-tasting Spam?
(Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. She has a blog (www.biteofthebest.com) about products she recommends; follow her on Twitter: @BonnieBOTB. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book" (Running Press). Each week they critique three new food items.)