Do you work in an office? Do you work in an office but don’t actually HAVE an office? If this is the case, you have probably eaten, or witnessed a co-worker eat, a Lean Cuisine lunch. They microwave fast, there’s nothing to assemble, and they’re usually on sale for pretty cheap. The perfect lunch for a cubicle monkey with a slim wallet and a half-hour to eat.
Unfortunately, for all that convenience, you sacrifice on flavor. I have eaten many a Lean Cuisine in my day; some are just bad, and some are, well.. acceptable. I have never eaten one where I went, “Wow, this is actually good!” They’re bland, but they keep you from starving for the rest of the day.
This is why I strongly recommend you assemble a Condiment Station in one of your desk drawers. (It should probably be right next to your Snack Station. What, you don’t have a Snack Station? Get thee some Cheez-Its and chocolate-covered espresso beans, stat!) My big three are Tapatio hot sauce, Sriracha, and soy sauce. These will bring flavor to just about any variety of frozen meal.
When I saw that Lean Cuisine had started a new line of snacks, I was intrigued. Not satisfied with blandifying your lunch, LC now strives to dominate your snack break, going up against Big Vending Machine. According to their website, “LEAN CUISINEÂ® Snacks let you savor your snack time in so many ways! Enjoy creamy and cheesy in three flavors with our new dips, served with warm pita wedges.”
The dips come in three flavors: Spinach Artichoke, Broccoli Cheddar and Garden Vegetable. I chose the first two because I cannot resist trying any spinach artichoke dip and I also cannot resist broccoli cheddar soup. I’ve been burned before on both counts, but I’ve also had some delicious experiences. I quietly turned away from Garden Vegetable, because the word “vegetable” makes me break out in hives. I have to say “partially hydrogenated oil” three times whenever I see the word.
Each box comes with two snacks. Each snack consists of a small plastic cup containing the dip and a small half of a pita wrapped in plastic. Cooking couldn’t be easier â€“ slit the plastic cover of the dip cup and microwave for 1 minute 45 seconds (for an 1100 watt microwave; add 30 seconds for a 700 watt), remove, stir, slit pita wrapper, pop in microwave for 20 seconds (30 for 700 watt), BOOM! A warm snack in just over two minutes, no outside containers or utensils required. Well, I guess you need something to stir the dip. Eh, grab a coffee stirrer. Or live on the edge and stir it with your pita. Get creative.
The mechanics make it sound like Lean Cuisine Dips are a fine substitute for a boring bag of Fritos out of the machine, but is the execution really there? And what about taste? Let’s find out.
Broccoli Cheddar Dip with Pita Bread
My microwave has to be “special” and operate at 900 watts instead of 700 or 1100, so I adjusted the cooking time accordingly. Both the dip and the pita came out perfectly; the dip was hot but not tongue-scorching, and the pita was comfortingly warm. I was surprised at how soft the pita was; it tore easily and was fluffy but thick enough to support dip. It wasn’t very flavorful, but that was okay; I considered it merely a humble vessel to carry the dip. It had just the right chewy consistency to compliment the dip as I tore off the pieces and shoved them in my mouth.
As for the dip, my first thought was, damn, this is a small cup. However, I had to remind myself that this was intended as a snack, not a meal. I would have preferred a wider but shallower cup, however, as the dip was quite chunky, which made dipping into such a small opening a little bit challenging and messy at times.
Speaking of chunky, I was surprised at how large the pieces of broccoli were in the dip. They also had a bright, fresh broccoli taste and just a bit of crunch, which was perfect. The cheese itself had an overly processed flavor that I tolerated, but I also willingly eat Easy Cheese, so others might not be so kind. It tasted more like Velveeta than like real cheddar cheese. I’m a little creeped out by Velveeta. It’s like a squishy, foil-covered brick of unnatural orange goop. Don’t ask me why that’s somehow more disturbing than unnatural orange goop that squirts out of a can.
There were some little red bits mixed in that I couldnâ€™t identify; Lean Cuisine describes the dip as “cheddar cheese, broccoli and onion in a creamy cheese sauce”, but their website says they use white onion, so I don’t know what the red bits were. I deemed them “Mystery Food Confetti”. Regardless, there was a hint of onion on the back end, which was nice, but I would have liked a little bit more of it while I was chewing.
While in a deceptively small cup, there is a fair amount of dip for a good-sized snack. I found that the pita-to-dip ratio was almost spot on, although I’m not one to be stingy about the amount of dip that gets piled on the pita vessel. I was disappointed that some of my dip burned and got fused to the side of the cup, which is odd, since the rest of the dip wasn’t even lava-hot after I nuked it.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with both the pita and the broccoli cheddar dip. The cheese did taste processed and it did burn a little, but it cooked fast, came out just the right temperature for immediate consumption, and the broccoli was spot-on. And, hold on to your hats people, Lean Cuisine actually managed to add some goddamn salt to one of their products, which goes a long way in bringing out the flavor.
Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Bread
A lot of what I said in regards to the Broccoli Cheddar Dip applies to the Spinach Artichoke Dip, too. The pita bread was once again fluffy but largely flavorless, the dip was hot but not scorching, and there was some dip that got burned onto the cup. This dip was smoother than the Broccoli Cheddar, so there was less of an issue with big chunks and messiness.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Lean Cuisine really hit the spot on this one. This is one of the best frozen spinach artichoke dips I have ever had. The spinach was nice and creamy, there was a lovely touch of garlic, and while the artichoke bits were smaller than I’ve experienced in other dips, it works because of the small cup size. With smaller bits comes a little less flavor, but they were still welcome.
The real belle of the ball here was the Parmesan cheese sauce. Unlike the cheddar in the Broccoli Cheddar Dip, this cheese tastes totally authentic and is bursting with flavor. There is “American cheese spread” listed in the ingredients, but what really comes through is a lovely, creamy texture and the bold taste of Parmesan. I could even taste a hint of asiago. The Parmesan and the garlic together were fabulous. It was like two hot chicks making out in my mouth. I’m…not entirely sure that’s the right analogy, but I’ll go with it.
I went pretty easy on the Broccoli Cheddar Dip, praising Lean Cuisine for creating a food that actually has flavor and seasoning. After having the Spinach Artichoke Dip, however, I feel that Lean Cuisine could have done much better with the cheddar. The broccoli was great (despite the pieces being a little too big for the cup), but the cheese makes the dip, and that fell short. That said, if you want a warm snack and can’t find Spinach Artichoke, Broccoli Cheddar still beats the sad bag of Bugles that’s been sitting untouched in the vending machine for two months.
As for the Spinach Artichoke Dip, sign me up as a fan for life. Great spinach, delicious Parmesan cheese, and just the right amount of garlic, salted well and ready with a capable pita delivery system in-box in under three minutes. Perfect for the seriously lazy or the cubicle monkey with a short break and the mid-afternoon munchies. My only complaint is that there’s always a portion of the dip that burns and fuses to the cup â€“ I’ve already eaten both servings of both dips, and the scorch fusion happened all four times.
I expected Lean Cuisine to take me on the usual trip to Blandsville, but I was instead routed to Flavor Country, which contains a small town called Holy Balls There’s Salt in This Thing. (Locals just call it Holy Balls, which makes for some interesting small talk with visitors.) They’ve actually got me intrigued enough that I might actually try the Garden Vegetable Dip. Crap, I said the V-word.
Partiallyhydrogenatedoil. Partiallyhydrogenatedoil. Partiallyhydrogenatedoil.
(Nutrition Facts – Lean Cuisine Broccoli Cheddar Dip with Pita Bread â€“ 1 Pita Pocket & 1 Dip â€“ 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 420 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, 2% vitamin A, 20% vitamin C, 10% calcium and 10% iron. Lean Cuisine Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Bread â€“ 1 Pita Pocket & 1 Dip â€“ 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 460 milligrams of sodium, 290 milligrams of potassium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 15% calcium and 10% iron.)
Other Lean Cuisine Dip with Pita Bread reviews:
If You Give A Girl Chocolate
Item: Lean Cuisine Broccoli Cheddar Dip with Pita Bread & Lean Cuisine Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Bread
â€¨Size: 2 snacks (8 ounces)
â€¨Purchased at: Safewayâ€¨
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Broccoli Cheddar)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Spinach Artichoke)â€¨
Pros: Fast, warm, filling snack. Hot chicks making out. Pita was soft, thick and just the right size. Conquering Big Vending Machine. Broccoli was flavorful and had good texture. Mystery Food Confetti. Spinach Artichoke Dip was creamy and had great Parmesan and garlic flavors.
Cons: Part of dip consistently burned onto cup. Rebellious microwave wattage. Cheddar in broccoli dip too processed-tasting. Blandsville. Cup too small for size of broccoli chunks. Having OCD over the V-word. Admitting Lean Cuisine made a great Spinach Artichoke Dip.