If a handful of these Hormel heat-and-eat lunch tubs hadn't been on markdown over at Stop & Shop last week, I never would have tried them. But they were priced to move at 50 cents each, so I tossed a couple into the cart on impulse as I went past.
I guess the packaging is designed so that kids with little kitchen experience can heat it up themselves in the microwave. Pop the metal top off, give it a stir, put the plastic lid on and nuke it for a minute. Then stir again and eat. Pretty basic.
The ingredients are pretty basic as well, mostly macaroni and cheese (well, pasteurized processed American cheese but it still counts) with other stuff like butter, cream cheese, milk, and water. And salt and flavorings. I give Hormel props for bucking the usual practice in processed foods, however: this product contains no high-fructose corn syrup. It's fairly light in calories (230 for the tub) but there's a heavy sodium load at 750 mg.
So, enough of this nutritional jibber jabber. Let's get to the important stuff: Taste.
The sauce is decidedly Velveeta-like: orange, mild, with actual cheese flavoring more predominant than saltiness. Although it was smooth and creamy, it's strong processed-cheese flavor actually worked against it for me (I would have preferred a more complex cheese sauce flavor with perhaps a bit of blue cheese or even a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce in the pot to liven it up) but this is a common mistake with big food conglomerates - they assume that kids have wooden palates and deliver kind of bland food to them, training them to continue having wooden palates.
Also, there's a ton of it. Stir the pot after taking it out of the microwave, and you reveal a huge amount of cheesy orange lava below the top surface of macaroni. The little macaroni tubes are swimming in a seemingly vast amount of it. I know that when Lynnafred was about 10 years old, this would have been like a meal from Paradise to her, but I got ahold of a spoon and ladled some of that stuff right out. Once the surplus cheese was removed and I got to douse it in ketchup like I do with all macaroni and cheese, it wasn't all that bad. I might even give it to a kid for a snack, as long as I kept an eye on how much salt they were going to take in for the rest of the day.