Food manufacturers are always coming out with new products to entice consumers.

Among those that the Food staff recently taste-tested are dishes from a line of gourmet frozen dinners, an energy bar, and a cocktail liqueur.

Here are our observations.

Convenience Product

No Time 2 Cook’s line of frozen dinners targets the growing market of those who want a good, well-balanced meal without the hassle of having to prepare it.

To that end, the Mississippi-based company produces more than 20 frozen dinners, many of which are traditional Southern or Cajun fare, including Home-style Chicken Pie, Stone Ground Cheese Grits, Cajun Seafood Gumbo and Old Fashioned Caramel Cake.

We sampled the Caramel Cake and found it to be good in general, though the cake was much better than the icing, which was too sticky and too sweet.

We also tried the Chicken, Asparagus and Orzo casserole twice. Though the consistency was a bit mushy, as is typical of most casseroles, the flavor was delicious and kids enjoyed it as well as adults.

The dishes cost $14 to $16 and are available at Calandro’s on Government Street and Calvin’s Bocage Market.

For more information, go to http://www.notime2cook.com.

- Stephanie Riegel

Energy bar uses cane sugar

The Zydeco Bar stands out in the crowded field of energy/snack bars in one important and attractive respect - it’s made with Louisiana products, including pecans, molasses and sweet potatoes.

We like supporting homegrown products and the Zydeco Bar’s list of ingredients is certainly all natural. But, like most other energy bars, it fails to really deliver on flavor or consistency. As far as energy bars go, it’s good, but not great. Still, we applaud the Lafayette-based Zydeco Foods for creating a product with all local ingredients.

As compared to other energy bars which market themselves as health foods, the Zydeco bar does fairly well. It’s 200 calories and contains 8 grams of fat and 12 grams of sugar, which is less than a lot of other bars. But it’s not exactly diet food.

The Zydeco Bar is available in several local health food stores and supermarkets, including Rouses and Calandro’s. Suggested retail price is around $1.50.

For more information, go to http://www.zydecobars.com.

- Stephanie Riegel

American Chocolate

Our colonial ancestors and today’s American would not agree on how chocolate should taste if local taste-testers’ reaction to American Heritage Chocolate products is any indication.

The handcrafted and historically accurate chocolate products - available in stick or block form or as a grated chocolate spice drink - are made for the Historic Division of Mars, Inc. with only ingredients available in the 17th century and, true to colonial custom, with added spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, vanilla and chili pepper.

As taste-testers nibbled on a stick, they seemed unsure of what they were tasting (I didn’t identify it) and quickly handed it back to me with only a small piece missing.

“It smells like Christmas,” my son, Colin, said, commenting on the spicy aroma and taste, but he, like the other taste-testers, only wanted a small piece. None thought the chocolate had enough “chocolatey” flavor or sweetness.

The chocolate spice mix is stirred into almost boiling water. The resulting hot drink has a bittersweet, slightly peppery taste, but I missed the rich, smooth mouth feel that milk gives hot chocolate. The mix also can be used in baking.

While our taste-testers prefer today’s chocolate, everyone liked having the opportunity of sharing the colonials’ taste experience.

American Heritage Chocolate is available at living history or historic sites throughout the country (none in Louisiana), including The Smithsonian, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg or online at http://www.americanheritagechooclate.com.

Single, 12-gram sticks are available for $1.50 to $1.75 each, or four sticks in a muslin bag for $5 to $7.50; the 5.13-ounce chocolate blocks, with recipes, for $10 to $12 each; and 12.7-ounce, 8-serving powdered drink mix packet in a muslin bag, $21.95.

- Cheramie Sonnier

Dove Swirl chocolates

More to the taste of our chocolate testers were a couple of new Mars, Inc., products. They gave “thumbs-up” to the Dove Silky Smooth Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Swirl and the Dove Silky Smooth White & Milk Chocolate Swirl - available as 3.3-ounce bars or as individually wrapped Swirl Promises in 8.5-ounce bags.

Suggested retail price for the bar is $1.99 and for the bag, $4.99. The products are sold nationwide at Walgreens, Walmart, CVS and other retailers.

- Cheramie Sonnier

Summer cocktail

Baileys Irish Cream has introduced a new, ready-to-serve cocktail, Baileys Mudslide, that’s a cool choice for a hot summer evening.

The beverage, which blends the flavor of Baileys Irish Cream with vodka, chocolate, coffee and cream liqueurs, is easy to use - just blend equal parts of Baileys Mudslide with ice - and serve in a highball glass. The company suggests the drink can be served for any summer celebration, even a backyard barbecue. Our taste-testers thought since it is a sweet alcoholic drink, Baileys Mudslide is a special way to end a pleasant dinner.

“It was as nice an adult smoothie as you’ll ever have,” taste-tester Larry Campbell said.

Suggested retail price is $12.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle and $19.99 for a 1.75-liter bottle. It is available nationwide wherever spirit-based beverages are sold while supplies last.

- Cheramie Sonnier