Product Review: Kashi’s Sweet and Sour Chicken

Product Description: “Sliced chicken with roasted green beans and yellow pepper, red pepper, crimini mushrooms, onions and edamame (soybeans), served over Kashi® 7 Whole Grains Pilaf, and topped with a light, tangy sweet and sour sauce.”

(Source)

As a college student, approximately 90% of what I consume probably contains chemicals.

Diet Coke/Aspartame for an afternoon pick-me-up? Yes, please!

Sucralose-laced yogurt for dinner, because you are too lazy to actually cook something? OK!

Gum with Sorbitol for those days when brushing your teeth is just too hard? Sure!

OK, no, not that last part, really. I always brush my teeth, do I look like a hobo to you? … Don’t answer that.

… OK, do I look like I want to spend money on fillings when I could spend it on candy, instead? THAT’S RIGHT.

But, in all seriousness, most foods peddled by my school’s convenience store aren’t exactly all natural. Hell, even the Tums the store sells have fake sugar in them. So, when the opportunity to purchase a vaguely healthy, chemical-reduced meal arises, I generally snag it due to the suspicion that—even though science hasn’t confirmed it, yet—all those unpronounceable ingredients are going to leave me with no organs, one day. They’ll just have … evaporated.

Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to buy such a meal, that being Kashi’s Sweet and Sour Chicken. I picked this one off the shelf mostly due to the meal’s low sodium content (380 mg., which is pretty damn low for a frozen meal), since my college chemicals usually come with a bounty of salt, too. Plus, the rest of the nutritional statistics on this dish are impressive, too: 320 calories, 3.5 g. of fat, 6 g. of fiber and 18 g. of protein. Not too shabby, no? Also, the vegetables were pretty colors:


(In case you are wondering, no, you will never see a more beautiful picture of a Kashi frozen meal taken with Photobooth, so stop looking.)

As you can see from my lovely picture, not only were the vegetables pretty vibrant, but there was a decent amount of chicken and other goodies in there, too. For reference, though, I took out the green beans and mushrooms (as they are foods of Satan, which wouldn’t really stop me from eating them except they also feel weird in my mouth), but these ingredients were present, and in a decent quantity, too; it took me a good MINUTE AT LEAST to pick them out, goddamn them.

However, how did this dish taste?

The vegetables and the chicken had a texture akin to something that had just been prepared; there was no odd, crumbly feel, and instead the meat was tender and the vegetables had a nice crisp bite to them. The grains were pleasantly chewy, too, and the whole meal seemed very fresh. My only qualms, really, were with the sauce. For, although the chicken/veggies had a nice flavor, themselves, the sauce was a bit lacking and so the meal was ultimately somewhat plain. Not bad at all, really, but the sauce didn’t really taste like a well-developed “Sweet and Sour” sauce so much as it did a less-tangy, thinner version of the stuff they give you at Wendy’s to go with your chicken nuggets.

Regardless, this meal also had great staying power: I ate it for dinner at around 6:30 with some carrot sticks/hummus, and I was still full at 8:30. Nice job, Kashi, and thanks for helping to keep my organs in my body!

Product Review: Kettle Cuisine Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans

I never used to be afraid of trying new things; as a general rule, if I picked up an unusual item from the center aisles of the grocery store, I could be assured that the chemicals within would guarantee the product was some kind of tasty, even if it was not especially healthy.

Since I’ve ventured into the organic realm, however, I have had more frequent run-ins with non-deliciousness; for whatever reason, certain all-natural labels seem to feel that being “organic” compensates for the fact that their product tastes like dirt. Or grass, which is occasionally an ingredient in organic products, so maybe the blame for picking up an abundance of non-tasty items is partly mine for not reading ingredient lists thoroughly enough.

But, I digress. Despite the negative results of my recent forays into uncharted organic territory, my lazy, comfort-food seeking self couldn’t resist picking up a package of Kettle Cuisine’s Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans, particularly since it had such stellar nutritional statistics: One container of chili (i.e., one 10 oz. package—there’s one serving per container, which is nice. I always hate it when I get a pre-cooked meal home and find that one tray, etc., is actually two or three servings. Who eats half a frozen meal?) has only 250 calories, 9 grams of fat and 540 mg of sodium, which is pretty stellar for a frozen chili. And, the meal packs 8 grams of fiber and 22 grams of protein. WHOAH.

Before delving into the “How delicious was this meal?” portion of this review, I should probably disclose that this was my first brush with chili. So, even though I wasn’t a big fan of how this chili tasted, it may be because I’m just apparently not a fan of chili.

This was a very spicy dish, in that the heat wasn’t too intense (though it was enough to make my nose run a bit), but the predominant taste of the chili was definitely just … spice. If you’ve ever had pre-made taco mix, this chili tasted very similar to the kind of sauce you would find in an Ortega taco kit. However, I loved how this chili was just loaded with meat and beans. 90% of the time, I feel like I crack open a pre-made meal and find that its skimpy on the protein-oriented ingredients. In this chili, though, I got a generous serving of angus beef in every spoonful. And, the chili, itself, was very thick—not runny at all.

I can’t really attest to the chili’s staying power as I paired the dish with crackers (I was eating it for dinner), but I am pretty sure that this would make for a really filling lunch. And, even though I did have this with crackers, it was only one serving of Wheat Thins and the combo kept me full for a good two and a half hours.

I should also mention that this dish, in addition to being organic, is also gluten and dairy free. Personally, I don’t have a gluten or dairy intolerance, but I imagine good frozen, gluten free, dairy free meals aren’t exactly plentiful, so I feel it’s worth mentioning.

I probably wouldn’t pick up the chili again, as the taste just wasn’t up my alley, but the quality of the chili was so good I’m definitely going to pick up another Kettle Cuisine dish sometime soon (maybe the New England Clam Chowder. Mmm … creamy.)

Product Review: Amy’s Kitchen Stuffed Pasta Shell Bowl

Since I’ve become a college student, I occasionally get a little angry at my mom for spoiling me with good spaghetti sauce. For, every frozen meal I crack open that contains an even a slightly sub par combination of tomatoes and spices is—for me—inedible.

“Compared to my mother’s sauce, this is napalm,” I’ll shriek as I banish the dish containing the offending sauce to the trash. Later, I’ll weep as I consume a cereal-oriented replacement for the failed attempt at Italian cuisine.

And yet, like some foodie with Alzheimer’s, I always mosey over to the pasta/red sauce combinations whenever I find myself in need of a frozen meal for dinner. Always, I am disappointed.

Or, I was always disappointed, until I came across Amy’s Kitchen’s pasta products; Amy’s Kitchen describes their Stuffed Pasta Shell Bowl as “tender organic pasta shells stuffed with low fat ricotta and organic vegetables in a genuine Italian tomato sauce and smooth, creamy white sauce. A delightfully rich comfort food, perfect for guests and special occasions,” and the product certainly matches the advertising.

To begin, the sauce—unlike the sauce in many other frozen meal’s I’ve angrily sampled—is not cloyingly sweet or dominated by an overpowering mix of herbs. Instead, it tastes like a mellow combination of fresh tomatoes and garlic.

The shells, themselves don’t contain any sauce; rather they’re nestled in the cream sauce (which, when it cools, is kind of like a sidedish—I found myself digging out a spoon mid-dinner to eat the delicious, cheesy faux-soup) and covered with a thin (but not too sparse) layer of the prized tomato sauce. And, while the shells themselves are  composed of a fairly hearty pasta, the bounty of ricotta cheese with which they are filled wrecks havoc on the shell structure; when you cut into a shell, it immediately falls apart, and you’re left eating the pasta and filling separately. But, while this is a minor drawback, I don’t really feel like I can complain about too much ricotta cheese. That is a just a sin against humanity.

Like most Amy’s products, the Stuffed Shell Pasta Bowl has some pretty stellar nutritional facts: one serving has 310 calories, 13 grams of fat (which some may consider a little high, but I don’t mind), 5 grams of fiber and a nifty 19 grams of protein. And, these bowls are very filling; most frozen meals I would say are suitable only for lunch or a hearty snack, but this pasta bowl is satisfying enough to serve as dinner.

Now, to see if my mother has secretly taken to cooking in Amy’s Kitchen.

Product Review: Lean Cuisine BBQ recipe Chicken Pizza-Wood Fire Style

Product Description: “Tender white meat chicken, onions,cilantro,reduced fat mozzarella & cheddar cheeses in a tangy BBQ sauce on a crispy thin crust.”

I love bread products. As a child, I required my own loaf of italian bread at family gatherings, and on occasion my anti-anxiety medication of choice is a nice, crusty loaf of carbohydrates. I also love cheese. I also love meals that allow for laziness. This evening, I reached for the abovementioned Lean Cuisine out of a desire for a meal that combined mashed my loves together in a glorious, food menage a trois. Also, I was meeting Mr. Daz later that evening, and I wanted a dinner that was light on calories. So, I popped that bitch in the microwave and watched bread, cheese and BBQ sauce make love to one another.

Unfortunately, the love child they produced comes from a defective dining gene pool. The sauce on the pizza was sweet and hardly classified as a BBQ style sauce; there was no spice or kick, and instead just tasted like ketchup that had several extra packets of sugar in it. The “new” (but apparently not improved) crust was flavorless and chewy. However, I must add that Lean Cuisine states that you should microwave the pizza for an extra 15 seconds if you would like a crisper crust, and I only microwaved the pizza for the 2 minute, 30 second minimum dictated by the basic instructions. I do not think the extra 15 seconds would help the crust taste like anything other than a sponge, though.

The cheese on the pizza was a decent mozzarella that was unfortunately overwhelmed by the excessive quantity of floppy onion bits and ketchup sauce. And, even though the pizza has above-average nutrition stats (340 calories, 7 g. of fat, 430 g. of sodium [which is pretty good for a frozen meal] and 20 g. of protein), I was hungry half an hour later and just ended up chomping on snacks and consuming the calories I had tried to save by having this for dinner. Alas. Fortunately, Lean Cuisine isn’t entirely hopeless in the pizza department; if you’re craving ye olde cheese-on-crust, just go for the company’s French Bread pizza instead of this sub-par offering.