We MNN bloggers all love local, organic food, but recently, MNN's food blogger Robin Shreeves revealed the processed foods that we have a hard time resisting. Interesting note about the list: No frozen dinners are on it!
I found this slightly odd. Sure, many environmentalists are now aware of the potential dangers of microwaving those plastic trays and bags that frozen meals come in. And that the nutritional labels of the frozen meals marketed towards the health conscious often vastly understate their calorie content. Still, even at my local co-op and Whole Foods, the frozen food sections are quite large.
And many of the frozen meals in those sections are marketed as all natural — and even organic! So over the weekend, I decided to try out some Helen’s Kitchen meals — which are certified organic, vegetarian, relatively healthy and nutritionally balanced, and even come in paper trays, bypassing the whole plastic leaching issue.
My verdict? Well, Helen’s Kitchen’s Indian Curry meal was certainly tastier than the rubbery Lean Cuisine meals I swore off years ago. The organic rice and peas were surprisingly plump, and the curry itself was yummily spicy. However, I found myself wishing for more veggies in the curry — and thought the diced “TofuSteaks” tasted strangely spongy. This from a girl who loves tofu!
In fact, I’m not a fan of Helen’s Kitchen’s tofu in general. I tried the company’s Meat Free Chicken Steaks — a version of “TofuSteaks” — and can firmly report that the TofuSteaks taste nothing like chicken, though they were less strangely spongy than the diced bits in the Indian Curry.
In general, I’m not a big fan of using tofu as a sandwich meat substitute. Why? Tofu’s just not that flavorful on its own. Even barbecued and seasoned tofu is generally only coated with flavor, so using a hunk as “sandwich meat” inevitably leads to a bland sandwich — which is what Helen’s Kitchen’s TofuSteaks’ made.
Plus, the TofuSteaks weren’t even particularly convenient to eat. The box of four packages the TofuSteaks in pairs — which means the paired steaks are pretty much impossible to separate without thawing, whether quickly in the microwave or slowly on a kitchen counter. Post-separation, the steaks are meant to be heated on a skillet — which makes me wonder why I wouldn’t just buy a pack of non-frozen tofu at a cheaper price, hack off a generous slice, and cook it in a little olive oil with a little garlic salt — since the resulting taste would be about the same.
So I’ve learned a couple things about why I don’t regularly eat frozen meals. One, these meals are not necessarily more convenient or less time-consuming than freshly cooked meals, though they can be. Two, I’m pickier about the texture of tofu than I realized. Or perhaps it's that I’ve just gotten pickier about food in general. I guess eating local, organic food cooked exactly how I want it is an addicting habit.
But perhaps Helen’s Kitchen and other organic frozen meals are a good option for those who are trying to wean themselves off the Lean Cuisine-and-Diet-Coke diet. Do you eat organic frozen dinners? Which frozen foods do you regularly load up in your grocery cart and why?