Gardein recently released a new line of products, “Skillet Meals: Meatless Meal for Two!” These are so new they aren’t even on the Gardein website yet! The four varieties are slated for national distribution in April, but some Charlotte area Harris Teeters have already begun carrying these meals and it’s become the current hot topic of discussion among Charlotte area vegans!
I’m not a big fan of processed, frozen food, and I try to limit my intake of faux meats and cheeses. But, when I saw these new Skillet Meals at my local Charlotte Harris Teeter (Morrocroft, aka The Taj MaTeeter), I got ridiculously excited and bought all four varieties to try!
The first one I tried was the Chick’n Fiesta – a Southwestern entree with three kinds of beans, bell peppers, corn, brown rice, and of course Gardein’s famous cruelty-free “chicken.” You can read my review of Chick’n Feista here.
The second Skillet Meal I tried was the Chick’n Florentino – an Italian pasta dish with broccoli, spinach, a creamy garlick-y sauce – and of course Gardein “chicken.”
Once again preparation was super-simple, and did indeed take approximately eight minutes as claimed on the package.
First, you add a tablespoon of oil to a ten-inch skillet and the contents of the bag – minus sauce pouch! (I warmed the oil first before adding the frozen ingredients.) You then cover and cook over high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning.
While this is going on you thaw the sauce pouch by soaking it in a bowl of hot water for five and half to six minutes. (You can also cheat, cut a slit in the pouch, and thaw it in the microwave for about one minute.) Either way, the sauce should reach a still sorta frozen but squishy consistency. It shouldn’t be completely thawed.
After five minutes, you add the contents of the sauce pouch to the skillet and stir.
You then cook uncovered for another two to three minutes.
The bag makes two servings. I divided the food in half, measured, and determined each serving is one cup.
What I Liked About Gardein Chick’n Florentino:
The sauce. Once again Gardein did a great job with the sauce. It’s creamy, garlick-y, with lots of basil and even a few red pepper flakes which add just a hint of heat. It both tasted and smelled fresh. (I did add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, which made it taste even fresher and gave it a little brightness.)
The pasta. The strozzapreti pasta (short, twisted tubes) held up well in the sauce and didn’t become mushy.
The broccoli. Usually, pasta florentine has spinach only, but the broccoli gave it a little more interest, taste, and texture.
It was truly quick and easy.
The price is reasonable – $7.99 for two servings (or about $4 per serving). A typical Amy’s frozen meal runs $4.99 at HT. A Sweet Earth entree runs $3.99. Buy this on sale or with a coupon, and you’ve gotten a good deal.
What I Thought Could Have Been Better:
The chick’n. Once again I thought the chick’n was a little disappointing! (I know, such an odd thing to say about Gardein, whose faux chicken usually sets the gold standard!) But it was bland and in need of more seasoning. You’re just not cooking it long enough for it to absorb flavor from the sauce. That being said, it wasn’t bad, and it should satisfy most vegans and vegetarians – but it won’t fool omnivores.
One serving probably won’t be enough food for many people. Serving size is half a bag, which I measured to be one cup. To be fair, that’s about how much food you would get in any frozen boxed meal. Maybe it’s just the idea of it being more of an evening meal – cooked in a skillet and meant to be shared, that makes us expect more food. Or maybe it’s because most of us are used to eating a big bowl of pasta as a one-dish dinner. Plan for this to be your entree, not a one-skillet meal, and serve with a large salad or a side dish or two.
More veggies. May be a personal preference, but if I make this again I’ll add a handful or two of frozen spinach.
Like most processed, frozen meals, this is not a low-sodium food. However, it also has 16 grams of protein and decent, if not great, vitamins and minerals for a frozen meal (15% DV of Vitamin A, 35% of Vitamin C, 15% Iron, and 6% Calcium). And, of course, zero cholesterol. You can certainly do much worse when eating frozen, processed foods.
Would I recommend this? Definitely. The sauce was amazing! Just keep in mind you get two one-cup servings, and the chick’n is not what we have come to expect from Gardein. But as frozen foods go, taste-wise, nutrition-wise, and cost-wise, this is definitely one of your better vegan options!