Some may turn up their noses at convenience foods, but I'm grateful for the abundance of vegan convenience foods that have become available in the past few years. Even as a stay-at-home mom, there are days when it's hard to find the time to cook three healthy meals from scratch. And I know from previous experience how hard it can be to find motivation to cook after a particularly long day at work, too.
Gardein recently sent me some coupons to try out some of their vegan protein options. First we had the Chick'n Marsala. The package contained two servings, each the size of a chicken breast, and a packet of marsala sauce. A few minutes in the microwave and they were ready to eat. I served the chick'n with spaghetti and mushrooms sauteed in garlic butter. The sauce had a mild, sweet flavor, and Tony and I both enjoyed the chick'n. Some other faux meats I've tried are a little too realistic for my liking, with a stringy texture that I can only guess is meant to resemble animal muscle fibers. There was no stringiness here! I'd definitely buy this again. The whole meal was ready in the time it takes to boil spaghetti, with the added nutrition of 18 grams of protein per serving thanks to the Gardein. Perfect for a busy evening.
Next we sampled the BBQ Pulled Shreds. The package serving suggestion read, "Heat up and load on a bun" and I obliged. I tried to make it a little healthier by adding romaine lettuce and radish slices, but really, one shouldn't try to healthify barbecue. Next time, I'll just eat it all by its lovely self, on a ciabatta roll. I loved the texture of the finely shredded "meat" doused in sweet, smoky BBQ sauce.
One evening we had the BBQ skewers. All Gardein products are pre-cooked, but the instructions suggested grilling them briefly. So I seared them on my grill pan.
I stuffed them into a pita with red pepper and pickles. The big meaty chunks were a little too much for me...I guess because I've never been a meat eater. But Tony. So if you're feeding an omnivore, or someone who's recently become vegan and misses actual meat, these BBQ skewers might be a good way to go.
Finally, our favorite of the products we sampled -- the Crispy Tenders. These are the best faux chicken I've ever eaten. Super crispy coating. The shape makes them fun for kids to eat, dipped into some agave mustard. Jackson and Olivia loved them. I bought a couple more bags already to have on hand for easy lunches. My only concern was that the serving size is small -- just two tenders. I don't think that's very realistic, even for a child. But even if you double that and eat four, you're still only looking at 200 calories and 7 grams of fat.
There are plenty of Gardein flavors to choose from besides the ones we tried out. The Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Wings and Mandarin Orange Crispy Chicken look especially awesome, but I haven't been able to find them yet at my supermarket.
I love cooking too much to use convenience foods every day, but I can see myself keeping a few Gardein packages in my freezer or refrigerator for extra-busy times.