Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed over 800 common convenience foods, ingredients, and restaurant selections so that you know what's worth eating - and what's not. View the Index of all Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews
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It's probably bad when one gets excited about a new convenience food in the grocer's freezer. I never thought that it would happen to me, but in having to review these for you it is nice to find something that's both new and possibly worth eating. The evol. brand meals were in the bottom of the freezer case and caught my eye probably only because I am used to looking for new products. They are in relatively plain but attractive packaging and you could easily miss them.
They certainly looked intriguing. A quick glance and the calories per serving seemed reasonable as did the amount of sodium. There was nothing in the ingredient list that was in Latin. And I mean nothing. Not so much as a single disodium-doohickey or a something-glyceride.
The first tested was the Fire Grilled Steak. All the meals are packaged in compostable bowls and take about 4 minutes to cook in the microwave. The steak has black beans and rice with bits of tender flavorful meat. There's some fresh veggies with peppers and also some corn. Coming out of the microwave it smelled fantastic with a lovely redolent cilantro aroma. The flavors didn't disappoint. This dish is full of flavor and I think if you blind tested this in a nice café, people would be pleased. evol. needs to be cooking for the airlines!
And the numbers are good. 420 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 540 mg of sodium. There's 21 grams of fat but only 4 of those are saturated fat.
The Chicken Enchilada doesn't disappoint. This is really a tamale pie with a base of pinto beans, rice and corn layered with corn tortillas and topped with jack cheese and a nice tangy enchilada sauce. The flavors hit all the right notes. As you might expect, the tortillas are a bit soggy, but this is as good or better than any other frozen version of tamale pie that we've put to the test. This isn't earth shattering cuisine, but good comfort food done well and then frozen. Similar numbers at 390 calories, 6 grams saturated fat, 580 mg sodium and 7 grams fiber.
The first thing that I noticed about the Teriyaki Chicken is that it was labeled as gluten free which is unusual. It's easy to make Asian recipes gluten free by choosing ingredients like tamari sauce instead of soy sauce, but few manufacturers take the step. That's when I noted that all three were gluten free. Smart choice on the part of the evol. folks.
Back to the chicken. The numbers were even better at 250 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 490 mg of sodium. That's because this guy is chock full of veggies so it's not very calorie dense. There's broccoli, peppers, carrots and snap peas in a bowl with short grain brown rice, little bits of chicken and a very nice sweet, gingery teriyaki sauce. This is a really good meal for having come out of the freezer. The rice has good texture, as do the veggies, and the sauce is not overwhelming as it is in most packaged Asian meals. The other two meals could have benefitted from using the same short grain brown rice. The flavor and texture is better and it would add even more quality fiber.
The only complaint is the chicken. It's tasty, not dry, and pretty tender, but it's cut into small squares about 1/4 inch thick. The texture would have been better if this were pulled chicken strips, and using a mix of dark meat and white meat chicken would give the meal a much more robust flavor.
I declare this to be the tipping point for convenience meals. We've reviewed some good ones, but they all had some flaw, such as too many weird ingredients, meals that are not as mainstream, bland flavors, strange textures. These meals are pretty much what you might have made for dinner one night and then stuck in the freezer for leftovers. Good, solid, tasty food that's pretty healthy. Take note, Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice, this is what's in your rear view mirror. I have no doubt that you will adapt to this level of quality soon. In that evol. has done us all a favor.
Of note, you should visit these folks' web site at www.evolfoods.com. Their story is a really good one, and beyond the fact that they are making a great product, they've taken a great road to get here. Buying their product is something that you can feel good about in so many ways. Beyond the food being tasty, this is a good story about the American Dream of building a business from scratch. Worth a look.
Reviewed: March 11, 2011