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This week we return to Smart Ones' new SmartMade meals. We first encountered these about a month ago with a split decision, with the thumbs down being for an unusual reason (at least, for us it's unusual): boring. The White Wine Chicken & Couscous wasn't bad... just boring. To be honest, "boring" was a nice change of pace from "terrible" and "disgusting." I'll take it.
The panel started its tasting today with the Roasted Turkey & Vegetables. This certainly could have been boring, but SmartMade made what they like to call a "smart swap" and instead of the usual mashed Idaho potatoes, they include sweet potatoes. The first thing we noticed about this meal was the roasting or grilling marks on the chunks of sweet potato. The packaging for their meals claims that these are "made like you make it" (they even trademark the phrase), but those marks seem like a bit of unnecessary theater. We did notice that the sweet potatoes do come with the skin on - which means more fiber as well as more texture.
Those sweet potatoes are perhaps a little softer than the panel would have liked, but they come with a very restrained sauce of brown sugar and honey: it's sweet, but not tooth-achingly sweet as so many sweet potato dishes can be. They're nicely complemented by the tart citrus green beans, which are done "to a turn," according to our panelists. They "taste fresh," and are fairly crispy "with a hint of orange." (Indeed, there's quite a bit of orange zest to be seen in the dish.)
Similarly, the turkey doesn't have that processed appearance that so many meats in frozen meals can have, and also was pronounced to be tender and "pretty flavorful." Overall, a solid thumbs up (240 calories, 580 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber).
The Mexican-Style Chicken Bowl, on the other hand, had all the panelists' thumbs way, way up.
The first thing we noticed about this meal is that it's colorful. Really colorful. And full of vegetables. In fact, the vegetables are the first thing on the ingredient list. There's easily a quarter of a poblano pepper diced up into this bowl, along with sweet roasted corn, red bell pepper, and onions. The chicken is cut into large strips "like for fajitas" (said the panel) and is flavorful "if a touch dry."
Along with the veggies and chicken there's plenty of savory black beans and (wonder of wonders!) brown rice, which is only a little overcooked. This is finished with just enough tomatillo and lime sauce to make the flavor come through and a touch of Monterey Jack cheese for creaminess. We did notice that the front of the box states that the dish is 250 calories while the Nutrition Facts box (on the back) says it's 260, but with a reasonable 530 milligrams of sodium and an impressive 6 grams of fiber (brown rice!), we're not going to quibble. One of the better meals we've had in a while.
Those with Celiac take note: while these dishes do not appear to include any gluten-containing ingredients (only milk is listed as a possible allergen), these are not labeled gluten-free so I did not taste them.
Reviewed: February 24, 2017