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Overall, Kashi has a very good track record with us here at Dr. Gourmet, and for good reason: their meals are made with real, recognizable ingredients and tend to have higher levels of fiber (due to their proprietary 7 whole grain blend) along with reasonable levels of sodium and fresh, delicious flavors.
I noticed this week that they've joined the "Serves Two" phenomenon. I read recently that the frozen meal business isn't quite as robust as it used to be: perhaps this is their way of creating a new niche? (Tell me what you think in the comments.) Certainly, if the food is good it's worth having these in the freezer for those nights when you've eaten all the leftovers and don't have time to cook.
These meals are packaged in a plastic pouch like their other Steam Meals and are best microwaved. Beware, however - the steam that escapes when you open the pouch to serve is very hot and could burn your fingers. One time you might want to supervise your child closely if they're helping you in the kitchen.
We started today's tasting with their Italian Vegetable Medley Pasta. This is just what we've come to expect from Kashi: robust whole grain rotini cooked al dente, with broccoli, yellow squash, carrots, edamame, and diced red bell peppers in a marinara sauce made with sun-dried tomatoes. The broccoli and red bell peppers might be a little overdone, but the julienned carrots and yellow squash quarter-moons are sweet and crunchy.
There's just enough savory marinara sauce, complete with a good balance of oregano, garlic, and basil, to hold the pasta together without being overpowering or soupy. According to our panel, it tastes just a little bit oversalted - no doubt due to the 640 milligrams of sodium in each serving, which is on the higher side of what we'd like to see in a frozen meal. That said, this is a really good vegetarian dish with 320 calories and an amazing 8 grams of fiber.
Next we turned to their Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto. Since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, this is my go-to meal any time I'm forced to dine at an Italian restaurant. I order it with some misgivings, however, as risotto is best when cooked completely from scratch, to order. Most restaurants don't want to take the time, however - it can be 25 minutes or so before the meal is ready and most restaurant guests don't want to wait that long. Most of the time the risotto you get in a restaurant has been cooked at least partway and then finished to order - or it might even be reheated altogether. Although I can't eat this risotto - it's made with their Kashi pilaf and not arborio rice - I was curious to see how it would fare with our tasting panel.
They reported that this has far more texture than a risotto made with the traditional arborio rice. No surprise there - the Kashi pilaf contains "whole oats, brown rice, rye, hard red wheat, triticale, dehulled barley, buckwheat, [and] sesame seeds" and so this meal contains 7 grams of fiber in a moderately crunchy meal. It does, however, taste like mushroom risotto (said the panel): there's a strong umami flavor of crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic along with the parmigiano in the cream and wine sauce, and the asparagus are still nicely crunchy. "For all that it looks like oatmeal," said one panelist, "it sure tastes like mushroom risotto."
Unlike the Vegetable Medley Pasta, this didn't taste quite as salty, although at 590 milligrams per serving and 330 calories I would still want to see this lower. All in all, said the panel, a great whole-grain version of a classic. If you're going to eat frozen meals, keeping these in your freezer would be a good choice.
Reviewed: May 30, 2014