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Early last year we discovered that CedarLane Foods had joined the "Protein Bowls" craze, first with their Chicken Souvlaki Protein Bowl and Chicken Fajita Protein Bowl, then a couple months later, their Falafel Vegetarian Bowl and Chicken Enchilada Protein Bowl. Of the four, we could recommend only the last.
Now they seem to be jumping on the "plant-based" (read: vegetarian or vegan) bandwagon with a line of four "Simply Plant Powered" items. We picked up the two varieties available at our local grocery store to review.
The Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie (290 calories, 610mg sodium, 7g fiber) has the unfortunate appearance of airline food. While the lentil filling is pretty tasty, with savory lentils that "haven't been cooked to hell and gone" (as one taster put it), but the mashed potato topping simply lets down the whole dish.
Wait, let me correct that... according to the Ingredients list, that's "Potato pulp puree" and it's the first ingredient, meaning it's the largest ingredient by weight of the whole dish.
Potato. Pulp? Puree?
These mashed potatoes, which we'll call them as a courtesy (pulp?), have the thin texture of reconstituted dried mashed potatoes out of a box and the flavor of wallpaper paste. There's easily twice as much potato as filling where the ratio should be completely opposite. This should be an umami bomb, but it's just sad. On the package it says, "High in protein and gluten free, you will be screaming, shut the cottage door, I want more!"
No. Just shut the cottage door.
It has to be pointed out that this can't be shepherd's pie (or even cottage pie). Shepherd's pie is made with lamb, and cottage pie is made with ground beef. I suppose a vegetarian or vegan version might be termed a gardener's pie?
The Vegan Lasagna has 300 calories with a truly astounding 770 milligrams of sodium and only 2 grams of fiber. Ordinarily we might have left this on the shelf, but honestly we were just too curious to pass it up.
Well, you know what happened to the cat.
This has thick sheets of just slightly chewy pasta in a sauce that's bright with tomato and has plenty of oregano and basil flavor. Unfortunately, the scent reminds me of the pizza joints I visited in my youth in New Jersey, and my wife assures me that sweet, almost high-school-cafeteria style flavor is exactly how it tastes - "but with extra salt," she said.
What's interesting about this is that this is vegan, meaning (in case you didn't know) no animal products whatsoever: no cheese made with milk from animals and no land animal protein. If it weren't on the package, you might not be able to tell: there's plenty of meaty flavor in the "beefless crumbles" made of soy as well as the actual tofu listed on the package.
It really would be quite an impressive dish if salt wasn't an ingredient in the "beefless crumbles", the tofu, and the dairy-free mozzarella in addition to having added salt as a separate ingredient. We just can't recommend this one either.
Read all our reviews of CedarLane Foods products »
Posted: September 24, 2021