Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Garden Lites Veggie Chili & Cornbread

Once upon a time (in 2008), I spent quite a bit of time on Weight Watchers while living in Chicago, and I managed to lose about 25 pounds in that effort. I did this through a pretty strict way of eating, not because I had to, but because it was easy and quick.

I ate a lot of Lean Cuisine, Subway, and some specific meal options from Trader Joe's (I miss their chicken fingers and potato wedges, I'll be honest). Those Lean Cuisines were a gift when I was hungry but couldn't muster the energy or brainpower to make something, but then?

Then I went kosher. Unfortunately, the kosher world has yet to properly hop on the "prepared frozen meal" bandwagon. This probably leaves hundreds of thousands of kosher-keeping Jews out in the dark when it comes to having a healthy, quick, and easy resource for lunch at work, while traveling, or when you're just too tired to come up with something to eat that isn't gross, disgusting kosher fast food (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with kosher fast food).

Then? Then Garden Lites came on the scene. Their products are both kosher and gluten free, which is amazing for someone like me, and they're delicious, which is a tough thing to find in a lot of prepackaged kosher products in the U.S. They had, for awhile, some little souffle-style options, but to be honest, they weren't filling; they weren't a meal.

So, to my amazingly happy and giddy utter surprise, while recently at my local King Soopers, I spotted them ... on sale ... through February 2018!? Holy Moses. Yes, I spotted this:

I bought two boxes of the Veggie Chili & Cornbread (because I love veggie chili) and a box of their Mac & Cheese, too. I was going to do a video review of this, but, well, I was hungry and I inhaled it in all of it's fresh, delicious, non-frozen-food-tasting glory.

I was most amazed by the cornbread, because gluten-free cornbread is often stiff, crumbly, and tasteless, but Garden Lites somehow managed to make the most fluffy, fresh-tasting cornbread I've ever had. This meal doesn't taste like it came out of the freezer, and that's what I love about it the most. The cheesy topping was oozy-gooey, and the chili had the perfect amount of kick, reminding me of a standout Chili Cook-Off-style recipe.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Garden Lites, and I'm really thankful, too. It's not easy being kosher and gluten free sometimes, because there are a lot of convenience foods that are just lacking. Yes, I love getting in the kitchen and whipping up Gnocchi with Eggplant and Mushrooms with a Radish Green and Purple Basil Pesto (no, really, I made this for dinner last night), but with both kids running around during the day, I need something quick, healthy, and filling.

Garden Lites, you've done it. You've finally done it. Please, whatever you do, don't ever lose your kosher certification. I couldn't get through this Stay-at-Home Mom Experiment without you!

(Thought: I might buy a bunch of these and serve them up for Shabbat and see what happens ... is that crazy? Maybe, but, come on, until Garden Lites makes a family-size version of this, what's a mom to do?!)


Product Details:

Ingredients: veggie chili (diced tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], black beans [black beans, water, salt], onion, crushed tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], zucchini, broccoli, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, roasted corn, sugar, corn starch, canola oil, lemon juice, sea salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, ancho pepper, chipotle pepper), gluten free cornbread (corn, egg whites, brown rice flour, sugar, corn meal, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), soluble corn fiber, chili powder, salt, xanthan gum, cheddar cheese(pasteurized cultured milk, enzymes, salt). Contains: eggs, milk. Gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Nutrition: (10 points on Points Plus WW System)