As you might have noticed, this term I was incredibly busy as I finished up my last bit of coursework for my doctoral program. As it happened, there were a bunch of fascinating classes in my area that I couldn’t resist, including a class on kanbun, a Japanese way of reading and writing with all Chinese characters that borrows grammar from Classical Japanese and vocabulary from Chinese usage. That class happened to take an enormous amount of work, leaving me with little time to cook, and certainly little time to post. Thank you for hanging in there with me! At any rate, during this term I became highly motivated to check out some of the new gluten-free vegetarian microwavable meals out there. The DH also got conscripted into the kitchen quite a few busy nights, but that’s another story. I did discover some excellent meal options that surpassed my expectations, and some that were (for me) miserable failures. Now, just for you, I’m going to highlight some of the best (And worst) of the gluten-free prepared meal fare that I tried.
The Best Gluten-Free Prepared Meals:
SF DF EF VEGAN *contains: Coconut*
Going Native is a prepared foods company following the “Tasty Bite” model, with sealed pouches filled with vegetarian curries from Bangkok, Delhi, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Although I was disappointed by the Maharaja paneer Makhani with its brown, tired looking cheese and uninspiring flavor, the Sri Lankan Wattakka Pumpkin Curryis something to write sonnets about. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, cholesterol free, vegan, and has no trans fats with a creamy, coconut milk sauce and sweet pumpkin vegetable notes to give it freshness. It’s perfect with a serving of rice from the rice cooker, leftover, or frozen or sealed rice from pouches. You can even buy it from Amazon for a good price.9/10
DF EF SF VEGAN *contains: Coconut*
I have to admit that I find most instant prepared soups to be a huge disappointment, and those that are dairy free are often the worst disappointment of all. Luckily the Cashew Carrot Ginger soup offered by Pacific Natural Foods is no disappointment at all, with its coconut and cashew base balanced with tangy ginger, garlic and other flavorful spices that perfectly compliment carrot as its theme ingredient. I also love the fact that you can get a small container of the soup (16 FL. oz.) that comfortably feeds two as a light side dish rather than just having to get the large family sized container. Those large cartons always sit in my refrigerator too long and go bad, making a smaller size more expensive per ounce but cheaper in the long run with less food wastage. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a soup to savor and thoroughly enjoy. It’s good with rice, any sort of GF baked good, and best of all needs no adornment to be absolutely perfect because it is seasoned so well. 9/10
DF EF NF CF VEGAN contains: Soy
This soup is no newbie on the gluten-free scene. In fact, I think I’ve been buying it since college. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking note of Imagine’s Organic Creamy Broccoli Soup” as an excellent and delicious way to add extra green to your meal. I never eat this soup “As is,” though. I generally add a splash of wheat-free tamari, pine nuts or almonds, or even avocado cubes after heating. DH also enjoys this soup, and he’s a picky customer to please. I’ve been underwhelmed by many of Imagine’s soups, but it seems that they have some new flavors that I have yet to try, so I may have to report back to you on this company. Creamy Sweet Pea Soup or Creamy Tomato Basil Soup or Sweet Potato Soup all sound pretty good to me… 8/10
DF EF NF VEGAN *contains SOY*
Ians just came out with a new dairy-free, gluten-free french bread pizza offering. The bread is “made by their friends at Glutino,” which explains a lot. Personally I’ve never been fond of the white cardboard Glutino likes to call “bread” and “pizza crust.” Corn starch and Tapioca starch alone do not make a truly masterful bread, IMO. However, the tomato topping and soy based cheese are reasonably tasty, and if you’re too busy to make, say, Bette Hagman’s French Bread, it’s not a bad fast snack. It also may be appropriate for those with an allergy to rice, although there are some ingredients you might want to check on. 6.5/10
DF EF NF VEGAN *contains possible traces of SOY*
I found both the Glutino and Ians French Toast sticks on the same excursion to Whole Foods, and I was really excited to try both of them. Of the two, I found the Glutino french toast the most appetizing. It is a “whole grain” bread of brown rice flour and tapioca starch and after baking, has a decent texture and pleasant mouth feel. Unfortunately the seasonings are sadly muted, but coated in enough margarine and maple syrup you can eat anything, right? Right? I would probably not buy this again, but there is a slightly higher chance that if I was starving on an island (or in a gluten-free unfriendly town) that I would buy this french toast than Ians’. 4/10. Because I’m feeling generous. And I like maple syrup.
SF DF EF NF VEGAN *contains: NO FLAVOR*
I was so incredibly excited when I heard about these frozen french toast sticks. I thought it was a great idea, and I had this vision of a toaster-safe french bread option I could pop out in minutes on a busy weekday. Unfortunately the execution was a huge disappointment, perhaps because of the completely allergen-free ingredients in the product. I appreciate allergy-sensitive foods, but when there isn’t a decent “regular” gluten-free french-toast option on the market, to offer this unpalatable, gummy mess is just insult to injury. If you can’t do it right, guys, don’t do it at all. It probably didn’t help matters that due to slow sales, my box was suffering from freezer burn. However, I don’t think there was much flavor to keep in the long run. At least Glutino’s frozen french toast had a decent bread texture, but these babies by Ians had pretty much nothing to recommend them. If you have multiple intolerances, I highly recommend exploring some vegan cookbooks and coming up with a home version, because these sticks are about as tasty as brown Styrofoam and are pricey to boot. I had to coat them in nut butter and honey to even get them down. Sad, but true. Most distressing of all is the transparent elmer’s glue-like coating that makes them shine after baking. (Oh, another disappointment- you have to bake them in the oven at high temperatures for 10+ minutes- no low energy, instant meal here!) 2/10
For comparison purposes, let me share with you the photos of the vegan, gluten-free french toast options, before baking and after. Appetizing, no? No? Oh well.
I hope this gives you some new options for your busy, gluten-free life. Remember, all of this is my entirely subjective opinion, and you may like these products more (or less) than I did. If so, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments. I’d also love if if you’d share your favorite gluten-free vegan instant meal options. Let’s help each other find some great gluten-free foods!
Looking for another opinion? Try
this review of Ians GF Products