Friday, June 01, 2018

They're Kosher and Travel Friendly - But How Do They Taste?

This summer we're traveling internationally with our niece and nephew who keep stricter Kosher than Shira and I do. To add to the complexity, my nephew is diabetic. The optimist in me thinks we'll have no problem making do with local foods. For part of the trip, we'll be near cities with Kosher Restaurants, which mean the supermarkets in these areas should have hekshered products. In my mind's eye, we'll stock up with food at these locations and will have no problems when we're off the beaten path.

But I've traveled enough to know that things rarely go as planned. As a bit of insurance, we plan to bring alone some key staples: bread, tuna packets, peanut butter, etc. While planning this out, I decided to do a bit of research about Kosher shelf stable prepackaged meals. Think airplane food meets MRE's. I found a few interesting leads on the web, but the cost and nutritional profile of the food (not to mention past experience with Airplane food) lead me to more or less drop the idea.

Then, while we were shopping for Passover at Shalom Kosher, I stumbled on an isle full of refrigeration-free boxed meals. There were a number of different brands, and within those brands, quite a few meal choices. I called Shira over to take a look. The thought of having a zero-effort meal, ready to go for the kids was nice. And as she patiently looked through each food option, she noticed a wide nutritional range. Sure, some where packed with fat and sugar, but others seemed downright healthy. Shira carefully selected a few diabetic-friendly options and we added them to our Passover purchases.

We're still a couple months off from our trip, but Shira reminded me that if we want to depend on these meals we better actually try them. So earlier this week, that's what we did. We busted out a 'Stuffed Chicken' and a 'Vegetarian Pepper Steak' and heated them up. Below, you'll find my review of these culinary wonders. We have a few more meal options to try, however, I'm fairly optimistic that we'll bringing along a few of these meals as a backup. The elegant way they solve a potentially tricky situation makes up for the cost of the meals and the pain of schlepping them (or perhaps mailing them there ahead of time?).

Stay tuned, as I try more of the meals, I'll add them below.

Meal Mart: Stuff Chicken with Rice & Mushrooms

My first thought was that this meal was high in fat and calories, but at 25g and 460 calories, if it really is what you eat for dinner it's probably reasonable. And at 7 net grams of carbs, it passes Shira's can I feed this to a Kosher Diabetic test. And check it out: 48g of protein--nice, right?

You can heat the meal up in the microwave or by dropping it into hot water.

As for the taste: it's pretty good. It's not going to win any awards, but I imagine a kid that eats chicken would eat this. As the number of carbs on the box suggest, there isn't a whole lot of Rice & Mushrooms in this dish. Again, if you have a kid who likes chicken, but is not into rice or mushrooms, this dish would probably work.

Would I travel with it? Yes.

La Briute: Vegetarian Pepper Steak

This meal appears to be a nutritional wonder: 280 calories, a measly 1.5g of fat, 13 net grams of carbs and a whopping 50g of protein. It also comes with a self heating mechanism. We followed the provided instructions, and sure enough, the food was piping hot. I realize this is standard protocol for military MREs, but having never seen a self heating meal at work, I've got to say I'm impressed.

So the meal looks great on paper and heats itself up. Where's the catch? You know exactly where the catch is: taste. I peeled back the film on the top of the meal and was greeted by an unusual odor. It didn't help that the food looked like one congealed block. I mixed up the contents a bit and took a bite. The best I can say is that it was edible. The vegetarian pepper steak didn't really taste bad, but it also didn't exactly taste like food. Shira couldn't even stomach a bite. I ended up eating the meal, but I wouldn't want to depend on a kid being so indulgent.

Would I travel with it? No. If the meal has the nutritional profile you're after, go for it. But there other La Briute options that are self heating and hopefully taste better.

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