Category Archives: Store Bought Food Items

Max’s Granola

I’ve participated in several events since launching my personal chef business and sometimes I don’t realize how many people I’ve met and gotten to know. That is, until I’m out in the world and bumping into all kinds of people who may not even know my name, but they know what I do or maybe the name of my company.

One of those people is a fellow personal chef, Debra Walter. I think I first met her at VegFest in 2011 and have run into her several times since. On a recent Saturday, my squeeze and I waltzed into Rust Belt Market in Ferndale, which is essentially a permanent craft fair right here in our town. Right by the door was none other than Debra, selling her “Max’s Granola.” We chatted for a bit and I bought a bag of granola, which is made right here in southeast Michigan in small batches.

Five minutes later when she saw me devouring it as I walked around the market, she informed me her friends call it “granola crack.” That it is. The granola is named in honor of her son Max, who was born with a brain disorder. She said a portion of the proceeds go toward research or a charity related to the disorder.

I wish I could possible convey in words how delicious this granola is! Literally the best I have ever tasted. As a person who doesn’t keep too many sweets around the house, it has proven to be my go-to at night when I just want a little something. The best part is — it’s packed with good nutritious things, including organic oats, dried fruit, nuts, pepitas and other delicious. If you see it, you should pick some up. you won’t be sorry.


Amy’s Organic Country French Vegetable Soup

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any store-bought food items! The good news is that it’s been a while because I very rarely eat anything out of a can or a box or the freezer. I just cleaned out my cupboards last week and ditched about 10 boxes of random rice pilaf, falafel mix, Zatarain’s (lots of rice!) and pouches of overly sodium-laden Indian food from Trader Joe’s that I used to eat for lunch when I lived in Chicago (um…four years ago!). Needless to say, these things expired as far back as 2008.

I then found myself buying a canned item this week. I can’t recall the last time I bought canned soup — not because there’s anything wrong with it. It just doesn’t occur to me and rarely sounds good to me, as much as I love soup. Maybe I overdid it when I ate Dr. McDougall’s instant soup almost every day for work during my first year in Michigan?

Either way, I decided to snag a can of Amy’s Organic Country Vegetable Soup while I was at a swanky new renovated Kroger recently (the one at Woodward and 13 is getting there, but they’re seriously need to get it together at 9 Mile and Stephenson).

Today, as I rush around trying to get everything done before teaching a cooking class tonight and working then leaving town tomorrow (do I really have time to be writing a blog on my delicious lunch?!?!?) I reached for the can. Open, heat, eat. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

As with any meal that comes from a can, box or the freezer, it has a lot of sodium in each serving — about 25% of the recommend daily allowance. (And let’s be honest, do any of us only eat half the can? So, really, closer to 50%). Fortunately, there was no salt in my raw juice breakfast and there’s no way I’ll consume 1,000 mg of sodium in my dinner, so I think I’m good.

There are lots of good things in this soup, not to mention the fact that you can taste the freshness and see actual — gasp — vegetables, beans and grains in this vegetable soup! They include big sliced mushrooms, white beans, rice, tomatoes and zucchini. That means there’s fiber, protein and various vitamins in there too.

I haven’t had good ol’ vegetable soup in a while, but I have to think this is the best out of a can I’ve ever had. I think I’ll try to keep at least one canned lunch around I guess.

Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce

I bought a jar of Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Sauce a month or two ago and — just as I suspected — it came in very handy last night. It was late, I was starving, had a few random ingredients and one of my favorite shows of all time was starting a new season in about 10 minutes, so I needed something fast.

I diced and sautéed a couple of redskin potatoes and a handful of baby carrots first, since they take the longest to soften, in some olive oil. I then added chopped onion, a bunch of chopped yellow pepper and a few handfuls of fresh spinach. I then crumbled a package of tempeh with flax to add some protein.

When it was all cooked down nicely, I added the simmer sauce and let it sit on low for about 10 minutes. I had so much stuff in there, I probably could have used a little more sauce, but it was enough and it was delicious. I had a huge portion of it and there was plenty leftover for lunch the next day (or for another person to have eaten it. I thought I was out of my microwaveable rice (again, In Treatment was starting!!!) so I ate it as it was, but I think it would be great over rice, quinoa, etc. It got high marks from my squeeze, who ate it for lunch today too, so I’ll definitely be buying this sauce — and probably some of their others — again!

Frontera Grill’s Enchilada Sauce

During my time in Chicago, I ate several times at Frontera Grill, owned by famed Chef Rick Bayliss (who also owns the more upscale Topolobampo next door). I’ve been meaning to whip up some kind of enchiladas, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I saw this green enchilada sauce from Frontera at the store recently and, when I came home late and hungry today, I decided to go with it.

I can’t find a photo of the pouch of sauce online (and didn’t take one), but I bought it at Meijer in the normal “taco section” so it should be easy enough to find.

The instructions say to fill some tortillas with cheese , pour the sauce over them, sprinkle with more cheese and bake. Though this sauce isn’t vegan, I decided to veganize the rest of it and throw some tofu and veggies into the mix. Here’s what I did:

1. Thinly slice any veggies you like (I went with the simple onion and red pepper) as well as half a package of savory baked tofu (two squares). I sauteed this in a little olive oil with some cumin, coriander and salt.

2. Heat up 5 corn tortillas in the microwave wrapped in plastic wrap for about 30 seconds, or in a skillet briefly.

3. Divide veggies and tofu into the tortillas,  add cheese (I went with both kinds of Daiya vegan cheese), and roll each enchilada up, placing them seam-side down in an oven-safe dish. I went with an 8×8 glass pan and five enchiladas fit perfectly.

4. Pour sauce over top of rolled enchiladas and top with more cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until everything is heated through/sufficiently melty.

This was even better than I thought it would be and took about 10 minutes to make. Then I cleaned up the cutting board and one pan I used during the 15 minutes it was baking, so now I can sit on my couch and veg (no pun intended). Obviously you could do this with any type of enchilada sauce (and I probably will), but I’ll definitely be on the look-out for Frontera’s sauces again.

Gardein BBQ Pulled Shreds

I think even meat-eaters would like this pulled-pork like barbecue goodness. I was skeptical, even though I like this kind of thing, but Gardein’s meat-free BBQ Pulled Shreds were delicious! Even better that I get almost half the protein I need in a day in just one serving, and there’s only 2 grams of fat.

I was skeptical of the taste of the barbecue sauce more than anything, but I even liked that a lot! Perhaps it was the “new bold bbq sauce” it touts on the front of the package.

In addition to protein you get a bit of vitamins A and C, calcium, fiber and 45 percent of your daily iron — not bad!I t only costs about $4 and you can toss it in the microwave in the bag it comes in, so it’s fast, easy and way cheaper than even get a sandwich at Subway these days. Even better.

Kashi Pesto Pasta Primavera

I just had a really delicious lunch and thought I would share. I bought this Kashi frozen meal a few weeks ago and decided to give it a shot today. It was great, with multi-grain pasta, peas, peppers, and loads of pesto. It had tons of flavor, 7 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein — not bad! Of course it has a fair amount of sodium (about 750 grams/31 percent of your daily allowance), but it’s only 290 calories and really was delicious. I’ll definitely buy it again to keep on hand in a pinch.

From the Freezer: Amy’s Indian Palak Paneer

I’ve spied this in the freezer section for months and FINALLY gave it a try. It’s delicious! As in, better than many of the other things I’ve ever tried from Amy’s. Now I’ll probably try all their Indian dishes (check them out here).

Although it contains more than a quarter of your daily sodium intake, so does anything else like this you need to eat on the fly.

Other than that, it’s actually really good for you — especially compared to frozen pizza and the other unhealthy things vegetarians often eat!

It’s only 270 calories, there’s a ton of protein – 10 g, fiber – 5g, and has healthy doses of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

I’ll definitely buy this again!