REVIEW: Smart Made Orange Chicken Sesame Bowl

Panda Express is very popular.  As you walk by the food court at the mall, or the less common free standing location, the drool-worthy smell of Orange Chicken consumes every bystanders nostrils and requires every ounce of control to not go in and blow a quick 1,000 calories on a deliciously addictive Panda Bowl.  For those of us with some amount of discipline, we saunter on and continue with our regularly scheduled dinner plans, which may or may not be better than that delectable fried meat covered in orange glaze.  As a remedy to this solution, the 2017  health conscious frozen renegades at Smart Made have given us an option to somewhat quench that craving with the Orange Sesame Chicken Bowl, which combines grilled white meat chicken with broccoli, snap peas and roasted red bell peppers over quinoa lightly tossed in an orange sesame sauce.

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The aroma is all soy sauce and sesame, with no big citrus smell to be found.  Eating it, however, is a different story, as the distinct flavor of orange zest weaves in and out of bites, pleasantly accenting the broccoli, snap peas, and red peppers that make up a good part of the dish.  The whole profile is generally mild and not really spicy but the salt level seems just right, as its neither super salty or bland.  It’s pretty much nothing at all like a trip to the Panda, but that’s not something the company promises and just a mental connection I made, as the nutritional tradeoff is solid.

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More good news – the chicken is pretty damn tasty.  Its got a bit of that microwave firmness that wouldn’t happen if you cooked it yourself fresh but it isn’t offensive and definitely tastes and feels like real deal, albeit slightly dry, chicken breast.  The quinoa holds up well to the microwave – with a little bit of crunch to backup a mostly squishy, saucy base for the bowl.  Everything is more pleasant and fresher tasting than what you would expect from a frozen dinner and the flavors come off complex without being confusing.

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Another solid release from Smart Made that packs 21 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber into a container that a six year old could nuke to perfection.  It’s not going to win any culinary awards against quality restaurant or home cooked meals, but it will definitely get the job done in a pinch and be more satisfying than most things you can find in the frozen aisle.

Rating: 8/10
Quick Nutrition: 240 cals – 4.5g fat – 35mg cholesterol – 530mg sodium – 30g carbs – 5g fiber – 10g sugar – 21g protein

REVIEW: Smart Made Chicken with Spinach Fettuccine

I wish I could cook every night, or go out for some delicious yet nutritious meal at a wonderful restaurant, but I can’t.  Cooking, which I do frequently, takes time and consideration and creativity – things that I don’t always have at my disposal.  As a result, two or three times a week I look for a quick fix; and a healthy, protein heavy frozen meal that I can pair up with fresh salad is one of my meals of choice.  The best brands I’ve found are Healthy Choice Steam Bowls, Lean Cuisine Comfort, and Smart Ones, who have just released a new line of even better looking frozen dinners called Smart Made – touting less weird additives, less salt, and subtle ingredient switches that make for wiser choices.  A pretty impressive row of interesting flavors lead me to try something classic – Chicken With Spinach Fettuccine.

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Let’s not sugar coat this – a frozen meal is a frozen meal and it can only be so good.  In fact, it’s not something I would ever think to review but this line is so new that I couldn’t find any opinions on them so I thought I would give it a shot.  The aspect that most appealed to me about this entree was its nutritional stats – 220 calories, 6 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbs, and 22 grams of protein – pretty damn solid.  Additionally, the Smart Made sous-chefs swapped a regular Alfredo cream-based sauce for one made with ricotta and white bean puree, which sounded interesting and delicious.  So, how goes it taste?

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As with most calorie-cautious microwave meals the serving is pretty small, but what’s inside actually tastes pretty good.  They used a thicker spinach fettuccine that was less gummy and weird than a lot of frozen noodles.  Not quite aldente, the noodles held a firmness that meshed with the roasted tomatoes and spinach well, holding onto the thick creamy sauce that you would never guess didn’t have tons of cream in it.

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The chicken, while still a little too salty, didn’t have that odd overly wet texture that more processed meat can often have.  It had a nice light charred taste to it and was easily the best chicken I’ve had from a black plastic container.  The whole experience mirrors that of a fettuccine alfredo but slightly lighter and less cheesy.  The “meal” does come out as sort of a strange zapped ball, but once you separate the pieces and back it up with some fresh veggies it’s not a bad choice for something fast and easy.

Rating: 8/10

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