Sometimes, you find yourself too lazy to cook and too concerned about your caloric intake to deal with delivery. On those days, having a stash of FreshDirect’s 4-Minute Meals in your fridge can make for a satisfying and healthy alternative.
The ingredients come raw or slightly cooked in microwaveable containers with special valves in them, trapping in moisture so the microwave steams them to completion. The cook times are accurate, and impressively, the contents never end up rubbery. The level of flavouring is very good, on par with the similar meals you’d pick up at Marks & Spencer or Waitrose in the UK.
FreshDirect’s got two main health-conscious categories, the “Smart & Simple” and the “Eating Well”. Both contain pre-made, microwavable meals under 500 calories from fresh ingredients. Smart & Simple focuses on nutrition and avoiding the use of hydrogenated oils, while Eating Well focuses on vegetarian-friendly fare.
Having sampled nearly everything they have to offer in these categories over the last couple months, here are some thoughts and advice. Prices reflect FreshDirect’s December ’08 pricing.
Smart & Simple
- Chicken Cacciatore w/ Potato Gnocchi ($7.99)
Lately, the quality control on this has been slipping, and the chicken meat has ended up with bits of skin still on, which seems unlikely to keep the calories in the advertised range, as it never used to have this issue. Still, a very flavorful dish due to the use of thigh meat and mushrooms, and the gnocchi hold up well to the microwaving. Strongly recommended.
- Chicken Teriyaki w/ Fresh Pineapple & Brown Basmati Rice ($7.99)
Nothing special here, and the hard brown rice kernels spawned a filling-replacing trip to the dentist. Avoid.
- Black Olive Char-Marked Salmon w/ Saffron Rice ($10.99)
Not enough food for the price. Avoid.
- Garlic Chili Wild Alaskan Halibut w/ Coconut Rice ($12.99)
Untested as yet due to the high price.
- Grill-Marked Chicken w/ Citrus Soy Sauce & Brown Rice ($7.99)
Like most of the chicken with sauce and brown rice dishes, there’s nothing special here you couldn’t have just done yourself. Can’t recommend it.
- Lemon-Dill Salmon with Asparagus and Fingerling Potatoes ($10.99)
A reasonably sized piece of salmon, although it’s farmed and therefore not actually good for you. The asparagus and potatoes, though, end up perfectly cooked and complement the fish very well. Unfortunately, the price is not attractive compared to the other options. Mildly avoid.
- Moroccan Chicken w/ Herbed Couscous ($7.99)
At only 330 calories, this is almost a snack rather than a meal, which is unfortunate, because it’s one of the best dishes they’ve got. If you hate raisins, this is one to avoid, but if you like a nice variety of textures and flavours in a meal that doesn’t need any added spice, this is a good choice. Strongly recommended.
- Spicy Massaman Chicken Curry w/ Brown Basmati Rice ($7.99)
There’s nothing specifically wrong with this dish, but it’s uninspired. Can’t recommend it.
- Thai Peanut Shrimp w/ Noodles & Asian Veggies ($8.99)
A strong peanutty sauce and snap peas, along with starchy noodles, make this a reliable choice. It benefits from adding some extra garlic chili sauce to kick the flavors up a bit. Strongly recommended.
- Hoppin’ John w/ Vegetarian Chorizo ($7.99)
A favorite. Filling, and with the addition of some smoky hot sauce (try Chipotle Tabasco), a very satisfying meal. The veggie chorizo mimics real crumbled chorizo well enough to keep this in most orders. Highly recommended.
- Balsamic-Roasted Seitan w/ Beets, Basil & Farro Pilaf ($7.99)
Even beets, basil, and balsamic can’t make seitan stop tasting like dirt. Strongly avoid.
- Black Bean & Hominy Succotash w/ Barbecued Portobello Mushrooms ($6.99)
Untested as yet.
- Indian-Spiced Lentil & Quinoa Ragout w/ Roasted Vegetables ($8.99)
Solid flavor and a reasonable proportion of root vegetables to quinoa make this another favorite, as does the addition of two or three whole garlic cloves. Mmm mmm. Highly recommended.
- Portobello Mushroom Ravioli w/ Three-Tomato Sauce ($7.99)
If you like mushrooms, this is a good option, although there’s not enough sauce and like many ravioli meals, the 4 or 5 pieces you get aren’t really enough to fill the belly. Recommended.
- Tofu & Shiitake Lo Mein w/ Coconut-Peanut Sauce ($7.99)
Tastes fine, but has resulted in hours spent within line of sight of the toilet. Strongly avoid.
- White Beans, Pearl Pasta & Artichokes w/ Roasted Tomatoes & Rapini ($8.99)
The rapini is so bitter it overpowers the rest of this dish, which is otherwise bland, and more suited to being an appetizer than a meal. Avoid.
- Whole-Wheat Spaghetti & Vegetarian Meatballs w/ Tomato Sauce ($8.99)
Not remotely filling enough to justify itself, although the veggie meatballs are decent. Avoid.