Fast Times

Lean, Mean, On-the-Go Meals from Snap Kitchen

So I do this thing when my husband goes out of town where I become a slovenly, lazier version of myself. Cooking for two is challenge enough, but cooking for myself is a chore I do not relish, so I end up eating a lot of nachos and breakfasts-for-dinner. I was recently left to my own devices for four days, which quickly got out of hand, devolving into a revolving plate of nachos, French toast and leftover pizza. It wasn't pretty.

I decided to literally snap out of it with a trip to Snap Kitchen. I still didn't have to cook any meals for myself, but I was able to move back toward portion control and balanced nutritional content without touching a pot or a pan. I picked up three meals' worth -- two lunches and a breakfast -- along with a couple of Kickin' Kombucha teas for a grand total of $27. A lunch portion plus a small salad is a good dinner for me, which is why I went with two lunch portions rather than the larger SNAP dinners. What can I say? I like salad. Crazy.

I started things off with the Spaghetti & Turkey "Bolognese," which also happens to be gluten-free, though I have no problem with gluten. Bring on the gluten, I say. I was craving pasta so I went for it, though I can't say this particular dish really scratches the pasta itch. I suppose gluten-free pasta is bound to differ significantly from semolina or whole wheat, which is what I normally cook for myself. This pasta is brown rice pasta, and the texture was too soft and mushy for me. The sauce was a little bland, too -- the package is marked "lower sodium," but the tomatoes didn't offer up even a little acidity. An hour later and no agita? Weird. Paired with a small spinach salad, this 300-calorie portion of pasta was filling enough, but not something I would choose again.

The next morning, I crossed my fingers and popped a Snap Kitchen Chili & Eggs breakfast into the microwave. Ninety seconds later, I was digging into a much more satisfying meal than the one I had the night before. When I was in the Snap store, I hesitated over this dish -- I've been way more into cold cereal and fruit lately as the weather warms up -- but I liked the idea of chili and scrambled eggs. I have put many a sunny-side up egg on chili, but never tried scrambled. The scrambled egg whites were a pretty good consistency considering they came out of the microwave, much fluffier than I expected. The chili, made with turkey meat, kidney beans and red and green peppers, had a really nice kick. What a relief after the relatively bland "Bolognese" sauce the night before. I was really full after this breakfast -- I didn't even finish all of the eggs -- so I was pretty shocked when I noticed the total calories for the portion is 190. This tastes great and fills you right up for less than 200 calories? Big win, a definite "buy again." This meal is also gluten-free, lower in sodium and "diabetic friendly."

Last but not least was the Snap Vegetarian Lasagna. Let's face it -- this was not a beautiful-looking piece of lasagna. Luckily it tasted a lot better than it looked. I am a big fan of noodle-free, "mock" lasagna and I make it a lot; it's a great way to use up extra zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, squash and roasted peppers, all of which are present in the Snap Kitchen version. On its own the sauce was a little thin and weak, but the layers of cheese and vegetables were well-seasoned with basil, garlic, salt and pepper, so taken as a whole, the flavors were fuller and more rounded out. There was enough ricotta cheese to stand out, and the top layer of broiled parmesan gave the whole thing that salty/toasty satisfaction we all expect from lasagna. Maybe there was not quite enough sauce at the end, and the result was a few last, dry-ish bites, but at 150 calories, the veggie lasagna is another winner.

I will say each dish needed slightly more time in the microwave than the instructions suggested. Adding two or three 15-second increments seemed to do the trick, without overcooking anything.

Do you have any Snap Kitchen favorites? Leave your suggestions in the comments section, because I'll be returning soon.

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Christina Uticone