In the world of kids convenience foods we as parents are attacked with foods loaded with refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, and loads of ingredients that are not only foreign but unpronounceable. All this crud we load into our kids is under the disguise of fun shapes, cool liquids, and crunchy chips. So what is a parent to do when going grocery shopping turns into a battle of wills over Lunchables versus fresh fruit?
I sampled two frozen dinner foods marketed for kids by Ian's Natural Foods from their Gluten-Free line: The Soy Cheesy French Bread Pizza and the Chicken Finger Meal (with corn, mashed potatoes, and chocolate cake!). I read about their company on their website about how they are a relatively new company based in Lawrence, MA (my favorite Chinese food place is in Lawrence…) and the food is distributed out of Revere (roast beef sandwich on the beach!), so I was pleased to be reviewing a company right in my own backyard.
Their gluten-free menu features foods without eggs, dairy, or gluten all in a little frozen goodie package you can just throw in the microwave and toss on the table in a hurry. I tried the French Bread Pizza for dinner on Saturday with the Little Peanut having the Chicken Finger Meal.
When I opened the pizza, I was a little worried. The "cheese" kind of looked like a blob of coconut on top of it! And it was way on the small side. When I looked at the nutrition info, it read there was 220 calories in each piece- two pieces of pizza in the box. An adult could easily eat both of them, so it's a good thing these are more marketed towards kids. It is the perfect size for a child. I cooked it in the oven because I wanted to see how it "really" tasted. Microwaving can leave things like this soggy and with less crunch than I like in a pizza!
The cheese blob cooked pretty well despite it's first impression. The french bread was made by Glutino, who makes fantastic gluten free bread. My first initial reaction to the pizza was- it actually tastes like pizza! The crust had great flavor and texture. It had the right amount of crunch at the bottom and was chewy in the middle- the way a great crust should be. The sauce wasn't too bold for the pizza either, which will be good for tiny taste buds.
My only slight disappointment was the "cheese". It was on the grainy side and didn't have good flavor. But maybe that is the danger of soy cheese that I don't dive into very often. I only like cheese on pizza, and so with a dairy allergy don't go out of my way to eat it any other way. But when it comes to super convenient pizza for kids or a snack for an adult, this is the way to kill that pizza craving!
The Chicken Fingers Meal wasn't a challenge for me. I let the Peanut eat it. Well, ok I tried it too. Everything steamed up in the microwave just fine and I dug my spoon into everything before the Peanut found it. This is a kids meal- let there be no mistake about this. Three pieces of chicken, a spoonful of corn and mashed potatoes, and a tiny portion of chocolate cake. Wouldn't even wet my appetite- but perfect for a 5-year-old! I tried the chicken first. It was a great chicken nugget! This could be served to ANY child with no way to tell it is gluten free. The mashed potatoes had a slight onion flavor to them that could annoy a child who doesn't like seasoning, but I liked them.
The chocolate cake seemed kind of a waste, the texture was a bit grainy and the flavor a little on the fake side. I didn't try the corn- how bad could it taste? The Peanut gave me her verdict- an empty dinner tray. She loved it. She is a pretty picky eater and will let me know as soon as it's in her mouth if she doesn't like something, so this was a hit for her. When I need something faster than Annie's Rice Mac-n-Cheese, this will be the way to go.
These two foods are perfect dinner options for your mini food lovers who want the foods their non-allergy friends have! Find them in your grocer's freezer- I'm just going to drive up to the factory and bang on the door!