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Heat-and-Eat that isn't awful

We don't usually think of Heat-and-Eat meals as particularly "foodie", and for good reason.

I work shifts in an office with only a microwave (no fridge or toaster oven) and I'm not a big fan of my own leftovers. I recently tried Gardennay's Cream of Mushroom soup, which came out in a solid, glutinous mass and made me gag, and PC Brand Thai coconut-ginger soup, which was significantly better than the Cream of Mushroom but had a THICK layer of grease on the top that made more than a few bites impossible.

So I put it to you. What are Heat-and-Eat meals that are a) not awful, and b) available in Ontario (Ottawa specifically, but Ontario is fine)?

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  1. Ha, ha!, I tried a Gardennay's soup once, forget which one, after hearing someone somewhere rave about it, and gagged too, disgusting, couldn't believe it. I said to myself, what were they thinking?

    I agree with you that heat-and-eat isn't awful. Will think about this some more and try to come up with suggestions. I think this is a great challenge for foodies, we can't all make great lunches or go out to lunches.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JamieK

      I've never had a food that made me gag quite like that before, and I've slaughtered goat for dinner (only once though)!

    2. i am in love with the PC blue menu black bean soup and lentil soup. i add frozen peas and corn to the bean and i add canned chickpeas to the lentil and voila - meal time!

      1 Reply
      1. re: LemonLauren

        I will have to try these two. At this point I'm up for anything not awful :)

      2. You must try, if you like Thai food, PC's frozen red curry chicken. I find it very well done - surprisingly so for frozen fare - and actually better than the red curry available in most restaurants, and I'm outrageously picky and elitist when it comes to Thai food (my passion).

        I also like many of PC's frozen Indian offerings, but they're not nearly as good as the red chicken curry.

        My partner tried the coconut ginger soup and found it inedible, which was surprising to us since we rarely meet a PC product that isn't at least decent. Incidentally, if any coconut soup has a separated layer of fat, it has been overcooked and ruined. This should never happen.

        2 Replies
        1. re: vorpal

          I agree! I tried a lot of the PC frozen curries, and they're really not bad at all for microwavable dinners. Everything turns out more than edible which is a pretty good surprise. But, tried their channa which was really really bad.

          1. re: vorpal

            I noticed that you don't have a fridge at work; if these are for your lunch, this shouldn't be an issue. I've found that they stay mostly frozen long enough.

          2. Ramen is my latest favorite. There is a great variety at P.A.T. and Soon Lee, but those are closer to me, there will be other Asian stores nearby. The trick is to take a few leftovers, such as beef, vegs, chicken, or shrimp, and add them at the end of the microblast, about 2.5 minutes, then serve yourself with a little Kikkoman and fish sauce. Fresh herbs are also welcome. It takes a little dithering, but I have 1/2 hour at lunch and it is always envied.

            1. The 44th St ready to eat pot roast is worth getting. The meat heats up in the nuker in a few minutes and is tender, juicy, and quite delicious (assuming you like pot roast, of course). The gravy benefits from some additions - possibly a splash of sherry and some seasonings of your choice. But it's a damn good meal for instant food.

                1. I like Amy's Indian inspired frozen meals. Her canned "chicken" soup (all her food is veggie) is surprisingly good also, although you might need two cans to be satisfied. I know you don't have a freezer, but maybe you could keep the frozen dinners in a cold pack until lunch. Here's a link to Amy's products so you know what I'm talking about: http://www.amys.com/products/category.... I get them at Loblaw's and Shopper's that have the organic food section.
                  I also like the PC blue menu canned soups - black bean, lentil, etc., not the dried ones in the cups.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: pescatarian

                    Amy's stuff looks really good- wow! I'll have to poke around and see if I can find it somewheres around here.

                    1. re: sailrox

                      They are pretty good and healthy (high salt, but can't have everything!). I think you should be able to find them in a larger grocery or health food store in your area.

                      1. re: sailrox

                        In Ottawa, IIRC, the big Shoppers Drug Mart on... I want to say Vanier... carries quite a bit of Amy's line. At least, they did three years ago.

                        1. re: vorpal

                          Really... Thanks for the head's up! That makes hunting much easier :)

                      2. re: pescatarian

                        I like Amy's indian meals, too--palek paneer, matter tofu, vegetable korma. For something smaller, Gardenburger's black bean chipotle burrito is good.

                      3. Of the Michelina's frozen pastas, which you can get practically anywhere, I like the Lasagne Alfredo (has little bits of broccoli) and the mac & cheese. Single servings, easy to heat up in a microwave.
                        http://www.michelinas.ca/en/

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: JamieK

                          I got 2 packages of Michelina's Roast Turkey in the Avatage line. I opened up the first one, nuked it, and found NO pieces of turkey anywhere. Checked the second page, it has 2 visible pieces, each about 2 in x 1/2 inch. Not impressed at their QC.

                          1. re: Teep

                            Yeah, the Michelina's are pretty hit and miss and many are downright terrible. The mac & cheese and lasagne alfredo are the only ones I like and they'll do for a fast cheap meal alongside a salad or something. My kid likes them too.

                          2. re: JamieK

                            no frills or price chopper had these things down to about $1 and some pc frozen meals down to $2 and so i grabbed a few of each to test them out. michelina's was just so awful and not at all filling since the quantity was tiny.

                            the pc ones were a revelation. while i don't suggest the risotto at all, the pasta versions (garganelli) were actually pretty darn good for frozen pasta. i do believe i have kept these things out of the freezer just because i forgot to drop them in when i got to work and were perfectly fine. pc seems to do a pretty good job all around.

                            ramen is an awesome option. i particularily love the stuff from PATs and i'll get some precooked frozen dumplings and bring those to work (i know the frozen thing is an issue but it seems ok with these) toss them in the micro for a bit of time to make them room temp and then put them all into a bowl and i use the hot water tap on the coffee machine to finish it all off. awesome.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              this isn't a product.. but as an aside.. if you bring a can opener with you you can often make mean couscous so easily. i'll bring the couscous saturated in a bit of olive oil, tin of tuna, some olives, whatever interesting veg you've got in the fridge, some salt and pepper, etc. then just pour on some hot water and let it warm and fluff right in front of your eyes. pretty darn tasty and no fridge as per my previous suggestions.

                          3. I recently discovered the maple leaf 'fresh' meals.. theyre much larger then the pc or the michelina ones, and they are not frozen, only refrigerated and so they taste less like preservatives.. I wasnt really impressed with the chicken alfredo but the chicken cacciatori and the chicken with mushroom sauce and pasta was really good for a microwavable meal.. They are all very healthy and low in fat as well

                            1. When I was in Loblawas today, I noticed a product called Annie Chun's noodle soup bowls -- no refrigeration required, one minute in the microwave. Several different flavours, no MSG. Haven't tried myself but sounds ideal for your situation.

                              http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/nc...

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: JamieK

                                they( annie chungs) are my personal favorite. I really like the teriyaki bowl. I also like them because the container fully reseals after heating and is reusable( easy for wa;lking w/crutches)
                                I'm super picky have found a couple of amy's brand meals I can do. Haven't found a hit with michelinas. I'm new to convience foods......and hopefully not for long.
                                Think i might be packing a cooler in your situation. Make my own meals and seal o' meal them.

                                1. re: coastie

                                  picked up a a kung pao noodle and pad thai bowl, Previously only a few flavors were available. For what they are they are decent. ( Annie chungs)

                                  1. re: coastie

                                    i like annie chun's sticky rice!

                                  2. re: JamieK

                                    Mmm those look really good. I'll keep an eye out for them.

                                    1. re: JamieK

                                      They're actually really good!

                                      I tried one for tonight's shift, and they're actually really good.

                                      Pluses:
                                      The noodles are really nice. They're "fresh" so there's no having to reconstitute dry noodles.
                                      The spice factor. I love spices and seasonings, and I virtually always find pre-packaged food bland. Not this. Not at all.
                                      The bowl. I wouldn't buy it just for this, but the bowl is supposedly completely biodegradable.
                                      The calories. 140 per 1/2 bowl, which is great.

                                      Minuses:

                                      The price. Not cheap. 3.99 apiece from the Gloucester Loblaws. They're good enough that I'll keep buying them anyways, although not for every meal (at work)
                                      The flavour. The flavour is actually quite good, but I wouldn't call it "Hot and Sour Soup".

                                      The package suggests tossing in soem extra veggies or tofu, and I think I'll do that. Which the additions, I might actually look forward to Heat-and-Eat!

                                      1. re: sailrox

                                        Wow, that's great to hear. Think I'll check them out myself now. Might be something for my daughter to take to school. Thanks for reporting back.

                                        1. re: sailrox

                                          Amazon carries a variety of Annie Chung's products. If you order $25 ( of any combintion of things) shipping is free. - even if you order less and pay for shipping, it's less expensive than any of my local stores. I just sent some to my college kid - much better than ramern.

                                          1. re: janeh

                                            Sadly, not available in Canada, so not open for the original poster. I wish Amazon would increase the breadth of its product lines on Amazon.ca.

                                            1. re: vorpal

                                              I've seen Annie Chun's products in many Toronto stores.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                Oh... I wasn't referring to Annie Chun's products (I really didn't make that clear - sorry), but the tip about savings that one could reap by ordering from Amazon!

                                        2. re: JamieK

                                          That sounds good! I'll have to keep an eye out for them - I'm always looking for prepared foods that don't have msg in them to try...

                                          1. re: JamieK

                                            They sound really good, especially the 'no MSG'! I had a look for them in the grocery store, but sadly Albertsons doesn't see fit to carry them... I'll look in Publix next time I go past.

                                            1. re: JamieK

                                              I love Annie Chun's, especially the thai tom yum spoup bowl which is quite spicy. The other soup bowls are great with a little sriracha mixed in.

                                            2. The PB Blue Menu veggie lasagna is awesome.

                                              And I second the Amy's brand of frozen foods. Now if only I could find some Boca burgers...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: piccola

                                                i am a blue menu frozen meal queen at work - best - chicken curry, sesame chicken, salmon pasta, butter chicken. oh man.

                                              2. Trader Joe's has a very decent tomato bisque soup in a yellow plastic microwave-able tub with lid that goes well with just about anything. My favorite way of having it is with a baguette with either a little butter or cheese on the side.

                                                1. The last time I went to Trader Joes, I tried some Thai Noodles (in the tapered blue box) which I thought were pretty tasty. Even my wife, a confirmed anti-pasta-ite, thought they were good.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: DonShirer

                                                    Very, very unfortunately, I don't think we have TJ in Canada (or at least Ontario), which is too bad, because I loved it when I was living in DC for four months.

                                                    1. re: vorpal

                                                      i wish TJ's was ANYWHERE in Canada.... i've got the coasts covered with friends who visit back and forth enough that it would be a godsend.

                                                  2. Do you have Fantastic foods? Their noodle soup bowls are usually pretty darn tasty (lots of spices, no preservatives).. just add water.. even easier than a frozen meal.

                                                    http://www.fantasticfoods.com/

                                                    1. I like to heat and eat quesadillas... sprinkle tortilla with cheese, nuke, and fold.

                                                      I also really like TJ's breaded frozen cod fillets.

                                                      TJ's mac'n'cheese

                                                      Ka-Me Noodle boxes--i like a lot of the variations and flavors

                                                      Simply Enjoy Chicken Tikka masala

                                                      Kashi Meals

                                                      Cedarlane three enchilada pie

                                                      Taste of Thai products

                                                      1. If you like Indian or Thai, Tasty Bite foods are pretty good. They don't need refrigeration as they're vacuum packed. Dishes like rice pilaf and byriani can even be eaten without heating up.
                                                        Some grocery stores carry it, my Costco does. But you can also get it online http://www.tastybite.com/

                                                        1. If you intend to do this as a lengthy life style, get your blood pressure checked often. All of these packaged foods are loaded with sodium. It's OK in moderation, but if you eat this stuff all the time and have any propensity or family history with HBP or heart problems, be careful. There aren't any warning signs of HBP.

                                                          Suggest you invest in a set of good thermoses to bring in leftover soup, chili, stew, etc.

                                                          1. I don't know what is available in Canada and what is not. I am assuming that Stouffer's probably is, since it is a big company. Since people have been putting in recommendations for frozen food, let me recommend Stouffer's frozen lasagne. I hasten to add that I am recommending the real, frozen lasagne, not the Stouffer's "Lasagne Bake," which is not bad, but is not lasagne, either.

                                                            Turning to the "heat-and-eat" foods that you mentioned, many of these are trumpeted by the advertising on the package as being "shelf stable." Does this mean treated with high heat, or does this mean zapped with gamma rays? The fact that they don't tell you on the package makes me suspicious that it is gamma rays (or some other radioactive substance), which I would rather stay away from, despite some scientists' protestations that this food is perfectly safe. And is there any way to tell how these "shelf stable" foods (often looking like tv dinners) have been preserved?

                                                            1. Stouffer's chicken a la king is kind of a guilty pleasure. Many times I make my own soups and freeze them in individual bowls to take to work. I have also done this with lasagna. However, when I don't have that option, I like just regular Progresso soups in Bean and Macaroni, Tomato Rotini and Chicken Noodle. These hit the spot along with some vegetables, bread and/or crackers. They are usually only 1.50 per can on sale.

                                                              1. I found ORGANIC CLASSICS - ive tried their chicken marsala . chicken picatta, and meatloaf - all come with sides and are by far the most " real " tasting " tv" style dinners I have ever eaten - anyone else tried them ( Im still on crutches so ive really been exploring my prefab options)

                                                                1. Agree with the Amy's references, and the Taste of Thai noodles....also enjoy the PC Chana Masala and the Aloo Gobi. I like the Commensal meals, as well as the occasional frozen burrito too. There are i think , McCain veggie pizzas (the long oblong things), that fare well in the micro, and have nice flavours like the roasted vegetable or the spinach and mushroom, there are also meat versions i think. (but i'm watching my carbs these days) A frozen meal can sit and defrost in the office and usually still be frozen enough by the time you get to micro it. I also like some of the clover leaf tuna pouches that are out there, the curry and the thai. Try some of the Knorr soups instead of the Gardennay. PC has a couple of cup of XXX options like black bean or couscous.......but i find that i have to do a few add ins to make them edible.

                                                                  Michelina's = soggy noodles with watery sauce to me.....plus my grocery store never seem to have anything but alfredo or mac and cheese for non meat eaters like myself..so these things have little in the way of redeeming qualities, taste or nutritionally for me. I do/did like the salad bowl options they had.

                                                                  I have shamefully enjoyed the PC frozen sushi though...maybe you shouldn't listen to me, hehe.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                                    p.s. Costco used to carry these, and i've seen them at Walmart, the cans of tuna meals, that came in spanish with beans and corn, thai, something and asparagus type things...come with a little spoon. I always enjoyed these.