January needs to be re-named “National Feel-Bad-About-What-You’ve-Done-To-Your-Body-The-Past-90-Days Month.” With all the commercials for Zumba, The Lap-Band, free gym membership trials, and conveniently-placed banner ads referring you to the “Top 10 Best Ways to Bust Your Booty,” it’s a wonder we don’t all suddenly gain 120 pounds from guilt and start rolling ourselves down the street to work each day. Why do we engage in this bizarre ritual of kidding ourselves every year when all anyone wants to do is eat yummy food and feel convinced that if they ran into Tom Hardy on the way to the Laundromat with their filthy socks and scads of unmentionables piled in a basket and their baggy, faded sweatpants on, heâ€™d still give them the sexy-eye because daaaamn, they look good?
To combat the inevitable struggle of many of those hoping to shed pounds, the Amy’s team has done a pretty great job here, translating these normally fattening foods into the language of diet organic cuisine. Filling out the roster of new items: Spinach Lasagna, Black Bean & Cheese Enchilada, Pasta & Veggies, and Soft Taco Fiesta.
I went for the Soft Taco Fiesta first because Iâ€™d just bought a piÃ±ata and needed a reason to bust it open. No, Iâ€™m lying. I didnâ€™t need a reason.
The colors used for the soft tacoâ€™s packaging are pretty muted for something thatâ€™s supposed to evoke a wild food party. The design is more circa 1990 Southwest Adobe-style retiree living room, and I felt more like taking a siesta than having a fiesta. WOCKA-WOCKA-WOCKA! No? Go to hell.
I have to say that once cooked, the contents of the bowl look pretty N-to-the-Asty. But, you see, this soft taco contraption is more like a taco pie without the crust than a street taco. The corn tortilla is layered between a mound of mild salsa with black beans and cheese and a bed of nicely-seasoned brown rice, corn, and vegetables. As a result, the tortilla isn’t necessarily firm, but it could be a lot worse. It doesn’t disintegrate under the weight of the sauce and seasonings. The ranchero salsa flavor is spicy, but not overpowering, and mingles nicely with the tomatillo blend. The result is a dish that has plenty of flavor and barely any of the sogginess one comes to expect from nuked Mexican food.
The Pasta & Veggies bowl is another convincing re-design of a popular ethnic food â€“ thick, hearty sauce and grated parmesan cheese accompany a pretty filling bowl of rotini, crunchy asparagus, broccoli florets, and shallots, for fewer calories. Similar to the somewhat-robust tortilla in the Fiesta bowl, the noodles retain a nice texture and come out, as the Italians say, al dente. Thatâ€™s right. I just got all Rosetta Stone on that azz. Another plus: there doesnâ€™t appear to be any excess water at the bottom of the bowl after cooking, which tends to happen a lot with frozen pasta meals.
The ultra-literal name isnâ€™t really something I can get behind, since itâ€™s clearly pasta marinara in thereâ€¦ but, hey, if slapping the word “Veggies” on the box in order to align with the company mission statement â€“ creating healthy, organic, vegetarian meals by any means necessary or something like that â€“ helps you sleep at night, then go for it, Amyâ€™s.
Though it also suffers from the same yawn-worthy pastel color scheme that turned my awesome personal taco party into a sober and mature taco observance, the Pasta & Veggie bowlâ€™s flavor is kick-ass. I was shocked â€“ SHOCKED to actually taste the parmesan cheese. So many of these so-called “diet” items really skimp on important accents such as cheese, but the Pasta & Veggies meal delivered. It tasted like the real thing, not some limp, flavorless imitation.
If National Freak-Out Month (January) is gonna be tough for you because you inhaled a metric shit-ton of Reeseâ€™s Peanut Butter Cups and mini Snickers bars in October, followed by plates and plates of cornbread stuffing and mashed potatoes coated in gravy in November, and then topped it all off with frosted Snowman cookies, latkes and gallons of egg nog in December, donâ€™t throw yourself under the Little Debbie snack cake delivery truck just yet. There is hope, little plump one. Delicious hope.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1 bowl/227 grams â€“ Soft Taco Fiesta – 220 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein. Pasta & Veggies – 210 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 470 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein.)
Item: Amy’s Light & Lean (Soft Taco Fiesta and Pasta & Veggie)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Soft Taco Fiesta)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Pasta & Veggie Bowl)
Pros: Tastes like the real thing. Tom Hardy. Low-fat/low-cal. PiÃ±atas. Fozzie Bear.
Cons: Looking like a hot mess on laundry day. “Veggie.” Grandmaâ€™s condo in Santa Fe. The Lap Band.