Friday, September 13, 2013

Memphis Nosh (Kind of): The Busy Lunch Edition

As most of you know, I'm a grad student, but I also work in my department as the department secretary.

Or, really, the first person you see when you walk in the door.

I love my job. I love being around people, getting to do something different every day, being a part of the Memphis/department community.

But, especially this time of year, it's really busy.

Gone are the days of walking over to R.P. Tracks for lunch - I still get an hour, but there are 10 times as many people here and I absolutely can only take an hour.

This presents 2 problems.

1. The UC is right across from my building. So I constantly want to go buy overpriced, not particularly good food from our dining options. And since I've been trying to eat better, this isn't really a good plan - almost nothing is healthy, and if it is, it's even more expensive.

2. I'm very lazy, and making a bunch of meals on Sunday just isn't how I roll.

Actually there's 1 more problem:

3. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work from 8-4:30 and then teach from 5:30-7, and then go to the gym from 7:45-9. Soooooo...I need to eat at least 3 times in there.

Breakfast I usually eat, or at least heat up at home. I've been eating these:

They aren't the most amazing thing in the world, but the pepperjack cheese makes them pretty good. And they're a solid breakfast for someone who is not a breakfast eater. 

I like breakfast foods, just not in the morning. 

I'm a weirdo. 

I've also been drinking this: 

The "light" version is way better I think - it's just good iced coffee for when it's so hot outside. I'll switch to the Keurig soon (I hope). 

So breakfast I've got. But lunch is harder. We have a microwave and a fridge, but most frozen dinners are just...gross. There are a couple of them that I like, like this one from Lean Cuisine: 

But they're tiny (300 calories for lunch is fine, but the portion size is really little, and they're kind of salty) and, honestly, cooked then frozen then unfrozen chicken can be kind

But I was in the store the other day and found something that has changed the game. 

One of my favorite foods, that I'm honestly too lazy to make anyway, in a frozen form that isn't a billion dollars and smells/looks/tastes amazing. 

This guy: 

Bertolli Rustico Bakes - they claim that it's "baked taste from the microwave" and that it's a "hearty marinara sauce." Big claims. 

After 6 minutes in the microwave (which was just enough time - it's a 900 watt), this is what I got: 

Not a bad size. Looks cheesy. Lots of herbs. Chicken doesn't look soggy. 

So far so good. 

So I cut up some of the chicken (which is not just in one giant patty, thank goodness), and this is what I get: 

*Filter, but only because of the fluorescent Satan lights. 

Holy Cheesus! 

Actually white chicken! 

Pasta that doesn't disintegrate on a (plastic) fork!




Sweeping declaration. 

The best frozen meal I've ever had. 

For realz. 

Now, would I love to be able to make fresh organic salads and perfectly roasted vegetables and delicately seasoned filets of various cute animals for lunch? 


Do I live in a world where rainbows and unicorns prance around, money doesn't exist, and I'm free to frolic with the woodland creatures all day? 


This, though, is as close to homemade lunch as I'm going to get out of the freezer. 

It actually does taste baked, and the sauce isn't watery. 

It's not too salty. 



I didn't have to add any seasoning to it. 

At all. 


I took a look at the box and noticed a couple of things. 

1. It gives you a wine pairing. I would love to drink wine at lunch. 

2. It's actually not particularly unhealthy, at least in comparison: 

430 calories for lunch isn't bad, especially considering that with my breakfast and dinner, and a snack between work and class, I'm barely getting as many as the nutritionist said I should if I go to the gym, which I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Plus I'm supposed to not eat carbs after lunch (she said) so I like pasta at lunch. 

The salt and saturated fat are a little higher than I would like, but it has a ton of fiber, and I'm not eating this everyday or for every meal. 

Let's compare - "real chicken parmigiana" at a restaurant and this, and food at the UC and this:

Olive Garden Chicken Parmigiana lunch portion (about the same size) is 570 calories, more fat, same saturated fat, way more sodium, and is $9.99. This was $3.99 in the store, and I didn't have to drive there, tip, or get tempted by those damn breadsticks. 

In the UC there's a Burger King - let's be honest, that's what I would eat. A Chicken Parmesan sandwich is 650 calories, 30 g fat, and 1940 mg of sodium. That's without fries (340 calories, 15g fat, 480mg sodium for the small) or the other tempting things. And I'd have to fight the hordes of students and pay around $9 at the exorbitant UC prices.

So overall, on 2 days out of the week when I need some extra carbs anyway, this isn't a bad choice. 

And it's freaking delicious. 

This has, unfortunately, not happened yet: 

I also got one of the new "Al Dente" meals from Bertolli to try - the Chicken Florentine Alfredo:

I haven't tried this one yet, but I have high hopes. 

So these aren't exactly diet foods, but they're easy and quick and not terribly expensive. 

You can buy these at Target or Kroger - go to the new nice on on Highland and Poplar if you go though, because they're awesome. 

**No, but really, I go there all the time and just wander around and buy expensive cheese. It's awesome. 

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