The Gluten Free Review: Evol. Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese
The evol. Brand
Over the last few years I've come to know and trust evol. as a brand. It started with their Mexican-style bowls, which were often the only available option for a workday lunch, and now they have gluten free burritos and quesadillas, as well as Thai, Indian and pasta options. They're expanding their horizons, and I am glad to follow them on this food journey.
One thing I like about this brand is that gluten free products are very clearly labeled. Of course they have the little "Certified" logo on the box, but items that would normally not be gluten free very clearly state "gluten free" above the product name, in a similar font. There is no guessing. Your gluten free quesadillas will use a different font color and state explicitly that they are gluten free. If it does not say gluten free on the box, it is not gluten free. (I should note that Items that would typically be gluten free, such as rice bowls and curries, follow the Amy's trend of stating this toward the bottom of the box front.)
Other labels you may find on their boxes include "Vegetarian" and "All Natural." In addition to that, there's usually something explaining how much protein is in a meal, which is, I guess, a selling point. Your food should have some kind of redeeming nutritional value, and protein is a good one, since it helps you feel full.
This brand isn't just concerned about your health, however. Their boxes are recyclable, and the paper bowls are compostable. If you're concerned that you do not have enough tee shirts, you can also save the points on the box and redeem them for evol. brand tee shirts featuring food-related slogans.
What's in the Box?
The box describes this meal as "Gluten free elbow noodles, caramelized onions and chives--All combined with an insanely tasty smoked gouda cheese sauce."
On the back we get more description of the cheese. "Our hickory smoked gouda is an award winning, hand-crafted artisan cheese made in Michigan using local dairy cows. It is pure smokey, creamy deliciousness."
The meal is an 8-ounce bowl that contains:
23 g of fat
590 mg of sodium
13 g of protein
25% RDA Vitamin A
15% RDA Vitamin C
20% RDA Calcium
4% RDA Iron
Allergens include: Milk and eggs
I chose to prepare this in the oven rather than the microwave. Although this is something I only get to do when I'm at home (rather than at work), I feel like it's fairest to first evaluate the product when prepared in the "best" way possible. If I eat it again, I can try it in the microwave and see if it's any different.
Prepared in the microwave, by the way, you can enjoy your meal in 4 minutes. In the oven you have to remove the overwrap and stick foil over it before baking it for 60 minutes at 350. That's a long wait for your dinner.
When I first removed the overwrap to put it in the oven, I could smell the product. It wasn't a bad smell, but there was a fairly obvious cheesy smell coming from it. Halfway through cooking I peeked in on it, and there was a smokey smell that was very faint. My concern with this product is that it will be too over-poweringly smokey or cheesy (in a bad way), much like some gouda I sampled the other day at a supermarket which made me immediately regret putting it in my mouth. I have enjoyed gouda (especially smoked gouda) in the past, so I hope that this particular gouda will be "gooda."
The first bite was ... underwhelming. I stirred the pasta around a little bit and found that the noodles break apart fairly easily and stick to the sides of the paper bowl while cooking. I try to pry some of the noodles from the bowl, but they don't come off without a fight. They often take some of the paper bowl with them when they do, so I give up and just scrape what I can.
The flavor is very mild, and at first it seems almost bland. The smell is fantastically smokey, but the first bite is almost like wet noodle, with just a little bit of smoke. As I worked my way through the bowl, I was able to taste a little more of the cheese. The caramelized onions blended in fairly well with the noodles and didn't provide a jarring crunch, and the flavor complemented the cheese well once that cheese flavor was apparent. There were visible chives, but I didn't see many and the flavor wasn't noticeable.
I later tried this dinner in the microwave, and what a difference that makes! The noodles don't stick to the bowl, don't break apart or stick together so easily, and the sauce is creamy and has a flavor! Generally a frozen dinner is better in the oven, but this one is definitely microwave material. Seriously, don't even bother with an hour in the oven and wasting tin foil. Cut a one-inch slit in the plastic and toss this sucker in the microwave for four minutes. Done.
This bowl cost $4.49 at my local Target. It was one of the most expensive evol. dinners available and was not on promotion. This brand does go on promotion occasionally, so it is possible that you might get a better price in the future.
The Verdict (Based on Microwaving)
Brand Trustworthiness: 10/10
Ease of Cooking: 8/10
Overall Score: 7.83
Would buy again, but it's still too expensive to buy regularly. Amy's GF mac and cheese is usually $3.49 or cheaper, and I'm not sure it's worth it to pay the extra dollar.