About a week ago, I got an email from Lucinda Spurr at Kettle Cuisine, asking if I’d like to give their soups a try. Since, as you know, I’m not a big fan of prepared foods, I almost wrote back immediately and gave her my usual schtick on that subject. But because I hadn’t heard of Kettle Cuisine before, I decided to take a look at their website first. There I discovered two very important facts:
1. Kettle Cuisine makes a variety of single-serving frozen soups–all of which are gluten-free. Some are also dairy-free, and some are vegetarian.
2. The company’s found, Jerry Shafir, was an English major at Yale before moving on to get an MBA at Harvard.
Yes, that’s right, an English major. They had me at gluten-free, but the whole English major thing put their pitch right over the top. I wrote back to Lucinda, told her I’d be happy to try their soups, and received a shipment last Wednesday.
That shipment couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly. Wednesday evening was really hectic for the Foodie family, so we wound up trying three varieties of the frozen soup right away: Chicken Noodle (with rice noodles), Chicken Chili, and Roasted Vegetable. Each bowl of soup needs about 4 1/2 minutes of cooking time in our little microwave, after which they’re ready to go straight to the dinner table.
The Girl loves chicken noodle soup, so I knew she’d be a hard sell. The rice noodles were a different texture than what she’s used to, and at first that bothered her a little; eventually, though, she determined that they weren’t so bad. The broth had a rich chicken flavor, not watery, and the carrots had stayed nice and firm through the freezing and cooking process. Substantial chunks of chicken brought everything together. I liked this soup a lot. The Girl determined “It’s not my favorite, but I’d eat it again.”
I heated up the Chicken Chili for myself. It’s full of white beans, chunks of chicken, and a thick broth flavored with cilantro–that was a nice surprise. One of the problems with prepared chili is that, all too often, the spices are so heavy that they block out any real taste or texture; you’re too busy paying attention to your burning tongue to notice whether the beans are tender or slimy. That wasn’t the case with this chili, though. It was a little heavier on the flavor of green pepper than what I’d make for myself, but I really enjoyed it.
Once The Hubs got home from work, I heated up his selection: Roasted Vegetable Soup. This variety is vegetarian, which really let the flavor of the spices come through. Although the ingredient list doesn’t specify which spices were used, I’m pretty sure I tasted thyme, which is one of my favorite additions to vegetable soup. Once again, the veggies–carrots, potatoes, and celery, among others–had retained their texture through the freezeing and cooking process. Of the first three varieties we tried, this one was my hands-down favorite.
This afternoon, we tried two more varieties: Three Bean Chili–which features red, black, and pinto beans, as well as corn and three kinds of peppers–and Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans. The Three Bean Chili (pictured at right) is nicely spicy without being overpowering. It’s filled with veggies and makes for a very hearty meal. The Angus Chili was also tasty, but I was less happy with the texture of this soup than some of the others we’d tried–I kept coming across something I could only describe as slimy, and I wasn’t sure what it was. When I looked at the ingredient label, I saw that this variety of chili includes pork fat, and I was reminded of those chunks of pork I sometimes found in canned pork and beans when I was a kid. However, I also noted that cocoa powder was among the ingredients, which accounted for the depth of flavor that countered the acidity of the tomatoes–which can really overpower any soup with a tomato-based broth.
Each serving of Kettle Cuisine soups is 10 ounces–slightly more than a cup–but very filling. In fact, I couldn’t even finish my bowl of the beef chili today, though The Hubs was happy to help me out with it. Of the 10 varieties available in single-serving bowls, 4 are vegetarian in addition to being gluten-free. I can’t even tell you how nice it was to be able to look at their complete line of offerings and know I could choose anything I wanted. Once you’ve given up gluten, that sense of unlimited options becomes a pretty rare experience.
I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to purchase these soups again, though I was sad to find out that Kettle Cuisine is available at only one store in my area. I have, however, already written to HEB and asked them to start carrying this brand at my local store. You can find out where Kettle Cuisine is available in your area by using this store locator.
Update: Although HEB isn’t listed as a location where Kettle Cuisine soups are available, yesterday I discovered three varieties hiding in the frozen vegetable section of my local store. I tried the Organic Mushroom and Potato Soup, and it was just as tasty as the other varieties I’ve sampled. (In fact, it might be my new favorite.)