My name is Natalie, and I almost always hate my lunch.

Let me back up… I officially signed with a publisher and you can all expect to see Bake and Destroy: Good Recipes for Bad Vegans on the shelves (virtual shelves and actual shelves) in Spring 2013! You’d think with all the cooking I’m doing as I develop recipes I’d have plenty of leftovers for lunch, but the opposite is true. I’m cooking so much for the book that I just can’t face the kitchen another second in order to actually feed myself. Ironically, as I have been developing delicious, 100% plant-based recipes, I have fallen off the wagon myself, and started eating disgusting lunches containing the lowest form of cheese-like stuff.

With Teno reviewing snacks over on The Snackpot these days, I figured I’d throw my hat into the packaged goods review game as well. So here are some reviews of the frozen meals I’ve been living off of lately. I bought all of these myself, no PR folks involved, so my opinions are 100% genuine. By the way, I know that these are all gross and bad for me. I’ve shamed myself plenty, believe me.

Amy’s Cheese Enchiladas – The folks at Amy’s describe this entree as a “blend of cheeses, accented by olives and peppers.” I think “accented” was a very clever choice of words to describe a dish that is, essentially, two pieces of beige construction paper swimming in cheese-flavored oil. There isn’t a ton of flavor other than salt and oil and guess what? They consider ONE package to be TWO servings, so each one of these I mildly tolerated at lunchtime contained 28g of fat and 480 calories. Gnarly.

candle cafe vegan frozen entreeCandle Cafe Tofu Spinach Ravoli – “Wait, wait, wait,” I said to Tony the other day in the freezer section at Whole Foods. “Is this the same as Candle 79? I fuckin’ love that place!” Sure enough, these frozen entrees come from the Candle Cafe kitchens in NYC, where I enjoyed a delicious vegan feast not too long ago with my lady Melisser, author of A Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life. I admit I was scared, but I was shocked and amazed to find myself actually enjoying my lunch for once. Of course these retail for about $6 each, which is more than a freshly-made sandwich at Potbelly runs me… but it’s worth it to sit at my desk reading Cracked during lunch instead of being out among other humans.

Morning Star Farms Sweet n’ Sour Chick’n – I was so stoked to see Morningstar Farms get into the frozen entree game. I’ve been an office drone since 2008 and one of my major skill sets is eating stuff out of the microwave. When I was a newbie lazy vegetarian all I ate was Morning Star Farms stuff so as a lazy vegetarian lunch-eater, these entrees seemed heaven-sent. The lasagna is pretty good, but I make lasagna at home quite a bit so I bought the Sweet n’ Sour Chick’n a couple of times. The portion is really small, and there are only 4-5 chick’n nuggets in each one. The breading is soggy, and the sauce is more sweet than sour. Pretty gross, all in all.

Kashi vegetarian frozen entreeKashi Mayan Harvest Bake – The whole time I was eating this I kept pulling the box out of the garbage to re-read what was in it. “Plantains with roasted sweet potato, black beans and kale. Spicy ancho sauce with pumpkin seed garnish served over Kashi seven whole grain polenta, plus amaranth.” I admit, it was…weird. But I would eat it again. I also appreciate that one serving = one entire entree so I don’t have to do math to know that I just ate 340 calories and 9g of fat. Kashi stuff tends to have a good amount of protein and fiber, too, so I actually stay full when I eat it.

Amy’s Vegetable Parmesan Bowl – I speak in hyperbole, which is unfortunate because it means I have to go out of my way to describe things I hate when truly I hate them. I fucking hate this entree. I ate it this week and I’m still angry about it. Let me describe it to you. It’s a black, plastic tray half-filled with miscellaneous mushy vegetable-type squish sitting in a puddle of warm water, topped with greasy cheese. I don’t know what the vegetables were, because they tasted like wet thing and clinical depression. But hey, it was only 260 calories so at least I’ll be hungry again in 5 minutes!

Amy’s Mexican Casserole Bowl – Oh Amy’s, I’m not being very nice to you, am I? Let’s talk about one of your entrees I do continue to eat because I love it so. Mexican Casserole, and all its 16g of delicious fat is a staple in my disgusting, microwaved lunch diet. I’ll be honest – I’m just in it for the masa. Yes, I could eat a tamale if masa is all I want, but they don’t have vegetarian tamales in the freezer section at Target, and that’s usually where I am when I realize I didn’t bring anything for lunch. So I microwave this bowl of corn, cheese and beans and try to eat it all before my co-workers notice how gross I am.

Basically SWAD Foods Makes – At the end of the day, I know the truth about all this microwaved garbage I eat for lunch, It’s unhealthy, because it’s full of fats and salt to make it taste OK, and it doesn’t really taste OK because it’s made in the microwave and prone to mushiness. It’s the price I’m willing to pay to not have to wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to make myself lunch. Also, I kind of hate sandwiches, which are the official food of lunchtime. So what’s a girl to do?

Thankfully, there is SWAD. I get these packets for $1-2/each at my local Indian grocery store, and I’ve seen them in most major grocery stores. Zap a packet for 2 minutes and pour it over rice for a lunch that actually tastes like something, and has enough lentils and chickpeas and whatnot to keep you full until 4pm granola bar time. If you’ve never had paneer cheese, you might not want SWAD to be your first exposure, but I can vouch for all the cheeseless vegetarian dishes.

So that’s my confession about how disguising I am Monday-Friday between the hours of 12pm and 1pm. Actually typing that out might have influenced me to work on more entrees for my book so I have something to eat that I don’t have to be ashamed of. What do you guys eat for lunch? Anything I should be eating?