Culinary Chic

There’s nothing quite like a homemade lunch, but sometimes I’m just too lazy to prepare lunch in advance. Even though I like to take the easy way out more often than not, it’s important for me to have easily accessible lunches that aren’t too expensive. Sure, I would love to go out to eat every single day, but it just isn’t realistic for my wallet or my waistline. I tend to gravitate towards the frozen food section for the obvious reasons – cost and convenience. Unfortunately in most cases this means some type of sacrifice on taste. Recently Lean Cuisine launched a Culinary Collection line of frozen meals, so when DailyBuzz Food offered the opportunity for me to try them out, I immediately signed up.

One thing I appreciate is vegetarian options, which are harder to come by than you’d think; it seems as though the majority of frozen meals available have chicken in them. One thing that always blows my mind is soup – they have so many veggie friendly options (lentil, black bean, pasta and veggies), but so many of them aren’t actually vegetarian! Of course being only 6 months in I sometimes forget to check the label since I assume things that don’t include meat on the initial package mean it won’t include animal products on the ingredient’s list. Thankfully I’m getting better at it. So I was initially nervous that there wouldn’t be many options for me to choose from within the Culinary Collection, but I was pleasantly surprised! After much debate, I decided on their Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli entree, and couldn’t wait to dig in at lunch.


It’s always a pat on the back when you’re heating something up in the work kitchen and someone makes a comment that it smells good… which is exactly what happened when I was heating up my lunch! You never want to be the person that stinks up the entire room (cough, fish re-heaters, cough). So with the smell already getting a thumbs up from me and my co-workers, it was time to eat. Verdict? YUM! As with all frozen meals, though, I found myself wanting more when I was done. Of course that’s a good thing because it means I enjoyed it, but it was just shy of being enough for this runner girl.


While the picture doesn’t do it justice, this dish has a lot of flavor. It’s half-mooned ravioli filled with portabello and button mushrooms, romano and ricotta cheeses, in a creamy marsala wine sauce with spinach and red peppers. I definitely tasted all of those ingredients, which was impressive. It’s nutritional values are pretty solid, too, with 14g of protein 3g of fiber, and a total of 290 calories. Paired with some fruit, yogurt, or other healthy options makes for a well-rounded, quick, and easy lunch. I’m definitely looking forward to trying their other varieties!

Have you tried any of the Lean Cuisine “Culinary Chic” dinners?
What do you usually have for lunch?

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Lean Cuisine through DailyBuzz Food to help promote their new line of Chef’s Pick products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Lean Cuisine!

More Than Bread

When I was in middle school, a Panera Bread opened in town. I remember spending multiple half-days downtown, wandering in and out of shops, and most lunches were enjoyed at Panera. You could usually find me with a bacon turkey bravo sandwich, or a bread bowl filled with creamy chicken and wild rice soup. And you can’t forget about the chocolate chip bagels – I had never encountered such a treat before! It was the first place I went after I got my braces off sophomore year of high school, and where I went for lunch after getting a cast for breaking my finger. It’s a place I was very familiar with, but over the last few years, fell out of favor.

So, when I was asked if I would be interested in taking a trip to review their soups, I was more than happy to reacquaint myself with Panera. One thing I remembered, and really like, is that their soup selections change depending on the day. Since it’s listed on their website and it’s the same each week, it’s easy to keep track and visit on your favorite soup days! One of my best friends from high school was obsessed with their baked potato soup, so I remember we always had to go on Fridays so she could get it. As a serious planner, I appreciate that knowledge ahead of time!

Being new to the world of full-fledged vegetarianism, I’m always happy to see when restaurants label things as vegetarian (as well as gluten free and dairy free)… it helps make things easier. With their easy to spot labeling, I knew right away which soups I could (and couldn’t) enjoy. So I set my sights on the low-fat vegetarian black bean soup – the plump beans simmered in a mildly spicy broth was just what I needed. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my expectations weren’t high, simply because most black beans soups I’ve had while dining out have been less than fantastic… they’re usually on the watery side and far from generous when it comes to the black beans. This soup, however, was a pleasant surprise.

I paired the soup with their Mediterranean veggie sandwich (I had to go with the “You Pick Two!”), and it was a completely satisfying and delicious meal. It was just the push I needed to make my visits to Panera more frequent. I’m hooked on that black bean soup! And, the veggie sandwich was just the right amount of crisp vegetables, dressing, and feta cheese. And besides, who doesn’t love soup in a sourdough bread bowl? I can’t wait to head back to try out more soup – their creamy tomato soup and new grilled cheese is calling my name!

Have you been to Panera? What’s your favorite item?
Soup lover? Share your favorite soups!  

Disclaimer: I was sent a gift card to try Panera’s soup and write about it. All thoughts & opinons are my own.