1. Nick’s Couch Potatoes
Even better than mom’s mashed potatoes, these are spiked with sharp cheddar, parmesan and “bacon-less” bits (textured low fat soy flour, salt, natural flavors and caramel color), which add protein and a smoky flavor to the carb-filled organic potato flakes. You’ll swear it’s real bacon. “Amazingly addictive,” says one tester.
2. Outrageous Outback Oatmeal
With so many cheaper instant alternatives out there, I was skeptical of the value of the Mary Janes Farm version. But this version is good for any meal of the day and well worth a little extra dough. “This is how I always want other oatmeals to taste, but they don’t.,” says one tester. Tempered with creamy dry soymilk, Outrageous Outback Oatmeal is packed with sweet currants, crunchy sunflower seeds, and warming spices. Way better than Quaker packets.
Mac and cheese meets chili in this tasty, hearty blend. Pour water in the pouch, wait 8 minutes and start chowing. The durum semolina pasta holds a good, firm texture while sharp cheddar, lentils, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, red bell peppers, garlic and spices round out this healthy, moderately spicy meal. I could eat this meal every day but full disclosure: Like most bean dishes, this one generates some gassiness.
4. Black Bean Hummus
This great-tasting hummus just needs a vessel to spread it on—bagel, pita, bread or tortilla–for a perfect cold lunch. Mix with boiling water, stir well, wait five minutes, then let it chill to your taste. Black beans, roasted sesame seeds, lemon oil and spices make the Mediterranean flavor come alive in the backcountry. The only reason this scored fourth in our test is that it’s not a complete meal on its own.
5. Santa Fe Pasta
It could be a regional bias of two Northwestern ignoramuses, but the flavoring and combination of ingredients in this admittedly complete and healthy meal seemed a bit off. Pasta, cheddar, corn, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapeños are all great in my book. But something about the spice blend—cumin, cilantro and garlic—didn’t appeal to some of our taste testers. (Suggestion: Before you buy this one in bulk, order a single serving to see if you like it.)
6. Bavarian Chocolate Mousse
The only reason this comes last is that it’s dessert. Just add water, stir, and be patient. This thick, creamy, rich dessert gets better the longer it sits. “It tastes like pudding after 15 minutes in near-freezing temps and like ice cream in close to an hour,” says one tester.