Test Drive Subject: Imagine Organic Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
What It Is: A new heat-and-serve organic chicken noodle soup in an easy-to-pour, easy to tear Tetra pak. An ideal lunchtime solution for a person like me who doesn't really cook much and is admittedly a little lazy in the kitchen.
What's In It: According to the ingredient listing on the website: filtered water, organic chicken dark meat (includes water, organic corn starch, sea salt, organic carrots, organic celery, organic enriched egg noodles (organic semolina flour [wheat], organic whole eggs, organic egg whites, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacin, ferrous sulfate, folic acid), organic rice starch, flavor, organic chicken broth concentrate (organic chicken broth, organic chicken flavor, organic chicken fat, organic soy sauce powder organic soy sauce (water, organic soybeans, salt), organic corn maltodextrin, salt), sea salt, yeast extract, organic canola oil, organic vegetables (organic carrot, organic celery, organic onions), organic onion powder, organic turmeric, flavoring, organic flavor), seat salt, organic onion powder, organic turmeric, organic parsley.
That's a lot of organic!
Contains: soy, egg, wheat
Certified organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI)
Putting It To Use: Is anything easier and more enjoyable than tearing open a Tetra pack, pouring the soup into a pot, heating said pot on med-low, and then stirring occasionally but generally going about your business for 10 minutes or so? "Preparation" of the Imagine soup was a breeze.
Our Thoughts: First, you should know that I L.O.V.E. soup. I can eat it day and night, hot or cold, any time of the year. There are two things I will never get tired of: soup and cheese. Oh, and bacon. Oh, and fruit.
So I have pretty high standards for my soup, and especially chicken soup. My mom's is the best (5 stars!), my grandma's was the second-best (4.5 stars!). Canned and prepared soups will do the trick, but generally don't fool me (1 - 3 stars). How did Imagine's soup measure up?
Heartiness: 4/5 -- Lots of spiral noodles, good size chunks of chicken, lots of carrot cubes and finely diced celery, the latter of which I don't like much, so this ratio was a good mix for me. The broth was clear and moderately thick.
Texture: 2.5/5 -- Surprisingly tasty and tender chicken -- not too stringy or bland. The carrots and noodles were on the mushy side, which is to be expected from prepared soups, but they weren't inedible. The celery was barely noticeable in terms of texture -- another plus for me. The broth, while relatively thick, was on the slippery side -- I think this is due to the organic rice starch, which they may have added to give the broth some body. It's OK, but if you've ever tasted gravy thickened with starch, you know what that round, odd texture fees like. Again, it's not unbearable, but it ain't homemade!
Taste: 3/5 -- Of all the soup-in-a-box I've had, I think Imagine ranks at the top. You can definitely smell the chicken flavour when you open the box, and overall the soup does taste like chicken soup, in spite of the mushiness. I added a little spinach afterward for some greens, but I think it would also be good with an egg stirred into it, sweet potato, avocado and rice, you name it.
Convenience: 5/5 -- Cooking doesn't get easier than this. Seriously. The only thing that's easier is when your mom brings you soup because you're sick.
Overall: 3/5 -- Imagine is a good choice if you're going to go the heat-and-serve route. But before you do, see my warning below.
The Warning: As with all prepared soups, watch out for the sodium, by golly. Even though it's organic, Imagine's chicken soup is not for the sodium-averse. It's a salty broth with a high sodium content, which seems to me to somewhat cancel out the benefits of the organic ingredients. This is often the case with prepared, pre-packaged foods, whether they're organic or not. So read the label, and shop wisely. Or ask your mom to come over for dinner.