March 26, 2010

Morningstar Sweet and Sour Chik'n

This week, I take on one of Morningstar Farms newest products - Morningstar Sweet & Sour Chik'n. They've crossed over from meal starters to actual meals. I was a little skeptical about the fake meat chicken part, since results vary widely. I checked out the ingredients, and man, are there a lot. Easily half, maybe two-thirds of the ingredients are just for the fake meat nuggets. But then there's some other good stuff - brown rice, red and green bell peppers, pineapple (I do like pineapple in my sweet and sour meals), and carrots. This could be okay.

I popped it in the microwave for 3 minutes, then stirred it up. It smelled good, for sure. I took a bite of just the fake chicken nugget. It had kind of a weird flavor. The sort of thing that, had I not eaten meat any time in the last month or so, I might confuse for meaty flavor. The texture was nice, though. It was very tender and actually pretty moist. Then I had a bite with the rice and veggies and sauce. No more weird flavor - the sauce covered it up.

I also, and this may sound weird, really liked the breading on the fake chicken. Yes, it was soggy, but it had a good flavor. The rice had kind of a weird texture - that's what happens with cooked-then-frozen-then-reheated rice, I suppose. But with all the ingredients mixed together, after a couple bites, this meal was pretty tasty. I'd eat this again.

The experience:
Texture - the fake meat chunks had a nicely tender, moist texture
Flavor - a little weird on its own, but you're not supposed to eat it on its own

Final grade for this attempt: A-

March 19, 2010

Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger

This week, I'm tasting something that isn't technically fake meat, since it claims no meat-like characteristics, but is intended to serve the same purpose as meat, so I'm counting it. I'm talking about Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers. I was intrigued by the company's tagline, "Where you recognize all the ingredients" - I did, in fact, recognize all the ingredients. Also, this product is "certified vegan" and they make a big deal out of being made from oat bran. I don't know that I consider that a big deal, but whatever. I'm not here to critique their marketing - just their food.

I've been eating a lot of veggie burgers lately, so I kind of have the routine down. Once again, the box made no mention of stovetop instructions, but I wasn't about to use my oven for something like this. I pretended my non-stick pan was a grill, and carried on. Teensy bit of oil, heat, flip, heat, and voila! Veggie burger! Toasted bun, some ketchup, some lettuce, and I've got a meal! The only catch here was that after the first flip, as the patty was mostly defrosted, it got really fragile. A piece of it broke off, as I was attempting to move it around in the pan.

Okay, now to the most important part. I took a big bite, expecting a standard veggie burger experience, but was quite disappointed. There was an unidentifiable off-flavor. I examined the list of ingredients again, trying to place it, but came up empty. I mean, I'm not the biggest pea fan, and these weren't a great example of peas, but it didn't taste like peas. I even dissected the burger a little bit, since many of the ingredients were actually visually identifiable, but to no avail. Just a weird off-flavor, which was pretty tenacious. Maybe it was the oat bran they were so proud of. Hard to say. What I do know is that I'm not terribly eager to put more of these into my mouth. Sorry, Dr. Praeger - I do recognize all the ingredients, but something here just isn't doing it for me.

The experience:
Texture - Very fragile - fell apart easily
Flavor - Some unidentifiable off-flavor that ruined the experience for me

If anyone else has tried these and knows what that flavor might be, please let me know!

Final grade for this attempt: D-

March 12, 2010

taking the week off

Sorry everybody - I did not manage to fit any new fake meat items into my diet this week. We've been stocking up on some new stuff to test out, though, and I'm just starting my spring break (woo!), so I'll try to work up a stockpile of reviews for the next time I get too lazy busy.

For now, check out the cookies I'm baking right now. They came from this website. I only modified it slightly (unusual for me), and only because I didn't want to pay the exorbitant price for almond paste at my grocery store while having a bunch of whole almonds on hand.

For your reference (and mine), I just ground up 3 ounces of almonds in my mini food processor, added an ounce of sugar, about a teaspoon of water, and a half teaspoon of almond extract, and substituted that for the 3 ounces of almond paste the recipe calls for. And yes - I included the optional 3/4 cup sliced almonds (had those on hand as well).

I'm waiting for the cookies to cool, but the dough was DELICIOUS!

Have a good weekend!

March 5, 2010

Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlets, second attempt

As promised, I'm giving the Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlets another shot. The plan I came up with was a modest one - I was going to make a chef salad. But first, I was going to give the cutlets a little boost. The box suggested using a marinade before grilling, so that's exactly what I did.

I mixed together some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and dumped it all into a bag with the two remaining cutlets. Then I set them aside while I prepared all the other ingredients. It was a pretty simple salad, with whatever was in my fridge. I kind of wish I'd had some tomatoes, but tomatoes in winter are both pricey and not terribly tasty, so I don't keep them around much. But I shredded some lettuce, I hard-boiled some eggs, I sprinkled some sharp cheddar and some shredded parmesan. And yes, I had some pre-cooked bacon pieces in the fridge, I admit. This was not a completely vegetarian salad. But I'm not a vegetarian, so I'm allowed!

Finally, the salads were ready for their fake meat chicken cutlet. I threw the delicious-smelling cutlets onto my Foreman grill, and cooked until heated throughout, as directed. Neither of my cooking attempts took as long as the box said it would, even accounting for the double-sided cooking of the Foreman. So be aware if you cook these at home - don't rely solely on the timer. Check them! I'm sure overcooking them would do them no favors.

Anyway, I sliced up the cutlets and distributed them among the salads. We topped with the dressings of our choices (Caesar for me this time), and dug in. This was, as expected, a better experience than eating the naked cutlet. It had picked up some moisture from the marinade, but not as much as I would have liked. Luckily, the salad provided additional moisture, so it wasn't too bad. The weirdest thing was that the flavor of the fake chicken, when combined with the lettuce, tasted less like chicken than the fake chicken on its own. I'm not exactly sure what caused this. In any case, the flavor was not unpleasant - it was just less chicken-like.

The experience:
Texture - not as dry this time, thanks to the marinade and other ingredients
Flavor - picked up the flavors in the marinade quite well, just like real chicken

Final grade: A-