March 25, 2011

Morningstar Farms Tomato & Basil Pizza Burger

This week, it's time for another veggie burger! I'm going to tell you all about Morningstar Tomato & Basil Pizza Burgers. As soon as I saw those I knew I had to try them. I mean, I like pizza, and I like burgers - how could a pizza burger not be awesome?

To start, Morningstar has no idea how long their food takes to heat up. They say that it will take 10-11 minutes in a skillet for these to be ready. I spent about 5 minutes from the minute I walked into the kitchen to actually taking my first bite. So please, use your judgment - just cook it until it's hot.

I had no idea what to eat this burger with, so I just put it on a bun, figuring that I could always add things later. Turns out, it needs nothing. Not even sure it needed the bun, but it would have been a little messier to eat without it. I cooked it in a teensy bit of olive oil, figuring that the flavor could only help, so it got a nice crispiness that you can only really get by cooking something in oil.

The flavor, though, is where this burger really shines. It actually tasted just like a supreme pizza. I was very surprised. I wouldn't have been, if I'd read the ingredients first. It contains most of the same ingredients as a supreme pizza (bell pepper, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese) and the things that it leaves out (sausage and pepperoni) are still represented. In one of my bites, I caught a distinct fennel flavor, which is a very sausage-y flavor, and the burger as a whole had a mild spiciness, which is mostly what the pepperoni brings to the supreme pizza experience.

All in all, I'd say this is a very tasty burger. I've eaten it again since the first one, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to eat supreme pizza. This is a strange yet tasty burger.

The experience:
Texture - standard veggie burger experience
Flavor - just like a supreme pizza in a patty

Final grade for this attempt: A

March 18, 2011

Trader Joe's Soy Nuggets

A little while back, I got an e-mail from a reader who was on the hunt for vegan chicken nuggets. I took a peek in my freezer and saw a couple different vegan chicken nuggets that I'd apparently been hoarding, so I threw them in the oven to test them out. This review is for you, Carol! Thanks for reading!

First up, Trader Joe's Soy Nuggets. These cooked up crazy-fast in the oven. I believe it was about 4 minutes, then flip them, then another 4-5 minutes and then they're piping hot and crispy! Just like magic! Sort of. Anyway, once these were out of the oven, it was time for the tasting. I poured a few different condiments on my plate to test out some different flavors, but as usual I started out with a bite of the plain nugget. Gotta be scientific about these things, you know.

The exterior was nicely crispy, which doesn't seem to be too difficult to do with enough time in an oven. The inside was a little mushy, but really not bad. Not as mushy as the Chic-a-roos from a while back, but still not perfect. There wasn't much flavor to speak of, aside from a frozen-then-baked sort of flavor. You know the flavor I'm talking about, right? The not-much-flavor thing resulted in a sort of blank canvas for condiments, though. Pretty good with ketchup, ok with barbecue sauce (probably better if you like barbecue sauce more than I do), surprisingly tasty with ranch dressing. Thought about whipping up some honey mustard, but I only had one nugget left and it sounded like too much work for one nugget. Next time, though.

So yeah, Trader Joe's redeems itself once again with a not-too-terrible product. You're about 50-50 at this point, TJ. Better pick up the pace.

The experience:
Texture - nice and crispy outside, a little mushy inside, but not terrible
Flavor - not much there aside from the freezer flavor - very condiment-compatible

Final grade for this attempt: B+

March 11, 2011

Yves Veggie Corn Dogs

As of the writing of this post, I'm confronted with a conundrum. According to the Yves American website, the product I'm about to review doesn't exist. The Canadian version of their page, however, does say that this product is available in Canada. So here's the Canadian page link to Yves Veggie Corn Dogs. I'll try to keep an eye on the US page and update to that link when it shows up.

In any case, let's see how they taste, shall we? I've had some pretty bad experiences with Yve's stuff before, so I was a little wary of these corn dogs that suddenly showed up at my local Target. But hey, it's for science!

The box contains four corn dogs, so I threw a couple of them into the oven for the 22 minutes it calls for. Usually with frozen corn dogs I need to bake them extra time to get the crispy outside I like, but this time was perfect. It came out looking exactly right, and smelling right as well. I started to get a little excited about tasting these.

Enough teasing - I stuck that thing right into my mouth. The cornbread part was amazing! Nice and fluffy and corn-bread-y tasting. The big surprise here was the hot dog. It actually tasted like a (cheap, misc-meat) hot dog. Nothing really weird about it like the last two Yve's things I tried - it was just a truly tasty corn dog. I don't have much to say about these except that I'm really excited to eat the other two I still have in the freezer. Buy these if you see them - they are great!

The experience:
Texture - just like a real-meat corn dog
Flavor - also just like a real-meat corn dog

Final grade for this attempt: A+

March 4, 2011

Homemade Vegan Beanballs

It's been a while since I tested out a homemade fake meat recipe, and a recent post about this blog on Reddit produced this very promising-looking recipe. For those of you who don't feel like following the link, I'm testing out vegan beanballs.

Since I can't seem to follow a recipe without changing a single thing, I used pinto beans instead of kidney beans, since that's what I had in my pantry. Also, I didn't have lemon zest, so I just tossed in a splash of lemon juice. Otherwise, I followed the directions very well. I even weighed out the cooked beans to get the 20 ounces called for. WIth the choice between steak sauce and tomato paste, I opted for the steak sauce (after checking the ingredients to make sure I wasn't tainting my experiment with unauthorized meat - turns out, A1 steak sauce is vegan!)

A Reddit reader pointed out that these work better if you let them rest a bit after mixing and before shaping, so I mixed it all up in the late afternoon and then stuck it in the fridge until dinner time. I figured chilling it would also help things hold together better. The same reader also informed us that these beanballs do not taste like meat, but instead "taste like awesome".

With all this in mind, I started getting ready to cook some spaghetti to go with these beanballs. While the water was coming to a boil, I shaped the beanballs and heated some oil in a pan. When the oil was hot, I popped the beanballs in the pan and started the browning process. After browning them on all sides to get a nice crusty exterior, I took one out of the pan so I could check it before dumping a bunch of sauce on them. The first thing I noticed was that it was very mushy on the inside. Like, refried-beans-mushy. They weren't that mushy before I cooked them, which was rather unexpected. They did hold together reasonably well despite the super mushy interior. Perhaps that's how it was supposed to be? The person who wrote the article with the recipe that I linked to earlier also found them to be mushy, but had used a different quantity of beans.

Aside from the texture, the flavor was pretty good. Imagine mushy beans flavored with steak sauce, and that's about what we had here. The steak sauce flavor was really strong. I think if I make these again, I'd try making them with tomato paste instead, because it was a little weird, but not bad. I also wonder if baking them rather than frying them would result in a firmer texture, but I don't really know why that would be the case.

The experience:
Texture - very mushy inside
Flavor - very steak-saucy as prepared with the steak sauce

Final grade for this attempt: B-