April 29, 2011

Nate's Savory Mushroom Meatless Meatballs

A while back, I tried my first variety of Nate's Meatless Meatballs. This week, I'm testing out a new flavor: Savory Mushroom Meatless Meatballs.

I went super traditional with these and had them with spaghetti and a tomato sauce. No messing around on this one. I even followed the directions, which said to put the frozen meatballs into the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Not that I could have changed it around too much, but whatever. I'm sure, if I put my mind to it, I could have figured out a way to modify it.

Unlike last time, where the texture was very delicate, these held together much better. More like a real-meat meatball. I would assume that's because I cooked them in the sauce instead of baking them in the oven, although I'd think that cooking them in sauce would make them more fragile. Oh well. These seemed like they were going to be a huge success. Until I put one in my mouth.

The first thing I tasted was a general weirdness. Couldn't quite place the flavor, but it wasn't mushrooms. After a few bites, I managed to convince myself that it was kinda mushroomy, but not amazing. It wasn't a bad flavor, just not great. I ate the rest of the meatless meatballs on my plate, but left the remainders for my exchange student to bring to school for lunch.

The experience:
Texture - very similar to a real-meat meatball
Flavor - Not very mushroomy, just… odd.

Final grade for this attempt: C-

April 22, 2011

Gardein Homestyle Beefless Tips

This week, I'm checking out another Gardein product: Gardein Homestyle Beefless Tips. It's been a while since I went all out with a fake meat, and this one seemed to have a lot of potential.

I was in the mood for a stir-fry, which we do pretty regularly at our house. A friend of mine had brought me some heirloom cherry tomatoes in a variety of colors, which I figured would go pretty well in a stir fry. I was trying to decide between chicken and pork when I remembered I had these in the freezer. Suddenly the whole meal came together in my head. Beefless tips, broccoli, red onion, and rainbow-colored cherry tomatoes in an oyster sauce. It was going to be beautiful and delicious! My only hope was that the beefless tips wouldn't ruin everything.

I charged ahead confidently, whipping up a super tasty oyster sauce from The Best Light Recipe, while I soaked some rice noodles to go with it. Cooked up the beefless tips, set them aside so they wouldn't overcook, cooked up the broccoli and onion until they were nice and soft, threw in the tomatoes just long enough to wilt them. Poured in the sauce, heated until thickened, added the beefless tips back in, along with the soaked noodles, and tossed all together. It was indeed a beautiful meal. I served it up and we got ready to taste.

I have no complaints about the flavor of the beefless tips. It didn't have a very strong flavor of its own, so it didn't fight with the sauce at all. It just had a sort of general savoriness to it. Not beefy, just savory. I was okay with that. The problem was the texture. Forgive me for the comparison, but it really resembled wet bread. Not your average grocery-store sandwich bread, though. More of a European-style chewy bread that had been soaked in some sort of liquid for a while. Not too long that it was mushy - just soft. That texture doesn't freak me out as much as it does for some people, but it made me wish that I was eating real meat. After a few chunks of it, I kinda got used to it, but I wouldn't say I liked it. Definitely the weakest link in the stir fry. Not bad enough to ruin it, though. Just not as amazing as the rest.

The experience:
Texture - kinda like soggy European-style bread
Flavor - general savoriness - not unpleasant

Final grade for this attempt: B-

April 15, 2011

Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Patties

This week, I'm tackling another vegan fake meat - Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Patties.

Here's the thing, I actually tested these out a really long time ago, but it was during a week where I was really sick with a bad cold. It didn't taste like anything, but I could tell if it was because the patty didn't taste like anything or if it was just me, so I put them back in the freezer and waited until I got better. Then forgot about them for a while. Eventually, I dug them back out and gave them another shot.

I heated these up in my toaster oven, just for giggles. I figured it'd get a nice crispy exterior without spending all that time preheating my oven. It worked great! After only a few minutes, it came out all hot and crispy, so I tossed it onto a bun and took a bite.

Something I had noticed back when I tried these out the first time is that the texture of the interior is not awesome. Pretty mushy, actually. This seems to be a sticking point for anything trying to resemble chicken. It's either tough and chewy or mushy. I understand that muscle texture is probably very tricky to replicate, but somebody needs to get on that.

Texture aside, let's talk flavor. As it turns out, whether my nose is all clogged up or not, these actually have no flavor. None at all. Not even a gross flavor. I loaded up the patty with ketchup and mayo, and it was definitely palatable, but I derived no pleasure from eating it. I recommend eating these with a cold - you could at least pretend you were missing out on something that way.

The experience:
Texture - Crispy outside, mushy inside.
Flavor - what flavor?

Final grade for this attempt: C-

April 8, 2011

Boca Savory Mushroom Mozzarella Veggie Patty

This week, I'm testing out another veggie burger: Boca Savory Mushroom Mozzarella Veggie Patty.

First, a disclaimer. I'm not the biggest mushroom fan. Over the years I've learned to appreciate them more, but I don't usually seek them out. That said, here comes the review.

Not much to say here - heated up a patty with some oil in a skillet, just like I always do. I served it up on a homemade onion bun (because I'm like that) with some lettuce and tomato. I dug in, expecting a savory mushroom and mozzarella experience and got only onion bun, lettuce, and tomato. I figured all that awesome interference was drowning out the mushroom flavor, so I dissected the burger to get a taste of it plain.

Once I got it alone, I could taste the mushroom flavor. Sort of. I think I could only taste it because I knew it was there - if someone just handed it to me and asked me what it was, I'm not sure I would be able to pick it out. And there was absolutely no mozzarella flavor presence, but that I can forgive - mozzarella isn't exactly the most assertive cheese out there. Maybe a Swiss version would be a little more interesting. As it stands, though, this burger was a bit of a letdown.

The experience:
Texture - just the standard veggie burger texture
Flavor - not much to speak of - slightly mushroomy when I concentrated on it

Final grade for this attempt: C

April 1, 2011

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

This week, I'm testing out another fake meat chicken nugget. Let's see how Gardein's Seven Grain Crispy Tenders stack up against the competition.

This is one time where I can actually say that the product looks at least as good as the picture on the package. In this case, it looks a little better. They really do look like picture-perfect little chicken fingers, and that excited me. And this was even before I cooked them! So I popped them into the oven (which I heated only to 425 degrees instead of the rather odd 430 degrees the package recommended), set a timer for 10 minutes, then flipped them over and reset the timer for 10 minutes, just like the directions said. By the time they were finished, I was really looking forward to the experience of actually eating them.

I was disappointed, however, by the fact that I couldn't actually cut through them, they were so tough! I had to pick it up and use my teeth to bite through it. I had a suspicion that 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven was a little unreasonable (even though the directions sternly reminded me to not overcook them!) so I was glad I didn't bake them all at once. I had some left over, which I cooked a different way.

The package also has toaster oven directions, and while I cannot set my toaster oven to any particular temperature, just a time, it's a real trooper, so I thought I'd give it a go with these. The toaster oven directions said to cook them for 15-20 minutes, so I immediately disregarded that and set it for five, then flipped them over to get a status check. They were hot but not yet sizzling, so I put them in for another five minutes. At the end of that, they looked nice and hot and were sizzling, so I took them out and laid them out on a paper towel to help absorb some of the grease (there wasn't a lot) and promote crispiness. After about 30 seconds of sitting there, I just had to test them out.

Luckily, they were nice and tender this time, with a delightfully crispy exterior. Not as crispy as most of the other nuggets I've tested out, but the interior made up for that. It wasn't mushy like many others, and it actually had some sort of flavor of its own. I can't say it was perfectly chicken-y but it was good. I admit it took a couple bites to get into it, but even the first bite was pretty okay. After tweaking the cooking time, these came out quite good.

The experience:
Texture - a good balance of chewy and tender - surprisingly meat-like
Flavor - actually had some of its own flavor, and paired nicely with the ketchup

Final grade for this attempt: A-