August 26, 2011

Quorn Chik'n Tenders

This week is an auspicious week, indeed. Not only did this past Wednesday mark the two-year anniversary of this blog, but this post is my 100th review! It's hard to imagine that I've eaten one hundred different varieties of fake meat, but there you have it. Actually, a handful have been repeats, but mostly at the beginning when I was just figuring this whole thing out.

I wish I had something super cool to celebrate with, but the only idea I came up with (which was very cool), took more time than I had, so I'll use it later. So what I'm going to settle for is a regular review. I'm going to tell you all what I think about Quorn Chik'nTenders.

I had this leftover pasta thing in the fridge that was really tasty. There was zucchini, summer squash, chickpeas, tomato, parmesan, and some herbs and spices (garlic, parsley, oregano, and basil). It was already pretty tasty, but since it was being eaten as leftovers, I thought I'd cook up some chicken to go with it. Unfortunately, I was all out of chicken. How does that happen? Luckily, I had these to (hopefully) fill in the gap.

I tossed them into a skillet with a reasonable amount of vegetable oil, some salt and pepper, and a healthy amount of garlic powder. Even though they do contain garlic powder, according to the ingredients, I was pretty confident that there wasn't going to be enough. So I cooked them up until they started to get nicely browned. Then I popped a chunk into my mouth to see how it was before I mixed it into my pasta salad. Oddly, it had a very strong stuffing flavor. Like, what you serve at Thanksgiving dinner next to the turkey (or fake turkey or whatever) and cranberry sauce. Not only did it have a stuffing flavor, but also a very bread-y texture, also like stuffing. I think maybe the Quorn folks are confused about what they were trying to imitate. Because honestly, these were tasty, but definitely not chicken. These were totally stuffing cubes.

As it turned out, they matched just fine with my pasta salad, but only because any other flavor these cubes were paired with automatically trumped any stuffing flavor. Even a chunk of zucchini was hugely overwhelming of the apparently terrifically fragile flavor of the chik'n cube. Once any other competing element was swallowed, however, whatever bits of chik'n remained in my mouth reasserted their stuffing flavor. This is a strange experience, but not an unpleasant one. Considering that Quorn is claiming this as a chicken-analogue, however, I had to downgrade it a bit.

The experience:
Texture - just like stuffing
Flavor - also just like stuffing

Final grade for this attempt: B-

August 19, 2011

Morningstar Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles

This week, another frozen entree: Morningstar Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles. I was looking forward to testing this one out, because it looks pretty tasty on the box. It was as if I've never eaten a frozen entree before.

Once out of the box, the actual food inside doesn't look quite like the picture. Obviously. It looked kind of like a pile of vegetables and sauce on top of a noodle. I think there were a couple noodles in there, but the lasagna was pretty short. No towering stacks of delicious lasagna goodness. But whatever. I cooked it in the microwave, and dug in.

First impressions, there was a lot of fennel in here. I haven't been able to test out the Morningstar Sausage-Style crumbles, because it seems that no stores around me carry them, so I can't say for sure if it was the crumbles themselves or however the lasagna is built. And maybe, for other people, the mega-fennel flavor isn't a problem. Aside from that, and maybe I'm channeling my Italian grandmother here, but I wasn't terribly impressed with this lasagna. There wasn't much to it. I need a big, cheesy, gooey, saucy, noodly experience when I eat lasagna. This was … disappointing. Not bad, but not mind-blowing. Luckily, I cooked up some broccoli and garlic bread to accompany this, so I didn't leave the table hungry.

The experience:
Texture - couldn't really find any crumble texture among the rest of the lasagna
Flavor - very fennel-y, which some people might be into, but I don't really dig

Final grade for this attempt: B-

August 12, 2011

Boca Original Chik'n Nuggets

This week, it's another chicken nugget: Boca Original Chik'n Nuggets made with Natural Ingredients.

I cooked these up a couple different ways, since I didn't want to spend an eternity preheating my oven just to cook these up. So I figured I'd combine their microwave method and their oven method. I put them on a plate and microwaved them for a couple minutes, mostly to thaw them out, then tossed them into my toaster oven to crisp them up. This was… sort of successful. They were certainly crispier when they came out than when they went in, but not a lot. Really, I should have just cooked them longer in the toaster oven. The interior was kind of mushy, although the flavor was good.

The next time, I put them straight into the toaster oven. I set it for 5 minutes, then flipped them and gave them another 5 minutes. After I checked them, I wasn't happy yet with the crispiness level, so I cooked them another few minutes until they were good. The satisfactory exterior came along with a satisfactory interior as well, so this was definitely the way to go. It was nice and … not quite chewy, but not mushy either. Kind of like a real-meat nugget when it's cooked enough. I was definitely impressed with these. But keep them out of the microwave!

The experience:
Texture - once I cooked it long enough, it was nice and crispy outside and real-meat-nugget-ish inside
Flavor - nothing weird, and a nice mild spice flavor

Final grade for this attempt: A-

August 5, 2011

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Black Pepper Steaks

This week, I'm tackling another fake steak. It's Vegetarian Plus Vegan Black Pepper Steaks. Sorry for the generic link - they don't want to make things easy. Just click on Products, then Steak Meat-Alternatives and finally Vegan Black Pepper Steaks. Phew. Okay, moving on.

I've tried a product from this company before, with unpleasant results. But I was informed that the microwave method, as I suspected, was actually the worst way to eat them. So I took that lesson to heart when preparing these black pepper steaks.

These didn't look like they would necessarily benefit from being in the oven, so I opted for the stovetop method. I did pop it in the microwave to defrost it, but then it was straight into the pan. One thing I would change about the directions, however, is the vegetable oil. They recommend adding a small amount of oil to the pan, but I'd argue that there is enough sauce to render the oil unnecessary. Use your judgement.

Next up, the nutrition information says that this package contains four servings. Four? I can argue for two servings, maybe three if this is one course of a five course meal. So, plan for that, people.

Okay, so we've covered cooking, and teeny serving size recommendations. Now, my experience. I ate these with some garlic mashed potatoes (which it suggested on the box, actually). This was a good call, for a few reasons. First reason, the sauce for these dealies is a little bit sweet. Not something I noticed with my first bite, but after a couple, it got more cloying. The saltiness of the potatoes helped balance that out. Also, as one would naturally expect from a box labeled "pepper steak", the sauce was very peppery. Not unpleasantly so, but adding the potatoes helped decrease the chances of biting down on a huge grain of pepper. Maybe some people are into that. I don't know, but I'm not.

More about the meaty bits themselves - they had a surprisingly steak-like texture. Quite chewy, but in a meaty way, not in a rubbery way. I was actually pretty impressed. Unfortunately, as these cool, they do get tougher and tougher, so eat them quickly. I wouldn't say they tasted very steak-ish, but with the peppery sauce, the chewy texture, and the clever veil of mashed potatoes, I could see how someone could imagine they were eating steak. And aside from the slightly extra sweet sauce, there were no unpleasant flavors going on. Not too bad, VegeUSA!

The experience:
Texture - surprisingly chewy, in a meaty way
Flavor - sauce was a little too sweet, but very peppery, steak bits themselves were savory and not too weird

Final grade for this attempt: A-