October 28, 2011

Yves Veggie Shrimp

Okay, it's finally time to write about this new product. It's Yves Veggie Shrimp. I'd love to give you a link to their website with more information about it, but it appears that they've given up on their http://www.yvesveggie.com/ address, as far as updates. The same "new products" have been up there since I started writing my blog, and I know they've introduced more new products than those. For now, they're on Facebook, which seems to be where they're rolling out new product announcements. So I guess you can go here and scroll through all their posts. Unfortunately, there isn't much information other than what you can already see in the top left corner of this page. If you can't tell, I'm not exactly thrilled at this development.

Anyway… moving on. Their new packaging… I'm just going to lay it out there, because I'm a little cranky today. The new box shape is stupid. You see how there's a curve at the top? That's actually the shape of the box. I picked up three or four of these, trying to find one that wasn't all smushed, before I realized they were shaped like that on purpose. Why would you want a box shaped that way? In looking at some of the other pictures on their Facebook page, some of them have the smushed bits on the sides rather than the top. Also dumb. What the heck are they doing?

Before I get to the actual contents of the box, I'd like to share a story. The day I bought these, I was apparently very nervous about tasting them, so that night I had a nightmare about eating them. Not even kidding. This actually happened. In the dream, I was eating a piece of fake shrimp, and at first, it was very shrimp-like. However, the longer I chewed it, the stringier it got. But stringier isn't quite the word. Imagine taking a huge bite of celery and just chewing on it for a long time. Kind of a cellulose gum, where you know that more chewing isn't going to help, but you don't want to spit it out. Anyway, that was my dream.

Reality time… I took the box out of the fridge, read the instructions (three cooking methods listed), and decided to try all of them. First test: cold. This was the one that frightened me the most. I'm not the biggest real-shrimp fan, so I had no idea what would happen with these. It smelled distressingly shrimpy. Distressing in an accurately-shrimpy way. Like, why would this combination of ingredients smell like seafood? I took a deep breath, steeled myself for the worst, and took a bite. It tasted also fairly fishy, I guess one could convince oneself it was shrimp, maybe with cocktail sauce or something. The texture, while not my nightmarish cellulose experience, was still pretty odd. Kinda chewy, but in the way that actual shrimp is kinda chewy. It was totally weird.

Next test - heating in the skillet with a little oil. First warning, and the directions say nothing about this, pat the shrimp dry before dumping in the hot oil. Seriously. Right out of the package, there was a fair amount of moisture on them, and this splattered hot oil all over my kitchen and continued popping for a long time. It was pretty intense. So, be careful. After I finished dodging hot splattering oil and cooked the shrimp a bit, until it got slightly browned on both sides, I gave them another taste. With this method, they were actually pretty good. They were less chewy (in that slightly weird way) and the flavor changed. It's hard to explain how it changed, but I'm going to go with "just better". So things were looking up for this veggie shrimp.

And then I tried the third method. The microwave. I put it in for the prescribed amount of time, removed it from the microwave, and took a bite. Or rather, I tried to take a bite. These things came out super tough and nearly impossible to eat. Sort of like my dream-veggie-shrimp. Do not do this to your veggie shrimp. You paid good money for this stuff - do not ruin it by putting it into the microwave. You've been warned.

The experience:
Texture - cold, weirdly chewy; skillet, nicely chewy; microwave, do not do this
Flavor - surprisingly shrimpy, or at least vaguely seafood-y - not too bad

Final grade for this attempt: B+ (in the skillet)

October 21, 2011

Morningstar Chik'n Enchilada Entree

This week, it's another frozen entree: Morningstar Chik'n Enchilada.

This was your basic frozen Mexican meal in a box - not too pretty, but with high hopes for deliciousness, I popped it into the microwave. A few minutes later, I stirred the rice side dish, heated it a little bit more, and then I was ready to go.

It was…not bad. I added more salt, just so that I could actually taste the spices they put in. I always think it's so weird that, with so much sodium, so many frozen meals still taste bland. I understand that the sodium in the meal is not all sodium chloride (aka table salt), and that it is there for its preservative effects, not so much for its flavor effects, but still. It pains me a little bit to add more salt to something with so much in it already. But not so much that I'd choose to eat tasteless food instead.

Okay, more details now that the seasoning-to-taste was completed. The enchilada itself was not too bad. The first couple bites had none of the fake chicken in them, however. After some mild dissection, I discovered that all the chik'n in it seemed to be concentrated in one blob in the middle of the enchilada. I sort of expected it to be smaller, bite-size pieces scattered throughout, but what mine had was one big chunk in the middle. Maybe I got an unusual one. What I learned though, from having half of the enchilada with the chik'n and half without was that I actually preferred the bites without. In this case, I think they'd do better just making a black bean enchilada and not even bothering with the fake meat. It wasn't bad, but it didn't really add anything, and the texture detracted a little bit from the experience. Probably because it was a big chunk, and the bites with the chik'n had very little of the rest of the filling.

And only just now did I notice that the website says the chik'n in the enchilada is supposed to be shredded. I'm going to say that, for mine anyway, no it was not. It probably would have been much better if it was.

The experience:
Texture - reasonably chicken-y, but I wish it had been in smaller pieces and more evenly distributed
Flavor - with a little extra salt, this meal had some really good stuff going for it

Final grade for this attempt: B-

October 14, 2011

Lightlife Smart Sausage, Chorizo Style

This week it's another sausage: Lightlife Smart Sausages, Chorizo Style.

I decided to cook these up into a nice chili mac. I tasted a bite of the sausage before I committed to this plan, in case I needed to switch gears, but plain and cold these weren't terrible, so I figured heating them up could only improve things. They had some reasonably nice peppery spiciness to them, but not much else, spice-wise. Just pepper. But whatever - there were plenty of other flavors in this recipe, so I figured it would be good.

As a side note, I mostly used this recipe as written, but I substituted the poblano chile peppers for banana peppers, because that was what I had, canola oil instead of corn oil, and the fake chorizo instead of, well, real-meat chorizo. Otherwise, I actually followed the recipe. Oh and orzo for the macaroni, but that's still pasta. Well, and I skipped the first step. So maybe I didn't actually follow this recipe very well. Whatever.

Okay, moving on. So now I have this orzo/black bean/corn/tomato/fake chorizo dish. All together, it tasted pretty good. I don't know if the chorizo was really the best option here. It had sort of a weird texture that is a little difficult to describe. Sort of mushy, I guess, is the closest adjective I can come up with. But also chewy. I found myself eating all the chorizo bits off my plate first so I could enjoy the rest of the dish without them. But at least I ate them, instead of picking them out and leaving them on the side of the plate. They were edible but definitely my least favorite element.

The experience:
Texture - sort of mushy but in a chewy way
Flavor - peppery, mostly, but not terrible

Final grade for this attempt: C+

October 7, 2011

Field Roast Frankfurters

This week, I'm reviewing another hot dog: Field Roast Frankfurters.

I followed the directions on the package for these to prepare them. I boiled a couple of them, still in their casing, for 10 minutes. This caused some funky red oily liquid to get into the water, so if you do this, don't plan on using the leftover water for anything unless you want funky red liquid in it. Also, it smelled really weird. Not really bad, just… weird.

Once I fished them out of the water and removed them from their casing, I gave them a taste. I found the texture to be kind of hard and oddly dry. Not super pleasant. It had an okay hot-dog-flavor, but was entirely unsuitable for my planned usage (which was to mix it into macaroni and cheese). I ended up eating a few more chunks of it with some ketchup, which helped the flavor some, but the texture still wasn't great. I may try the alternative grilling instructions later and see if that helps the texture any. If I do, I'll be sure to update this review.

The experience:
Texture - hard and dry - not great
Flavor - relatively hot-dog-ish but a little better with ketchup

Final grade for this attempt: C