November 18, 2011

Candle Cafe Macaroni and Vegan Cheese

This week, something completely different. No fake meat involved here, but definitely fake something. It's Candle Cafe Macaroni and Vegan Cheese.

In any case, let's check this out, shall we? First thing I should say is that this smelled really good while it was cooking. I was pretty optimistic. I stirred it at the appropriate time, finished cooking, then got ready to eat it. However, the fake cheese was still pretty clumpy. I kept stirring, to try to break down the clumps into a nice creamy sauce, like in the picture, and it did help a little, but I never got quite the result I was hoping for. But whatever, moving on.

After my first bite, my poor mouth was a little confused. It felt like a super-rich, creamy cheese sauce, but it had almost no flavor. While no flavor is still better than bad flavor, I still wondered what I could do about this. Something I learned in culinary school is that if something smells great but tastes bland, sometimes it just needs a pinch of salt. So I sprinkled on a little bit, and that was a definite improvement. If someone had handed me this meal without telling me this was fake cheese, I would probably believe it was real cheese. Knowing that it was fake kind of biased things, but in all honesty, this was quite tasty. Kinda pricey, but worth it.

The experience:
Texture - very thick, rich, creamy sauce
Flavor - with a little extra salt (possibly just a palate thing - taste before you salt!) I could probably trick my brain into believing this was real cheese

Final grade for this attempt: A

November 11, 2011

Lightlife Smart Cutlets, Classic Marinara

This week, I'm testing out Lightlife Smart Cutlets, Classic Marinara. I usually try not to do two similar reviews back-to-back, but I'm feeling lazy this week and dug this out of my already-written folder. Next week, something different, I promise.

Now, I'm a big fan of Italian food. My grandmother was Italian, and I feel like, given some pasta, garlic, and tomatoes, I could be happy the rest of my life. So this is a pretty important product to get right, for me. Luckily, as long as there are garlic and tomatoes in here, there's a pretty good chance I won't hate it.

So let's get started. To prepare these, I just heated up a skillet with a tiny bit of oil in it, as directed, and plopped both cutlets from the package into the pan, squeezing the sauce on top of them. Right off the bat, my first impression was that the sauce was a little bit too thick, but adding a little water (or, dare i say it… red wine?) might have helped that. Also, there wasn't quite enough of it for me, but again, thinning it out would also increase the volume. If you were going to serve this over some pasta for a main course, you'd definitely want to add some extra sauce, but for a sandwich or something, this amount was probably good for most people.

Okay, so once it was heated up, I served them up onto a plate and gave them a taste. The sauce was good - not too sweet (which many tomato-sauce-makers have trouble with) and a nice, rich, tomato flavor. The cutlet was a little rubbery, but not too bad. With some pasta or on a sandwich this wouldn't be very noticeable, but I was eating it plain. Without the sauce, the cutlet itself did not have much flavor, but that's what the sauce was for, so I wasn't terribly concerned about that.

The package recommended melting some mozzarella cheese on top, and so I absolutely had to try that. Is there anything NOT made better with cheese on top? I sliced a few thin slices of mozzarella, laid them across my second cutlet, and popped it into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, just to get the cheese all melty. This looked awesome, and I was very excited. Unfortunately, the addition wasn't a life-changer. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't that much of an improvement. I may, in the interest of science, have loaded up a single bite with a fairly obscene amount of cheese, just to see if there was an amount that made it awesome, and there was an amount of cheese that accomplished this, but I do not think I will be sharing that amount here. Suffice it to say, I don't think I could eat an entire cutlet with that proportion of cheese all over it, and neither should you.

The experience:
Texture - slightly rubbery without any competing textures, but not that bad
Flavor - not much flavor alone, but worked well with the tomato sauce, which tasted pretty darn good

Final grade for this attempt: A-

November 4, 2011

Lightlife Smart Cutlets, Spicy Sweet and Sour

This week I'm going to be writing about Lightlife Smart Cutlets, Spicy Sweet and Sour.

Somehow, when I bought these, I didn't notice that they said Spicy, right before the sweet and sour, so until I put a bite into my mouth, I had no idea. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First thing is the cooking. I heated up a skillet with a little bit of vegetable oil, then added the two cutlets and their delicious-smelling sauce. I was really looking forward to trying these. Once they were heated through, I transferred them to my plate. I was eating them plain, not on rice or anything, because I was feeling a little lazy.

The texture of the cutlet itself was slightly rubbery, but not too bad. This would probably be less noticeable with other things, like a salad or stir fry, as they recommend. Flavor-wise, the first couple bites were pretty enjoyable. After those, though, the spiciness started to catch up with me. It was at the point that I looked at the box, saw the red chili pepper on it next to the word "spicy" and realized what was happening. In the ingredients list was "thai chili puree" which explained it all. I had to stop eating after the third bite, because it was probably going to kill me. I could have eaten more, probably, if it were on a bed of rice, with some other veggies and stuff to help cut the heat. That's just me being a spice baby. My wife thought they were fine, but she's a four-fireballs kind of lady.

The experience:
Texture - slightly rubbery alone, but probably less noticeable with rice or something
Flavor - nice sweet and sour sauce for the first couple bites, then the spiciness kicks in - if you're into that sort of thing, this is probably great

Final grade for this attempt: B+