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QUICK REVIEW: MorningStar Farms Baja Black Bean Pizza

Written by | December 27, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Frozen Food, Morningstar Farms

MorningStar Farms Baja Black Bean Pizza

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 5.65 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very tasty, thanks to the slightly spicy Baja chile sauce which reminds me of a Taco Bell sauce (not the sauces in packets). Lots of fire-roasted corn, which added flavor, and black beans, which didn’t add flavor. Whole grain crust was mostly crispy, thanks to the crisping tray. Awesome source of fiber and good source of protein. Pizza was six inches in diameter, but was filling to me. 100% vegetarian.
Cons: Pricey. Corn and black beans not arranged to make a smiley face. Should’ve had more tomatoes. Waiting 16-17 minutes for a small pizza in a conventional oven (thank goodness for the crisping tray). Cheese didn’t have much flavor. I’m surprised it doesn’t have any of the fake meat MorningStar Farms produces.

MorningStar Farms Baja Black Bean Pizza Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 380 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 420 milligrams of sodium, 300 milligrams of potassium, 59 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein, 15% calcium, and 10% iron.

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REVIEW: Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs

Written by | September 10, 2012

Topics: 8 Rating, Frozen Food, Morningstar Farms

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs

I am an unapologetic carnivore. Steaks, ribs, loins, legs, wings, cheeks – bring it on. To my mouth, I mean; not to a cheerleading competition. My arteries are far too clogged by a lifetime of red meat for me to have the strength or motivation to climb a human pyramid, even if it is comprised of sexy underaged girls in short skirts.

That said, I’m willing to keep an open mind about veggie-made foods that are supposed to taste like meat, or at least, a close enough approximation that non-meat-eaters can pretend like they’re not completely missing out on delicious, delicious animals.

Admittedly, I’ve only eaten veggie meat once – I was in college, and like any good Liberal Arts student, I was into Eastern philosophy, which culminated in a ten-day trip to the Shambala Center in Boulder, Colorado. While there, I learned things like ikebana, maitri, the fact that I could rock the Lotus position better than most of my peers, and how to make a bong out of an apple. That last one was not a University-sanctioned activity, but it was educational nonetheless.

It being Buddha Camp (my name for it, not theirs), there were meat-eater and vegetarian options available for every meal. I passed on almost every veggie dish, mostly out of animal-eating defiance and a general distrust of tofu, but on the day of our very last breakfast I had reached Enlightenment and decided to try some not-made-from-a-once-living-thing fake bacon (fakon?) and breakfast sausage (fauxsage?)

The fakon was like a delicious bacon-flavored cracker strip, but it could not hold a candle to the real thing. The fauxsage, however, was spot-on, and I had to admit that, if I ever watched a documentary about the inhumane treatment of slaughterhouse-destined animals that was horrifying enough to turn me off of meat, I could say goodbye to Jimmy Dean and be pretty satisfied with some fake sausage links to go with my organic free-range chicken eggs and the grapefruit from my local pesticide-free community garden.

It is with this experience in mind that I opened my chakras to Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs.

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs Frozen

Each box comes with 15 meatballs, which gives you “about” three portions, according to the box. I’ve never been great at math, but dividing five into 15 should give you exactly three portions, unless someone’s being a ball hog. The Buddha frowns upon ball hogs.

The microwave instructions couldn’t have been easier: put five meatballs on a paper plate, cover, cook on high for two minutes, flipping after a minute. I’ve had Hot Pockets with cooking instructions more complicated than that.

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs Microwaved

The results, however, were what you might expect from two minutes in the microwave: they were kind of squishy, and not at all crisp on the outside. Despite the sponginess, however, I was pleased with the flavor – there was a definite meatiness to it, and the spices were plentiful. Although the list of ingredients only specify onion, onion spices, tomato paste, garlic powder, and “natural spices”, I swear I could also detect some fennel and sage in there, which were welcome additions.

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs Oven

I decided to try them using the oven instructions also, despite my aversion to actually having to cook anything. The directions here were to preheat to 350°F, spray a cooking sheet with cooking spray, plop down five meatballs, and cook for 17-18 minutes, flipping after 8 minutes.

I am, in case you hadn’t noticed, I am lazy bastard, so I long-ago learned the trick of placing a piece of foil on top of the baking sheet for easy clean-up. This ingenious “trick” backfired on me for obvious reasons: they tell you to use cooking spray to keep the meatballs from sticking when you flip them. My balls stuck to the foil like testicles to the thighs of a man going commando on a hot summer day.

I couldn’t unstick the balls without losing some meat, a sentence that I’m sure just made some male readers uncomfortable, but flipping them directly back onto the stuck parts prevented further meat loss, and the entirety of the meatballs’ surfaces actually turned out nice and crispy.

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs Inside

I found that the veggieballs cooked in the oven had a firmer texture on the inside and got some nice crunch and browning on the outside, making them less spongy and more meat-like.

Morningstar Farms Veggie Meatballs are called a Meal Starters; presumably, this means they are a means in which to start your meal, which in this case, would obviously be spaghetti and meatballs. Oh sure, I could have cooked up some whole grain pasta and got a jar of veghead-friendly sauce, but I took the phrase “Meal Starters” literally and ate them like an appetizer.

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs Sauced

Oh, who am I kidding, I ate them with a plastic fork and a cup of Domino’s Marinara Sauce I found in my Drawer of Orphaned Condiments. I didn’t bother putting the oven-cooked balls on a plate or even leaving the kitchen. I again blame my laziness on the lethargy caused by eating too much real meat.

While Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs didn’t convert me to a vegetarian for life, I appreciate whatever dark arts they use to turn soy and spices into a meatless meatball that I would gladly eat if one of my filthy hippy friends invited me over for dinner. While the microwaved balls fell short in the texture department, the oven-cooked ones were quite pleasant, and the spices used were well-balanced, warding off any ideas of blandness.

These veggie meatballs get my Buddha Camp seal of approval. I’d try to sit Lotus in their honor, but I’m afraid my knee joints would pop because I am no longer a young, spry college student and my Enlightenment flew out the window once I started putting words like “synergy” and “dictation” on my resumé.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 meatballs – 130 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 390 milligrams of sodium, 180 milligrams of potassium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, 14 grams of protein, 4% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Other Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs reviews:
The Peppertree

Item: Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Veggie Meatballs
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 8.5 ounces (15 meatballs)
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Very well-spiced. The word “fauxsage”. Easy cooking instructions. Youthful college-Buddhist enthusiasm. Oven-cooked balls had a nice, crispy outside.
Cons: Spongy texture when microwaved. Being too old and rickety to sit in the Lotus position. Sticky (meat)balls. Ball hogs.

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REVIEW: Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs

Written by | August 2, 2012

Topics: 5 Rating, Frozen Food, Morningstar Farms

Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs

To ensure you don’t think of me as a devout carnivore, who shuns meatless products, I’m going to preface this review by saying I regularly buy Morningstar Farms products.

Whenever they go on sale, I buy their Meal Starter Grillers Recipe Crumbles to replace ground beef; I usually have a box of their BBQ Riblets in my freezer for those times when I’m too lazy to cook; and I regularly purchase the Costco-sized box of their Original Sausage Patties.

I’ve tried many Morningstar Farms products and they’re all decent or better. Oh, except for their veggie bacon, which is quite disgusting and haunts my taste buds every day.

So would Morningstar Farms’ new Veggie Dogs be a new favorite or something that will torment my taste buds for years?

Oh, should point out it seems weird the Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs box proclaims, in large sans serif letters, these veggie dogs are new, because they’re not. Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs were around for years and then disappeared from shelves for a long time, much to the dismay of many people.

But now they’re back, baby!

I know I tasted the original Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs, but I don’t remember what they taste like. Maybe because they were so horrible that my brain has hidden the traumatic experience deep within my mind. Or maybe I forgot because my knowledge of 1990s hip-hop lyrics wrote over the memory. But after tasting these dogs, I think it’s definitely the latter because these veggie dogs don’t make me want to spit them out.

Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs Closeup

I guess the nicest word I could use to describe these veggie dogs is tolerable. I mean, what should I expect for something that has just 0.5 grams of fat. They look like hot dogs and have a meat-like flavor, but it’s a fraction of the flavor with regular hot dogs. However, with enough ketchup, mustard, and onions on it, with my eyes closed, and me repeatedly saying “yummy” with my mouth full, I think I could trick my mind into thinking it’s a decent hot dog.

However, they’re skinny and don’t have the same feel as a hot dog. A hot dog’s exterior coating doesn’t give as easily as these Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs. Putting my fork through one of these dogs feels like putting a fork through unprepared SPAM. It’s a little off-putting, along with them looking like they have some kind of skin disorder.

Also, I would’ve been nice if they came in a pack of eight, like hot dog buns, but instead they came in an inconvenient pack of six.

I’ve had the misfortune of tasting two or three other brands of veggie dogs over the years. I don’t remember the brands, but just thinking of those veggie dogs make me a little nauseous because they were quite horrible. These Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs are definitely better. But as someone who occasionally enjoys a Costco hot dog after buying a Costco-sized box of Morningstar Farms sausage patties, I can’t say they’re nearly as enjoyable as a regular hot dogs.

However, if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll probably enjoy them a lot more.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 link – 50 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 430 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs
Purchased Price: $4.99 (on sale)
Size: 6 veggie dogs
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Best veggie dog I’ve had. Tolerable, especially if you pile on the ketchup, mustard, and onions. Didn’t want to spit them out. Only 0.5 grams of fat. 7 grams of protein. My ability to lip-sync with 90s hip-hop.
Cons: Skinny dogs. Box contains six veggie dogs, so if you buy a pack of hot dogs buns, you’ll have two extra. Don’t have the same feel as a hot dog. They look like they have a skin disorder. Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon.

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REVIEW: Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits

Written by | March 28, 2011

Topics: 7 Rating, Microwavable, Morningstar Farms

Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be a food scientist? I mean, somewhere in this country, right now, in any number of laboratories, there are chemists standing around in white lab coats, creating the next flavor sensation over a Bunsen burner and an Erlenmeyer flask. Do they have a list of objectives for each new invention? “Step 1: Create new convenience food. Step 2: Test flavor. Make improvements if necessary. Step 3: Collect paycheck. Buy Maserati.” Seriously, some of these folks earn up to six figures. When you throw in the added challenge of using meat substitutes for dishes traditionally reserved for the real thing, it makes that hefty paycheck seem all the more reasonable, especially if it turns out pretty well.

Morningstar Farms has a nice fake meat thing going on, and it appears their food technicians have mad skills in the stuffed sandwich science department. It’s like they took a look at the other smaller, less flavorful stuffed breakfast sandwich failures on the grocery shelves and said to themselves, “We can rebuild these. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first frozen, vegetarian stuffed sandwich with fake sausage.” They vowed that the Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit would be that sandwich… A Six-Million Dollar Biscuit, sold for $6. Hot, buttery, and fluffy on the inside, crispy and flaky on the outside, and stuffed with delicious, low-fat ingredients that won’t slide out. And it would be huge for a frozen biscuit. Not teensy like some other brands. Better. Stronger. Tastier. And there’d be a fake bacon one, too.

I’m pleased to say that, on the whole, those crazy scientists have succeeded. The other frozen vegetarian sandwiches I’ve tried just don’t compare to the Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. For one, the other sandwiches lack fake meat, opting for just eggs and cheese. I’ve always preferred breakfast sandwiches that combine the holy trinity of eggs, cheese and some type of meat, and having low-fat, vegetarian sausage crumbles in place of full-fat pork or turkey sausage makes the whole thing even more attractive. Sometimes you just crave that third flavor in a sandwich to kind of balance everything out. Three is the magic number, after all. It’s science.

Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits Outters Innards

However, I discovered that the number three isn’t so wonderful. Startlingly, it took me three separate attempts to cook the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit to an appropriate temperature and texture. It’s pretty strange, considering the warning on the box that the biscuit filling may be “EXTREMELY HOT” after cooking (presumably once), and that the biscuits themselves may be “too hot to handle.” It took a lot more time to get either of these advisories to come true. And even then, it was never too hot to handle.

The first time, I followed the package’s microwave instructions, and the result was just okay. The innards had been sufficiently cooked, but the biscuit itself was left a little bit spongy. On my second try, I used the conventional oven instructions and discovered to my horror, that the innards were still a bit cool, even after sitting in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. For my final attempt, I combined the two methods: I microwaved the biscuit for 15 seconds then placed it in the oven for the full amount of time. It came out perfectly: soft, warm, crispy-on-the-edges biscuit on the outside with a hot, sausage-egg-and-cheese mixture on the inside. The texture of the veggie sausage crumbles was exactly what I expected, but the cheese was a bit runny and may have gotten soaked up by the scrambled egg. It tasted much better than before, though. Good thing they sell these things in boxes of three.

The Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit makes an excellent breakfast, but not if you’re in any particular hurry. The Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit is indeed state-of-the-art, but the Morningstar Farms scientists should have been a little more precise with their cooking instructions. Getting the temperature of my breakfast just right was a trial that brought me a little closer to the plight of a true food scientist… only the reward for my scientific experimentation had slightly less vrooom.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 biscuit (105g) – 270 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 190 milligrams of potassium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein. 4% vitamin A, 10% calcium, and 15% iron.)

Other Morningstar Farms Biscuits reviews:
Fork Fantasy (Sausage, Egg & Cheese)
Yum Yucky (Bacon, Egg & Cheese)

Item: Morningstar Farms Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits
Price: $3.99 (on sale; normally $5.99)
Size: 3 biscuits/11.1 ounces
Purchased at: Pavilions
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Buttery biscuit. Low-fat breakfast. Savory vegetarian sausage crumbles. “3″ is the magic number. Bigger and denser than other stuffed breakfast sandwiches. Erlenmeyer flasks. Lee Majors.
Cons: Took three different attempts to get the right temperature and texture. Liquid cheese. Not for those in a rush. Less horsepower than a Maserati. $6 regular price tag.

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REVIEW: MorningStar Farms Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles

Written by | March 7, 2010

Topics: 5 Rating, Microwavable, Morningstar Farms

The MorningStar Farms Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles does the opposite of what the cafeteria workers at my old elementary school did with lasagna. Instead of chopping vegetables, like carrots and celery, into tiny pieces in order to trick us into eating veggies, the MorningStar Farms Lasagna has decent-sized chunks of vegetables dumped right on top. They let me know I’m getting vegetables whether I like it or not.

I’m no longer the chubby fourth grader who avoided vegetables anyway I could. I’m now the chubby college graduate who eats vegetables because my doctor told me to or else I’m going to die. So I don’t mind this veggie lasagna having a heaping pile of vegetables on top, which consists of carrots, onions, red bell peppers, red onions and kale.

The MorningStar Farms Lasagna is one of two products, the other being their Sweet & Sour Chik’n meal, that the company has introduced to dip their toes in the vast pond of microwaveable frozen meals. If you’ve seen how immense the microwaveable frozen meal aisle is, you know their toes will get pulled under and lost somewhere within the Lean Cuisine Sea or Healthy Choice Ocean.

Like a multistoried Banana Republic, this veggie lasagna has something different on each level. The ground floor has a zesty marinara sauce mixed with an Italian sausage-like veggie crumble, the next floor up contains an unnaturally bright white ricotta cheese, the top floor has the previously mentioned vegetables mixed with more marinara sauce and everything is roofed with mozzarella cheese.

I had high expectations for the MorningStar Farms Lasagna because I enjoy many of MorningStar Farms products. But I should’ve had the same expectations anyone should have when meeting someone in person from their local Craigslist — low, ready to dump at a moment’s notice or be prepared to spray with pepper. The noodles were chewier than I would’ve liked, the vegetables added a crunchy texture, and the zesty marinara sauce wasn’t very zesty. Also, the Italian sausage-like veggie crumble wasn’t noticeable in the lasagna. I was hoping for a spicier flavor, but instead got something that wasn’t very Italian, like Jersey Shore’s Snooki and JWoww.

Overall, the MorningStar Farms Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles was disappointing and if I have to recommend a frozen microwaveable lasagna entree that uses fake meat, I’d suggest the Boca Chunky Tomato & Herb Lasagna…if you can find it somewhere in the middle of Banquet Bay or the Gulf of Hungry-Man.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 entree – 270 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 590 milligrams of sodium, 650 milligrams of potassium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 25% vitamin A, 6% vitamin C, 25% calcium and 20% iron.)

Item: MorningStar Farms Lasagna with Sausage-Style Crumbles
Price: $5.49
Size: 10 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Veggies added crunch. Wide variety of veggies. Better for you than microwaveable lasagna entrees that use real meat. Somewhat filling. High in protein. Boca Chunky Tomato & Herb Lasagna.
Cons: Expensive. Bland. Disappointing. Zesty marinara sauce wasn’t very zesty. Noodles were chewier than I would’ve liked. Sausage style crumble didn’t have flavor. Ricotta cheese was unusually bright white. Jersey Shore.

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