We have tried a lot of different fake meat products, and often end up feeling that we prefer our plants-only creations. But for those who like the taste and feel of meat, new products are coming out all the time and getting better at mimicking meat. My cousin is in agricultural science, and he posted on Facebook recently about Impossible Foods, a SF bay-area visionary company dedicated to producing totally non-meat “meat products” that meat eaters will love. He tried a burger made out of alfalfa and other vegetable sources (totally vegan) and said it was absolutely delicious. He is working with them to see if alfalfa can work as a direct protein source. They have hundreds of employees and funding to develop products. CEO Pat Brown said their market is NOT vegetarians, but the 95% of the population that are meat eaters. Sounds promising!

In the meantime, a review of nutritional qualities of various brands of meatless products can be found here. Kinds we have tried include:

Beyond Meat is one of the newest that is available, made from pea and soy protein. We tried the “beefy” crumbles and the “chicken” strips and found them to be pretty good. The chicken strips are the most like meat in consistency.  You can find it in the frozen food section of Target or many grocery stores.20160125_172251.jpg

Seitan is a wheat gluten based meat substitute used with perf
ection in many Asian vegan dishes at restaurants. It has the feel of chicken, and we like to use it in stir fry dishes.  We recently tried seitan Chorizo, which is usually made with pork intestines. My friend Martha made us a lovely dinner using this. Here is her recipe:

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon oil

1 large bunch collards, chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup vegetable broth

1 package seitan Chorizo

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil, saute onions until soft. Add collards, paprika, and broth; cook until soft. Add in seitan. Serve hot with rice or just plain.

Tempeh is soy based and is also used in many Asian dishes.

Field Roast Grain Sausage is a great sausage substitute in taste and consistency. I have used it in soups and with sauerkraut with good results.

Tofu is a soy based product with lots of nutritional benefits. Tofu comes in soft, firm and extra firm. It is best used in stir fry dishes, but can also be grilled, deep fried, blended into sauces, or even scrambled. I can’t say I have mastered using it in recipes as I find that even the extra firm kind is hard to keep a cubed shape. But I keep experimenting and have gotten better with using it. Tofu has a short shelf life, but I recently found a no-refrigeration-needed-until-opened brand called Morinaga, which is helpful.

Veggie Burgers. We have found that the best ones do not try to “taste like meat”, but rather uses beans adnd spices for a unique taste. The Morningstar brand of Spicy Black Bean Burger is a family favorite. If you want a good imitation of a beef burger though, we think the Boca Burger All American Flame Grilled burger is one of the best. Both Morningstar and Boca burger products are widely available in most grocery stores.

Chicken Nuggets. My son-in-law was not a vegetarian before he met my daughter, nor did he have a wide variety of foods in his diet. Through college, ramen noodle soup and chicken nuggets were staples for him! Though he now eats a varied plant based diet, he still likes those foods on occasion. So they keep a bag of Morningstar Farms Chik’n Nuggets on hand, his favorite.

Portabella mushrooms? Sure! These can make great veggie burgers too. Here are 4 ways to cook them. I am thinking of the large mushrooms as I write this because we recently attended a lovely wedding, where the bride and groom very kindly accommodated our diet. Sometimes that can be risky, but as I ate my grilled portabella mushroom, topped with a wonderfully seasoned mixed dish of chickpeas and spinach with rice pilaf and green beans, I had no envy for the guest with their plates of salmon or steak (though I am sure they enjoyed it)! I came home and decided to re-create the dish, and here is my attempt:

1 portabella mushroom per the number of people you are serving. My recipe is for 4

1 yellow and 1 orange pepper, sliced very thin

Several handfuls of fresh spinach, stemmed and washed

1/2 onion sliced very thin

1 can chick peas, rinsed.

Marinate the vegetables and mushrooms in teriyaki sauce for an hour or so. I have been using the Joy of Cooking recipe for this since I was first married, and still like it so here it is:  1 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup oil, 3 tablespoons brown or white sugar (or agave nectar), 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, and 2 tablespoons sherry. (You can also use a prepared teriyaki sauce). If you have a wok, that is a great way to cook this dish. If not, use a fry pan on the stove. Saute the mushrooms until they shrink a bit and are somewhat soft, set aside and keep warm. Saute the vegetables until soft, then add the chick peas and cook until mixed well and heated through. To thicken the sauce, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch to a little cold water and mix well. Add to wok or pan and heat until sauce thickens.When ready to serve, put mushrooms on a plate and top with sauteed veggies.

I am still learning about how to use these products (you can find recipes and more information about them online), but my best efforts have simply been to use them in stir fry dishes, soups or mixed with vegetables and not as a main feature–except for burgers, which are nice to have for a backyard BBQ. Why not give one of these a try with your next pot of soup or chili?


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