Once upon a time, in about 1991, I was a vegetarian. When I stopped, I was so relieved to be able to fill in that missing area on my plate... the protein part. During my vegetarian foray I had always been confused about how to get tasty, complete, and EASY protein into my diet. So much easier to fry up a sausage with my rice and greens, or to throw together a sandwich of cold cuts, or enjoy anything that contained bacon, than to always be figuring out alternatives.
However, I also love variety and trying new things. And I'm a firm believer in having meatless meals often, because meat is expensive. It's expensive in its use of the planet's resources, in the karmic hit it takes on your soul (DEATH!), and it's expensive in straight-up dollars. So I'm always looking for meatless alternatives. There are a lot of good ones on the market now that weren't around in 1991, and I'll review a few below.
There's one more thing. Maybe it's part of being a mother, maybe it's part of just being on this planet for an increasing number of years, but I'm having more and more trouble with the karma part of eating meat. If I don't know where this animal came from or how he or she was treated, I don't want to be involved with its--ack--consumption. It is a very visceral/gristly/grisly experience to EAT somebody else.
I do still eat meat. But nowadays I go for meatless options a lot of the time. I'll order the bean burger, the tofu, the mushroom ravioli. And at home, I've been trying out the following...
CLASSIC meat alternative—beans. Many of our Meatless Mondays are wraps with refried beans, avocado, cheese, lettuce, hot sauce, and salsa. I also make chili sometimes (here's my three-bean recipe—see below for what I do instead of ground beef or turkey), and a quinoa salad with great northern beans and crunchy celery.
Here are some of the meatless meats that I like. The "beefy crumble" from Beyond Meat is an undetectable replacement for ground meat in chili. It has the right texture to swap in. They recently completely changed their packaging--just look for "Beyond Meat" products in your grocer's freezer.
My son (who is 6) introduced us to Gardein because he liked the look of their meatless sliders. They're soy based and not my thing, but he likes them. I do like their meatless meatballs--I'll pop 6-7 (half a bag, frozen) into a potful of warming pasta sauce, simmer, and serve with pasta and lots of cheese. The meatballs have nice fennel seeds and a pretty meaty texture.
Tofu, another vegetarian classic. I'm still making this Ginger-Sesame Baked Tofu that I posted back in 2009. So yummy.
Grain Meat meatloaf? Why not! Actually I probably won't get this again, but it was fun to try.
"Beyond Chicken" is my favorite meatless option right now. Another Beyond Meat product, this one is extruded and cut in such a way that it really has the look and grain of chicken strips. And since chicken doesn't taste like much, the bar is low for matching it with pea protein, etc. My kids call this "tricken." Which means it's working, I hope.
I've been using Beyond Chicken as a pizza topping—store-bought dough, alfredo sauce, Beyond Chicken, and then anything else that comes to mind: fresh or roasted red pepper, chopped tomato, kalamata olives, garlic, roasted artichoke hearts, arugula, radicchio, spinach... Sprinkle some parmesan on top and bake—it's delicious!
Have you tried any "meats" like Beyond Chicken or Meatless Meatballs? What about beans--any favorite uses you care to share? Does fake meat have advantages for you?