meatless mondays: meatless meat, vegetable protein, and quorn…

For Meatless Mondays, I usually try to offer up natural protein alternatives. Most are bean, egg, or dairy based, or sometimes just a carb-alicious treat like pasta or pizza. Others use soy varieties, such as tempeh and tofu. Today I’m going to talk about the different products that are available as processed meatless substitutes.

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about imitation meat products. If I never loved the real thing, then why in the world would I want to eat something that looks or tastes or chews like it?

Well, personally, I get bored or lazy with the foods that I make from scratch. I need some variety in my protein intake. What easier way than to nuke a veggie burger and throw it on a bun, or roll up some cheese in Tofurky slices for a quick protein snack, or nibble on fake chicken nuggets dipped in ranch, hello?! Hey, I’m not perfect.

I try to only consume these “Frankenfoods” (as my husband fondly calls them) once or twice a week. For a special treat on the weekends, I like to make the Morningstar Farms Breakfast Patties to serve with my eggs and toast. I’m not a fan of the fake bacon or the sausage links, but the vegetarian sausage patties are pretty darn tasty. They make a good filler in an egg sandwich with a little cheese too.

Boca Vegan Burgers are my favorite basic soy burger. For flavored burgers, I love the Morningstar Farms Black Bean Veggie Burgers or their Mushroom Lover’s burgers. Sometimes I put them on a bun with all the trimmings and other times I just eat them on their own with a fork, like you would a chicken breast or a Salisbury steak (forgive the comparison).

I have a few recipes that call for meatless crumbles. Both Boca and Morningstar Farms make a textured crumble I enjoy that you can use as a substitute for ground beef. I like to add taco seasoning and eat it like taco meat. Lightlife makes the tastiest meatless Chicken Strips that are nice to use in a stir fry, fajitas, or cold in a salad. I also like their Italian Sausages to add to pasta or to throw on the grill at a BBQ.

Most of the above products are soy based or just textured vegetable protein. In general terms, protein is extracted from soy beans (defatted soybean oil), wheat, oats, etc to create a flour. It is then mixed with water and processed at a very high heat to create a lean protein product. Or something to that effect…I’m not a food scientist nor will I pretend to really know how they make it.

Its not necessarily natural, that is for sure. It is controversial whether this is “healthy” or not. Most of us have a hard time digesting soy proteins, especially the over-processed ones, so consume in moderation or pay the price of an unbalanced digestive tract.

And then there is Quorn, my recent discovery of yet another “meat substitute”. I’ve started dabbling in Quorn, a mycoprotein from England. So far so good, although I haven’t made it enough or tried enough varieties to vouch for it. I can, however, share with you what I’ve found out so far.

Mycoprotein was discovered in the 1960s, at a time when nutritionists believed there would be an overpopulation epidemic and worldwide protein shortage. It is a fungus in the soil that they found could be cultivated and fermented, similar to yogurt, to create a usable protein that is low in fat and high in protein. Although the fungus is compared to a mushroom, it is far from it. It is actually grown in large vats in England and looks more similar to a bread dough.

I tried the Quorn Meatless Meatballs this week. Its ok, you can laugh. Its funny…fake meatball sandwiches! They are nice addition to pasta too. I’m looking forward to sampling their version of a fake burger and see what their chicken-less strips have to offer.

So if you are feeling adventurous (or just plain lazy) this week, pick up a box of a meatless alternative and use it as a substitute in an otherwise carnivorous meal.

Quick and easy ideas: Tofurky Sandwiches with a Bean Salad, Meatless Meatball Spaghetti and Salad, Boca Burgers served with Sweet Potato Fries, Stir Fried Vegetables and chicken-less Chicken Strips, Tacos made with Meatless Crumbles, Italian fake Sausages with Sauerkraut…the possibilities are endless!

These products certainly aren’t for everyone and I’m not trying to advocate for them or push them on anyone. I just wanted to share a few of my favorites and some ideas of how to use them should it strike your fancy. There are plenty that I don’t care for at all but I’m not here to criticize. If you’d like my opinion on any specific product, just ask! Please feel free to comment and share your experiences with the mysterious Quorn product or any other meatless alternatives.

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