Meatless Monday: A Word on Meat Substitutes

I made one of DearDR’s favorite meals last night, and it was completely meat free.

I use Morning Star Farms Meal Starters, usually their Chik’n Strips, and mix it up with one packet of taco seasoning and 3/4 cup of water. Then you just use the seasoned “meat” to make soft tacos: put some of the seasoned “meat” in a warmed burrito, and add the toppings of your choice. We had salsa, organic sour cream, shredded cheddar, and even rice and beans. I put salad on mine, too. This is a great meal, very filling and tasty.

Bun likes the seasoned strips, but can’t quite handle a burrito yet. She’ll eat bites of mine. But the girls both had rice and beans, some mixed veggies, and some shredded cheese.

Since I became a vegetarian almost 20 years ago, meat analogs have really exploded. Which is great, because it’s so much easier to heat up some Morning Star or Quorn “chicken” nuggets than try to get tofu to taste like chicken.

Some of the regular “meat” we have on hand include nuggets, tenders, the Morning Star Meal Starters (strips of “chicken” or “steak”), “not dogs” (Yves The Good Dog), Yves fake pepperoni (I call it pepperfoni) for pizza, and Morning Star bacon (which we call fake-on) and sausage. My kids love them all. Heck, my kids eat plain cubed tofu. I like Garden Burger riblets, too.

I know a lot of non-vegetarians may be thinking, “Why not just eat the real stuff?” First of all, let me say, if memory serves, this stuff doesn’t really taste like meat. I mean the Morning Star soy crumbles make a great hearty chili, but it’s not greasy; ditto the pepperfoni, which is tasty on pizza, but no grease. DearDR loves the breakfast sausage; he says it’s just like very lean sausage.

Second: It’s not meat. That’s the genius of it. If you are a well-researched vegetarian, you have made a very deliberate lifestyle choice. For me, it’s a lot about the environmental impact of the industrialized animal food complex. My not dog didn’t produce lakes of manure that one can smell for miles around a factory farm — plus, I know exactly what is in the “not” dog. No suffering happened to produce my Boca burger, which is excellent on a bun with some cheese, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato.

I don’t mean this to turn into a lecture on the evils of factory farming or anything like that. My girls and I are vegetarians, and I am just glad to have so many options that are plant-based to feed my family. I have adapted recipes that my family enjoys without having to compromise my lifestyle choice. It makes me feel good. And it’s easy. As a busy, work-outside-the-home mom, that counts for a lot.

Also, some fake-on crumbled on top of vegetarian corn chowder is delicious.

In short, if you are thinking of cutting down on your meat consumption, you don’t have to make big sacrifices. These meat substitutes are a lot cheaper than real meat (check out the price difference between soy crumbles and a pound of ground beef). They are just as easy to use — a lot easier in a lot of cases than tofu. Meat analogs are convenient, too; you can find them in your grocer’s freezer. Sometimes, when you’re attending a summer barbecue, you can just pick up a package of Boca Burgers, and you don’t miss out on anything.