Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Say "No" To Fake Meat!

I love vegetarians (one in particular)! I have a lot of respect for the choice to give up meat, whether for personal health or animal well-being, but it's not yet the right choice for me. I still, and probably always, will believe that humanely raised animals or wild caught fish are supreme additions to a meal. The main argument I've heard against the idea is that humanely raised meat is too expensive. This is easily dismissed: eat less of it. Quality over quantity, people! Feature meat as the supporting actor rather than the star of your dinner, use it infrequently, and your wallet will be fine.

As great of a choice as vegetarianism CAN be for your body and for the planet, vegetarians are easily seduced (like the rest of us) by processed foods. Soy and wheat can be turned into many things, and there is no shortage of processed meat substitutes on the market for veg folk: Boca burgers, Morningstar patties, Tofurkey, and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to name a few. I've always disagreed with these types of food on principle. In fact, I recall turning my nose up at one of the first dinners Dan offered to share with me. He had prepared pasta with tomato sauce and used ground TVP in the sauce as a meat substitute. My feeling is this: pasta is delicious with no animal products whatsoever, but if what you really want is something that looks, cooks, and tastes like meat - for goodness sakes, eat some meat.

There is one dish that I've broken my own rules for, only because if I make it with meat half of the people in the house will be excluded from the meal. The dish is "Sausage" and Peppers with onions and crushed tomatoes over brown rice; I use these Italian-spiced vegetarian sausages. Can you guess the very first ingredient on the package? Wheat Gluten! The protein-component of the wheat berry, separated from the rest of the plant and mushed around until it has a kinda-reminds-you-of-meat-if-you-haven't-had-meat-in-five-years consistency. This dish is dead simple to make and, as it turns out, really tasty without any meat substitutes whatsoever. I have aspirations of making my own sausage-like substitutes with lentils and almond meal, but have not yet had a successful attempt.

Italian Peppers & Onions (&Vegetables)

2 onions, cut into large pieces
2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bulb of fennel, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 bell peppers, cut into long slices
8oz fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1.5 cups black beans (either canned or re-hydrated)
1/2 cup chopped black olives

2 jars of diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added
1 cup brown basmati rice
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper
Italian-ish spices like oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme.

Start a pot of water boiling for the rice - 2 cups water for 1 cup rice. Bring the rice to a gentle boil, lid on but tilted, and simmer until the water has been absorbed which should be about 30-40 minutes.

Put a dollop of coconut oil (or other oil good for higher-heat cooking) in your pan.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger, fennel, and carrots. Cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to get soft.

Add the bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, black beans, and black olives. You could substitute other veggies or beans here; we chose these because they were what we had on hand. Cook for a few more minutes, until heated through, or when the mushrooms begin to shrink and the peppers begin to get tender.

Add the canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes to taste, and about a teaspoon of whichever Italian-ish spices you have around. Salt and pepper as needed.

Those who would like to could easily add some all-natural meat sausages.  Serve over rice.

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