What I've Learned So Far
If you didn’t grow up a vegetarian, you probably have some good memories of meals that centered around meat. Chicken and dumplings, hamburgers on the grill, corn dogs. Once you make the commitment to give that up, you find there’s lots of meat substitutes out there. But how good are they, really?
Used in recipes, or as part of sandwich with condiments, fake meat isn’t too bad. Generally people notice the difference in texture more than taste. There’s several product lines out there: Quorn, Morningstar Farms, Boca, Amy’s – and probably others. It’s worth knowing how these products are made, and the ingredients.
The first thing to know, is that these are highly processed foods, so they’re not particularly healthy. Most of them use textured vegetable protein (TVP) as a base. TVP is made from soy protein and wheat gluten. These are not organic products, so the soy is most like a GMO – you can read more about soy in last week’s blog.
The one exception is Quorn, which uses an ingredient called mycoprotein. It’s derived from the Fusarium venenatum fungus and is grown by fermentation using a process that the manufacturer says is similar to the production of beer or yogurt. But there’s a lot of other non-organic chemicals and additives – just not the soy and gluten.
For burger, I try to stick with Amy’s. The ingredients are organic, and generally the protein comes from grains, so I think they’re great for burgers. They’ve got gluten and dairy free options as well. Just keep in mind these products are analogous to fast food so you want to eat them sparingly.
This week’s recipe uses a Quorn product called Chik’n Tenders – basically little squares of fake chicken (which I call ficken). Used in a recipe, they’re pretty tasty, and because they’re easy to heat up they’re also pretty versatile.
• You can (and should) learn more about how fake meat products are made by searching the Internet. I found a good article on Chowhound.com, but there are others out there as well.
• I know the eggs seem really weird in this recipe – the first time I saw it I wasn’t sure about it, but they actually work well.
• You can also use regular Cream of Mushroom soup – I like using condensed because I can control how thick the “gravy” is for the casserole.