Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scrambles and Scribbles ~ Vegan 101. Meet the "Meats" Part 1

"You don't eat meat!?! That's Okay. I fix lamb."  uh, no. Thanks. 

Meat. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that your first experience with a meat substitute will rock your world and replace meat in your heart forever. If you are committed to getting meat out of your life, you need also to commit to allowing your tastebuds a chance to change and grow. And they will. Some of the meat subs we've tried have tasted as good to meat eaters as they do to us, others have been utter fails to all. But the key is to keep trying and growing. I'll post links to some of my favorite recipes (mine or others) the next time in Part 2. But for now, he's something to chew on.

This is where the omnivores (meat and veggie eaters) in your life really notice the "Vegan thing."  It's pretty difficult to fake steak and pot roast, turkey and ham. However, you can get the sensation of a meaty feel or flavor. And you can usually satisfy the meat itch. My favorite go to cookbooks for meat replacements are by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Vegan with a Vengeance has the best Seitan recipe. (more about Seitan in a moment). And Veganomicon brings us the Chickpea cutlet. These recipes are worth the purchase price of the cookbooks and as a bonus she has lots of other great recipes in them as well. If you buy fake meat at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's you're making an investment. With some fairly inexpensive ingredients and a little time you can make your own and you control what goes into the end product. But fake meat that's packaged and ready to go is wonderful for convenience. We love the Gardein, Fieldroast and Upton products we've tried. Trader Joe's has an inexpensive meatless strip that has fooled a few omnivores.
Seitan is wheat meat also known as gluten. You buy gluten flour either packaged or in bulk. Most recipes call for anywhere from a 1/2 cup to 2 cups depending on what you are making and how many you need to feed. Average price that I pay is about three bucks a pound and a pound makes several servings. The Vegan with a Vengeance recipe is very close to the same taste as found in the processed seitans. Machine made seitan texture is hard to replicate, but I've made seitan rolls and sliced it pretty thin and frozen it and it's a satisfying meat replacement. The chickpea cutlet recipe I mentioned above contains gluten as well as chickpeas and they make a really filling and delicious chicken breast substitute. But. People with wheat allergies can't do gluten.

Tofu and tempeh are other meat substitutes. Tempeh is a step beyond tofu, basically tofu that has fermented and may contain grains.  Both of these are an aquired taste. Tofu, unless it's breaded and fried or blended into something like "scrambled eggs" is pretty tasteless and the texture will not fool anyone. And tofu is the classic Vegan staple from the seventies. Tofu will develop a chewier texture if you freeze it to help dry it out. Tofu bacon is really tasty and easy. Tofu is pressed (to push out water) marinated in soy sauce (some add liquid smoke and maple syrup) and then sliced and pan fried. I will marinate, slice and freeze it. Otherwise, my tofu usually ends up as scrambled to:. saute the veggies you want, dump your pressed tofu (to get the water out, put it between two plates on a few paper towels set something heavy on top plate for a half hour or so) into the pan. Toss in some spices like salt, garlic powder...and tumeric. Tumeric gives it the yellow you need to fool yourself into thinking you are eating scrambled eggs. Cook until the tofu is broken up and yellow and you have what resembles scrambled eggs and veggies. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a Vegan Brunch cookbook that has several "egg" dishes. Google vegan scrambled eggs and you'll find a lot of recipes. A local Asian restaurant serves peanut butter tofu which is on my list to recreate at home.

Tempeh is a smokier, nuttier taste and is firmer and smaller than tofu. It can be sliced, marinated, breaded, crumbled. It can work as bacon, in dishes to replace chicken or beef. I've not found a must go to recipe with tempeh. But I keep trying.

Beans, nuts, grains and vegetables can stand in for meat. Meaty vegetables are eggplant, mushrooms and cauliflower. Cauliflower has become a new favorite. I haven't done what some have, slab it like steak, but have discovered breaded cauliflower wings and that alone makes me sing it's praises. Portabella mushrooms are another favorite meatlike vegetable, we love them grilled or roasted. And we love then sliced and sauteed with pepper and onions. We have come to the point we are not seeking to have a "meat" with each meal. Instead we are trying to find foods that makes us feel alive and nourished. If that's three piles of different styles of veggies, then that's what it is.

Binders like eggs are limited in cooking. Ground flax seed and liquid (1 TBSP flax to 3 TBSP liquid)  works in something like "meatloaf." As I mentioned with scrambled eggs, tofu is a usual substitute. I've even seen tofu used as egg salad. I haven't tried it, don't know if I want to. Ya know?

Chicken and tuna salads are all over the internet. I've seen seitan, tempeh, tofu and chickpea versions. I've made one that almost scratches the itch for us. But we were never big chicken salad fans. Tuna, I haven't even tried, though sea vegetables add the fish to the "tuna". I think the key is to add similar spices and bits. For tuna salad I'd need to add sweet pickles and mustard because that's what my mom's recipe included.

The following websites have some great meaty type meal ideas and recipes.

Fat Free Vegan
Peas and Thank You
Happy, Healthy Life

Oh She Glows

The following cookbooks have great recipes. Each of these has multiple vegan recipes I've made and love, Peas and Thank you (check out her blog for a feel) is a go to book with traditional recipes tweaked and some new creative ideas. I've already mentioned Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegiminicon. Both of these have traditional and ethnic recipes. (The authors blog at PPK so you can check out some of their recipes there.)