Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going Veggie, well mostly...

(Veggie "chicken")

Considering the latest information on meat and health, we have been cutting down on our consumption of meat. Trying to eat a mostly plant-based diet hasn't been an easy transition. Since there now is a correlation between cancer and eating meat, and not just red meat, I am making a decent attempt, however. I am quickly entering the second half of my 50's, and with a family that seems to have cancer as a nasty companion, I'm looking for some alternatives to our beloved recipes.

My husband is a reluctant traveler along this road. He loves meat! All kinds - usually half raw. So this has been a bigger transition for him. We are not complete vegetarians. But we are working on eating less of it. Factory farming is the main reason, but also environmental factors that can no longer be ignored. We need to find alternatives.

Enter Quron. It is a company that makes very good vegetable-protein products - not soy products. It's main ingredient is "mycoprotein (“myco” is Greek for “fungi”). The mycoprotein comes from Fusarium venenatum, which was originally discovered growing in a field in Buckinghamshire, England. In the late 1960s, initial product development began, soon recognizing mycoprotein’s potential as an efficient and nutritious protein source." In other words, mushrooms.

The end result is some tasty products. I really don't care for the soy-based meatless products. We have tried several. (Sorry, but Tofurkey doesn't taste much like the real thing.)

My vegetarian daughter is visiting for Thanksgiving and I really want her to enjoy the meal. It will probably include turkey because other family members would feel cheated without it. (Although the vision of Sarah Paylin blithely yammering away while all those turkeys lost their heads behind her has ruined my taste for turkey. Permanently.)

I made tacos the other night with their "hamburger" crumbles, and after adding the taco seasoning you could not tell the difference between what was in the pan, and ground beef. My husband helped himself to only a tiny little spoonful for his first taco, but came back three times and filled the shell with the "meat" after that. If he likes it - believe me, it must taste very close to the real thing. I think the key is to add it to the end of a recipe, not at the beginning. It does better with less cooking.

If anyone has any tips or products that we should know about, please leave a comment. Good Cook did a great post on E-Coli and alternatives to factory-farmed animals. There are farmers out there that believe in raising animals in a humane way for consumption. Although when visiting the website for Heritage Foods I found choosing a chicken that still had it's feathers made it a little more difficult for someone used to seeing her chicken nicely packaged in the grocery store. Which makes a strong statement in itself. BTW - has anyone else been creeped out by that commercial that has the turkey carcase being chased through the grocery store?

We are doing our best to stay healthy, eat more plant-based foods, exercise, etc. But the bottom line - food has to taste good. Food preparation is very important to me, and I am not going to stop cooking great food now. Fortunately, some wonderful chefs are jumping on the veggie bandwagon and some really incredible food is the end result. It think it's finally catching on. We had a Reuben sandwich at Vita Cafe on Alberta while in Portland this week that rivaled any that I've had. You had your choice between "turkey" that they made in their restaurant, or tempeh. I chose their "turkey" and it was delicious.

What about you? Any dietary changes?

35 comments:

Natalie said...

We are exactly where you are. Unfortunately, I am a foodie and found our Australian products lacking, especially since Hub and I hate Soy.
There is an Aussie blog I follow called 'Where's the Beef' and it is a vegan site.Every so often they have a beauty of a recipe. Also, 'Vegan Dad' is a U.S or Canadian site which has great recipes.
Hmm.....maybe we could have a little recipe co -op?xx♥

Cricket Tragic said...

We've been doing the same as well recently, and I've found that for a fully Vegetarian meal to taste good, there should be more dishes.

If there was some meat, perhaps another dish would be fine but when it comes to a veggie meal, I find myself groaning when my mum comes up with less than 3 dishes! :)

Lydia said...

I quit eating mammals 31 years ago, but still eat chicken and fish - although not daily. Our tacos, for instance, are made from Rosarita Black Beans, avocado, tomatoes, onion, cheese and salsa. We'll have turkey for Thanksgiving (haven't tried the tofu kind).
I like the soy-based meat products, but don't go overboard even on them because of the estrogen concern.
I see that Natalie has given the name of a site for great recipes and I'll check that out.

The faux chicken loaf in the photo looks good!

Gaston Studio said...

Not a meat and potatoes girl but not a vegetarian either. Try to eat healthy but was baaad this past summer so now have to lose about 15 pounds which means giving up my cookies and milk at night and my ice cream!

Kathy G said...

Sounds like you and I are on the same wavelength. I'm trying to eat healthy--more whole grains, less meat and fat.

However, I still incorporate meat. Although I know there are many substitutes available (seitan, made out of wheat gluten is quite good) but I always wonder if some research study down the line will come up with some health disadvantages to "made up meat". I'd prefer to eat small amounts of the real thing. At least you know what you're getting there.

Leah J. Utas said...

I wish we could get some of this mycoprotein here, but I've never seen the product. I like meat, but I don't care for factory farm stuff. The soy-based fake ones are okay to a degree.

Brian Miller said...

i think i am in your husbands boat...but this might just get me to try...

ellen abbott said...

I would like to eat less meat. I don't do the cooking though and when I'm hungry, I eat what's in front of me. I have voiced this several times, that we should have more meals without meat.

I read recently on someone's blog rules for eating. One of the rules was you should not eat something you are unwilling to kill. Makes sense to me. Here and now, I don't think I could kill anything but I know if I got hungry enough that would become less of a concern.

It's a dilemma for sure.

DJan said...

Great article, and interesting comments as well. I have been eating a plant based diet with occasional fish for heart health for over 40 years. I will eat chicken and turkey if I feel like it but I only do once or twice a year. So I'm not strict, but I also don't feel deprived. I remember once hearing that people either eat to live or live to eat. I can't walk by something fattening without gaining weight, so I'm trending towards the former...

JC said...

I'm a .. sort of .. veeggie gal. I try. Don't eat chicken, lamb, duck or anything like that. I do eat hamburger every once in a while but I have had the crumble meat you talked about. I usually eat fish if I go out to eat. Or a big salad or pasta ...

During the Holidays we don't do turkey we do Veggie Lasagna or Veggie Pasta ...

Like I said, I try ...

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

I recently made spaghetti bolognese with Quorn mince...exactly the same way l always make it...and the only differences were, that the meat does look paler and the texture is very very tender..apart from that the kids loved it....Larry refused to taste it....an experiment whilst I was attempting to get my head or tongue around a less meat diet...

admittedly we eat less meat these days, probably only 3-4 times a week... but that is more to do with cost than anyhting else...of course IF I understood it to be less than healthy by food professionals, not just Shamens then l may have to discard it from our diet...until then...

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

BRAVO!!!
You have the right mindset to go vegetarian! That's exactly what I did at first, I slowed my meat consumption down and eventually went all the way.
Josh cut out all red meats, only eating chicken and fish, and then gave up chicken, and here we are today!

Have you thought of making any bean burgers? I love them. Throw some lentils and plenty of veggies in your spaghetti.

I get so excited when other humans are going veggie. :)


I've been thinking about going full fledged vegan... But am still afraid. I don't know why I fret... I love eggs. :)

Nancy said...

Natalie - Great idea about posting our favorite veggie recipe. Thanks for the blog suggestions - I will definitely check them out. I also have a couple on my sidebar which I found to be very good - The Veggie Patch and Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking. I'm with you on the soy products.

Cricket - Very good point about several dishes. I feel hungry later if I don't have a protein somewhere in the meal as well.

Lydia - I found this product to be quite good. Not one I would eat every night, but certainly good for once or twice a week. Congrats on not eating mammals for 40 years - I'm sure they appreciate it :-)

Gaston - I'm working on the same issue. I ate cookies and cake while in Portland this last week - now I have to live with the consequences!

Kathy - I usually feel pretty safe if it's a veggie protein, but I know what you mean about finding something wrong down the line - hasn't that happened with just about everything?

Leah - I find it here in the frozen section of the "health food" part of the supermarket, if you have one that has that. It is always sold frozen.

Brian - I know Brian - it's those steaks cooked rare, right? LOL!

Ellen - Getting my husband to cook veggie is a real trick. His idea of cooking usually involves large chunks of beef. But he is trying to change his attitude. I think unless I was starving, I would be a total vegetarian if I had to kill it. I can't kill spiders!

DJan - You have a very healthy attitude. Being as active as you are probably has something to do with also wanting to fuel your body in the most efficient way. I find when I exercise regularly, I eat better as a consequence.

JC - Sounds like a good try to me. I wish my family would be happy with veggie lasagna. Maybe I'll do both, and see if everyone is ready to doing something different next year.

Fat, frumpy, fifty - Check out that like on the "correlation" in my post. It is an eye opener. I had to laugh when you said your husband wouldn't try it. Mine took a tiny spoonful the first taco. What are they afraid of, LOL?

Nancy said...

Phoebe - I knew you would be proud of us! I do need your recipe for red-bean burgers, and the "hamburger" mac & cheese! My daughter eats eggs and cheese. She found giving those up was just too hard to maintain her protein. She is the one that doesn't cook much. I took her shopping for some warm clothes before I left Portland and she is down two sizes. So going vegan might not be a good idea unless you are prepared to be very careful to get all that you need. Which it sounds like you do, by the way.

Land of shimp said...

Hi there, Nancy. I was a pescatarian (fish, eggs, dairy without mammals or birds) for over ten years, but now eat meat. It just wasn't working out for my family, as they love meat.

I think that people take an all or nothing approach to dietary changes that keeps many from succeeding in eating a healthier diet. Reduction is a good way to start. If you adore meat, but want to eat less of it for health reasons, start small if need be: one to two meatless dinners a week.

People get overwhelmed by change and put off by labels, at times. Thanks for the heads up on the meatless product. I've never tried that sort, but use mushrooms as meat substitutes a great deal.

My husband and son were far more open to eating meatless meals when it was no longer a case of being, "For good!"

By the way, where did you purchase the ground beef alternative? I've got Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods available to me out here, do they seem like likely places to find it?

One more thing, one great way to get people who love meat to eat something is to start with a really hearty stock-- and one thing I've found to really help vegetable stock have more oomph is to go ahead and do a long simmer with a bunch of different mushrooms. You can even start out with the boxed vegetable stock and punch that up by simmering mushrooms in it, then reducing by half.

Really strong flavor. Works well as a good substitute in soups and stews featuring other veggies. I think a lot of people, particularly men, in the winter fear that vegetarian fare isn't hearty, filling, or flavorful enough.

I can't get tofu past my son to save my life, he's really bothered by the texture...it's just reads wrong in his mouth. That's the problem I've found with some of the meat substitutes. It's not necessarily flavor, it's mouth texture that really reads as "This isn't...right...ugh!" with some of them. Specifically being too dry on some of the tofu based meat substitutes.

Nancy said...

Shimp - I agree. We will have to do this slowly, and knowing my husband, maybe not completely. My goal is five meatless dinners a week, with a chicken or fish dinner in between. If I try to go all the way at once, it just doesn't work. My daughter found a very firm tofu at Trader Joes that I really like. She frys it first to give it a crusty texture and then adds it to a stirfry. It was wonderful! I would ask those places if they carry the Quron, or maybe get it online? I highlighted the site, so it might show where it can be purchased in your area. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

The best I can do is use less meat. Why is it that men think a small pot of chili requires 5 lbs of meat? As long as he doesn't see me cook I can get away with ground turkey and soy in some things. He does love mushrooms, though. They tend to aggravate his gout, though. Can't win.

scarlethue said...

GOOD FOR YOU!

I've been a pesco-vegetarian (meaning I do eat fish) for almost 10 years now. Wow, ten years. At first I did eat a lot of that soy and mushroom based meat substitute, but now I don't need it as much. I don't feel a need for meat or the taste of it, so I don't have to have a "substitute."

I do love those crumbles in tacos though! And yes, the trick is to only warm them, not cook. They're good in spaghetti sauce too, just add them at the end of the sauce's simmer so that they just get warmed.

I've got some good recipes you might be interested in. I've thought about doing a "veggie recipe" day or something on my blog.

Nancy said...

Kathy - That is totally my husband. He could make a dinner of just meat. This is going to have go slowly.

Scarlethue - Great idea! I'll bet you have some tried and true recipes. I am always happy to get those.

Bee said...

We eat lots of pasta,soup and bread -- and organic meat, maybe twice a week.

My teenage daughter tried to go total veggie for several months this year, but her summer visit to her Texas grandparents "broke" her.

Avoiding cheap meat is one of the best things you can do -- health-wise and environmentally.

Nancy said...

Bee - I totally agree. High quality, local, organic, humane, is what I strive for when eating meat.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I would like to explore more vegetarian foods. We rarely eat beef or pork. I'm hoping next year when all the kids are off on their own, I may try newer recipes. Certainly tired of cooking the same things and out of ideas.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Quorn - just looked up the availability in my town - Whole Foods and our major grocer all carry it. Will look for it.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Fantastic info, Nancy. Thanks for posting this. I haven't eaten red meat since the early 90s, but do still eat chicken and fish. We try to use soy products and now there are a lot of varieties, so it's not as challenging as it used to be.

Nancy said...

I dont believe that meat has anything to do with it. I think the type of meat is significant and organic is better, humanely raised animals is ideal. But meat on its own causing cancer, I dont think so. Barbequing meat does add carcinogens, but not baking or boiling or frying in certain oils that can stand the heat (canola is bad as is olive if you heat it, olive oil is only good for you if it is NOT heated)

I think the real cancer causer is processed foods, and mainly high glycemic carbohydrates like flour and sugar.

I have been on a low carb diet since June. People told me it was unhealthy and that I should be careful. Careful of what? The best health ever? (I have the healthiest blood sugar - tryglyceride - cholesterol numbers you have ever seen) and I cured my hypoglycemia. Not only do I eat meat, I eat it every day. I eat ALOT of vegetables though, more than anyone I know. Being low carb doesnt mean eating bacon and steak every day, it means NOT eating bread and pasta and fast foods which are the real culprits in the American diet.

I know its controversial but the government can keep their opinions, I dont really listen to their recommendations anymore, not when the bottom line is money. They told us for twenty years to eat a diet based on grains. Look what happened. And why? Money.

Marguerite said...

I was a vegetarian for 10 years and I loved it! It is definitely a healthy alternative to eating meat that has been pumped up with hormones, and antibiotics. But when I moved back to Louisiana, it all went to hell in a hand basket! ha! I mainly eat seafood and veggies, but occasionally eat organic beef and chicken that has been raised without the harmful additions. Get my eggs and cheese, organic, too. And a good Lobster once in a while doesn't hurt, either :)

Nancy said...

Midlife - Let me know what you think of it.

Trish & Rob - It does seem to be getting easier. But going out to dinner is more of a challenge. Vegetarian entrees are always in short supply. There is usually only one choice.

Nancy - You are so right about the oils. There are only a few that stand up to high heat - such as peanut oil. Keep us posted on your diet and how you are feeling. I know what you mean about not trusting what we are told from day to day. It changes with the wind.

Marguerite - We sound about the same. Mostly veggies with some chicken and fish and occasionally beef. My husband would eat beef every day, however.

Cloudia said...

A good choice. Glad to see you said "Mostly."

Enjoy and savor meat when you do eat it. Most of us just eat too much of it thoughtlessly. Good for you!


Aloha, Friend


Comfort Spiral

Nancy said...

Cloudia - I agree. We need to be mindful and appreciative of the life given, don't you think?

Deboshree said...

Dear lord..this is an eye opener!

I didn't know this at all! On top of that, I love meat! And we eat red meat too.
I think there is a serious rethink needed here!
Thanks for the information!

Love
Deboshree

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Hi Nancy: My husband and I started eating as vegetarians in September. I thought he would be a hard sell, but after he read "The Food Revolution" and the new book "The China Study" he was on board like a religious convert!

Both of those books show how eating animal protein is the cause of heart disease and cancer. The evidence is overwhelming. But one of the most important reasons to eliminate consumption of animal protein is that it will save the planet!!!

Forests are destroyed to create farmland for the crops needed to feed the animals destined for our table. We will do more for the planet by not eating meat than by getting rid of our cars. Can you imagine?

Ultimately it is a stand we can all take to improve our health AND the health of the planet.

If you go vegetarian you should be sure to supplement your diet with vitamin B12.

Good luck!

Nancy said...

Deboshree - I think we all need to at least look at cutting back on meat consumption. The healthiest societies eat small portions of animal products.

Bonnie - I will put those books on my reading list. I agree with you, and will pick up some B-12. Please share any wonderful recipes you might have!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I do my best to buy meat that has been raised organically, but who knows really? We use meat sparingly for the most part, and I've been gluten-free for two months now for health reasons. I feel great, and a side benefit is weight loss. Yay!

Nancy said...

Elizabeth - Gluten seems to be a problem for many lately.

Pat said...

I don't see switching to strictly vegetables in the near future - hubby is a meat/potato man. We eat a lot of chicken, though. I'm trying to eat more fish and cut down on the red meat.