Okay, now, on to faux meats. Since my decision to become vegetarian, I've been trying faux meats in all shapes and sizes. Not because I'm "missing" meat, but just because I was curious. What is this stuff going to taste like? Will it really taste like what it supposed to be substituting for? Will it taste like meat at all? Will it give me the same "satisfaction" of meat? I didn't know any of these answers because I hadn't tried any of these products before. So, now that I have tried several of them, here is my humble opinion:
When you're talking about meat substitutes/faux meat, Morningstar Farms is the the number one brand in this area. A Boca item or 2 is the only other thing you can find a regular grocery store. Morningstar Farms makes lots of different faux meat products and some of them are absolutely DELISH! They make a wide variety of "burgers" and I've tried 3 of the 11 without being disappointed yet! In fact, I would say I was pleasantly surprised each time. They have a ton of flavor and they do give you that full or satisfied feeling that we tend to associate with meat.
The 3 burgers pictured above are the options available at the local Target. By the way, I've found my Super Target to be more vegetarian-friendly that the much larger local grocery stores. That's a little strange if you ask me, but I can live with it. Anyway, the Garden Veggie Patty (similar to a turkey burger,) the Spicy Black Bean Burger and their Chipotle Black Bean Burger (not pictured, but available at Costco,) are REALLY tasty. They are loaded with flavor and have texture that is fairly similar to a ground beef or turkey burger. All-in-all, a delicious and satisfying substitute for meat. Now if I could just find their Mushroom Lover's Burger somewhere...
They also offer several veggie sausage patties. I tried the maple flavored one and I can't say I'm a fan. It just had a strange taste. Even though I've read over and over that people prefer Morningstar Farms to Boca, I was told that Boca's sausage link was good. Now, if I could manage to find it in the store, I'd give it a try. But I haven't been able to yet, so that'll have to wait.
Morningstar also makes "chik'n" in a variety of forms. All of which are made from veggies. Below are the Chik'n Nuggets that you cook in the oven (toaster oven in my case) just like you would the regular processed, chopped and formed chicken nuggets that you'd buy at the grocery store. I should've ripped one open for a picture of the inside, but I didn't think of that until now. Other than the crispy coating, the texture of these is different from chicken nuggets. It's smoother and less chewy.
Are they good? Well, would you call the frozen chicken nuggets you buy "good"? They're similar. Both are chopped and formed with a somewhat strange texture, but edible. Especially if you have a dipping sauce. The taste is a little different from chicken, but I could get used to it. They also sell "Buffalo Wing Veggie Wings" that are really a nugget with some buffalo seasoning flavor. They aren't too bad. I actually prefer those to the regular nuggets. The buffalo flavor is mild and it definitely adds something. With a dipping sauce, it's pretty much a winner.
On their website, I saw that Morningstar Farms also offers a couple of variety of Chik'n patties, but I haven't seen any of those in the store yet. I also purchased some of their "Crumbles" which are supposed to be a ground beef substitute, but I haven't tried those yet. I'll let you know how it goes, but I think it'll be fine.
One of my favorite things I've tried is the "Hickory BBQ" veggie riblet pictured below. (I only had regular sandwich bread and because of that, the picture of the real thing looked ridiculous. When I have a better pic, I'll post it.) Now again, it has that chopped and formed unusual texture that we've grow to love with processed meat products, but if you can get over that, this one is a total vote getter! In fact, with a few pickle rounds, some onions and a hot dog bun, you could totally convince someone that they're eating a McRib.
And the final Morningstar Farms product I want to talk about is their veggie bacon strips. Now this is an important one. I am a bacon lover and have been known to say that I'd eat a dog turd if it was wrapped in bacon... Obviously I'm not going to eat a dog turd, but I think you get the point. So I was very curious to try veggie bacon. Faux forms of bacon are apparently made in many different ways, and after a trip to Whole Foods (because several unconventional ingredients are required,) I'll have to give making faux bacon a go. I have to share that these fake bacons are affectionately know as "Facon." Isn't that great?
Well, it vaguely resembles bacon, except that it is cut into a perfect rectangle and the "painted on" striations are exactly the same on every piece. Yes, it does have the basic smoky flavor that you get from bacon, but the pieces are very thin and have a rubbery texture, so you definitely can't be fooled into thinking it's actually bacon when eating a strip of it. Actually, it's sort of like a very thin fried bologna. And although it does crisp up somewhat, that's really only because it has been cut so thin. Now, this doesn't sound like good news, right? But, if you make it an ingredient in something, rather than eating it like plain like you might eat strips of bacon at breakfast it's a different situation.
Take, for example, the Facon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich that I made for lunch one day. It was pretty darn tasty. When there are other textures involved to cover up that the Facon texture is a little off, you can determine that it tastes pretty similar to bacon. And watermelon makes everything better!
Apparently soybeans, in several different forms, are often used as meat substitutes, because they are great sources of vegetable protein. Tempeh is the only one I've tried, thus far. Well, tofu, but we've all tried tofu and it's not really a blog worthy topic. Anyway, basically tempeh is fermented cooked soybeans. I'd been wanting to try it and when I saw one day on Facebook that Planet Sub has veggie subs for $3 on Thursdays, I decided to order one and add tempeh to it so I could. Adding tempeh is only $.70 at Planet Sub. It was pretty good. It didn't have too much flavor, but it definitely gave the sandwich some heft and protein that many would consider to be missing from a veggie sub. It also has a substantial meaty texture- you bite down into it and give it a good chew, unlike some other meat substitutes. My buddy, Trey, even asked if I had meat on my sandwich when he saw it. I will order that sub again- and I'll be sure to get a picture of it before I devour it. According to several websites, it's pretty easy to make tempeh at home. I'll have to give that a try at some point and then experiment more with recipes that include tempeh!
Even though I wouldn't say I have felt like I've missed meat during the last month, I think I've come across some pretty good substitutes that I will enjoy eating, if that time arises. Any faux meats out there that you'd recommend to me?