Monday, June 6, 2011

Taking A Step Back from The Fake Meat

Believe it or not, this was done in 15 minutes!
I've been following Vegetarian Times' 28-Day Veg Bootcamp, which is designed to help you kick start a vegetarian diet.  While I consider myself officially kick started, I thought it would be fun to look at some tips and get inspired.

I also got a nice good reminder about something that's pretty important.

Meat substitutes are bona fide health foods.

In the same way that meat wasn't meant to be a human's primary food source, neither are meat's vegetarian doppelgangers designed to be consumed in mass quantities. Like other processed foods, they should be eaten in moderation, but they certainly can play a part in a healthy diet. For optimum health, resist the urge to rely on packaged meat substitutes to form the basis of every meal, and approach them like treats instead. That way, you'll have time to get acquainted with all the wonderful whole foods out there that make terrific meal centerpieces: meaty mushrooms, hearty squashes, rustic root vegetables, and satisfying grains.

I used to pride myself on avoiding processed meat substitutes.  It was easy for me to do it, given most of them are mainly soy.  Lately, I realize I've been getting a little giddy about soy-free meat substitutes.  In the process, I've gotten away from the core of how I like to cook: fresh veg, whole grains, natural proteins.

So, tonight, I decided to get back to basics and cook a meal that was both convenient and 100% fresh.  I had some Israeli couscous that I grabbed from the bulk bin at Whole Foods a few weeks ago.  While that was cooking up, I sauteed shallots, portabello mushrooms, tomatoes, cannelini beans, garlic and tons of fresh spinach, seasoning it with freshly ground pepper, sea salt, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes.  I combined the couscous with the veg and added in some vegetable broth to help the cooking along.

I did a couple of things to up the convenience factor.   First, I used a really good knife.  The higher quality the knife, the more smoothy and quickly chopping goes.  However, I also used pre-washed and pre-cut mushrooms and bagged baby spinach, both of which cut my prep time further.  To get the garlic minced, I used a Hand Chopper, rather than cutting it by hand.  Canned beans are practically instant - open, rinse and add to pan.  Since Israeli couscous cooks in 8-10 minutes, I had dinner on the table a little more than 15 minutes from when I started.

Now, I still expect to enjoy Quorn and Grain Meat Company products from time to time - they're not junk food, after all.  But, I clearly have the ability to cook a convenient meal with fresh ingredients, and it's worth the effort.

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