meatless monday: upon which we explore faux meat

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
--charles caleb colton

Oh meat, please don't get us wrong.  We love you, meat.  We love you, meat.  We love you so much that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each American consumes, on average, over 227 pounds a meat per year.  And we do that because we love it.  It tastes good.  With few exceptions, most of us love a great burger, a delicious juicy steak, the home-cooked comfort of meatloaf, or a luscious, smoky brisket.  
Believe me, as much as we admire our vegan friends, there is little chance of us converting to vegan- or vegetarianism anytime soon.  One of us, in particular, is a proudly avowed carnivore. In fact, that certain farmer loves to borrow a quote from his favorite local barbecue joint:  

Don't misunderstand my carnivorous enthusiasm for any form of judgement on those who abstain. If you have adopted a vegetarian, or vegan, lifestyle, I applaud you. I know you are feeling great because of it, and your skin is clear and shiny and your hair bounces, and so do you.  I envy this in you.  I see the positive effects your diet has on your health and it's through, in large part, your fine example, that although meat will always have a place in our heart, and likely on our plate, we've moved to a primarily vegetable-based diet and the place that meat occupies on our plate has grown smaller, and shows up less frequently, over the past few years. 

Some choose to go meatless on Monday for health reasons, some for environmental reasons, some because it tastes good to eat a fresh, wholesome vegetarian meal and give the digestive system a rest, and some choose Monday to atone for the gluttony of the weekend.  We like Monday because it gives us an opportunity to establish and continue a healthy habit with which we can begin our week, making the likelihood of incorporating new healthy habits during the week greater.  Well, that and the atoning-for-gluttony thing.

Here, we use a four-prong approach for assuring that our meatless monday will be delicious, nutritious, wholesome, and satisfying: Eggs, pasta, homegrown vegetables, and faux meat. We incorporate lots of eggs and pasta up here, eggs that we're lucky enough to pluck straight from the hens' laying boxes, pasta, often made from those eggs, but also store-bought from a well-stocked pantry, and a lot of fresh, seasonal veggies that we are lucky enough to transport from garden to plate in short order.  But when we have a hankering for something meaty, we often turn to faux meats as a healthy alternative.  

Meat substitutes come in many forms, and from many brands.   Some, we find, are better than others, and as you can see, there are differing opinions about all of them. We recommend you check out the links, try a few products, and decide which works best for you. Among our favorties, we like a 'mycoprotein' substitute made primarily from a mushroom-like compound, which happens to be meat-free, soy-free, low in fat, and high in protein and dietary fiber.  And it tastes good, which is important for us.  If it doesn't taste good, we really don't care how healthy it is. Many meat substitutes, however, are still processed foods, so, like every food, moderation is the healthiest approach. Following, one of our favorite dishes utilizing Quorn, however any similar product of other vegetarian faux meat brands can be substituted.  

summer veggie tetrazzini

about 4 cups, combined, prepared seasonal vegetables of your choice--we used
1/2 cup chopped mixed orange, yellow, and red bell peppers
2 cups steamed broccoli
1/2 cup fresh garden peas, steamed
1 cup halved fresh cherry tomatoes
fresh herbs, chopped--we used oregano
1 bag (about 4 servings) of your favorite meat substitute--we used Quorn strips
your favorite pasta (about 4 servings, prepared)--to further the healthy benefits, we use 100% whole grain pasta

for sauce:
1 pint vegetable broth or stock, either purchased or homemade
8 oz vegan cream cheese substitute, or regular cream cheese if you prefer
2 T nutritional yeast
salt and pepper, to taste

to prepare sauce:
In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a medium simmer for ten minutes.  Whisk in nutritional yeast until dissolved.  Add cream cheese or substitute, whisking until all is well blended. Correct seasonings.

to prepare casserole
Toss together prepared pasta with prepared vegetables.  Pour sauce over and lightly toss to combine.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover to lightly brown the top, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes prior to serving.  serves 6-8.

Superfoods we used--

immunity booster
The lycopene content of tomatoes can help protect against degenerative diseases. Shoot for half a tomato, or 12 to 20 ounces of tomato juice a day.

+whole grains
inflammation fighter
Whole grains like oatmeal, wheat flour, barley and brown rice are high in fiber, which calms inflamed tissues while keeping the heart strong and colon healthy. Try two slices of whole-grain bread a day, or two servings of whole grain products.

muscle enhancer
A little-known protein source, quorn is a great substitute if you're looking to add variety to your diet with non-animal protein. Composed of a compound similar to mushroom protein, mycoprotein. it is a high quality protein without animal fat. Quorn is also lower in calories than chicken and turkey, and you can buy it ground, in chunks, and prepared cutlets. Find it at specialty markets, and aim for 6 ounces a day if you're tired of soy.

bone builder
A former president may hate this cruciferous all-star, but one cup of broccoli contains a hearty dose of calcium, as well as manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.  All that in addition to its high concentration of vitamins-including a, c, and k, and the phytonutrient sulforaphane, which studies at Johns Hopkins University suggest has powerful anticancer properties. Also try cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, or cabbage, for variation, as all possess many of the same nutritional qualities. Broccoli also helps reduce excess estrogen levels in the body, thanks to its indole 3-carbinol content. If you've never been a fan, try it roasted.  That's what made a convert of us.

The herb oregano is rich in antioxidants, so rich, in fact, that it has the highest concentration of almost any food. Great for improving digestion and the immune function, oregano also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Add it to stews and soups at the end of cooking to preserve it's healthiest qualities.

+nutritional yeast
body builder
This inactive yellow yeast comes in flakes, tastes like a combination of nuts and cheese and is a favorite vegan food additive. A 2 heaping tablespoons serving of nutritional yeast contains 9 grams of satiating protein as well as a greater portion of the RDA recommended amount of B vitamins which provides stress relief, extra energy and protection from chronic diseases. Use nutritional yeast on pastas, potatoes, eggs, popcorn and other foods that would benefit from its unique flavor.

Here's to a happy, healthy, and productive week,
See you tomorrow for in the garden: june.

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