Two days ago, while driving up I-5 on the way back home from our LA spring break trip, we passed a cattle farm. It was an amazing sight to see, but not in a good way -- there were hundreds of thousands of cows as far as the eye could see, but not a single blade of grass. All these cows were standing on something brown, and I don't think it was dirt. The stench was unbearable. And it lasted for miles. Long after the cattle farm had receded into the distance, we continued to hold our noses. I have no idea how people can work in that place, much less how cows can stay alive in that filth.
And this is the meat that we eat!!! I can only imagine how many parasites and germs and goodness-knows-what are proliferating in those cows. Now, I'm not a meat hater by any means, if you put a burger or steak fajita in front of me I will wolf it down, and I don't believe in harassing people into giving up their carnivorous ways, but when I see stuff like that cattle farm it goads me into reducing my family's meat consumption even more than we have. My motivation for eating less meat has always been the health and environmental benefits, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore the conditions that livestock are being raised and slaughtered in.
Fortunately, reducing meat consumption is easier and more delicious than ever. There are so many delicious meatless options available in supermarkets these days, like tofu and soybeans and portabella mushrooms and chickpeas and beans! And if you're craving the taste of meat, you can even find veggie meat substitutes. Here are five of my favorites:
Despite the proliferation of veggie burgers in the market, I still like Boca Burgers. I admit, they don't really make a good substitute for a nice, juicy, beefy burger, but I can eat a veggie burger much more frequently than a beef burger and still maintain a clean conscience about my health.
I first tasted Veggie Patch Spinach Nuggets at one of The Pea's friend's birthday party. The mom served them for all the little princesses but I couldn't help stuffing my face with them, they're so good. I have no idea how they make spinach taste so good! For a short, glorious time they were available in giant-sized packs at Costco, but now I can only find them at Safeway and Whole Foods. They're the perfect alternative to chicken nuggets for the kids.
A couple of months ago I found myself craving my mother's chorizo. I bought some chorizo from a local Mexican grocery, but only used half of it because I was disgusted by the amount of lard that came oozing through. So when I saw this soy chorizo at Trader Joe's I decided to try it. It was delicious! Alfie loves it because it's got that hint of spice, and I think the texture is remarkably similar to real pork chorizo. The kids don't really like this chorizo by itself because they find it too spicy, but last night I made a gumbo with rice, red beans, vegetable stock and tomatoes. I stir-fried some of this soy chorizo and stirred it right in, along with some canned yellow corn and sour cream. The kids couldn't get enough of it!
I love Morningstar Meal Starters for spaghetti sauce, shepherd's pie, meatloaf, gumbo, or any recipe that calls for ground beef. Since you mix it with so many ingredients, you don't really notice that the texture is a bit gummier than real meat, and I can't really complain about the flavor either. You buy them in bags and stick them in the freezer, and since they're ground up it doesn't take much time to defrost them -- which is perfect for someone who decides what we're having for dinner about 5 minutes before she starts cooking it.
These Morningstar Sausage Patties are my latest discovery. I adore the taste of breakfast sausage and I think these are awesome! The other day I packed a breakfast sandwich for Alfie's lunch -- two of these patties and a scrambled egg with cheese, sandwiched between two waffles. I also packed a small container of maple syrup for him to dip into. That night he told me it was delicious, but I already figured that out. I know he's going to enjoy his lunch when I have to fight the temptation to eat it myself when I'm packing it for him.
If anyone has more meatless favorites, I'd love to hear about them!
*Disclosure: I wasn't compensated to list these foods nor did I receive any samples, nor was I even contacted by their manufacturers. I'm just sharing some foods I love!