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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tofu, Tofu, Tofu... Is That All You Eat?

I can remember back and have slight recall of my initial perception of meat alternatives.  Remember folks... Chucky ain't no Spring chicken.  As a matter of fact, I'm so old that I can clearly remember when water came out of taps!  Plastic bottle?   What's that?  You mean tin can or glass bottle, right?  Sorry... I diverge.

My understanding of a vegetarian?  Someone who does not eat meat.  But I asked myself, "Besides simply vegetables, what does a vegetarian eat?"  Then a light bulb went off within that plastic head of mine, "TOFU!  That's what else!  Right?"

Its Tofuber Day #28 and I honestly and unequivocally state, "No!"  Tiffany and I can, without reservation, offer a diversified list of tasty, healthy, and vegetarian meat alternatives.  This is what I hope to share within the confines of this particular post.  So... here 'tis my list in alphabetical order.

Fruits (apple, pomegranate, grape, etc.)

Tiffany and I attempt to diversify and rotate our selection of daily consumed fruits.  Because fruits possess many natural sugars, we attempt to restrict the amount consumed on a daily basis as not to escalate blood sugar levels (diabetes).

Where possible we hope to use organic fruits.  Besides the occasional table grapes and apple per day, we generally consume our fruits as part of a Blendtec blended concoction.   Tiffany and I prefer this method to simply eating raw fruits because the Blendtec blender utilizes the full resource of the fruit, breaks down the fruit to a molecular level, and provides nutrients not otherwise consumed.  As noted on October 27 blog, "What's on the Vegetarian Day #26 Menu?", we include enzyme into our daily smoothie to further take digestive advantage of nutrient absorption. 

Fungus (mushroom, truffle, etc.)

Although not a nutritional super food, mushrooms add a most excellent flavor and help bind many dishes (burgers, mushroom loaf, etc.).

Admit it you meat-eater!  You've tried a portobello burger at your local TGIF's, haven't you?

Grains (quinou, flax, chia, farro, rice, wheat, etc.)

Besides the sea of delicious grain choices available in today's super market, there are some outstanding pre-packaged vegan/vegetarian products available.

Excellent pre-packaged vegan grain-based products?  Try Joe's Oat Patties!  Tiffany have tried both the Maple Breakfast Blend to make breakfast sausage patties and Italian Sausage Blend to make burgers.  Both were delicious and easy to make.  We just finished our last breakfast patty this morning.

For grains, stick with the wild rices, brown rices, and natural unprocessed versions of all.  Doing so provides more nutrition and the inherently low glycemic index keeps you feeling full throughout the day.  Avoid the overly processed white rices.  Not much nutritional value remaining after the big corporations are through processing out the benefits of the raw food source.

Tips?  Quinou - rinse before cooking.  Oh yeah, rinse using a super fine sieve or you will rinse it down the drain.  Be careful when pouring quinou into your sieve because it's light, tiny and prefers to float rather than fall. 

Other (manufactured combination)

Tiffany and I have just began peeling away at the many choices available to us but have stumbled upon one established product line which has yet to let us down.  It's made by subsidiaries of the Kellogg's corporation, Worthington and Loma Linda.  These grain-tofu-egg based products are available in frozen and canned configurations.

So far we've tried "Wham" meatless ham, meatless smoked turkey, canned meatless chicken cutlets, and canned vegetarian burger.  I give 5 out of 5 stars for each of the items we have tasted so far.

Careful where you buy them though.  Sorry Publix but Hoovers beats you by over $2.00/can in pricing!!! 

Quorn (mycoprotien)

A most excellent product!!!  Mycoprotien is processed fungi under trade name "Quorn".  You can find them in the frozen foods section of your health stores and some of the nicer Publix supermarkets.

Tiffany and I have tried many Quorn products and, to date, they all are our favorite non-meat alternative!  Tasty, delicious, convenient, and healthy.  Except for food diversity, what else are you looking for?

Seitan (wheat gluten)

I'm unable to comment on this particular product... yet.  I've probably eaten some at one of our most excellent local restaurants, Loving Hut or The Drunken Monkey, but cannot specifically recall seitan being an ingredient of the dishes I have ordered.

However, I recently purchased some wheat gluten from Hoovers and plan to cook some up.  I'll report on this experiment at a later date.

Basically, from what I've read it's wheat gluten mixed up and kneaded like pizza dough, pulled into smaller parts, and then boiled in flavored water to cook.  Wanna make some seitan yourself?  Have you ever made it?  If so, opinion?  Tricks?  Tips?  Advice?

Oh... I almost forgot.  When I originally purchased my wheat gluten I was not aware of the seitan option.  Why did I buy it then?  After on-hand supplies are depleted, Tiffany and I are planning to use the Blendtec blender to make our own flours from scratch.  Whole wheat flour from wheat grain, rice flour from wild rice, soy flour from soy bean, and corn meal from popcorn kernels.  I will be needing wheat gluten because most of my flours will need it for baking.  Without the wheat gluten, I have read that the bread consistency will not be the same as atypical pre-Tofuber store bought flours.  But, this is another blog for the future.  Ahem... Back to today. 

Tofu (soybean)

Fermented soybean curd.  At least that's what I call it when eating it for lunch in the office.  Sounds more delightful, doesn't it?

Such a misunderstood product.  I believe that most people think back to the really old days when all vegetarian food was basically restricted to a bland form of tofu.  Westerners simply did not know what to do with the stuff.

It obviously cannot be that bad as it's been around for about 2,132 to 2,188 years!

I'll give you heads-up on one thing that I have learned so far.  It doesn't brown easily.  In my opinion, if attempting to make a taco crumbled tofu meal save yourself some time and use TVP instead.  Tofu makes excellent meatless taco filling but simply doesn't look the part.

My favorite method to cook tofu?  I might have said "frying" if I fried my foods but I simply don't.  I cook, saute, bake, roast and smoke.  I do fry but only do so using Pam or grape seed/olive oil.  I have found that smoking tofu using my Masterbuilt electric smoker and crushed pecan shell makes T2D4 (tofu 2-die-4)!

It gives me a texture that closely emulates that of fried tofu without all of the fats and oil!  Besides... anything smoked using pecan shell will rock your culinary world.

Uses?  Sandwiches (I'm having a tofu sandwich for lunch today), over brown rice or whole wheat pasta smothered in coconut curry peanut sauce, or simply sliced and diced for other meals.  Great in hot & sour soup, salads, etc.  

TVP ("Textured Vegetable Protein" - soybean derivative)

Remember Bac-Os bacon flavored bits?  Ha!  That's not bacon!  It's bacon-flavored (not real meat) TVP.  But Bac~Os bits do serve another purpose.  What's that you ask?  To make the Betty Crocker company and its' shareholders rich!  If you price bacon flavored TVP at your local health market and compare it what you had paid for Bac-Os bits, you will certainly attempt to spit out every Bac-Os bit that you had every consumed during your lifetime!

Okay.  Back to TVP.  In a nutshell, its a soybean by-product.  It's basically what is left after soybeans are converted to soy oil.  For lack of a better description, it's a gooey globulous substance extruded into various dehydrated form.  The end result?  Primarily a high protein substance having both low calorie and low fat.

Forms of TVP?  Whatever you can do with playdough you could probably do with TVP.  It's usually flavored (beef like, chicken like, bacon like, unflavored, etc.) and then formed into different sizes.  Our local markets have it in a super-fine grade making a most excellent taco meat substitute, to larger Bac-Os sized bits, even larger pea sized nuggets, and all the way up to chicken fillet sized pieces.  It's cheap, versatile, and takes on whatever taste you spice and flavor it with.

Maybe it's just me but when I have tasted a truly delicious ground beef taco, I did not say to myself "Wow!  What wonderful tasting steak that this has been made with!"  Instead it's more like "Wow!  These people have their spices down-pat!  Delicious!"  Unless I am simply crazy (no comments please), the beef itself is usually nothing more than a "filler" when preparing an abundance of the food dishes the we (carnivore, vegan, and vegetarian) prepare.

Take some super fine beef flavored TVP, rehydrate for 15-minutes in hot water, drain, mix it with tomato paste, and spice it to perfection.  What do you have?  Depending upon your culinary proficiency, you can have taco filling as good as any served anywhere.

It's the opinion of Chucky that TVP a true gift for us vegans and vegetarians.  Long live extruded dehydrated processed soybean byproducts!!! 

Vegetables (kale, spinach, beet, etc.)

Refer to Grains above.  Why?  Simply because I refuse to re-type it all again.

However, there is a new line of vegetable based product that Tiffany and I find quite delectable.  It's call Gardein and their product line runs the gamut of choices.  Found in both fresh and frozen varieties.  Tiffany and I have tried their home style beefless tips, marina chick'n good stuff, and BBQ pulled shreds.  Daggers up to all three that we've tried so far!


Okay, folks.  Have Tiffany and I missed other options?  Opinions?  On queue or full of synthetic stuffing?  I scream for input.  I stab for feedback!

Hi-dee hi-dee ho my friend

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