- Fair Warning: This post contains graphic references to passing gas. If you are uncomfortable with the word “fart,” please stop reading. (Mom, since you wouldn’t even let me say that word growing up, this includes you.)
If you read my “So You’re a Vegetarian” blog, you know my reasons are not “health-related.” I can barely even brush my teeth twice a day for “health reasons.” So, for me, being a vegetarian isn’t about “deprivation.” It’s a bonus that most vegetarian options are lower in fat/calories, but the key for me is that their flesh content is zero.
When I became a vegetarian, my father said, “We’ll see how long this lasts!”
It’s been over 15 years.
People said, “You’ll crave meat when you’re pregnant!”
I do feel like there is a growing stigma around people with specialized dietary choices. Skinny women with long lists of “I will eat this, but not that” have been parodied widely. I don’t want anyone to have to work to accommodate my choice. My mantra is:
My choice, my problem!
When I made the decision to become a vegetarian, you could only buy quinoa in health food stores – now it’s on almost all grocery shelves and there are entire sections of meat-alternative products.
After years of vegetarian cooking, I have a few product recommendations and tips to pass on.
Morningstar Farms Grillers Crumbles
If you have never tried a vegetarian substitution product, this is a great introduction. I use them to make spaghetti sauce, tacos, chili, meatloaf, meatballs, even Manwiches and Hamburger Helper!
- TIP: Cook them in a skillet with a little oil until crispy brown bits develop. This gives them great texture and makes them an excellent ground beef substitute.
- Fair warning: these cause more “gas” than any other food I’ve ever eaten. Like, for real. It’s almost funny, but if you’re really uncomfortable having “the toots,” don’t even bother trying them. Or do – and tell me about it so I can laugh.
Okay – on to products less likely to produce gas…
Quorn Chick’n Tenders
The best part about Quorn products is that they’re not soy based! They’re made from “mycoprotein.” I use these in soups primarily and honestly – meat-eaters will not love them. But it’s nice to have a chicken replacement product option.
- TIP: If there are white parts on the pieces, they won’t taste right. The white parts are basically permanently dry and funky tasting. Quorn chik’n should have a uniform tan color.
Morningstar Farms Bacon
BACON! Bacon is like crack for some people. I’m not one of them, but I have tried every brand of veggie bacon out there and after an Ott family taste test, have thrown my support to Morningstar. My kids love this stuff! They call them bacon chips.
- TIP: These actually taste best microwaved because they crisp nicely. Do not try this product in recipes because it gets soggy.
Tofurky Peppered Deli Slices
These make great sandwiches. It’s my replacement for corned beef in a Reuben. I also eat them wrapped around pickles or sticks of cheese. These elicit the most, “What are you eating?” questions because they look kind of gray – not super appetizing, but if you can get over the appearance, they’re good!
This line has put out a lot of new products and I can recommend many of them.
Their “ultimate beefless burgers” get my vote for most “burger-like” veggie burger.
Their mandarin orange crispy chick’n (cooked until CRISPY) is really good (and even better if you add some mandarin oranges and fresh green onion).
I have used their “Beef Tips” in crock pot style pot roast with good results.
Their turk’y cutlets have replaced Tofurky for me at Thanksgiving. My non-vegetarian husband gives his stamp of approval on these. They’re good!
This meal delivery service that has taught me so much! I have learned how to “sweat” eggplant and do tofu right. I’ve gotten to try new things like “seared Haloumi.” It’s not cheap ($12/plate), but it’s been like a cooking class for me.
- Fair warning: The recipes are good, but followed exactly may not perfectly suit your tastes. I like bold flavors so I always have to add more seasoning than they supply (if they include a spice mix of coriander/cumin/curry – I add more of those spices).
Even with necessary tweaks, the price is still totally worth it because whatever is in the box, it’s always an amazing start to delectable new flavors. I was surprised to love shashouka (pictured below). A box to make okonomiyaki comes tomorrow. I had never even heard of these dishes. That box is an education.
Happy animal-friendly cooking!