To Meat or Not to Meat, That is the Question…


I was once extremely skeptical of the of the terms, “vegeatarian chicken strips”or “vegan tuna”, but I can say that I might have been converted after visiting the vegan butcher in Toronto.  Yes, I put the word vegan + butcher in the same sentence.  That sounds almost as wrong as coconut bacon, doesn’t it?  Well, my recent trip to Yam Chops was an eye opener to how closely a non-meat product can look, taste and feel like the real thing.

It is estimated that global sales of meat substitutes will reach $4B in 2016, a 42% rise since 2010.  That’s a lot of money, right?  Well if you combine this with the 3.5% of the US population or around 7.5M that classify themselves as vegan plus an additional 23M who are vegetarian, you now have a category worth taking about.

In addition, we see a growing base of individuals that are calling themselves Flexitarian.  This loyal group made up mostly of Millennials and GenZ’s has built a meat-free movement that developers are finally starting to realize.  The problem continues to be however, the need for these products to not taste like cardboard or feel like you are knawing on tree bark.   The good news for this industry is from what I tasted, there is hope.

Now I am not saying that the items I sampled had the bloody and delicious texture that we all have grown accustomed to from meat, but for a vegan option it was damn good.  It cut like meat, it looked like meat and believe it or not it tasted like it.

Specifically, the black pepper beef was amazing.  Not only did  it have the look, feel and texture of beef, but it actually had an amazing sautéed beef profile with sweet seared notes and a bit of char.  Keep in mind this products was made from a base of soy, pea protein and wheat, so from those standards it was incredibly close to a real meat experience.  Stringy texture with a bite that if you closed your eyes would be very similar to real beef strips.  Impressive.

I moved onto the Miso Sesame Chick’n and Korean BBQ Chick’n and once again my taste buds were tricked, no mesmerized, by just how close this product was to a real chicken strip- farm raised, butchered and delivered right to my door.  A nice firm texture and an abundance of sauce and flavor helped to take these two dishes over the top.


Feeling like I was a carnivour, I moved onto my third option, Chick’n Shawarma.  Now this was quite a challenge being gluten free and vegan and as it did have a slight resemblance to meat, it overall was what you would expect, disgusting.  In fact, it was like eating a piece of rubber.  Spongy, tasteless and just flat out weird.  This one actually lived out to what you would think vegan meat products taste like.

Finally, there was the vegan, coconut bacon.  Not this just feels flat out immoral in my book personally, but being an open minded guy, I figured I would give it a shot.  I must say as a religious bacon connosiur, I was offended by the mere fact they even used the term bacon in the same sentence.  It was smokey coconut and nothing more.  Listen up Yam Chops, there is only one bacon on this planet and we all know what it is.  That salty, fatty piece of love that should not be downgraded by any vegan.  Sorry to all my vegan and vegetarian friends, but if you don’t indulge, don’t act like you know what this experience is about as bacon lovers may find it offensive.

The final chapter was the vegan tuna.  Once again, chickpeas are not tuna and don’t pretend they are.  This makes the Pescatarians a little unsettled.  They also don’t like anyone messing with their fishy world.  Chickpeas with a touch of Nori doesn’t make something taste like its from the sea.  While I greatly enjoyed the dish I was a bit taken back by the name tuna.

Overall, I was very impressed and would go back and eat there again. I actually try to live a bit more flextarian these days and avoid meat during some meals, especially red meat.  A little less death, a bit healthier, and a lot better for the earth isn’t a bad reason to think twice next time you are ordering.  If it is flavored and prepared right, you will never know the difference anyway.

According to #meatlessmonday for every burger skipped, you can save enough water to drink for the next three years.  Give #meatlesmonday a try, you may enjoy the challenge of preparing recipes and experiencing new spices and culinary adventures.

There are a number of excellent cookbooks out there to help on this journey, but a personal favorite is Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a f*ck by Matt Holloway, Michelle David and Thug Kitchen, LLC.  They take vegetarian cooking to a whole new fuc%ing level with amazingly flavorful combinations that take you on a delicious journey between cuisine types and flavor exploration.

Here is one of my favorite recipes to get you started via Thug Kitchen:

thug-kitchen_recipe1

Cold Mango Soba Noodle Salad

Makes enough for 4-6

15 ounces soba or other thin, long noodle

Dressing:

½ cup chopped mango

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon grape seed or other flavorless oil

1 tablespoon chili garlic paste

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger

2 cups mango sliced into matchsticks

1 ½ cups radishes sliced into matchsticks*

1 ½ cups cucumbers sliced into matchsticks

½ cup torn mint leaves

½ cup torn basil leaves

½ cup torn cilantro

1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions then run them under cold water to cool them down when they’re done cooking. While the noodles are boiling, make the dressing. Throw the ½ cup mango, vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice, tamari, grape seed oil, chili garlic paste, and ginger into a food processor or blender and run that shit until it’s smooth and looks like a motherfucking dressing.

2. In a large bowl toss together the cooked, cooled noodles, sliced mango, radishes, and cucumbers. Pour over the dressing and then fold in the herbs. Keep tossing until all that shit is good and mixed and the dressing has coated everything. Serve right away or let is chill in the fridge for a couple hours.

*We used watermelon radishes because those bitches are beautiful but regular radishes are fine too. Fucking hate radishes? Use a bell pepper or more cucumbers instead

12 Things To Do With All Of Those Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Photo Credit: Wholefoods.com

It’s that time of the year again.  Cold mornings, apple cider, haunted houses, hay rides and the best of all, carving pumpkins.  I love to sit down with the family and try to avoid cutting off a finger each year.  Designing, creating and carving is always a tradition that I look forward to, but the best part of carving process is collecting the seeds.

My youngest daughter Cate loves Halloween.  It’s her favorite holiday and we typically try to cram as much into the month as possible.  We soak up every opportunity to dress up, decorate the house with spooky stuff and get scared.  We eat everything pumpkin from pancakes to cookies and I personally try to sample as many pumpkin beers as possible.  However, as most of you are probably aware, the amount of pumpkin flavored products has gotten out of control.  There is pumpkin flavored everything.  I have seen everything this season from pumpkin vodka and lasagna to toothpaste and breath fresheners. Nothing says clean and fresh like pumpkin.  As you would figure this has led to many products hitting the marketplace that just simply taste bad.  It is proof that some things should just not include a pumpkin flavor and I ask one thing, please stop.

Now I can get back to the purpose of this blog post, pumpkin seeds.  The rewarding thing about eating these delicious treasures is not just the nutritional benefits,  but the hard work you have to put into getting them ready.  First,  you need to scoop out the guts, then separate, then wash, then dry, then bake, then season and finally you get to eat them.  This process is not only time consuming, but annoying and disgusting to most.  I have one daughter, Ava, who hates to dig out the guts and one that loves to dig them out.  Each participate in the process, but they both share the love and appreciation of all that hard work while they’re eating them.

It’s our family tradition and a Halloween ritual like most Americans to carve pumpkins together, make the seeds and enjoy them during those cold fall evenings with a hot cup of tea, coffee, cider or chocolate.  Being a foodie family and getting bored with the traditional salt & pepper seasoning, we have over the past few years gotten creative in how we flavor them.  Last year was Madras curry, spicy cilantro-lime and cinnamon and sugar.  This year was adjusting the recipe and using coconut and avocado oil instead of olive oil.  Whatever your palette desires, I wanted to take it to the next level this year and provide a number of other ways to prepare pumpkin seeds that went beyond simply baking.  Take a look at these sweet and savory ideas and enjoy them this season, like we plan to do.

Happy Haunting.

Sweet Treats

pumpkin brittlepumpkin seed granola

  1. Pumpkin seed brittle from Bon Appetit – http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pumpkin-seed-brittle
  2. Caramelized pumpkin seeds from the Foodnetwork – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/caramelized-pumpkin-seeds-recipe.html
  3. Nut-free, grain-free pumpkin seed granola via Detoxinista – http://detoxinista.com/2012/09/pumpkin-seed-granola-nut-free-grain-free/
  4. Apple-pumpkin seed oatmeal breakfast pie from Yummly – http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Baked-Apple-Pumpkin-Oatmeal-Breakfast-Pie-_Gluten-Free_-565969?columns=1&position=31%2F59
  5. Pumpkin brittle from Martha Stewart – http://www.marthastewart.com/340197/pumpkin-seed-brittle#No%20%28Pumpkin%29%20Guts%2C%20No%20Glory%3A%2012%20Snackable%20Pumpkin%20Seed%20Recipes%7C/274532/pumpkin-seed-recipes/@center/1006802/halloween-pumpkins%7C340197

Savory Eats

pumpkin seedspumpkin seed spinach

  1. Mexican macaroni and grilled corn with pumpkin seeds from Rachel Ray – http://www.rachaelray.com/recipes/mexican-macaroni-and-grilled-corn
  2. Vegan gluten-free pumpkin seed spinach crackers via Yummly – http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Raw-Pumpkin-Seed-Crackers-With-Spinach-_Vegan_-Raw_-Gluten-Free_-1275455?columns=1&position=3%2F59
  3. Baked pumpkin seeds done five different ways from Foodnetwork – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/reinvented-pumpkin-seeds-5-ways.html
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