Thursday, June 4, 2020

Gateway dishes: Vegetarian comfort food

Fakey meat balls with white gravy topped with onions 

 I remember tagging along with my sister as she drove all over Tucson trying to find the ingredients she needed for a healthy vegan diet. It is so much easier to avoid eating meat these days. Grant it, Dan and I aren't vegan. That's just not sustainable with our lifestyle - yet. It is so much easier being vegetarian than to be a vegan. There are so many popular dishes that are already vegetarian - pastas, pizza, gnocchi, enchiladas, burritos... There are even vegetarian tamales without lard!

My son Jeremy has been a vegetarian since he was seven, so I had lots of practice revising what the family had for dinner to vegetarian versions. Now Dan and I are moving towards a vegetarian lifestyle for our health and the health of the planet. (Though we still have fish once a week.) It's all a process. I believe that if everyone cut back their red meat consumption, that would have greater impact on the planet than a few members of  the vegan community doing it perfectly. So let's start there!

For those meat lovers out there... There are all kinds of convenient and delicious vegetarian "meats" - in addition to the large variety of veggie burgers. We were really crazy about Quorn fakey chicken products until we had them so often we got tired of them. The breaded "chicken" patties make a fast and delicious chicken parmesan sandwich using left over marinara sauce and mozzarella. Or leave off the cheese and bread (if you can bear it) for a yummy vegan version. I also like to make meat ball subs using veggie meatballs. (Gardein is our favorite). I serve 3-4 meatballs and some marinara sauce on a pretzel bun for a super quick and tasty lunch.

I have also made fakey chicken-fried chicken by adding white gravy and serving it with mashed potatoes. Yum!  A recent favorite is a twist on that. Smother the fakey meatballs with white gravy!  (For best results: Microwave the meatballs then add them after the gravy is cooked. They will be firmer and won't turn your gravy pink). Serve the gravy on a heaping pile of mashed potatoes with sauteed onions on top of that. The onions make it even more savory!  We use cow milk, but I'm sure there are ways to use other kinds of milk if you are vegan. Again, it's all a process. It can be difficult changing eating habits - especially when it comes to comfort foods. This recipe definitely qualifies as comfort food with me! Yum!

But my family's favorite veggie meat is definitely soyrizo. We like the taste better than greasy chorizo. (And who knows what goes into that...)  We are have been putting it in our breakfast burritos and tacos for years and I'm still not sick of it. Can't speak for the boys...

Stirring eggs into soyrizo 

 For breakfast burritos, I saute the soyrizo while I microwave a medium size potato. Then I cut the potato in to cubes and saute them with the soyrizo. Finally I stir a couple of eggs right into that. (I call it my moist maker.) When the eggs are lightly cooked I add grated cheddar cheese on the top, turn the heat down and cover with a couple of flour tortillas (and a lid) until the cheese is melted. That also warms up the tortillas and makes them nice and moist.

Breakfast tacos are even easier - especially if you have a son to grate up the cheese and cut the avocado!  I saute the soyrizo, then stir in a couple of eggs. I serve them with slices of avocado, grated cheddar cheese and chunky salsa on a soft corn tortilla. You can fry up the tortilla if you want, but there are thick, soft varieties that don't even need frying.

Soyirzo breakfast tacos with cheddar cheese, avocado, and salsa

I know! I know! These are processed foods. Really fast food. But if you are still stewarding at home you may have the leisure to try recipes that take a little more time and effort. There are so many fun recipes on the internet.  (Look out for them on my Facebook page too.) Maybe you can even get a Moosewood recipe book and try your hand at some very healthy vegan recipes. Definitely worth the effort! There's a bbq lentil loaf I just love!

For an easy, unprocessed dish, you can always just soak some beans over night and throw 'em in the crock pot in the morning... They'll be done in time for a late lunch. Just add salt and cumin.  Or put it in your solar oven to be ready by dinner. Easy smeazy!

MORE INFORMATON on the environmental and health impacts of veggie meat 

The FoodPrint of Fake Meat


  1. If you are eating for the planet, don't forget to look at the ingredients for palm oil. In addition to the rainforest being burned down to graze cows, they also do this to grow palm oil. The Amazon has been called the "lungs of the planet." We don't want to lose old growth or animal habitats. There are also human rights violations. The plant and animal diversity the indigenous people need to survive is destroyed. The companies also use slave (even child) labor.

  2. My other son, Josh, is more of a meat lover. One of his favorite breakfasts is a surfer dish called Loco Moco. You can make a vegetarian version by putting a veggie patty (or 3-4 Morning Star flat sausages) on top of a mound of white rice. Smother that with white gravy, then put an over easy fried agg on top of that. Josh likes to add grated cheddar cheese on top of that.)