When I became a vegetarian years ago, one thing that eased the transition was mock meat. Basically, mock meats are generally soy-based analogues of meat so there is soy chicken, soy beef, soy fish, etc . . . The texture is usually very close although the taste might not be really close to the taste of the actual thing. Still, they are easy and accessible.
As I progressed in my vegetarian journey, I realized that these soy meats were too heavily processed and, moreover, there was too much soy in my diet. At one point, I cut out all soy from my diet which was a radical move (I was very dependent on soy), but it's back in our diet although in moderation. There are all kinds of horrible reports about soy out there so you need to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. My conclusion is everything in moderation--even the processed stuff because truth be told, it's tasty and easy to do which is just what I need sometimes. I regard dishes made with soy based mock meats as comfort food--not something you do everyday but something that's nice every once in a while.
Anyway, every so often, about twice a year I'd say, we go on down to China Town and get a bunch of packages of these mock meats from Mah Wah Healthy Vegetarian Foods. This is the place that all the vegetarian restaurants such as Vegetarian's Paradise 2 (VP2), which I used to just die for, get their mock meats from. They are pre-seasoned and usually come in their own sauce. We've been able to find some mock meats that don't have any soy (the list "Chinese mushroom" which is shiitake mushroom on the ingredient list) but not many. I mostly buy the one's made with the mushroom but they are not as flavorful as the soy-based ones because there's really no sauce. I buy a few soy-based ones for the hubby because, and I quote, he "likes sauce"
So here's a quick and tasty dish I make with mock beef (doesn't matter if it's teriyaki or pepper flavored, soy based or mushroom--whatever flavor will do)
one package vegetarian mock meat
one medium onion
one green pepper
one red pepper
2 cups frozen mixed vegetable
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth (or 1 1/2 cups water + 1 tsp. vegetable broth powder)
pat of margarine (Earth Balance now makes a soy-free version) or herb-infused olive oil
pepper and salt to taste
What to do:
First, put hot water on to boil or bring your vegetable broth up to a boil.
Dice up the mock meat into small pieces (I find that this stretches the package which is relatively small and is more palatable, i.e. no huge chunks of fake meat in your mouth). Brown the mock meat pieces in olive oil. Meanwhile, dice onions and peppers. Remove mock meat from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside Add diced onions and peppers to the pan and saute in oil until softened. Add mixed vegetables and saute till they are defrosted. Add couscous to the pan. Add the hot water + veggie broth powder or vegetable broth and margarine or herb-infused olive oil. Turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate everything and then cover for 2-3 minutes until the couscous absorbs all the water. Add your browned mock meat and stir everything up so it's all evenly distributed.
This takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. I don't have to soak any beans or anything so I find I make this dish when I've forgotten to do so or when we've been out all day and I need to make something satisfying in a hurry.
I also make a similar dish but instead of couscous, I use noodles (actually, whole wheat spaghetti because it's cheaper) instead of couscous and the sauce from the General Tso's tofu recipe. Z2 especially loves it like this.
If you read this blog, you know we don't eat out a lot. And with the recent purchase of a mattress, platform bed and toddler bed for Z1, we probably won't go out to eat for quite a while. I think this dish could actually be served in a restaurant and so it's nice in that way too. Like eating out at home.
Anyway, I did the blog at the prompting of my sister-in-law who enjoyed the dish when she came to visit. Enjoy!!