Not Just Tofu

I Feel For…

In Cooking Tips, Editorial on August 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

As a new vegetarian, you may have cravings for things you used to eat.  Some you of you may even give into those cravings and buy a burger or fry chicken, but you don’t have to.  Often your favorite dishes are created due to spices and condiments.  If you have chosen to be a vegetarian, you can’t be afraid of spices because they are your new best friend.  It also helps to have an open minded about new ingredients, especially vegetables.  Together new spices and vegetables will allow you to create similar dishes that hit the same spots on the tongue that your meat dishes did.  Being a vegetarian does not mean that you have to miss out, it is more about training your palette.

I am not a big fan of meat substitutes for 3 reasons.  First, meat substitutes are expensive; the average cost for a pack of 4 veggie burgers is $4.00 while ground turkey which ranges from $2 to $4 makes more than just 4 burgers.  Secondly, most meat substitutes have a high sodium count which is dangerous if you already have high blood pressure. Lastly, I feel if you are going to be a vegetarian that you should depend on vegetables, fruit, beans and grains to create your dishes.  Even though I don’t really like substitutes, I realize that they are quick fix for cravings.  Veggie burgers satisfy the burger graving because of the texture and the flavors.  Quorn chicken substitutes really take on the texture and color of chicken and work well for the chicken craving.  Gardein products are great because they have a variety of products for that more gourmet graving.   Check out my meat substitute page to learn more.

I have a few suggestions that can help you slowly transform your taste buds.  Many diet specialists say that you have to train your taste buds in order to avoid the traps that bring you right back to square one.  Being a vegetarian is no different. 

Easy Swaps

  • Steak – Marinated Grill Portabella Mushrooms with crispy fried onions and A1 Sauce
  • Chicken Fingers – Tofu marinated in Old Bay seasoning battered in Crunch Corn Flakes
  • BBQ – Grillled Eggplant with Barbeque Sauce
  • Burger –  Vegetarian Burger with the works and special sauce (mayonnaise, relish and ketchup)

I know that Portabellas don’t taste exactly taste like a burger, but the texture is very meaty and the steak seasoning has the spices that will bring out the smoky and hearty texture of a burger. I don’t suggest you top it with American cheese though, but Parmesan, Provolone or even Asiago cheeses are a great swap.  After a few attempts, you will crave new vegetarian favorites and a taste for meat will be a thing of the past.  I don’t eat a lot of meat because I have learned to transform my taste for meat into a taste for well cooked vegetarian dishes. 

Marinated Grilled Portabella Steak

Next time you go to the grocery store, spend a little extra time in your spice and condiments aisle.  Your lifestyle change is going take some creativity, but it is worth it!

*Photos provided by Google Images

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