Vegetarian Confession: I Don’t Eat Salad
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES
I have nothing against salad, and we do have them from time to time. But I never make them at home. If I have a salad it’s usually because it comes with my meal when we’re at a restaurant.
I make the point that we rarely eat salad because there is a misconception with meat-eaters that if you’re a vegetarian that’s all you eat. Maybe some vegetarians eat a lot of salads but that’s hardly the case at our house! Our dinners consist of tacos, spaghetti, chili, hotdogs, fried chicken, even Reuben sandwiches to name a few examples. We simply have vegetarian versions.
In fact, though we feature many great vegetarian and vegan cookbooks on this site, we’ve found that you can use almost any cookbook and replace meat for a vegetarian substitute.
Textured Vegetable Protein
You see, most dishes use herbs and spices to provide flavor. The meat does very little to add flavor and is just there for texture. Take classic spaghetti with meat sauce for example. We make it all the time using textured vegetable protein (pictured above) instead of ground meat. Since the all the flavor comes from the tomato sauce, garlic and herb, no one can tell the difference between the meat and vegetarian versions.
We’ve served our spaghetti with “meat” sauce to a number of friends and family without telling them it was vegetarian. No one ever knew it was vegan until after we told them, and they were quite shocked they couldn’t tell!
We use textured vegetable protein for any recipe that calls for ground meat: lasagna, enchiladas, chili, and sloppy joes to name a few. You can even make vegetarian Hamburger Helper or use other packaged meals and spice packs. We frequently use McCormick’s Grill Mates.
My husband has been vegetarian for years but still occasionally misses some of his favorite sandwiches such as BBQ beef/pulled pork and the classic French Dip. Fortunately for him, he has a loving wife who figured out how to make vegetarian versions of these that he loves!
The secret was finding a meat substitute that had a firm texture and a neutral flavor. Tofu was out, too soft and the flavor just wasn’t right. Seitan is a good option, a little soft but it works and I can give it any flavor. But I found something better that turned out just right!
The result is amazing. They are quite firm and chewy after cooked, like real meat. There is a slight mushroom flavor but that usually compliments what I’m cooking.
For French Dip sandwiches I pan fry with a little olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper, then serve on fresh rolls. For sauce just I just use Better Than Bouillon Vegetarian No Beef Base. My husband loves these!
BBQ “beef” sandwiches are just as easy. I sauté some yellow onions and garlic with a little olive oil, then add the mushroom meat and some off the shelf BBQ sauce (not too much or your sandwiches will fall apart!). I use Bull’s Eye Texas Style barbeque sauce which my husband likes because it’s extra spicy! I serve on large Kaiser buns or hoagie rolls.
Seitan is simply food made from wheat gluten, and is common in faux meats. I’ve never really been impressed with the taste of the seitan I’ve found in stores, so I learned how to make it at home. That way I can control the flavor by adding my own herbs and spices.
I’ve used a few seitan recipes I found online that turned out fantastic. I’ve made sausages, Reubens, and Philly cheesesteaks. I don’t have any pictures because as soon I’m finished making them they’re gone!
Making your own seitan is the way to go in my opinion. I make it in big batches keep in the fridge. When I want to make something I just slice up what I need. I plan to do a lot more experimenting with seitan this year and will post pictures and recipes.
Is There Really Any Excuse for Not Going Vegetarian?
For some, going vegetarian may be as simple as replacing vegetarian ingredients in what they already cook every day!
As I pointed out earlier, most recipes get their flavor from the herbs, spices and sauce they’re cooked with. The meat is just there for texture. Italian, Indian, Thai are all cuisines that can be made vegetarian without missing a beat.
Of course, you can’t realistically make a vegetarian steak that will taste like a beef steak. Lucky for me I don’t miss steak at all; I used to get grossed out trying to eat a slab of cow muscle. Yuck!
Burgers is another complaint by meat-eaters; that vegetarian burgers don’t taste like beef burgers. I admit that’s true, but the Portobello burgers we have in our home taste way better than any beef burger!
Those who think vegetarians only eat salad are obviously ill-informed. Making vegetarian replacements in cooking is one simple way to prove my point, but there’s also a whole world of vegetarian and vegan recipes by creative chefs that go far beyond substitutions. Just look at our cookbooks section to see what I mean.
And that’s another great aspect of being a vegetarian: we use our minds! Instead of blindly walking into restaurants and grocery stores, ordering and buying what they put in front of us like zombies, we use our consciousness and creativity in our food choices. It’s not a restrictive lifestyle; it’s actually the opposite: it’s quite liberating!
Take pity on your meat-eating friends, they’re the ones missing out. Next time someone says, “How can you eat salad all the time?” after learning that you’re a vegetarian, just remind yourself you’re dealing with one of the mindless masses created by the meat industry.