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Trader Joe’s Meatless Treats

2010/07/01

How do we follow-up carnivorous exploits, and the trappings of my brethren hunter-gatherers? We attempt to lower that cholesterol bloated option by investigating alternative sources of low-fat, protein rich foods. My rearing consisted of a heavily ethnic influenced assortment of organs on the dinner table. This was fine for a while, but I outgrew the need for tripe, beef tongue, sweet breads and pickled pigs feet; they just weren’t necessary. Fast forward to the present, and my better-half, and daughter are of course omnivores. Not immediately problematic, until one realizes that I am the predominant cook. I love to cook. My passion is inspired by heritage, the classics, and several Asian influences finalized and fused together into well-rounded offerings of style, appearance and flavor.

Nutrition is important to me, more so, that of my wife and my 5-year-old. It is not my intention to deter their appetites, so long as they remain legal. Dishes prepared for their consumption frequently include, or revolve around animal meats. However, it pleases me that my ladies also adore my proffering sans-flesh. Besides my bevy of tofu and legume entrées, I occasionally slip them a mickey, and swap out the meat they are expecting with an impostor. This vegetable-matter-in-meats-clothing rarely approximates anything legitimate. Today however, we will cover 2 such impersonators available in Trader Joe’s stores littered around the country. While neither of these 2 items are perfect, their merits, eschew their proprietor’s insistence upon their meaty nomenclature.

Trader Joe’s Chicken-less, and Beef-less strips, essentially the same item outside of color and a slight difference in flavor, can be found in the refrigerated section of the store, usually hidden next to the tofu upon the top shelf. The sealed pouches, enclosed in well decorated cartons, stack well together. The contents has a natural appearance, and resembles its influence as a slightly seasoned, (chicken,) /marinated, (beef,) selection of unevenly prepared strips. I cannot underestimate the slight nature of their preparation. The undressed flavor of the strips is, although not offensive, reminiscent of a mild play-dough and clay mixture. The beauty of these predominantly Soy based products is that they adopt the flavors of their surroundings. sautéed with garlic, shalots, onions and ginger alone, does wonders, add a little balsamic vinegar and allow the mix to caramelize a bit and you are in business. My wife insists that the beef strips taste better, but I assure you, it is all in the preparation. Use the chicken strips in a fajita, with the right seasoning of citrus, vinegar, garlic, onion, cummin and chili, and you’ll never know the difference. Although lacking in initial flavor, these strips nailed the texture of their progenitor. I have never found a meat-alternative to get that aspect so astutely close.

Unlike the aforementioned products, the Trader Joe’s Sausage-less Italian sausage, is not only a mouthful, but crossing the line a bit with its moniker. Sausage typically brings very specific ideals to mind, which this product in some ways fails to imitate.  Although my ancestors may have lauded the open flame, as I am not a Heathen, I prefer to sauté. Therefore, I can not vouch for their tenacity whilst licked by fire. What I can assure you, is that the expected snap of a sausage’s casing is amiss. As a tube of matter, it’s a bit of mush, although not nearly the slurried vat from the ‘Bell’. My daughter likens it to ‘chicken donuts’, better known as ‘chicken rings’ from Castillo Blanco. If I’ve already broken your pure beef hearts, let me say that the flavor of these things is outstanding! Now again, as a sausage, I can not enlighten you, but slice these things up and use them in stew, soup, chili, spaghetti, whatever, and you will want more. My take, use this formula and iterate. You have a frickin’ tasty alternative to real meat. Give it a shove. Kick it around. Be creative.

Women and men-o-meat, fear not the conscience less effort of a non animal origin provision. Although Matt presents a plausible perspective of the chicken on the spit, pining to be consumed, accept this perspicacious endorsement for 2 substitutes which merit more attention. One last quick note, the strips are vegan, the sausage has egg white powder, and so only falls into the vegetarian category. On their own, the strips garner a 5, and the sausages a 6. Huge potential here, should they choose to endeavor further. If these 2 committed themselves and had a love child, it might well be the next McBiggie Whopper, hold the lawsuits. For more options, see Boca, Morningstar Farms and Gardenburger, oh, and don’t forget the Tofurkey. I would be happy to provide recipe ideas should anyone show interest, but I warn you that I cook by taste and availability. Go. Eat.

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