Musings On Meat

So I was talking with my wife the other day about being vegetarian and whether we should attempt being vegan.  I surprised myself.

I have been really pondering why I don’t eat meat.  At first, it was a health thing.  Not so much that a meat free diet is healthier (it is, by the way) but because part of my ability to lose weight depends on being able to control food. Vegetarianism = controlling food.  Hence I became vegetarian.

But the more I think about it, the more I find that I don’t really need to kill things to eat well.  I’m not sure if its the murdering that I am really finding distateful or the fact that commercial meat is full of fun things like mad cow and salmonella, not to mention cholesterol, triglycerides, and other things which cause a host of diseases.  But there is something about killing to eat that I find unnecessary.

Citizens of developed nations do not need meat to survive.  As a species, all humans once needed meat to have enough food to live.  Even after agriculture came along, we still needed meat.  The problem is industrialized countries (and non-industrial countries if the Developed Nations spent less time blowing up their neighbors and siding with dictators and more time building infrastructure and rooting out corruption) have enough technology and understanding of food science that if they so chose, they could live without meat. 

And frankly all we are doing by eating meat is killing ourselves.  People die of contaminated food (and yes, people died from bacteria in spinach, but that was traced to a pig farm next door…) and people die of the diseases that meat cause.  At the same time, the American Cancer Association is pushing people to eat vegetarian diets because they are healthy and they extend life.

Ultimately, I feel that not eating meat is the logical next step in cultural evolution.  I think it makes us more human and humane to stop killing the “lesser” creatures that live on it.  Yes, God made us dominion over all the land and all the animals on it.  However, the way we use that dominion is akin to me giving you dominion of my bank account and you losing it on slot machines or thousand dollar trinkets.  Yes, you had dominion over it, but wasted it.

So, to my mind: we don’t NEED meat.  We probably SHOULDN’T eat it and there are BETTER alternatives.  To me, it just makes sense that we find a new direction.

I expect a deluge of feedback for anyone who reads this.  I don’t consider myself a militaristic vegetarian, but I do wonder what would happen if we looked past our epicurean ways and tried to live a little healthier.


Stir Fry Seitan

Part of my challenge with vegetarianism, especially as I head towards more strict vegetarianism, is getting protein.  For the human body to function, even at rest, the USDA recommends 50g of protein per day.  For those who do not eat meat,  ingesting that much protein can be tough, especially when many vegetarian sources of protein (notably beans) do not contain complete proteins and must be paired with other foods to get all the required amino acids.

The go-to protein food for many vegetarians is tofu.  Which is great, but the problem is that the way I like it (firm or extra firm tofu put into stir fries or fajitas) takes about 2 hours to do right.  When the boy is hungry, that’s way too much time.

Enter Seitan (pronounced, unfortunately, as say-tun or as everyone’s favorite bringer of evil, Satan.)

Seitan has allowed me to keep my vegetarianism once already and may be what lets me stay vegetarian a second time.  The first time occurred maybe two months after I decided to stop eating meat.  I had taken my son to a restaurant for dinner and sat down next to a man enjoying a slab of ribs.  The smell of the sauce from those ribs nearly threw me into an absolute frenzy to the point I wanted to reach across the aisle and take the ribs.  On pain of death if necessary.

After complaining to my wife that I could not do the vegetarian thing anymore, she reminded me of an article in Vegetarian Times where they did vegetarian pulled pork with seitan.  One trip to Whole Foods later, I had a package of seitan which I cooked in some barbecue sauce and voila! vegetarianism saved.  Crisis averted.

Anyway, I am finding myself in a situation where I need more protein.  Suddenly things I would not normally eat, namely kidney beans and cheese sandwiches, taste like gourmet food fit for royalty.  My wife again reminded me that seitan, made from wheat gluten, is very high in protein and that I should consider fixing it and eating it more often.

Last night gave me the chance to try out her suggest.  We invited a vegan friend over dinner.  My wife said she was going to fix stir fry, but when our son needed her attention, I ended up fixing dinner.  This is what we had:

  • 1 Package Seitan, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons of soy ginger sauce (may substitute with 2 more tablespoons of tamari and 1 teaspoon of ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 pinches of kosher salt
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4in. coins
  • 1 leek, sliced into 1/4 in coins
  • 1/2 cup of broccoli florets
  • 1 broccoli stem cut into 1/4 in. coins
  • 3 portabellas cut into 1/2 in. wide strips
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  1. Boil the seitan over medium low heat in the 1/4 cup of tamari, soy ginger sauce, ginger, and garlic powder for 10 minutes or until it is soft all the way through.
  2. Bring the heat to medium high, add the olive oil, and sauté the seitan for three minutes to give it a little structure.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions.  Add 1 pinch of kosher salt.  Cook until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the green pepper, carrots, leeks, broccoli florets, broccoli stem. and another pinch of salt.  Cook until carrots reach desired softness.  This step is pretty much up to each individual cook.  I like my carrots to have a bite to them, so I cook them for maybe 10 minutes.   Some may want them to cook longer.
  5. Add the portabellas and the final pinch of salt.  Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the corn and cook for about a minute.
  7. Add the last two tablespoons of tamari and cook for another minute.

Serve over rice and enjoy! 

Oh, and on a side note, I can’t wait to tell my family that liking seitan keeps me vegetarian.  Especially when I pronounce it properly.

Recipe: Soyrizo Taquitos

In a episode of Dinner: Impossible, Chef Robert Irvine was tasked with preparing a cocktail party for a fashion designer in New York.  During this challenge, he put together an amazing spread of finger foods including some awesome looking chorizo taquitos (he also did a salmon mousse which inspired the one I blogged on earlier.)

A few days after I watched the episode for the tenth time, I had a day at home and plenty of time to cook so I went to my local Whole Foods and browsedthe aisles when lo and behold what did I see?  Soyrizo…soy-based chorizo.

Now, my experience with chorizo is that it is very greasy.  In the hands of an untrained chef, chorizo can overpower everything else in a dish.  But this…this was soyrizo.  Could it be good or would I be just another untrained chef?

When I got home, I squeezed the soyrizo into a bowl (despite the fact it was packaged to looked like sausage, it was really a paste) and cut it with some sour cream (Robert used creme fraiche, but I had not thought to buy any.)  I then rolled up the taquito, pan fried it until crispy and served it with some guacamole.  It was awesome!

What you need:

  • One package of soyrizo (all I can buy locally is Melissa’s Produce in the same size.)
  • 4-6 tablespoons of sour cream (depending on your preference)
  • one package of flour toritillas
  • olive oil
  • To make the guac: 4 avacados, 1/2 a red onion, 1/2 tomato, 1 jalapeno, 2 limes, 1/2 bunch of cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic powder
  1. Squeeze the soyrizo into a bowl and spoon in the sour cream.  The more sour cream is added, the more the mixture begins to taste tangy and sour.  Personally, I am not a big fan of sour cream, so I stop at four.  Some may go as high as six tablespoons without overpowering the soyrizo.
  2. Heat the mixture in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir to prevent burning.  Remove the mixture before the sour cream separates.
  3. Coat each tortilla with the soyrizo/sour cream mixture and roll into a cigar.
  4. Preheat a skillet over medium.
  5. Determine how many taquitos you can fry in the skillet so that there is space between them.  I have a ten inch skillet and I can comfortably put in four at one time.
  6. Add one tablespoon of olive oil per taquito you are going to fry.  Wait a few seconds for the oil to get hot.
  7. Cook the taquitos on one side until it gets crispy, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side an additional two minutes.
  8. Remove to a cookie rack or a plate lined with paper towels to get rid of excess oil.
  9. Repeat until all taquitos are cooked.
  10. To make the guac, remove the fruit of the avacados, dice the tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos and mix in a bowl with the juice of the limes, some cut cilantro, and salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

That’s it.  This dish is good even for nonvegetarians as the soyrizo is packed with spicy flavor, but is not nearly as greasy.