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DELICIOUS vegan and vegetarian alternatives to popular foods

Updated on April 2, 2011

Don't worry about missing your favorite foods when you go vegetarian!

After many years--since 1988--of being vegetarian, I've noticed certain misconceptions among meat eaters who might otherwise choose vegetarianism themselves if they knew better. First and foremost is the popular, incorrect belief that vegetarians eat nothing but boring meals, consisting of nothing but vegetables--raw, no less!--and going veggie would mean giving up one's favorite foods, such as chili or tacos--or eating awful, "health food" versions. WRONG!

There are GREAT vegetarian versions of your favorite foods

You can even fool meat eaters!

Things have changed so much since I went veggie in 1988. Back then, we didn't have the plethora of great vegetarian options we do now. Not only are there many, many wonderful veggie foods to choose from, but they're available in mainstream supermarkets! No need to go to specialty stores, health food stores, natural food stores, etc. and pay their higher prices.

If you're thinking about going vegetarian but you're reluctant to give up your favorite dishes, have I got news for you! Between prepared foods and meat alternatives you can use in your own cooking, you do not have to do without. Do you love chili? Do you think "vegetarian chili" is an oxymoron? Or that it couldn't possibly be as good as the real thing? Guess what? Numerous companies make vegetarian versions of chili that not only taste great, but also have that chewy, meaty texture you're used to.

What about pizza? In my pre-vegetarian days my standard choice for pizza was pepperoni--and lots of it! After going veg in '88 I went a long time without tasting pepperoni pizza again, but I now enjoy it regularly--and it's meat-free.

Read on to see animal-free alternatives that are REALLY good--good enough to fool meat eaters!

Veggie burgers (frozen)

There are MANY brands and flavors of veggie burgers available these days, and it should be easy to please just about anyone's taste by choosing the right variety.

Personally, I do not like the veggie burgers that attempt to replicate "real" burgers; examples include Morningstar Farms Grillers and Boca Original Vegan Burger.

They just don't do it for me, but I know lots of people love them. So by all means give them a try but, from my experience, if you're going straight from eating meat burgers to these veggie burgers, and you're expecting them to be just like the real thing, you're likely going to be disappointed.

However, there are a number of veggie burgers I absolutely love. First among them is Morningstar Farms Tomato & Basil Pizza Burger.

Despite its name it doesn't remind me of pizza in any way, but I LOVE it. My very favorite way of preparing these is by spreading a nice, thick layer of A1 Steak Sauce or Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce on top, then cooking them, covered, in the microwave. DELICIOUS! (And, yes, it's a little weird buying steak sauce when you're veggie, but A1 is veggie and it tastes great!)

When prepared this way they're great with rice dishes, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

For burgers on a bun I'm partial to Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patties.

These are especially good if you crisp them up a little by frying them; I use olive oil--enough so there's that nice greasy component when eating the burger. Then put them on your choice of bun and add your favorite toppings--ketchup, pickles, lettuce, onions, whatever! Once again, these are so good that meat eaters will wolf them down and thoroughly enjoy them.

There are so many other frozen veggie burgers available, you could try a different variety every day for a month and still not taste all of them. Some other popular brands are Gardenburger and Quorn. Check them out!

Recipes that call for ground meat--tacos, sloppy joes, skillet dishes, etc.

I don't know about you, but I love tacos--filled with yummy things and grease running down my hand as I eat them! I also love sloppy joes, spaghetti, casseroles and skillet dishes--all things that are normally made with ground meat. Ugh. Ground up dead animals...disgusting. But I digress. You can enjoy all your favorite recipes that call for ground meat by using one of the wonderful vegetarian alternatives. No surprise here, my favorite is Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles, but Boca Crumbles are very good, too.

When I make something like sloppy joes, spaghetti, or tacos using Grillers Crumbles, NO ONE knows that it's a vegetarian dish. Seriously. I don't know how many times I've heard this same baffled statement: "I thought you were vegetarian!"

If you're going to cook something that calls for a pound of ground beef/turkey/whatever, just substitute one package of crumbles. It weighs less, only 12 ounces, because it isn't full of fat that drains out while cooking.

For tacos, my favorite seasoning is McCormick Mild Taco Seasoning Mix (dry packaged seasoning mix).

Of course they make other varieties, such as hot, so you just need to find the flavor that suits you. (There are other brands of taco seasoning out there, too, but it's been so long since I tried any of them I really can't comment on them.) Follow the package's preparation instructions and you'll have mouth-watering tacos in no time. I brown the crumbles in several tablespoons of olive oil. Not only does this add substantial nutritional value, but it gives the tacos that authentic, greasy tactile sensation that real tacos should have!

For sloppy joes I use any of a number of brands and types of seasoning. Hunt's Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce (canned) is very good, as is McCormick Sloppy Joes Seasoning Mix (dry packaged seasoning mix).

As with the tacos, just follow the package's preparation instructions, substituting 12 ounces of vegetarian crumbles for a pound of ground meat--and remember, brown the crumbles in enough olive oil so that you end up with that nice "real" texture in the finished product.

I also make dishes like spaghetti and casseroles with the crumbles, and I've even used them in Hamburger Helper-type packaged meals. Unfortunately, every Hamburger Helper flavor I've checked contained animal ingredients, such as beef fat, so they're not an option. However, I've found some house brands that are "clean" and are really very good. So look around, read labels, and see what you can find. You may be pleasantly surprised.

You can also use packaged noodle mixes, such as Knorr (Lipton) Pasta Sides Alfredo or Pasta Roni Fettuccine Alfredo, as a base and add the crumbles to make a main dish.

I made KILLER stuffed bell peppers recently that my mom, a reformed meat eater [at 80+ years of age], likened to those of her youth. She loved them and can't wait for me to make them again. Of course I used Morningstar Farms Crumbles as the meat replacement in the stuffing, and these things were so good I would defy ANY meat eater to tell any difference between these and the meat variety. The stuffing included rice--which I cooked in vegetable broth for added flavor--onions, mushrooms, burgundy, tomato sauce and paste, and the crumbles. Wonderful!

BBQ riblets and other savory foods (frozen)

To say that I'm in LOVE with Morningstar Farms Hickory BBQ Riblets is just too much of an understatement! Yes, it's been a long time since I had "real" ribs (1988 to be exact), but I don't care whether time has dulled my sensory perception of the taste and texture. For me, these are fantastic. I could seriously eat them several times a week. They smell AMAZING when they're cooking, and I just wish they'd hurry up and be ready!

Italian sausage and bratwurst (frozen)

In the mood for something savory, like Italian sausage or bratwurst? You're in luck, because there are some excellent vegetarian choices on the market. I like both Boca Italian Sausage and, surprise!, Morningstar Farms Italian Sausage.

They're similar, but different. I'd suggest trying both and deciding for yourself which you prefer. Either way, these sausages are terrific with traditional "side dishes" such as potatoes or rice, and they're also good on sandwich rolls.

Breakfast sausage and bacon (frozen)

I used to love bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. And bacon and eggs. And sausage and eggs. Then I went veggie and those favorite dishes were a thing of the past--until recently! I now enjoy an amazing BLT whenever I feel like it, and the same for sausage and eggs. (I only buy eggs from free-range hens.) You may have noticed that I'm a big fan of Morningstar Farms, so it should come as no surprise that when I want bacon or sausage, I get it from them.

The sausage patties are so realistic that I've seen them fool meat eaters. My mom came to visit a few years ago when I was living out of state (I'm a Californian), and one morning I made sausage, hash browns and eggs for breakfast. She knew I'd been vegetarian for a long time, but when she took a bite of the sausage patties she looked at me with a VERY puzzled expression. I knew what she was thinking and I just smiled and waited for her to say it: "I thought you were vegetarian." And I said, "I am!" Then it dawned on her that the sausage was not made out of dead animals but was, in fact, a vegetarian version.

The sausage links are equally as good as the patties.

And the bacon...yum! I pile it up in sandwiches along with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise and I'm in heaven. It smells so good when it's cooking--it's just like the real thing.

Hot dogs and corn dogs (refrigerated and frozen)

My favorite vegetarian hot dogs, made by no other than Morningstar Farms, were inexplicably discontinued a while back, as were their corn dog products. They've recently announced the return of their corn dog products, so that's good for their fans, but so far no sign of the hot dogs. I've only tried a couple other brands, one of which eludes me right now, so I can only point to LightLife Jumbo Smart Dogs for those wanting recommendations on decent veggie hot dogs.

The LightLife Jumbo Hot Dogs are actually very good, but if you're following the stove-top method's instructions from the label, be forewarned that the hot dogs probably won't be hot enough. I've found that I need to leave them in the [previously boiled] water longer than the instructions state. I haven't tried any other methods of cooking them.

My mother, a reformed dead animal eater, LOVES these hot dogs! They're perfect on hot dog buns topped with your favorite condiments--relish, mustard, onions, sauerkraut, whatever floats your boat. They're also excellent with chili [vegetarian, of course!] on top.

Vegetarian chili (frozen and canned)

There are several brands of prepared vegetarian chili, and I've tried quite a few. My favorites, though, are Hormel Vegetarian Chili with Beans (canned), Tabatchnick Vegetarian Chili (frozen), and Nalley Original Vegetarian Chili (canned). Tabatchnick also makes an Organic Vegetarian Chili, but I haven't tried it.

These are awesome eaten as is, but if you're like me you like your chili enhanced a bit. Onions...that's my thing. Finely chopped raw onions sprinkled on top just can't be beat. How about a Frito chili pie? Just place some Fritos in a bowl, pour in the heated chili, top with your choice of onions, grated cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, etc., and dig in. So good.

Cold cut-like sandwich ingredients (refrigerated)

Can't live without your ham sandwiches? Or bologna? Or turkey? You don't have to!

As with veggie burgers and other veggie meat alternatives, there are now many amazing vegetarian versions of popular deli meats. My personal favorites include Yves Deli Turkey, Yves Meatless Ham and

LightLife Smart Deli Bologna.

All are "real" enough to fool meat eaters; they're tasty, satisfying, and when made just like "real" deli sandwiches, i.e., with yummy condiments like lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, etc., there's nothing missing but the cruelty [and cholesterol!].

Pizza (delivery and frozen) and vegetarian pepperoni

I love Papa John's pizza and frequently order from them; my favorites are their Cheese Pizza and Spinach Alfredo Pizza.

The Cheese Pizza can, of course, be ordered with lots of great toppings; my personal favorites are onions, olives, jalapenos, and bell peppers.

When it comes to frozen pizza, my hands-down favorite is DiGiorno Four Cheese.

Thanks to the amazing Yves Veggie Cuisine Meatless Pepperoni, I get to enjoy my old favorite, pepperoni pizza, whenever I want. I like to toss the pepperoni in olive oil prior to spreading them out over the DiGiorno pizza. This is a really important step, as far as I'm concerned! A big problem with some vegetarian products is that the manufacturer assumes vegetarians are all health nuts who don't want saucy, greasy things. Wrong! I'm vegetarian because I love animals and refuse to participate in killing them, not because I like dry, boring foods. As my favorite bumper sticker says, "Be kind to animals: Don't eat them"

Soaking the pepperoni in olive oil is a brilliant--and, coincidentally, very healthy [since olive oil is so good for you]--way to replace the greasy sensation of "real" pepperoni. I'm not kidding, this is SO GOOD it easily satisfies meat eaters.

More to come soon

This is a work in progress. I'll be adding more soon...

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