Start With Meatless Crumbles (TVP)

Easy Vegetarian Recipes

Sicilian Supper
Sicilian Supper. Linda Larsen

When the US announced that Mad Cow (BSE) had been found in the food supply, my unease about the safety of beef, particularly ground beef, took shape. Despite the 1997 ban on feeding contaminated food to farm animals (which critics claim is easy to violate), there are just too many loopholes and gaps in regulation. Regular readers know that food safety is a huge concern of mine, and actually other forms of disease, such as salmonella, are far more of a concern than BSE.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "76 million illnesses, more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths occur from food-borne disease in the United States every year. The difference is that much of these other diseases can be prevented by proper handling and cooking of food. Still, some foods that are contaminated, like fresh produce, aren't cooked and the consumer risk is substantial, especially for those in high risk groups.

Many experts believe that you, the consumer, can make a difference with this latest scare over the food supply. If enough people refuse to buy a product until the system is 'cleaned up', change is possible. I won't go into the details of the meat industry in this country because this is a food site, but suffice it to say that those details are not pretty. What can you do? Find a source for organic meats of all types (farmer's markets are a good place to start).

Carefully follow safe food handling procedures. And add some vegetarian meals to your repertoire every week.

So, off my soapbox now, I decided to collect recipes that start with textured vegetable protein (TVP), or meatless crumbles. This vegetarian product looks and tastes like ground beef, with the same texture and no icky surprises.

As a bonus, you don't have to worry about cross-contamination in your kitchen. I routinely use this product in Mexican Pizza and Crockpot Chili; it is really delicious. I think the product is a little sweeter than ground beef, so I use it in recipes that are fairly spicy, usually with a tomato base. The people at Morningstar Farms say that these crumbles can even be used to make meatballs and meatloaf. These products come in three basic forms: frozen precooked crumbles that look like cooked and drained ground beef right out of the package, dehydrated soy crumbles, and 'raw' substitute, which is more like raw ground beef and can be formed into patties, meatloaf and meatballs.

Take a look at some of your favorite recipes that use ground beef and try them using meatless crumbles. Your family won't be able to tell the difference, and you will feel better knowing you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Plus, they are delicious!

Start With Meatless Crumbles