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Let’s talk about meat substitutes

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Mmmm… that sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

Ok, here’s the scoop: over the years, I’ve been trying to eat less and less meat. For the most part, it’s been pretty easy for me. I’ve never been much of a meat-eater, anyway.

The key for me, I think, is that I don’t go for straight substitutes. In other words, when I make spaghetti, I don’t replace meatballs with “meatless meatballs.” I sprinkle pine nuts over my pasta instead.  And when we’re having hamburgers, I usually make myself a Masala Burger from Trader Joes, which is nothing at all like beef (it’s basically an Indian-spiced potato patty), but that’s ok because it is delicious in its own right.

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(In fact, here’s a tip I got from Dinner: A Love Story, after I had been eating them on hamburger rolls: these patties are really good inside a small pita, and spread with mango chutney. Yummy!)

So that’s been my strategy – replace the meat with something else entirely that I enjoy, and not something that is supposed to taste like the original meat. It works well for me, and I rarely miss the original.

But there is one meat that I have yet to substitute: hot dogs. Anyone who knew me when I was a kid can attest to the fact that I would have eaten hot dogs at every meal if my parents would have let me. I’m not the hot dog freak I was back then, but I still enjoy them once or twice a month.

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I know what foul ingredients are purported to be in hot dogs, and I long ago upgraded to Applegate Farms organic beef dogs, the least icky kind I could find. I love one of these on a potato roll with mustard and sweet pickle relish, and/or sauerkraut. And really, I could go on having these once in a while and be fine with it. BUT, I am also wondering if there is a really good meatless substitute I might be missing out on.

(Or, “on which I might be missing out.”  Because, grammar.)

I had a few different brands of hot dog substitute in my hands at Whole Foods this morning. One was grain-and-vegetable-based, and another was tofu-based. I have to admit, I have never tried tofu, but I have a preconceived notion that the texture will be a turn-off. In the end, I put both types down and decided to poll my online friends. You are always such a wealth of knowledge and experience! (See how I am buttering you up here?)

Please educate me in the ways of tasty hot dog substitutes. Given what I said up there about pine nuts and masala patties, I’m open to trying something that doesn’t advertise itself as a “not dog.” In other words, it doesn’t have to taste hot-doggy, as long as it is at-home on a roll with mustard and relish!

8 thoughts on “Let’s talk about meat substitutes

  1. My 10 year old son is a vegetarian. He has chosen to eat this way since he was 7 years old. My husband & I are not vegetarian but we now eat a lot less meat. Anything Trader Joe’s house brand in the meat substitute area has tasted good and had a pleasant texture. Our brand of hotdog is now Lightlife Smart Dogs. They are veggie protein links. They sell them at TJ as well as other places. Trader Joe’s Italian sausage less sausages is also tasty but the texture is a little dense. It is good sliced and put on a home made pizza. Trader J’s breakfast patties are also good. Just remember with ALL meat substitutes – DO NOT OVER COOK. You are really just heating them through. Hope this helps.

    1. That does help, thank you! I need to get myself to a Trader Joe’s now 🙂

  2. I actually eat ‘dogs very rarely (the odd BBQ event), but I am officially craving one now, Lisa. Thanks 😉

    I do use tofu, but it is best used to up the protein in a dish where the flavour will overwhelm its blah. It’s great in a meat-free chili.

    1. Sorry 😉 I had two of them for supper tonight. I wasn’t planning on it, but I kind of got myself in the mood, and I had a package of them in the fridge…

  3. For me, it’s really all about the condiments. Sometimes I just load up a bun and eat without the dog. Or use mashed potatoes or a slice of baked potato. I’ve heard that a cooked carrot works nicely also. My daughter likes Yves or Smart Dogs. Think outside the package. You may be pleasantly surprised!

    1. You know, last night as I was putting sauerkraut, mustard, and relish on a particularly nice hot dog roll, the thought did occur to me that maybe that was all I needed – no dog necessary. I did add the hot dog in the end, though. I just bought some Smart Dogs this morning, but I do love your potato idea. I think I could be happy eating nothing but bread, potatoes and pasta forever. (Ugh, I am such a carb/starch junkie!)

  4. We are a meat free home. Both my daughters are vegan. I am a bit more flexible. We have tried many times to like the Smartdogs but it just hasn’t happened. Last thing we tried was pigs in a blanket and that didn’t hide their weird texture.

    I urge you to try some tofu. Buy the firm or extra firm. Press it well. (we use a tofu press). Slice and marinate and bake. It will be chewy and delicious. Good for sandwiches or whatever.

    Next try some tempeh. Most popular dish in our house is the Tempeh Reuben.

    1. Hi, Christina, I thought I had replied to this but I just noticed I didn’t! Sorry about that.
      I tried the Smartdogs last week. I wasn’t a fan.

      I supposed pressed tofu might be ok, especially if I try to avoid any preconceived notions of what I want it to taste like! Thanks for the suggestion.

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