Back to Basics: Chicken Alternatives, Part 2

Healthy stand-in for chicken

When I wrote the first post on chicken alternatives, I didn’t do the Gardein Seasoned Bites justice. I had only tested it in chili. Heat and serve. The Bites were good, but I wouldn’t say they had quite the same texture as chicken. I used the product again in a casserole and baking it made all the difference. (See recipe below.) It had the texture and flavor of chicken and would make an excellent transition food for a new vegetarian or vegan.

Gardein products are readily available at mainstream supermarkets everywhere. There are many varieties to choose from. Grocery stores stock meat alternatives inconsistently. You can find them in various departments depending on the store. Whole Foods stocks Gardein in the refrigerated section near other vegan products like soy cheese and tofu. Dominick’s stocks it in the produce section and I have also seen it in the freezer aisle. (By the way, there are always a variety of faux meat products in the freezer aisle.) Personally I wish the stores would stock them right next to the meat. Nonetheless, you can find excellent meat alternatives almost everywhere. Experiment with the different flavors and cooking methods. I’m certain you will find a flavor and texture that will please your taste buds.

If you need help with recipes, check out the Gardein website or pick up a copy of the new cookbook, The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat
by Tal Ronnen. This vegan chef to the stars (Ellen and Oprah) uses this meat alternative in many of his recipes.

Below is a recent Vegetarian Times recipe I veganized and adjusted to my preferences. I also increased the nutritional value by adding broccoli and spinach. It’s the perfect comfort food on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole
Serves 6

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice and brown rice blend (All wild or brown will also do.)
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
1 large stalk celery, diced (approx. 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. button mushrooms, sliced (Any type of mushroom will do. I have used both button and baby Portobello.)
2-3 cups, broccoli florets
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 cups vegan creamy mushroom soup, such as Imagine brand
Juice of one medium lemon (Approx. 2 Tbs.)
1 pkge. vegan chicken alternative such as Gardein Seasoned Bited, Morningstar Farms  Chik’n Strips (also made by Gardein for Kellogg)
2 cups, fresh Spinach, (optional)
1/3 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
Black pepper, as desired
Cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Cook rice according to the directions on the package.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add mushrooms and lemon zest. Cook another 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown. Season with black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.

3. Stir in mushroom soup and lemon juice. Remove from heat and stir in vegan chicken alternative, rice, and vegan sour cream. Spoon into a large rectangular baking dish (not glass) and top with breadcrumbs. Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbly in the center.

4. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.