Vegetarian Cooking: 10 Unique Uses For Veggie Crumbles To Replace Meat.

This article lists 10 ways veggie crumbles can be substituted for ground beef in recipes, as well as cooking tips.

Every shopper has seen the vegetarian "ground beef" crumbles in the frozen foods or other vegetarian sections of the grocery store. The package makes them sound tasty, but what are they really like and how can they be used? Here are 10 recipes to lower the fat and cholesterol in some favorite meals without losing what we like about meat.

First, veggie crumbles are soy protein "" textured vegetable protein. Soy protein is high quality and easily digestible for most people. It is also a complete protein and is one of the most versatile of veggie products. But TVP is often used as a meat substitute, since its chewy texture makes it "feel" like meat in the mouth.

As a ground beef substitute, crumbles have almost no fat, no cholesterol and less than half the calories of an equivalent amount of ground beef. They also do not reduce as ground beef does, meaning that a cook gets the full weight of the crumbles, with none lost to fat--a better value for the money.

1. Spaghetti sauce. Go ahead and pour on the sauce. A low-fat, low-carb spaghetti sauce can be mixed with the crumbles, or the cook can use a packet of sauce seasoning, tomato sauce, tomato paste, a can of drained, chopped tomatoes, and a can of drained, sliced mushrooms. Mix all well and when the sauce is hot, put the pasta water on to boil. When the water boils, add the frozen or fresh crumbles to the mixture. Put the pasta on and the sauce will be ready when the pasta is done. Hence another advantage of the veggie crumbles: the cook does not have to brown and drain them beforehand, or thaw them. They go right into the sauce frozen and the sauce thaws the crumbles and brings them to optimum temperature.

2. Sloppy joes. Again, the cook can either use a pre-made sauce or make a sloppy joe sauce from a can of tomato soup, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, onions, garlic, all to taste, to make a lower-calorie version of the famous quick meal. Add crumbles as for spaghetti, cook about seven minutes and spread on toasted buns.

3. Chili. This is the easiest chili recipe ever. In a large soup pot, put two cans diced/chopped tomatoes, with liquid, one can tomato paste, two cans kidney beans (or your preferred beans), drained, one chili seasoning packet. Mix well, add additional seasonings to taste and when hot, again, add the crumbles.

4. Tacos. Here again, all the cook needs to do is get a packet of taco seasoning, mix it with the required water, and any desired additional seasonings, and heat it. When warmed, add the crumbles and cook, stirring frequently, until they are thawed. Add the mixture to warmed taco shells.

5. Enchiladas/burritos. One more time "" a seasoning packet or sauce mix, corn or flour tortillas, add cheese, and that's it!

6. Ground beef meal kits. This requires a slightly different technique. The cook should follow all instructions for heating the sauce mix and rice or pasta, then allow it to simmer for half the cooking time, covered. When about 10 minutes are left on the time, add the crumbles and follow the rest of the directions.

7. Beans and rice. If a cook wants to add a bit more taste and protein to this traditional favorite, she can add the crumbles to the beans when they are almost cooked. This is a big hit with kids, and leads right to"¦

8. Cowboy beans. This variation on time-honored baked beans may be a good way to get the kids to eat beans. The cook can either start with vegetarian canned baked beans or start from scratch and cook her own. Then, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, onion, garlic, pepper, spices, can all be added, to taste. When the beans are ready to go into the oven, stir in the crumbles. Instant meal "" and the kids will like it.

9. Fajitas. For a really healthy meal, veggie crumbles are fine with fajitas. Cook the vegetables with sauce or seasoning, and when they are about five minutes away from being done, add the crumbles. Serve in flour tortillas with all the fixings.

10. Casseroles. Hamburger is a popular addition to casseroles. Crumbles can be layered in the casseroles just as hamburger meat would be, and will cook happily with the other ingredients.

For cooks who are not vegans, low-sodium beef bullion powder can be added to the dishes to give a more "beefy" flavor.

Crumbles are obviously one of the most versatile of veggie products. While they don't make good burgers, they are great for almost anything else using ground beef. Even dedicated meat-eaters will eat these crumbles, well-disguised as they are in strongly-flavored dishes, which is where they work best.

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