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Family Central: Vegan For The Whole Family!

Introducing guest blogger Vanessa Downey – a Tyler wife, mom, entrepreneur and enthusiastic healthy cook! Vanessa will be serving up vegetarian-friendly cooking tips and samples in our FRESH Taste Kitchen today. She’s also going to occasionally share her favorite healthy recipes, hints, and products in our FRESH Peek blog. Welcome, Vanessa!

AAAhhh…the smoky aroma of a juicy cheeseburger sizzling on the griddle wafts through the house on a sultry August evening.

Tonight is daughter Ryann’s turn to say the blessing and she tells us how grateful she is that Mom made “real” burgers for once. I feel a little guilty for my deception, and I hold my breath as they each take a bite. And…..the crowd goes wild!

Ryann, 6,  gives me her highest compliment: “Mom, this is AWESOME”! Dennise, 10, insists that her burger tastes just like a pizza, which is high praise indeed. What I don’t tell them until they savor their last bites is that these burgers aren’t  meat at all.

When I fess up, their jaws drop and they ask incredulously: “Well if that wasn’t meat, what was it?” I fetch the Upton’s Naturals packages from the kitchen and inform them they have just had veggie burgers, seitan style (pronounced say-tan).

“Seitan?!? What is THAT?!?” I tell them to look for themselves; each of the seven pronounceable ingredients are listed on the package: vital wheat gluten, whole wheat flour, water, salt, pepper, spices, and soy sauce. Upton’s prides itself on producing natural food products that are 100% vegan/vegetarian, GMO and cholesterol free, low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein.

These scrumptious burgers are a mixture of Upton’s traditional and chorizo-style seitan along with vegetables in the food processor (see recipe below). We had all the fixings, including sweet, tangy Wickles, crisp lettuce and fresh, juicy Jacksonville tomatoes. We used dairy-free Vegenaise instead of mayonnaise and substituted Galaxy’s soy-based veggie slices for cheese.

Meals like this are a wonderful way to introduce meatless alternatives to your repertoire – and your family. While I wholeheartedly agree with author Michael Pollan’s adage to “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants, ” my pragmatic side knows that for the modern American, eating “veggie” needs to equal eating “easy”.

And the easiest approach is to take your current eating habits into account and ease into the change. In my opinion, swapping out fattening, high-cholesterol animal products for vegan versions of your favorite foods will increase your odds of long-term success at maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Now go forth and Veg!

Note: The product mentioned in this article is gluten-based. Many people have allergies or aversions to gluten, so please keep in mind that this is only one of many “meatless meats” on the market today. I will be discussing other, equally delicious meat alternatives in upcoming posts.

Vegan Cheeseburger

Unlike any other vegan/vegetarian burger you’ve ever had, this one is loaded with flavor and texture that rivals any conventional burger!

6 oz Upton’s Naturals Ground Seitan
2 oz Upton’s Chorizo-Style Seitan
2 Tbs olive oil
3-4 baby portabella mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp cumin
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tbs cornmeal
2 Tbs canola oil
Hamburger buns

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook until the veggies start to soften then add the mushrooms, garlic, salt, thyme, cumin and pepper and cook another minute or so. Add this concoction to the food processor along with the remaining ingredients and process until everything is well blended and chopped fine. Coarsely chop seitan, add to the veggies in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl, mix a little with your hands then flatten into desired sized patties. Fry in a little canola oil over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until nice and brown.

Serve on toasted buns with with Vegenaise dairy-free mayonnaise and your vegetables of choice. Enjoy!

Note: chorizo-style seitan was added for extra flavor and spice. If you prefer, the traditional style can be used for all 8 ounces of seitan.

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