Category Archives: squirrel! of approval
Today, three more options for mixing it up with some meatless options that have passed the husband test (or, at any rate, the MY husband test: ymmv).
Earth-Grown Zesty Italian Meatless Balls (ALDI)
A while back, I ordered Earth Grown’s frozen “zesty Italian-style” meatless meatballs from ALDI.
I’m embarrassingly fond of meatballs, and thus of the idea of frozen meatballs (aka “meatballs without all the work”)—but as a general rule, they could definitely use some help in the nutritional profile department, especially where saturated fats and cholesterol are concerned (D has hypercholesterolemia, so I try to watch those for him).
As such, ALDI’s frozen meatlessballs seemed like they might fit the bill. With no cholesterol and only 1g of saturated fat per 6-ball serving, not to mention a nice fiber boost and a good dose of healthy fats, they definitely come out ahead of both ordinary and all-turkey meatballs in the nutrition race.
Flavor-wise, they’re not really what I’d call zesty. They’re more mildly Italian-influenced than anything. That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re not tasty—just that they’re what one might describe as “good minglers,” like the friend that makes the whole party work without making it all about them.
I lightly browned my meatlessballs in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then simmered them in my favorite tomato-basil sauce while I boiled up some spaghetti (the suggested cooking time, conveniently, is 10 minutes).
D ate them without complaining, and I like them enough that I’d be happy to eat them any time I want a meatball fix, whether with pasta or in a sub.
Edit: I should note that D can detect turkey meatballs at first taste, and won’t eat them, but seems to find these acceptable. Even if he didn’t, I’d still buy them for myself. After a particularly grueling rehearsal, the only thing better than a good meatball sub is a good*meatless* meatball sub with a greatly-improved nutritional profile.
Overall: 8/10. Nice texture, pleasant mild flavor, decent nutritional profile.
Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles (Kroger)
I ordered these on a whim, but I was surprised how well they work.
Personally, I don’t care if my meatless dishes are obviously meatless—but D is kind of a meat-and-potatoes guy. He does like the desi chana tacos I make sometimes, but that involves a fair bit of planning, and I don’t know that ground green chickpeas would work in pasta sauce.
Enter Simple Truth’s frozen meatless crumbles. At $3.99 for a one-pound zip-top bag at my local Kroger, this stuff is less expensive than grass-fed ground beef, but stacks up really well in terms of utility in recipes.
Here’s a look at the nutritional profile from fooducate.com:
Pretty decent overall—and hecking wow on the protein front. Most people probably don’t need to worry that much about protein, but it can be important for dancers to track. As a male ballet dancer with a standing weight of around 160 pounds, a job description that involves lifting adult humans, and a less-than-optimal meal planning strategy (cooking with ADHD, y’all), it’s good to know about concentrated, easy-cook protein sources.
Like Earth-Grown’s meatlessballs, Simple Choice’s crumbles do contain soy and gluten, so if you’re sensitive to either or both, please be aware.
Of note, an entire cup of these crumbles is a LOT: it may be one serving, but it’s more than I typically use for one portion.
I make my taco/burrito recipe with about 1 to 1.5 cups of the crumbles and a can of beans (and, of course, onions and taco seasoning), and the resulting volume of taco/burrito filling is comparable to the same recipe made with 1 pound lean ground beef.
Each batch of taco/burrito filling makes about 8-12 tacos or 4-6 hefty burritos, depending on how many veggies I have on hand that I can add. Thus, while the stated 1-cup serving of Simple Truth’s makes crumbles includes nearly half the protein required by statutory person needs in a given day, you might not find yourself eating that much at a sitting.
I’ve found that the best way to prepare these is to lightly brown them in just enough olive oil to prevent sticking, then add whatever else you’re planning to add. They take only minutes to cook, so they come in handy when you’re starving and you want tacos NOW.
So far, the best batch of these I’ve made went like this:
- Brown chopped onions in olive oil. Feel free to add a little wine (I used cooking sherry).
- Lightly brown 1 cup of meatless crumbles in a pan.
- Add 1 can of black beans.
- Add taco seasoning (and water as called for on the taco seasoning package) to taste—I the equivalent of two packets of taco seasoning; one for the crumbles and one for the beans.
- Simmer everything for a few minutes, then serve.
D doesn’t even seem to have noticed that these aren’t made of meat, so score another win on the husband test.
Simple Truth Meatless Chorizo (Kroger)
I’ve saved the best for last, here, assuming I haven’t already written about this.
Simple Truth’s meatless chorizo is sold in link form, and holds its shape well enough to slice.
While I can absolutely imagine browning or grilling an entire link of this stuff and serving it in a bun (or a couple of grilled soft corn tortillas, loaded up with corn and black bean salsa and shredded cabbage, or even kimchi), so far I find myself slicing it up, browning it, adding whatever veggies I’ve got handy, pouring on some egg whites, and turning it into a killer egg burrito.
Prepared this way, each link makes two substantial burritos—one for D and one for me—or a burrito for now and burrito filling for later. It’s also fantastic served on tostadas, though that adds an additional hit in the saturated fats department.
I wouldn’t mind this chorizo being spicier, but its flavor profile is delightfully complex, and heat is easy to add.
At $3.99 for a pack of four substantial chorizo links, this has become a weekly staple in my house.
Oh, yeah, and it comes with the usual advantages of plant-based sausages over meat-based ones, as you can see from its profile on fooducate.com:
I’ll try to review each of these options a little more thoroughly in the future, but for now, I’ll close by saying all three of them have received D’s stamp of approval for meat substitutes—which is to say, here’s eaten them without apparently realizing that they’re meatless—and that the Simple Truth chorizo had better stay in production, or else I’ll … IDK, be very sad.
I already wrote this once, and WordPress did some glitchy thing and ate the post (like, ate it so hard that it’s not even in my trashed posts bin), so unfortunately you’re getting the short version, which will inevitably be way less clever than the original.
Anyway, I recently learned an important fact:
I also discovered that when you randomly want polenta for lunch, but you also want to eat, like, Before Someone Gets B*tchy, you can nuke yourself some Quick Grits and just add stuff.
Only … like … if you add a bouillon cube? Add it to the boiling water before you add the grits, and safe yourself the weirdness of a random encounter with a big chunk of undissolved bouillon.
You should probably take a similar approach if you’re using something like Better Than Bouillon, just to make sure it’s distributed evenly. (BTW, Better Than Bouillon is awesome.)
Anyway, here’s the recipe for this afternoon’s lunch.
- 1 & 1/3 cup boiling water (or broth)
- 1 cube of bouillon or equivalent (unless you started with broth)
- 3/4 cup quick grits (not regular, or you will be sorely disappointed)
- salt to taste (you can definitely skip it if you use bouillon)
- random cherry tomatoes
- the remaining edible leaves in an otherwise disreputable-looking bag of kale (spinach would work just as well)
- about a teaspoon of butter & olive oil blend
- one egg
- Boil the water or broth and (if necessary) pour it into a large microwave-safe bowl (1 qt/1 litre will do)
- If using bouillon, ADD IT NOW, not later ^-^’, and stir to dissolve
- Add the quick grits and salt (optional) to the liquid
- Stir again
- Microwave for 4-5 minutes. My microwave is, erm, gentle, and it takes about 4.5 minutes. Yours will probably be faster.
- Remove the grits from the microwave, add veggies, stir, and allow to stand
- If desired, nuke an egg (spray a small plate with cooking spray, crack the egg onto it, and put it in the microwave). In my microwave, this takes 30-60 seconds depending on the plate in question and how cold the plate is at the start.
- Slide the cooked egg onto the grits, add the butter blend if you want it, stir, and enjoy.
If you prefer not to use the microwave, just follow the package directions to make your quick grits on the stovetop, adding the bouillon (if desired) at the appropriate point (before you add the grits), then carry on as before.
You can, of course, also make this with Instant Grits, and you can use any other veggies you have on hand. Get creative! Tofu? Why not! Could it be …. SEITAN? Sure! Toss some ham in. Omit the veggies and make a sweet-savory version by adding butter and maple syrup. Chill it, slice it, and fry it! Branch out and try old-fashioned Hasty Pudding! It’s all you!
Oh, and if you decide to make regular (as in, Not Quick) polenta?
Know that no less an authority than Serious Eats’ Daniel Gritzer says you can ignore the “rules” about waiting ’til the liquid is boiling to add the cornmeal and then stirring constantly until it’s ready.
I’ve finally given in and taken a day off to go to the doctor’s office, so predictably I’m bored out of my skull.
As such, it seemed like a good time to implement a quick organization hack.
I use chalk markers to label and date food storage containers. They’re visible on all colors and transparencies, come in cute colors, and are easy to wipe away. They do, however, really prefer to be stored horizontally.
My previous solution was to jumble them in with my magnetic basket of assorted dry-erase pens, but that resulted in:
- an overflowing basket (I’ll pause here for lowbrow humor of the kind that occurs to me every time a U-scan machine politely chirps, “Please check your basket!”).
- a giant pain in the tuchas whenever I needed to grab a specific pen.
*Any similar product should also work; these just happened to be on hand at Staples** yesterday.
**I should never be allowed to enter Staples without a responsible adult. I did manage to restrain myself from buying a purpose-built Headphones Pocket and about 7,000 Sharpie Pens, but just barely -.-
Technically, D-Wings are cord guides—and I definitely need some of those, because 2019 amirite?—but I noticed that the large ones were the perfect size for my chalk pens.
I stuck them on the side of my microwave, where they’re unlikely to be in the way but not so far out of sight that I’ll forget about them. It seemed less drastic than sticking them on the side of the fridge, which is more likely to stay here if we move someday.
Now my chalk pens will be easy to grab when I need to write “Breakfast” or the current date on a food container.
Better yet, I still have two large D-wings and a bunch of small ones, so my cord-containment needs will not go unmet.
Edit: PS—possibly because I actually remembered to take my Adderall today, I verified the fit before installing the D-Wings, which seems like a good idea.
It’s been about a thousand years since I posted a recipe, but this one’s worth knowing about if you like tapioca. If you don’t like tapioca, on the other hand, you might hate this stuff.
Prep Time: ~5 minutes
Cook* Time: 1 – 8 hours
Who’ll Like It: Tapioca fans ❤
Who’ll Hate It: Tapioca haters XP
Best Uses: Dessert, Breakfast
Hardest Part: Remembering to buy the d**n Chia Seeds
Pairs Well With: Disorganized mornings; late-night cravings
*And by “cook,” I mean “stick it in the fridge and mostly ignore it”
The Actual Recipe
I’ve adapted this from a variety of similar recipes with similar goals. One of the best things about it is that it’s adaptable. Lactose intolerant? Use almond milk. Allergic to almonds? Try coconut milk. Hate coconut? Use rice milk. Don’t like artificial sweeteners? No worries; you can use sugar or agave or honey or maple syrup or…
Here’s What You’ll Need (for each serving)
- 1.5 tablespoons of chia seed (I’m using black chia seed because that’s what I’ve got, but white is fine, too)
- .5 tablespoon unsweetened coconut shreds (or powder)
- .5 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1-2 tsp sucralose
- ~.25 tsp coconut extract
- ~.25 tsp vanilla extract
Here’s What You Do
- Put everything except the chia into a small container with a lid (I’ve repurposed a glass jar that came with shredded cheese in it)
- Stir briefly
- Add the chia
- Whisk all the things briefly with a small whisk (a fork will work fine, too)
- Stick the lid on and stick that bad boy (or girl, or gender-nonbinary personage) in the fridge
- Chill for a minimum of 1 hour, but preferably more like overnight, then come back, stir, and stuff it into your maw
For even distribution of the chia seeds, I’ve been coming back 30 minutes into the chill time to re-whisk everything, but that step is optional.
Most of the recipes I’ve found for this use 1 cup of whatever milk-like product and 3 or 4 tablespoons of chia seeds, but when I made my first batch, I found that makes rather an enormous portion. I halved all the volumes to arrive at what seems, for me, like a more reasonable end product.
That said, you can definitely shove an entire 1-cup-of-milk portion of this into your face if you try hard enough.
- I’ve read that highly acidic ingredients can prevent the chia seeds from “gelling” adequately, so if you’re going to toss in orange juice, lemon curd, etc, you might want to do it right before you serve this up.
- If you eat this stuff after one hour, chances are good that it’ll still be a little loosey-goosey and a little crunchy. Don’t worry, though, you won’t die. Or, at any rate, I didn’t.
I entered the ingredients above into LoseIt’s recipe calculator, and here’s what it threw back:
I suspect that this would be really, really good with lemon curd … which, of course, I don’t happen to have on hand. Even better with berries (which I do have) and lemon curd.
As always, I’ll try to get some pix up here soon.
‘Til then, please enjoy this picture of me looking disconcertingly like a young George “Dubya” Bush on the trapeze:
And also this one of “splits down,” just because:
The other day, I wrote about trying a couple of low-carb recipes.
I’m doing the low-carb thing until I can get back to my usual training and performance schedule because it’s an easy way to balance input and output without feeling like I’m starving all the time.
My diet is usually pretty well stocked with veggies and so forth, so this mostly means that I’m stuffing my face with a metric shedload of cabbage (Savoy or Napa, at the moment) where I’d usually put pasta, burritos, or taco shells, but of course there’s more to life than cabbage. (Pumpkin smoothies, by the way, are totally in the “more to life” department. Recipe forthcoming.)
In that vein, I’ve decided to try a couple of specifically low-carb recipes that would work for both D and me, since it’s not like I asked D if he wants to give up bread and rolls for the next month.
The two standouts thus far in terms of ease of preparation and really nice results both hail from TryKetoWith.Me, the blog of “KetoGirl,” a computer-science student and ketogenic-diet advocate in Chicago. These are two of her simpler recipes, and I chose them because when I looked at them, I didn’t instantly go, “ACK! TOO MANY STEPS!” and click on back to a safer place.
- No, I’m not making fun of the Safe Spaces concept. I think they play an important role, and they have definitely been helpful to me at times in my life. I mostly just wanted to link to the Safety Dance because it’s hilarious.
Because it’s fall and I’m obsessed with putting cinnamon in everything right now, I decided to make sweet-spiced versions of both these recipes—so (because I am apparently out of plain cinnamon … wonder how that happened) I made the waffles with pumpkin pie spice standing in for the optional cinnamon, and I turned the doughballs into mini pumpkin pie spice rolls by rolling the dough out flat, coating it with a blend of Splenda and pumpkin pie spice, then curling it into a long log and cutting it into individual rolls.
- Not everyone is into sucralose and what have you. It works fine for me, so I use it, but stevia or xylitol would work just as well.
Both recipes proved pretty easy to follow—if I was working directly off my tablet or had printed them a little differently, I could have avoided the one mistake I did make, which was the result of my own formatting, not KetoGirl's.
Neither required an exhaustive list of ingredients I can't find locally. In fact, I found them all, plus one random extra (arrowroot powder, which I've been meaning to buy forever but always forget about), at a not-particularly-fancy Kroger a couple miles up the road.
For both these reasons, and because the end results are delicious, I am happy to issue the Cooking with ADHD Squirrel! of Approval© to both recipes.
The only drawback? The whole point of doing a low-carb diet while I'm on the bench is to make maintaining energy balance a no-brainer. The pumpkin pie spice rolls are so freaking good that they might completely torpedo that plan.