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.