Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review: Smart Ground (Veggie Protein Crumbles)

Okay. I've always been very skeptical about veggie stuff that is trying to look and taste like meat. I'm also not a vegetarian, so I've always thought, why bother when you can eat the real stuff? One of my coworkers at an old job used to cook lunch for the company (there were only 7 of us) once a week. It was usually something she could make in a slow cooker, and since she was vegetarian and we had someone who was vegan, she'd often try out new vegetarian dishes on us (they were almost always fantastic). Once she made us some sort of dish that would usually have ground beef in it, but she used fake stuff, protein crumbles. It was shockingly good! That made me a little less skeptical.

As I've said in previous posts, I've been trying to eat less meat, for ethical, health related and financial reasons. One of the meats I pretty much refuse to buy these days is ground beef. Unless you get a nice wholesome piece of meat and have the butcher grind it for you, it's really not something you should trust (read this October 2, 2009 New York Times article if you question this statement: With all this said, Beef Stroganoff, made the way my family makes it (with ground beef, ketchup and sour cream, no fancy schmancy beef stroganoff in my family!), is one of my favorite dishes, but everytime I make it I can't stop thinking about how I'm eating dodgy ground beef.

So I was buying tofu the other day (I love to make crispy tofu...I'll follow this with a post about that) and I saw that 'Smart Ground' veggie protein crumbles were on sale. Hmmm I thought. Could I make beef stroganoff with THAT? So tonight, I did, and guess what? It was quite tasty!!! I did learn that the stuff looks pretty weird when you add water to it, so rather than add Smart Ground to the sauted onions and THEN water with bullion in it, I would do the water first, let it cook down a bit, then add the Smart Ground. I would also use a bit more beef bullion and add mushrooms, because, well, mushrooms are delicious, and the only thing I didn't like about the final product was a slightly odd smell, so having mushrooms and a stronger beef presence via the bullion cubes would probably make it perfect. The final product had the same texture as my normal beef stroganoff, but this time I wasn't all nervous about suddenly becoming paralyzed. Whew. Now that's a relief!

Anywho, I highly recommend using Smart Ground if you're also hesitant about ground beef but have some favorite recipes that incorporate it. The package was pretty big and I was just making two servings, so I have some left over. I'm thinking of making chili or a good (well, we'll see) pasta sauce with the remainder and seeing how that turns out. Also, health wise, it's really good for you. 12 grams of protein, plus it's fat and cholesterol free...pretty great huh?

Here's the recipe, not how I made it but how I would make it next time! :) It's really up to you what ingredients you want to emphasize, so feel free to mix up the amounts of 'Smart Ground', onions and mushrooms, just make sure you keep the ketchup/sour cream ratio about the same! The following recipe would serve 3-4 people, depending on how much 'meat' you use.

Ingredients: 1 package Smart Ground, olive oil, 1-2 diced onions, 1/2-1 cup of sliced mushrooms, 1 cube beef bullion*, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1-1 1/2 cup sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, egg noddles.

Directions: Add olive oil to pan over medium high heat, add diced onion mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. Add 3/4 to 1 beef bullion cube to 1 1/2 cups of water and mush to break it up. Add to hot pan, stirring to make sure the bullion dissolves fully. After about 1/3 of the water has cooked off, at the beef protein and stir around. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water is gone. Add ketchup, and continue to stir. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and serve over egg noodles. As always, enjoy!

* As a wise friend pointed out, this is not vegetarian if you use beef bullion. Rumor has it (according to my friend) a bit of Marmite or Vegemite will do the trick for the flavor, and, of course, is vegetarian!

Also, as noted in the comments, too much soy can be bad news. Don't live on this stuff. There was a really interesting article about soy and how it relates to so many of our societies current health woes, I thought in the New York Times, but this is all I can find for now, still informative(!) :


  1. I don't know if that stuff is soy-based or more of a seitan kind of deal -- but you should know that soy products that are not traditional Japanese fermented soy (like soy sauce or tofu) but are instead soy-pretending-to-be-something-else (fake meat, soy milk, &c.) are not anything you should eat a lot of. Soy tricks your body into thinking it's estrogen, and over-consumption of un-fermented soy food products is linked to certain types of hormonally-reactive cancer (certain kinds of breast and ovarian cancer in women, for example). So don't go out of your way to eat fake meat made from soy (though a little obviously won't hurt you if you are a normal healthy person otherwise).

  2. The first time I heard about too much soy being a problem in American diets, I was really surprised. This is the article - from the Utne Reader - that I was reading at the time: