I don't understand why food companies fashion soy derivatives to look and taste like meat (see my posting on Grasshopper Restaurant). I've heard vegetarians say that the smell and texture of meat makes them ill. So the reasoning behind pseudo-meat baffles me. Isn't this just confirming that humans by nature crave (and maybe need) some meat and if they are deprived of it, they must eat something that at least resembles it? I'm not a vegetarian because I believe in the whole enchilada including small amounts of lean red meat, poultry, dairy, and fish eaten weekly as well as plant proteins like nuts and beans. That said, I was happy to review these soy products by Gardein simply because I'll try any new food once! I'm not usually a fan of processed soy products from the supermarket except maybe Morningstar Farms. Gardein offers 11 varieties of refrigerated entrees (I found them in Whole Foods sitting near the tofu). All just need a quick zapping or stir-frying. I tried the Sante Fe Good Stuff, BBQ Skewers, and BBQ Pulled Shreds.
After tasting each one, I said "Wow, that's pretty good!" The BBQ Skewers tasted a lot like tender Salisbury steak, even after heating it up with the least preferred method: microwaving. The Sante Fe Good Stuff mimicked a chicken breast stuffed with black beans and corn. Also really good. The textures were slightly rubbery (as most soy "meats" are) and if you were paying close attention after sampling the different varieties, you might conclude that the textures are identical, but each unique well-seasoned sauce is so enjoyable you forget that. I love that these are not only great sources of protein but iron as well. Vegetarians who avoid all animal foods have to watch their iron because the best absorbed form of dietary iron is from animal foods. Many plant foods contain iron but that form is not as well absorbed and may contain other ingredients that block iron absorption (e.g., phytates in grains and beans, tannins in tea). Vegetarians therefore often have to eat more total iron and combine it with foods rich in vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption.
My toddler son Jake gobbled up these products and I truly enjoyed each bite too. Definitely a keeper for my shopping list! Another nice thing is that these products cover almost every dish that uses meat. In addition to the ones I mentioned, there's Seasoned Bites that you can add to soups, stews, and chili; or Chick'n Strips for salads or fajitas. Gardein products are made from soy and wheat proteins, vegetables, and grains. There's no MSG, preservatives, or artificial flavorings, and all are nut-free.