By Nava Atlas
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Whether you’re exploring vegan options for environmental, ethical, or health reasons, Nava Atlas’s protein-focused recipes extend a warm welcome to the plant-powered protein revolution!
Today’s innovative meat alternatives prove you don’t have to sacrifice meaty flavors to enjoy a plant-based diet. You’ll discover new ways to prepare familiar favorites, from nostalgic classics to bold global fare with dishes are kinder to the earth and better for you.
Plant-Powered Protein offers 125 recipes for using plant-based proteins thoughtfully, incorporating whole foods and fresh vegetables. Bridging the divide between the traditional comfort food diet and the whole food plant-based approach, you’ll find an array of flavorful, easy recipes including:
- Soups and stews like New England Clamless Chowder and Beefy Barley & Bean Stew
- Comfort favorites like Classic Meat Loaf and Italian-Style Sausage & Peppers
- Global-inspired dishes like Korean Bulgogi Bowls, Mongolian-ish Beef, and Thai-Inspired Beefy Salad
- Diner specialties like Gyros, Philly Cheesesteaks, and “Tuna” Melts;
- Indulgent eats like Carne Asada Fries; Pulled Protein Tacos, and Baked Spaghetti Pie
- Brunch winners like Biscuits with Sausage Gravy and Spicy Chorizo Tofu Scramble.
These budget-friendly, approachable recipes will satisfy staunch meat-lovers, picky eaters, and healthy food fans alike. And for those with a DIY spirit, Nava provides from-scratch recipes for plant-powered ground, meatballs, sausage, bacon-style strips, and more.
The truth is that I’ve been making “meaty” things even while professing not to. I’ve schlepped various iterations of mock chicken noodle soup from one book to another (including this one—how could I leave it out?). I’m also such a big fan of seitan that I make my own, and that’s a food that’s nothing if not meaty. One of my most famous recipes, and the one I probably make most often, is the one for “tofuna,” a ridiculously easy concoction of baked tofu, vegan mayo, and celery. Whenever I serve this, people are completely aware that it’s faux—and it practically gets inhaled anyway. I’m tickled that one of my nonvegan neighbors has adopted it as his go-to portable work lunch, preferring it to real tuna or chicken.
Rather amusingly, my grown son and daughter, lifelong vegetarians and now longtime vegans, have always loved meat alternatives—even though they’ve never tasted the real thing! There’s unquestionably something about meaty flavors and textures that has a primal appeal, speaking to a universal craving for a certain kind of umami.
ABOUT THE RECIPES—SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
The recipes in this book feature beefy crumbles, deli slices, chicken-style chunks and strips, vegan sausage, and lots more—even a brief introduction to plant-based seafood. Many plant meats are either ready to use or nearly ready, so why do we need recipes for using them at all? Why not open The Joy of Cooking, for example, and swap plant protein for animal meats? (Feel free to do just that; it sounds like fun!)
The answer is that it’s not just about simply swapping plant-based grounds for ground beef, for example. These recipes present an opportunity to use plant-based products thoughtfully in dishes that contain other wholesome ingredients and lots of fresh vegetables—bridging the divide between traditional American comfort food and plant-based whole foods.
In addition, there are plenty of cookbooks, obviously, that use actual meat in recipes, along with carefully chosen ingredients and flavorings that will produce the best results. Using plant-based meats requires a similar approach. To that end, these recipes will explore ways to tease out the best flavors and most appealing uses for meat alternatives.
Some plant-based meats are already nicely flavored straight out of the package (one example of this is plant-based sausages, such as plant-based chorizo); others are bland but offer meaty textures. In some cases, otherwise good products are high in sodium. Creating recipes with lots of healthful ingredients will mitigate sodium content by dispersing it throughout a dish filled with vegetables, grains, pasta, beans, nuts, and/or seeds.
One of the things I learned at 2019’s Plant-Based World Conference and Expo is that many producers of plant proteins are looking to improve the nutritional profile of their products. The aim is to achieve more flavor and better texture with less sodium. Not all plant proteins are created equal when it comes to sodium, though. Some, such as plain pea-protein crumbles and Soy Curls, have no sodium at all—they’re a blank canvas for your own seasonings. The same is true of two traditional plant proteins, tofu and tempeh.
Just as protein can be considered the building block of a sound diet, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds form the foundation of protein. Most of the recipes in this collection offer several options for plant protein. For whole-foods fans, you’ll find recipes using tofu, tempeh, and/or seitan. Those with a DIY spirit may enjoy making their own plant-based meat substitutes from scratch with ingredients such as gluten flour (also known as vital wheat gluten), quinoa, nuts, beans, and tempeh. You’ll find those kinds of recipes in chapter 9 (here). The recipes also take a cue from global cuisines in that they use protein as a modest part of a dish rather than its central focus.
THE PLANT-BASED PROTEIN MOVEMENT
Beyond Meat’s groundbreaking 2019 initial public offering helped raise consumer awareness of plant-based proteins. Suddenly it seemed that plant meats were everywhere, and buzz has been building ever since. Of course, their appearance really wasn’t all that sudden. While Beyond Meat and Impossible products have done much to increase their visibility, meat analogs are nothing new. They’ve been a part of Asian cuisines for centuries, for example. Now there’s a major shift in how “meat” is defined.
What ultimately persuaded me to pursue a book on this topic was a New York Times article profiling Bruce Friedrich, formerly of PETA, who famously threw fake blood at models wearing furs at fashion shows. The article’s title proclaimed: “This Animal Activist Used to Get in Your Face. Now He’s Going After Your Palate.” Friedrich realized that the guilt approach wasn’t working. In 2015 he founded the Good Food Institute with a new goal: to reach meat eaters with plant-based meat alternatives. And if the result would be a healthier planet and fewer animals being harmed, that’s what mattered.
According to the article, Friedrich “came to realize that making others feel bad about eating meat does not make them consume less of it.” Much of his new approach has involved lobbying, research, and corporate engagement. And it seems to be working—the rapid development of plant-based protein companies and the explosive growth of meat alternatives are proof positive.
With lots of passion (as well as profit) driving this growth, it’s a trend, like veganism itself, that looks like it’s here to stay. Indeed, The Economist proclaimed 2019 “The Year of the Vegan”: “Where millennials lead, businesses and governments will follow.” While it’s risky to paint any generation with a broad brush, millennials and those who have come after them are the driving force behind the global movement toward reducing the consumption of meat. Thank you, millennials!
The article goes on to state: “The business of providing vegan meals is booming.… Sales of vegan foods in America in the year to June 2018 rose ten times faster than food sales as a whole. Giant food firms are clambering onto the bandwagon, creating vegan lines of their own, buying startups, or both.… Even Big Meat is going vegan, it seems.”
Plant proteins are quickly taking their place in food service and restaurants, but home cooks also have a growing array of options. Today’s vegan chefs and activists appreciate the idea that plant meats can be a bridge for omnivores who might otherwise be resistant to vegan fare.
Now the entire concept of meat is being redefined. Companies involved are changing the language as well by not using the terms “meat alternatives” or “faux meats” but rather “plant protein,” “plant-based protein,” and simply “plant meat.” Even some actual meat companies are joining the movement rather than fighting it (though some are, indeed, fighting it).
Moving toward a plant-based paradigm is also smart from an economic perspective. Plant protein is significantly cheaper to produce and distribute than animal meats. Today, 41 percent of America’s landmass is given over to cattle grazing. That’s the very definition of inefficiency. Quoting The Economist: “If plant-based ‘meats’ take off, they could become a transformative technology, improving Westerners’ protein-heavy diets, reducing the environmental hoofprint of animal husbandry and perhaps even cutting the cost of food in poor countries.”
In just a short span of time, plant-based meat alternatives that didn’t exist not so long ago are already staples in restaurant chains and supermarkets—not just in the natural foods aisle but also in the meat department. For anyone who wants to explore a plant-based diet, there’s no sacrifice whatsoever now that we have fantastic animal-free stand-ins for nearly every kind of meat, seafood, and dairy product.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
This is a cookbook, not a treatise on climate change, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the forces behind the plant-protein movement is the desire to mitigate the climate crisis.
Whether made from pea protein, non-GMO soy, or other plants, a serving of plant protein uses 99 percent less water and 93 percent less land than animal protein. So while governments continue to waffle about protecting the environment and animals, socially responsible entrepreneurs and investors are taking control of the narrative and driving the change. When I give talks, I like to remind people that reducing or eliminating animals from their diets is something positive that they can do every day.
We need no further proof of climate change than the calamitous events that happen regularly, but the contributions made by animal agriculture to our warming planet should be a greater part of the conversation. Alon Shepon of the T. H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard University) has made the case for a plant-based diet to help alleviate the climate crisis: “By 2050 greenhouse emissions from agriculture in a vegan world would be 70 percent lower than in a world where people ate as they do today.”
A groundbreaking 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is still relevant and often cited. According to this report, the animal agriculture sector accounts for 18 percent of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Further, it states that “mapping has shown a strong relationship between excessive nitrogen in the atmosphere and the location of intensive farm animal production areas.” Deforestation for farm-animal grazing has devastating repercussions for the environment as well, with thousands of acres of rain forest and other lands still being cleared yearly for cattle grazing.
Animal agriculture has little to recommend it. There’s the insane use of water, the pollution of air and streams, and the overuse of pesticides and antibiotics. So many of these issues can be alleviated by changing our protein source to plants.
COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS
For ethical vegans, the driving motivation is all about compassion for sentient beings. Those who choose to go vegan appreciate knowing that their food choices are not only tasty and healthful but also humane.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say something like, “I can’t look at what happens to animals, because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to eat meat.” Often, it’s not that people don’t know; they just don’t want to look. But putting on emotional blinders doesn’t mean that the inhumane and unsustainable treatment of animals isn’t happening.
I’ve also heard people say, “Why should I eat a fake burger? If I want to eat a burger once in a while, I’ll eat the real thing.” This not only ignores the facts on the ground for animals; it also ignores the environmental reality.
I’ll keep this part brief but will end with a plea: do the research and open your heart!
THE PROTEIN QUESTION
If you’ve gone plant-based, or are going in that direction, you’ll inevitably be asked, “How do you get your protein?” It’s a question that just won’t go away. It’s not at all complicated; plant-based protein sources are abundant, and I’ll explore them here.
Longtime vegans tend to roll their eyes at having to explain and justify their protein sources. But the myth that it’s hard to get adequate protein on a vegan diet is tenacious, so it’s better to address it than to ignore it. I find that people ask me this question not because they’re challenging me but because they want to learn.
Reed Mangels, RD, PhD, the nutrition adviser to the Vegetarian Resource Group, concurs. On VRG’s website, she states: “Vegans are bombarded with questions about where they get their protein.… This concern about protein is misplaced. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. Only about one calorie out of every 10 we take in needs to come from protein.”
There’s plenty of evidence that a varied whole-foods diet has little chance of falling short in protein, especially if it provides sufficient calories. Many foods have at least some protein. Whole grains, legumes, soy foods, nuts, and seeds all offer high-quality protein. Lots of common vegetables have small amounts of protein, so if you eat plenty of them, they add to your daily intake as well.
The body can manufacture all but nine of the twenty-two amino acids that make up proteins. These nine amino acids are referred to as essential amino acids and must be gotten from food. That is why getting sufficient good-quality protein is crucial. The operative word here is “sufficient”—this isn’t a case where more is necessarily better. Many Americans eat twice as much protein as they need. Excess protein can’t be stored, and its elimination puts a strain on the body’s organs and functions.
Figuring out how much protein you need is based on a simple calculation. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) established by the National Academy of Sciences states that an adult in good health needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So a 160-pound man needs around 58 grams of protein a day, and a 120-pound woman needs around 43 grams.
There are exceptions to the RDAs: pregnant and lactating woman need considerably more protein—add at least 25 grams of protein per day. Infants and children need more total protein per pound of body weight than adults. Athletes need a lot more protein, but its preferred source, once thought to be animal products, is shifting to plants. Many well-known athletes, including those considered elite or superathletes, have gone vegan. The Game Changers, a 2019 film, explores this trend with many amazing examples. If you have specific questions about your own protein needs, I suggest talking to a registered dietitian.
PROTEIN QUANTITIES IN PLANT-BASED FOODS
Because the underlying theme of this book is plant protein, let’s take a look at some common sources of it in addition to the meaty, ready-made plant-based proteins that star in this book’s recipes. The amount of protein is given in grams.
Beans and Legumes (Cooked, ½-Cup Serving)
Beans and legumes are low in calories and fat, so if you need to consume more protein, a 1-cup serving—double the amount below—is completely reasonable.
Lentils, red = 13g
Split peas, green or yellow = 8–10g
Black beans = 8g
Chickpeas = 7g
Lentils, brown = 6–8g
Pinto beans = 6g
Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan
The original plant-based protein trio will be making regular appearances throughout the following chapters.
Seitan (4 ounces) = 28g
Tempeh (4 ounces) = 20–21g
Tofu, baked (2 ounces) = 11g
Tofu, firm (4 ounces) = 10g
Tofu, extra-firm (4 ounces) = 8g
Nuts (¼-Cup Serving)
Almonds = 8g
Peanuts = 7g
Pistachios = 6g
Cashews = 5g
Walnuts = 4g
Nut Butters (2-Tablespoon Serving)
Peanut butter = 8g
Almond butter = 8g
Cashew butter = 6g
Seeds (1-Ounce Serving)
Pumpkin seeds = 7g
Hemp seeds = 6g
Sesame seeds = 6g
Flaxseeds = 5g
Chia seeds = 4.7g
Sunflower seeds = 3.5g
Grains (Cooked, ½-Cup Serving)
Like legumes, whole grains are low in fat and high in fiber. A 1-cup serving for people with hearty appetites or high protein needs is a reasonable quantity.
Barley = 8g
Oats, steel-cut = 5g
Oats, old-fashioned = 5g
Quinoa = 4–4.5g
Rice, brown = 3g
The protein content of nutritional yeast varies; the amount below applies to the Red Star brand. Nutritional yeast is also a great source of vitamin B12—one serving gives you 130 percent of your RDA.
1½ tablespoons = 8g
Pasta (Cooked, 1-Cup Serving)
Spelt pasta = 12g
Soba noodles (2-ounce serving) = 7–8g
Whole wheat pasta = 7g
Durum wheat pasta = 7g
Quinoa pasta = 4g
Asparagus (1 cup chopped) = 4g
Brussels sprouts (1 cup) = 4g
Spinach (wilted and packed, ½ cup) = 3g
Broccoli (1 cup florets) = 2–3g
Sweet potato (1 medium) = 2.25g
Kale (chopped and packed, 1 cup) = 2g
Now we return to the subject of this book, plant-based meats. Are they good sources of protein? Most definitely, yes! They provide an easy way to pack in a lot of protein. It would be unwieldy to list all the various brands and varieties on the market today—which seem to be growing by leaps and bounds—so here’s just a small sampling of some popular products. See a longer list of major brands, along with their main protein sources, here.
Viana Cowgirl Veggie Steaks (3.8-ounce serving) = 31g
Field Roast Sausages, any flavor (1 link) = 25g
No Evil Foods Comrade Cluck “No Chicken” (2.5-ounce serving) = 21g
Beyond Burger (1 patty) = 20g
Abbot’s Butcher Spanish Smoked “Chorizo” (½ cup) = 16g
Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan Strips (2-ounce serving) = 15g
Tofurky Plant-Based Deli Slices, Bologna Style (3 slices) = 14g
Dr. Praeger’s Classic Chick’n Tenders (3 pieces) = 14g
Good Catch Fish-Free Tuna (3.3-ounce serving) = 14g
Gardein Beefless Ground (½ cup) = 12g
Lightlife Smoky Tempeh Strips (4 strips) = 12g
Yves Veggie Cuisine Veggie Ham (5 slices) = 12g
SoyBoy Not Dogs (2-link serving) = 11g
MOVING TOWARD A PLANT-BASED KITCHEN
Though this collection focuses on “meaty” dishes, from nostalgic comfort classics to trendy contemporary dishes, lots of good-for-you ingredients are part of these recipes. If you’re new to plant-based eating, here’s a brief and handy guide to often-used foods you might want to keep in your pantry and refrigerator.
Beans and Legumes, Canned and Dried
A variety of canned beans in the pantry paves the way for lots of easy-to-prepare meals. If you have a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or Instant Pot, you might consider cooking beans from scratch. Despite all the newfangled plant proteins in this book, you’ll still encounter good old-fashioned beans in these pages regularly. Here’s a list of common beans and legumes you might like to keep on hand.
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Great northern beans
The grains you’ll find most often in this book are rice, quinoa, barley, and oats. Whole grains add variety to meals and are sturdy, low-fat sources of fiber and protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and an array of minerals.
It raises my hackles a bit (even though I have no idea what hackles are) when I hear objections to the use of the word “milk” for this category. Nut milks have been made for millennia, and it seems that it was acceptable to call them by that name up until the time when lobbyists were invented.
The first plant-based milk to hit the American market was soy milk, and that reigned supreme for a couple of decades, but now there are so many more choices. When a recipe in this book calls for plant-based milk, feel free to use your favorite kind, as long as it’s plain (that is, not flavored) and unsweetened. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with vanilla plant-based milk or any other flavor of plant-based milk; it just doesn’t taste right in savory dishes. Save it for your coffee or cereal.
Among the varieties to choose from are almond, hemp, cashew, rice, soy, coconut (the beverage, not the canned variety), and oat milk. The latter is praised as the most sustainable and environmentally friendly of the plant-based milks.
Many plant-based milks come in aseptic containers, which means you can keep them in the pantry until they’re opened, after which they need to be refrigerated.
Nuts and Seeds
In conversations about plant protein, it’s sometimes easy to forget about nuts and seeds. They’re a powerhouse source of healthful fats, vitamins (especially B vitamins and vitamin E), and minerals. You don’t need a lot of nuts and seeds to reap their benefits; in fact, moderation is a good rule.
In this book’s recipes, you’ll come across almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Seeds that are called for from time to time include sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin. You don’t necessarily have to keep all these nuts and seeds on hand as pantry staples unless you plan to use them often. Otherwise, purchase them in small quantities as needed, especially during the warm months, when they can become rancid.
Pasta and Noodles
Pasta is still one of the most useful (and economical) pantry staples. This book has an entire chapter devoted to pasta, and in other chapters you’ll find recipes that call for various Asian noodles. Gluten-free pastas have improved greatly over the past few years, if gluten is a concern for you.
Keep a few of your favorite short pasta shapes on hand, such as twists and shells, as well as longer noodles, such as spaghetti. You can get all kinds of Asian noodles in well-stocked supermarkets these days; these include rice noodles, soba, udon, and yakisoba. Some Asian noodles are naturally gluten-free. Consult labels, of course.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan: The Original Plant-Based Protein Trio
Tofu is a superb food to add to your protein repertoire. In addition to being a good source of protein, tofu made with calcium sulfate provides up to 20% of your average daily calcium requirement. It’s also low in fat and is a good source of iron and B vitamins. Here’s a brief lexicon of the most common tofu varieties:
Unlike the tub variety of tofu, silken tofu, the most widely available of which is the Mori-Nu brand, comes in 12.3-ounce aseptic packages. That means it’s shelf-stable, so it’s good to keep a couple of cartons in the pantry. It comes in firm and extra-firm, though honestly, there’s not much difference between them. Either variety makes a fantastically smooth and silky base for soups and sauces, and I call for it throughout this book.
- On Sale
- Dec 29, 2020
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Grand Central Publishing