If you consider yourself health and/or environmentally conscious, then you probably make a conscious effort to eat less meat. If not, you should! It requires much less energy to produce calories from plants than animals – approximately 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel are needed to produce one calorie of animal based protein versus only 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of grain based protein. Also, reducing intake of meat and other animal proteins is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
But just because you want to protect your health and the environment doesn’t mean you’re willing to live off rabbit food! While there are plenty of hearty vegetarian recipes that will keep you satisfied – loaded veggie burgers, hearty bean based chilies, spaghetti with vegan meatballs. Trust me, you won’t go hungry! Plus, eating less meat doesn’t mean giving it up entirely.
One of my favorite ways to cut back on meat while keeping my meat-loving taste buds happy is using mushrooms. With their rich, umami flavor, mushrooms blend seamlessly into traditionally meat-centric dishes, adding an extra layer of flavor and texture. A good source of selenium, copper, and potassium, mushrooms also provide a boost of nutrients.
Here’s three ways to cut back on meat using mushrooms:
Portobello Mushroom Caps
These large mushroom caps can be swapped for meat to make a tasty veggie burger. Be sure to marinate the mushroom with your favorite dressing for 30 minutes first – it will soak up all of the delicious flavor. I like to use a homemade or bottled vinaigrette. Grill your Portobello mushroom burger over a hot flame, which adds a smoky flavor and light char, making it taste more meat-like. Then simply top with your favorite burger toppings and condiments! Try this recipe for a grilled balsamic portobello mushroom burger topped with guacamole and feta cheese. Or, nix the bun and serve it sliced like a steak with a side of mashed potatoes and salad.
The blend is a simple and tasty way to cut the amount of meat in recipes by half or more. Simply chop mushrooms finely and mix into ground meat before cooking. The finely diced mushrooms will do double duty in adding moisture and flavor. To enhance the flavor further, roast the mushrooms for 10-15 minutes first and cool slightly before chopping. You can use this method to make meatloaf, burgers, meatballs, meat sauce or taco filling. It works with any type of ground meat including turkey, chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Try the blend in these Middle Eastern meatballs or in this beef and mushroom hamburger topped with more mushrooms (and a creamy blue cheese sauce!). You can also go completely meatless and use finely chopped and sautéed mushrooms to replace meat in tomato sauce or taco filling.
Sauteed sliced mushrooms are a tasty way to add meaty flavor to any pasta dish. I prefer to use sliced baby bella mushrooms, which are baby portobellos. They have a more dense texture and richer flavor than white mushrooms. To get a good sear on your mushrooms, use plenty of olive oil and turn up the heat to medium-high in the skillet! Try it in this mushroom penne with walnut pesto or this creamy mushroom and kale lasagna.
Share your best mushroom recipes and substitutions in the comments!
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