Vegan “Hamburger Helper” & a BOGO Beyond Meat Coupon!

Hello there!  Do I have a treat for you today!

It’s no secret that I love me some meat analogues.  In fact, I have always loved these going way back, many years before I had even contemplated going vegan.  At present, I work pretty hard to ensure that my diet is comprised of 80-90% whole foods, but every so often I still like to indulge in some meaty goodness (cruelty-free of course!).

I’ve blogged about Beyond Meat’s chicken-style strips before (check out this Grilled Chicken and Avocado Sandwich or this Spicy Chicken Quesadilla), but it was not until last week that I finally got my hands on some of their beef-free crumbles (using a Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon that you can snag for yourself at the bottom of this post).

The bottom line: I LOVE IT.  I think this is the best ground beef analogue I’ve had.  And yes, it’s processed food, but it also happens to not be complete garbage.  The ingredients are 100% gluten-free and soy-free, and do not include GMO’s.

The first thing I did with my Beef-free Crumbles was to recreate a comfort food that throws it WAY back: Hamburger Helper.  Or, to take my darling H’s suggestion, we can refer to it as “Herbivore Helper.”

For the cheesy sauce, I used a recipe that one of my favorite bloggers, Jackie at Vegan Yack Attack, posted last week as part of her Vegan Cuts Pizza Party.  I could have made my own cheese sauce, but hers is so damn good that there would be no sense to that!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Okay, the recipe!BeyondMeat002_zps587a3e1b
Vegan Hamburger Helper, aka Herbivore Helper, featuring Beyond Meat Beef-free Crumbles
Serves 2 very hungry people, or 4 normals…I am not normal
Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free option 

4 oz. pappardelle pasta (or other pasta of choice…use GF pasta for gluten-free)
1 cup Beyond Meat beef-free crumbles
1 recipe of Jackie’s Cheese Sauce (or other cheese sauce of choice)–you will only need about half of it for this recipe, but make the whole thing and then go nuts putting the leftovers on everything!
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Additional nutritional yeast (optional)

[Remember to put the cashews for the cheese sauce out to soak for at least 30 minutes before starting the rest of the ingredients!]

Boil water for pasta.  While the water is coming to a boil, warm the beef-free crumbles in a skillet with a little bit of oil (per package directions).

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, while it’s cooking, make the cheese sauce in your blender (it’ll yield about 3/4 cup).

When pasta is done cooking, drain it, then add it to a large bowl and toss with 1/2 of the cheese sauce (use more or less to taste), beef-free crumbles, basil, and garlic powder.  Add salt, pepper, and additional nutritional yeast to taste.

Scarf it down!
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The second I was done snapping these photos, I completely devoured a heaping bowl of this stuff (like seriously, 3-4 times the size of the pictured serving).  This is good, solid comfort food, folks.  Even H, who normally is very picky and skeptical about any “fake” meats, tried a bite, and then asked for another, and another.  I’d say it’s a winner!

If you would like your own Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon, redeemable for any Beyond Meat product, you can get one by clicking this link.  The coupon is good through June 1st.  Stock up this week for Memorial Day 🙂

Disclaimer: I am a 2014 Beyond Meat ambassador.  I am not compensated in any way for this, other than by getting awesome coupons that I can then share with you!  All opinions are my own and as always, completely honest.

Beyond Meat and Reflections on 2013

This will probably be my last post of 2013, and I promise not to bore you with too much philosophical rambling!  It’s more just a random assortment of thoughts that have passed through my mind of late.

But first, I wanted to announce that I finally tried Beyond Meat, using a coupon that they had on their website for a free pack.  [Sidenote: the coupon was supposedly available through 12/31.  But when I visited the link just now to provide it in this blog post, it had been disabled.  It’s sad but also kinda shady.  Just sayin.’ UPDATE: I had it wrong.  The coupon was only available from 12/23 – 12/25 and it expired on the 31st.  Thanks to Beyond Meat for clarifying!]

Anyway, I used the coupon to pick up the “grilled” flavor, and decided to prepare it by just lightly sauteeing and then adding to whole wheat bread with a quarter of an avocado and a dab of vegan mayo.

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The appearance of the product is eerily similar to chicken strips.  I personally found the smell and taste, however, to be very similar to other meat analogues I have tried.  I know that Beyond Meat has been touted as a breakthrough product for meat-free eating, and I think it is a step in the right direction (especially texture-wise), but you’re not going to fool any omnivores with this one.

Still, the sandwich pictured above was REALLY tasty and satisfying, particularly once I busted out some chipotle BBQ sauce for dipping.  The sauce took it up about 7 or 8 notches.

Verdict: I’d eat this again, but only sporadically.

[Oh, as a total sidenote:  I watched the movie Emma the other day (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) and realized that it’s totally the story that Clueless is based on.  Is this common knowledge?!  And did it seriously take me 18 years to figure this out?!?!]

On New Years Eve/Day
I’m not a big New Year’s person.  Never have been.  This was actually a little bit of an issue when I was an undergrad at NYU, because each year I’d inevitably face pressure to spend the holiday in Times Square (which I can confidently state is the thing I’d like to do least in the world)!

I’ve long felt that there’s just too much hype around the holiday and finding the “perfect” plans to ring in the new year.  All I really ever want to do on a given year is be safe indoors (read: WARM.  And off the roads!) with my loved ones.

I’m not really that into resolutions either.  Most of the stuff I could “resolve” to do on January 1 (lose weight, eat healthier, blah blah blah) is stuff I generally strive for all year long.

That said, I think it’s important to use the inception of a new year as an opportunity to take stock of your life, where it has gone in the past year, and where you’d like to see it go in the coming year.  It’s okay to give yourself short-term goals that aren’t necessarily giant “resolutions” but will still improve your overall situation.

For example, one short-term goal I have for the next month or two is to do a pantry clean-out.  H and I have accumulated a plethora of stuff in the freezer and cabinets that I would like very much to work through before buying more groceries.  So while it is something I’ll be doing to kick off the new year, it isn’t really a resolution.  Rather, it’s part of my overall desire to have less clutter and to make do with less in my life.

On 2013
I find that as I get older, it gets harder to define the stages of my life.  For most of us, our early lives are measured by the school year schedule.  I was on that track up until age 26, when I graduated law school.  I was able to project what would happen in an upcoming year of my life and it was easy to have a goal in mind (e.g., graduate or pass the bar).

More recently, however, I’ve realized that I have to take ownership of my own life and not let it just pass me by while I’m waiting for something to happen.  I’m going to turn 30 in the new year.  It’s about time that I define what makes me happy and actively pursue those things.

This blog is a perfect example.  In 2013, I became much more active in publishing posts as well as being a presence in the community by reading and commenting on other people’s blogs (in fact, I spend considerably more time each week reading other blogs than I do writing my own!).

The impetus for my increased activity was the simple realization that blogging brings me joy.

This past year, rather than feel constricted by subject matter, I learned that I can write about whatever I want to.  I’ve allowed the blog to follow the natural arc of my life and in turn it has become easier and more rewarding to publish posts.

The blog is a small representation of the greater lesson I’ve learned this year, which is that the amount of effort you are willing to put into something is directly proportional to how much you will get out of it.  The things that are worth having in your life (family relationships, marriage, etc.) are worth working for, and you will get only as much as you give.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy New Year, where all of your wishes and resolutions come to be!