Garden + Protein = Gardein

There may come a day when you decide you need to stop eating meat, or at least some meats. I know some of you decided this long ago and have already acted on it. But perhaps you’ve been thinking about this for some time and aren’t sure how to go about it. If you’ve been eating meat all your life, it’s a big change. If you’re contemplating such a move, your timing is excellent. There are now a great variety of products that offer leaner protein and fiber, along with other health benefits.

You’ll have to do some experimenting; as usual, some of these products are better than others! One company making meat-free products I enjoy is Gardein (the name is a combination of “garden” and “protein”). These products contain ingredients such as non-genetically-modified (non-GMO) soy, wheat gluten, and a blend of flours from so-called ancient grains (amaranth, millet, quinoa, and Kamut). Available refrigerated or frozen, these dishes are the ultimate in simplicity to prepare; just heat them up and serve them. They’re convenient for people on the go (these days, I think that’s just about everyone), they’re satisfying, and, most importantly, they taste good!

Gardein meat-free bbq skewers, bbq pulled shreds & sweet & tangy barbecue wings.

Gardein meat-free bbq skewers, bbq pulled shreds & sweet & tangy barbecue wings.

Gardein meat-free herb dijon breasts, chick'n filets & tuscan breasts.

Gardein meat-free herb dijon breasts, chick’n filets & tuscan breasts.

Of the products I’ve tried so far, the one I like best is the BBQ Pulled Shreds. Now, I have to be careful with barbecue products, as many have too much pepper for me. But this one does not; the sauce goes very well with the “shreds” without being too spicy, and there’s a good amount of “shred” relative to the quantity of sauce. I also like the Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. They’re fairly neutral in flavor, which would be fine for most kids, but some grown-ups will want a dipping sauce of some sort to accompany them.

For a quick meal, Gardein's trio line (complete with rice) is ready in minutes.

For a quick meal, Gardein’s trio line (complete with rice) is ready in minutes.

Gardein's thai trio is a chick'n breast stuffed with tomatoes, red peppers and bamboo shoots, served with a creamy, coconut-spiced red Thai curry sauce and basmati rice.

Gardein’s thai trio is a chick’n breast stuffed with tomatoes, red peppers and bamboo shoots, served with a creamy, coconut-spiced red Thai curry sauce and basmati rice.

Founder Yves Potvin trained as a French chef at the Ste. Hyacinthe Professional School of Cooking in Quebec. In 1983, after volunteering in Central America, starting a successful catering company and co-ownening a popular French restaurant, Potvin was looking for a change of scenery. So he packed up his belongings in Montreal and biked 3,200 miles across Canada to Vancouver for inspiration and his “aha!” moment. He had seen people struggling to balance fast-paced healthy lifestyles with healthy foods—realizing what was missing: a healthy fast food option. At the age of 28, with money raised from family and friends, Potvin started his one-man operation in Vancouver—making the “original veggie dog.” This passion grew into North America’s largest meat-alternative manufacturer, which was sold in 2001. Potvin felt the meat-alternatives category was “stuck between the bun” with foods like hot dogs, hamburgers and patties. So two years later, in 2003, he started Gardein because he felt his mission was only half complete. He believed people should be given more choices of healthier meat-like foods without having to compromise on taste and texture.

Gardein founder Yves Potvin. Photograph by Chung Chow, Richmond News.

Gardein founder Yves Potvin. Photograph by Chung Chow, Richmond News

I’ve heard products of this type referred to as “fake meat” or “meat substitutes”, but I don’t think that’s fair anymore. Thirty-plus years ago, when I first became aware of products like these, the word “fake” wasn’t inappropriate. I have a sister who was a vegetarian then and prepared a lot of these “fake meats”; they smelled so awful that nobody else in the family would even taste them. But things are different now. Non-meat protein sources have improved by several orders of magnitude (Gardein is proof of that!), and are much more approachable, much tastier, and emit infinitely more appetizing aromas.

Gardein does not sell their products online, but they have excellent distribution throughout the US. Their website also has a section with delicious recipes by renowned vegan chef Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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