Part of my challenge with vegetarianism, especially as I head towards more strict vegetarianism, is getting protein. For the human body to function, even at rest, the USDA recommends 50g of protein per day. For those who do not eat meat, ingesting that much protein can be tough, especially when many vegetarian sources of protein (notably beans) do not contain complete proteins and must be paired with other foods to get all the required amino acids.
The go-to protein food for many vegetarians is tofu. Which is great, but the problem is that the way I like it (firm or extra firm tofu put into stir fries or fajitas) takes about 2 hours to do right. When the boy is hungry, that’s way too much time.
Enter Seitan (pronounced, unfortunately, as say-tun or as everyone’s favorite bringer of evil, Satan.)
Seitan has allowed me to keep my vegetarianism once already and may be what lets me stay vegetarian a second time. The first time occurred maybe two months after I decided to stop eating meat. I had taken my son to a restaurant for dinner and sat down next to a man enjoying a slab of ribs. The smell of the sauce from those ribs nearly threw me into an absolute frenzy to the point I wanted to reach across the aisle and take the ribs. On pain of death if necessary.
After complaining to my wife that I could not do the vegetarian thing anymore, she reminded me of an article in Vegetarian Times where they did vegetarian pulled pork with seitan. One trip to Whole Foods later, I had a package of seitan which I cooked in some barbecue sauce and voila! vegetarianism saved. Crisis averted.
Anyway, I am finding myself in a situation where I need more protein. Suddenly things I would not normally eat, namely kidney beans and cheese sandwiches, taste like gourmet food fit for royalty. My wife again reminded me that seitan, made from wheat gluten, is very high in protein and that I should consider fixing it and eating it more often.
Last night gave me the chance to try out her suggest. We invited a vegan friend over dinner. My wife said she was going to fix stir fry, but when our son needed her attention, I ended up fixing dinner. This is what we had:
- 1 Package Seitan, cut into 1/2 inch squares
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
- 2 tablespoons of soy ginger sauce (may substitute with 2 more tablespoons of tamari and 1 teaspoon of ginger)
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
- 3 pinches of kosher salt
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4in. coins
- 1 leek, sliced into 1/4 in coins
- 1/2 cup of broccoli florets
- 1 broccoli stem cut into 1/4 in. coins
- 3 portabellas cut into 1/2 in. wide strips
- 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
- Boil the seitan over medium low heat in the 1/4 cup of tamari, soy ginger sauce, ginger, and garlic powder for 10 minutes or until it is soft all the way through.
- Bring the heat to medium high, add the olive oil, and sautÃ© the seitan for three minutes to give it a little structure.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Add 1 pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the onions are soft.
- Add the green pepper, carrots, leeks, broccoli florets, broccoli stem. and another pinch of salt. Cook until carrots reach desired softness. This step is pretty much up to each individual cook. I like my carrots to have a bite to them, so I cook them for maybe 10 minutes. Some may want them to cook longer.
- Add the portabellas and the final pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid about 5 minutes.
- Add the corn and cook for about a minute.
- Add the last two tablespoons of tamari and cook for another minute.
Serve over rice and enjoy!
Oh, and on a side note, I can’t wait to tell my family that liking seitan keeps me vegetarian. Especially when I pronounce it properly.