Three Cheers for the Impossible

A year and a half ago I decided to eliminate beef from my diet to help Save The Planet.   And this year, I decided to follow a new meal plan that eliminated all meat (including chicken and pork) and to limit my fish intake to 2 servings per week.  Turns out I’m not the only person who is cutting back on meat eating.  According to recent data from the U.N. the per capita consumption in meat has fallen 3% this year (2020) – the lowest level since 2011.  Meat consumption is 5% lower than it was in 2018.  This is a dramatic reversal to an industry that has previously relied on constant growth year after year.

The pandemic certainly has something to do with these declines in meat consumption.  People eat meat more often at restaurants than at home so as restaurants closed, less meat was consumed. COVID-19, which many believe originated from animals, didn’t help people’s psychology toward meat and neither did the adverse publicity associated with COVID outbreaks at major meat processing factories across the country.

But many people are reducing their meat consumption for health or environmental reasons.  As I described in several earlier posts (My New 2020 Meal Plan, Food Is the Solution) reductions in meat consumption can play a significant role in addressing climate change.   Meat and dairy are responsible for as much as 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.  The Environmental Defense Fund has said: “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains, for example, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. Roads”.  That’s a lot of cars off the road for just one chicken meal per person per week!

Eliminating meat from my diet has involved some sacrifice on my part – I’ll admit I enjoy meat.  But I have also enjoyed many new plant-based recipes.  But on so many occasions, I missed some of my favorite old meals like hamburgers, beef enchiladas, and meat loaf.  So, you can imagine my delight as new plant-based products that looked and tasted like ground beef emerged.  Initially these products were available in limited parts of the country and at select restaurants.  But now, plant-based “meats” from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, among others, are available at grocery stores across the country.   

Over the past few weeks, I’ve put Impossible Meat through the test.  I’ve made hamburgers, beef tacos, beef enchiladas, and meatloaf.  In every case, I was delighted.  A few notes: 

  • When making hamburgers, I brush a light amount of EVOO on the burger before grilling.  Unlike ground meat, there is very little fat to keep the burger from sticking to the grill.  I also season with kosher salt and Lawry’s Pepper Supreme.
  • For tacos, add a bit of oil to your skillet unless you’re using a non-stick skillet.  You’ll likely not have to “drain the fat” because there will be little, if any.  
  • For meat loaf, follow your regular recipe but don’t automatically add all the bread crumbs that are called for.  You may need less, so add until the texture of the mix is right.

For beef enchiladas, I’ve been extremely satisfied with Impossible Meat inserted into one of my favorite recipes (shown below).  The recipe is in four parts: (1) the enchilada sauce; (2) making vegetarian “chicken broth”; (3) the other ingredients, and (4) the assembly.  If you make these, I’d like your comments as to how they turn out and if you like them. 

Vegetarian “Beef” Enchiladas

Ingredients for Enchilada Sauce:

  • 3 T vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 T flour
  • 4 ½ T chili powder   
  • ¾ t garlic powder
  • ¾ t salt
  • 3/8 t cumin
  • 3/8 t oregano
  • 3 C vegetarian “chicken” broth

Vegetarian “Chicken” Broth: makes 2 quarts – from ohmyveggies.com

Ingredients for Broth:

  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 large carrots, trimmed and cut into large pieces
  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into large pieces
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved and rinsed well
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 18 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste

Instructions for Making Broth:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients – through the water – in a large stockpot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, then stir in the turmeric and paprika. Let the broth cool.
  2. Once cooled, set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl or a second stockpot. Pour the broth through the strainer, then use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the vegetables to release as much liquid as possible. Discard – better yet, compost the solids. Add salt to taste. Use the broth immediately or freeze in airtight plastic containers or freezer bags.  Freezing the extra broth will significantly reduce the time to make the next batch of enchiladas.

Ingredients for Everything Else:

  • 12 oz. package Impossible Meat
  • 8 Tortillas (I prefer wheat)
  • ¼  lb. Monterrey Jack Cheese – shredded
  • ¾  lb. Colby Cheese – shredded
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper (fresh or equivalent from jar) cut into small slivers.
  • ½ White Onion
  • Small amount of chopped fresh cilantro (for topping garnish)

Preparation / Assembly:

To make the sauce, heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add flour and stir together over the heat for one minute.  Stir in the remaining seasonings; then gradually add in the “chicken” broth, whisking constantly to remove the lumps.  Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thick. 

In a separate skillet, brown the Impossible Meat.  Stir in a few tablespoons of the sauce after draining meat.  Prepare each enchilada by spreading a few spoonfuls of sauce on a tortilla, add 1/8 of the meat mixture, a portion of the Colby cheese, and a small portion of the chopped onion.  Place the rolled enchiladas in a glass baking dish, placing the rolled seam down.  Pour the remaining sauce over the pan of enchiladas.  You’ll probably have more sauce than needed so you can freeze any extra.  Sprinkle Colby cheese and Monterrey Jack cheese and optionally, add a few Jalapeno peppers and chopped cilantro. Bake 25 minutes at 3500.  Garnish with diced white onion after cooking.

I typically serve these enchiladas with a can of black beans seasoned with 1 tablespoon of jalapeno juice and 1 tablespoon of lime juice.  You can also add some jalapeno slices. The degree of “hot” will depend on how long you simmer the beans. 

Impossible Foods has posted a slick interactive web-site that allows you to enter how often you use their product and the environmental impact your choices are making.  The data is expressed in terms of carbon emissions avoided, the equivalent number of trees and the number of days of personal water consumption that has been avoided when compared to traditional beef.  For example, if my wife and I ate one batch of Impossible Beef Enchiladas every week for a year (total of 52 pans of enchiladas) we would save the GHG emissions equivalent to 1,068.4 lbs. of carbon; the land footprint equivalent to 59.1 trees worth of land; and the water footprint equivalent to 39 days of personal water use – as compared to eating traditional beef (cow) enchiladas.  Now I’m pretty sure my wife won’t go along with enchiladas every week – but these are the numbers if she did.  The calculator also allows you to enter the number of burgers consumed so maybe, a combination of burgers and enchiladas might be more acceptable?  Or maybe, we could include the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich which is now available at Starbucks – another great option for Saving The Planet; Three Cheers for the Impossible.

PS – Impossible The Cookbook is now available on-line and at numerous bookstores. Like my enchiladas, it shows How to Save Our Planet, One Delicious Meal At A Time.

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