Meatless in Miami: The (Next) Best Things

Most of you readers have probably experienced fake meat or a veggie food item. It might've been a mouth-watering, paradigm-shifting experience or something you tossed after one bite.  The point is, veggie food is just like all other food - some of it's awesome and some of it sucks horribly!

The worst fake meat I ever tried was fake fish, which was just a bad idea to begin with.  I prepared it according to the package specs and was left with a greasy, mushy, "fillet" surrounded by tough seaweed fish "skin" that was so revolting I'd hesitate to feed the leftovers to a starving feline.

On the flip side, there are some really incredible products out there with new items being dropped on the market every day.  Here are a few of my favorites that leave me feeling anything but deprived.

Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread: Developed by nutritionists who were trying to prove that diet could change your good-to-bad cholesterol ratio and stumbled upon a delicious, buttery gold mine. Earth Balance is non-hydrogenated, non-fakey-tasting and can be used for spreading, baking, sautéing, frying -- you name it. Earth Balance is also the key ingredient for the most sumptuous vegan mashed potatoes ever (trick: add it until you feel guilty, then add some more). The best part is that it's grown in popularity so much that it's available at every Publix for just $3.49 a tub. Please, never consume I Can't Believe It's Not Butter again.

Tofurky Sausages: Versatile, hearty and BIG - each one clocks in at a whopping 25-30 grams of protein. They're grill-able and Foreman-friendly, but in a pinch can be zapped for 30 seconds and voilà, lunch. The sun-dried tomato and basil Italian Sausages work in any pasta dish (and are randomly amazing dipped in hummus) and the Beer Brats are great with mustard and 'kraut. There's also a Kielbasa flavor so you can get your vegan Polish cooking on!

Quorn: Quorn is made from a mycoprotein derived from mushrooms, but damn if it doesn't taste better than chicken used to! The Chik'n Nuggets are tastier and healthier than "real" chicken nuggets (not that hard but still). They also make an incredible "Quorn Roast" that even my kvetchy meat-eating older relatives said tasted like moist slices of white meat, and it's so good the next day in leftover sandwiches slathered with Veganaise.  Across the pond, Quorn's been on the market since '85 and is one of the most popular meat alternatives in the UK. The only downside is that Quorn is a bit pricier, so just make sure to stock up when it's on sale at Whole Foods. Look for their bright orange packaging in the frozen aisle.

Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert: I can safely consider myself an ice cream aficionado. I love the creative flavors at The Frieze on Lincoln Road and a trip to Jaxson's in Dania is a holy pilgrimage. However, I'm trying to cut down on dairy and while I could be despairing, I despair not. I have seen the promised land and it is Purely Decadent. Their soy ice cream is definitely awesome. But their brand new coconut milk ice cream is so smooth and creamy I indeed had one of the above paradigm-shifting moments and thought, "Why didn't anyone think of this before?" The chocolate was divine and I can't wait to try their other flavors like Mint Chip and Passionate Mango. Ice cream aficionado-approved!

I'll be shining light on more products in the future, from classics to cutting-edge concoctions. Even though you may not have grown up eating these foods, hopefully they can become regulars in your new, veg-friendlier kitchen.

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