Thursday, September 5, 2013

MoFo Day 5: Gardein overload

You know how people say art is personal? Well one of my favorite works of art is The Conscious Cook. The photography and layout is beautiful. I just want to look at it all the time, and when I’m reading it, I feel like a beautiful, accomplished chef (even though I’m likely wearing dirty sweat pants and eating cereal). I have such high aspirations with this book that I felt lazy for choosing to make wraps with the California Gardein "Chicken" Salad. But I needed food to take camping this weekend and time and energy were at a premium. The recipe is posted here.
I halved the recipe to make four servings, but it still needed a pound of Gardein (which is a brand of meat substitutes). Meijer didn’t have the plain kind the recipe called for, so I bought two 10 ounce bags of teriyaki flavor and saved the sauce packs. The recipe also called for champagne grapes. After three stores, I gave up and used green grapes cut in half. I made the mistake of waiting to buy wraps at my last stop (Whole Foods). They only had three kinds and two of them had honey, so I was left with the gluten-free option. They tasted fine, but flaked a lot and had pretty much disintegrated after three days in a cooler.

Aside from the grape-hunt, the recipe was really easy to put together. I mixed Earth Balance vegan mayo (I normally use Veganaise, but the new EB kind was on sale so I figured I'd try it) with lime juice and agave, then mixed in chopped chicken, walnuts, grapes and celery. I tasted it and… yuck! I'd always assumed Gardein needed to be cooked to get the right texture and was surprised the recipe didn’t call for that, but I trusted it since I suspect they paid to be featured in the book. That trust was misplaced. I normally like Gardein, but the uncooked stuff was really mushy. The salad ratio had way too much chicken (even if it had been the right texture), so I added all the grapes and celery I had - twice as many grapes and four times as much celery as the recipe called for. At this point it was decent and ready for wraps.
With a ton more celery and grapes this was good, and with cooked Gardein, it would have been pretty solid. I’m surprised because the other recipes I’ve made from this book have been great. The wraps served their purpose of keeping me fed while camping, but I probably won't make them again. The only time I use meat analogs is when I'm craving the foods I grew up eating. In 19 years of being an omnivore, I never tried chicken salad, so I don't have any nostalgic interest in eating it now.

The one upside to my grape-hunt? The closest Whole Foods is in the same strip mall as the closest TCBY, so I got to try their new soy chocolate frozen yogurt. It tasted exactly like Silk chocolate soy milk (which I neither like nor dislike). I'm fortunate to have two places closer to me that serve vegan frozen yogurt (Easy Like Sundae in Ferndale and Sweet Earth in Royal Oak and Birmingham) AND have Oreo's, but it's nice to have a mainstream nation-wide option.


  1. Wow! I didn't know about TCBY or Easy Like Sundae!

  2. I love Gardein but have never tried them without pan frying first. Thanks for the heads up!