By the Power of Quorn

I kind of feel like He-Man at the moment; not super strong with a magic sword or a giant tiger dressed in armour to ride around, but I do feel pretty damn powerful. Like the cartoon’s opening, I can envisage myself raising a packet of some Quorn product over my head and yelling, “By the power of Quorn!”

I cannot envisage any of the rest of the opening montage applying here, but what the heck, the first part is good enough. Because I feel like I owe a lot to my present state of health to this “fake” meat product that has become a part of my everyday diet. It’s allowed me to eat healthily and to avoid fats; fats that would have been counteracting all that surgery and would have been like pouring salt on a wound.

I am lighter than I’ve been in years. My weight at the moment wringing wet is under 165 pounds or 11 stone 7 pounds. My average weight for the last ten years hovered around the 14 stone mark (or 196 pounds) considering that I’m not tall (I’m roughly 5’9 ½”) I was a hefty fellow. My waist has dropped from 34 inches (plus) down to around 32. I am not exercising too much at the moment; to be honest I’m slightly afraid to push myself too much until my second visit with my surgeon.

But everyday my energy level is rising and I can now scamper to the Metro and back and rather than trundle up the stairs, I can trot. My back has improved quite a lot, although I still have to take the pain medication that I am no doubt rapidly becoming immune to. In a nutshell though, my physical health is great!

I feel good! *cue James Brown music here*

Besides I can always tell when I am feeling better or getting more energy. The signs are apparently the same whether it’s recovering from a standard illness, like the flu for example, or recovering from ass-kicking surgery and a heart attack. The minute I start feeling more like the “old” me, I get fidgety. I start to whittle (another word for fidgety but more on the verbal and mental side of things) and think of a million physical things that I should be doing.

For example; I will fret and whittle if I have not gone for at least one longish walk throughout the day. My eager and energetic mind will start to worry and an inner dialogue will start:

“How do you expect to keep getting better if you don’t exercise every day? You should have walked through the cold and the snow down to the Metro and back…at least twice. The weather’s not going to hurt you, ya big baby.”

“Well, I did go shopping to the big Tesco and I walked all over it very quickly and I trotted up and down the stairs at least twice.”

“Not good enough! If you want to keep improving you need to stretch yourself. You know that! Now quit looking longingly at your bed and run up and down the stairs a few times…NOW!

When I’m feeling better after an illness I have this drill sergeant appear in my head who harangues me until I start doing more than I am willing to. I do listen to him, a little, because I know that deep down I am doing better. The knowledge that I could walk through the snow and cold down to the Metro and back, twice makes me feel more powerful and fitter than I felt the last week. I can even envisage myself jogging once spring decides to show up.

But until that time, I’ll listen to my drill sergeant alter-ego or subconscious or whatever you want to call it, with a grain of salt. Because I feel like He-Man and “by the power of Quorn” I’ll continue to eat and lose weight healthily and I’ll dance down the road of further recovery.

Now if you will all excuse me, it’s time for my nap.

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To Quorn or not to Quorn…

Well, so far in our experimental voyage into Quorn territory we have made a few discoveries. Firstly we’ve found that Quorn make really good fake chicken and fake hamburger (mince). The jury is out on their pork products as the bacon was not really a full “fail” but damned close. We haven’t tried their ersatz sausages yet. The sausages might be great thus increasing their score on the fake pork front.

Delicious and nutritious tasks just like chicken…

For the record we’ve enjoyed everything that was chicken or mince related. We had the coujons the other night and they were a run-a-way success.

Although we got robbed of one coujon. Our packet only had seven. I can only assume that someone on the assembly line got hungry. We tried the chilli again last night and it too was just as tasty and satisfying as the last time we cooked it.

Tonight we are trying the chicken style and leek pies with rice and vegetables.

So far so healthy.

We’ve got two more Quorn products in the freezer patiently waiting for their culinary debut. Hamburger patties and “pork style” sausages. Those will be eaten later in the week and I’ll report on whether or not they passed the taste test.

In terms of cooking I know that the kitchen doesn’t smell of grease and when I do the washing up — by hand of course, we must be the only house in Suffolk that doesn’t have a dishwasher — there is no greasy residue left in the wash bowl. Another by-product of our new diet is the absence of that, “I’m so full I can’t move,” feeling. You know the one, where you have to let your meal settle before you can even think of moving around.

And apart from the beans in the chilli having their usual effect, indigestion has vanished from the Smith household. In the stakes of cutting down our meat consumption and increasing our vegetable intake we are definitely winning. But just the sight of the word stake, makes my mouth water for a medium rare steak.

Quorn Road
Quorn Road (Photo credit: Mykal Shaw)

As we continue our trial and error attempts at eating healthily via the Quorn route I’ll continue to pass on any new recipes and products that we try and like or don’t like.

Whether Quorn turns out to be our main non-meat product is open for debate. I had at least one suggestion by a reader about trying some of Linda McCartney‘s non-meat products. So far I have resisted the urge to try the late Linda’s fare. I do have my reasons.

I have noticed over time that whenever a product has a celebrity’s name on its packaging, the price rises accordingly. That’s not to say that the McCartney products aren’t worth it, but I know that most of their “vegetarian” substitutes for meat are made up of glutens and other cereal products. Not to mention good old soybean.

To be honest if I wanted to eat soybean, I’d just cook everything with tofu in it. At the risk of sounding facetious, I’m not changing my diet because I cannot bear the thought of “poor innocent animals” dying so I can eat. In my opinion that’s what animals are here for (some of them anyway) and I like meat, damn it.

But for health reasons I’m forced to change my dietary habits of a lifetime. Anything that at least tastes like meat and looks like meat is going to come up trumps in my search for a sinewy substitute. But I don’t want to chow down on a plate full of glutens and cereal and soybean. Not unless I have to.

Besides I am not cutting out meat entirely. I still plan on having the odd rump steak sans fat, of course. I want my arteries to stay as open as possible but I don’t want to eat like a monk to get them that way. I’ve given up some of my favourite things, sour cream being at the top of the list.

Luckily I have always liked most vegetables, with the exception of eggplant or aubergine if you have a university degree, so increasing my consumption will not be too difficult. Just as cutting down on the richer deserts will not pose too much of a problem. I do have a sweet tooth, but not a “sickly sweet” one.

I’d love to go on about my inner thoughts on Quorn and whether or not it’s the answer to my culinary quest for heart healthy repasts, but I’ve got Quorn pies in the oven and must keep an eye on them.

Bon Appetit!

Chicken Style and Leek Pies….Yum!

Quorn, Pasta, Mushroom, Pepper and Cheese Treat

So last night we decided to try a variation on an old favorite. When Meg was sharing a house with a young lady named Emily, she was introduced to one of the tastiest and easiest meals in the world.

Dead simple to make and extremely tasty.

It doesn’t have a name although you could call it Emily’s Pasta Dish. The main ingredients for the original dish are bacon, flat mushrooms, green and red pepper, pasta and cheese.

Now just in case you didn’t notice the bacon –which I helpfully highlighted in italics and bold print– I’ll point it out again. This lovely delicious treat has artery hardening, cholesterol raising, heart attack inducing bacon in it.

We decided to substitute the real bacon with Quorn bacon.

Now I don’t know if you remember or not, but I did say in another post that my first introduction to Quorn was not a roaring success. The texture was wrong and it didn’t taste quite right. Interestingly enough it was ham, another pork product, and I had a similar problem with the ersatz Quorn bacon. Meg noticed immediately that it looked more like bacon shaped baloney. I hasten to add it was shaped like English bacon. I had to agree.

Further more, to me at any rate, it tasted like baloney. I consider myself a bit of an expert as I used to dearly love fried baloney sandwiches. I know, you are sitting there thinking, “And this man is surprised that he had a heart attack?” But if you notice the operative part of the sentence is the phrase, ‘used to.’

Now the more crunchy portions of the Quorn bacon did taste a bit like bacon, but the less crispy bits did not. The dish was still enjoyable in many ways, it just did not taste as good as the rest of the Quorn dishes we’ve tried.

I guess there really is no perfect substitute for good old greasy, crisp bacon.

The recipe is as follows –if you are still interested:

4 slices of bacon (real or substitute)

3 – 4 flat mushrooms (by all means use organic ones if you wish)

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

2 – 4 bowls of cooked pasta (we use the twist aka Fusilli pasta, again you can use whole wheat or any variation)

1 tablespoon of Olive Oil

grated light cheese for topping.

If you use American style “streaky bacon” you won’t need to add any oil to your frying pan.

First start slowly frying your bacon in a pan big enough to hold your bacon, mushrooms and peppers.

Start boiling your water for your pasta

While you’re boiling and frying, cut your flat mushrooms into medium-sized pieces and then do the same to your peppers. (I’m sure everyone knows this already but, don’t forget to get rid of the seeds)

Once your bacon is cooked to your level of satisfaction (crispy or not) add the cut mushrooms and peppers.

Continue to cook the bacon with the mushrooms and peppers until done.

Once your pasta is al dente enough drain the water from the pan.

Now drain the excess liquid from the frying pan.

*If you time it right, the pasta and the other ingredients will all be ready at the same time.*

Add your bacon, mushrooms and peppers to the cooked pasta and stir.

Once you’ve plated up the dish, add the grated cheese to taste.

This is a great recipe for students or someone who doesn’t want to spend a long time preparing a delicious meal.

With real bacon or fake bacon and lovely dish.

Please excuse the blurriness of the photo, I was starving and had a hard time holding my phone still!

There is one thing I need to mention. The Quorn bacon might not have tasted like real bacon but, the dish was a lot “cleaner” with it. Making the dish with real bacon is “yummier” but “greasier.” It’s really up to you whether or not you use real Porky Pig bacon or not.

If you try it out, let me know what you think of it. Is it better with real bacon or did you prefer the imitation bacon.

Quorn Korma Another Healthy Heart Meal

So last night we had Quorn Korma. It was, as expected, delicious. I can also point out that it was easier to make than our usual chicken korma. I did not have to cut anything into small pieces apart from the mushroom that is a staple ingredient of most of our favorite dishes.

Quorn Korma. YUM

Admittedly it tasted much better than it looks in the picture. After I had taken a couple of snaps of the finished product, my daughter Meg looked at the pictures and said flatly, “It looks like dogfood.”

After surveying the pictures for a moment I had to agree, but to me it looked like more than dogfood. It looked like dogfood on rice.

This is so easy to make that you don’t really need a recipe unless you want to make the whole mess from scratch. We will be attempting a “curry” type dish from scratch later, but for now we took the easy way out.

The ingredients are simple. Well, simple if you live in the UK. We took one jar of Tesco’s finest Korma cooking sauce, –which is probably chock full of all kinds of heart attack inducing ingredients, but hey, we wanted to see what it would taste like– some mushrooms, –organic is you want to be really healthy–  and rice.

While we cooked the Quorn fake chicken in the korma sauce with our added mushrooms, we made the rice. In roughly 15 – 20 minutes the meal was made, dished up and put on the table.

It’s funny how differently you see things after you’ve had a “near death” experience. Before my tremendously exciting eventful day on the 30th of August this year I could not understand why anyone would prefer a meat substitute for the real deal.

Like Meg, I was of the opinion that Quorn, or products like it, was a sort of westernized Tofu. A strange sort of soybean curd thing that took the flavour of whatever it was cooked with.

Wrong.

The stuff isn’t made from soybean and it doesn’t absorb the flavour of what you cook it with.

The other opinion we share was our misunderstanding of why people would become vegetarians but still want meat flavoured substitutes. After the necessary changes to my diet, we can both now understand why. We are both eating healthier but are not having to live without “meat.”

So we now have a better understanding of vegetarians. The same cannot be said of Vegans. These rather eclectic “holier than thou” food snobs are completely beyond me.

Back to the recipe for a minute, I am sure that wherever you live a sort of cooking sauce exists that can be used instead of our Tesco’s finest korma sauce.

We are continuing our excursion into healthy eating the Quorn way. We are still experimenting with other vegetable type dishes and it’s on the calendar for us to attempt to do “homemade” sushi.

I will point out that I do still miss my meat, but I don’t miss the grease and the after-smell. Tonight, if the store has any, we will be trying the Quorn bacon in one of our favourite dishes.

It remains to be seen if this fungi bacon will satisfy my craving for the crisp real bacon that I adore. But, like all the other “new dishes” we’ve tried since my heart attack, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

On a completely different note, I will be putting my grimacing mug at the top of all my blog posts for awhile. Since my problem with the thumbnails the other day, I’ve had the odd person say that they liked my picture on the top. So until a lot of people complain at my apparent narcissistic tendencies, I’ll leave it up as my blog posts “calling card.”

Who is that handsome man??

Chilli Quorn Carne Another Healthy Heart Meal

Chilli Con Carne Quorn style

After my previous attempt at “healthy” chilli –Turkey mince chilli– I was a bit skeptical about trying another variation on the healthy alternative theme.

Despite my best efforts the turkey chilli, even with all the extra spices added, still tasted like turkey chilli. It was edible sure, but it was not a screaming success.

I had previously thought about using Quorn. Quorn for the uninitiated is a meat substitute manufactured in the United Kingdom. It is available in 11 countries, the USA being one of them.

Now here’s the important bit.

It’s good.

My first introduction to the product was when my daughter Meg was in high school and in a cookery class. Her teacher had insisted that her class make a pizza with this ham substitute called Quorn.

I did not like it. The texture was funny and even though it did taste faintly of ham the texture of it didn’t match the taste. Fortunately they’ve improved on their imitation meat textures. Improved enough for me to give it a second chance.

Since my heart attack and the resultant surgery I’ve had to completely restructure my diet as well as my lifestyle. I’ve been trying to share each new recipe as I try them.

For the record we’ve tried the winter vegetable lasagna:

Scrumptious.

And the turkey Chilli Con Carne:

Chilli Con Carne with turkey mince

In my blog post For ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ Thanks I mentioned Quorn but had decided that it was too expensive. The packet of mince I’d seen in the store was priced at £1.85 for 300 grams. I had decided that I would need at least 2 packets to make chilli con carne.

That would have made it pretty expensive so I gave it a miss. Actually the reverse was true. It was extremely cost effective. Cost effective because you only need one 300g packet to make chilli.

The recipe is simple and just like making regular chilli –the meaty type– and it tastes delicious. If you’re interested, I’ll pass the recipe on before the end of the post.

But first I’d like to tell you what Quorn is made of. According to Wikipedia Quorn is made of fungi:

Quorn is made from the soil mould Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum [13]). The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large, otherwise sterile fermentation tanks. During the growth phase, glucose is added as a food for the fungus, as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the food value of the resulting product). The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts to produce such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purine, found in nucleic acids, is metabolised by humans, producing uric acid, which can lead to gout.[14]

The product is dried and mixed with chicken egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed either into a mince (resembling ground beef), forms resembling breasts, meatballs, turkey roasts, or into chunks (resembling diced chicken breast). In these forms, Quorn has a varying colour and a mild flavour resembling the imitated meat product, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes, such as stews and casseroles.[citation needed] The final Quorn product is high in protein and dietary fibre and is low in saturated fat and salt. It contains less dietary iron than do most meats.

The different tastes and forms of Quorn are results of industrial processing of the raw fungus.

Okay, boring science class over. I just felt that you ought to know what this tasty stuff is made of. It doesn’t bother me, because it tastes brilliant and is better for my heart than my lifetime favorite of meat.

  • 300g pack of Quorn Mince
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large flat mushrooms diced
  • 2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 400g can of kidney beans
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • garlic powder approximately 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 tsp of mixed herbs

Cook the above ingredients for approximately 15 minutes while you boil up a cup of rice –you can use wild rice– and grate a bit of light mature cheese for a topping.

This will feed four or if you are a family of two it will stretch for two meals.

This recipe is actually cheaper than making it with traditional beef mince (hamburger).

If you can get Quorn where you live, give it a try and let me know what you think of it!