Monday, April 13, 2015

Food Review: Neat Meat Replacement Mixes

Neat booth at Expo West 2015

While covering the Natural Products Expo West last month (read my recap here!), I was lucky enough to stop by the Neat booth, where I sampled their breakfast mix and was blown away at the how good it tasted! I knew that I needed to try ALL of their mix flavors and the kind folks at the family-owned Neat were kind enough to send me all their products for review.

Neat offers meat replacements that come in a dry mix, and you just need to add water and an egg replacer (like their Neat Egg, made from chia seeds and garbanzo beans) to make them! They offer a variety of flavors to suit any occasion! They have an Italian Mix, perfect for pastas and lasagna, a Mexican Mix, great for tacos and nachos, an Original Mix, awesome for burgers and chili, and a Breakfast Mix, ideal for sausages and quiches.

All of the Neat mixes are made with simple natural ingredients, and their base is pecans and garbanzo beans! Can't get much more natural than that! Other ingredients that go into making these delicious mixes include gluten-free oats or cornmeal, garlic, onion, sea salt and spices. That's it! No hard-to-pronounce ingredients and with Neat, you know you are getting something made with natural, healthy ingredients. In addition, all their products are gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO and veg!

I tried all of their mixes and used their amazing Neat Egg to make them all. The method for preparing all the Neat mixes is the same. You just mix water + a Neat Egg + a Neat mix. I LOVE how easy and fast it it! I did want to give some pointers when using the Neat Egg. You mix some Neat Egg with water to create a vegan egg substitute, and this Neat Egg forms into a glue-like binder. The Neat Egg is plenty sticky, so you gotta use some muscle to get it to incorporate into the Neat mix. If you need to, you can add a bit more water. Also, I found that spraying my hands with a little bit of oil helped me work better with the mix and get it formed into patties without the mix sticking to me too much. Besides using it in the Neat mixes, the Neat Egg can also be used in vegan baking, and I cannot wait to try it in vegan cookies or brownies!

I tried all four of their mixes, and I was overall impressed with Neat. They were easy to make, cooked well, tasted good, and are versatile. I'll run down what I made with each mix and what I thought of each flavor below.

 Breakfast sandwich featuring Neat's Breakfast Mix, Field Roast 
Chao vegan cheese, Sweet Earth's Benevolent (vegan) Bacon, plus
a side of a hash brown (from Trader Joe's) and more 
Benevolent Bacon! 

The first thing I made was their Breakfast Mix, since I had such fond memories of it from Expo! I made sausage patties with the mix, using just water and the recommended Neat Egg to make them. They were easy to form into patties and grilled up really nicely in my cast iron pan. I served them on a toasted English muffin with some of Field Roast's Creamy Original Chao and Sweet Earth's Benevolent Bacon, along with a side of hash browns and more Benevolent Bacon! Whew, was I ever full after this breakfast! Like at Expo, I really loved the flavor of the breakfast sausage. It kept me really full all morning long!

That breakfast sammie featuring Neat's Breakfast Mix was STACKED!

Fully loaded Neat burgers! The one on the left is stacked with grilled 
onions, lettuce, Creamy Original Chao cheese, and BBQ sauce. 
The double-decker on the right boasts fresh tomatoes, onions, lettuce, 
ketchup and mustard. NOM! 

Back to the mixes, next I prepared the Original Mix and decided to make burgers with it. I used the Neat Egg and my oil trick above to form the patties, and like the breakfast sausages, they were easy-peasy to make! I grilled them in my cast iron pan and made some seriously drool-worthy burgers with them! I like how they cooked up so well, held their burger shapes strongly (no crumbling here), were filling and tasted great! 

Italian ragu made with Neat and served over pasta!

For their Italian Mix I went back to my Italian roots and made a ragu, which is traditionally an Italian meat sauce served over pasta. This time after mixing the water, Neat Egg and mix, I placed it in my cast-iron pan and cooked it up like I would meat crumbles. I then added the Neat crumbles to the tomato sauce I had simmering on the stove, mixed it all up and poured it over freshly cooked pasta. YUM! I totally had flashbacks to when I was a kid and my parents used to make ragu! This may have been my favorite use of the Neat mixes! It completely mimicked the feel and taste of meat and I feel like I could serve this to my Italian parents and they totally couldn't tell the difference! I think this mix would work exceptionally well in lasagna as well. 

Tacos made with Neat Mexican Mix, refried beans, shredded 
cruciferous veggies, olives, cilantro, salsa, and Follow Your 
Heart's Vegan Gourmet Cheddar Shreds. 

My last mix was the Mexican flavor, which I prepared like the Italian mix and made into crumbles for tacos! This was probably my second favorite preparation after the ragu pasta sauce! The crumbles had such a great flavor and worked so well with the other ingredients! I can't wait to have this again, maybe in an enchilada or on nachos...mmmmmm!

You can find Neat mixes and the Neat Egg conveniently sold at Target stores as well as health food stores (here in Orange County Mother's Markets carry it). Neat has a very handy store locator on their site, just type in your zip and it'll tell you what stores around you carry it! If you can't find the flavor you want at your store or if you live in an area where it isn't readily available, you can order Neat through their online store as well!

Please support this small, independent and family-owned company and their delicious creations! Fun fact: Neat originally started because two little girls of a husband and wife said they wouldn't eat meat anymore after learning the truth about where their food comes from, so their mom and dad played around with making a healthy meat replacement that would satisfy the whole family! Thanks to those two little girls, their mom's cooking skills, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the whole family we now can Eat Neat!

Learn more about Neat on their website!

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