Product Reviews: La Brea Bread and Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style

A little change of pace for this Sunday afternoon, and something that I hope to do more of since we’re trying so many different products as part of this new lifestyle.  One is good, the other not so good (notice I didn’t say “not so much,” because people need to stop saying that).  I’ll start with the good.

La Brea Whole Grain Bread

[La Brea photo] Ever since I read In Defense of Food, I’ve been very conscious about the number of ingredients in everyday foods which I took for granted to be natural and healthy.  In his book, Michael Pollan recommends avoiding foods with more than five ingredients (the book, by the way, has all kinds of simple, memorable rules like this).  Certainly this rule doesn’t apply to food you make at home, since you know exactly what’s going into it, but it’s a very quick way of determining what food at the grocery store is “real.”

Following the five-ingredient rule isn’t too difficult when you’re conscious of it, but one food which astounded me with the length of its ingredient list is bread.  Even the whole-grain, whole-wheat breads are generally loaded with preservatives and lots of other ingredients that are hard to pronounce (another dead giveaway for fake foods).  The best solution is probably to get your bread fresh from a baker, but the bakery near me doesn’t even make whole-wheat bread, so that’s not an option.  But today I found La Brea Whole Grain bread in the supermarket.  It’s sold near the fresh-baked bread, not the packaged loaves, so that’s the first sign that it’s decent.  The list of ingredients is much longer than five, but almost all of it is whole or cracked grains and seeds, with just a few of the hard-to-pronounce things at the end.  Just some of the grains, seeds, and other good stuff: Cracked wheat, dark rye, millet, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, barley, oats, corn, soybeans, and brown rice.  And it tastes as good as any other whole-grain loaf I’ve found.  It’s definitely not a perfect solution to my bread-hunting woes since the first ingredient is unbleached flour rather than 100% whole -wheat flour, but it’s the best I’ve yet found.  I haven’t looked too hard in the natural foods store yet, because I am not overly excited about spending five dollars for a loaf of bread.  But I’m interested in learning more about the “sprouted” wheat bread that they sell there.  Anyone know about this?

Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style

[Gimme Lean photo] To sum this one up in the immortal words of American Idol’s Randy Jackson, “It wasn’t good for me, dog.”  Gimme Lean is a line of substitute products for meat, designed to mimic the flavor and texture.  This one even came in a tube like ground beef sometimes comes in.  It’s made primarily from water and textured soy protein, and to its credit, it contains very few unnatural-sounding ingredients.  We bought it not because we miss burgers so much, but because we miss tacos so much.  Our at-home taco operation took a small hit when we started substituting ground turkey for ground beef, but since we went pescetarian we’ve been sin tacos altogether.  That’s Spanish by the way; I don’t believe the Church has yet established an official stance on tacos.

So we used Gimme Lean for tacos, and the only thing I could say was “Gimme something different to eat.”  I’d sooner eat no tacos than eat these again.  The meat-substitute was slimy, weird tasting, and I won’t even start on what Erin thought it resembled in the pan.  So Gimme Lean didn’t do it for us, and we won’t buy it again.  In fact, I’ll probably stay away from anything masquerading as meat and just stick to black beans for vegetarian tacos and burgers.

As I’m finishing up this post, I’m smelling the seasoned plum tomatoes with garlic and oil that are roasting in the oven for tonight’s dinner.  It’s a new pasta recipe that we made up by combining two others.  I think it will make a really hearty vegetarian meal.  Check back tomorrow to see how it went and how you can make it this week!

UPDATE:  Instead of roasted tomato pasta tomorrow, there will be a surprise post!  But not to worry, pasta will be up on Tuesday.



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  1. This post was funny!

  2. margaret says:

    I’ve tried many of the meat substitutes and found them all to be pretty much as you describe above. However, I did use a meat substitute in a veggie meatloaf recipe that was pretty good. Several non-vegetarians in my family ate it Christmas Eve and liked it. My brother, a long time vegetarian, didn’t care for it because he said it was too much like real meatloaf.

    • would you mind letting me know what that meat substitute was? I am a vegetarian looking for a good meat substitute for meat balland meatloaf.

  3. christine says:

    The only meat substitute I’ve ever enjoyed is MorningStar Corn Dogs. I guess the actual meat in corn dogs is so processed it’s easy to replicate. Even the veggie version probably isn’t that great for you, but it’s a fun little snack.

  4. Someone on Twitter told me that they love Morningstar bacon and I should try it. I’m sort of turned off by the fake meats right now, but I’ll have to give them a try. Yeah I think most fake meat isn’t good for you anyway, but if it’s good then once it a while it would be nice to have something like a corn dog.

    • Gloria Sees Through Through Rain says:

      Morning Star Farms is one of the prime offenders of the companies that use GMO’S to produce their “food”. (and I use that term loosely) you can find a list of companies that use GMO’S by Googling “who uses GMO’S”

  5. Dan Romens says:

    Try the breakfast sausage version. It’s great. You can also add a little syrup for maple sausage patties. If you are looking for a taco meat sub, try Frieda’s Soytaco or soyrizo.

  6. If you’re still looking for a good taco substitute, you should try lentils! Simmer for 20-25 minutes until softened. Drain and slightly mash, season with salt, pepper, and homemade vegetarian Worcestershire sauce. Fry up in a little bit of oil to get some crisp and crunch, and then mix in your preferred spices for seasoning tacos the same way you would for ground beef or turkey.

  7. Camille says:

    Since I went to total vegan, it’s been really hard for me to find something that supplements my red meat. Do you have any ideas on what I can use for supplements? I never feel like my energy (or stomach..) is full.

    • Camille, it’s hard for me to suggest any without more specifics. Vega products are awesome, but expensive. They have meal-replacement-type supplements. I’d look for something like that; you can probably find vegan ones without too much trouble.

      • Is GMO free???? Some of this product organic or vegan have GMO… My husband and and I Try to eat healthy but we aré dicover some food is not that healthy like said in package. Thanks for any recommendations in advance.

  8. I have never used gimme lean and was going to try it but I think not after reading this comment. I am a vegetarian and when I want to use a meat substitute I use morning star farms products or just tvp chunks. I really like the morning star farms for any recipe that call for crumbled burger meat. it is really good for things like chili and tacos. I have been looking for something that I could use to make a faux meatloaf if anyone has a suggestion. I don’t do tempeh and rarely use tofu.

  9. You lose all credibility by quoting American Idol. Good job.

  10. Theodore Gifford says:


    I love Gimme Lean! With a little salt and pepper it makes excellent burgers. I’ve fooled friends with this stuff.
    I can imagine how it might make crappy tacos, but don’t write it off so quick.

  11. Darth Vedder says:

    I tried Gimme Lean Ground Beef for the second time tonight, and like the last time, this will be going in the trash rather than my stomach. I tried “meatloaf” the first time and tacos this time. I did not care for it I suffered through and ate a plate for dinner. I have made tacos with Morning Star’s meat crumbles before and I like them in tacos. I will not be buying their ground beef anymore. I do have a package of their sausage in the fridge. I did find rave reviews for it, so I am going to try it and we will see. However, I will stick to Morning Star for “ground beef” and burgers from now on. I also found a delicious vegan black bean taco recipe. My husband and son are not vegetarians, but they love this recipe. The first time I made it, my son did not even realize that it was not meat. Anyway, you are not alone in you displeasure with Gimme Leans Ground Beef. I would suggest anyone to avoid it, it is a waste of money.

  12. I tried( or “tried” to try ) the Gimme Lean ground beef style in a tube. UGH! it just wouldn’t crumble, in the pan, and looked REALLY unappetizing. We ended up dumping it in the trash and chalking it up to another lesson learned. I HAVE used the Gimme Lean taco flavored crumbles (already crumbled ) for Tacos and it was excellent! flavored just like taco meat! But, for the most part, I wouldn’t use meat substitutes.

  13. ConAgra owns LIght Life that makes Gimme Lean, IE: it contains GMO soy. Looks like something you should stay away from if you’re focused on healthy foods. A vegan review online gave it’s makeup an “F”, another gave it a skull & crossbones. Nuff said.

  14. I have a great taco recipe! I’ve found the best ground beef substitute is TVP. I use it for chili and spaghetti sauce also.

  15. I just tried the Gimme Lean Breakfast Sausage and it was really good. I am recently meat free so it takes alot for me to recommend something. The breakfast sausage is certified vegan with non-GMO soy. The texture and flavor were spot on. I could not tell I was eating vegan.

  16. I eat gimme lean regularly and think it’s delicious. The problem is that it is NOT meat and thus requires different cooking methods than standard meat to be appetizing. Unlike beef, it will rehydrate and become soggy if left to sit in open air for too long or if cooked in a wet recipe. You also have to cook it thoroughly and at higher temps than meat or it will be mushy. It should also be noted that Gimme Lean is fat free unlike many vegetarian products. That’s great if you’re watching your weight/health, but obviously it will lack “punch” compared to greasy products. If you want to try tacos again: bake/microwave the whole tube for a few minutes to harden it. Then chop the solid Gimme Lean into small chunks in a food processor. Fry the ground Lean in light oil and taco spices. Keep it warm till it’s served. Gimme Lean is not a 1:1 replacement for beef, but I think it really is the best meat substitute on the market. I’ve been a vegetarian for 30-some years so I’ve tired quite a few!

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