Product: Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat Italian Mix – $4.99+
I am so glad that Neat exists in the world. I really, really am. Because, it is sometimes hard to find a good protein base when you are not only a vegetarian (or perhaps a vegan), but also gluten-free. Trust me…the struggle is real…FOR REAL!! Most of the vegetarian/vegan faux-meat products out on the market have some sort of vital wheat gluten or glutenous substance inside (for texture purposes, I’ve been told). I don’t need faux-meat in my life, but sometimes it’s nice to step away from the mushrooms and whatever else I get creative with and use something that is already prepared.
And that…brings me to Neat – A Healthy Replacement for Meat. Ever since I became a subscriber to Delight Gluten Free magazine I noticed ads for this vegan meat replacement called Neat. I was beyond intrigued and immediately went on the hunt in my local natural food stores. Sadly, but not surprisingly, no one in my area carried this product. At least not yet. I said I’d get online and see if I could order it, but, naturally, I forgot to do that. Story of my life. But after a pouch of the Mexican Mix turned up on my Cuisine Cube, I started finding it on the shelves of my local Kroger stores, my natural food stores. I was getting Neat where I could purchase it when I suddenly decided to make something spontaneous for dinner.
So, what exactly is Neat? Neat is a meat replacement that is derived from nuts and other non-GMO natural ingredients. It is a product that was created by a mother of two children who decided that they were going to become vegetarians. At first she would puree beans into sauces to help her girls get the protein they wanted, but after awhile, everyone got tired of it. And that was when she got into the kitchen, experimented, and created what is now marketed at Neat.
Neat comes in this shelf-stable pouch in a powdered form. All you do to prepare it is pour the pouch into a bowl, add two eggs (or a vegan egg replacer), plus two tablespoons of water. Stir all the ingredients together and throw it into a skillet over medium heat. Or…if you happen to have the Italian Mix and want to make meatballs…well…you just change it up a little.
I wanted meatballs to make vegan meatball subs and some vegan spaghetti and meatballs for lunch the following day at the office. SO…I took the mix from the pouch and poured it into a bowl, adding 1 egg, about 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (although now I think I should have gone for the full 1/3 cup (which was the amount of Parmesan cheese the recipe said to add), and 1 tablespoon of water and gave it a mix. Then, with clean hands, I ended up rolling 12 meatballs (you normally would do 8 larger meatballs, but I had multiple meals planned for these…this way my roommate and I each got 3 in each dish I prepared). Then, into an oven at 350°F for about 18 minutes, turning them over once. That simple.
Near the end of their cooking time, I began warming up some marinara sauce on the stove. And when these meatballs came out of the oven, into the sauce they went. I gave the sauce a stir and just coated the meatballs the best I could. I was using an open jar of sauce, so I had a little less than I wanted, but I figured the entire point of the meatball sub was the meatball itself. So…with any luck, I didn’t screw those up. Into the gluten-free hotdog buns they went (no one around here seems to carry the Schär Gluten Free Sub Rolls anymore). I topped them with a bit of the sauce, then some Daiya mozzarella style shreds then placed them back in the oven under the broiler for about a minute to get the vegan cheese as gooey as I could manage.
Then…dinner was served.
Given that this was my first attempt at the “neatballs,” I was quite happy with them. As I said, I should have done a perfect swap for the Parmesan cheese with the nutritional yeast, but I didn’t want to overkill it. My oven is old, so I set it a little higher in temp, and baked these for the full 18 minutes, instead of maybe just 15…so they were slightly dry, but the texture was very meaty and very dense, like a meatball should be. I thought these were amazing in both the subs and the pasta I cooked up for the following work day. While I might have overcooked them slightly, it didn’t make me dislike what emerged from the oven and saucepan. I loved biting into a vegetarian meatball sub and having it feel like I was actually eating a sub. That was a nice treat. I loved forming these meatballs to cook, because it’s like making it yourself instead of pulling them from the freezer (for the record, I know of only 2 kinds of vegan/gluten-free meatballs…Franklin Farms (which I can’t find anymore) and Beyond Meat (which I haven’t found here) which are both kept in the fridge/freezer. So, this was a bit more rustic and a bit more like you were putting in the work yourself to make the protein base for your meal. It was messy, but quite fun and quite satisfying.
Let’s first delve into the nitty-gritty ingredients and nutrition of Neat – A Healthy Replacement For Meat Italian Mix. The Italian Mix version of Neat is made from pecans, garbanzo beans, organic whole grain gluten free oats, garlic, onion, sea salt, and spices. So, where this is meat-free and dairy-free, and also gluten-free…it is NOT nut-free. So, if you have a nut allergy…this product is not for you.
As for nutrition, a serving of Neat Italian Mix is 40 grams and each pouch contains 4 servings. This serving will give you 190 calories, and 15 grams of fat (healthy fat as it is coming from beans and nuts), 1.5 grams saturated fat, 218 mg sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram sugars, and 4 grams protein. These meatballs will fill you up. Seriously. I really appreciate when a faux protein is made with filling, real foods that won’t leave me feeling hungry an hour or so later. Trust me, that isn’t a problem with Neat.
I am so in love with the two mixes I have picked up from Neat – A Healthy Replacement to Meat. I still have the Breakfast Mix and the Original Mix to try so I’ll be picking those up soon. They also make an Egg Replacer as well, which I’d love to try. So far, there isn’t anything bad I can say about Neat. So, if you haven’t tried it and you, perhaps, have been missing your spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs…you gotta try this!! Order online if you can’t find it in your stores. Trust me, you won’t regret it.