This week, I cooked a dinner of stuffed bell peppers – only instead of ground beef and rice, they were packed with pecans.
For years, the Georgia Pecan Commission’s marketing had been targeted to consumers both directly and through restaurant and food service promotions. The campaign was based on recipes for the home cook with occasional promotions by chefs, but last year, the commission made a radical shift in its target audience.
Our research at ST!R Marketing had showed that promotions to home cooks was not moving enough pecans to stop a slide in pecans’ share of consumer tree nut consumption. ST!R built a campaign to encourage food manufacturers to use more gluten-free pecans in their products.
Pecans have always been used in pies, cookies and candy (remember those yummy chocolate-covered Turtles?). But ST!R President Margaret Lisi, an awesome cook, thought there were more opportunities for nutritious pecans as ingredients. I’d always eaten pecans as a snack, but who knew pecans could be ground into meal or crushed for their oil, like olives? I sure didn’t.
So when I discovered a new meat-replacement product called NEAT made with pecans, created by a mother whose children decided to go vegan, I had to try it. Her kids even named the product: “Mom, it’s not meat … it’s NEAT.”
NEAT is a replacement for ground beef, and I ordered the original mix and the Italian flavor (there is also a breakfast mix and a Mexican version) from the website. Only $4.99 for a 0.75-pound package (you get a discount if you order two).
Now how was I going to cook the stuff?
My garden produced a bumper crop of bell peppers this year that I couldn’t bear to let go to waste, so bell peppers stuffed with the NEAT pecan mix would be the way to go. I followed a regular recipe for stuffed bell peppers but used NEAT original instead of ground beef. I also omitted the starchy rice, figuring it wasn’t needed.
The NEAT directions were easy—add two tablespoons of water and two eggs to the NEAT mix, which looked like golden brown meal. When I cooked the NEAT, I added onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers (from the tops) that I had already sautéed. Then I stuffed the peppers, topped them with cheddar cheese and popped them into the oven.
The moment of decision—would this be another one of my cooking disasters? No, they were delicious with the extra benefit of knowing I was eating something good for me (pecans are high in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber).
I am hooked and already trying to come up with a recipe for the Italian-flavored mix. NEAT is a great example of a company using pecans to make a tasty product, so I can’t wait to see what other food manufacturers concoct. Who knows? Pecan crusted chicken skewers, anyone?
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