There are a lot of unhealthy vegans out there. Wait, what? you ask in bewilderment. I thought vegans were plant eating hippie health nuts who eat bark and berries? Well, yeah, in the good ol’ days, but as veganism has become more mainstream, so has the food industry’s development of meat and dairy replacements. According to a recent study, there are over 7 million vegetarians in the US, and of that group, about 1 million are vegan. This means that there are over 7 million people spending their money on plant-based foods, and that number is steadily on the rise. As a result, there’s been a major influx of meat and dairy replacement “convenience” foods, and shopping for vegan and vegetarian food has never been more accessible. Sounds great, right? In theory, yes, and if you’re considering a plant based diet, the transition couldn’t be easier. But the problem is, we plant eaters have become brainwashed by the same marketing propaganda that our meat eating comrades often experience. Grocery stores now market highly processed vegetarian foods, glittering with magical phrases like “all natural meat alternative” (translation: processed soy isolate crap with cane sugar, “natural” i.e. we-don’t-want-to-tell-you flavorings, cornstarch, and maybe some good old MSG (no, not Madison Square Garden…Monosodium Glutamate, otherwise known as the devil’s (sugar’s) right hand man.)
But are these foods really better than the animal products they’re replacing? From an ethical standpoint, yes, but from a nutritional standpoint…I don’t think so. A vegan or vegetarian that consumes a diet high in processed soy meat alternatives and other convenience foods made from refined flours and sugars is in danger of becoming just as unhealthy as someone who follows a standard American diet. The bottom line is, processed foods, whether vegetarian or not, are high in sodium and sugars and low in nutrient density. Over time, eating nutrient poor foods can lead to deficiencies and chronic degenerative diseases. Solution? Eat a mostly WHOLE foods plant-based diet, rich in sprouted whole grains, legumes, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Don’t just go veg for ethical reasons, go veg for your health!
Now that I’ve ruined your sugar-laden soy latte and fake sausage breakfast, why not try something more WHOLEsome? Sweet tasting fennel, creamy cashews, smoked sea salt and the refreshing zip of licorice come together in this easy, dreamy, creamy fennel soup.
1 T cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bulb of fennel, green fronds and bulb root removed, then chopped
3 large carrots or 5-6 small carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
3 cups stock
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour or up to overnight + 1/2 cup fresh water
1 T unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground with a mortar & pestle
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt (I recommend alder smoked sea salt)
Fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste
IN a soup pot, heat oil over a medium flame and add onion. Sweat for a few minutes until onion begins to soften, then pour in fennel, carrots, and garlic. Stir to combine. Allow to cook for several minutes, then add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce flame to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a high speed blender, add soaked (and rinsed) cashews and water. Blend on high until mixture resembles a thick cream. Pour cashew cream into simmering soup and stir. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. Turn off flame and add vinegar. Pour soup into blender and puree until smooth. Transfer pureed soup back to pot and season with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crushed fennel seed and smoked sea salt. Makes enough soup for 4-6 recovering junk food addict vegan unicorns.
Every year I watch the Academy Awards. Translation: every year I fall asleep while making fun of the oscars. So why do I watch? Why does anyone want to watch overpaid celebrities parade down a piece of red carpet, stuffed into sparkly gowns and tuxes while the paparazzi clicks away and scary Joan-Rivers-types ask “What are you wearing?” Do I really care about who wins best actress- or even worse, best dressed? Nope, not at all. But I put it on anyway because I somehow feel like I’m skipping christmas if I don’t. It’s ridiculous. This is similar to how I feel about 99% of the Olympics. I like to watch the equestrian show jumping, which is minimally covered (or sometimes not at all), so in the end I usually see more of Michael Phelps than horses. Or even better, I get the privilege of watching a Ryan Lochte interview.
But I digress. Back to the glitz and glam of the oscars. Oh I’ll be watching, decked out in my finest yoga pants and hoodie, hoping that my girl crush, Jennifer Lawrence, picks up a golden statue. But the best part is, while I sit on my couch with my furry children snuggled up next to me, I can indulge in the ultimate winter comfort food…vegan chicken noodle soup. Don’t worry, there isn’t any weird vegan chicken in this recipe, but sadly, I didn’t think that “miso noodle soup” would bring back as many golden childhood memories as “chicken noodle soup”. In this recipe, I omit the dead bird and add delicious ingredients like collards, miso, and ginger. This is the perfect winter soup, and even better for those days when you’re feeling under the weather. Ginger and garlic are a match made in heaven, not just for their taste and good looks, but for their antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that will kick that sickness right out of your body. This recipe is gluten free, soy free, nut free, animal free, and guilt free…hooray!
Not Your Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled & thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped (I use the side of my knife to smash the garlic, or you can use a garlic press)
1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled & grated
1 bay leaf
4 cups stock (homemade or Imagine No-Chicken Stock) + 2 cups water
1 small handful of spaghetti noodles or noodle of choice, broken into thirds (I recommend Jovial brown rice spaghetti)
1 handful or about 4 large collard leaves, ribs removed and leaves stacked, then chiffonnade into thin ribbons
2 T dark miso (I recommend South River Miso 3 Year Barley)
Sea salt & fresh black pepper to taste
In a soup pot, heat oil over low to medium flame and add onion. Stir and allow to cook for a few minutes, or until soft. Add carrots, celery, garlic, grated ginger, & bay leaf. Stir to incorporate ingredients, then pour in stock and water. Raise flame and bring soup to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 2 minutes, then lower flame to a lively simmer and add collard ribbons. Allow soup to simmer for another ten minutes, or until noodles are cooked (cooking time will depend on what kind of noodles you’re using). Turn off flame. Dip a glass into the soup and remove a little bit of broth. Combine miso with the broth and mix until miso has broken down and become incorporated. Pour miso mixture into soup, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve to 4 overpaid unicorns wearing Stella McCartney gowns and Neil Lane diamonds.
I’m a big fan of storms, especially ones involving blankets of snow and the necessity for roaring fires, daytime pajamas & copious amounts of tea. And thanks to the sensationalism of The Weather Channel, Americans like me can become easily convinced that this storm is going to be the most “crippling blizzard since 1978”. Because let’s be honest, once a storm has a name- and this one has two– it means we’re doomed for a snowpocalypse! I am however, still confused as to why this storm has two names, but I’ve already decided that blizzard Nemo is a lot freaking cooler sounding than blizzard Charlotte. I know at first you might think of that do-gooder fish looking for his dad, which is all good and fine, but what about Captain Nemo! The bad ass anti-hero scientist! That’s the kind of blizzard name that will inspire millions of Americans to go spend thousands of dollars on a generator.
But since I already have one, the only thing I need to do is wash my softest pair of yoga pants, buy lots of food, and make a creamy bowl of vegan clam chowdah! (Yes I have to say it like that. I can’t help myself). Don’t worry, there aren’t any fake clams going into this yummy soup; in fact, just thinking of them conjures flashbacks of my first (and only) time eating a fake soy shrimp. Translation: rubbery, dyed pink processed soy dumped into a bowl of broth and noodles that tasted like a fish made out of plastic. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of faux meats. However, if you’re making the transition to a plant based diet, and you’re craving a little familiarity, faux meats can be helpful in bridging the gap. Just keep your consumption to a minimum and remember that very processed soy products are usually GMO and contain soy protein isolate (a highly processed carcinogenic form of soy). In this recipe, I use king trumpet mushrooms, which have a nice chewy texture and even look a little bit like clams when chopped up. Sauteed with veggies and a generous dollop of cashew cream and you will become Bill Murray from What about Bob?.
Vegan No Clams Chowdah!
1 T refined coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
4 king trumpet mushrooms, chopped into small, clam-sized pieces
Splash of white wine, any variety is fine
Pinch of paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp white truffle oil
2 1/2 cups stock ( I recommend Imagine Foods No-Chicken Stock)
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight
3 T nutritional yeast (I buy it in bulk from Whole Foods and other natural foods stores)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp tamari or shoyu
1 crumbled nori sheet or a few shakes of Eden seaweed gomasio (this is great if you want a little taste of the sea without the sea creatures)
Dash of hot sauce (I tend to put hot sauce on everything!)
In a wide soup pot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until soft, then add potato, celery and chopped mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, scraping up any bits of veggies that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with paprika, onion powder and truffle oil, then pour in stock and bring to a lively simmer. Allow to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, or until potato can be easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, rinse soaked cashews and pour into a high speed blender. Add 4 cups of fresh water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add cashew cream, nutritional yeast, tamari and lemon juice to the chowder. Simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Season with fresh black pepper and sea salt. To serve, ladle into soup bowls with a big hunk of whole wheat sourdough bread. Makes enough for 4-6 snuggling unicorns in pajamas, ready to embrace the snowy wonderland.
“How do you get your protein?” says everyone I’ve spoken to about veganism, ever. Yes, it’s repetitive and sometimes I have to find my happy place (translation: sparkly cave with unicorns) before I can calmly reply without cursing the popular media, western doctors and nutritionists across the globe that have brainwashed our culture into equating veganism with kwashiorkor syndrome. “Wait, what is that?” asks those same people. Oh, never heard of it? I respond coyly. Hmm, maybe that’s because it’s the name for severe protein deficiency and it’s never been documented in this country. Hooray! If you’re vegan or vegetarian you will survive after all! I don’t mean to sound cynical, and at one time I asked the same question to my sister when she first went vegan. Unfortunately, It’s the result of repeated whisperings that blow into our innocent ears from social media, parents, doctors, pretend doctors, and friends that over time harden into an accepted truth without personal investigation. It’s the same reason you think that milk is good for your bones, that cane sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup, that meat is the richest protein & B12 source on the planet, and that all soy is bad for you and will cause breast cancer. In a nutshell, you can thank the meat & dairy industries for brainwashing you, little by little, through clever advertising that we don’t even realize is affecting our opinions. So instead of marketing propaganda, let’s turn to plain old common sense.
Take a look at our fellow plant-based animal friends: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, bison, and hippos. These are some of the largest and strongest mammals on the planet, but they don’t look like they’re having any problems with protein intake do they?
And it just so happens that vegetables and grains are chock full of protein: spinach, broccoli, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, oatmeal, whole grain breads, cacao, quinoa, seitan, beans, and artichokes to name a few! In fact, nearly all vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain protein in them. Fruits, alcohol and sugars on the other hand, are low in protein so if you plan on being an alcoholic fruitarian, then yeah, you’ll risk becoming deficient in protein (and friends), but if you eat lots of vegetables and whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds you’ll be a veggie-powered superhuman! So next time someone asks you where you get your protein, gently point out the literal vegan elephant in the room…
Now that you’re armed with confidence and gorilla strength about your protein intake, why not rub it in a little more and make a cozy, protein-filled soba noodle bowl in a coconut peanut broth! Peanut butter, chickpeas, broccoli and whole grain soba noodles are great sources of protein. This dish is perfect on a day like today – a freshly snowed, gray skied wintry heaven.
Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl with Coconut-Peanut Sauce
1 package soba noodles (I recommend Eden)
1 T refined coconut oil
1 small yellow onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 T mirin
1 T tamari or shoyu
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1 T maple syrup
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter
1 aseptic package or can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Top with sriracha or favorite hot sauce (optional)
Cook soba noodles according to package directions in a large pot of salted, gently boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. In a deep saute pan, heat coconut oil on medium to high heat, and add onions or scallions. Cook for a few minutes, then add garlic and use a microplane grater to add ginger knob. Toss in broccoli, peppers, and carrot and continue to saute until veggies are bright and beginning to soften. Deglaze with mirin and use a wooden spoon to scrap up any pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the coconut milk in and bring to a lively simmer, then reduce heat to low and add brown rice vinegar, tamari, maple syrup, peanut butter, chickpeas and chili powder. Simmer and stir occasionally until ingredients are well mixed and peanut butter has melted into the coconut broth. Remove from flame and toss mixture with soba noodles and cilantro. Drizzle with sriracha or hot sauce. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with shiny, flowing manes and rippling muscles from their protein fabulous vegan diets.