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.
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.
Sometimes I like to write poetry. And since I’m on a cleanse right now (translation: no life), I’m feeling less cynical and more contemplative. I know…boring, boring, boring. But what else am I supposed to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and I can’t drink? Exactly. Poetry is the answer. Here’s one that I wrote about my mom and I.