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.
When the calendar year comes to an end, it’s time to let go of what you did or didn’t do and start anew with a clean blackboard and fresh set of chalk. Translation: it’s almost New Year’s and you’ve been naughty. But despite our best efforts, many of us will end up writing our lofty (or not so lofty) goals for the new year until our theoretical board is more scribbled upon than a kid’s homework doodles. But hey, it’s always a good idea to be better today than you were yesterday. And many of us tend to slack off in the same category. Translation: your body is increasingly fluffy and your gym membership is comparable to paying taxes i.e. you’re essentially giving your money away so that other people can bounce around on an elliptical machine. Solution? Think smaller…not just in the literal I-wish-my-waist-was-as-small-as-either-of-the-Beckam’s way, but in the sense that you need to hone in on the specific food or foods that are forcing you to pretend to love the new one-piece bathing suit trend. Maybe that inner tube around your waist isn’t to protect you from sinking to the bottom of a pond after all, but a manifestation of a gluten intolerance or an overconsumption of sugary foods?
Diets that target the elimination of a specific food or food group are increasingly popular in a culture of perpetual busy-ness. I don’t believe in diets because they are targeted for quick weight loss and aren’t usually suited for long term weight solutions. If you’re overweight and sick all of the time, it’s due to an unhealthy lifestyle, and chances are it won’t be fixed by a short term diet. So to prove that dieting is crazy, I’ve comprised a list of popular diets and broken down the scientific jargon into layperson’s terms. Translation: I make fun of them and then tell you to stop dieting and go vegan. Yay!
Atkin’s: Pound down on bacon, cheese and cream and lose weight. That’s right! It’s called water weight aka the result of glycogen depletion, not some metabolic miracle. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll probably end up with a stone over your head from congestive heart failure. Ask Dr. Atkins about it…oh, wait, he died from a heart attack.
Paleo: Pretend that you’re Fred Flintstone and eat what the cavemen used to eat: lard, tallow, duck fat, foraged berries and nuts. Yummy! Or go hipster and join a farm where you can slaughter your own animal to get “in touch” with your carnal, inner warrior self. Side effects include loss of touch with reality, high cholesterol, and angry neighbors after you shoot their guinea hens with a homemade tomahawk.
Macrobiotics: You want to look like Gwenyth Paltrow, not her fat suit from Shallow Hal. This diet makes a lot of sense, but you’ve got to like seaweed and brown rice…a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And steamed food. And you have to chew your food at least 30 times before swallowing it. So unless you have a 3 hour lunch break or no life at all, this diet ain’t gonna cut it.
South Beach: Carbs are evil. Eat sand and fish. Side effects include wobbly walk and disorientation of the Hunter S. Thompson variety. Okay, not exactly but its got the word “beach” in the title so I couldn’t resist.
Weight Watcher’s: Confusing point system that creates a community of strange people who only talk about food in terms of their number value as determined by Jessica Simpson, who still thinks tuna is chicken.
Jenny Craig: Give Jenny all of your money and she’ll send you crappy food with no taste, but you’ll lose a million pounds just like Jennifer Hudson and become rich and famous!
Solution? Make your new year’s resolution less about dieting and more about a lifestyle change…and cut out one thing. Okay, three things: dairy, sugar and animals. It might be a challenge at first, but you’ll ultimately become as hot as Olivia Wilde, develop abs like Usher, a voice like Carrie Underwood, strength like Mike Tyson, Jared Leto’s eyes, and the comedic genius of Ellen (yup, they’re all vegan!) Now that you’re considering vegan stardom, why not try out this amazing aromatic lentil soup? Lentils are packed with protein, iron, trace minerals and fiber so you’ll be satiated long after you’ve finished your meal (and as a bonus you will see at least one unicorn by the end of the day.)
Aromatic French Lentil Soup with Curly Kale (adapted from The Artful Vegan)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed through a garlic press or minced
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and serrated
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted dry in a pan over low flame until fragrant, then ground with a mortar and pestle
1 tsp caraway seeds, prepared the same as above
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp thyme, rubbed between your palms
1/2 tsp allspice, or combine equal amounts of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper & cinnamon
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup sherry
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz. can of organic chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups french lentils, cooked*
6 cups homemade stock or 4 cups No-Chicken Stock + 2 cups water
1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup white miso (I recommend South River Miso)
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
In a soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium flame. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion begins to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cumin, caraway, dill, thyme, allspice, and bay leaves. Stir and saute for another couple of minutes, then deglaze with sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrap off any pieces of the mixture that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, sweetener, lentils, vinegar, and stock. Bring to a boil, then lower flame and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the flame and whisk in the miso. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaves. Serves 6 dieting unicorns suffering from malnourishment and hallucinations.
*To cook lentils: In a medium sized pot, add 2 cups of lentils and 4 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender but not mushy.