The interest in the plant-based lifestyle is exploding! I love how the growth of options in the supermarket has grown exponentially, just in the past year. It is so exciting! There will be a new generation of healthy people.
I get asked all the time, “What do you eat?” Everyone is so curious and I LOVE it! Their minds are blown at what I actually eat compared to what they think I eat. It can be funny sometimes. “Do you eat a lot of kale?” Haha, not really. (I prefer spinach;) “Wait, you eat hot dogs, burgers, and fries?” Yup, yup, and yup.
I'm here today to answer the top 3 questions that I get asked EVERY time someone wants to talk plant-based.
1. Where do you get your protein?
There are lots of plant-based cheese options. Some are really good and others, not so much. But, the point is you have options. You don't have to give up cheese, just dairy cheese. The nut-based cheeses are the best, in my opinion. They are less processed than the vegetable protein and soy cheeses, which, also, contain a lot of oil, but the nut cheese also taste better. You don't have to give up your pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches! It takes a little trial and error to find the ones that will please your palate.
3. What do you eat?
Tuesday: Tacos/Burritos (rice, beans, lentils/couscous or tofu, salsa, guacamole)
Wednesday: Sushi or Vegetable Lo Mein with Rice Noodles
Thursday: Rice and Beans Dish (usually with tofu...curry, general tso's, sweet and spicy)
Friday: Burgers and Fries (black bean, cashew and rice, seitan...with sweet potato fries)
Saturday and Sunday: Could be leftovers, hot dogs, pasta, rice, or whatever Mama feels like cooking! As you can see, my meals probably look and sound pretty similar to yours. It takes a bit of practice to find the things that work for you and your family.
I love running into people and they start asking me all these questions and more. I know they are excited at the idea of changing their lives...getting healthier, looking better, and feeling better! So, if you see me, don't be afraid to stop me and pick my brain! I'm obsessed and love sharing it with anyone and everyone!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Meet my friend, Elsy, or LC, as I like to call her. Elsy is my sister from another mister. And from another mother. She’s from another country altogether. We have known each other from adolescence through adulthood, having that sisterly relationship complete with shoving matches, stand-offs and silent treatments, but also unconditional love, adoration and a heck of a lot of fun.
I first met Elsy during the summer of 1987 after my freshman year in high school, having just survived a sweltering 8-hour solo bus trip from Mexico City to Veracruz, complete with live chickens and low key juvenile harassment from young kids selling chiclets.
Elsy and her mother greeted me warmly when I ascended the stairs of the coach, my bulging suitcase in hand. This is a time before most suitcases had wheels or spinners, you know. You just had to take breaks when walking long distances, setting it down and switching hands every 10-15 steps.
Elsy was a girl of 15; she came in a small package, a tiny little thing, which was my first clue we wouldn’t be sharing clothes. She was fun-loving, always down for a good time, had a hot temper and a short fuse...kind of like a firecracker.
Elsy’s family was not new to hosting exchange students in their home and Elsy herself had recently returned from a year long study abroad in Michigan where she learned English. I spent the majority of that summer living large, getting to know Elsy’s friends and family, hanging out at the club, drinking soda out of plastic bags with straws. I immediately fell in love with the food- I was a good eater and was frequently greeted with smiling terms of endearment such as ‘gorda’ or ‘gordita’ which, frankly, didn’t translate very well. This is meant to be a light hearted compliment in Mexico, but calling any American teenaged female “chubby girl” feels like a back-handed one at best.
It’s all good….
Other than that, I spent time immersing myself in the culture...practicing all the Spanish curse words like a boss, driving without a license, learning to smoke on Marlboro reds and doing lit tequila shots. I was rocking the scene at all the discos and finding myself in the social pages of the local newspaper, celebrity style. There were few rules or laws to be broken...and if they were, it could easily be overlooked with a ten spot.
I’m expecting a call from my mother any second now.
Elsy and I have remained close friends for nearly 31 years. I have made many trips to visit her and her family since that first summer in 1987. She, in turn, has visited me a number of times, as has her brother Jorge. We have both grown up, had families of our own, been there for each other through life's trials and tribulations and recently Elsy became a grandmother to a beautiful baby boy, Jorge, a name he shares with his great-uncle and great-grandfather.
A few summers ago, Elsy and her daughter Elsy came to visit me, traveling with a friend from Michigan. (Side note: Elsy’s mother is also named Elsy, so I’m not quite sure, even after all these years, how the three of them keep this straight).
One day, presumably because she was bored, Elsy started cooking. I didn’t even know she knew how to cook. Her family always had Chavela to cook the meals in the family home (another reason I kept going back). Elsy cooked all day. She cooked and chopped and blended, fried and sautéed, showing me how to make authentic Mexican black beans, empenadas, homemade corn tortillas and salsa, the real deal. (I’m saying all this in my best Elsy impersonation).
My family spent the majority of the day and night at the kitchen table, forks in hand, ready and waiting for the next creation to be placed in front of us. We couldn't leave the table for fear of losing our seat to one of the neighbors. #FOMO
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t outrank the days my kids were born but it’s definitely up there.
Here, I have created a healthier version of LC's recipe (there was no recipe, just lots of quick movement and I knew to keep my fingers out of the way) for authentic Mexican black beans, sans the bacon grease. I love everything about this versatile Latin American side dish. I love that black beans are served at almost every meal on the daily at the typical Mexican dining table. That would be breakfast, lunch AND dinner. They're dependable and reliable and they go with everything, really. Sometimes they're puréed, sometimes left whole in their juices and sometimes it's a combination of both. You can even substitute with pinto beans here for traditional Tex-Mex refried beans. You can put them on a tostada, use them as a taco filling or in a burrito. I hope you love them too...and what you now know of my dear friend, Elsy...as much as I do!
I never used to like tofu. To me, it seemed gross, spongy and weird. I first tried tofu 9 years ago after giving up meat. It didn’t go well, but for whatever reason I just kept at it. Eventually, I learned to like it, but ONLY if it was pressed. It was a texture thing. In the years since, I’ve done almost everything one can do with tofu from using it in stir fry dishes to pumpkin pie and now I find myself picking at it right out of the package. This is a real life testament that we can learn to like new foods at any age. You may just have to keep trying.
What is tofu exactly?
Tofu is a soybean curd that’s made by coagulating soybean milk from either whole or sprouted soy beans and pressing together the extracted curds into soft white blocks.
See? Sounds gross. The word curd is off-putting right from the start.
Tofu making is very similar to cheese making in that you are separating the curds from the whey. Because of this process, moisture content is the defining difference between silken, soft, firm and extra firm tofu varieties you’ll find at the store. Firm and extra firm tofu will be more dense, have less moisture and more protein per serving and can stand up to the rough housing of grilling and stir-frying. Soft or silken tofu products have more moisture and resemble more of a yogurt consistency making it great as a thickening agent and is a good substitute for cream, cheese and eggs when baking or creating sauces and dressings.
Tofu-making has actually been around for about 2,000 years and was first recorded in China, then Korea and Japan, later arriving in Vietnam and other parts of Southern Asia, presumably with the spread of East Asian Buddhism as it’s the main source of protein in their vegetarian diet.
Tofu is low in calories and is a rich source of protein, iron and also calcium and magnesium, depending on the coagulants used in the processing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate). Tofu also contains all 8 essential amino acids, is naturally gluten-free and has no cholesterol.
Tofu is a super flexible food, having a somewhat neutral taste it takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings or marinade is used. It works beautifully in cold or hot dishes and can be prepared to grill, bake, fry, to eat fresh or in single skillet dishes.
Tofu is usually found in the produce section of the grocery store with other meat and dairy substitutions. It looks like a white brick packaged in water. Mori-nu tofu is a shelf stable brand and is my preference for making my own vegan mayonnaise or vegetable dip. I usually order Mori-nu from Amazon as it can be a bit harder to find.
While soft and silken tofu are most easily used fresh and drained out of the package there are several options when prepping firm and extra firm tofu:
Freezing: Personally, I really enjoy tofu if the block has been frozen first. I simply throw the entire package in the freezer until the day before I’m ready to use it in a recipe where I want the tofu to be really dense and chewy. Alternatively, you can slice and freeze portions in freezer bags or paper. The process of freezing causes almost all the water to be pulled out and contracts the whey into a spongy consistency that will absorb sauces and marinades more easily. Frozen tofu can be easily thawed in the fridge, microwave or hot water bath.
Draining/Blotting: Whether you have skipped the freezing step or not, slit the package of tofu and drain off the water. Let the block sit on a paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Pressing: This is a very common step but not always necessary. There are fancy tofu presses you can buy, but in my opinion, it’s easy enough to use what you have at home. You can press any additional water out of the block of tofu by wrapping it in a clean dish towel, placing it between two flat, hard surfaces, such as cookie sheets or cutting boards and applying weight on top. In my case, I've got it down to using a baking stone, hamburger press and a couple of dumbbells or soup cans.
Salt soak/Draining: If you feel like you want to skip all the pressing business you can bypass that with a 15 minute salt water soak. Though I have never used this method, it is said to preseason the tofu and create a crisper texture. After the soak, let drain and dry on paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Marinating: Marinating tofu is one of the most popular methods of flavoring. Simply cover it in your favorite spices, sauce or marinade. Freezing and pressing enhances the flavor absorption here but is not necessary. The longer you let the tofu marinate the better, but 30 minutes is a good place to start.
Well, if I’ve convinced you to give tofu a first or second chance...I’m all about second chances ;) Here are a few helpful tips for using this wonder food and soon you'll be asking yourself why you didn't cross this bridge, or block, a long time ago:
A friend recommended a restaurant to me, “They have vegan options!” We didn't get a chance to check it out for a few months. We don't go out to dinner very often. Mostly, during the hockey season as we travel around for my son's games. I get really tired of black bean burgers and veggie wraps, but my friend promised this place had different options. Do you get a little nervous eating at new restaurants? I do! But isn't it amazing when you find a diamond in the rough?! If you live anywhere near Olean, NY you have to try this place out: Four Mile Brewing!! Not only is their food spectacular, the beer is delicious! I had a mango wheat Belgian white and it was so good. BUT not as good as the vegan philly cheese steak!! Oh my gosh, this wrap was spot on! They make their seitan (re: fake meat) in house and it is the BEST I have ever tasted! It came with a side of broccoli slaw that was equally as delicious! So GO, try this wrap and get a beer while you are there!
Of course, I wanted to try to recreate that amazing sandwich...my version didn't taste the same, but it was just as delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with you! It is a little time consuming; however, it is easy and so worth it! I've made it super easy to follow along with pictures so you can see exactly what each step should look like!
While the veggies are sauteing, work up the "cheese sauce". The Cheese Sauce is super easy and delicious:
1 Medium Sweet Potato (peel, dice-1/2 cubes, and saute in water for 15 minutes until softened)
-when the sweet potatoes are cool add to a blender with:
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
3 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon of Oil
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
-Blend until Smooth
I choose broccoli slaw as my side. This is one of my favorite sides; especially during the summer! Here is the dressing recipe:
You could choose any veggies you like, but I like this one with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Shredded Carrots. I chopped the broccoli and cauliflower very small.
Stir it up! I served the Philly Cheese Steak on whole wheat tortillas, but you could choose any roll or wrap you like!
Seriously, make this!! It is so freaking delicious!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Recipe Adapted from The Edgy Veg
Vegan Philly Cheese Steak
I'm going to spend the next few blog posts answering some questions. Every time someone wants to discuss my eating habits, I get the same questions over and over again . Starting with the #1 question I get, not only because it comes up so often, but because I feel it is vital that everyone has the facts about this overwhelmingly misguided perception perpetuated by the media and the-billions-of-dollars-a-year meat industry.
Where do you get your protein?
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this question...I could buy a billboard! First, I will discuss why we need protein, second, sources of protein and more importantly, third, I will explain why too much protein is bad NOT good.
In 1839, protein was discovered and since then has been revered as “THE” most important nutrient for the human body. (I could write pages on just protein; so, I'm going to try and control myself and make this as user-friendly as possible. I encourage you research this topic; check out the sources that I have cited at the end.) Protein is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids; essential and nonessential. Nonessential amino acids (11) are the ones our bodies manufacture themselves and we do not need to find in our diets. Essential amino acids (9) are the ones that we must consume through food sources. Animal sources of protein are complete proteins, which means they contain all the essential amino acids. Plant based proteins can be incomplete; whereas, not every plant contains all of the essential amino acids, but some do! (No worries about plants and amino acids! We'll discuss this later) Wait?! “Did you just say animal protein is better?!” NO! I said it was a complete protein. Yes, it contains all the essential amino acids; however, animal products are not a good source of protein. Animal products cause diseases. Check out some of these facts:
Ok, Ok, you are seeing it, right? Scientifically and clinically, the consumption of animal products has been shown to increase risk of all diseases. So play it safe and get your protein from plant sources.
Protein is found throughout the plant kingdom and shocking as this may be for some people, some plants have more protein than meat! GASP!! Now, don't go believing that myth that you have to eat “complementary proteins” meaning you have to eat certain plants in specific combinations to meet your amino acid needs. Eating a diet rich in plants will meet ALL of your needs. Jeff Novick, RD explains it best on his website: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/3/28_The_Myth_Of_Complimenting_Proteins.html
So what plants can we eat? ALL OF THEM!! Here's a great info-graphic showing the protein in plant foods. This graph is based on the percentage of protein per calorie. As you can see, plant foods are rich in protein. A majority of them containing between 20-30% protein!!
Now that you've got all the facts, STOP worrying about protein! Protein deficiency in the United States is extremely rare and only happens in persons not getting enough calories to meet their daily needs. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the average woman and man needs only 46-56g of protein per day, with the physically active individuals needing slightly more.
Something you do NEED to be concerned with is TOO MUCH protein! The majority of Americans get MORE than the recommended daily allowance! The body takes excessive amounts of protein, coverts them to fatty acids, which are then stored as fat. Also, the excess could be filtered through the liver and kidneys adding extra stress to these detoxifying organs. The consumption of higher amounts of protein have been linked to increased cancer rates, bone disorders, kidney problems (specifically kidney stones and cancer), liver diseases, and heart disease.
Stop worrying about protein, carbohydrates, and calories! Start eating plants and lots of them. Next, week I will continue the question series with “Do you eat bread?”.
Do you have a burning question you would like answered? Ask me in the comments or send me an email and I will try my best to help you out!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
Search our blogs