When I began transitioning to a vegan diet — almost a year ago now — I knew there would be moments of concession. I was always one of those people who said things like “I could easily go vegan if I had to…except for…” and that’s where I decided it didn’t matter, because no one’s putting a gun to my head and making me go vegan. But then I learned a few things about where my, say, chicken was coming from, and someone might as well have put a gun to my head. Because that was it. Suddenly, after all of those hypotheticals, I had found myself in as close as I would ever come to a “had to” moment. As in, I felt I had no choice.
While I’m no longer pining for things like sushi and roasted chicken like I used to, I am finding that there are moments where concessions still are made. At times — a small fraction of the time, really — I find myself having to make a choice to stay on course, even when it’s not entirely easy. Usually, it is.
But now — and is it just me? — it seems like the whole low-carb/no-carb phase has gotten it’s second wind, and I can’t help but feel annoyed by the whole thing. Like, “didn’t we go over this already?” Bacon and eggs for breakfast might make you skinny, but it isn’t going to win you any brownie points with your cardiologist.
It seems we’re often prone to conflating the notion of “dieting” with healthy eating, when the two are often incompatible at best. So when I saw an article in Reader’s Digestthis weekend that reinforced the notion that carbs are our enemy and thrice-daily servings of meat, dairy and eggs will solve all of one’s problems with weight, I was simultanously annoyed yet eager to one-up the consulting Reader’s Digest Dr. with my own, healthier version of a low-carb meal plan.
Ok, confession time. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve succommed to the whole no-carb thing, which has always lasted for maybe a day. That is, once I remember that not having at least some sort of grain or starch during the day makes me feel rather nauseated, which is not a feeling I particularly enjoy. To be fair, though, I am equally affected by carb overload, which usually has the effect of making me extremely tired and unusually hungry during the day, no matter how much I eat.
I admit to having a tendency toward the latter when I’m going on instinct. I prefer tortilla chips to nuts as a snack, and cereal to a protein shake for breakfast. Adding the vegan element only further challenges me to think a little harder about how to get enough protein and vegetables into my diet without overdoing it on the carb front. I know, I know. I’m reading The China Study as we speak. Our requisite protein intake is, indeed, often overstated. But I nevertheless feel more energized and healthy when I’m swapping out at least some starch for protein-packed foods. I’ve decided, then, that this is not one of those areas where I’m going to make a concession just because animal protein isn’t on my grocery list.
For the next few weeks, I’m going to challenge myself to come up with as many low-carb, vegan dishes as I can think of. I find that when I have a good amount of recipes and ideas in my arsenal (and on this site) I’m never at a loss when it comes to my meals.
I started with a simple, mushroom-based dish, atop a bed of mashed cauliflower (a low-carb classic). You can serve this as a side dish, or as a hearty main course along with some green beans and almonds, or with some soy tempeh for protein. There’s something very nostalgic to me about anything in gravy, which is why I imagine this is a great dish for anyone longing for a “classic” American dinner, veganized (and low-carbized), of course!
Protobellos in Gravy:
6 portobello caps (stems removed), dirt removed with a damp cloth, sliced
2 tablespoons soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread, divided
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 cups vegetable stock
parsley for serving
1. Heat 1 tablespoon buttery spread in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and saute for 1 minute, until they just begin to moisten and soften. Remove from pan.
2. Melt remaining butter and add flour to the pan. Stir with butter until a crumbly paste forms, then add the broth. Whisk or stir constantly to prevent clumps until the broth begins to thicken and boil.
3. Add back mushrooms and heat for another minute, or until mushrooms are softened. Remove from heat and serve over mashed cauliflower or potatoes or with wide noodles for a Stroganoff knock-off.