Portobellos and Gravy

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.


  1. Cherie says

    I don’t want to get on a soap box, but just have to mention that I worked with an MD that recommends a low-carb, low glycemic, organic fruit & veggies, grass-fed & finished type diet. I’ve been following that as well as gluten-free/ACD for 8yrs and like my own results, I saw countless number of patients we worked with, resolve too many health issues to go into here. Heart disease, type II diabetis, obesity, ect. are about inflamation, too high insulin levels (caused by refined sugar & processed carbs), quality of food and lack of exercise that leads to poor health. So Please read the info from the links (one explains how the China Study is flawed) and the myth about low-carb, which NEVER meant no carbs! We saw so many patients make up there own limited versions. Also, please research the vegan diet, which can cause health issues too. I’d be happy to send info if you’d like. Sorry…just had to say something. Hope these couple links are a helpful start.



    http://www.alsearsmd.com/like-pouring-gas-on-a-wildfire/ (Dr.Sears, MD has really great recommendations at the end of the article too)

  2. Beth says

    Hi Cherie — Of course, soap boxes are welcome! That’s what I’m doing here, after all : )

    I am always a big believer in balance and never buying into too many fads. Other than that, I’m open to learning, and I’m constantly learning and adjusting my diet and trying new things. I think the way you eat sounds like it fits that approach, and if you feel great, even better! It’s hard to agree on many things diet-wise, but we can all agree that a large reason so many Americans suffer from heart disease, obesity and diabetis is because of our diet, like you said. You’re right; I totally belive that refined sugars and processed carbs are the root of many of our problems.

    Because I’m a big believer in a good diet, I did research and talk to many of my doctors about going vegan. With the right supplementation, I believe it can be a very healthy choice, and overall I feel much healthier for it. That said, it’s easy to fall into a carb-overload rut when you’re limiting your protein sources, which is why I wanted to highlight some low-carb meals that feature plants and vegetables rather than meat, for those who want the option.

    Finally, thanks for the links. I am always willing to listen to others, so feel free to share your thoughts anytime. That said, I’m also a big believer in listening to your own body, because everyone is different. As long as I feel healthy (and I do!) I am going to stick to not eating animal products. But that doesn’t mean I still am not willing to make changes and adjustments to make my diet even healthier. There is always room for improvement, right?

  3. Beth says

    Cherie — Funny, I just read the second link (Dr. Mercola’s) and it reinforced basically what I had just wrote about listening to your body and that everyone is different. It’s refreshing to hear that what works for some might not work for others, as often we are trying to defend our diets against competing regimens. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. says

    This looks amazing! I’ve never had these mushrooms before (let alone any hardly—my mom put them in spagetti sauce when we were little) but not any more. This looks really good though and I’m definitely going to have to try it!

    I love the mashed “cauliflower” too…as I just found out that I can’t do potatoes (white, sweet, you name it) any more. So, I’ll definitely be trying this out. :)

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