I’m baaaaaaack! And I have news. Life-altering news. News that changes everything. News that explains my unannounced, yet totally necessary 8-month blogging hiatus. I’ll give you a hint: Lately, I’ve been craving strange food combos like avocado ice cream, sweet potato burritos and garbanzo bean cupcakes. And that's because I'm...I'm...vegan! (Sorry mom and dad...not pregnant yet!)
It may seem from far left field, but, in fact, since mid February I’ve converted over to a vegan and mostly processed-free lifestyle. (What??!!!)
How does a lover of all things butter and bacon find herself ordering oatmeal at brunch? What on earth would propel a notorious fruit and veggie HATER to scarf down carrots, beets and greens by the pound? With a smile I might add? And how can a self-proclaimed cheese connoisseur dare consider replacing her beloved mozzarella with cheese made of cashews and seeds?
Well, let me tell you a little story.
It all started one snowy flu season day when the hubs and I found ourselves complaining to our doctor once again about our laundry list of health problems, from acid reflux and allergies to high cholesterol and every cold/flu virus in between.
Our doctor, who’s healed himself of multiple diseases and many of our issues through a natural, plan-based lifestyle instead of pill popping, told us we might want to consider nutrition as a pathway to health. Go figure!
He handed us a documentary called Eating, a book called The China Study and a page of website references to get us started down the right track. But with words like “vegan,” “raw” and “no milk” popping out all over the place, I did what any self-respecting carnivore would do – rolled my eyes and shoved it all in a drawer with a “forget that! I’m not giving up pizza!”
And so the holidays came. We downed mountainous amounts of buffalo chicken cheese dip, stuffed our faces with Polish pierogis, and popped buttery Christmas confections like pills. And we felt the way we always do. Like crap.
So, after we packed away the holiday decorations, we unearthed the documentary. And let’s just say, the truths that were revealed about nutrition were so shocking, so eye-opening, I almost choked on a mouthful of mac ‘n cheese. (For anyone that’s interested, the new movie Forks Over Knives is an excellent, more updated take on the same subject.)
And so, Pandora’s box was pried wide open, and I became a research hound, scouring the web, documentaries and anything I could get my hands on about nutrition and food. And statistic after statistic, the truth was all too real: meat and dairy are just not good for you. Especially not in the large amounts most Americans like myself considered normal. (For far too many reasons to fit into this post lest it turn into a novel. That is for another time, friends.)
So, in the dead of winter, while friends and family shook their heads in disapproval, we stopped eating meaty, melty comfort food and started scarfing down smoothies and salads. And more salads. And more smoothies. And copious amounts of hummus. After all, what else do vegans eat?
Desperate for delicious food, vegan blogs became my life source. Then I bought a couple vegan cookbooks. And a juicer. And slowly, but surely, I began learning to cook all over again. My food processor has never seen so much action and my knives are delightfully dulled thanks to all the crunchy colorful produce that fills our fridge.
And although we may be a mere dreadlock away from full hippy-dom, we feel absolutely amazing. We’ve both lost weight (I’ve lost over 20 lbs to date) have replaced our after-meal groggyness with bounds of energy, and we’ve managed to dodge EVERY cold and flu that’s infected our office. That is a miracle in iteself, let me tell you. My acid reflux has improved without meds, Luke’s allergies have subsided, and I’m guessing that when we get his cholesterol re-checked, we’ll both be floored.
And the best part? We both LOVE the way we’re eating now. I’m finding some truly delicious, natural plant-based recipes, and I’m not sure I could ever go back to my old meat ‘n cheese ways.
But my blog, well, I guess in all this lifestyle changing, cheese denying enlightenment, was begrudgingly moved to the back burner. First, I had to figure out what the heck I was doing. Where I stood. What kind of food I was going to live off. You know, the basics. Then I could get back to sharing recipes with the world.
But just what on earth do I do with the 20 or so posts I have left on this blog, none of which are vegan? And far from it at that! I’ve already made all the food. Taken and tweaked hundreds of photos. Should I just trash them? What a waste! But would I be a hypocrite for posting recipes I don’t eat myself? Can you see my dilemma?
After a long mental battle (seriously, I’ve written and re-written this post about 12 times, each with a different outcome), I’ve decided that I will post the rest. Because not everyone is a vegan. And even I cannot be as strict as my health would want me to be. A taste here and there is inevitable in today’s world. And to stay sane.
But most importantly, because this blog was such a huge part of my life for over a year, and I can’t bear to just throw away months of work. Those recipes and photos were practically my diary, and just browsing through them brings back memories of meals made with the hubs and new experiences in the kitchen.
But I do have plans for a new vegan blog. Because I think that along this journey through veggie land, I found my real food passion. I just have to learn my way around the beans and legumes a bit more. But for now…there will be lots of deliciousness coming your way.
Like these quesadillas. And while they may not be vegan, they are vegetarian, so that's a plus. Filled with fresh chopped Portobellos, shiitakes and fontina cheese, they’re heavenly and far better than your average chicken and cheddar.
Aside from the somewhat tedious shroom chopping, they’re a breeze to throw together, and taste wonderful with a side of salsa or guac. They remind me of a delicious wild mushroom quesadilla I had in Santa Monica. Definitely a tasty way to change things up. I suggest you double or triple the batch, because at only 58 calories for two wedges, you can afford (and will want) to eat seconds and thirds. (And fourths and fifths!)
I know I definitely have plans on making these again. Only this time…I’ll use a little soy cheese.
Portobello, Shiitake & Fontina Quesadillas
Cooking Light, MAY 2007
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 2 wedges)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 1/2 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom caps
4 cups finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (8-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded fontina cheese, divided (Or Daiya non-dairy mozzarella style shreds)
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and salt; sauté 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates. Remove mushroom mixture from pan; keep warm.
Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Return pan to heat; add 1 tortilla. Cook 1 minute; turn tortilla over. Arrange about 1/3 cup mushroom mixture over half of tortilla; top with 1 tablespoon cheese. Fold in half; cook 30 seconds on each side or until cheese melts and tortilla is golden. Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas, mushroom mixture, and cheese. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.
Nutrition Info: Calories 58 (48% from fat); Fat 3.1g (sat 0.7g,mono 0.3g,poly 0.1g); Protein 3.8g; Cholesterol 4mg; Calcium 0.7mg; Sodium 232mg; Fiber 2.1g; Irom 0.7mg; Carbs 5.5g.