Okay Olivia so far for this “vegan” thing you shared a muffin, a cake and some vegetable broth–not exactly convincing that you are getting substantive fare on a vegan diet. What about an actual meal? Alright first of all I’m not necessarily advocating a full vegan lifestyle—remember the word I discovered is “flexitarian” but in being a flexitarian I do need a good vegan main course menu item or two. Going Vegan for a main course doesn’t mean you have to rely on those expensive and often bland tasting “meat substitutes” they sell at your local grocery store. Actually I kind of love the veggie dogs but that does not a meal make. Organic, local vegetables can get expensive too—a meal at Wendy’s is much cheaper than a salad at Whole Foods. So how do you work with this to make a budget friendly, vegetable heavy and still tasty vegan dish?
Let’s start by eliminating the idea that your only option for protein replacement is going to be tofu. I love tofu. It’s delicious when prepared correctly but it’s also soy based and just like corn, we have way too much soy in our diets. Where corn fills the gap for producing cheap sugars, soy stands in many of your pre-packaged products because it is the cheapest form of complete protein to grow. It’s cheaper even than the “beef” produced by the corn chomping factory farmed cows Ronald McDonald loves to use. If you breakdown what goes into the modern American diet…it’s 50% corn and soy. That’s nuts! Again from an economic and agriculture standpoint, the high level of soyfarming we do is horrible. It’s bad for the environment. One place that loves to factory farm soy is Brazil—in land that used to be rainforest. There’s also the not so awesome fact that most soy is GMO. I don’t have a problem with GMO foods themselves; so far there hasn’t been anything to indicate that GM soy is inherently dangerous. Remember I’ve got a biotech degree. That being said, the way it’s been manipulated is so that the soy can withstand large quantities of herbicide to kill of weeds. This means your factory farm can spray much higher levels of chemicals on your food—run off in the water and the seeping of those chemicals into the soy? Not so good. All the corn is GM too but depending on the modification we’re discussing I have less of a problem with it. That’s a post for another day. Back to the main point: more chemicals sprayed on my food is not something I’m eager to embrace.
There are also the health concerns. Over-exposure to anything is going to be bad for you and soy is no exception. Soyeans are high in phytoestrogens which are perfectly fine for you in small doses. A wide array of our produce contains these chemicals which are plant based—legumes, cereal grains, fruits, vegetables and flax seeds all have phytoestrogens. Too many? Well…higher incidence of breast cancer, thyroid cancer and a lowering of testosterone levels which can be bad in men. Soy also contains phytic acid which inhibits uptake of minerals that we need and some protease inhibitors which actually make it harder for us to digest protein. Oh and overexposure? That’s thought to be the cause of the seemingly increased number of allergy sufferers now.
Don’t lose your head and go running to the doctor just yet. Don’t think you have to stop eating soy completely. Vitamin C can make you sick if you eat enough. We just need to stop mono-dieting and make sure that our bodies are fed as wide a variety of foods as possible. Since soy isolates are in over 70% of what’s on a typical supermarket shelf, I’m going to share a main course recipe that doesn’t have any soy products but is still high in protein.
Really my main point is this: if you want to get healthy, get away from processed foods. When you do eat them, read the labels and know what’s in them. I minimize my intake of what comes out of a box so I don’t worry about it as much if I want to have delicious tofu in wasabi cream sauce once a week or two.
I know most vegan food people think looks like dog food. I guess this one kind of does too but don’t go running away. I know it looks like health food but one bite of this casserole and you will be transported to Italy. It’s the sun-dried tomatoes that do it. Those little nuggets of tomato goodness can make anything taste amazing. In fact I haven’t made my sundried tomato basil bread in ages. I need to do that soon. The original recipe came from Vegan with a Vengeance but it was very simple and un-seasoned. Since I largely know people who wouldn’t eat broccoli if it were pureed and hidden in a chocolate bar, I decided I needed to jazz the recipe up a bit. I was craving pizza and this is what came out. It’s delicious and trust me one bite…your head will roll. Plus garbanzo beans contain all of the essential amino acids needed to make it a complete protein for an adult. Bear in mind that histidine, which is the 9th “essential” amino acid to create a whole protein, is typically produced by an adult body in sufficient quantities so long as the other essentials are present. In children however this is not the case so if you have a little one to feed be sure to add some whole grains to this meal OR mix it up and use some cauliflower or mushrooms in the recipe. These veggies contain histidine too.
Broccoli Tomato Garbanzo Casserole
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance Read more