Imperfectly Vegan: We’ve Come So Far in Three Months – Dr. Plastic Picker
 

Imperfectly Vegan: We’ve Come So Far in Three Months

| Posted in Vegan Dreams - Less plastic, More plants, More Fiber

The beginning.

July 21, 2020

by drplasticpicker

When I first met my environmental mentor Dr. Bruce Bekkar, we met at True Foods in Fashion Valley. I met him with Dr. Dave Niesen who is a young ED physician and in charge of wildfire responses. It was the retired ob-gyn climate activisit founding member of Surfrider, the young blond ED physician wildfire expert, and me – middle aged litter picking pediatrician and self proclaimed Dr. Plastic Picker. It was at a vegan restaurant and at that point I was not #tryingvegan. We met in one of those surreal moments ala Matrix, where Bruce Bekkar looked at us younger physicians. Bruce had given ground rounds 10 years ago at our HMO on climate change, and the profound lack of interest among the physicians was profound. And now here we were, two younger physicians from complete opposite ends of the healthcare organization had separately found him. He looked at us across the table and said, “I’ve been waiting for you two for 10 years.” And this is when this group of concerned climate activists was formed to try to move health care organizations within our region to a more sustainable model. But one of the most powerful memories I had during this vegan meal at this vegan restaurant with these two already vegan physicians, was how non-judmental their veganism was. They recommended a certain tofu broth dish. I was intrigued. I ate it, and mostly it was the conversation that I came for. We were planning, and dreaming and discussing the climate. But I left with a normal sized restaurant bill, a sense of wellness and I felt light but also full – if that makes sense.

Then I met a vegan anesthesiologist and his vegan toddler, and I remember standing in the hallway chatting with the vegan anethesiologist and my imprefectly vegan colleague Dr. AF. We talked about plant based eating and veganism, and food labels. What was a flexitarian? What was plant-based? And again, I was amazed at how positive and non-judgmental my new friend the vegan anesthesiologist was.

With those memories, our family continues on our imperfectly vegan journey. I made vegan mac and cheese from a friend’s suggested recipe but I didn’t have nutritional yeast (which gives vegan cooking a cheesy savory flavor) so I added in an old package of parmesan cheese from a long-ago pizza delivery order. And that is okay. We have been eating more lentils and beans, but Mr. Plastic Picker still makes his premade bagged plastic salads and forgot and put on the bacon. And that was okay. And oftentimes I wander into the lunchroom and Nurse L has something delicious cooking and I dig in, and then I realize OMG it’s pork. And I think, it’s still good and I don’t want it to go to waste. And that is the beauty of #tryingvegan #imperfectlyvegan.

We began our vegan dreams in early May when I blogged about my vegan dreams https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-plastic-pickers-vegan-dreams/. As I was sitting eating the Chinese restaurant salt and pepper chicken wings in our lunch room (I only ate two), I was laughing so happily and telling Dr. Dear Friend, “But I’m supposed to be vegan!” But it was very rare event, and I reazlied that this #tryingvegan and #imperfectlyvegan dreaming has been an amazing journey these three months. And it’s been so easy because of non-judgemental models and allowing ourselves to be imperfect. We made vegan mac and cheese from raw cashew nuts, and it was a joyous night. I wanted to list 10 hard-wired vegan changes we have made since beginning our #tryingvegan journey three months ago.

  1. Precooked Beans and Lentils in the Fridge: I’ve learned to cook beans and lentils and make hummus. I always have precooked lentils or beans in a reused plastic soup container in the fridge. This has been helpful so that I can add some vegan protein to our meals. I’ve used it on sauteed vegetables mostly, or as my protein in the morning instead of an egg or luncheon meat. Our daughter does this also.
  2. Oatly Milk and Almond Milk Mostly: Our family has had fun trying the different non-dairy milks. Hemp milk was a bust. Macademia milk was good in the instapot oatmeal but very gritty. Mostly it’s our tween daughter and I that drink the nondairy milk, but the males in the family will partake sometimes. We’ve settled mostly on Oatly Milk and Almond milk. Mr. Plastic Picker still gets a gallon of organic milk a week, but definitely the nondairy milk is part of our weekly shopping trips now and we buy a lot less dairy milk and cheeses.
  3. Beyond Beef and Beyond Sausage: We really like their products. It’s still a lot of calories relatively so I’m trying to limit the amount of the Beyond Beef and Beyond Sausage, because we all eat too much protein. But the family loves their products especially as I’ve learned how to easily pair and season it, and combine it with zucchini, onions, red sweet peppers and tomatoes. We will often use up whatever leftover vegetables we have in the fridge. It’s our typical Sunday night dinner now. After we come back from the organic grocer, that is what the kids want and it’s easy and we pair in with corn torillas. We buy usually one package of each a week.
  4. Tofu: I grew up eating tofu and my grandmother used to make it from scratch. I’m not sure when I stopped eating tofu, but we’ve started again. This feels very natural for me. We usually get at least 1 package, and I’ll use it in Miso soup or a curry dish or try one of the new vegan recipes like taco crumble that requires tofu.
  5. Onions: My in-laws always have a large sack of onions in their room. Again, I grew up eating a lot of onions but I’m not sure when I stopped. I think I just didn’t know how to cook them. But there is nothing really to cooking onions, it’s so easy. My mother-in-law has a very robust garden and tons of organic homegrown tomatoes. I’ve taken to just slicing up 1/2 onion and some of our tomatoes from the garden, and sauteeing with garlic salt. It’s an easy side dish and gives us the savory flavor to replace what meat used to provide. Onions are so good for you! They are also so good for the earth. Did you know that onions have tons of vitamin C? This is important to help with iron absorption so it make sense that we should pair onions with beans and iron rich foods. Onions also help with lycopene absorption that is in red vegetables like tomatoes. So when I throw in onions with tomatoes, who knew I was increasing our family’s absorption of this important nutrient? And onions have such a small water footprint, only about 1 gallon per ounce of onion. Compare that to a soy burger which is about 20 gallons per ounce or pasta which is 15 gallons of water per ounce.
  6. Vegan Cheeses and Vegan Mayos: We have been having fun exploring the vegan section of our local organic grocer. It’s amazing, that their vegan “dairy” section is small but was almost sold out! This is a good thing because it indicates we are part of a consumer driven movement for more vegan foods. We have tried vegan mayonaise based on avocado oil. That one was good. This week it’s the same brand but grapeseed soil. That one is good as well. I think we’ll buy the grapeseed oil one from now on, because it’s a byproduct of the wine making process. I do remember that avocados in general require a lot of water to grow. We are also trying different vegan cheeses for fun. The last one our son coulnd’t even tell was vegan!
  7. Vegan Taco Crumbles: I also wanted to list some of our go-to recipes. This way I can find them easily on the internet when I need them. This tofu based taco crumble we’ve had three times, and the kids love it. Goes well with our corn tortillas we always buy (that are local and palm-oil free and oragnic), and with cabbage and our garden tomatoes https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/vegan-tofu-taco-crumbles/
  8. Home-Made Vegan Burgers: Amazingly I’ve made two verstions of home-made vegan burgers which were big hits with the kids. One was chipolte-adobo black bean burgers https://drplasticpicker.com/the-road-to-fise-homemade-vegan-chipolte-adobo-black-bean-burgers/and another one was lentils and onions. I haven’t settled on one that is perfect yet. But I’ve frozen the black bean burger one, and it made another meal for the next week. The delightful thing about the chipolte-adobo black bean burger recipe is that my sister gave me her left over chipolte-adobo paste years ago, and I’m finally using it up! So this is a food waste project as well.
  9. Vegan Mac and Cheese: I made this yesterday and this is definitely a winner! Winner winner non-chicken dinner LOL. The original recipe is from Meghan Gilmore and here is her wesbite https://detoxinista.com/best-vegan-mac-n-cheese/?fbclid=IwAR1YYOahFgTaxluwrDg2t6BtcBHvc8CSNPfYSTaDvFWEBBa9nDDQNGMeq20. Thank you Dr. Dare Wreck for referring me to this recipe. I’m posting this so that I can refer back when I’m cooking!

The BEST Vegan Mac and CheeseINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water for 2 hours, if desired)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or yellow)
  • 16 ounces Elbow or shell pasta of choice (gluten-free, if needed)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika , for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cashews if you soaked them. (This makes them easier to blend.)
  • While the pasta is cooking, combine the cashews, lemon juice, water, salt, nutritional yeast, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, cayenne (if using), and mustard in a high speed blender and blend until silky smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add 2-4 more tablespoons of water and blend again.
  • Once the pasta is tender, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cheese sauce. Season to taste and serve warm!

NUTRITIONCalories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 35IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2.5mg

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water for 2 hours, if desired)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or yellow)
  • 16 ounces Elbow or shell pasta of choice (gluten-free, if needed)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika , for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cashews if you soaked them. (This makes them easier to blend.)
  • While the pasta is cooking, combine the cashews, lemon juice, water, salt, nutritional yeast, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, cayenne (if using), and mustard in a high speed blender and blend until silky smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add 2-4 more tablespoons of water and blend again.
  • Once the pasta is tender, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cheese sauce. Season to taste and serve warm!

NUTRITIONCalories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 35IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2.5mg

10. Just Imperfect Vegan Food and Vegan Journey Fun: And this is the most important part. It’s been three months of fun for our family. Every week we have some fun new vegan and usually plastic free food project, which brings us closer together. Tonight, I’m excited to try a new cauliflower chicken wing recipe. I just showed Mr. Plastic Picker and he is excited!

#tryingvegan and #imperfectvegan is something actually much easier than picking up plastic (which is not that hard also). But eating a more plant-based and planet-friendly diet is very impactful for the environment. After reading Drawndown and watching 2040, I began to more fully understand why my environmental mentors and friends are vegan and why it was important that our first climate meeting was at True Foods a vegan restaurant https://drplasticpicker.com/my-path-is-more-clear-what-drawdown-and-2040-taught-me-about-climate-change/. And with this I was talking to a family yesterday and my teenage patient has been avoiding red meat, and she tells her family she is a “pescatarian.” She eats turkey and chicken and fish. Rather than being stuck on labels, I reassured her mother that it was fine to eat less red meat and certainly it was okay for her health and great for plantary health. I truly didn’t understand nutrition and the benefits of a vegan and plant based diet before going on this journey. I was able to counsel them about the amount of protein she needed in her diet, and the importance of eating a varied diet which includes lots of colorful vegetables and legumes as well. I gave them ideas from our own journey, and my patient gave me some ideas. Mother and daughter and I left that patient encounter all having learned something from eachother.

And that is how Dr. Plastic Picker and my family is approaching our imperfect vegan journey, with open hearts and open minds. Only light can drive out darkness. And I told her mother that with each beautiful aparagus and legume meal that her daughter is choosing to make and share with the family, is an act of love for the earth and for herself and for her family. #bethechangeyouseektomake

It was delicious. Next time I’m going to add broccoli on top with some garnish of paprika like Drdarewreck’s instagram account!
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