The surprise of my week was how easy and delicious this plate of food was.
I’ve been changing the way I eat (and subsequently my family eats- as I refuse to become a line cook) in order to lower my cholesterol before I turn 40 next June (which is the point at which my doctor will prescribe me a statin, unless my cholesterol goes down). We stick to a mostly (but not strictly) vegetarian/vegan diet with the occasional fish, egg, or plain greek yogurt thrown in. We also keep it low sugar, low saturated fat, high fiber, high protein, and focus on lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains, as well as stick to oils low in saturated fat like olive, avocado, and canola oil. We rarely eat out, but we don’t completely restrict anything. Everything is allowed, this is just our focus. It’s been a process for me, and I try to walk a line between going too far with it, enjoying life, and sticking to my commitment to try and reverse my high cholesterol. As I get more comfortable with the changes, learn more ways of thinking, eating and cooking, I am often surprised to find I can still enjoy foods I really really love with just a few swaps. Part of my commitment to this is sharing what I cook & eat on my new Instagram Low Cholesterol with Joy, but I think when it comes to particular wins in this category of life, I’m going to start sharing the thought process & recipes here as well.
Something I love is like, a diner or a Cracker Barrel style meal. I love anything you might call comfort food or a Country dinner plate. I went to public school on the free lunch program so therefore I have a strong affection and taste for anything you might serve in a middle school cafeteria.
Yesterday I cooked a few thin slices of this vegan “chicken ham” that my husband and I buy at the Asian market in the skillet, and started to make some vegan mashed potatoes with vegan butter, nutritional yeast, & almond milk instead of the traditional dairy products that make mashed potatoes so incredible. To my surprise I found my favorite gravy packet, Louisiana brown gravy, is… vegan? I read the label and couldn’t find a single animal product on the ingredient list. It was also fat free and lower sodium than I expected. I microwaved a bag of frozen corn (It’s Corn! I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing!) and I toasted a slice of my husband’s sourdough and buttered it with vegan butter. I made all this for lunch, which was a ridiculous amount of food of course, but we all enjoyed the leftovers for dinner, along with an additional steamed bag of frozen Cauliflower.
It tasted so much like a plate of food you would buy at Cracker Barrel I about died. The one exception being, that it was better? Also, my husband’s sourdough cannot be replicated in a middle school cafeteria. I don’t want to take one iota of credit away from him for how good his bread is and how much hard work he puts into baking it for our family every week. That bread is downright sophisticated.
I think this was all so remarkable to me and I’m still kind of in shock about it because that is traditionally a very NON-vegan, high saturated fat, high cholesterol meal, and the fact that I was able to make it and truly LOVE eating it that much, was a real blessing. This whole process absolutely will not work for me if I don’t find joy and satisfaction in the food I’m eating, and I got so much out of this, that I wanted to blog about it. Here’s the recipe:
For the Mashed Potatoes:
Cube up any amount of potatoes you like. I used about 10 small yukon gold, skin on- but any potatoes will work and if you don’t like skin, that’s fine! Rough chop about 4 fat cloves of garlic as well (or just add garlic powder or canned minced garlic later- I won’t tell!) Place potatoes and garlic in a pot and fill with enough water to just cover the potatoes, add a hefty pinch of salt & boil.
After the potatoes are cooked until quite fork tender (about 15-20 minutes), add:
1 tbsp nutritional yeast,
Another pinch of salt
1/4 cup of unsweetened, unflavored plant milk,
2 tbsp of vegan butter (that’s low in saturated fat),
Black Pepper to taste
Cook gravy to package instructions in a small saucepan. For Louisiana Brown Gravy, you just need two cups of water, but there are a lot of vegan gravy packets on the market to choose from!
For the vegan “chicken ham”:
I find this at asian markets in the frozen section and defrost in the fridge overnight. It’s expensive but we use it all week long and it makes a lot of servings.
Slice the vegan ham thinly and for a chewier texture just cook on medium-high heat in a non-stick pan until edges are crispy.
For a softer texture, you could place pieces directly in the brown gravy to heat.
For the veggies:
Microwave a frozen bag of vegetables, we used corn and cauliflower, but any will do. Carrots, peas, grean beans, broccoli- it would all work.
Add vegan butter & salt & pepper while still hot.
Serve it all on a plate with a side of your favorite bread (or not) and cover in gravy!
Leslie, aka The Way at Home Mom