Why I No Longer Search for Substitutes When Eating Plant-Based

Sharing my whole food, plant-based journey and what I am doing on a weekly basis that is making the lifestyle work for me.

Simple and green Christmas table setting idea using dark wood paper as a table cloth.

When I first started eating whole food, plant-based, I spent a good deal of time trying to find recipes that would substitute or replace meat, eggs and dairy – like veggie burgers, flax eggs and tofu.

I made plant-based lasagna and all kinds of whole food, plant-based casseroles. They all tasted fine and some very good that I still make, but over time, I am finding I prefer to eat simpler. Maybe it has to do with becoming more familiar and liking the flavors of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

For my birthday, I bought myself a vegan cookbook called, Vegan Boards. The cover and layout of the book really got my attention as I like eating a little bit of everything for meals. To eat the rainbow and not get too caught up in finding substitutes for the food I used to eat.

Vegan Boards
Photo: Vegan Boards

Instead of finding substitutes for a standard diet, I have begun to re-think what a delicious meal for me looks like.

  • Does it have to be something made from a recipe, like a casserole? Does it have to have tofu or tempeh to be worthy of a whole food, plant based meal?
  • Why can’t it be a bowlful of cooked grains, veggies and a piece of crusty whole wheat sourdough bread or an entire meal eaten from a board full of fresh whole foods in interesting colors, flavors, textures, and aromas. Little or no cooking needed, just prep work.

I find I like eating this way.

I also found that keeping an open mind and experimenting with flavors or taking a part of one recipe and adding it to another when I think the two will taste perfect together. I have become bolder in what I do and am no longer sticking to a written recipe 100%.

When I do this, I am often surprised at how well some things taste together.

For instance, when I used leftover Artichoke & Spinach Stuffing I had for dinner one night this week and added it to a baked potato the following night, the stuffing tasted even better on the potato than it did on the mushroom. If I didn’t experiment or try ingredient options, I think cooking could become boring.

So now when I use the word “substituting” when making a recipe, it is no longer to find a substitute for say chicken in a recipe. It is more about replacing an ingredient I don’t like with one that I do.

WFPB TIP: When planning what you are going to eat every week, take a step back and ask yourself, what does a delicious meal looks like for you.

For Ed, this would be a steak, lobster, asparagus and mashed potatoes. For me it is soup, a salad and crusty whole-wheat sourdough bread.

If it is a multi-course dinner for you, than that is what you need to eat. If it is soup and a sandwich, then start looking for sandwich and soup recipes.

Forget the notion of what a breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal traditionally looks like and eat in a more natural way, both in the source of where the food came from and what feels more natural for you to eat.

Books I Am Currently Reading

Plant based books and cookbooks I am reading

Vegan Boards – By Kate Kasbee

I bought this as a birthday gift from me to me. :-) I like that at a glance, I get ideas on how to arrange whole, plant-based foods in pretty ways to eat, not just for entertaining, but to make into a meal.

How Not To Diet Cookbook – By Michael Greger, M.D.

I have had this book for a while and have gone through it once. I tabbed the recipes I want to try. I made Artichoke Stuffed Spinach from the book this week. I am sharing the recipe below.

We Are What We Eat – By Alice Waters

I read about this book in a book review and decided it was worth a look. I borrowed it from my local library. It is a short book that I just started. It lays out a convincing case for changing the way we eat and makes one realize that we take food for granted in so many ways.

What I Have Been Eating For Dinner This Week

Over the last year, I have amassed quite a plant based recipe collection that I add to every week. I also purge the recipes I tried and didn’t like as well as scour whole food, plant based cookbooks and websites to find recipes to try, mix and match to create food that tastes great.

And as I mentioned above. I find I prefer to eat bowl creations and boards of fresh veggies, fruit and nuts for meals, especially now that it is summer and I don’t want to turn the oven on.

This week I made two Portabello mushroom recipes where I did have to turn my oven on, but it was worth it, as both recipes were good.

There were 4 mushrooms in the package I bought. Since it is only Ed and I, we had enough for two dinners. I didn’t make the same recipe the second night though.

  • Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Portobellos recipe is below.

And one more thing…

The Joy of Eating Outdoors – Food Tastes Better Outside

Having fun with kids on a budget

Here in SC, it has not been a terribly hot summer so far. I am loving that I can eat outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine most days.

There is an abundance of wonderful seasonal fruits and veggies at the farmers market and supermarket. No wonder July is picnic month!

Food tastes better outside – if the weather permits, try eating at least one meal a day outside. I promise it will taste better when eaten outdoors.

Artichoke & Spinach Stuffed Portobello Recipe

Artichoke & Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

This is an adaption of a recipe I found in The How Not to Diet Cookbook by Michael Greger, M.D.
If you like artichoke dip, you will surely like this healthier and flavorful version that you can use as a topping on portobellos mushrooms or baked potatoes.
If the portobellos are large, one is usually enough for a meal. If they are smaller than a hamburger, you may want to make two per person.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course, WFPB, Whole Food Plant Based
Keyword: Mushrooms, Portobello Mushrooms,, Stuffed Mushrooms, Vegan dinners
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 117kcal

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces spinach fresh or frozen, lightly steamed and cooled
  • 1 cup white beans canned, salt-free – drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp scallion or shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts drained or a 10 ounce pkg. of frozen artichokes, cooked and drained.
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms stems removed
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or balsamic
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Optional hot sauce to taste

Instructions

  • Squeeze the excess moisture from the cooled spinach and wet aside.
  • In a food processor, combine the white beans, scallion, and garlic and pulse until finely minced. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso paste, and black pepper and process until smooth and well blended. Add the artichokes and pulse until they are chopped. Add the spinach and pulse to combine. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  • Arrange the mushroom caps, stem side down, on the prepared pan. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, onion powder, and black pepper in a small bowl and brush it on the mushrooms. Bake for 10 minutes to slightly soften the portobellos. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside until the mushrooms are cool enough to handle. Gently flip the mushrooms and stuff them with the filling. Return the an to the oven and bake the stuffed mushrooms for 15 minutes, or until hot throughout.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and serve the stuffed mushroom immediately. If you like food with some heat, add a sprinkle or two over the cooked mushroom.

Nutrition

Serving: 4 | Calories: 117kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 78mg | Potassium: 1050mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 3g | Calcium: 119mg

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15 Comments

  1. Diane: I have been gluten free for 42 years now – due to celiac disease, and I do have somewhat of a plant based diet. But the plant based diet you follow is not gonna work for me since I have IBS in combination with celiac disease – and many of the items you eat are not gluten friendly and/or cause a lot of bowel upset with bloating, gas, and just plain discomfort. And unfortunately I cannot eat the bread, but I do find myself eating less and less meat – substituting black beans (which cause less gas) and a lot of peanut butter. If I eat “roughage” is has to be during the day when I’m up and around. Congrats to you on finding your niche and sticking with it. I cannot say NO to all meats since I do like a good steak on occasion – but who can afford that very often?! Thanks for your info.

    1. Hi Becky – Wow, you are a pioneer in the gluten-free world. :-) and are not letting it get you down. I am sure you could write a book about living with it. Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods. I love the Santa Cruz brand – the dark roast. Yum-O I can’t keep it in the house or I would eat the whole jar in a few sittings. The way gluten makes you feel, I have the same problem with dairy. It is just awful which made it easier to give up many years ago when I finally figured it out. Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great weekend and maybe enjoy a good steak for dinner.

  2. I appreciate the new recipe you shared this week. Made it for dinner last night and it was so good. Having computer problems and it is self erasing unless I keep this very short. Have a great week.

  3. Diane,
    I am thrilled you are promoting whole food plant based eating – if more people embraced this way of eating – our hospitals would be just about empty. Dr. Michael Greger and his website: Nutrition Facts.org as well as his How Not to Die book and cookbook are some of the best resources for nutrition. His ‘Daily Dozen’ phone app keeps one in check to assure the highest nutrient profile while eating whole food plant based – check it out here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist
    Susanne M. Luchetti, MS,RD, LDN

    1. Hi Susanne – Sorry for my delay in my rely to your comment. I love Dr. Greger!!! I think he is the best source for everything nutrition. I have been following him since his first book was published where he tells the story of his grandmother on death’s door and the remarkable change in her two week after a stay at Pritikin where she ate a healthy diet. Good whole plant-based foods are the best medicine. I agree with you – if more people embraced it, the population would be so much healthier.

  4. I could not agree more with your conclusion about how to adjust to a diet different than what most of us grew up with. Imitation foods seldom satisfy because we expect them to duplicate the original. Avoiding these fake foods forces you to explore a world of new foods and combinations and flavors.

    Miso paste will last forever. Cooking it destroys the valuable beneficial probiotics, so for soups it can be added when you are ready to serve. I use it in salad dressings and even to add to unsalted peanut butter on a sandwich. The classic and impressive American book on miso gives recipes for using it in all kinds of vegetarian dishes –soups, spreads, sauces, vegetable combinations, dips, pickles, even desserts. It’s been around since 1976. https://www.amazon.com/Book-Miso-Savory-Fermented-Seasoning/dp/1983517399/

    Thank you for sharing what you are learning. It’s a help to all of us.

    1. Hi Barbara – Sorry for my delay in replying to your comment. Thanks for the miso tips. OMG! I will have to try adding Miso to unsalted peanut butter – that sounds very good! I just used it to make my salad dressing for lunch. I haven’t read the book you suggested, but I will check it out.

  5. Yay!! I love that you’ve found what works for YOU!! That’s so important. As I believe the stress of menus isn’t good for our digestion. ;)

    We’ve been eating whole local/organic foods for years, but for the last 2 1/2 years, we’ve been eliminating all wheat and most grains (we have GF oatmeal once a week) and no dairy except the occasional grating of a good hard cheese over a sauteed vegetable medley. At first, I tried to make things like we used to have, but I nixed that idea and simply embraced the goodness of vegetables as they are, mostly steamed because that’s better for the thyroid, other than the occasional salad. We do pay attention to what and when we eat when according to Ayurvedic tradition (which I’m just learning). And like you, we eat the rainbow. Somehow that just makes it all the more fun. You might find us eating lasting night’s veggies with a poached egg for breaky and for sure our breakfasts aren’t the American “dessert” variety nor smoothies. ;)

    Cheers to good health and vitality!!

  6. The stuffed mushrooms look wonderful. I love the way vegetables taste in chinese stir fried meals. Do you ever order stir fries? Its been a while but a local chinese restaurant used to have a subsection on their menu titled “Fussy Outside Eaters” (hilarious!)…they offered stir fried vegetables with No Oil. I am guessing they just made a cornstarch slurry with broth.

    1. Hi Michelle – I like stir fries, but stopped eating them because of the oil. I think your local Chinese restaurant was pretty smart coming up with the Fussy Outside Eaters entree. I would order it. :-)

  7. Hi Diane, I definitely want to try this but I would hate to buy miso paste for one recipe. Will the taste be altered if omitted? What is miso paste?
    Thank you, Nancy

    1. I hear you, Nancy! I just bought miso paste (found that most grocery stores don’t carry it) and all I needed was a teaspoon. The recipe said it was a key ingredient. The 16 oz. container was about $8! No idea what I’ll do with it all. . .

      1. Hi Ali – You can use miso paste anywhere you would normally use salt. I use it on wraps, soups, on corn on the cob. You can thin it with some warm water if needed. There are a few different types of miso – by strength. I like the white the best as it is milder.

    2. Hi Nancy – I use white miso paste which is milder. Miso is popular in WFPB recipes as it has a lower sodium count per teaspoon than table salt and has benefits for gut health. At first I was skeptical about using it, but now I use it all the time in soups and any recipe that needs some salt to bring out the flavor of the dish. If you do end up buying it, it does last a long time. If you prefer to not use it, then I would try using a little sea salt to taste in place of it in recipes – like Herbamare. It is sold at most heath food stores and online. It tastes good on everything. When I do use this, I make sure to only use is sparingly. You can see what the package looks like here: https://amzn.to/2UKRwmt