Onion mushroom sauteIt is no secret that I cook and (mostly) eat vegan food. The reason is due to my partner’s diet. She has been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and 100% vegan and gluten-free for the last five years. As the cook in the house I have adapted my cooking style to meet her dietary requirements. At the same time I was working in commercial kitchens, which meant cooking with animal products. I honed techniques in these kitchens that made me a better chef. I gained a large knowledge base which I now share on this blog. I learned to cook specialty diets like gluten-free and vegan while at these jobs.

Cooking and eating vegan does not necessarily mean that what I am eating is healthy. We have, over the years, lived off of Amy’s microwaved meals and canned chili and soups. I have a deep love affair with fried foods that I cannot seem to shake. I make french fries and potato chips on a regular basis. I am also an avid bread eater, unlike the gluten-free partner. I do avoid breads that are over-processed, but a good boule or focaccia makes my mouth water.

“Healthy” diets tell you not to use oil. Cook with coconut water and coconut oil. Don’t eat fried foods. Don’t eat foods that are over cooked. Only eat organic, non-GMO foods, only eat raw. Only, only, only.

I have incorporated the idea that fresher is better into our daily eating. I plan the weekly menu and buy only enough to cook for the week. That way food is not sitting around the refrigerator and it’s not rotting away. I transform the raw ingredients into savory, mouth pleasing, belly filling dishes that we nosh on all week.

One of the go to meals we eat is brown rice spaghetti with jarred pasta sauce enhanced by garlic and crimini mushrooms sautéed in a bit of sunflower oil and margarine, then added to the sauce and served with steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Yes, it’s mostly processed foods. But it is a satisfying and complete meal as well. And the mushrooms impart their earthy goodness into the pasta sauce.

Our friends are constantly commenting that they know when they come over to eat it will be “healthy.” I don’t cheat and make animal protein for those that visit. But I’m not going to guarantee the “healthy” part. I’ll provide the flavor party and a protein-packed, nutrient-rich dinner, but healthy? I’ve also heard “I’m trying to eat healthier so I’m eating more tofu.” Tofu is not the be all and end all of a healthy diet. It is actually on the GMO no-no list. Soybeans have been genetically modified to the point of not being exactly good for you. Do you know where your favorite restaurant is sourcing their tofu? Do you know if it is organic and non-GMO? How is tofu any more healthy than a 3-bean salad (which has as much protein), or a lentil loaf? Tofu is just a more readily available meat substitute in many restaurants.

I like to incorporate different proteins into our diet, tofu being just one of them. Legumes play a large part in our diet, so do mushrooms, and salads – which might include falafel or some other bit of yummy, delicious, tasty fried food bits. One of my favorite all time snacks is onion pakoras.

So when you hear that your friends are converting to veganism, just remember: there are so many ways to be vegan, and so many different diets to follow, not all of them healthy. And there is at least one, if not several, blogs dedicated to the vegan junk food addict.