A Vegan from the Midwest?

Never ever EVER would I have thought that I would have any reaction to veganism that didn’t involve scoffing and feelings of shock, disgust and disdain. I’m from Minnesota – meat was always the centerpiece of dinner, our rival NFL team wears blocks of cheese on their heads, when I was sick my dad would tell me that I was not drinking enough “moo juice”, and fishing is basically the state sport. Not necessarily a breeding ground for veganism. But then came Forks Over Knives…

Forks Over Knives is a documentary that explores the harm that animal proteins can do to our body. The movie centers around two doctors who are advocating plant-based diets – Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn (both grew up on dairy farms). Dr. Campbell while in the Philippines discovered that the wealthier populations that could afford to eat meat were much more likely to get liver cancer. This lead him to continue to explore the connection between animal proteins and cancer, conducting an extremely comprehensive study of China. Dr. Esselstyn, while looking into breast cancer, found that places in the world that consumed little or no animal-based proteins had incredibly low rates of cancer. Both doctors came to the conclusion that a plant-based diet can not only prevent cancer and other health issues, but can also REVERSE damage already done. This documentary is ridiculously interesting.

I don’t see myself going completely vegan anytime soon, but I think the documentary was very compelling and I have made small adjustments. Instead of Greek yogurt for breakfast I have a grapefruit and whole grain toast with peanut butter. My lunch is almost always some sort of salad that is a random mix of veggies. I’ve switched to almond milk and Ryan and I have seriously amped up the amount of vegetables for dinner. The main concern that we both had as people who like to exercise is can you get enough protein?

Plants have protein too

Plants have plenty of protein – beans, quinoa, spinach, etc. You can find other ways to get it. If you’re interested, here’s one of my favorite recipes that we’ve been having for dinner. I made it up so not really sure what to call it – let’s go with Awesome Bowl. Feel free to omit or add vegetables to suit your tastes.


  • Garlic cloves, minced (we use 2 large ones, but we like lots of garlic)
  • Habanero pepper, finely chopped (we use about 1/8 of the pepper in the dish, Ryan adds more to his because he is nuts) (optional but really gives it a nice flavor)
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 package of baby portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can of organic black beans (less sodium in the organic)
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (optional – can substitute with water)
  • 2 zucchinis, diced
  • 1 summer squash, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 3 or 4 cups of spinach leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt, pepper, whatever seasonings you like


  • To start, put the black beans in a small pot on low. Periodically mash them to give them a more creamy consistency.
  • Start quinoa. I use a rice cooker and use the vegetable stock to cook it in. You could also cook it on the stove – see package instructions for this option.
  • In a large pot, heat some olive oil. Add the garlic, shallots and onions. Saute until translucent.
  • Add mushrooms. Let cook 3-5 minutes.
  • Add zucchini and summer squash. Add salt, pepper and whatever seasoning you like (I use Penzey’s Mural of Spices and thyme). Stir and let cook 5 minutes.
  • Add orange bell pepper. Stir and put top on. Let cook 5 minutes.
  • Add some tomatoes and hold some until the end
  • When the quinoa is finished cooking and the zucchini and summer squash are soft, add spinach leaves to the pot and mix in until spinach becomes wilted. Add remainder of tomatoes.
  • Add quinoa to pot and mix.
  • Add black beans to pot and mix.
  • Serve in a bowl with avocado on the top.



Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Food and Drink


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