Two years ago my now cooking assistant walked into one of our classes as a student. Little did I know she was on a mission to save her husband’s life. Below is his story on how and why he adopted a vegan diet.
So there I was sitting in my cardiologist office, and after running every test under the sun, the Dr. looks at me and says, “David, you’re going to die! You’re headed down a one way street towards disaster, and if you don’t turn around and find a new path, you’re soon going to die.”
Now let me set this scene for you: I had just turned 30 years old. My wife and I were happily married with two kids (both under the age of 3), and like most every other young family, food was not the priority in life. Meals generally consisted of which drive-thru would be least likely to recognize us, and when we did cook at home it was usually a combination of the quickest foods we could get to the table (lots of frozen goods, or chicken on the grill). Anything fast and easy!
But one night I found myself lying in bed and my left arm started to go numb a bit, and my fingers started to tingle. It was pretty sporadic, and I was quite confident that I wasn’t having a heart attack, but it got my attention for sure.
The next day I got up and headed off to work. I was talking to my Dad and told him what I experienced the night before, and he told me to call right away and see if I could get in to see the doctor.
I saw the cardiologist and he looked me over – up down – left right – even did an exploratory surgical heart catheter (let me tell you, it wasn’t fun). Long story short, the test results concluded that I didn’t have a heart attach (YET), but I did have a rare heart defect from birth. It was fairly slight, and only became unmasked because of the weight my body was carrying, and the amount of work my heart had to do to support myself.
The Dr. told me I needed to quickly find a way to not only drop some weight, but more importantly to get HEART HEALTHY. He said “David, if you want to be here to see your kids grow up, and live to old age with your wife, you need to find what will work for you and get at it.”
I WAS TERRIFIED!
All I could think about was my family (who I love more than anything in the whole world), and at the same time I had all these questions floating around in my head: How was I going to go home and tell my wife this news? Where do I begin to find information? What does “heart healthy” even mean??
That night my wife and I talked, and she was awesome! She’s always been my biggest cheerleader, and advocate in everything in life, and she truly shined here!! She put her nose to the grindstone and set about finding what to do while I on the other hand did what any guy in my situation would do - I jetted off to Las Vegas on a boys trip for the weekend.
When I returned she sat me down (my life kind of felt like a mafia movie with all the “sit-downs”), and told me everything she’s read, and all the information she can find, keeps pointing back to a plant-based lifestyle. She explained to me everything it was – all the things it wasn’t – and said becoming vegan is the most heart healthy way of living! She said: It’s not just for people fighting cancer, and not just for people with heart issues, it’s for anyone who wants to live a long healthy life, and we’re going to do it together!!
I said “F that!! I’m a man! I need to eat meat! I love milk way too much to give up! Thanks, but we’re going to have to find something else because that’s not me.”
She looked at me (with that look only wives and mothers can give) and asked softly, “David do you trust me?” I said, “of course I do.” She replied, “Then SHUT UP. Eat what I feed you for the next 30 days, and don’t say a word about it until the 30 days is up!”
I said OK! What could I do? Besides I had been a yoyo dieter my whole life so what’s another 30 days of something. No sweat I thought.
Well, the transition to veganism didn’t get off to an amazing start. There were a number of recipes that met the garbage disposal, and a few meals out that we would have liked to of dined & dashed on, but we we’re committed to giving it a chance, and quickly found some new foods we really did like, and eventually found our groove. Then a crazy thing happened. About three weeks into that 30 days we were eating dinner together (I had been eating what she told me to eat, and reading what she told me to read), and I turned to my wife and said “if this is really what being vegan is, then I’m all in.” And I never turned back!
It was 2 years ago that I walked out of that Dr. office (scared, with five expensive medial prescriptions, and tipping the scales at 315lbs).
And, here I am today: More than 100 lbs lighter. A proud, healthy, vegan man!
In that first year alone my cholesterol went from 290 – 107, and I lost about 60lbs. The most amazing part about it was that my Dr. had put me under orders for zero physical activity (for almost all of that 1st year so he could monitor my heart due to the abnormality). So those numbers were strictly (I repeat STRICTLY) a result of the foods I was eating.
Now some will say: David, obviously you had those kind of results. As heavy as you were your numbers were bound to drop. Maybe so, however, one of the things I absolutely love most about being vegan is that while I achieved those kind of results, I didn’t have to diet! I didn’t have to count calories – drink shakes – count Weight Watcher points – I SIMPLY had to be vegan – Truth be told, I didn’t even really practice portion control.
Just recently, my wife and I welcomed our third child (our first “veggie-baby”), and the experience of watching her carry him as a vegan was truly magical. The difference in her pregnancy (compared to her previous ones being non-vegan) was quite unique, and I attribute some of the amazingly blessed health of our new son to the nutrients he consumed (and the foods he didn’t) while in the womb.
There is tremendous power in the foods we eat, and as you can see becoming vegan didn’t just change my life, it prolonged it!
The good people at Great Day St. Louis actually put up with these antics. I heart Matt Chambers - and really only because he finds me humorous. He has never had anyone walk off his set, much less actually strangle him on live TV. We broke some boundaries today.
Oh yeah, the food? That was good, too.
Looking for a SUPER-DUPER quick and easy one pot meal that you can serve hot (right away) or chilled? It’s incredibly versatile - take it to a picnic or serve it at a dinner party. And, the nutritional value is through the roof! We’ve added organic greens from the farmers’ market, the complete protein compliments of the quinoa add a nutty flavor and the beans round out the texture. This is a winner every time.
Quinoa with Greens and Beans
2 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed
4 C vegetable broth
1 C roasted corn
1 1/2 C red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 C kale, de-stemmed, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 C watercress, rinsed and de-stemmed
1 1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, coriander, garlic powder, granulated onion powder
s/p to taste
Cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth - about 15 minutes (bring to a boil, then simmer)
Remove from heat and gently fold in greens, beans and corn.
Once integrated add spices, mix well and serve immediately or chill in fridge.
Winter Vegetable Hash
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 C mushrooms, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small acorn squash, diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1C collard greens, sliced into ribbons
1tsp dried thyme
Place oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Begin to cook potatoes and squash for about 10 minutes until they begin to get soft. Add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes and squash are beginning to brown a bit. Mix in the collards and the thyme. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until the collards have wilted. Serve immediately.
Tonight I decided to take the night off from cooking (sort of) and ran up to the Market to grab a burger. In full disclosure, the good people at Sol Cuisine have sent me free coupons to review some more of their products. Give me free plant-based food and tell the world, er, who over reads this blog; twist my arm.
I picked up the Original Burger, because I was really in the mood for a more of a clean slate burger- nothing fancy. Plus, I kind of think this is a little more challenging to produce. You can add any vegetable, grain, nut or seed to a burger and have those flavors really come through, but when you’re dealing with just a Plain Jane patty, Jane better be ready for the party.
The patty coming out of the box, was what you’d typically expect – just a frozen round disc, about ½ thick. It went into a 375° oven (the instructions on the box said 350°) rock solid hard. The instructions also state that it will take 7-10 minutes on both side to cook. After 10 minutes it was still cool to the touch in the middle. I increased the temperature to 400°, gave it another 5 minutes and it was finished.
The first image shows what it looks like after being cooked. Not too interesting, like the Mushroom and Rice burger, but then again, Plain Jane.
One thing I noticed was the scent in the kitchen; it was delightful! I have tried a lot of veg burgers and one in particular (no names, please) has a HORRIBLE stench! So, the aromatic scent hovering around was a welcomed surprise. Although, I should have expected this as the ingredients listed on the box are pretty clean.
I took a bite just of the patty before dressing it up and though it is not bursting with flavor, it has an honest and somewhat savory and even smokiness to it. After adding my favorite toppings: a dab of ketchup, grilled onions and shiitake mushrooms all on a Rudi’s Multigrain Sandwich Flatz, I bit into the sandwich and actually smiled. The patty did not lose shape as many veggie burgers do and the flavors still came through even after I piled on my additions. Cons: there are only four to a box and not 40. Pros: there is one left after The Man had two and I stuck with one – I’m calling dibs.
Cauliflower steak, huh? I know it does not sound too appetizing, really - but if you enjoy roasted cauliflower at all, you are going to flip for this. This recipe, by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen is absolutely delightful! The earthy roasted cauli paired with the raw processed cauli florets/black olives/sundried tomato relish is a perfect pair. It’s a smart and sophisticated, yet simple dish to prepare.
My friend Ellie created this recipe ( or just list of ingredients) and wrote it on my kitch. wall. The idea is to add as much or little of any ingredient until it suits your palate.
We are in the middle of a house re-hab, so writing on the walls is really not that strange. The Man says it looks like a serial killer lives here.