Having quality mushrooms in your repertoire will add new dimensions to your vegan life. Savory and grounding, they give you that satisfied feeling that some seek when replacing meat. And having been used in natural medicine for thousands of years, we reap multiple rewards for having mushrooms in our diets—immunologically, neurologically, energetically, and even spiritually. Mushrooms are complex organisms—no roots, seeds, or leaves, they seem neither plant nor animal, but otherworldly.
The studies on each variety are deep and fascinating. Medicinal varieties are known to have a dual-directional "special intelligence" when it comes to their healing properties, an ability to "know" how they are needed in our bodies, for example, either to be stimulating to a weak immune system or to subdue an overactive nervous response. And with DNA 80% identical to our own, medicinal mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, maitake, and chaga are used very efficiently by our immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems.
David Wolfe and Paul Stamets are mycologists to follow to learn more about supplementing with medicinal mushrooms. General mushroom benefits include:
•Vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, D.
•Quality (bio-available) essential amino acids (aka proteins).
•Iron, potassium, selenium, phosphorous, copper.
•Increased immunity against viruses, bacteria, pollution, and molds.
•Energy balancing, increased endurance. •Antioxidants, anti-cancer, anti-inflammation.
Okay, nutritionally beneficial, CHECK. Now on to eating and taste. I was recently craving something "meaty," but stood grossed out at the processed faux-meat selection at the store. I don't like single item foods that contain 1,000 ingredients. I waited out the craving and a few days later took a photo of this amazing mushroom bloom near a friend's house. That week, I found the same mushroom at the Hollywood Farmer's Market booth LA Funghi (did the universe bring it to me?! Is this the spiritual effects of mushrooms?!). It's called "Chicken of the Woods." WHOOOOAAAA. Check out that texture, right? We marinated it in a little olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and mustard, and sauteed it in a bit of water. Craving 100% satisfied.
It's in season, so it's a staple in our fridge right now. Last night, I made a chicken-of-the-woods noodle soup:
A google search for "gourmet mushrooms" and your zip code will find you the real "mycophiles" in your hood. And your local grocer will carry at least brown and white caps or portobellos (great for grilling and sandwhiches) and shiitake (easy addition to miso soups). Pick only the ones that look fresh and free from wet spots and mold. You can even buy grow-at-home kits now.
Happy eating, happy living!
New to veganism? Make sure you don't burn out on sugar, carbs, and soy by using this basic shopping list as a guide at the grocery store. Starred items should be staples:
Greens need to be a significantportion of your diet for fiber, iron, calcium, detox, and alkalinity. Start with these, and try eating 2 salads a day:
-kale (especially dino and curly)
-romaine (counts as a deep green!)
-parsley or cilantro
OILS & GOOD FATS:
You NEED good fats. They carry 9 cal/g while proteins and carbs have 4. This means sustained energy, plus hormone support, and essential nutrients.
-organic, cold-pressed olive oil
-organic, cold-pressed flax/hemp oil
-raw nuts & seeds (almonds, cashews, sunflower, pumpkin)
-avocado (eat as many as you want a day)
Sweet, non-sweet, and fatty fruits—with seeds is best. Seedless = hybridized.
-olives (sundried best, not in a can)
-cacao (raw chocolate: look for powder, nibs, or whole beans)
-tomatoes -cucumber -all berries (don't forget dried goji berries)
apples -oranges, grapefruit (and eat your citrus seeds, too!)
-hemp (seeds, powder; contains essential fatty acids; sprinkle on salads or blend in smoothies)
-hummus (so many kinds! Become a connoiseur)
-raw almond butter-*raw nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin, sunflower)
CARBS (when buying carbs, look for sprouted grain breads or tortillas, sometimes in the cold section):
-Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas (best toasty...we spin/flip ours over our stove's open flame, ready in seconds to be filled with hummus, greens, olive oil, and sea salt)
-Ezekiel sprouted grain bread (so many kinds)
-rice (brown is more nutritious, but also more glutenous than basmati white)
You may as well start now! These are essential for building good bacteria in the gut, especially B12. Find these in the cold section:
-raw sauerkraut (throw in a nori wrap with avocado, Vegenaise, greens, and salt!)
-Bio-K non-dairy "yogurt" (expensive, but do it once in a while)
-coconut kefir (all you need is a TBS/day)
SWEETS & SWEETENERS:
-dark chocolate bars
-Nutritional yeast (great for B12. Use like you would parmesan, or in salads and soups for that extra hearty flavor. We put this on everything)
-Braggs Aminos (every health food store has it. Savory salty flavor; easiest salad dressing: olive oil, Braggs, nutritional yeast)
-Himalayan sea salt (very important investment. See why)
-Tofutti (non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese; original flavor is our fave)
-Daiya cheese (best tasting, and NO dairy/soy! Made from cassava root...and it melts!)
-rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk
Start with at least one of the following:
-spirulina powder (we like Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica in salads and smoothies)
-chlorella tablets (if our 6 y.o. likes to chew these for fun, you can certainly handle it, or put them in a smoothie)
-pick a protein: scoop of almond butter/almonds/cashews/hemp
-big spoonful cacao powder
-pick a green(s): spirulina/chlorella/mint/parsley
-sweetener: agave or dates -ice...and BLEND!
-toasted Ezekiel tortilla with hummus, greens, and sprinkled with olive oil, nutritional yeast, spirulina, and sea salt
-kale salad (recipe here) topped with tomato and cucumber
-Apples and almond butter
-Avocado and sea salt
-Goji/cashew/cacao bean trail mix
-Cucumber and sea salt
-Quinoa with chopped parsley/green onions, olive oil, braggs, garlic
-Romaine salad with a dollop of dijon, olive oil, sea salt, and agave
This is way easier than I thought. Don't worry about exact measurements, just experiment with the following basic idea:
Soak cashews or almonds, blend with probiotic, let sit.
Here's what I did:
1. Soak raw cashews in water for at least 2 hours. The longer you soak, the softer they become, the better they blend. If you use almonds instead, soak overnight and then pinch each one to peel off the skins.
2. Drain the nuts and blend with sea salt and a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste. Add just enough water— a tiny bit at a time—to make it blend. Optional: add nutritional yeast, garlic, herbs, etc, to taste.
3. Add a probiotic element. This could be a spoonful of organic miso paste, a TBS of coconut kefir, or the powder inside a probiotic capsule. Blend gentlyfor a couple of seconds (it's best not to "chop up" the microscopic culture strains).
Some people skip the next cheese-cloth step and just put the mixture into a boiled-clean glass jar. But we did this:
4. Hang a double-bagged cheese-cloth inside a jar and pour in the mixture. Fold in the inside bag and lay a small weight on top to press out any liquid, we used a little rock!
5. Cover the jar with a cap or plate and place it in a room-temperature spot for 24-48 hours. We actually put our jar in the dehydrator set on 100 degrees (low) to speed up the process overnight.
In the end, you can use the liquid collected at the bottom of the jar as the probiotic element in the next batch. You'll know it's done because it will smell "cheesy." The longer you leave it, the more sour (fermented) the cheese will be. Pack the drained mixture into a glass container, let cool in the fridge, and enjoy! Optional: top with dried oregano and pepper flakes.