I Secretly Served My Family Plant-Based Meals and Here’s What Happened
We have always been omnivores, eating a mostly healthy diet including vegetables, fish, eggs, dairy and meat. Then I watched Forks Over Knives and decided to go fully plant-based. I wanted my family too, as well. So I did it without telling them. I secretly served vegan meals for a week. They had no idea. Call me the Plant Pusher! I enjoyed every minute of it.
By the closing credits of Forks Over Knives, I was in! Meaning I was enlightened and committed to a plant-based diet. But my family? Not so much. Still, I refused to serve them foods I now viewed as unhealthy. Sometimes, we listen with our ears. Other times, our taste buds. So I set out to stealthily convert them, bite by yummy bite.
Monday: A late dinner with my weary husband, Rick, after his long workday.
Fusilli Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
I figured if he hated the ‘fake-ognese’ sauce, at least the pasta would triumph.
You like it? I asked. “Yes. Delicious!” ‘Great. It’s beef-less beef’. “WHAT?” (stops eating) “If it’s not beef, then what IS it?” I snatched the package out of the trashcan and we read the ingredient list together. Rick raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Well, whatever. It tastes good,” eagerly tucking back into his pasta.
My first sneaky meatless dinner was a "fake-ognese" of Trader Joe's meatless crumbles and no one knew!
Tuesday: Dinner with my husband, Rick and our son, John on a sweltering day.
Lentils, Garbanzos, Cherry Tomatoes, Edamame and “Chicken” Salad
John had popped by to do laundry and explore the menu at "Café Searight," where the summer “house special” is a cold salad. Veggies. Starch. Protein. Done! We sat at the kitchen banquette, AC blasting, serving ourselves family-style. John: “I like this dressing. What is it?” (Trader Joe’s ‘Goddess’) We continued chatting, my guys oblivious to the fact that the meal they were devouring was 100% plant-based, “chicken” and all.
Wednesday: Breakfast with my husband, Rick.
Broccoli “Cheddar” Omelets
Rick’s Top Chef of breakfast. Any leftover roasted veggies get tucked into his omelets. This morning’s was broccoli. “What kind of cheese do you want?” he asked. I reached into the fridge, grabbed the Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds and handed it to him. Without looking at the label, he sprinkled some in, flipped the omelet and brought two plates to the table. We ate in silence, checking email.
Thursday: Dinner for my friend Ci-Ci, who was recovering from ACL surgery.
Penne with “Chicken Sausage” and Broccoli Rabe
Ci-Ci lives with her ‘meat and potatoes’ Irish husband, Liam and teenage son, Colin. I needed something plentiful, microwaveable and hearty. I decided to tweak a family fave, using Beyond Meat’s Italian sausage. I called Ci-Ci a few days later. “Liam loved your penne dish!” I pressed her, begging for the truth. “It was good, but something was different. We couldn’t figure out what it was. I asked Colin, ‘Is that tofu?’ Because I’ve never had tofu before.” Colin: ‘Yeah. Something’s different.” They both felt the sausage texture was ‘a bit sponge-y’. “But the overall taste was delicious! Liam didn’t notice a thing. It was gone in two days!” Score 1 Team Vegan.
Friday: Potluck BBQ Dinner with five other couples at the beach.
I’d brought a platter of garlic-y grilled veggies to share, and used my favorite salmon rub on our tofu. The rub imparts a smoky flavor and caramelizes to create grill marks, that sexy tattoo of summer food. I’d placed the tofu on the communal grill next to the array of smoldering steaks, chicken and fish. There was a 3-second delay, then BAM! Culinary bigotry erupted. “What is that?!” and “OMG, Rick, she’s making you eat that?” As if mammals = manliness. I laughed, said ‘Watch Forks Over Knives, then report back to me’. Rick calmly added, “You know, eating this way IS actually a lot healthier.” Lub-Dub.
Saturday: Midnight snack with John, our son, who was housesitting. After a night out, he’d raided our fridge, finding the only ‘snack-able’ item:
Frozen Sweet Potato Tots
John’s take: “They weren’t very good, but then again, I don’t like sweet potatoes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was late, I was hungry, and I ate them. I just had to douse them with salt and ketchup.”
Sunday: Lunch at the beach with our kids John and Elizabeth, and her boyfriend, Michael.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Protein Pasta, Apple, Walnuts, Celery, Edamame and Garbanzo Salad
As former SUP instructors, Elizabeth and Michael seemed unfazed by the ocean currents, and paddled confidently onto LI Sound. They reappeared on the horizon two hours later, with parched mouths and ferocious appetites. Unsure that my vegan salad would satisfy ravenous athletes, I grabbed the snack bar menu as back up. The kids dove into their food. Michael: “This is really good, what’s the green vegetable?” Elizabeth: “Got any Tupperware? Can I take home leftovers?”
Rick, now fully cognizant of my agenda, simply smiled and helped himself to more.
Products I used this week:
Trader Joe’s Beef-less Beef: Its hearty, thick consistency makes it a convincing substitute for crumbled ground beef. My strong garlic-y marinara sauce probably helped camouflage the texture.
Tofurky Slow-Roasted Chick’n: Best mixed into a salad with a flavorful dressing and crunchy vegetables. Otherwise the texture might give it away.
Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds: These melt well, have an authentic cheddar flavor and taste great in omelets. Could be good in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage Italian Sausage: I had taste-tested this hot off the stove and it was delicious. Cooling and microwaving likely created the “spongey texture” Ci-Ci reported. In the future, I would only serve this dish immediately after preparing it.
Tom Douglas’ Rubbed With Love Salmon Rub: TIP: dry the sliced tofu blocks with paper towels. Heat them for 10 minutes in a 350 oven. THEN use the spice rub.
Trader Joe’s Frozen Sweet Potato Tots: Best oven-baked, rather than microwaved.