Vegan-ish: A Physician’s Journey to More Plant-Based Meals: Philly Cheeze “Steak” Sandwich

I am Dr. Monique, Board-certified Family Physician and Founder of Physician in the Kitchen. With my NEW best-selling cookbook, Doc Fix My Plate! The Physician In The Kitchen’s Prescriptions For Your Healthy Meal Makeover, my other best-selling bookMealMasters: Your Simple Guide to Modern Day Meal Planning, my online course, Vegan-ish: How To Plant-Base Your Pantry and online cooking classes, I help busy households enjoy healthy plant-based eating without impacting their hectic schedules.


Hello MealMasters!  People choose to adopt vegan or other lifestyles for a variety of reasons, and they are usually related to improving their health. They may want to eliminate the need for medications to treat their cholesterol or high blood sugar, or maybe they want to lose a few pounds to reach an ideal or preferred weight. By cutting out animal protein, you may notice an improvement in chronic conditions such as joint pain or kidney disease. You may also decrease your risk of developing certain types of cancer.  For me, in addition to the known health benefits of a plant-based diet, I truly enjoy experimenting and testing recipes featuring vegetables or other plant-based foods. I also get to create in my “lab” while using my many kitchen gadgets and appliances. This year I am chronicling my journey toward more plant-based meals, and I am sharing with my readers my favorite foods, along with tips and tricks I have discovered along the way.

Today I am continuing my series, Dr. Monique’s Favorite Food ABCs. The foods that are on this list are here because of both their contributions to mouth-watering dishes as well their health benefits. So far we have discussed the following:

P is for Portobello Mushrooms. Mushrooms are edible fungi, and portobello is just one of many. While your initial reaction may be “What? Yuk!! I’m not eating that!” I promise you, this is one of the good ones that is actually good for you. Portobello mushrooms can be quite large. Their meaty caps (or the tops of the mushroom) make for a wonderful meat replacement as they can be grilled, sauteed, baked, used in sandwiches, etc. They are the larger version of the baby bella mushroom (also known as crimini mushrooms).

How do I love portobello mushrooms? Let me count the ways! Clearly, if they have made this list, that means they are good for you. They are low in sodium, have no cholesterol, and they contain B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Your body needs a regular supply of B vitamins from your diet because it is unable to store most of them, such as niacin and vitamin B6. Vitamin B12 is the exception since it can be stored in the body for up to 5 years. Mushrooms also contain the minerals phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. 

Let’s see why these are important:

  • Selenium is important for the health of both your immune and nervous systems. It is also used to make thyroid hormone and antioxidants.
  • Mushrooms are a good source of copper, which is also important for healthy immune and nervous systems. Copper helps your body make the connective tissue that holds it together. It is also needed to make blood cells and certain hormones.
  • B vitamins help the body in a variety of ways, such as blood cell production, hair and nail growth, and promote healthy brain function. Niacin helps your body to metabolize (or break down) food. Vitamin B6 helps strengthen the immune system and is needed for the production of brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters), such as dopamine and serotonin. These play a major role in mood stabilization.
  • Mushrooms are also a very good source of protein and antioxidants, which decrease the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
  • Portobello mushrooms contain small amounts of vitamin D, which is important for strong healthy bones (by helping you absorb calcium), immune strength, and healthy lungs.
  • Portobello mushrooms are a good source of plant fiber and are low in carbs. This is a bonus because you can add them to meals to help you feel fuller without excess carb intake.
  • Portabellos are also a good source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.

Due to their firm texture, portobello mushrooms hold up well when sauteed, baked, or grilled. This feature makes them one of my favorite go-tos when I want a meatless meal. Special shout out to king oyster mushrooms for the same reason, which I featured in my vegan butter chicken recipe.

To clean your mushrooms, rinse them very briefly under running water. You can also wipe them with a damp towel or cloth to get off any residual dirt. Mushrooms have quite a bit of water content that comes out during cooking, and they tend to absorb a lot of water, so you don’t want to add excess water by soaking them. Pat excess water so they won’t become too soggy when you cook them. It is also recommended that you remove the gills when cooking portobellos. The gills are those dark membranes that are on the undersurface of the cap. They are not harmful to eat, but their dark color can make your dish not as pretty as you would like. Just scoop them out with a spoon to remove them.

Portabello mushrooms can be used in salads, stir-fries, and casseroles, such as lasagna. Another bonus of portabello mushrooms is that they cook pretty quickly on the stovetop. They really just take a few minutes to saute which makes them great for adding them to a quick omelet in the morning. They can also be used as a pizza topping, a filler for tacos, quesadilla, or fajitas. I even use them in my vegan burger.

A word of caution for people with gout or kidney stones: be sure to discuss adding mushrooms to your diet with your doctor. They should be eaten in moderation since they contain something called purines. Purines are a chemical that the body uses to make the genetic materials DNA and RNA, as well as uric acid. Uric acid is a chemical that when eaten in excess will cause gout, which is painful joint swelling, usually in the big toe. Excess uric acid levels can also be harmful to people with kidney disease.

Below is my recipe for my Philly Cheeze “Steak” Sandwich featuring portobello mushrooms. I attended went to Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and during my four years there I definitely ate more than my share of cheesesteaks. This recipe is my version of one of those iconic sandwiches. Simply saute the mushrooms with some onions and bell pepper, season them with herbs de Provence (which is a mixture of rosemary, thyme, oregano, and marjoram), and then top with (vegan) provolone (or mozzarella) cheese. This sandwich can hold its own with the meat version…periodt! Unlike the meat version though, you don’t have to worry about cholesterol (depending on whether you use vegan cheese or not) because portabello mushrooms do not have any cholesterol. Be sure to post a pic and tag me @physicianinthekitchen if you make this recipe.

See you in the kitchen!


For this and other mouth-watering vegan recipes grab your autographed copy of Doc Fix My Plate! The Physician In The Kitchen’s Prescriptions For Your Healthy Meal Makeover here.


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