Since a family member announced plans to go “vegan,” I’ve been challenged to acquire more knowledge about a diet that centers on plant foods that include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. While researchers estimate that only two percent of the adult population follows a vegetarian diet, the numbers are rising due to the concerns of folks coping with conditions such as food allergies, food intolerances, heart disease and diabetes, to name but a few. Besides for reasons relating to health, others embrace vegetarianism due, in part, to religious, moral and ethical issues, such as those surrounding animal rights and the environment. And, just as a person’s motive for being vegetarian differs, so does the extent to which people adhere to their diets. In very general terms, vegetarians are classified as a group of people who do not eat meat, with vegans observing the strictest of rules, refusing to consume all animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, as well as some other foods, like honey. From being vegan, the lifestyle gets less restrictive, with “lacto vegetarians” adding dairy to their meals plans and “lacto-ovo vegetarians” including both dairy and eggs among the foods they choose to eat. Another group of vegetarians who skip eating meat and poultry, but who do eat fish, are called “pescetarians” (pesce means “fish” in Italian), with others being called “flexitarians” (or “semi-vegetarians’), who, says National Institute of Health (NIH) nutritionist and registered dietician Jody Engel in the organization’s July 2012 “News in Health” newsletter, “tend to follow their own rules.” If you are contemplating a significant change in diet, it is always wise to speak to an expert for guidance, and visiting your healthcare provider is a good place to start. He or she may refer you to a registered dietician, and together a determination may be made on what meal plan is best for you. Current cookbooks, such as the fine titles featured here from Andrews McMceel Publishing (www.andresmcmeel.com), offer recipes and up-to-date information that can help make transitioning into news ways of eating both delicious and satisfying. Additionally, excellent material and resources can be found on the NIH website at http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2012/Feature1 for plant-based eating and at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/ for information on allergies and food intolerances.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
Rotini with 10-minute Tomato–Olive Sauce
From “Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less,” by Robin Robertson/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, www.andrewsmcmeel.com.
12 ounces rotini
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
¼ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the rotini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes, and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down a bit, 5 minutes. Add the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Cook to blend flavors, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes longer. Drain the cooked pasta well and serve topped with the sauce. Serves 4.
Veggie Sushi Bites
From “Allergy-Friendly Food for Families: 120 Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes Everyone Will Love,” from the Editors of Kiwi Magazine/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, www.andrewsmcmeel.com.
¼ large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 sheets toasted nori (sushi wrappers)
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into narrow strips
½ cucumber, peeled and cut into narrow strips about 2 inches long
1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
Wheat-free tamari, for Dipping
Place the cauliflower in a food processor. Process until the cauliflower is chopped fine and resembles rice. Place one sheet of nori on a cutting board. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of the chopped cauliflower along the bottom third (closest to you) of the nori. Place one-quarter of the avocado and cucumber strips on top of the cauliflower, then sprinkle with one-quarter of the carrot. Dip your fingers in the water and run them across the top ½ inch of the nori to dampen. Start rolling the nori from the bottom so the vegetables are wrapped up inside; wrap as tightly as you can without breaking the nori, then seal along the damp edge with water as needed. Set aside and repeat with the remaining nori sheets and fillings. When all the sheets are rolled, take a sharp knife and cut each roll in half crosswise, then cut each half into three bite-size pieces. Serve with small bowls of tamari for dipping. Serves 4. Nutritional values per serving: calories 119, fat 7 g, protein 4 g, carbohydrates 9 g, dietary fiber 5 g.
Black-Eyed Pea and Red Pepper Soup
From “Vegan Family Meals,” by Ann Gentry/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, www.andrewsmcmeel.com. (Photo credits: Sara Remington; food stylist, Robyn Valarik; prop stylist, Dani Fisher)
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
2 small bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 6 cups water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juices
3 ounces collard greens, stemmed and cut into ½-inch squares (about 1 cup)
½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¹⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the black-eyed peas, bay leaves and garlic in a heavy saucepan. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches (about 3 cups), then bring the water to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes until the peas are par-cooked; they should be soft but still hold their shape. Add the 1 teaspoon salt and cook 5 minutes longer. Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes.
Add the celery and bell pepper, then cover and cook until the pepper begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Break up the tomatoes by squeezing them in your hands over the pot, then add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Stir in the collard greens and corn. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme, the ½ teaspoon black pepper and the cayenne pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the black-eyed peas and their cooking liquid and 3 cups of water to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low and gently simmer until the peas and greens are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Add more water, if needed, to thin the soup to the desired consistency. Stir in the cilantro, and season to taste with more salt and black pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. The soup will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated, or for 1 month frozen. To rewarm, bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally and adding water to thin the soup to the desired consistency. Serves 6 to 8 (makes about 8 cups).
Spicy Mexican Shrimp Skewers
From “Allergy-Friendly Food for Families: 120 Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes Every McMeel Publishing, LLC, www.andrewsmcmeel.com.
6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-inch chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil
Juice of 2 limes
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Brown rice, for serving
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and mango with the canola oil, lime juice, chipotle in adobo sauce, pepper, garlic and cilantro. Thread the shrimp and mango onto skewers, alternating shrimp with mango so that each skewer has 4 shrimp and 3 pieces of mango. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 4 minutes on each side, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Serve alongside brown rice. Serves 4. Nutritional values per skewer: calories 86, fat 7 g, protein 5 g, carbohydrates 1 g, dietary fiber 0 g.