The New Vegetarian: Cooking with a Rainbow of Natural and Whole Foods

“Canadians eat more than twice as much meat as the global average and this has serious environmental impacts.” David Suzuki, www.davidsuzuki.org/NatureChallenge

Number two on David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge is: ‘Eat meat-free meals once a week’. The reasoning is that if every Canadian ignored meat for one full day, the environmental benefits would be enormous. For example, common water pollutants from feedlots might be reduced by as much as 21 kilograms per person annually.

The Suzuki Foundation’s website claims that just over one quarter of a million individuals have joined the challenge – which is good news for the environment. But what does this mean to those long-term vegans or vegetarians who have chosen a vegetarian way of living for religious, ethical, environmental, cultural, and health reasons?

I suppose it means that there are many Canadians who want to be a part of one of the most important social movements of our time. Are they vegetarian? No…and yes. They are a new breed of Canadian concerned for the earth and willing to break old habits in order to find personal ways to participate in positive solutions. They may be referred to as ‘The New Vegetarian’, that is, someone for whom the preservation of the environment is taking precedence over meat consumption – at least one day a week.

For me, vegetarianism speaks to balance and harmony, the attitudes and practices that keep humans whole in body, spirit and mind. It reflects the Eastern approach to food and health as a non-invasive way of keeping the earth and humans healthy. It means acting with respectful intent, both within and without.

Perhaps the most convincing reason to eat more plant food instead of animal foods and saturated fats is simply that it is healthful. Science has shown that beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, phytonutrients, fibre, and minerals all play important roles in preventing disease and all are found in abundance in a wide variety of plant food. On the other hand, those substances shown to aggravate disease – saturated fat, cholesterol, excess protein, and excess sodium – all abound in animal foods.

It is a fact that North American vegetarians tend to suffer fewer ‘modern diseases’, including lower body mass indices (bmi is a measure of obesity), lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less incidence of heart disease, hypertension, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, osteoporosis and dementia (such as Alzheimer’s Disease). Not only do vegetarians benefit from lowered disease risk, they may also enjoy a lowered exposure to the E. coli contamination and other food safety scares that plague the industrial-scale meat and dairy farms.

Long-standing vegetarians already know their diet is rich, varied and delicious. Cooking with the rainbow of natural, whole foods opens up more choices and combinations than the meat-potato-vegetable staples of an animal-based approach. It allows for a seasonal, less expensive pantry of ingredients and a spontaneous and simple way of preparing them.

A table covered with wholesome food, surrounded by faces we love is one of the threads that weaves magic into the fabric of our lives. We eat to nourish our cells and we share meals with family and friends to nourish our lives. By taking an interest in the way our food is grown and processed and the way it is handled and prepared, served and enjoyed, we take back responsibility for not only our nourishment and health, but also that of the planet. So I send kudos to the David Suzuki Foundation and the 255,015 one-day vegetarians. Try the following recipes and you might want to become a two-day vegetarian!


Resources

Associations

The Toronto Vegetarian Association, www.veg.ca, news, tips, information and recipes, 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor, Toronto, ON, M5T 1L1

The International Vegetarian Union (IVU), www.ivu.org promotes vegetarianism worldwide

Slow Food, www.slowfood.com, A non-profit movement founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Via Mendicita Istruita 8, 1202 Bra (Cuneo), Italy, Canadian tel 1 866 266 6661

Books

Cotter, Denis. Café Paradiso Seasons. Irvington, NY: Hylas Publishing, 20003. A beautiful book of vegetarian recipes that follow the seasons.

Cronish, Nettie. Nettie’s Vegetarian Kitchen. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 1996. Nettie is a Toronto teacher, caterer, writer and long-time vegetarian. See also, Nettie’s New Vegetarian Basics (paperback, 1999).

Jason, Dan. The Whole Organic Food Book.  Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2001. A message of hope for organic food and seed-saving strategies with delicious recipes for grains, beans and garlic.

Lappé, Frances Moore. Diet for a Small Planet. New York, NY: Ballantine Book, 1971. A classic with many printings, worth a second read. From the foreword: “This book is about protein–how we as a nation are caught in a pattern that squanders it: and how you can choose an opposite–a way of eating that makes the most of the earth’s capacity to supply this vital nutrient.”

Websites

www.vrg.org – a site devoted to vegetarianism

www.veggie123.com – an e-book on how to Successfully Become a Vegetarian


Recipes

Tomatoes Stuffed with Basil and Shiitake Mushrooms

Arriving at harvest time simultaneously, tomatoes and basil are naturals together in cooked dishes. Serve this dish with Braised Swiss Chard or other greens. (Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 8-inch pie plate, lightly oiled, or shallow baking dish
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

2) Core tomatoes and slice 1/4 inch off top. Scoop out seeds and juice to form a cavity. Chop tops and inside flesh. Set aside. Arrange tomatoes in prepared dish. Set aside.

3) In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and mushrooms. Sauté for five minutes or until soft. Add reserved chopped tomato, rice, basil, oregano and thyme. Cook stirring, for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

4) Divide stuffing equally into tomato cavities. Sprinkle each with 1 tbsp of the Parmesan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese melts and tomatoes begin to soften. Serve immediately.


Baked Vegetable Falafel

Make these small falafel cookies to use as a canapé base or for salsas or spreads. If you make large falafels, they are perfect for filling wraps or pita pockets. Makes twelve 3” or about thirty six 1” falafel cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas or fava beans or 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas (or fava beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala seasoning or curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted chickpea flour or brown rice flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)

2) In food processor, process chickpeas, lemon juice, garam masala and olive oil for 30 seconds or until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

3) Stir egg into chickpea purée and mix well. Stir in zucchini and green onions. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the flour and baking powder over mixture and stir to make a moist, thick batter. If too thin to hold together, add more flour by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is achieved.

4) Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. Using a 1/4 cup measure, drop falafel mixture onto prepared baking sheets and flatten slightly with back of a spoon. Continue to form falafels until pans are full. Stagger pans on oven racks and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Serve immediately.


Peach, Avocado and Arugula Salad with Lemon Dressing

Peppery arugula leaves are softened by the bright, slightly sweet and aromatic combination of lemon balm and basil.

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 4 slices French bread, cut on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 2 cups fresh arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 1/4 cup red onion slices
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 4 whole fresh lemon balm sprigs, optional
  • Dressing
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp flavoured rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Preheat broiler in oven. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, turn and broil for another 2 minutes or until bread is toasted golden brown. Remove from oven and rub both sides with garlic. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss arugula, lemon balm, onion and basil.

3) Make Dressing: in a jar with tight-fitting lid, combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice and lemon balm. Cover and shake well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss half of the dressing with the salad ingredients.

4) To serve Salad: place one toasted bread slice on each of 4 serving plates. Spoon salad evenly over bread slices. Divide avocado and peach slices evenly over Arugula. Drizzle remaining dressing over fruit. Garnish each with a sprig of lemon balm, if using, and serve immediately.


Nut-and-Lentil Wraps

Nuts and legumes are an excellent protein source. Serve these bite-size rolls as hot appetizers or the whole wrap for lunch or snacks to go. (Makes 16 to 20 pinwheels or 4 wraps)

Ingredients

  • Four 7-inch whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 cup Basil Pesto or hummus
  • 1 cup Nut-Lentil Filling (see recipe below)
  • 6 Tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat oven to 375°F, optional

2) Spoon 2 Tbsp of the pesto into centre of a tortilla. Spread to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Spread 2 Tbsp of the Nut-Lentil filling over pesto. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 Tbsp of the cheese. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

3) Roll each tortilla into a compact cylinder. Serve immediately as a sandwich wrap or cut each wrap into five 1/2-inch slices. Arrange on baking sheet, seam side down. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

Nut-Lentil Filling

(Makes 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Hummus
  • 1/4 cup cooked red lentils or split peas
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped green onions

1) In a bowl, combine hummus, lentils, pecans and green onions.


Fudge Bars

A great snack or on-the-go breakfast food containing relatively little fat. The teff (a whole seed available at health food stores) adds a crunch that keeps people wondering about the ingredients. (Makes 16 squares)

Ingredients

  • 8-inch square baking pan, lightly oiled
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp teff
  • 2 Tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup lower-fat natural yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp organic canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 1 Tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 oz/60 g semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

2) In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, teff, buckwheat flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.

3) In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, sugar, syrup, vanilla and chocolate until blended and smooth.

4) In a bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

5) Stir yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir until blended and smooth. Fold egg whites into the batter.

6) Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until a tester inserted in the centre has moist crumbs clinging for a soft, fudge-like consistency. Bake longer (about 30 minutes) until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, for a drier, cake-like bar. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Cut into squares.

7) Store bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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