Freshen Up Your Spring Menu with Plant-Based Meals

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Spring greens and peas soup blends dandelions, spinach, kale, and peas

The first green spikes poking through winter’s crusty grip seem to be my trigger for initiating all sorts of gritty tasks like cleaning cupboards and lightening up closets. It’s as if some trace of ancient genes deep within me responds to the changing light, the shifting of the earth’s axis, and I instinctively seek vacuum, bucket, and mop. Wikipedia suggests that several religions practised ancient spring cleaning rituals and the website confirms that I am not alone in my annual aseptic activities.

This year, as I relaxed and gazed out my impeccably clean windows, dreaming of the full-on rush of summer’s emerald garden, I decided to apply the annual spring cleanse to my life, my body, and my diet. In the process, I discovered a fresh new movement stirring. It’s called ‘Reducetarianism’ and it makes practical sense as the optimal way to have a direct impact on both our health and that of the planet.

Let me explain. As Noam Chomsky says, “Reducing meat consumption is a practical way to address the moral case for animal rights, sparing farm animals from suffering, and preserving the environment from destruction.” Pretty deep stuff.  And yet, vegans and vegetarians intrinsically know this and live their lives accordingly. So what is the big deal and why is reducetarianism different from their principles?

It’s not different. In fact reducetarian ideals are the very same as those that vegans and vegetarians hold dear. While I applaud those who one day wake up and stop consuming all animal products, the number of vegetarians is actually low – only about three percent according to The Vegetarian Resource Group as published in their 2009 Vegetarian Journal (see resource list at end).

I agree with Richard Dawkins when he says, “Full vegetarianism is a noble ideal, but many are intimidated by an illogical fear that it has to be a single, major, all-or-nothing leap. Reducetarianism is a good, humane, environment-friendly, step-by-step approach to an ideal whose time will finally come.” This is the major difference between vegan / vegetarianism and reducetarianism: the former is a giant hurdle, the latter is a gradual movement consisting of – forgive the pun – bite-sized choices. I would add that reducetarianism has what marketers call ‘mass appeal’, giving it the power to effect significant change.

Reducetarian Cooking

Reducetarian cooking is all about balance and harmony. It encompasses a relaxed approach to food and as such, it is spontaneous, simple, and playful – and at the same time it is deliciously healthy. Reducetarian recipes offer a serious solution that speaks to the issues surrounding our modern ways of feeding ourselves.

The reducetarian approach to cooking and eating compels us to re-think our food attitudes and replace them with two simple goals: to be aware of, and begin to reduce, the amount of meat you consume. I believe that to do this, you must be mindful and make conscious food decisions three, four, perhaps more times a day and physically act on them. Once you do that, the next steps are into the market and then the kitchen because it is only by preparing food yourself that you truly take control over what you eat. Home cooks prepare food differently than commercial, mostly mechanized, systems because home cooks use honest foods with no chemical preservatives or additives; and these kitchen heroes select and combine food with love and family needs in mind.

Experience has taught me that one’s relationship with food begins with family and culture and those filters shape our thoughts, feelings, unconscious habits, and actions. Being mindful about food – with conscious, respectful selection, handling, combining and cooking food –  is a humble way to break free of deep, mostly unconscious bonds that do not serve an enlightened way of being.


Reducing meat is not difficult. In fact, it’s pretty simple: eat plants as close as possible to the way they grow. Choose from a wide range of colours. Fill up your plate with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs and utilize healthy oils sparingly. Eliminate if you can, or simply reduce, the amount of animal ingredients you add to recipes or to your plate. Get into the kitchen, sing, dance, and experience the sheer joy that comes with the sensory pleasure that is cooking. Following are some light, easy and delicious ways to celebrate the third ‘R’: reduce!

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In the northern hemisphere, when the sun makes its climb towards the spring equinox, the earth goes green with anticipation of renewal. This is when our thoughts turn to love and our diet turns to light, cleansing foods. Of all the seasons, this is the one that delights me most when I fill my basket with spring greens like baby spinach, kale, sorrel, chives, lemon balm, parsley, tender maché, dandelion, asparagus and fiddleheads.  (Makes: 4 servings)


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive or coconut oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 3 cups fresh, shelled green peas
  • 1 to 2 cups spring greens (see above), coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, divided
  • 4 Tbsp whole, shelled pistachio nuts
  • 4 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil

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It’s like a decadent, oozing burger, full of texture and flavour and yet it is deliciously, perfectly in line with reducetarian principles. You can use sliced tomato or dill pickle in place of the avocado.  (Makes 4 stacks.)


  • 4 large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch slices crosswise
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive or avocado oil, divided
  • 4 slices mozzarella or fontina cheese, optional
  • 4 slices whole grain bread
  • ½ cup Walnut-Olive Pesto (recipe follows) or hummus
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into slices
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

View the full printable recipe

(Makes ½ cup)


  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cups pitted black olives
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive or avocado oil

Pat Crocker's mission in life is to write with insight and experience, cook with playful abandon, and eat whole food with gusto. As a professional Home Economist (BAA, Ryerson U., Toronto) and Culinary Herbalist, Pat’s passion for healthy food is fused with her knowledge and love of herbs. Her wellness practice transitioned over more than four decades of growing, photographing, and writing about what she calls, the helping plants. In fact, Crocker infuses the medicinal benefits of herbs in every original recipe she develops. An award-winning author, Pat has written 23 herb/healthy cookbooks, including The Healing Herbs Cookbook,The Juicing Bible, and her latest books, Cooking with Cannabis and The Herbalist’s Kitchen.

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