Help!

“My child has decided to become a vegetarian” . . . it’s a story I hear more and more frequently. My own grandson, aged 7, recently became a vegetarian (“It’s not fair to the animals, Nana”). Thankfully, my daughter is a wonderful cook, and a vegetarian in the family does not pose a problem.

But for many parents, this can be a challenge. Newby vegetarians often gravitate toward a diet heavy in pasta and cheese . . . there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with pasta and cheese, but it should not be the main staple. Between trolling the internet and the large selection of delicious fake “meats” available at the supermarket, there are now many options for ensuring a vegetarian child’s optimum nutrition. And “complete protein” meals can be achieved with a combination of grains and legumes — or rice and beans — the main staple of many of the world’s cultures.

Try a Syrian Mujaddara, a combination of rice and lentils, seasoned with cumin, cinnamon and lots of caramelized onion, and topped with cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Señorita Momentita . . .

. . . sounds so much better than “Senior Moment”, don’t you think? But memory loss is no laughing matter. It currently affects 5.7 million Americans, and that number is expected to increase to over 14 million Americans by 2050.

 

Is it inevitable? What we know is this. According to Dementia.org, trace elements and chemicals found in packaged foods have been found to damage brain chemistry. A study published in the University of Minnesota’s Chemical Research & Toxicology Journalfound that . . . “regular intake of diacetyl influences the buildup of beta amyloid proteins in the brain”. This buildup, which causes clumping, is now considered one of the PRIMARY CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO THE ONSET OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.

 

Diacetyl, you say . . . never touch the stuff. Think again . . . how many times do you eat “buttered” popcorn? Diacetyl is a chemical that delivers the “buttery” flavor in popcorn and many other packaged foods. Wonder why you didn’t know that . . . it’s because there is NO MANDATE FOR PRINTED WARNINGS. The lesson? Stay away from processed foods – and avoid food products with “natural flavorings”. Michael Pollan: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Tis the Season

. . . for comfort food! Here’s a perfect winter soup in the Sephardic tradition from the shores of the Mediterranean. It’s a soup eaten by Jews and Muslims alike upon breaking a fast. Traditionally made with lamb, it combines chick peas, lentils, vegetables, cilantro, garlic and exotic spices – saffron, ginger, cumin, turmeric. Omit the lamb, and it’s vegan – delicious and highly nutritious.

Comfort Me with Persimmons . . .

Shhhhh, they’re back . . . my very favorite winter fruit. Persimmons are showing up again at farmers markets and the shelves of Dan’s Produce and Alameda Natural Grocery. I’m always amazed how many people don’t know what they are or what to do with them. Like any fruit, persimmons come in a number of varieties. Best known locally are the hachiya and fuyu cultivars. Hachiya are eaten only when very soft – in order to avoid the astringency present in the unripe fruit – and can be spooned right out of the skin like pudding. Fuyu are more like apples, eaten while still firm, and they’re sweet and crunchy. Look for fruit with good coloring and a bit of give. If very firm, allow to ripen on the windowsill or inside a paper bag.

 

Fuyu persimmons can be part of a fruit salad, they make great snacks (with a handful of nuts), add them to a green salad in place of tomatoes (when tomatoes are less than fabulous) — or serve them with cheese and your favorite cold cuts to jazz up an antipasto platter.

A Stand Out Corporate Holiday Gathering!!!

With corporate holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds. A great menu is one that delights and surprises with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration (e.g. gluten free, vegan, vegetarian).

 

While many holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that is healthy AND delicious! Try it and you will like it.

 

Check out The Vegetarian Gourmet’s website to menu choices and contact us to create a unique and pleasing menu for your guests.

Freekah…Freakin’ Awesome

A newly “discovered” grain, freekeh, has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisines for centuries. If you’re gluten-free, this one’s not for you, as it is created from green durum wheat. The grains are harvested while still green and roasted over an open fire, to burn off the straw and chaff. What remains is a tasty wheat berry with a slightly smoky flavor. Available as a cracked grain from Bob’s Red Mill, it can also be found as a whole grain in most Middle Eastern markets.

High in protein and fiber, as well as iron, calcium and zinc, freekeh has been called the new “supergrain”. It cooks in about 20 minutes and can be eaten in place of rice, as a cereal, or added to a salad. I love the combination of cooked grains or legumes with raw veggies, olive oil, white balsamic and spices. Try a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a tangy treat.

If You Must…

. . . go for the fast food joint, here are some recommendations from Dr. Andrew Weil:

Go for the salad bar; with any luck, it will include beans, cheeses or nuts

Avoid fried foods (haha, I know!)

Skip dessert

Skip the soda

Grabbing a quick meal in unfamiliar surroundings can be a challenge. Whenever possible, you’re better off at a grocery store than a fast food restaurant. For a quick pick-me-up, grab some nuts, yogurt, protein smoothie, fresh fruit . . . you get the point. As they say, it’s not rocket science.

All that Summer Squash

If you planted summer squash in your garden, chances are, the harvest always exceeds your capacity for consumption. Best policy is to pick the squash when they’re small and tasty, instead of trying for immortalization in the Guinness Book of World Records. So what can you do with all that excess produce? In addition to freezing them or foisting them on your neighbors, summer squash also make excellent pickles. Just go online and find a recipe to your liking. Fill them in jars and give them away as Holiday gifts.

Summer BBQ . . .

. . . don’t forget those pesky vegetarian friends. Here is a quick and easy dish to serve with your summer BBQ; it’s vegan, high in protein and DELISH!

Try this easy recipe for salsa or a side dish:

3 c cooked black beans

1 c fresh or frozen organic corn

1 medium ripe tomato

1 medium mango

1 small chili, seeded & minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 avocado

½ bunch cilantro

Salt, lime juice

Rinse the cooked black beans to get rid of the dark cooking liquid until water runs clear. Cut the tomato into small cubes, cut the mango into small cubes, salt, and carefully fold into the drained beans. And here’s a fabulous trick: add the corn while still frozen – it will keep the dish cold for a long time on a hot day! Mince the chili and garlic and fold into the beans. Fold in chopped cilantro and cubed avocado. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.