Where does your brain go when you think of not eating meat, fish, chicken, or dairy (which includes eggs, cheese, yogurt or cow’s milk, even skim), no oil and very limited salt and sugar?
I’ve learned that many view a plant-based diet as dull, full of boring salads, raw or (even worse) limp and tasteless vegetables. I still run into people who call my food choices “rabbit food”. My journey has opened my eyes, and tastebuds to amazing, delicious and fun foods. All I want to say is…WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! I’m loving the the re-discovery and magic of vegetables and fruits, but the other fun foods….whoa!
Here are just a few, with descriptions and ways to use them in recipes. Much of the following information is from Wikipedia.
This is a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, a type of wheat, so it it not gluten-free. Like macaroni and spaghetti, couscous is made from semolina flour, but rather than mixing the semolina with a prescribed amount of water and/or egg into a dough, couscous is made by rubbing the semolina between moistened hands until the flour combines with just enough water to form hundreds of tiny grains. I particularly enjoy eating Israeli couscous because it’s a slightly bigger formed ball of pasta, fun to eat, and great in soups and salads. It also holds any sauce or seasoning you like!
Although it is made from wheat, seitan has little in common with flour or bread. Also called “wheat meat”, “wheat gluten” or simply “gluten”, seitan becomes surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked, making it a popular meat substitute. Seitan is high in protein, making it a popular protein source for vegetarians. Asian restaurants often use seitan as a vegetarian mock meat, and seitan is also the base for several commercially available products. Although not as common as tofu, seitan is quickly gaining popularity, particularly in vegetarian restaurants, due to its ability to take on the texture and flavor of meat. Prepared seitan can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores.
It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins.
Shirataki are very low carbohydrate, low calorie, thin, translucent, gelatinous traditional Japanese noodles made from elephant yam or the konjac yam. The word “shirataki” means “white waterfall”, describing the appearance of these noodles. Largely composed of water and glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber, they have little flavor of their own. Here’s a recently posted recipe using these low calorie and versatile noodles.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Ok, so you’re familiar with almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, macadamia and sesame, right? Maybe you’ve also heard about chia and flax seeds. But, have you ever soaked your nuts? Stop laughing and read on. Believe it or not, soaking cashews (or other nuts/seeds) for several hours prepares them to be used as sauces, in dressings, dips and many cooked recipes. Here’s an amazing, creamy recipe for mushroom gravy that your taste buds will love and thank you!!
Then, there’s the legumes, all sorts of them. I much prefer that term for all the beautiful beans and peas out there! There’s the adzuki, and chickpea, and butter bean, and lentil, and black bean, and scarlett runners, just to name a few. They also happen to be are a rich source of protein, and fiber for digestive and heart health. There are so many ways to use these nutrient rich and versatile foods! Check out this ‘guacamole’ recipe using my beloved edamame.
SQUASH AND TUBERS
Spaghetti, Kabocha, Carnival, Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin, Delicata, and several more I haven’t listed. Did you know? Every part of the squash plant can be eaten, including the leaves and tender shoots, which can be cooked in with pasta, or made into soup. Red and purple potatoes, russet, and all the different sweet potatoes make for some delicious, nutritious and filling recipes.
The grains are also numerous, and I love experimenting with the different textures and flavors. The freekah grain, and farro both have such a fun ‘bite’! As much as you can, go for the whole grain, like oats, barley, brown rice, farro, rye, millet, sprouted grains and buckwheat. It’s really satisfying to include them in your recipes and you don’t need much because they’re so filling.