Why Does it Always Have to be About Meat?

While I personally choose to be carnivorous, there are lots of folks who would just rather not. For a lot of reasons. And in the spirit of biodiversity, this is wonderful. There are as many ways of eating as there are people in the world. So I thought I would devote this post to my vegetarian friends.

A quick sidebar: while reseaching for this post, I found so many great veggie and vegan options that I could easily see making this a regular topic. There are literally a TON of great veggie and vegan recipes out there, lots of which I find super tasty even as a meat eater.

So really what I am going to talk about is some of the faster, more convenient things I found, with minimal prep. There are lots of recipes for energy bars and crackers and such, that require a little more planning and forethought, and I would like to cover some of these in later posts. They really do look tasty but I’d like to give a few a try before I just wing them out to you all willy-nilly.

Besides…I think the next few items will tide you over for a little while.

1) Ants On a Log: Classic twist on a kids’ favorite…you can really sort of customize this to your taste. All you need is some celery, your favorite nut butter (I lean away from peanut butter because it tends to do funny things to my stomach; you can use almond butter, cashew butter, whatever), and raisins/dried cranberries/dried blueberries. Wash and cut the celery in 2-3″ pieces, and fill the groove with the nut butter. Top with the dried fruit of your choice…pow, instant protein boost. Yummy.

2) Edamame: If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably had edamame, boiled soybeans in the shell, usually served with salt. What they don’t tell you at the restaurant is that your appetizer packs a bunch of healthy stuff into those little pods; a half cup gives you about 11 grams of protein, plus a ton of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. As an added bonus, you get some isoflavones thrown in; these help protect you against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and high cholesterol. (Sweet!) These little treats can be found frozen, so all you have to do is thaw and heat, and sprinkle whatever you like on there: I like a little bit of lime juice with the salt. You can also try sprinkling nutritional yeast or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (both really high in B vitamins).

3) Baked Yam Chips: Ok, I sort of hesitated before using the word “yam”; for some reason it just sounds funny to me and sort of old-fashioned, but then I thought it was better than saying sweet potato over and over. But yams are sort of understated…there’s a lot of good stuff in there, I promise! I mean, they have tons of soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates, which give you more of a slow energy burn (bonus). In addition, they help to reduce constipation, decrease your levels of bad cholesterol by binding to it in the intestine, and help to reduce your risk of colon cancer by preventing any toxic compounds found in your food from adhering to your mucosa. This sounds weird but trust me, it’s a good thing. As if this wasn’t enough, they also have a healthy dose of all the antioxidants you’re supposed to get but probably don’t, as well as minerals such as iron, copper, manganese, potassium and calcium.

So, I usually use this method with red potatoes, but last night I tried it with a yam and was blown away by the result. Get yourself a good-sized yam, some olive oil and balsamic vinegar; you can add whatever spices you like but I like to keep it simple with some sea salt, pepper, and rosemary. Preheat the oven to about 400. Thin-slice the yam (think less than 1/4″, but more than potato chip width)…if they are too thick, they will take FOREVER to cook, and you don’t want that. Discard the ends.

Throw all the slices in a ziploc bag and add the olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper and any other spices. Just drizzle it all in there, you don’t want a lot of oil. Close the bag and shake until all the slices are well coated. Then spread them all out on a baking sheet (Try to have enough room so most of them can lay flat on the pan). You can drizzle a little more oil over them to keep them from sticking, and add more salt/pepper/whatever if you want.

Bake for 20 min, then check on them and try to flip most of the slices, so you can bake them another 20 minutes on the other side. This is a matter of personal choice, but I like mine  still a little chewy but some of them borderline crunchy…sort of like good fries.

3) Guacamole with Jicama Sticks: Jicama might seem like an odd vegetable, but this gem from Central and South America is low in calories and high in soluble fiber (we already know why that’s good for us), vitamin C and other antioxidants, betacarotene and folic acid, which helps to produce and maintain new cells, particularly red blood cells…which, if you happen to live at high elevations, more red blood cells means you move oxygen more efficiently. Besides, folic acid deficiencies have been shown to lead to anemia in both children and adults, and nobody wants that.

Jicama have a taste similar to an apple or a pear; they need to be peeled before you slice them, which can seem like a headache, but I think you’ll find it worth it. For the guacamole, you may already have a recipe you like (I don’t recommend store-bought; once you make your own, you might not want it anymore anyway!), but if you don’t, here is a quick and easy start:

Use 1-2 good-sized avocados (depending on how much you want to make); peel, pit and slice them into large chunks into a tupperware or bowl. I like to use Johnny’s Seasoning Salt, but it was recently brought to my attention that this might be more of a regional thing and not available everywhere, so you can use sea salt or garlic salt and that works fine. Sprinkle this into your avo chunks, and start mashing with a fork. Slice off a piece of lemon (you can also use limes, or bottled lime or lemon juice in a pinch) and squeeze the juice into the avo and salt mix. This will help keep the guac from turning brown in the fridge between uses. Keep mashing until you get a…well, a guacamole texture.

Slice up the jicama into long, thinnish strips and enjoy!

4) Brown Rice Cakes with Nut Butter: This one is super quick and easy; low calorie and high protein, it makes a great snack as you’re running out the door. Just find your favorite rice cake (I use organic brown rice cakes) and your favorite nut butter, and combine the two! Tasty treat!

All in all, I had a lot of food fun trying these out, and I hope you do too. I look forward to trying more of these veggie options, and reporting on the results…Happy snacking!


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