Today healthy eating is not a subject that most people recoil from. More and more people are becoming aware of what they eat and often times concerned at the alarming number of illnesses that can be attributed to poor diet. With the continuing revelations over poor conditions in animal farming, alongside the epidemic in processed and fast foods, more than ever we need to take an active role in managing our food intake. Vegetarians have traditionally been considered a little odd at best and perhaps even just plain crazy! Now with the advent and growth of vegan diets and other more extreme diets vegetarians seem positively mainstream. There is little doubt that a plant-based diet is far better for us than one rich in animal products. The challenge for some however is how to incorporate all these delicious vegetables, grains, legumes etc. into appealing menus that the whole family will enjoy. The following recipes should succeed in satisfying all appetites and tastes.
Soups are a great way to incorporate vegetables into the diet and satisfy our desire for tasty, savory foods. Using a vegetable stock either homemade or store bought will form an easy base. First sauté onions or shallots and add chopped vegetables according to availability. Carrots, cauliflower, leeks and of course potatoes make wonderful standards for a vegetable soup and spices, herbs and garlic can be variously added according to taste. White pepper instead of the standard black also adds an extra warmth that adds depth to the flavor profile.
Vegetarian curries are a wonderful way to eat healthy, flavorful food. Many Indians are vegetarians for religious reasons and over time have devised some of the most delicious vegetarian recipes around. One of the easiest and most nutritious recipes is a simple bean curry which can be served with either white or brown rice. First sauté onions and garlic and heat black mustard seeds to release their aromatic flavor. Other spices can be chosen according to taste but consider using cumin, coriander seeds, ginger and chili. Season with salt and black pepper and add freshly soaked or easier still canned organic beans. These can be varied according to availability and taste but kidney beans, chick peas, black eyed peas, pinto and white beans are great. Add some canned tomatoes and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve with the rice and fresh cilantro chopped on top.
Often times it is the texture and meatiness of meat that people miss when they give it up. It is no surprise that mushrooms make a good substitute and when done right can be a delicious and filling option. Choose large, relatively flat mushrooms and place them in a shallow ovenproof dish cap side down and stalks detached. Chop up the stalks finely with onion, carrots, parsley, celery and plenty of seasoning. Mix in some fine breadcrumbs and a little vegetable stock to bind the mix. Stuff the mushrooms with the mix and sprinkle with grated cheese. Pour a little stock into the dish so that the mushrooms absorb it and stay moist. Bake at medium heat for about 30 to 40 minutes and serve hot with crusty bread, salad, or perhaps quinoa. Finally never under estimate the humble potato. Twice baked potatoes have always been a great accompaniment to any dish but try adding chopped hard-boiled egg and chives or spring onion into the mix before baking or baked beans topped with cheese for a delicious and hearty supper meal.
Once you embrace the idea of putting vegetables front and center you will soon discover that they are both versatile and exciting to eat. These recipes could be adapted with any number of combinations of ingredients and will hopefully start a vegetarian cooking adventure!