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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - May 2008

Occasional Vegetarians
Can a confirmed carnivore find true health and happiness in meatless meals?

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Linguine with Sauteed Vegetables

Meatless menu options are one of the hottest trends going, say the chefs polled in a recent National Restaurant Association survey. Juicy portobellos are replacing burgers, and savory pumpkin ravioli is competing with filet mignon.

But wait a minute. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), which keeps track of such things, reports that only about 3 percent of U.S. adults are vegetarians. And that number has been holding steady for a few years, says Reed Mangels, R.D., the organization's nutrition advisor. So what gives?

Flexitarianism Is In
It turns out that most Americans aren't turning in their steak knives just yet, but millions are discovering you don't have to be a full-time vegetarian to enjoy meatless meals. The VRG estimates that 30 to 40 percent of us choose meatless options some of the time when eating out. This new trend even has a catchy name: flexitarianism. And there are compelling reasons to consider it.

"Americans need to get off the saturated fat kick we've been on," says Robert Lawrence, M.D., professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "The American diet is among the highest in the world in the amount of protein and fat from animal foods." And it's this animal-based fat that contributes to our higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

"Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat, so they have lower heart disease risk," says Carol Johnston, Ph.D., professor and chair of the nutrition department at Arizona State University. When you eat a more plant-based diet, you generally consume fewer calories as well. That's why vegetarians tend to be slimmer, Johnston says. Plant foods—vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds—also are where disease-fighting antioxidants and other healthful phytochemicals are most abundant. Eating more of them helps prevent not just heart disease but also stroke, diabetes and cancer.

While a full-time vegetarian diet may give you a healthy edge, can going meatless only part-time really make much of a difference? "Absolutely," says Johnston. "You can get health benefits just from eating less meat." You don't have to take an all-or-nothing approach to vegetarianism. Little changes can have a big impact.

Mmm...and Meatless
A meatless meal doesn't mean rabbit food. "If I could convince people that vegetarians don't just live on salads, I would die happy," says Mangels. Think spinach lasagna, lentil soup, Cuban black beans and rice, or any of the recipes at the end of this article. Even the staunchest carnivore can't resist their rich flavors, colors and textures.

While you're going meatless now and then, don't overlook the added benefits of putting organic produce on your flexitarian plate. Scientists have found higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in organically grown strawberries and corn than is found in conventionally grown crops (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003).

A recent 10-year study at the University of California, Davis (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, July 2007) showed that organic tomatoes contain more flavonoids, plant chemicals that may protect against heart disease and cancer. The longer tomatoes were grown by organic methods, the higher their flavonoid content.

One Meal at a Time
When you go meatless, even for a day, you'll be improving your health and often trimming your food budget as well. Consider these possibilities:

  • Expand your options with casseroles and ethnic dishes. Try an earthy ratatouille, a fragrant Thai tofu curry or a spicy Moroccan vegetable stew. That's more satisfying than just replacing the meat in a typical meat-starch-vegetable meal, says Mangels.
  • Go for convenience. When you're in a hurry, dip into hummus with whole wheat crackers and raw vegetables. Keep canned beans on hand to toss into salads, soups and pasta. Jazz up a bowl of canned split pea soup or vegetarian chili with grated low-fat cheese and a spoonful of toasted sunflower seeds. Or try the vegetarian entrées in the freezer case at your neighborhood Publix.
  • Opt for meat stand-ins with a satisfying "chew." Choices include tempeh (a nutty-tasting soybean product), tofu, fresh portobello mushrooms and slices or pieces of peeled eggplant. They're great substitutes for chicken or pork in hot sandwiches or stir-fry dishes.
  • Give favorite dishes a meatless makeover. Add vegetarian sausage to marinara sauce. Swap the meat filling in tacos and burritos for vegetarian refried beans or soy burger crumbles. Make your next burger a Publix GreenWise Market Veggie Burger.
  • Find a vegetarian cookbook that mirrors your style of cooking. If you're a kitchen whiz, choose a gourmet cookbook for inspiration. If you need something quick and easy, you'll find plenty of options to speed you on your way.

Pretty soon you'll be too busy enjoying what's on your plate to even notice what's missing.

Your neighborhood Publix carries a wide selection of organic ingredients, including those shown with an asterisk (*) in the recipes that follow.

Taco Salad CupsTaco Salad Cups

If time is tight, skip the tortilla cups and simply pile the filling ingredients onto tostada shells.

8 6-inch corn tortillas
Nonstick cooking spray*
1 medium onion,* chopped
1 clove garlic,* minced
1 tablespoon canola oil*
12 ounces soy burger crumbles
1 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin*
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper*
4 cups shredded lettuce*
¼ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese or cheddar flavor soy cheese shreds
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1 cup chopped tomatoes*
Publix GreenWise Market Organic Salsa,* optional

ONE For tortilla bowls, wrap tortillas in foil. Warm in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Coat eight 10-ounce custard cups with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly coat both sides of each tortilla with nonstick spray. Carefully press 1 tortilla into each cup. Bake 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from custard cups and cool on a wire rack.

TWO Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook onion and garlic in hot oil until tender.

THREE Stir in soy burger crumbles, tomato sauce, vinegar, cumin and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until desired consistency.

FOUR Place tortillas on 4 serving plates. Fill with lettuce, then spoon soy crumble mixture on top. Sprinkle with cheese and tomatoes. Add salsa if desired. Makes 4 servings (2 tortilla cups per serving).

Nutrition Facts per serving: 383 cal., 14 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 4 mg chol., 560 mg sodium, 41 g carbo., 10 g dietary fiber, 25 g protein.
Gingered Vegetable-Tofu Stir-Fry
Linguine with Sauteed VegetablesLinguine with Sautéed Vegetables

To test an eggplant for freshness, press gently on the skin to create a finger mark. The mark should disappear quickly. If it lingers, the eggplant is overripe.

8 ounces whole grain linguine or spaghetti*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil*
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium fresh Portobello mushrooms,* stems removed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 large green sweet pepper,* cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups red pasta sauce*
1 small tomato,* chopped
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese* or mozzarella flavor soy cheese shreds
2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

ONE Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Return to pan. Cover; keep warm.

TWO Meanwhile, in a very large skillet heat olive oil. Add eggplant; cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and green pepper; cook 5 minutes more or until tender, stirring frequently. In a medium saucepan heat sauce.

THREE To serve, place pasta on a serving dish; spoon sauce over pasta and top with vegetables. Sprinkle with tomato, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 386 cal., 12 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 11 mg chol., 433 mg sodium, 60 g carbo., 6 g dietary fiber, 17 g protein.
Multigrain Waffles and Fruit
Ranch EggsRanch Eggs

Serve these south-of-the-border-inspired eggs with tortillas and black beans.

1 medium onion,* halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
¾ cup Publix GreenWise Market Organic Salsa*
1 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
3 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
1 fresh jalapeño pepper,** seeded and chopped
6 Publix GreenWise Market Organic Eggs*
1⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese or cheddar flavor soy cheese shreds

ONE Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Separate the onion into half-rings and place in prepared baking dish; set aside.

TWO Stir together the salsa, tomato sauce, cilantro and jalapeño pepper and pour mixture over onion. Break one of the eggs into a measuring cup. Make a small well in the tomato mixture and carefully slide in the egg. Repeat with remaining eggs, making a new well for each egg. Sprinkle eggs with black pepper.

THREE Bake, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes or until the whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 1 minute more. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 242 cal., 10 g total fat (4 g sat. fat), 220 mg chol., 527 mg sodium, 25 g carbo., 3 g dietary fiber, 13 g protein.

**Note: Avoid direct contact with jalapeño peppers, which contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes. When working with jalapeño peppers, wear cotton or rubber gloves and wash after use or wear disposable plastic gloves. If your bare hands do touch the peppers, wash your hands and nails well with soap and warm water.

© Copyright Meredith Corporation 2008. All rights reserved. Recipes reprinted with permission.

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