The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, born around 580 B.C., is known for his theorem about a right triangle, but he is also known as the father of vegetarianism. And for nearly 2,300 years, those who followed his dietary practices were known as Pythagoreans. The term vegetarian wasn’t used generally until the founding of the British Vegetarian Society in 1847.
In the 1970s the standard restaurant menu rarely had a meatless option. It wasn’t until the ‘80s that there was a trend toward vegetarian cooking. This was due to both the health craze and the increasing interest in using only the best and freshest produce of the season. Now vegetarianism is a certified fact of life. Inventive and enticing vegetarian dishes have become the norm, not the exception.
More and more scientific research points toward vegetable consumption as a way to fortify our immune systems and fight off illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
And it is easy to eat lots of fresh veggies when traveling in your RV. Get off the Interstates and travel the back roads near small towns and you will discover small vegetable stands with produce right out of the garden.
If you are an avid meat eater, or cooking for someone who is, introduce vegetarian dishes slowly. Start with multi-ingredient recipes—stir fries, pastas, burritos, casseroles and stews—that can easily be made with less meat. Then try serving just one or two completely meatless meals each week.
Here’s a good dish to begin with:
CHUNKY VEGETARIAN CHILI
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 cups of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
2 (16-oz.) cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-oz.) can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-oz.) can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sugar and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Serves eight.
SWEET PEPPER BURRITOS
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 sweet red peppers, diced
1 sweet yellow pepper, diced
1 sweet green pepper, diced
2 teaspoons of cumin
3 cups of cooked brown rice (1 1/4 cups before cooking)
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
3 oz. of cream cheese
6 large flour tortillas (10-inch)
1 cup of bottled salsa
Warm oil in large skillet; add onion, sauté 2 minutes. Add red, yellow and green peppers and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in cumin, sauté 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in rice, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper until mixed. Add cream cheese, mashing and stirring until well mixed. Spread pepper filling down center of each tortilla, about two-thirds cup per tortilla. Roll up tortillas and place in greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan, seam side down. Spread salsa on top. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven 10-15 minutes; let stand 5 minutes.
MULTI-GRAIN PILAF WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
4 teaspoons of olive oil
1 cup of chopped onion
1 red sweet pepper, diced
1 cup of chopped carrots
1/2 cup of chopped turnips, peeled
1/2 cup of chopped celeriac, peeled
2 teaspoons of grated ginger, peeled
2 cups of cooked basmati or other long-grain rice
2 cups of cooked pearl barley
1 cup of canned pinto beans, drained
3 cups of torn spinach
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onion, red sweet pepper, carrots, turnips, celeriac and ginger and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in basmati, pearl barley and pinto beans and cook 2 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil, spinach, soy sauce and salt; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt. Serves four.
A vegetarian is someone who eats no animals. This means fish, too. They will eat by-products such as eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. A vegan is the same as above, but without the by-products or honey. People who call themselves vegetarians but eat chicken or fish are not vegetarians. They are picky eaters.
Eating a vegetarian meal is one of the easiest ways to get more fiber and to cut back on saturated fat in your diet. And with the wide selection of vegetables, grains, beans and internationally inspired seasonings in the markets today, meatless meals need never be boring.
HINT OF THE MONTH – The most important rule about cooking vegetables is not to overcook—cook until just crisp-tender and still very colorful.
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.
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