Veggies for vitality

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

AT LAST we can celebrate spring and spend more time in BC’s beautiful outdoors. Here are some simple and/or collaborative meals to make when you return home. These and similar ideas are from Raising Vegetarian Children (J. Stepaniak and V. Melina, McGraw-Hill 2003). 

1. Create a spread of make-your-own tacos. Set out taco shells or tortillas, chopped lettuce, onion, tomatoes, sliced or mashed avocado, taco sauce and warmed, canned refried beans or pinto or kidney beans or crumbled veggie burgers. In some families, it works best to include a meat taco filling as well. As noted in Wikipedia, “The fact that a taco can be filled with practically anything that fits on a tortilla allows for its great versatility and variety.”
2. Have everyone make their own vegetable pizza (or their section of a bigger one). Start with a purchased whole-grain pizza crust or smaller pita breads. As toppings, set out bowls of pizza sauce, grated carrots, sliced mushrooms, olives and onions (red, yellow or white) and bell peppers (red, yellow or green). If you include veggie pepperoni slices, cover the slices with a little tomato sauce so they don’t dry out. You might top the pizza with raw baby spinach after baking and let it wilt slightly before serving.
3. Open a can of vegetarian chili or split pea soup. Add a fresh whole-grain bun and a carrot cut into strips.
4. Serve veggie burgers on whole-grain buns with all the fixings. If you like, serve these with oven-baked sweet potato wedges (instead of French fries).
5. Set out a salad bar. Provide bowls of salad greens, shredded or chopped vegetables, nuts and/or seeds, sprouts, cooked beans or cubes of marinated tofu, leftover cooked vegetables, avocado chunks and a couple of different dressings. Let everyone compose their salad just the way they like it.
6. Make a can of vegetable soup more hearty by adding some canned beans (such as black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans). Serve with whole-grain toast.
7. If kids (or adults) don’t eat vegetables at meals, set out a platter of vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers) before a meal or as a snack, without saying a word. As an optional dip, many excellent flavours of hummus are now available from supermarket coolers.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics includingBecoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, the Food Allergy Survival Guide andthe new Raw Food Revolution Diet.

Colourful kabobs

(Makes eight to nine 10-inch kabobs)
Kabobs are colourful, tasty and fun to make. They are welcome at a barbecue and you can make them any time by browning them under the broiler. Serve them on a bed of rice or in a pita pocket. Choose extra-firm tofu; it has been pressed to remove much of the water and holds its shape well on the 10-inch metal or bamboo skewer. Measurements are approximate.

• 1/2 pound extra-firm tofu, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
• 16 to 18 small mushrooms (1-1/2 ounces or 1 cup of pieces) 
• 1/2 red, green or yellow bell pepper, cut in 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
• 1 small zucchini, cut in slices 1/4-inch thick or 3/4-inch cubes
• 1/2 medium red or white onion, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
• 8 to 9 cherry tomatoes

Sweet and tangy marinade
(Makes about 1/2 cup)
• ¼ cup ketchup
• 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 2 Tbsp. water
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic (optional)

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, prepare marinade by stirring together ingredients. Add tofu, put on lid and toss so that pieces are covered. Marinate four to six hours or overnight in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally to coat all pieces. Starting and ending with the mushrooms, alternate pieces of tofu and one or other of the vegetables on the skewer, with a tomato midway along.

Under broiler:
Place kabobs on cookie sheet or roasting pan, baste with marinade and place six inches under broiler for 10 minutes, turning and basting with more marinade once. 

On barbecue or grill:
Baste with marinade, turning and basting with more marinade once. Remove when heated through and browned a little.

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