Protein in the Vegetarian Diet

Protein builds tissue. The word itself comes from the Greek word proteios which means ‘first quality.’ It is the foremost important nutrient your body uses to literally build and maintain itself – muscles, bones, tendons, regulatory functions; you name it, you can bet that protein is involved.

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Healthy Carbohydrates – Whole Grains

Whole grains consist of three parts – the endosperm, the germ, and the bran. The bran (outer layer) is rich in B vitamins, fiber, healthy fats, minerals, and protein. The germ (the middle layer) consists of polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, protein, and vitamins. When whole grains are refined, the bran and often the germ are removed. There go all those healthy nutrients, blown away in the wind. What’s left is the endosperm, high in very easily digested carbohydrates and very little else.

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Recipe: Hopi Amaranth Greens & Grains

The following dish is a Southwestern Native American twist on wilted greens.

Because amaranth is a complete protein, this dish is a meal all by itself. Serve it up in a soup bowl.

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Eggplant in the Vegetarian Diet

If you’ve ever looked at that mysterious, shiny, dark purple vegetable in the produce section at the grocery store and wondered what in the world you would do with it, you’re not alone. The name alone is off-putting. Eggplant. I prefer the French word for it: aubergine. But, for the sake of continuity, I will continue to refer to it as eggplant here.

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Recipe: Cool Summer Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti is easy to fix, but it’s hotter than blue blazes out there and the last thing you need is a steaming plate of pasta and tomato sauce. Whatever will you do?

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Recipe: Three Sisters Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings

In most Native American traditions, beans, corn, and squash are known as the Three Sisters – gifts from nature to sustain life. Full of complementary proteins, healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, this hearty soup is perfect for those crisp early Fall evenings.

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Recipe: Pillow Biscuits

The key to a healthier biscuit is to replace some (no more than half) of the enriched flour with whole wheat flour. The biscuits will be too heavy if you use all whole wheat flour. Such is the nature of whole grains! In addition to the leavening agents in this recipe, folding the dough over into layers also helps inject air into these biscuits. Hence their airy name.

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Legumes – The Peas

In addition to carbohydrates and fiber, peas generally provide Vitamins A, B (most of the complex), and C, as well as lutein, a nutrient necessary for good eyesight. There are several varieties of peas to choose from:

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Recipe: Calabacitas con Huitlacoche

On the one hand, the word calabacita means zucchini. On the other hand, it is also the name given to various Mexican or South American side dishes that include zucchini (or some type of squash), corn, and cheese as the staple ingredients.

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Recipe: Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

This was one of my favorite vegetarian recipes when I was in my teens. Mom didn’t make it often because of the time involved with prepping the grape leaves, then stuffing and rolling them – but I couldn’t really blame her. She worked part time and had me and my two younger brothers to deal with plus a household to run. So, it was quite a treat when she did make them.

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