Manataka American Indian Council


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By Kim Summermoon Wilson


One reason many people give for not trying a vegetarian diet is that it seems so intimidating to them - how does one try a vegetarian diet? I've been through this myself.

There IS a difference between 'vegetarian' and 'vegan.' There are ethics, and there are politics; there are purists, and there are everyday people just trying to live better. Vegetarians don't eat meat, but may include eggs, may include some dairy, may even include occasional chicken or fish. Vegans don't use anything derived from animals or insects - no byproducts, either. (Vegans do not use or consume honey or beeswax.)

To try a vegetarian diet, think of it a different way - as simply eating differently. Think of what you won't be eating - antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella, contaminants, and lots of bacteria, growth hormones, and/or possibly cloned animals, and/or genetically modified feed given to unnaturally raised and processed livestock. Thinking of the suffering of millions of animals you won't be participating in.

Instead of all that junk going into your body, try this recipe instead - especially on a cool autumn day or when it's cold and raining outside and you feel like snuggling up with a warm blanket and your favorite book. It's a soothing
cannellini bean soup with pasta and your favorite veggies, lots of healthy bean broth, and I guarantee it will fill you up and last in your stomach - and it will be cheap.

The next time you're at the store, purchase a 1 lb. bag of dry cannellini beans (or your favorite legumes) - this should be 'around' $1.00. (You could get canned beans, but they taste yucky and come packed in salt and preservatives.) Get a package of your favorite pasta, and a package of your favorite veggies - frozen or fresh, take your pick. Try for organic, if it's available at your local farmer's market. Make sure you have enough of your favorite seasonings and some oil (olive, sesame, etc.) on hand also.

At home, follow package instructions and if you have a pressure cooker, great - if not, beg, borrow or ... well, don't 'steal' but ask nicely ... try to obtain a pressure cooker somehow. Put one cup of dry beans in the pressure cooker to at least 3 cups fresh cool water. Add one or two TBS of oil, a dash of salt and pepper, some garlic powder - whatever your favorite seasonings are to the water and the beans. You do NOT need to soak the dry beans first, that's why you're adding at least three to four cups of water to the pressure cooker. Add all of your seasonings - this will help make your bean broth. When I make this, I put the cooker on for 30 minutes on High pressure - I like my cannelini beans to be soft and creamy to make the broth slightly opaque.

While the cooker is on and building pressure, cook your pasta according to the directions, and cook your veggies likewise. By the time everything is finished cooking - you can put yourself together a yummy, satisfying veggie soup with plenty of protein - and plenty of leftovers, that should have cost you less than $5 (depending on the cost of the veggies). Keep in mind that with legumes, veggies and pasta or grains - it takes less food to fill you up faster because of the fiber content. My personal favorite is Barilla's Rotini pasta with 50% whole grain. But 'dollar store' pasta will work just as well - as will rice, or a crust of bread dipped in the bean broth with the veggies. It all works together!

You can also cook the beans in a crock pot, or on the stove - just takes a lot longer.

It 'sounds' complicated - until you actually do it - then you realize how simple it is.  When I first thought about pressure cooking beans, it was by trial and error. Then once I figured out how to cook some of my favorites - it became much easier. Now I'm also working on doing the same with tofu - figuring out easier ways to cook tofu (and store it) that involves less preparation and more 'fast food' style cooking to suit my lifestyle. As I develop recipes that work for me and are cost-effective, I may share them here.

If you're still craving a cheeseburger, try Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie burgers (in the frozen foods section of your supermarket) - you can grill them, pan-fry them or microwave them and add a slice of veggie cheese (produce section), ketchup and a hamburger bun - there's your cheeseburger without the moo-cow! But keep in mind - you buy convenience foods, that gets expensive - a vegetarian diet can be cheaper and simpler, not more complicated and more expensive than the typical American diet.

What I have shared here is a vegetarian recipe, because pasta has eggs in it - eggs are not vegan. But, it is a step closer to compassion and a healthier planet. I aim for progress, not perfection. I believe in the saying "Ancora Impara" - I am still learning.