Chicago’s health commissioner recently urged Windy City denizens to give up meat for the entire month of January, in a bid to improve locals’ health. Getting residents of Chicago—a city famed for its sausages—to go vegetarian for a month, or even a week, may seem like a tall order. Heck, I’m a vegetarian-leaning omnivore and it seems a bit challenging even for me!
However, the guy’s got a point. Reducing the meat content of one’s diet saves money, the planet, and oneself, as less meat intake can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, not to mention one’s waist size. So maybe you won’t ban meat for a whole month, a whole week, or even a whole day, but I suggest experimenting with at least one meat-free meal per day. I’ve been eating this way for a while now, and I hardly miss the extra portion of animal protein in my daily diet.
Here are some healthy, protein-rich vegetarian dishes from my personal repertoire that even my ultra-carnivorous family members adore:
Three-Bean Salad With Avocado
Pick your favorite beans—I like garbanzos, black beans, and kidney beans, but any will do—and toss with chunks of avocado, tomato, and finely chopped red onion. Dress with a light vinaigrette made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Optional: serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.
Easy Asian-Style Baked Tofu
Marinate cubes of firm tofu in a sauce of minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, a tiny bit of sugar, and sesame seeds (this can be done for up to two hours). Bake at 400 for about 30-40 minutes, until edges of tofu cubes start to crisp up. Much healthier than stir-fried tofu, this baked version makes a delicious addition to a salad or a veggie and rice bowl. (Note that several pre-cooked versions of this dish can be purchased at most supermarkets, but they are more costly than going home-made and may contain a few more ingredients than necessary).
Egyptian Fava Bean or Edamame Stew
I suggest buying pre-cooked fava beans, as cooking the fresh version is an extremely labor-intensive process. You may opt for edamame instead, depending on your taste. The recipe is tailored to using about eight to ten ounces of beans. You’ll need them shelled and cooked prior to starting the rest of the recipe that follows.
Chop a medium yellow onion and sauté in olive oil until onion is soft and translucent. Stir in several cloves of minced garlic, one teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, and a pinch of cayenne, until fragrant. Then stir in a 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, including the liquid. Simmer until liquid mostly cooks down, and then add beans and some fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Stir and simmer for a few minutes, then serve fresh over your grain of choice.
Image credit: Texas Finn at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.