Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Will the real Veggie-Ricans please stand up?!

In this photo, Sunday dinner at our house. (arroz con gandules, platanos maduros, potato salad with sweet green pea dressing, and cucumbers and red onion salad). (see green-potato salad recipe below!)

I have been a committed and practicing vegetarian for six years now and it is still one of the best nutritional decisions I have ever made. I don't much preach to others what they should or should not eat. I think food and eating are private and personal choices that are best left for each person to make. For me, becoming a vegetarian has taught me several life lessons. Among them is a deeper understanding of the ways in which foods are made and harvested in our industrial society. I also became a vegetarian out a profound concern for animal suffering and wellbeing (see THIS if you want to learn more). Again, industrial food production has done a remarkable job at marketing animals as “meat,” totally devoid from the actual animal whose life was shortened, made worse by antibiotics and other chemicals pumped into him to make him “fit” for human consumption, then merciless slaughtered, chopped into consumable pieces, frozen, packaged in plastic, transported thousands of miles and put up for display for your convenience at your supermarket (read this for a balanced view).

I had been trying to become a vegetarian since my early twenties, often succumbing to peer pressure or to eating out at non-veggie friendly places or to not wanting to feel “different” around family and friends. It is true that I was never a meat eater to begin with, I often preferred eating rice and beans without meat, and would turn for a peach or a mango before a piece of sliced ham. My digestive system seemed to dislike meat before I was even aware of it. And so, in 2007 when I decided that I would practice vegetarianism as a daily act of mercy, I have never turned back. At first, I had to consciously make the decision every day to forgo animal “meat,” eventually it became second-nature, and today I don’t even think about it. I was a vegetarian through my pregnancy and did not experience meat cravings or any complications whatsoever. I ate about a million pounds of mango and drank another million papaya and banana smoothies though!

The other life-changing lesson about becoming a vegetarian is that I now cook wonderful vegetarian meals. That by changing my eating habits, I became interested in food making and in turning the Puerto Rican dishes I love into vegetarian masterpieces. I think I am succeeding! And so, becoming a vegetarian has taught me to slow down and pay attention to the food I eat, where it comes from, and to honor food by making delicious dishes to soothe, nurture, and satisfy my family’s hunger. 
Here is the recipe for "Puerto Rican green potato salad" (this recipe was born after a conversation with my mom about how to make a healthier potato salad and it just so happens that it is also really tasty!). 

 What you need:
-potatoes (6-8 medium potatoes)
-1/3 cup plain yogurt
-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 cup (frozen or fresh) green sweet peas 
-3 chopped hard-boiled eggs
-1/2 chopped red apple (small pieces and peeled)
-1/2 chopped small white onion (small pieces)
-several small pieces of "fancy red pimientos" 
-salt & pepper to taste

What to do?
-peel, cut into small pieces, and boil the potatoes (once cooked set aside in large bowl)
-place the chopped apples and the white onions into a bowl with salted water for at least 10-minutes (the salted water will "kill" the pungency of the onion and will keep the apples from turning brown)
-cook the green peas and purée them in a blender or food processor 
-add the green peas to the potatoes and gently mix these together, but do not mash as if you were making mash potatoes
-then add mayo, yogurt, olive oil, eggs, apple, onion, and salt and pepper and again gently bring it all together
-if desired, add pieces of the red pimiento peppers to decorate the salad
-place in the fridge to chill for at least 4-hours before serving.  
 **of course, adjust the ingredients to taste.** however, to keep it healthy, if you need to make the salad smoother, add more yogurt or olive oil instead of mayo.

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