By Deborah Eisenhut

Vegetarianism is often associated with the hippie revolution and animal activist who believe eating meat is cruel. Others have embraced vegetable or plant based diets as a more healthful, nutritious food choice. Many physicians are advocates of a vegan diet for both fitness and health reasons. Consumption of animal products heat the body which promotes inflammation, fat storage and other protein related illness. A vegan or vegetarian diet is recommended for obese patients as it is an easier way to lose weight while being able to eat in quantity.

Mixing certain foods that are incomplete proteins produce very nutritious food with amino acids that build muscle, burn fat and provide a diet rich in fiber. Some of those combinations are black beans and brown rice, peanut butter and whole grain bread, walnuts and lentils. The combinations are endless & open to lots of fun cooking.

Tasty & filling in cold weather, easy cool eating in the heat of summer, vegetables, nuts & fruits offer a large variety of easy fixing and healthful advantages.

Although meat by-products are often avoided, some recipes with eggs, dairy, cheese are occasionally acceptable in a vegetarian diet as is fish and poultry. Cheese can be substituted with tofu, a soy based product.

Stuffed Shells (Artichoke and Spinach)

Ingredients

2 cans (14oz) artichoke hearts, well drained

2 boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 (16 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells

2 cups white sauce (such as béchamel)

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Combine spinach & artichoke and ricotta cheese in a bowl. Stir in egg, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; mix until well-combined. Set aside.

Bring white sauce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in grated Gruyere cheese until cheese is melted and incorporated into sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Stir in shells and return to a boil. Cook pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, but still firm to the bite, about 11 minutes; drain. Set aside.

Pour half the white sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole dish; spread evenly. Stuff pasta shells with the spinach artichoke mixture and place in casserole dish atop the white sauce, stuffed-side up.

Pour remaining white sauce over the tops of the shells and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Apple Peanut Butter Delights

6 whole wheat English muffins

1 cup peanut (creamy or crunchy)

2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored & thinly sliced

½ cup sugar

1 Tbls. cinnamon

¼ t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Halve the muffins & spread a heaping Tablespoon of peanut butter on each half. Layer apple slices on peanut butter. Mix sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg in small bowl. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons on top of each muffin half. Put muffins on a baking sheet & bake for 10 minutes. Set oven to low broil & cook until bubbly & caramelized.

Green Bean and Mushroom Medley

Ingredients

1/2 pound fresh green beans cut into 1-inch lengths

2 carrots cut into thick strips

1/4 cup butter

1 onion, sliced

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1. Place green beans and carrots in 1 inch of boiling water. Cover, and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and mushrooms until almost tender. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in green beans, carrots, salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, and white pepper. Cover, and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.