Sustainable vegetarian eating

Friday, October 3, 2008 | 3:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Eating a vegetarian diet takes planning and time. Neither Brett Wilbanks nor Jennifer Enders likes tofu, tempeh or seitan, three core ingredients of a vegetarian diet.

"It's a lot easier to go buy some hamburger and make hamburger helper," Wilbanks said.

Enders learned quickly that, in recipes, she could not imitate what she would not eat in the original. She recalled a tofu stroganoff dish from a few months ago.

"So bad," Enders said, laughing. "Any time we tried to imitate meat or cheese it didn't work out."

Instead, Enders plays around with recipes. She cites Michael Pollan's book "Omnivores Dilemma" as an inspiration. According to Pollan, it helps to use a cuisine template for guidance; Enders and Wilbanks use a Mexican food template. By following a template, it makes it easier for the vegetarian to get all the needed nutrients. 

To help keep track of her new recipes, which Enders said result largely from trial and error, Enders started a blog called "Veg*n' Cookings and Other Random Musings." See her vegetarian recipes at

Here are a few favorite recipes:

Jalapeno salsa
10 jalapenos, seeded and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, minced
4 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon dry cilantro

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small pan on the stove. Let simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pulse in a food processor until smooth.
FOR USE IN: Tacos, tostadas, taco salads, nachos, chips and salsa, burritos or burros, quesadillas and fajitas.

Lentil and potato tacos with jalapeno salsa
Makes enough filling for 6 tacos.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes (About 1.5 hours including salsa cooking time)
1/2 a bag dry green lentils
2 to 4 cups water
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/4 red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
chili powder

2 small red potatoes, scrubbed and diced small
ground coriander
Mexican oregano
chipotle chili powder
hard taco shells

shredded lettuce or spinach

black olives

Jalapeno Salsa

New Mexican Red Chile Sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes and seasoning. Roast, covered in foil, for about 45 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook for about 25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Drain.

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add peppers, onion and garlic and cook about 10 minutes until soft.

Add the lentils back to the pan and season with chili powder, cumin and salt.

When potatoes are done, put desired number of taco shells in the oven for 5 minutes to warm.

Layer some spinach, roasted potatoes, lentil mixture, tofu sour cream and black olives in taco shells.

Serve with jalapeno salsa and New Mexican Red Chile Sauce.

Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes and sauteed zucchini and summer squash:

Sun-dried tomato pesto
Makes about 1 cup
For pesto:
2 to 3 cups of fresh sweet basil
1/3 cup of walnuts
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup good olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
a couple of pinches of fresh black pepper

Combine everything in a food processor until smooth and well blended.

For pasta:

penne pasta
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 large yellow summer squash, chopped
1 tsp safflower or coconut oil
3 to 4 large tomatoes, chopped 

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat 1 teaspoon of safflower or coconut oil in a small skillet. Add the zucchini and squash and cook for about 10 minutes or until well cooked.

Toss pasta with a few tablespoons of the pesto (or to taste), then toss in the fresh tomatoes, zucchini and squash.

Smashed yam, black bean and spinach quesadilla with simple guacamole

large yam/sweet potato, baked and mashed
1 to 2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup frozen sweet corn
1/2 red bell pepper, roasted
1 9-oz. bag baby spinach
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
cumin (to taste)
chili powder (to taste)
Mexican oregano (to taste)
cayenne (to taste)
salt (to taste)

1 teaspoon coconut oil per quesadilla
simple guacamole

Bake yam/sweet potato and mash.

Heat a couple tablespoons of water in a skillet and add garlic, cooking until soft. Add beans, corn and spices and heat through. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable broth in a small pan and add spinach in batches, cooking until soft.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet.

Layer mashed sweet potatoes and cooked veggie/bean mixture into warmed tortillas.

Place in skillet and cook on each side until golden brown, checking often to avoid burning.

Top with salsa and simple guacamole.

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