Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Introducing Your Friends and Family to Vegan, Plant-Based Foods

Holy Guacamole!
When you adopt a plant-based, vegan diet, you will probably experience some positive changes in your overall health and well-being. As with anything else, when you notice a benefit in your own health and life, you develop a desire to share your positive experience with others in your life. This is only natural. However, your friends and family might not feel so keen on sharing your enthusiasm and if you try to push your new ideas on them it may end up turning them off completely.

I have found that a soft, gentle approach is more inviting. By this I mean, “walk your talk” and lead by example. As you begin to look better and have a more calm and focused mind people are going to start asking you for your secret recipe. Now of course if you start talking about foods it can stir up a lot of emotion as food is very personal. Nobody wants to feel criticized or again, be told that their favorite foods are killing them quietly.I prefer to go stealth. I enter the scene and arouse interest by showing up to the party with an awesome dish that looks and smells great and everyone is excited to try. By the time they go back for seconds they don’t even miss the meat or dairy!

The best way to pique others’ interest in your new lifestyle is to share foods that are already somewhat familiar to them. For example, try serving a lentil or split pea soup with homemade croutons, or bring a bright, colorful platter of crudité and hummus to a party, or even some guacamole and chips. Go for plant-based foods that are familiar, easy-to-prepare, and delicious. If you want to take things a step further, try serving a three bean chili instead of a meat chili, or a fresh salad with sautéed wild mushrooms and vegetables. Whatever you do, keep it simple. It’s best not to go for recipes that rely on long lists of complicated ingredients or recipes that may just seem weird to the average omnivore (cashew cheese anyone?). If you go out of your way to make elaborate, vegan versions of animal foods, you are not going to convince anyone to include more plant-based foods in their own diet. While some of these recipes may appeal to the already plant-based converted, it is not going to sound appetizing those who are used to eating animal and dairy foods. In many cases these substitutes are not even healthy. Really, vegan dishes can be the most delicious or the most yucky. I guess this supports the macrobiotic theory that everything that has a front also has a back! If you focus on using simple, traditional foods with high-quality ingredients and seasonings, your friends will be more inclined to give it a try. They will be surprised at how great vegan, plant-based foods can taste. More importantly they will notice how great they feel after they eat food that is easier to digest and begin to gain an awareness of the positive effects that pant-based foods have on the body.

Here is my guacamole recipe. It is easy to make, healthful, and delicious. Bring this to a party or share as a snack or appetizer, along with organic, non-GMO corn chips.

Note: you can substitute raw diced onion for the umeboshi pickled onions if you are pressed for time, but the pickled onion is the secret ingredient that brings a unique healthful quality and special flavor to the recipe.

Susan’s Guacamole
Preparation time (20-30 minutes)
Key ingredients!
Serves 2 - 4
1/2 cup of finely diced onion (marinated in umeboshi vinegar)
Fresh sliced jalapeño pepper, center vein and seeds removed (optional)
1/4 cup of finely chopped Cilantro 
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 teaspoons of Umeboshi vinegar (savory vinegar, check out my previous post)
Fresh lime juice to taste

Preparation of the pickle:
Dice the onion and place in a pyrex bowl.
Add a 1/16 teaspoon of sea salt to the onion and use your hands to gently mix the salt with the onion.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of umeboshi vinegar to the onions.
Mix the ingredients together and allow the mixture to begin
to pickle while you continue to prepare the other ingredients. 
Avocado, chopped cilantro and pickled onion

Susan's Amazing Guacamole!

Putting it all together:
Cut the Avocado in half; remove the pit and the fruit.
Place the fruit in a bowl.
Add the cilantro and peppers.
Add the pickled onions and any liquid in the bowl.
Add 3/4 - 1 teaspoon of umeboshi vinegar.
Use a pestle or other wooden utensil to blend all the ingredients. If you like thicker style guacamole
If you like the chunkier style guacamole then do not mash up all the avocado.
Add fresh squeezed lime juice and fold the top into the bottom to blend all the flavors together.

This recipe will keep longer than most others because of using the savory vinegar. The onions start to pickle, bringing more of a balance for the rich vegetable fat of the avocado. Additionally by not using un-cooked salt my recipe does not have a bloating effect on the body. Keep the guacamole refrigerated in a glass dish together with the pit until
you are ready to eat it.

The pit helps to maintain the freshness. When you are ready to serve remove the pit and place in a bowl. Serve with good quality corn chips (again made with non-GMO, organic corn and sea salt), lightly blanched or raw carrots or celery sticks. Or top off a beautiful vegan rice and bean burrito.

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