COLORADO SPRINGS. The Lenten regulation to forego eating meat on Fridays challenges Catholics to eat in a different, more thoughtful way, to consume food that is more compatible with contemplative life and with how the poor live.
Yet practical concerns arise about the taste, nutritional value, and the ease of preparation of more simple food choices.
J.L. Fields, vegan food educator, says that that plant-based meals can be nutritious, enjoyable and easy to make. The author of four vegan cookbooks, said that eating vegan at least for some meals of the week can be easy, healthful and better for the earth.
“The majority of people who take my cooking classes are not vegans,” said Fields, the owner of the the Colorado Springs Vegan Academy. A vegan is someone who not only does not eat meat, but also eschews eggs and dairy products. She said that people who take her classes are interested in changing the way they eat for some of their meals.
“A lot of people who are taking my classes are taking them because their doctors have told them they have to go on statins for high cholesterol. Plant-based foods have absolutely no cholesterol in them, and they have a lot of fiber. A lot of people are taking class because they are truly trying to get healthier, so they may not eat vegan for the rest of their life, but even if they add a few meals a day or several meals a week that are completely plant based, it’s going to be good for them,” she said.
Field’s personal conversion to a vegan lifestyle occurred 14 years ago.
“What happened was when I lived in New York, I worked in the nonprofit sector, and I worked in Africa for an organization that I was the executive director of. We worked to eliminate violence against women and girls. I was in Nairobi, Kenya. I was in my late thirties. We were there for a celebration. We were opening a safe house for teenage girls in a small village. During the celebration, a male elder came in leading a goat, and then they slaughtered the goat, and stewed the goat, and we ate the goat for dinner — and I became a vegetarian! As someone who grew up in the Midwest, it’s not like I didn’t know where meat came from, but I met a goat, it shook its head at me — and then I ate him. I felt terrible, so I stopped eating meat.”
“Then when I was 45,” she continued, “I had been a vegetarian for eight years and was eating boring stuff, pasta, a lot of eggs, a lot of butter, a lot of yogurt. I tried a vegan diet for 16 days to try to feel better — and I did, and I thought, “gosh, that wasn’t very hard.” But what I discovered was that I had no idea how to cook vegan. So I just threw myself into it.“
Working as an executive in the university system in New York, raising money from corporations and foundations, her hobby became how to cook vegan and have fun with it, and that’s when she started a website creating recipes. Then she was invited to write a book with another person, called Vegan for Her. She decided to teach people how much fun it is to eat healthful food. Fields moved to Colorado Springs four years ago and opened the Colorado Springs Vegan Academy.
Field’s favorite cooking tools are a pressure cooker and an air fryer. Pressure cookers slice the cooking time, especially at altitude, for grains and beans from hours to minutes, and an air fryer can impart crispy deep-fried taste to vegetables with minimal use of oil.
“I think that my classes might be fun for people who might be getting into a dietary rut — they feel like they are eating the same thing over and over again,” said Fields. “I am going to get them into some grains that they haven’t used before, like millet or amaranth, or to rethink beans. I think they want to expand their culinary chops. They are excited about food, and they know that there are so many kinds of food out there that they’ve never even eaten or tried to cook.”
Fields is teaching a vegan pressure-cooking class on April 12 at the cooking academy. Information is at www.jlgoesvegan.com.
1 cup (175 g) quinoa
1 teaspoon walnut oil
½ cup (80 g) chopped red onion
1 cup (130 g) diced carrot
1½ cups (355 ml) vegetable broth
½ teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ to ½ cup (30-60 g) chopped walnuts
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme, for garnish.
Rinse and drain the quinoa.
In an uncovered pressure cooker, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, dried parsley, dried thyme, salt, and quinoa. Stir to combine.
Cover and bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Allow for a natural release; if after 10 minutes the pressure has still not come down fully, manually release.
Fluff the quinoa before gently mixing in the walnuts.
Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley or thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
1. If you don’t have walnut oil, substitute vegetable oil or 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) vegetable broth or water.
2. No pressure cooker? No problem! Prepare all of the ingredients in a large pan or soup pot on the stovetop on medium-high heat. Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and then add the walnuts.
You can use this basic recipe and mix and match flavors for a variety of pilaf dishes. Simply substitute the parsley and thyme for other flavor profiles. For example, ginger and paprika with curry vegetable broth and chopped cashews make for a tasty Indian-style
(Reprinted with permission from Vegan Pressure Cooking by J.L. Fields, Fair Winds Press, 2015). (Quinoa Pilaf photo by Kate Lewis.)