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MRS. MURFREESBORO: Making dinner vegetarian style

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Television personality Dr. Nehmet Oz had a food expert on his show this week who discounted the value of Omega 3 acids found in fish.

Actually, she said because so much fish is farm raised and levels of mercury are such an issue, there are only four types that she recommends: wild raised salmon, anchovies, trout and sardines.

We have been trying to eat more fish at our house lately because everything we’ve read indicated that fish is a perfect food. It was disappointing to hear that it may not be.

In a way, this revelation solves one problem: Although I like cooking fish, it is expensive and difficult to find in stores.  

I rarely plan my meals in advance, so cooking fish means going out at the last minute to see what the best "catch" is in the local markets that day. At least now, I don’t have to worry about that any more.

What’s a person to do?

I guess we’ll have to eat more vegetables.

We’ve been trying to eat vegetarian once or twice a week at our house, and I haven’t found that hard to do at all. When the Rutherford County Farmer’s Market was in full force, it was quite easy.

So, here are some of my favorite recipes that don't require meat.

Eggplant parmesan

Nothing beats eggplant parmesan. It’s one of our very favorites.

I cut one medium, unpeeled eggplant into 1-inch cubes and cooked it in about 2 cups of boiling water until tender, or about 8 minutes, drained it, and mashed it like coarse potatoes. I proceeded as if I were making salmon patties, and it was yummy.

If you don’t use the Internet to find recipes, use an old-fashioned cookbook and find a recipe for fish croquettes and replace eggplant as you like. But, I will tell you this: Regardless of the recipe, adding about 1 tablespoon of fresh minced parsley will add greatly to the taste.

Roasted vegatables with orzo

I also love serving roasted vegetables over orzo, which is rice-like pasta, as a main dish.

To make this dish, cut up your favorite unpeeled fresh vegetables into 2-inch cubes. Zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus or mushrooms all work well with this dish.

Put whatever vegetables you choose in a pan, a 9-inch square one is great for serving two people.

Then sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, and cook in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve these over cooked orzo (made according to package directions) and you have a full meal.

Fresh tomato pasta

I also find it easy to make pasta dishes without meat.

In the summer months, I would sauté two or more cloves of garlic in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add three to four fresh chopped tomatoes (peeled with seeds removed) and heat until warm. Then add about 1 cup of mozzarella and a 1/2 cup of parmesan, as well as roughly 2 tablespoons of fresh basil, and serve over about 4 ounces of cooked and drained pasta. Voila, there’s dinner.  

Although fresh tomatoes and basil may not be available in the cooler months, you could substitute a 1-pound can of crushed or diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of dried basil and get similar results. Serve over the pasta and see how yummy it is.

Collard greens

Then there is the plain old vegetable meal.

Go to Junior’s and buy a bunch of their collard greens. Cut off the thick stems, wash them well, and trim the thick ribs out with a knife. Cook in about 2 cups of boiling, salted water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 30 minutes. 

Sometimes, the greens are more tender than others and don’t take as long to cook. So, be sure to taste the greens every 10 minutes or so until you reach the degree of “doneness” you prefer.

Add 1/2 of a small, diced onion and a small amount of crushed red pepper to taste. Then cook for 5 minutes or so. Serve these with a baked sweet potato, tossed salad and “hoe cakes.”

"Hoe cakes"

I love making “hoe cakes.”

Mine is not an exact recipe because for fewer than five people, you have to figure out how to halve an egg, but here’s how I do it:

Put about 1/2 of a small package of Jiffy cornmeal mix in a 16-ounce measuring cup. Add about 1/2 of an egg, which you put into a small bowl with about 1 tablespoon of water, into the cup. Mix well. Add the other 1/2 of the egg to the cornmeal mix and stir. Add milk to make the batter consistent with pancake consistency, and stir well. Pour or spoon by tablespoons onto a hot griddle sprayed with Pam (or sprinkled with olive oil) and cook on one side about 2 or 3 minutes. Then turn and cook 2 more minutes or more until the cakes are cooked through. You can serve these with any butter or spread.

Now that cooler days are here, there’s always soup and salad for another vegetarian alternative.

Either way, we may be serving less fish at our house, but we won’t be missing out on great flavors.

And maybe, I’ll be seeing you in Junior’s scouting out those collard greens sometime soon.

‘Til next week.

Tagged under  Cooking, Food, Health, Jeanne Bragg, Living Well, Mrs Murfreesboro, Voices

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