Hearty Meals

Every January, countless people pledge to change their lifestyles for the better, to eat healthier, lose weight, exercise more. For most, however, those well-intended resolutions eventually fall by the wayside. Lulu Crawford has been successful at all three, largely because her life depended on it. Early last year, what started off as routine testing ended up in open-heart surgery. “I don’t have a history of heart disease, ” Lulu says. So, while she had been a bit short of breath and had a little high blood pressure, she had no reason to suspect such a dire situation. Surgery was, as it is for many in similar circumstances, a life-altering event.

During recovery, Lulu researched. “I read a plethora of books, and every one of them said the same thing.” Cut down or cut out meat, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and no processed foods. Lulu, bottom right, has been a vegan ever since. She is also 20 pounds lighter and exercises daily. “I even go one step further, and I don’t do much oil, ” she says. Lulu thought her diet wasn’t too bad before. “I ate whole-wheat bread, drank skim milk and ate fast food infrequently. I ate like everybody else, meat and two vegetables. But looking back on it, I wasn’t as careful as I had thought. I did enjoy heavy, oily and creamy dressings and sauces.”

In changing the way she cooks, Lulu has discovered a whole host of new spices, condiments and produce. She now enjoys vegetables that she thought she disliked. “I love Brussels sprouts. I have found some interesting rices. I use a lot of different vinegars and spices. Lemon juice and balsamic vinegar are staples. There are also things that were totally unknown to me, like nutritional yeast that is sort of cheesy and crunchy, and amino acid, that is sort of like a Worcestershire or soy sauce. There are really some odd and interesting things out there.”

Now she encourages others to make small changes. “If there is one thing people could do, it would be to eliminate processed food. That’s a good place to start. Then try to cut back on meats and fats and eat more fresh vegetables and fruits. And exercise, that’s good for everybody, not just those with heart disease.” Have a happy and healthy new year! 

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Red Lentil Dal

( Serves 4 )

One of Lulu’s new favorite foods is dal, a flavorful Indian entree usually made with lentils, tomatoes, onions and a variety of spices. Garam masala, used in the dish, is a classic spice blend frequently found in Northern Indian cuisine.

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 ounces tomato paste (1/2 small can)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
salt and pepper, to taste
prepared brown rice (optional)
pita bread (optional)

1. Sauté onion and garlic in water, until translucent.
2. Add cumin, turmeric, paprika and ginger, and cook for several minutes while stirring.
3. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste and coriander. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes.
4. Add garam masala and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Serve over brown rice or with pita bread.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

( Serves 12 )

This recipe is delicious by itself or as a base. Lulu suggests adding rice or pasta, along with any vegetable you have that needs eating: corn, spinach, carrots, zucchini. She says “Be creative; everything works well.” (For those who are not vegans, garnish the vegetarian chili with plain yogurt, sour cream or shredded cheese.)

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans or kidney beans
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients, except the last two, in a Crock-Pot or slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours. When serving, top with yogurt, sour cream and cheese, if desired. Freezes well.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

( Serves 4 – 6 )

This mashed mixture of potatoes and cauliflower makes a good, healthy side dish. The nutritional yeast in the recipe is one of Lulu’s new finds for boosting nutrition and flavor. Look for it at health food stores.

1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets (May substitute a bag of frozen cauliflower florets.)
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced
nondairy milk, vegetable broth or water, as needed (Lulu reserves the water from boiling the vegetables.)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Boil cauliflower and potatoes in water to cover for about 20 minutes.
2. Drain and mash using a mixer or blender, whip adding nondairy milk, vegetable broth or reserved cooking water as needed to achieve desired creamy texture.
3. Add nutritional yeast, seasonings and salt and pepper to taste. 

text and styling by Sallye Irvine

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