Authentically Latina and Vegetarian

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in the series, ¿Vege-Que? — A Week of Healthy Eating, ongoing from April 11 to 17 on the Tiki Tiki. Please visit the first post to learn more about the series and enter for the chance to win some awesome prizes.

Health scare leads to change

Lucia Lopez PlunkettBy Lucia Lopez Plunkett

My goal in life is to be the most authentic “me” I can be.

What’s that, you ask?

Good question.

While that goal is one I grapple with daily, becoming a vegetarian was a decision I made effortlessly. It came while trying to gain empowerment during a powerless time in my life. After seeing my daughter, at the age of 2, go through countless procedures and hospitalizations for chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer, I decided it was time to initiate change by starting with the “wo-man in the mirror,” to quote a famous Jackson.

One challenge was how to make my favorite dishes, the ones my Mami taught me without using meat. The process is, well, still in process, but let me share with you how it’s going so far,  a year-and-a-half later.

To begin, I had to drop some of my favorite Mexican recipes and foods, including caldito de pollo, cocido (I love soup!), and anything made with chicken (taquitos, sigh, I am still in mourning).

I also had to forgo going out to eat at some restaurants. I’ve learned that eateries that didn’t offer vegetarian dishes weren’t really places I liked going to in the first place.

Eating Healthy is a Family Focus

Being vegetarian has forced me to place importance on nutrition and healthy choices for my family, which I feel we deserve. These days there are so many healthy options out there, it’s not often I’m put out. Although I don’t impose my vegetarian beliefs on anyone, I do teach my children about the importance of eating healthy every day.

My daughter’s illness coincided with my father’s diagnosis of diabetes and high blood pressure. Therefore, the importance of nutrition became high in my family, and brought my mother and I together to learn new and creative ways to make healthy traditional meals.

As it turns out, traditional Mexican food has many dishes that do not contain meat and are really good for you. I’ve either kept some recipes as is, or tweaked some ingredients to reduce fat or sugar.

Beans are highly respected in our family, and who could argue, my daughter asks almost daily for her tostada (baked) and frijoles (refried without oil or lard) and cheese (organic). Beans are also a nice addition to my tofu scramble with plenty of vegetables all wrapped up in a warm whole wheat tortilla.

Ever heard of nopales? Who knew they are rich in vitamins, fiber and minerals. Since I became a vegetarian, I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel. My doctor shows me my blood work proudly stating: “You can’t even tell you’re a vegetarian.”

Reconnecting With My Roots

Most importantly, becoming a vegetarian was really a process in reconnecting with my family, my cultural roots and my true self. It has been a journey in rediscovering my family’s traditional recipes and contributing my own as well.

The first cooking lesson my mother ever gave me was this one: “Cuando se cocina, se hace las comida con amor.”

She’s right, and it’s a lesson I use universally in many areas in my life. Now, I look forward to eating my meals knowing what I make has my family’s best interest at heart, and oh how delicious! What better way to nurture the soul than through meals created with so much history and love behind them?

I hope you enjoy one of my favorite recipes that nourish both my heart (good source of iron and vitamins) and soul:

Lucia’s “Te Quiero, Dicen las Lentejas” Soup

Ingredients:

Prepare lentils  according to package directions. I add half of a medium onion and two or three cloves of garlic to the water for added flavor.

While the lentils are cooking, clean and wash the tomatillos and quarter them. Rinse the cilantro and add both to a blender with a little boiling water so the ingredients mix well. Puree, set aside.

Sauté the soy chorizo in a pan using non-stick cooking spray or olive oil. I use about half of the soy chorizo but more or less can be used depending on taste. When the lentils are done cooking, add the cilantro and tomatillo to the lentils stirring well. Add soy chorizo and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Enjoy!

What about You?

Are you thinking of making dietary and lifestyle chances to improve your health? Your family’s health?

Check out the Giveaways

Please be sure to read the ¿Vege-Que? Giveaways post to enter for some great prizes, including cookware from IMUSA, copies of Viva Vegan!, the e-book Healthy Snacks to Go; and new EatStrong trail mix and bars.

***You must comment in the giveaways post and in one essay, such as this one, this week to be entered to win.

Lucia Lopez Plunkett, PhD., is a bilingual/bicultural psychotherapist from California. Lucia is married with two young children who inspire her every day.

Share, por favor!

By Contributor on April 13, 2011 · Posted in food

11 Comments | Post Comment

Tracy says:

I love lentejas – it’s one of my favorites. I usually add fried onions and garlic, salt and garam masala spice to them, (Pakistani/Indian style.) I will have to try your way.

Love your mother’s dicho too, and that you turned a difficult time in your family into something that ended up benefiting you all with a healthier lifestyle.
Tracy´s last [fabulousness] ..Latino food here- Hispanic food over there

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Rox says:

Great post!
Rox´s last [fabulousness] ..Veggie Essay featured on the Tiki Tiki Blog

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Micaela Vega - Striving Bean says:

Very nice post – the lentil recipe looks delicious. Wishing you and your family good health!
Micaela Vega – Striving Bean´s last [fabulousness] ..Tortilla Española – Egg and Potato Omelette Recipe

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Becky A says:

So great to read an article from another latina veg! Became veg about a year ago – and have never felt better. Although the resistance from fam has been interesting. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding when aunt Tula says “What do you mean you DON’T EAT MEAT?!” :)

Love your mommy’s dicho – it makes all the difference when making big changes to your family’s daily menu.

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Carrie says:

I love lentils with a red-hot passion and one of my favorite dishes is with red lentils, ginger, garlic, spinach and penne pasta. (Red lentils cook so fast!)

Thank you, Lucia for this beautiful essay!

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Lisa Renata says:

Love your essay comadre!!

We had a mix of beans (lentejas included)in the soup I made yesterday. Oh-so-very-yummy! I will have to try your recipe and let ya know what I think.
Lisa Renata´s last [fabulousness] ..moving slowly ♥ moviendome despasio

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Unknown Mami says:

I love me so lentejas!
Unknown Mami´s last [fabulousness] ..The Life You Never Planned On

Posted on April 13th, 2011

Carla says:

I have recently spent a lot of time reading about cancer and how there are so many preventative measures one can take and one of the biggest being changes in our diet. Now I make my decisions about food knowing I’m not only taking care of myself but making really important choices for the future of my daughters. Every meal is an opportunity to build a strong immune system. Thank you for sharing!
Carla´s last [fabulousness] ..Monday Morsels 1

Posted on April 16th, 2011

Tatia says:

I love lentejas… I did not know you can find soy chorizo.. have to try it!

Posted on April 16th, 2011

Sue Valencia says:

¡Qué rico! I will be making this lenteja soup for sure!
Ya me dio hambre…
:D
Sue Valencia´s last [fabulousness] ..Luna Llena en Libra- operar y co-operar

Posted on April 17th, 2011

Silvia says:

Lentejas brings cozy happy memories, I use to have them once a week, and we eat them with banana, yes! I never tried this but one of my aunts eats them with watermelon!!

I’m mexican, however, I don’t like nopales, never did and probably never will, my family cannot believe this, nor my husband who loves them!

Thanks for the easy and yummy recipe!
Silvia´s last [fabulousness] ..Felíz Cumpleaños

Posted on April 18th, 2011