“Plant-Powered Protein Cookbook.” By the editors of Vegetarian Times. Globe Pequot. $28

Who hasn’t felt the pressure to forgo meat and instead use plant-based protein in their meals? Good for the planet, the pocketbook and your health.

In our house, we have several meatless meals every week, but I stand in awe of the growing number of friends who have adopted vegetarian or vegan lifestyles.

It’s a bridge too far for me, having grown up in a real meat-and-potatoes home. Sunday dinner always meant a roast of some kind, served with mashed potatoes and gravy. The rest of the week you could find meatloaf, Swedish meatballs, Shake ‘N Bake pork chops, shepherd’s pie or fried chicken on the menu.

But there’s also a preponderance of heart disease and diabetes in my family, so for the past 20 years or so, I’ve been serving meatless meals.

The desire to expand those offerings is what drew me to “Plant-Powered Protein Cookbook,” a product of Vegetarian Times.

The book offers an easy-to-understand primer on plant-based proteins, naming the five superstars (legume and beans; whole grains; nuts and seeds; soy and seitan; and eggs and dairy) and then their attributes. It also explains simply the connection between protein and fiber, protein and energy and the importance of protein in your diet.

Once all the science is covered, the reader is introduced to a rich array of recipes. The organization of the cookbook is easy to follow, starting with smoothies and snack foods, then salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, condiments and desserts. The index makes it easy to look in your pantry (Hmmm, lentils and canned tomatoes), then find a recipe using those ingredients.

The editors at Vegetarian Times know how to make food look appealing. Each recipe is accompanied by an engaging photo, some of which made me salivate.

Artichoke-Potato Medley, a constellation of richly colored roasted vegetables, made me add “2 10-oz. boxes of frozen artichoke hearts” to the grocery list posted on my fridge. Butternut Squash & Greens Kuku, an Iranian egg dish, is next on the must-try list. And a luscious-looking Tofu Creme au Chocolat promises to be as decadent as traditional pudding, but with fewer calories, half the carbohydrates and more protein.

In fact, it was a photo of Curried Red Lentil Soup that made me pause and check for the necessary ingredients in my pantry.

Outdoor temperatures in the teens helped as well. There’s nothing I like better in the winter than a hearty stew and crusty bread. In addition to heart disease and diabetes, I think my family has had a long association with peasant fare.

The meal was easy to make. I’m guessing most folks have the ingredients in their pantries.

And it was delicious. Real stick-to-your-bones food, infused with the flavors of India but not in any kind of overpowering way.

The editors note it is even better the second day, after the flavors have had more time to mingle. I agree.

And a bonus: The meal is both vegan and gluten-free, so it’s a fabulous choice if you’re hosting a gathering where there might be guests with dietary restrictions.

Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

[email protected]

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Curried red lentils soup with lemon Photos courtesy of Globe Pequot

Vegan and gluten-free.

Serves 6

2 cups red lentils sorted, rinsed and drained

1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

4 celery stalks, finely chopped (11/2 cups)

2 large carrots, finely chopped (11/2 cups)

2 cloves garlic minced (2 teaspoons)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Bring lentils, vegetable broth and 4 cups of water to a simmer in a large pot. Skim away foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add cilantro, curry powder and cumin, and cook 20 minutes more, or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and stir in lemon juice.

 

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