Happy World Vegetarian Day!

1 Oct

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” — Albert Einstein

Today is World Vegetarian Day.

World Vegetarian Day is the annual kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with World Vegan Day on November 1. In 1977, October 1 was established as a day of celebration “to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.” It’s meant to bring awareness to the environmental, ethical, health and humanitarian benefits of living a vegetarian lifestyle.

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” – Abraham Lincoln

A meat-free diet protects the lives of animals as well as our planet’s resources. And, extensive research confirms that a vegetarian diet leads to a longer and healthier life. For me, eating is a whole lot more enjoyable knowing that no animals suffered along the way and that my choices are improving my health.

About one million people become vegetarians every year in the U.S. alone.

World Vegetarian Day invites all non-vegetarians to give meatless eating a try, even if it’s just for one day. I’m hoping you’ll give it a try. To help you out, I’m going to post a vegetarian recipe every day for the month of October. No kidding! Some of them will be vegan (no dairy or eggs) and some will be vegetarian (may contain eggs).

First up is a fabulous soup recipe. It’s a “veganized” version of the wonderful Chicken Pasta Soup at J. Alexander’s restaurant. This is one of my all-time favorite soups. I used to make it all the time until I went vegan. The restaurant’s version has chunks of chicken, penne pasta, carrots, mushrooms and sugar snap peas in a creamy broth with a hint of lemon. My mouth is watering just writing that! My version uses all those wonderful vegetables plus meatless “chicken” slices. If you’re not a fan of “fake chicken,” you can leave it out and just bump up the amount of pasta and veggies to make up for it. As for the broth, I haven’t found a canned or boxed vegetable broth yet that I like. When I was at Whole Foods last month, I bought a powdered vegetable broth in the bulk foods area. You just mix it with water. It didn’t have any “scary” ingredients, the sodium was fairly comparable to the boxed ones, and the flavor was fantastic. Very chicken-y.

I don’t want to pat my own back or anything…but…this soup ROCKS!

Creamy “Chicken” Pasta Soup
makes about 10 cups

6 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 cup sliced meat-free “chicken”
1-1/3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 cup sliced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, halved diagonally
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a medium stockpot, place 4 cups of broth and the “chicken” pieces. Bring to a boil. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the “chicken” and set aside. To the boiling broth, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, spray a large stockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Add the butter and allow to melt. Stir in celery, carrots and onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour and allow to cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and the “chicken” and simmer for about 5 minutes. When the pasta is done, pour it and the cooking broth into the soup. Stir in the frozen peas. Add the sugar snap peas and simmer until they are tender-crisp. Mix in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Note: If you have leftovers, be aware that the pasta will absorb some of the broth and you will end up with fatter pasta and a thicker soup.

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