June 16th’s plant-based meal: Grilled eggplant steaks, couscous with chickpeas, red peppers and baby corn.

We like vegetables!  We grow them when we can, and buy them locally when we can, though much of the time we buy them at the supermarket.  We have them as salads, side-dishes, and ingredients in stir-fry and casseroles.  But they were seldom the main course, or the only thing we had for dinner.

Our attempts at following vegetarian or vegan diets always have “excepts”.  We don’t eat meat, except once a month we grill steaks.  We don’t consume dairy products, except when we have cheese on pizza or pasta.  We like to follow a vegan diet, except when we go out to eat and there’s a great seafood dish on the menu.

After finding out a bit more about how to make plants the main course, I started experimenting with fresh vegetables, whole grains and legumes, mixing and matching them to create healthy, tasty and tempting meals.  The photo above shows one of my early concoctions: I sliced an eggplant lengthwise into 1/2″ thick steaks, sprinkling it with lemon juice as it grilled.  On the stove I sauteed garlic, red bell peppers and baby corn before throwing in a cup of couscous to cook, then adding a can of chickpeas to the mix.   The couscous with sauteed veggies was served on top of the eggplant steaks.  It was a big hit – Richard loved it!

After this, we were on our way to having plants as our main course.  I try to have as many different colors on the plate as possible, and to always have a mix of vegetables and/or fruit with whole grains and legumes.  The variations are endless!

One of the nicer discoveries so far has been that we can eat as much as we want, but that we don’t want to eat as much.  Plants and whole grains fill us up much more than processed foods, fats and animal products.  When I look at the photo above, it now looks like way too much food for one meal.  My Italian “abbondanza” meal-serving mentality is slowly being replaced with a new appreciation of “just enough”.

But, still, I had a lot of questions in the back of my mind.  Will we get enough protein?  Don’t we need some of the “good” fats, like olive oil and canola oil, and aren’t those plant-based foods?  Don’t we need calcium to avoid osteoporosis as we age?  Will we become anemic from lack of iron?   Clearly, I needed more information.  In my next post I’ll tell you how I began finding out what I needed to know.