Wholesome Foods:

The flexitarian approach
February in the Valley means it’s time to start planting seeds in containers to grow in your green house and trimming your grapes vines and fruit trees.
Why do the work of growing your own food?
• It helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
• You decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food.
• You get to control when to harvest your food.
• Fruits and vegetables that ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some store-bought produce that must be picked early.
And now with meat prices so high, why not try to be more economical and grow your protein sources.
Meat may be the iconic flagship of the protein group, but plant foods can hold their own among their protein compatriots – including beans, peas and lentils, nuts and seeds and soy products.
If you’re concerned about plants being an “incomplete” protein that requires complicated combining of different proteins, you can put that worry to rest. Studies now show that when you eat a variety of plant foods, the overall mix of amino acids – or the building blocks of protein – is not substantially different from animal protein.
I’m not saying you need to become a vegetarian, but trying the flexitarian approach may be the happy medium. A flexitarian is a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish. This method can help maintain a healthier weight to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.
For every ounce of meat, poultry or fish, here’s the equivalent serving size:
• ¼ cup cooked beans
• 1 egg
• 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or other nut butters
• ½ ounce of nuts or seeds
• ¼ cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu
• 1-ounce tempeh, cooked
• 6 tablespoons hummus
In addition to these official members of the protein foods group, whole grains and dairy can also help you add protein, especially quinoa, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
Here is a three-bean chili recipe to try:
• 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/4 cup water (for water saute)
• 1 large onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
• 2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced (a few seeds ok for extra heat)
• 3 tablespoons chili powder
• 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
• 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
• 1 tablespoon cocoa powder or small piece of dark chocolate (about 1/2 oz.), optional
• 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth, + more if needed
• salt & pepper, to taste
Saute: In large pot heat olive oil over medium heat, saute onion for 7 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno, chili and chipotle powder, cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
Simmer: Add the beans, tomatoes, chocolate, and liquids, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover askew, and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add more water as needed. Taste for flavor, season with salt and pepper, and/or other herbs you feel it needs.
Serves 4.