VRG Vegetarian Journal

VRG Home | About VRG | Vegetarian Journal | Books | Vegetarian Nutrition
Subscribe to Journal | Vegetarian Game | Vegetarian Family | Nutshell | VRG-News
Vegetarian Recipes | Travel | What's New | Bulletin Board | Search www.vrg.org | Links

Vegetarian Journal Excerpts -- March 1995

A sampling from the March/April, 1995, issue of The Vegetarian Journal, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Nutrition Hotline: Vegetarian Nutrition as a Career Choice

by Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D.

QUESTION What are the career possibilities for a nutritionist specializing in vegetarian diets?

ANSWER: A registered dietitian (R.D.) is someone who has met criteria set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for The American Dietetic Association (ADA). An R.D. is qualified to work in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and many others. Unlike "registered dietitian", the term "nutritionist" has no national legal meaning -- in some states anyone can be called a nutritionist, regardless of education.

To become an R.D., you'll first need a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from an ADA-accredited school. Then, an internship or equivalent experience is required, after which you are eligible to sit for the national registration exam. Dietitians are also required to earn continuing education credits to maintain their R.D. status. For more details about schools which are ADA accredited, as well as information about becoming a registered dietitian, contact The ADA, 216 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60606-6995.

In addition to registration, about half the states in the U.S. license dietitians, and the ADA is actively seeking licensure in the remaining states. In states that have licensure, there are restrictions against private nutrition counseling for anyone who is not a licensed, registered dietitian (or licensed nutritionist in some states). If you are serious about a career in nutrition, enroll in an ADA-accredited program and follow the path to registration. Some shorter, non-ADA-accredited programs are available, but credentials from these programs are not recognized by the medical/nutrition communities. Unless you are a registered dietitian, for instance, many job opportunities in hospitals, health departments, and other traditional positions will be unavailable to you. In my opinion, you would be at a huge disadvantage without R.D. status. Even if you want to follow a nontraditional path -- say, developing a private practice specializing in vegetarian nutrition -- many more doors will be open to you if you have R.D. status.

Recently many new opportunities have arisen for dietitians who want to specialize in vegetarian nutrition. The ADA now has a dietetic practice group, DPG 14: Vegetarian Nutrition, that provides opportunities for networking and increasing your expertise through special projects and the group's quarterly newsletter. Survey data shows that Americans are cutting back on their intake of meat and are more frequently identifying themselves as vegetarian. Consequently, there is an increased demand for dietitians who are familiar with vegetarianism to work with food companies, the media, private clients, etc. As individuals move toward a more plant-based diet, I see the opportunities for dietitians knowledgeable about vegetarianism as only increasing in the future.

Scientific Updates: A Review of Recent Scientific Papers Related to Vegetarianism

by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.


Many countries are experiencing rapid changes in dietary intake and physical activity. These changes lead to marked changes in body size and composition. While many low-income countries continue to have significant rates of under-nutrition, the prevalence of chronic diseases related to over-nutrition is increasing.

As countries grow economically, a marked decline in grain consumption and a large increase in meat and milk intake is seen. This represents a move from a more plant-based to a more animal- based diet. At the same time, obesity increases, as does risk of heart disease.

Barry Popkin, a professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls for lower-income countries to learn from higher-income countries and try to direct changes in nutrition in a healthy direction. He points to China's attempts to address problems of both under- and over-nutrition. Public education and dietary guidelines in China focus on maintaining current intake levels of fruits and vegetables, decreasing high-fat protein sources, and increasing production and consumption of soybeans (as well as seafood and poultry). Popkin calls for the nutrition community to begin focusing on the problems of over-nutrition in low-income countries before high-cost medical intervention is required.

While vegetarians may argue the wisdom of promoting use of seafood and poultry, this article is thought-provoking. What can we do to influence international food policy? What foods should the United States be exporting to low-income countries? What sort of guidelines can we develop for our own use which could also be used by other countries? What can we do so that other countries can learn from our mistakes?

For more information see: Popkin BM. The nutrition transition in low-income countries: An emerging crisis. Nutr Rev 1994; 52:285-298.


Cooking food in iron pots has been previously shown to increase its iron content. The iron which then is found in the food is usable by humans. Steel is about 98% or more iron. This study investigated whether or not food cooked in steel woks had increased iron.

Three batches of ten different foods were cooked in a steel wok. The same foods were also cooked in a glass pan. The iron content of all of the foods was measured both in the raw form and after cooking in either steel or glass.

All foods except eggs contained more iron when cooked in steel than in glass. The iron content of the raw food and the food cooked in glass was about the same. More acidic foods and foods cooked for a longer time added more iron during cooking in a steel wok. The largest increase in iron was seen in sweet and sour sauce, which went from 0.02 milligrams of iron per tablespoon before cooking to 1 milligram of iron per tablespoon after cooking for more than an hour in a steel wok. Other foods showing a marked increase in iron after cooking in a steel wok were carrots (almost 9-fold increase), tofu (6-fold), Chinese cabbage (5-fold), green beans (3.5-fold), and rice (2-fold).

These results suggest a way of increasing dietary iron, namely by cooking in a steel wok or other iron cookware.

For further information see: Zhou Y-D, Brittin HC. Increased iron content of some Chinese foods due to cooking in steel woks. J Am Diet Assoc 1994; 94:1153-2011.


More and more groups (including The Vegetarian Resource Group) are calling for a reduction in fat in school lunches. A common concern is whether reduced fat lunches will be accepted by students, many of whom are used to cheeseburgers and fries. Are there things which can be done to increase acceptance of lowfat menu items?

Sixteen elementary schools in Bellevue, Washington, served two lunch entrees each day. Originally, a lowfat entree was offered only about one-fourth of the time. At that point 9% of all entrees selected by students were lowfat. Menus were modified so that every day one entree had less than 30% of calories from fat, the other averaged 38% of calories from fat. The lower-fat entree was selected about 31% of the time. This increase in selection of lower-fat foods took place without any efforts to label the foods as lowfat or to encourage the students to select them.

Researchers then sent letters home with students from eight of the schools describing the menu changes and asking parents to encourage their children to select lowfat entrees. This led to close to 36% of children selecting a lowfat entree, an increase of four percentage points.

After receiving the letter, over one-fourth of the parents discussed entree choices with their child. Only 10% actually asked their child to select a lowfat entree.

Children do appear to choose lowfat entrees. Parents can support these choices by talking to their children and encouraging selection of lowfat foods. This study did not determine the effect of educating the children at school about the benefits of choosing lowfat foods. I would expect that this education would further increase selection of lowfat entrees.

For more information see: Whitaker RC, Wright JA, Koepsell TD, et al. Randomized intervention to increase children's selection of lowfat foods in school lunches. J Pediatr 1994;125:535-540.


One in four children in the United States is obese. Many reasons have been suggested for this high rate, including a reduction in physical activity, poor food choices, and a genetic tendency. Parents play a large role. Besides their influence on food availability, parents also influence their children's eating by their meal-time interactions and by their own eating behaviors.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studied seventy-seven 3- to 5-year-olds to see which factors influenced their caloric intake. Children were given either a high-calorie drink or a low-calorie drink about 20 minutes before lunch. Children were allowed to choose their own food for lunch. Children were said to compensate for the calories in the drinks if they ate less lunch after drinking a high-calorie drink or more lunch after the low-calorie drink. The researchers then examined a variety of factors to see which best predicted the children's ability to compensate for calorie changes.

Boys appeared to compensate better than girls. Children who compensated poorly were fatter. Children whose mothers were more controlling at meals (encouraging children to eat at a set time rather than when hungry or encouraging children to finish all their food) were less able to compensate for calorie differences. Parents who reported difficulty in controlling their own eating had children who were less able to adjust their eating in response to increases in dietary calories.

Johnson and Birch, the study's authors, recommend that parents provide a variety of nutritious foods. Children should be allowed to maintain control over how much of these foods are eaten.

See: Johnson SL, Birch LL. Parents' and children's adiposity and eating style. Pediatrics 1994;94:653-661.

Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Products for Babies and Children

by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.

The first months with a new baby are demanding ones. There's so much to learn, so many decisions to make. Just when you're starting to get used to diapers and middle-of-the-night feedings, it seems like it's time to start thinking about solid foods. Some questions many parents ask themselves include "Should we make our own or use commercial baby food?" "If we use commercial, is one brand superior?" "What should we look for in terms of baby food ingredients?" "What are other options?"

The decision to make or buy baby foods is a very individual one. Some opt for the convenience of jars of baby foods. Others prefer to make their own, citing lower cost, more control over ingredients, and giving the baby a chance to eat what the rest of the family is eating. Others choose a combination, buying some food and making some.

This month's product review is for those who choose to purchase some or all of their baby food. We'll look at differences between brands and review some considerations when reading labels. Those parents choosing to make their own baby food should refer to the article "Wholesome Baby Foods From Scratch", available as a separate VRG file. (It should available from the same source as this file.)

The first solid food recommended for many babies is baby cereal. Instant baby cereals are generally fortified with iron. Earth's Best makes several baby cereals, including instant brown rice, which are fortified with iron and contain organic grains. Healthy Times also makes instant cereals which are organic but which are not fortified with iron. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that iron supplementation from one or more sources start in 4- to 6-month-old infants (1). Iron-fortified cereal is one convenient source of iron.

The National Resources Defense Council recently reported that children are exposed to more pesticides in their foods than adults are. They recommended that parents purchase organically-grown produce to reduce their children's exposure to pesticides. You can certainly purchase organically-grown fruits and vegetables and make your own baby food. Another option is to choose commercial baby foods prepared using organic produce.

Earth's Best Baby Food differs from other companies' food in that it offers many products which contain organic ingredients. Mother Knows Best also produces baby foods with organic ingredients. This company's products can be found in the frozen foods section of some natural foods stores.

Look for baby foods which do not have added sugar or salt. Babies do not need sugar or salt added to their food. Products which would be suitable for early use include single-ingredient foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, pears, and winter squash. Later, products containing two or more ingredients like apples and blueberries or garden vegetables can be added.

Most companies (Gerber, Heinz, Beech-Nut, Earth's Best) have many baby foods which are suitable for vegetarian babies. Once the baby "graduates" to more chunky foods, more careful label reading is required. Obviously, Chicken & Vegetable Dinner is out for vegetarians, but who would have thought that Potato & Green Bean Dinner would have cheese (a concern for vegans)? Some companies begin adding sugar or salt to baby food designed for older babies. If these are substances you would prefer to avoid, read labels. Not all foods have them.

As the baby gets older, you can begin serving foods like tofu, yogurt (soy or dairy), well-cooked mashed beans, and cheese (soy or dairy) in addition to baby foods. These foods can provide variety and additional nutrients. For more information on introducing foods, see Vegetarian Journal's reprint, "Raising Vegan Kids". The reprint is available in print form from the VRG Catalog or in file form at the VRG's online sites on commercial services and the Internet. The electronic version is called "Feeding Vegan Kids" and should be available from the site where this file was obtained.

My daughter teethed on frozen bagels because I couldn't find a vegan teething biscuit. Typically, teething biscuits contain dairy products. I've recently seen Healthy Times' Biscuits for Teethers, maple flavor, which has no wheat or dairy.

We have previously reviewed many products which would be acceptable to children. These include cereals (Nov/Dec '94), lunch box ideas (Sept/Oct '94), frozen desserts (May/June '94), and cookies (Mar/Apr'94). There are many products which don't really fit in any category and which are aimed at kids.

Lightlife makes Wonderdogs meatless hot dogs for children. Fungle's Fun Foods makes frozen meals for kids. Franks n' Beans dinner is vegan, Spaghetti & Veggieballs contains honey, and Veggie & Bean Burritos have soy cheese. Another fun product is Gabriele's Pasta with Vegetables for Kids. This pasta is shaped like bears or dinosaurs and comes in different colors. The colors are derived from vegetable powders and the pasta is made from organic flour.

This is just a sampling of products which are popular with kids. Drop us a note and let us know what your children's favorite foods are. It's a great time to be a vegetarian child!


1. Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: AAP, 1993, p. 231.

Taming of the "Wild Rice"

by Enette Larson, M.S., R.D. and Stephen Knutson

What is wild rice? Is it rice that stands up on end and dances away from the more tame and sedate rice on your plate....jumps off your fork when you try to eat it....scampers off to join the legendary wild rice packs who shun man's taming and domestication, to live lives of self-determination, "wild and free"?

No evidence has been found to refute such possibilities! What we have found, however, is that what is referred to as "wild rice" is an imposter. It is not a rice at all, but the seed of the wild grass (Zizania aquatica), belonging to an entirely different botanical family than rice and other grains. This wild grass grows in shallow, mud-bottom rivers and lakes in the northern United States and Canada, and most abundantly in the Upper Great Lakes Region. It requires the northern climes because the soil must be stirred so that the seeds get the oxygen and nutrients they need to sprout. The spring thaw and melting of ice and snow creates this stirring process.


Native Americans of the Upper Great Lakes Region have harvested and processed wild rice for cooking for many, many moons. Let's imagine ourselves at a shallow lake in northern Minnesota. It is late summer. Two of us go out in a canoe. One stands in the back with a long pole, like those used in river rafting, to dig into the bottom and push the craft through the shallow water, mud, and grass stalks. The other person sits in the middle of the canoe with two long wooden sticks (called "knockers"), bends the grass stalks over the canoe and knocks the grain off the stalks. When the canoe is full or the day is done, we steer the canoe toward land, where we put our grain into bags.

Next, we pour the grain into a large metal kettle for "parching": dry-heating over a wood fire, until it dries enough to separate the husks from the seeds. To keep the grain from burning, we stir it with a long wooden paddle. After parching, we pour the contents into wooden buckets and "jig" or dance on the grain (to our favorite rap song, Native American chant or Irish jig). The purpose of "jigging" is completely to grind away the husks from the seeds. We must use moccasins because hard-soled shoes will break the seeds.

Our contents are then poured into tray-like baskets for "winnowing." Winnowing involves tossing seeds and chaff (ground up husks) into the air, letting the wind blow the lighter chaff away, while the heavier seeds, one hopes, fall back into the basket. After winnowing, the seeds are ready for washing and cooking.


Webster indicates that we have written references to "water rice" and "water oats," as wild rice was also referenced, as early as the 1750's. The Oxford Dictionary gives this defining reference for the year 1814: "The seeds... are a good substitute for rice, and for this reason it is called wild rice in America." Wild rice has always been a staple in the diet of the region's Native Americans. However, it was not until after World War II that the Upper Great Lakes Region began to market "naturally grown" wild rice regionally and nationally. In the 1960's, scientists at the University of Minnesota developed a new strain of wild rice which did not break easily when picked by machine. Today, most of our wild rice production comes from these commercial "rice paddies," as they are called in Minnesota, California, and Canada.


Although wild rice is becoming increasingly popular, it is still more expensive than regular rice and other grains. In larger metropolitan areas, commercial wild rice is available for around $2 to $3 per pound. Naturally grown, hand picked wild rice, however, may cost a little more. In smaller communities, wild rice may be available only at specialty grocery stores, or you may have to order it through the mail.

For the meatless-meal connoisseur, the nutty flavor and chewy texture of wild rice makes it worth the extra effort and price. Its hardiness allows it to be the center of focus at any meal. (We are told it may even satisfy those who feel meat is necessary at every meal.) Wild rice can be tossed into a green salad, stuffed into a pita with vegetables, thrown into your favorite soup, or mixed with other grains. The creative cook can replace wild rice for ground meat in many recipes. (That was what sparked the idea for our cabbage rolls and pizza.)

Nutritionally, wild rice is similar to brown rice. Both are great, low-fat sources of carbohydrate, fiber, and B vitamins. Wild rice, however, is slightly higher in protein than brown rice and is an excellent source of vitamin E. Interestingly, one cup of cooked wild rice provides approximately half the recommended dietary allowance of this antioxidant vitamin.

The preparation of wild rice is similar to that of other rice. Wild rice, however, should be rinsed before cooking. Add 1 cup wild rice to 4 cups water or vegetable broth (1 part rice to 4 parts liquid). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 15-30 minutes until the wild rice reaches desired texture -- a shorter time produces a chewier rice, while a longer time gives a softer rice. Drain, and if desired, save liquid for other use. One cup of dry rice yields 3 to 4 cups cooked. Cooked wild rice also freezes well. For quick meal preparation, we recommend preparing a large batch of wild rice and freezing recipe-sized portions.

Here are a few of our "wilder" recipes.

(Makes 8 slices)

The cheese makes a more traditional pizza but it is delicious with wild rice and vegetables alone.

1 cup pizza sauce
10 ounces Boboli (or your favorite homemade pizza dough)
1-1/2 cups cooked wild rice
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, sliced in thin strips
4 ounces grated low-fat soy cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread pizza sauce evenly over Boboli or pizza dough. Sprinkle wild rice over pizza sauce and top with the remaining ingredients. Bake 12 minutes at 450 degrees for the Boboli crust (or follow the directions of the pizza dough recipe).

Total Calories Per Slice: 176
Fat: 2 grams

(Makes 8 slices)

Here's another creative pizza.

3/4 cup pizza sauce
10 ounces Boboli (or your favorite homemade pizza dough)
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup packed fresh cilantro
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 large or 3 small fresh tomatoes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread pizza sauce evenly over Boboli or pizza dough. Sprinkle wild rice over pizza sauce. Finely chop fresh cilantro, mix with minced garlic, and sprinkle over wild rice. Top with onions and tomatoes. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees for the Boboli crust (or follow the directions of the pizza dough recipe). Turn oven to broil, and broil 1-2 minutes to brown onions and tomatoes lightly.

Total Calories Per Slice: 158
Fat: 1 gram

(Serves 4)

This is a delicious casserole dish.

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 Tablespoons dry sherry
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup low-fat soy milk
2-1/2 cups cooked wild rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute mushrooms over low heat in olive oil and 4 Tablespoons of sherry. Add flour and stir until liquid and flour make a smooth paste. Add black pepper and milk; cook over medium heat until sauce thickens. Stir in remaining sherry and wild rice. Bake in covered dish at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Delicious served with fresh asparagus, whole wheat bread, orange slices and white wine.

Total Calories Per Serving: 219
Fat: 4 grams

(Makes six 3/4-cup servings)

Here's a unique salad.

2-1/2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups sliced red grapes
8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/4 -1/3 cup soft tofu or plain soy "yogurt"
2 Tablespoons eggless mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon dill weed
1/4 cup slivered almonds

In a large bowl combine wild rice, grapes, and water chestnuts. In a separate bowl, beat tofu or yogurt with a fork until smooth. (If the tofu does not beat to the consistency of mayonnaise, add a few drops of water.) Add mayonnaise and dill weed, and stir well. Pour over wild rice mixture and mix thoroughly. Chill for several hours. Toss in almonds before serving.

Total Calories Per Serving: 150
Fat: 4 grams

(Makes 10 rolls)

These are worth the time to prepare.

2-1/2 cups wild rice, cooked
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 medium head of cabbage
1/2 - 1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup soy "yogurt" or "sour cream"

Combine the first five ingredients; chill for several hours to develop flavors.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the stem from the cabbage deep enough to start a separation of the very outer leaves from the core. Dip the head in boiling water. This will loosen several leaves. Dip again and continue to remove the loosened leaves. (1 head of cabbage should yield 10 leaves of usable size.) Blanch the leaves 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain and plunge into cold water. Arrange 10 cabbage leaves on damp towel.

Fill with approximately 1/2 cup of the wild rice mixture per leaf. Fold in outer right and left edges and roll. Place in large baking dish. Dip fingers into oil and lightly coat the top of each cabbage roll. Cover the rolls with tomato juice. Bake covered at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes. Serve each roll with a spoonful of the baked tomato juice and a dab of soy "sour cream" or yogurt. Delicious served with brown rice and green salad.

Total Calories Per Roll: 83
Fat: 1 gram

(Makes ten 4-inch pancakes)

Try these delicious pancakes.

1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
2 Tablespoons brown sugar or other sweetener
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/4 cups low-fat soy milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups wild rice, cooked
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup grated carrot

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth; quickly pour into the well and combine with a few quick strokes. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick griddle over medium heat; spray with vegetable cooking spray. Pour batter from the tip of a large spoon onto hot griddle. Cook 2-3 minutes until top bubbles and becomes dry. Turn and cook until the second side is done. Serve warm with fresh berries or apple sauce and soy "sour cream" or yogurt.

Total Calories Per Pancake: 130
Fat: 5 grams


Gordon Reguinti. The Sacred Harvest. Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1992.

Notes from the Scientific Department: Recent VRG Activities


VRG Nutrition Advisor Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D., was invited to speak in Phoenix at an event sponsored by CAARE, Concerned Arizonans for Animal Rights and Ethics. Her lunchtime presentation was one segment of the day- long event, which included additional presentations on diet and health, animal issues, and cooking demonstrations.

Suzanne also visited Toronto, Ontario, as a guest of the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA). One day was spent with TVA members, touring the city, sampling Toronto's excellent vegetarian cuisine at area restaurants, visiting the TVA office, and walking along the city's beautiful Harbourfront Centre, which is the site of TVA's extraordinary annual Food Fair. (For anyone who is interested, the TVA hosts a vegetarian Food Fair annually. Last year's Food Fair drew approximately 10,000 people, who enjoyed exhibits, vegetarian food samples, an international vegetarian cafe, cooking demonstrations by vegetarian chefs from Toronto restaurants, educational talks and videos, children's activities, and more. Call the TVA at (416) 533-3897 for information about the Food Fair).

While in Canada, Suzanne participated in an informal exchange and presentation on lowfat, vegetarian nutrition at a "Lunch and Learn" session for about twenty employees of the Bank of Montreal's Institute for Learning. The Institute for Learning is a continuing education center, with facilities for the enrichment of mind and body.

That same evening, Suzanne appeared at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) to present a talk on "Eating Against the Clock: Vegetarian Diets and Aging" to a group of 120 vegetarians and nonvegetarians.


If you thought that school lunch reform was going to happen quickly, guess again. Congress has now required USDA to offer schools the option of using a food component system that has been modified to conform to the US Dietary Guidelines, in addition to the nutrient-based meal planning system which USDA had already proposed.

At this time, USDA is still reviewing the comments that it received regarding its original proposed school meals regulations. (Comments were collected during last summer's 90-day public comment period.) Once the review process is finished, USDA will have to incorporate new changes addressing a modified food component system, and then ask for comments all over again.

The Vegetarian Resource Group has contact people around the country who are in touch with the schools that are participating in USDA's pilot project for use of a nutrient-based meal planning system. It appears that at this time few changes, if any, have been made in these schools. Most of these schools report that they are waiting for nutrient database information from USDA with which to analyze their menus, and they are also waiting until USDA's school meals regulations have been approved before making changes in their menus. Some schools have made a few changes -- offering more lowfat choices and some vegetarian options, for instance -- but most seem to be taking a "wait and see" position right now.

Turkish Delights

by Tatiana Blackington

One of only seven countries in the world that produces a surplus of food, Turkey is a culinary haven for vegetarian travelers. In summer, on the hot, dusty streets of Istanbul, vendors offer refreshment every few yards. It could be a tray full of cherries or alabaster chilled almonds. Better yet, you may come upon a cart packed thick with figs and dates. When you approach a table covered in ice and green shavings, the seller will peel a whole, chilled cucumber in a few quick flashes of his knife, quarter it, salt it, and present it to you like a blossoming flower, an adult popsicle. In Istanbul, a tourist could spend the day eating continuously without ever sitting down, but this would mean missing out on the culinary charms of the lokanta, the casual, inexpensive restaurants found throughout the country.

Turkish meals are divided in two -- the meze, or appetizers, and the main dish. Forget the latter. Main dishes are almost always fish or meat. One look in the refrigerated display case will prove that the meze are more than enough for a full meal. Turks do not find making a meal of appetizers at all peculiar. They often dine this way themselves. As a general rule, cold dishes are vegetarian and hot are not. Stuffed vine leaves, for example, are always meatless when served cold but contain lamb when hot.

A supply of good Turkish bread is a necessary companion to most of the dishes, especially Patlican salatasl, a puree of smoky-tasting grilled eggplant. By now, if you choose, the diner has had a large, cold beer, and is ready to throw caution to the wind and order everything at once: tender, marinated white beans known as Fasulye Piyazl; vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomato, and pine nuts (sarma); delicious olives, tomato and cucumber salad; and potato fritters. Dishes that at first seemed small and tantalizing take on an ominous quality when there are too many to fit on the table. The olive oil that flavors almost everything Turkish can become oppressive. When this happens, a traveler must lecture his eyes on the size of his stomach and take a long walk by the ocean before going to bed. Fool that he is, he has left no room for baklava, an almost magical dessert served in the shape of an unequal triangle. Its many layers of phylo dough and nuts go perfectly with Turkish coffee.

One appetizer to be vigorously ignored is sometimes called "Russian salad," sometimes "American salad." The first name might conjure an exotic arrangement involving beets, the second all the comforts of home, but the reality is neither. There is a reason the two countries try to blame each other for it, as they do nuclear waste. It is nothing more than canned peas and carrots drowned in aging mayonnaise.

A delicious and even less expensive way to dine is in a pideci, or pizzeria. Turkish pizza (pide) is folded like a calzone, but is not as heavy. The same tasty dough used for flat bread is sprinkled with fresh ingredients, baked in a wood-fired oven and served immediately, piping hot. A pideci is more informal than a lokanta, and usually does not serve alcohol.

Although Turkey is a Moslem country, a good deal of delicious red table wine (doluca) gets made and drunk there. Many Turks will enjoy some rakl -- an anise-flavored drink like Pastis or Ouzo -- particularly after dinner, during their many games of backgammon. Good beer is everywhere. In Turkey, eating and tea-drinking are the main social activities, and spice is king.

Turkey has more Greek ruins than Greece itself, as well as stunning geography, sumptuous palaces, and deserted beaches. The favorable exchange rate makes traveling half the price of a trip most places in Europe. For the vegetarian, a gourmet tour is cheaper and easier than just about anywhere else.

(Serves 3-4)

This light, delicious soup can be served hot or cold.

1 cup red lentils
1-1/2 medium onions
1 Tablespoon olive oil
7 cups water or vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils and remove any pebbles.

Chop onions in eighths and saute them in the oil in a large soup pot for 5-10 minutes. Add the water and the lentils. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the onions have almost dissolved, approximately 25 minutes.

Either puree soup in a blender or mash as much as will go through a sieve with a wooden spoon, and save. Discard whatever is left in the sieve. Return mixture to pot and boil for five minutes, adding water if the soup is too thick. Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Total Calories Per Serving: 236
Fat: 5 grams

(Serves 4)

Enjoy this hearty Turkish stew!

1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes
Water or vegetable broth
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
2 zucchini
1 ordinary or 2 Japanese eggplant
1 pinch curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, saute onions in oil until soft. Add the tomatoes. Add the potatoes and enough water (or broth) to cover. Bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower. Halve the zucchini lengthwise and chop into inch-long pieces. Do the same with the eggplant. Add these when the potatoes are almost tender.

Simmer until the eggplant is done but still firm. Add curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.

Total Calories Per Serving: 198
Fat: 3 grams

(Serves 4)

This is a wonderful appetizer with a smooth texture and a subtle flavor.

2 pounds Japanese eggplant
1 Tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch parsley
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

If you can't find Japanese eggplants, buy one large or two small ordinary eggplants. Make sure they are long and thin rather than short and round.

Roast eggplants on an open flame until the skin turns brownish black and the eggplant is soft, or barbecue. (If using the large ordinary eggplant, and they are not tender enough, slice in half, coat with olive oil and broil 5-10 minutes.) Let them cool. Split and scoop out the insides into a bowl.

Put in a food processor with the onion and puree. Chop the parsley and the tomatoes fine. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Serve cold with bread.

Total Calories Per Serving: 89
Fat: 1 gram

(Serves 8)

Savor this creative dish.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
1-1/2 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup white rice, uncooked
1 cup vegetable stock
1 small bunch dill, finely chopped
Several mint leaves, chopped
3 Tablespoons currants
4 large zucchini
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute the onion in the oil, add the pine nuts and saute until they turn golden brown. Add the tomatoes. Add rice and stock. Cook covered on a low heat until the rice is almost done (about 15 minutes). Add the dill, mint, and the currants.

Halve the zucchini and steam them until slightly tender, no more than 5 minutes. Scoop out the middles, chop, and add to the rice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill the zucchini with the rice mixture and place in a casserole dish. Pour a half cup water in the dish, cover, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Total Calories Per Serving: 147
Fat: 4 grams

(Serves 6)

Here's another hearty dish.

2 cups dried chickpeas
2 cups coarse-grained bulgur
2 teaspoons sunflower or other oil
1 tomato, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
3-1/2 cups vegetable broth (or use chickpea stock)
1 green pepper, chopped

Soak chickpeas overnight. Cook until tender -- about an hour. Wash the bulgur.

Saute the tomato in the oil; then add the potatoes. Add the chickpeas and the liquid. Once it comes to a boil, add the bulgur and the green peppers. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat.

It helps to put a clean, damp dishcloth between the lid and the pan while it's cooking. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Total Calories Per Serving: 459
Fat: 6 grams

(Serves 10)

This dessert is made at the same time each year to commemorate a number of important events in Islam. The dish supposedly originated on the day that the great flood subsided and Noah and his family were able to go on land again. They collected all the food they had left -- mostly dried fruits and nuts -- and cooked it in one big pot. Tradition dictates that the dish be shared with at least seven poor neighbors.

1 cup wheat berries (available in healthfood stores)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup chickpeas
7 dried figs
10 dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sugar or other sweetener
1/4 cup rose water (optional -- available in health food stores, often in the vitamin section, or in Indian markets)
Cinnamon to taste

In separate bowls, soak the wheat berries, nuts, and chickpeas for at least eight hours.

Rub the chickpeas to loosen as many skins as possible and discard the skins and the water. Cook chickpeas in fresh water until tender. Drain the wheat and cook covered in about eight cups fresh water until tender.

Meanwhile, soak the dried fruit in a little warm water for about 15 minutes, drain and chop. Drain the nuts, rubbing them to remove the hazelnut skins, and chop. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain off any excess water and reserve. Puree in a food processor.

Combine the wheat berries, fruits, nuts, raisins, sweetener, and the liquid in a large soup pot and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until mixture becomes more gooey than soupy. Add water if necessary during cooking. Mix in the optional rose water and sprinkle with cinnamon when done. Serve hot or cold.

Total Calories Per Serving: 307
Fat: 11 grams

Book Review: The Meatless Gourmet

by Bobbie Hinman

Many Vegetarian Journal readers may be familiar with the Lean and Luscious series Bobbie Hinman co-authored. Bobbie's newest book, The Meatless Gourmet -- Favorite Recipes From Around the World, once again shows cooks that vegetarian cuisine can be both creative and lowfat.

This book is broken down into different regions of the world including Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India, and the Orient. For example, under Flavors of Mexico you can enjoy an Orange-Jicama Salad and a Tamale Corn and Bean Casserole. Flavors of the Caribbean offers Creamy Sweet Potato Soup and a Mango Custard. And finally, the Oriental region brings Lentil Wontons and Grilled Eggplant with Sesame-Soy Marinade.

A nutritional breakdown is included for each recipe. Although many of the recipes in this book are not vegan, with over 350 recipes to choose from, you will easily find many delicious vegan meals to make from this collection.

The Meatless Gourmet (ISBN 1-55958-559-5) is published by Prima Publishing. This 488-page paperback book with a spiral binding can be purchased from The Vegetarian Resource Group for $18 (including postage) by sending a check to VRG, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; or by calling (410) 366-VEGE.

Reviewed by Debra Wasserman.

About the Vegetarian Journal and the VRG

These articles originally appeared in the March/April 1995 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:
The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE

Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition-related publications and answer member and media questions about vegetarian diets. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships, contributions, and book sales.

The contents of this article, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

For questions or comments on this article, please contact Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@vrg.org. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial use intact and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

This file is uploaded with permission of the publisher.

VRG Home | About VRG | Vegetarian Journal | Books | Vegetarian Nutrition
Subscribe to Journal | Vegetarian Game | Vegetarian Family | Nutshell | VRG-News
Vegetarian Recipes | Travel | What's New | Bulletin Board | Search www.vrg.org | Links

The Vegetarian Resource Group Logo 1996- The Vegetarian Resource Group
PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-8343   Email: vrg@vrg.org

Last Updated
September 20, 1997

Graphic design by DreamBox

The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

Any pages on this site may be reproduced for non-commercial use if left intact and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Web site questions or comments? Please email brad@vrg.org.