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12 Easy Meatless Dishes to Boost Your Health

Two months into the year, you’re probably debating which health-improving resolutions habits were too unrealistic to stick with. But, that doesn’t mean that you need to give up on efforts to improve your health. How about making smaller changes and working on more achievable goals? After all, this is your health we’re talking about!


If you’ve been paying attention, you’d have noticed the international health campaign to get everyone to eat more fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables and less meat, fish and poultry. That’s because, even the healthiest of gym-rats and the biggest green smoothie fan can benefit from reducing the amount of meat she eats. I know… You’re not a meat-addict! You watch what you eat and make a conscious decisions to limit your junkfood intake. In fact, you could easily drive through the tempting smoke and sizzle from the Pan Chicken vendors on Red Hills Road without a thought to drool! LOL. Well, that’s exactly why Meatless Mondays is the one of the easiest health-boosting habits you’ll pick up for 2015.


Meatless Monday is a global campaign that encourages us to avoid eating meat once a week. Basically, you make a commitment to leave out the meat every Monday, and eat regularly from Tuesday to Sunday. Yes, it’s quite simple and just takes a little bit of planning to make it into a habit. Cutting out the meat once a week comes with a lot of health benefits, “because going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.” (Read “Why Meatless” here.)


But, before you start grumbling about not knowing what to eat, let me remind you of 12 easy and delicious meals that you enjoy regularly, or can get easily at a quick-service restaurant. The various dishes are linked to their recipes, so you have no excuse!


  1. Peanut Porridge
  2. Baked Beans
  3. Scrambled Tofu
  4. Pancakes


  1. Callaloo Loaf
  2. Vegetable Pizza
  3. Veggie Burger
  4. Vegetable/Ackee/Soy Patty


  1. Veggie Stew Peas
  2. Daal Curry
  3. Vegetable Stir-fry
  4. Spaghetti with Chunky Tomato Sauce

So, there you have it! An entire month of Meatless Mondays covered – without repeats!


While you’re thinking about when to start your meat-reduction commitment, please go over to the Meatless Monday Jamaica website and LIKE the Facebook page. You will get even more info and recipes to help you realise that “Small Changes Make a Big Difference.”



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The Doctors Told Me To Quit Eating Meat

You might be surprised to find out that I usually avoid talking about my eating habits with new friends. That’s because a lot of people are quick to whip out their “Expert Dietician” personas and haul me off to an imaginary interrogation room. I’m still not sure why saying, “I don’t eat meat.” usually prompts people to empty a full clip of Nutrition 101 questions on me. They are often quite surprised at my admission and make such firm attempts to save me from my insanity, that I’m equally amused and annoyed. But, only a few of these Protein Preachers have ever asked me why I ended up on the ‘rabbit food’ side of the fence. Even fewer have asked me where I’ve been getting my nutritional information from. So, today I’ll tell you about the doctors whose prescription I filled.


The Last Supper
On the night of my little brother’s 21st birthday, when my family cozied up in one of Kingston’s more trendy steakhouses, I never imagined that it would have been the last day I sat down to a meal of flesh foods. You know how sometimes, people will say they don’t feel for any meat today. Well, I had been hanging out in one of those zones for a few weeks. Even though, I had spent the previous weeks not having any appetite for meat or poultry, I had been eating lots of seafood with no complaints. But, when my fish dinner arrived, I couldn’t stomach more than a couple bites and convinced someone else to finish the fillet for me. I just realised that I couldn’t do it anymore… My body had decided to quit liking meat!

It wasn’t a big surprise, really. My co-workers had gotten used to me trading the chicken in my boxed lunch for their steamed vegetables. But, what they never knew, was that for about 3 months, I had been feeding my mind on various lectures by various health experts and wellness advocates about making healthier food choices. But, these weren’t the regular, “avoid fried foods and sugary drinks” campaigns. All these medical professionals had been singing the same song: “eat plants, not animals”. So, it didn’t take very long for all their arguments, research findings and real-life case studies to set up residence in my mind and convince my mouth to stop salivating for Pan Chicken and to inveigle my stomach to get repulsed by the normally appetising Steamed Snapper, Oxtail & Beans, Jerk Pork, and Curried Mutton.


The Plant-Based Doctors
5 years in, I can say this is not a passing fad. My switch to Vibrant Eats (meals that bring vitality to the body without failing to bring my tongue satisfaction) was actually initiated, encouraged and continues to be supported by medical doctors and nutrition experts. I knew that a plant-based diet was the best one could embrace while sat ad learned at the feet of Dr. L. Danovan Whyte during his Saturday meetings at the Lifestyle Transformation Centre in New Kingston. His book, “Perfect Health is Unquestionably Yours” is very dear to me – I have re-read it many times and reference it often. The knowledge he shares and the impact it is having on those who are willing to make the necessary changes can be heard through his Wednesday night radio programme, “Your Health Matters” on NewsTalk 93FM. Of course, I have much respect for other physicians like Dr. Anthony Vendryes, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. among others.


Food as Medicine
Through their writings, videos, workshops and lectures, these truly compassionate and responsible physicians have highlighted the dangers of eating animal foods (meat, fish, dairy and eggs) and revealed how real people, like you and I, have reversed lifestyle related diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension just by switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet. But, they haven’t just left it there. They have gone through the trouble of teaching people about the nutritional needs of the human body and how to fully satisfy those needs with a varied diet made up of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. I have personally had the privilege of watching Dr. Whyte prepare live (uncooked) food and served it to us with love and enthusiasm, on more than one occasion. I still have a folder full of some of his favourite recipes. which he so kindly shares in his workshops.


Your journey is very likely different from mine, but if you have been arguing with the quiet voice, inside, to make better eating choices you may want to give these doctors a listening ear. Look them up and examine what they have to say. At the end of the day, you may not eliminate animal products completely, but you will undoubtedly have a new respect for your body, be more conscious of your health and make healthier eating choices.


Have you ever listened to or read from any of these Plant-Based Physicians? Please tell me what has impressed you most?



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Yummy Instant Cashew Cheese

I had sort of gotten used to ‘life without cheese’, after a couple of decades of being a cheese addict. But, now I think I’m getting back on the cheese junkie train. LOL. But, not the regular dairy cheese – that stuff is still prohibited. My new fave ingredient is an instant cashew cheese that I’ve found, here in Japan. Kempo – a health food store (they do mail order, and just opened a shop in Tokyo this month) – was passing out samples of the cheese and I decided to try it. I tossed it into a couple of dishes and have been completely won over! Now, I’m seeing a lot of cheesy dishes in the future 😀


Pic 4


I Love This Cheese!
In the past, I’ve enjoyed my little sister’s homemade Classic Cashew Cheese (recipe link) and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, whenever I fork out the cash to buy cashews, I normally don’t have the resolve to keep them for making anything. I just munch on them because they’re so yummy straight out the bag. Which is part of the reason I really like this instant cashew cheese: just add water and mix until smooth and creamy. (I think the instructions mention using a blender to get it just right, but I’ve just done it by hand.) If you visit Kempo’s online store, you’ll find that they sell the Cashew Nut Powder, Nutritional Yeast and different vegetable powders (like onion or garlic). So, I’m sure it’s possible to use those ingredients and make your own instant cheese. But, the 150 gram packet for ¥450 is a deal for me.



This 1 pizza became 3 pizzas before lunch was through. LOL.
I started with 1 ‘test’ pizza and ended up making 3 pizzas before lunch was up.


Some Cheesy Experiments
Sheila (the lovely lady who gave me my first Instant Cashew Cheese sample and took my order when I later decided to buy some more cheese and other stuff from Kempo) gave me the basic instructions for using the cheese powder, plus some recipe ideas. The guideline is 2 parts cheese powder to 1 part water. However, in some cases I’ve added less water to get a thicker consistency for the cheesy sauce. Some recipe suggestions she gave me were:

  • Sprinkle the cheese powder on just-boiled and drained pasta for a cheesy ‘sauce’.
  • Sprinkle the cheese powder into potatoes as you are mashing them.
  • Make the cheesy sauce a little thinner and pour on toast or sliced potatoes, then bake or toast them till the cheese looks toasty.
  • Toss some boiled potatoes into tomato sauce (canned is fine), then spread them out on a baking dish and smother in cheese sauce, for a potato pizza. (You can add olives or mushrooms, too!)

She also mentioned that you can store the Instant Cashew Cheese powder at room temperature. But, if you plan to keep it for a long time, she recommends refrigeration – to keep rancidity away (now that the weather is hot).


Pic 3

Lentil Casserole
So, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous using the cheese powder, at first. I tried it in my ‘famous’ Pasta Casserole. I usually use tofu to make a ricotta cheese, but this time, I skipped the tofu. Instead, I tossed the pasta into some white sauce (grateful for that Food & Nutrition lesson in High school – LOL) and used the Cashew Cheese powder to give the ‘cheese’ taste. In one casserole dish, I just sprinkled the cheese powder between the layers of pasta, lentils and tomato sauce; but in the other casserole dish, I made a cheesy sauce. I think the one with the cheese sauce tasted more flavourful and creamier. I took pics of the whole process, but now I can’t remember which device I stored them on – so maybe I’ll add them later.

Eggplant Pizza
I love pizza! My parents used to keep frozen pizzas in the deep freezer and on when we ran out, we loved ordering delivery. So, I just happened to have some pizza crusts sitting in the freezer – don’t follow me, make your own pizza crust 😉 However, I never had my favourite toppings – only a couple eggplants, some sweet peppers and an onion. I always try to keep tomato sauce in stock, too. So, I tossed all these onto the pizza crust – along with some Instant Cashew Cheesy Sauce and WOW! We ended up eating three pizzas for lunch – it was so good! Did I mention they were personal-sized crusts? *ahem* Now, to tell you how good this cheesy sauce made the pizza: Mr. Amazing is NOT a fan of pizza, but declared that it tasted really good and asked for more. Just so you know: I licked my plate – LOL. If it’s only to make pizza, I’ll be keeping this Instant Cashew Cheese in my kitchen as a mainstay.

Pasta Parmesan
For a quick dinner the other day, I boiled up some spaghetti and poured on my favourite mushroom pasta sauce then sprinkled the cashew cheese powder on top. WOW! I’m not sure I’ll have pasta without it again. It makes everything taste so rich and CREAMY! Yup – I’m sold.


Pic 6
Instant Cashew Cheese Pizza Toast (Credit: Kempo)


Would you like to try Kempo’s Instant Cashew Cheese? Let me hook you up! If you’re in Japan, please like my Facebook page, and leave a comment beneath the “Yummy Instant Cashew Cheese” post.



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Butter Bean Stew

Stew Peas is a very popular and traditional Jamaican entrée that is made from Red Kidney Beans – known locally as ‘red peas’. It is often made with salted chicken, beef, pork or combinations of the three. However, many people enjoy the vegetarian version, sometimes called Ital Stew Peas (recipe link) either for dietary reasons or simply because of the ingredients they may have on hand. Even our favourite local cooking show, Creative Cooking, demonstrated a “Healthy Stewed Peas” (with Tofu):


Clearly there are tasty meat-less options to this Jamaican favourite. However, what does one do when there’s the craving for stew, but your kitchen cupboard is out of red kidney beans ? Well, I think ‘a bean is a bean’ – LOL – so, I grabbed a tin of Butter Beans (also known as Lima Beans) and whipped up my stew! I enjoyed the results so much that I actually reserved a tin of butter beans with hopes of making it again – and yesterday, I did just that. I threw in some veggie chunks (aka TVP) with potato, pumpkin, christophene and okra to make a very hearty dish which reminded me of a Japanese dish my family enjoys, called Hokkaido Cream Stew – just with a Jamaican flavour and no animal products.

Christophene, Okra, Butter Beans, Pumpkin, Potato, Veggie Chunks.
Christophene, Okra, Butter Beans, Pumpkin, Potato, Veggie Chunks.


Beyond being a good replacement for red kidney beans in a pot of stew peas, butter beans do the body good. According to Registered Dietician, Jill Corleone, writing for

Most Americans choose meat and poultry as their primary source of protein, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but varying your sources of protein can help you meet essential vitamin and mineral needs. Butter beans are a healthy choice as an alternate source of protein. A 1-cup serving of butter beans contains about 14 g of protein. By comparison, a 3-oz. serving of meat contains about 21 g of protein. Healthy adult women need 46 g of protein a day, and healthy adult men need 56 g of protein a day. Butter beans contain 1 g of fat per cup, while meat and poultry can have up to 24 g of fat per 3-oz. serving.

She went on to outline that this humble legume is a good source of carbohydrates, fibre and iron. So, by stewing up those butter beans, I protected myself against iron deficiency and constipation, improved my blood sugar levels and lowered my cholesterol levels. Talk about a delicious way of fighting off disease! All too often, we trade our health for a tasty meal. But, we don’t have to. Whether it’s a bowl of Vegetarian Stew Peas or my pot of Butter Bean Stew, you can have your stew and eat it too! 😀


Butter Beans (via

So, please be encouraged to experiment in your kitchen. Get to know your beans and maybe next Meatless  Monday, you can whip up something yummy and health-boosting at home.


Butter Bean Stew
Butter Bean Stew

I served up my Butter Bean Stew in a bowl of Jasmine Brown Rice and a side of Cucumber slices and Tomato chunks. Please let me know if you’ve tried any versions of the Meatless Stew Peas or if you’ve experimented with beans in your kitchen.


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Should We Eat Meat?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

When we attend the Food & Nutrition lessons taught in school, we learn about the Six Food Groups as designed by the Caribbean Food & Nutrition Institute (CFNI). We are taught to use this guide to plan meals for healthy eating as it is modelled off the food we produce in the Caribbean.

The groups are:
1. Staples e.g. cassava, potato, plantain, macaroni, rice, porridge, etc.
2. Legumes & Nuts e.g. kidney beans, gungo peas, peanuts, cashew nuts, etc.
3. Vegetables e.g. callaloo, pumpkin, cho-cho, cucumber, garden egg, etc.
4. Fruits e.g. mango, guava, pawpaw, June plum, sweet sop, pineapple, etc.
5. Food From Animals e.g. meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, egg, yoghurt, etc.
6. Fats & Oils e.g. cooking oil, coconut milk, avocado pear, ackee, butter, etc.

The Caribbean dietary guideline is very well done, except for the inclusion of the ‘Food from Animals’ group. Although, the eating of meat is culturally acceptable for the wider society, we have had different social and religious groups who abstain from consuming animal products to varying degrees. So, we can admit that eating meat is a social normal but, are we really supposed to eat food from animals?
Dan Piraro of produced a very animated and informative video about why meat is bad for you:
As brought out in Piraro’s video, in many ways, eating meat is like any other unhealthy lifestyle or habit that has long term effects. You won’t necessarily have instantaneous physical injury or other such drastic and obvious effects from maintaining an omnivorous diet. However, the practice of eating meat has its hazards.
Many medical professionals have identified various lifestyles diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, that are the direct result of a diet based on meat and dairy products. These foods are filled with saturated fats, parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Most of the animals raised for commercial consumption are raised on steroids, hormones, and antibiotics, and these extra ‘condiments’ for the meal are not eliminated all together from the heat process of cooking.
There are more factors that could be considered as we ponder the question, “Meat – to eat or not to eat”. Yet, there are more good reasons to stop eating meat than there are to continue.