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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Letter From Publisher

Feb 29, 2020 10:00AM

Peggy Malecki

A growing number of people are moving away from meat as a daily staple and toward plant-based foods, a development that comes with the promise of health benefits and expanded culinary options. While it’s encouraging to follow this trend, it can be overwhelming to sort through all of the hype and new products to figure out what actually makes sense in our daily lives. This month, we’re focusing on ways to seamlessly and confidently transition to more plant-based options in your meals while also enjoying the journey.

If you read my letter regularly, you’ll know I love to garden and cook. It’s not uncommon for me to consult several recipes for ideas and then create my own version of the dish. But that’s not for everyone, I get it, and figuring out what to do with a counter full of new ingredients can be daunting. If you’re on the path to a more plant-based approach, my advice is to start with a few basics and try one or two fresh flavors, recipes and ingredients each week.

Yes, it will take time to adjust your tastes, and you may find some things just don’t work for you or your family. And that’s okay. Perhaps start with a main course salad or side dish to ease your family’s taste buds into a more plant-based state of mind. Make a super-savory, well-textured meatless chili or pasta sauce (and don’t tell anyone it’s plant-based). Or, visit one of the many plant-based restaurants in the Chicago area to sample unfamiliar flavors and get ideas for what you can make at home. Many mainstream-fare restaurants also have some amazing plant-based options on their menus; ask your server for recommendations.

Incorporating more veggies into mealtime may mean longer prep times, and here’s a tip: invest in one or two quality chef’s knives and sign up for a knife skills class at a local culinary goods store or community college (or find good online videos from cooking magazines and other instructional sites). Master a few slicing and chopping skills, and you’ll speed up meal prep and enjoy the process a lot more.

Research other things your kitchen may be missing (a large, fine-mesh strainer to rinse and drain quinoa, for example) and upgrade as your budget allows. Find a few blogs or cookbooks that appeal to you and refer to them regularly. As with any new lifestyle goal, gathering the skills and tools you need will set you up for success.

In our main feature this month, “The Roots of Good Health: Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet,” April Thompson shares some secrets for adopting a more plant-based lifestyle. We’ve included plenty of recipes to get you started, as well as tips for vegan fitness. Plants also tie into this issue in other ways, as we explore the houseplant craze (ZZ plants anyone?) and take a look at the potentials of both industrial hemp crops and CBD.

Be sure to check out all that Natural Awakenings has to offer this month, from pointers on pet diets to inspiring words about “synchronicity” and how we can encourage the sometimes life-changing coincidences that can profoundly influence our lives.

One final word for this month of March—SPRING! Oh yes, and three more—Daylight Savings Time! Get outside, enjoy the lengthening days, watch for the first migratory birds at the end of the month, look for loons on an Illinois lake, plan your 2020 garden, start some pepper seedlings indoors, pick up a new houseplant, try a plant-based recipe and experience an amazing month.

Here’s to a Happy Spring Season!