The Princeton Public Library is hosting a series of cooking demonstrations this summer titled Taste of the Market. on Thursdays at 11:30 AM, which coincides with the farmers market. Local chefs or merchants will incorporate foods from local farmers available at the Princeton Farmers’ Market. The outdoor market takes place in summer adjacent to the library at Hinds Plaza every Thursday starting at 11 AM. This series will take place at Hinds Plaza or in the library’s Community Room on the ground level, and no registration is necessary.
The first in the series was led by Matt Spewak a.k.a SpE. Matt is a vegan chef who holds a professional certification in Plant-Based Nutrition and Cooking, and prepares whole foods to enhance health and wellness. He is also the founder and editor of the blog The Plant Based Yogi, and a yoga instructor at Honor Yoga in Pennington.
Understanding that a vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, Spewak did mention that people could gradually introduce themselves (and their families) to whole food vegan dishes if they are interested. He added that there are several reasons for considering such a diet:
- Vegetables are like a toothbrush for your arteries and can help prevent a heart attack or brain aneurysm.
- Virtually all whole plant foods are anti-inflammatory.
- A whole food plant-based diet can help reverse high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight gain, and diabetes. Read more about that here.
- A meat-free diet is associated with significantly lower rates of both cancer and heart disease.
- Vegetables are given a rating on a scale called the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index). A higher ANDI means better flavor and better nutrient value.
- For those weaning themselves off meat and dairy, you can find similar plant-based foods mocking the texture.
- Make the food more flavorful by using fresh herbs, which also provide beneficial nutrients (some more than broccoli on the ANDI scale).
Matt had three dishes on the menu for us to sample. Most ingredients can be purchased at the farmers market. They key is to purchase organic produce when possible since they have not been irradiated, or peel your fruits and vegetables. The demo included preparing the three dishes from scratch. However, he brought the “cheeses” pre-made. Spewak came armed with an Instant Pot slow cooker, Cuisinart food processor, cutting board, knives, and plenty of organic whole foods to deliver the following:
- Cucumber, Tomato and Vegan Feta Salad
- Green Taco Wraps with Lentil-Walnut Taco Meat
- Whole Food Bowl
The cucumber, tomato, and vegan feta salad was a delicious version of a Greek salad. The vegan feta had the texture of dairy feta with a bit of cheese flavor thanks to nutritional yeast. This is perfect on a hot summer day. The vegan tacos were so flavorful, I couldn’t stop eating them. The lentil-walnut taco “meat” had a texture close to pan-fried ground meat, with a flavor closer to ground turkey, and the cumin, chili powder and oregano gave it the right Tex-Mex attitude. Spewek made guacamole with avocado and thawed frozen peas, which cut out half of the fat and add another source of vitamins. The cashew sour cream was also surprisingly good. His food bowl was chock full of fresh corn, zucchini, kale, cannellini beans, red onions, basil, and quinoa, which was tossed with a flavor bomb sauce. It tasted as good as it is healthy for you. Here are his recipes.
Many think it takes a long time to prepare vegan dishes. It does not, and there are some shortcuts for those who don’t have time to make everything from scratch. Arlee’s Raw Blends sells vegan cashew cream cheese and vegan pesto, Whole Earth and Whole Foods sells a number of items that will speed up your process, and Trader Joe’s has produce like diced mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions) to cut kitchen time (pun intended).
When people hear the word vegan, they think of soft and tasteless tofu mixed with vegetables. It can be that, but it can also be so much more. There are so many foods that can closely replicate the texture of meat or dairy products without coming from an animal and are healthier for you. The Plant Based Guru has opened our eyes to another world, and made many consider making vegan dishes for one of, if not all daily meals.
America ranks 21 out of the 23 industrialized countries for healthy life expectancy. Despite spending billions on healthcare, diets, and supplements, obesity rates are higher than ever, and sickness is on the rise. Could it be linked to what we eat? Well, animal products are known to lead to heart disease and cancer. In addition, animal products contain harmful contaminants including bacteria, arsenic, dioxins, and mercury that can affect our health both in the short and long terms. Believe it or not, bone strength does not come from consuming milk and other dairy products but from plant foods. In fact, dairy is a highly inflammatory food for most people and contains cholesterol and saturated fats. Calcium can be obtained from beans, broccoli, sesame seeds, and green, leafy vegetables.
With so many great local vegan options, eating green has never been easier or more delicious, including dining out.
Vegan Eateries In Princeton:
- Arlee’s Raw Blends – Vegan raw juices, cream cheese, and pesto
- Infini-T Cafe – Vegan and Vegetarian dishes
Vegan Restaurants in New Jersey
Good Karma Cafe – Red Bank
- Kaya’s Kitchen – Belmar
Killer Vegan – Union
Loving Hut – Matawan
Mundo Vegan – Montclair
- Veganized – New Brunswick
Veggie Heaven – Teaneck NJ