I’ve lived my entire life eating little to no red meat, an abundance of fruits and vegetables and minimal amounts of processed foods. Even as a kid, while my friends ate bologna and cheese sandwiches with a bag of chips for lunch, my mom would pack me an all-natural peanut butter sandwich — the kind that swims in oil and couldn’t adequately be mixed until smooth — with an apple. (Oh and usually the apple was packed on top of the sandwich just to leave this nice purple bruise!)
In my childhood household, chips and ice cream were a special treat and they had to be Charles Chips or Breyer’s, the all-natural alternatives to their processed counterparts. I wasn’t allowed to drink milk, except on rare occasions and my parents made their own yogurt and grew their own vegetables.
My parents started me early with a healthy way of eating and as an adult, I’m still going strong. I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables, many grains and legumes, small amounts of cheese and carbohydrate based foods, little red meat or poultry and some seafood. Until recently, I didn’t known how to describe my eating habits nor thought much about it or even cared. I’ve just always been who I am.
But now, having lived four decades on this earth, I have a name, a way to describe myself to the carnivores, omnivores or vegetarians in my life. It seems, so Mark Bittman writes in his new column, I’m a flexitarian.
In his first column, Bittman writes how he and his friends “grew up on a diet of hot dogs, corned beef, 15-cent pizza, egg-and-bacon-and-home-fries breakfasts and lunches of two cheeseburgers, fries and Cokes, when we weren’t eating French fries on the run (out of paper bags, mind you). Our mothers fed us steaks and chops and mashed potatoes and ice cream.” In his efforts to eat better after a health scare, Bittman adopted a flexitarian lifestyle in more recent years.
Interestingly, flexitarian is a word that was only added to Miriam Webster’s dictionary in the year 2008. Wikipedia describes it as “semi-vegetarianism” and US News says it’s the diet for “casual vegetarians.” Bittman is sure to make this lifestyle more popular with his new column — The Flexitarian — in the New York Times which I am looking forward to reading.
Here’s my favorite flexitarian salad made with quinoa, a staple in my diet and loaded with vegetables!
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
1 quart cooked quinoa (cook in chicken broth with ¼ less liquid than the directions indicate)
4 scallions, cleaned and chopped
2 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed
1 small red onion, diced
¼ cup diced red, orange or yellow pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
½ cup yellow grape tomatoes
3 ounces Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled
½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Whisk together the following ingredients:
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon of cumin (optional)
Pepper to taste
Cook Quinoa according to package directions using chicken or vegetable stock. Fluff with a fork and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the scallions, onions, peppers, corn, tomatoes, crumbled cheese and cilantro. Mix together well. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and add freshly ground pepper. Mix again well. If you’d like you can also add a diced avocado just before serving.