Karen Schuppert

Karen Schuppert

I am humbled and excited by the response to the debut of this new feature, “The Choicetarian”! Many of you have reached out and shared your enthusiastic ideas for upcoming articles. As I anticipate, the healthy food list is endless!

Just over lunch last week with four of my esteemed 70-something gal pals, the range of topics kept growing. We discussed the health implications of sugar and alternatives for the sweet tooth. Plus, what foods are helpful for those battling cancer? How can we keep our pets from gaining weight? Suggestions for gluten-free dinner guests? Does seasonal food make a difference? Can I help build a healthy pantry? And so it goes. These and many other suggestions will be at the forefront of this column and I can’t wait to dig in.

If there is a trending diet plan these days, I’d say it’s a toss-up between paleo and vegan. To refresh, I’m not passing judgment on either one or even saying that they are “trendy.” These examples are ways of eating that have become mainstream while different from one another.

The similarities, however, are striking, too. While paleo is often referred to as the “caveman diet” (eating mostly meat), it also includes a substantial amount of vegetables. In the popular cookbook, “Nom Nom Paleo,” author Michele Tam explains, “paleo is really just shorthand for eating real, nourishing foods that don’t wreck our metabolism, digestive and immune systems.” I think everyone can support that line of thinking.

Paleo proponents also tout additional health benefits to this way of eating. Since they eliminate wheat and other gluten-containing grains, many people experience less inflammation, from digestive issues to arthritis. And bone broths (made from beef and/or chicken) provide a bounty of calcium, which can be a good option over dairy for the strength of our own bones.

Vegan diets are exclusively plant-based with the same intentions toward sustaining a healthy body. Depending on my client’s needs or the menu plan in one of my cooking classes, I will often adapt my recipes to be meat- and/or dairy-free, too.

At home, I come up with some pretty wacky but tasty creations, all the while satisfying my family’s palate. I also offer vegan substitutions in most of my articles and cooking classes. One of my favorite “cheese alterna-tives” is Heidi Ho’s Smoky Chia Cheeze, a rich and creamy non-dairy spread made with pureed veggies, cashews, lemon juice and chia seeds. It’s a delicious addition to eggs, cauliflower and potatoes. But my reason to use it isn’t because it’s vegan (not that there’s anything wrong with that); it’s because it tastes great and is good for you. And that’s the premise of almost everything I consume.

So the next time you’re at the grocery store, I encourage you to “think outside the cereal box.” Add new items to your shopping cart so when you have them on hand, you’ll feel that wild sensation of being creative in the kitchen. And who knows, I’ll bet it even tastes good, too.

Cauliflower Couscous

Serves 4 (from KarenSchuppert.com)

This is a recipe that has been a favorite in my cooking classes. It’s a grain-free (paleo) version of rice that is also endorsed by vegans — yay! It’s easy, low-calorie, high fiber and flipping delicious. It can be served as a side dish for curry, stir-fry or beans, it’s that versatile. Add any type of sauce or pesto to taste. See, we all can get along.

1 large head cauliflower, cut into large chunks

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2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

Place raw cauliflower chunks in a food processor and pulse until broken down into rice-size pieces.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; add cauliflower ‘rice’, salt, and pepper. Cover skillet and cook until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove lid and fluff ‘rice’ with a fork.

Karen will be teaching a spring cooking class Saturday, March 12, in Soda Canyon. It will be an Easter menu featuring cauliflower couscous and other rabbit-free dishes. To sign up, visit her website, KarenSchuppert.com. Space is limited but flavor abundant.

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