National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign, celebrated each year during the month of March, focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I believe people thrive because of the transformative power of food and good nutrition. A registered dietitian can help you:

  • Discover the benefits of a healthy eating style.
  • Simplify healthy eating.
  • Choose foods and drinks that are good for your health.
  • Include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis.
  • Select healthier options when eating away from home.
  • Right-size your portions.
  • Make food safety part of your everyday routine.
  • Point out ways that you can reduce food waste.
  • Customize an eating plan that is right for you.
  • Discover new recipes that fit a healthy lifestyle.

With the last point in mind, I am sharing one of my favorite plant-based recipes. I like it because it is versatile, and it helps me replace animal protein with plant protein in a way my husband doesn’t even notice. I used this recipe as a base for sloppy Joes, and then I served it to guests. Everyone thought I had used ground beef when the filling for the sliders was truly meat-free.

Sonoran-spiced Sloppy Meatless Sandwich Filling

Makes 4 generous portions

Ingredients

4 oz. raw cashews

3 Tbsp. liquid aminos (or tamari)

4 oz. mushrooms

1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

8 oz. cauliflower

½ tsp red wine vinegar

8 ounces Trader Joe’s Grilled frozen peppers and onions

1 jar (16 ounces) Trader Joes Fire Roasted Salsa (no salt added)

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp garlic powder

¾ cup organic catsup

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp. each: smoked paprika, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander

1 tsp chili powder

Method

  1. Using a Food Processor, pulse cashews until finely chopped. Remove from work bowl and set aside. Repeat with mushrooms.
  2. Grate or finely chop cauliflower.
  3. Chop frozen bell peppers/onions into small dice.
  4. Put olive oil and a large skillet, heat over medium-high until oil shimmers. Add chopped onion/bell peppers and cook until softened and liquid has evaporated. Reduce heat to medium.
  5. Add spices and continue to cook over medium heat until spices are fragrant.
  6. Add chopped cauliflower to skillet. Cook, stirring gently for 3 minutes. Add cashews and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Finally, stir in mushrooms and cook for 2 more minutes.
  7. Stir in liquid aminos, mustard, and vinegar; mix well. (At this point, the mixture can be used as “meat” in tacos, burritos, lasagna, etc.)
  8. For sloppy meat filling, stir in salsa and catsup. Continue cooking, uncovered over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve on whole wheat buns or over a cooked whole grain such as barley.

Recipe notes

  • Amino liquid, soy sauce, and mushrooms all provide a flavor called umami that is associated with meat.
  • If you prefer, you can use eight ounces of riced cauliflower instead of chopping your own.
  • If you don’t have smoked paprika, sweet paprika will do, but won’t provide as much heat.
  • The prepared mixture can be portioned into jars and frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in refrigerator overnight. Put in microwave-safe container and reheat gently on 70% power.
  • 5-spice seasoning is comprised of equal parts: chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika

If you would like more ideas on how to make your diet more plant-forward, plan to attend my free lecture Wednesday, March 6 at 1 p.m. in the Mariposa Room at Desert View.

Nancy Teeter is a SaddleBrooke resident and registered dietitian nutritionist.