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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Carol Devenot

Posted on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegan conversion amazed family

 • Low and slow

When Bob, my boyfriend, went to visit his family in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Rochester, N.Y., people were amazed at his total commitment to his new vegetarian diet. For someone who grew up in that area of the country, this is a radical change from meat and potatoes. He has completely gone vegan: fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and whole-wheat products.

Although there was an adjustment period (the first 21 days), it became his new religion. If you want to get an enthusiastic earful, just ask him about how he is feeling. He hasn't complained about fatigue even after a 12-hour trip from the Mainland. In the past, it would have taken him a week to get over jet lag. A couple days after he arrived, he played racquetball and didn't have to take a nap after this tough workout. No aches and pains, and he has lost weight, too.

While he was in Rochester, his sister-in-law, Anita, made the following escarole soup. It sounded so good, I decided to add my personal touches. One of the hardest things to find at the last minute is escarole. I ended up at Whole Foods in Kahala Mall. This leafy vegetable is usually available year round, but its peak seasons are winter and spring. Often confused with curly endive, they both have a sharp and bold flavor. Resembling a ragged butter lettuce head, its crisp leaves are dark green at the top and pale green at the bottom.

Low in calories ( 1/4 cup is about 21 calories), escarole is an excellent source of folate, vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. Recent studies have found that eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables lowers the chance of cancer, and when combined with certain foods, it is effective in reducing blood pressure. If you can't get escarole, look for curly endive, chicory, gai choy, Swiss chard or spinach.


• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 medium yellow onion, diced

• 2 cups leeks (separate and clean each leaf), chopped

• 3-4 cloves garlic, minced

• 6 cups vegetable broth

• 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes

• 2 cups red potatoes, washed and diced

• 2 medium carrots, diced

• 3/4 can tomato paste

• 1 1/4 tablespoons dried parsley

• 2 1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning (thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, basil)

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• 1 teaspoon pepper

• 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

• 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

• 2 cups escarole, washed and chopped

• 1 cup whole-wheat penne pasta (optional)

• Parmesan cheese (low-fat or vegan)

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil and saute the onion and leeks until transparent. Add garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Stir in beans and escarole and cook for 10-15 minutes longer. Boil the penne pasta according to directions and add to the soup. Serve hot and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Great with whole-wheat crusty bread and a salad.

Makes 8 servings.

Carol Devenot is a Kaimuki-raised teacher and recipe consultant, and author of Global Light Cuisine (Blue Sea Publishing Publishing, paper, 2008). Cookbooks and e-books available at bookstores and www.globallightcuisine.net.