Four plant-protein rich foods that will liberate you this holiday
Is it hard to be a vegetarian? Nope. Vegan? Not really. But tack another list of restrictions on top of the diet of a person who chooses not to eat meat or more, and things can become complicated. As we’re now into the third day of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Passover, many vegheads who celebrate are beginning to feel the pinch when it comes to getting enough protein.
The celebration of Passover, you see, involves abstaining from bread—or any food that may possibly contain even a grain of wheat—for a week. While traditions vary depending on the part of the world your family comes from and your level of observance, many also abstain from foods in the “kitniyot” category, which include beans, lentils, sesame seeds, peanuts, and soybeans (and any of their products—tofu, tempeh, tahini, hummus, and so on). In other words, some of the top sources of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
So, where can you get your protein from this week, if you’re keeping Passover and you don’t eat meat? If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, eggs, yogurt, kefir, and cottage cheese are still on the table…though by a few days into the holiday, you may never want to see another egg or bowl of yogurt and fruit again. If you’re vegan, you’re suddenly pretty limited when it comes to protein options. Even if you’re a meat-eater, you may be looking for some plant-centric ways to mix things up. Read on for four of our favorite protein-rich, plant-powered, Passover-approved ingredients (say that five times fast!).
Nuts are a vegetarian’s best friend during Passover. But why are we singling out almond flour? Well, you already know you can toss some almonds with dried apricots for a ready-to-go snack. But almond flour can be used in a multitude of ways to up the nutrition (not to mention flavor and fill-you-up factor of so many traditionally low-fiber, high carb Passover meals), and has 6 grams of protein per quarter cup. How good do these matzo meal/almond flour pancakes sound? And I’m a big fan of these almond flour-based matzo balls from Elana’s Pantry (which happen to be gluten free, too), which taste great in homemade or boxed vegetable broth.
Quinoa flour and flakes
After a few years on the fence, you’ve probably gotten word that quinoa—a seed, technically, and not a grain—is officially Kosher for Passover. And aren’t we lucky that it is. This versatile ingredient, which has 8 grams of protein per cup, can be cooked in broth and mixed with vegetables as a side dish, stir-fried and seasoned fried-rice style, or blended with milk, fruit, and a drizzle of honey for a soothing breakfast porridge.
What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is that quinoa comes in other forms that are super useful for cooking: Quinoa flour and flakes. We used quinoa flour in our delish maple-almond bars, and can’t wait to try the flakes in place of oatmeal along with regular quinoa in these awesome-sounding quinoa cauliflower patties.
Of course, we love cashews—they’re loaded with healthy fats as well as protein and fiber, and taste great. But you can only do so much with the nuts themselves. Turn them into cashew cream and you can make a savory cream sauce to put on zucchini noodles (I do this with regular pasta the rest of the year!), or add a little sugar and pair it with strawberries for dessert. Simply soak raw cashews (NOT roasted or salted ones) in cold water for 30 minutes or more; drain well and rinse; whirl in the blender with a bit of water (the amount will depend on how many cashews you have—start slow and add more as needed). The amount of time will really depend on your blender; stop blending once the cream has developed a smooth, not-quite whipped cream-like appearance. If you’re going savory, add a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. For a sweet cream, add some sugar or maple syrup. So simple, delish, and protein rich! The exact amount of protein will depend on your proportion of nuts to water, but one blogger estimates it as having about one gram of protein per tablespoon of sauce (believe me, you won’t just eat one tablespoon—so the protein should add up pretty nicely).
Silky chocolate pudding made with these little expandable seeds is a favorite treat around here year-round, and we’re so excited we can use it to get a little protein boost this week. Chia seeds also come in handy for vegans since they can be used as a replacement for eggs in baking (or for anyone else who needs a break from eggs, for that matter); we used them instead of eggs when we ran short (oops!) as we were making a tweaked-for-Passover version of this Bob’s Red Mill magically moist almond cake the other day. Each chia egg, or tablespoon of chia seeds, gives you seven grams of protein.
Nuts like pistachios, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and more, are also invaluable sources of protein for you this week. And don’t forget—the average teen girl needs 46 grams of protein per day. You won’t get there on matzo with butter, but with a balanced diet that’s centered around fruits and veggies alongside nuts, quinoa, and chia, you’ll come close. And you’ll feel great, too.
What foods did we forget? How do you stay powered up if chickpeas and peanut butter are out of the picture?