Lost in the Food Court

I'm sure you will, at some point, find yourself in a food court in a shopping mall on a Monday. You may look around you, thinking that there are no Meatless options anywhere, but you'd be quite wrong. If you look closely, there are lots of great things to eat which are meat-free, healthy and delicious.

The first and most ubiquitous choice is an Asian place. Whether Chinese, Japaness or the new kid on the block, Thai food, there will always be a mixed veg or vegetable stir-fry option. Many of the Japanese places will also have vegetarian sushi or even some form of tofu, which is great when marinated in a teriyaki sauce. Don't forget to get Chop Suey as one option on your plate, as bean sprouts are about 40% protein but still low in calories and zero fat. A great living food.

Your next best option would be a Mexican place, which will always have a bean burrito, taco or bowl. (Fun fact: "burrito" is a Spanish word meaning "little donkey," however, all the vegetarian options will be 100% free of donkey meat.) Nachos and salsa are a great side option, because corn is a whole grain, don't forget. It is full of vitamin B1, folate and very high in dietary fibre, as well as overall deliciousness. 

If you're lucky in your choice of mall, you might see a Middle Eastern restaurant, which would likely offer a falafel plate or pita wrap. Made with chick peas and spices and served with tahini (sesame seed paste) and hot sauce, these are a delicious meatless dish and would go well with a side of fattoush or tabouleh salad. Try the purple pickled turnips if you see them, because they rock.

No matter the food court, it is very likely to have a submarine sandwich shop of some kind. Load up one of these bad boys with all your favourite veggies, mushrooms and hot peppers, pair with Dijon mustard or a great salad dressing, and don't forget the whole wheat bun. It is a meal unto itself.

Many burger places now offer a veggie burger, of course, and some of them are quite good if you're feeling adventurous. With the recent findings about potatoes from the Harvard study in mind, you will probably want to forego the french fries (chips to some) in favour of the side salad, but French dressing would be fine.

Last and, I have to say, also least, you might find an Italian restaurant counter with that old standby, pasta with tomato sauce, again with a side salad. More often than not, this will involve a gluey, disappointing white flour pasta, which would be slightly more nutritious than eating your napkin, but should probably serve as a last resort, absent all of the above. And if you have none of these available, it's time to shop at a different mall.

Or you could just head home and make a ridiculously quick and easy dish which includes that most fabulous of whole grains masquerading as a vegetable, corn. I am speaking of this week's recipe, which we have made twice in the last three days here in the Young Household. We adapted our version from the one offered by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. We have many of her cookbooks and she writes a mean recipe. I should warn you that if you see her on TV, she never measures anything. She will say, "Add a couple of tablespoons olive oil to the pan," and then proceed to pour in about a half cup. 

Enjoy this as a side dish, or even switch to the optional Southwest-style version which, along with a side salad or green vegetable, could double as a main. With all the fresh corn on the cob soon to be flooding Southwestern Ontario in the next weeks and months, we will  be having this quite frequently. Have a great week!