I am a vegetarian for the second time around. The first time, I was a vegetarian for three years toward the end of my second pregnancy and after my daughter’s birth around 1994. Crispy bacon did me in! Funny thing is, that baby has been a vegetarian for eight years now.

These days, the reasons I feel more committed are twofold: the ethical reason not to eat animals, and the heart disease risks from eating animal meat.

Heart disease runs in my family. Having lost both my parents in their mid 50s and my brother in his 30s, I think that is the only reason I need. I really believe that you can more easily treat the cause of such diseases head on, rather than waiting for the disease to happen.

I have considered becoming a vegan. Considered. The main reason I haven’t is CHEESE! The following recipes have cheese in them, but I always use less than the recipe calls for. I know cheese contains saturated fat, but not nearly the amount that meat does.

I truly think that if you eat reasonable portions, in moderation, it’s OK to eat flavorful food with cheese and the like. Everything in moderation.

My husband is an amazing gardener and we eat fresh from the garden all year long. All these recipes are great with a freshly picked side salad, using whatever vegetables are in season. Our salads include cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, arugula, leeks, squashes, tomatoes, all types of lettuces, brussels sprouts, potatoes and herbs.

The many herbs we grow go into all our cooking. You do not have to live on a farm to grow herbs. They are super-easy to grow in the right containers in the right light.

Basil pesto is a staple in my fridge and freezer. My husband grows 6-8 huge basil plants every summer, and in the fall I make pesto and put it in small bags to freeze and use throughout the year. It can add flavor to just about anything.

I am still a work in progress with my diet, as I am sure you are, too. I am still trying to do better, as I know better. But if we all considered how important nutrition is in our health journey, our medical problems would plummet. Plant-based nutrition is  proven to reverse disease. That’s enough for me. Bon appétit!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and  manager of the Oxford YMCA. She also writes a monthly fitness column for The Star.

Skinny Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach

  • 2 medium Italian eggplant
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cups marinara sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 8 ounces frozen spinach, heated through and squeezed well
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella

Cut the two ends off the eggplants. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices until you have a total of 10 slices about the same size.

Sprinkle the eggplant with kosher salt to help remove excess moisture and bitterness. Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes. Pat dry with a towel.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season the eggplant with a little more salt and pepper, then arrange on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover tightly with foil and bake until eggplant is tender and pliable but NOT fully cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Spread ¼ cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg then mix together with ricotta, Pecorino Romano, spinach, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.

Pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Divide the ricotta-spinach mixture evenly (about 2 generous tablespoons each) and spoon onto one end of each eggplant slice, spreading to cover. Starting at the short end, roll up slices and arrange them each seam side down in the prepared dish. Top with remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and tightly cover with foil.

Bake until the eggplant is very tender, about 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving with additional Pecorino Romano if desired.

Great White Pizza

For the roasted garlic ricotta:

  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for mixing
  • Pinch of kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • For the charred red onions:
  • 4 red onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the zucchini:

  • 2 green zucchinis
  • 2 yellow summer squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • Pinch of kosher salt and pepper
  • Pizza crusts (this makes enough for 3 14-inch pizzas)
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced

For the garlic ricotta: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the tops of the heads of garlic. Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the garlic, wrap in aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once tender, remove from the oven and let cool. In a stainless bowl, squeeze out the roasted garlic. Add a splash of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Using a spatula, smooth the garlic into a paste in the bowl. Add the ricotta and fold in the garlic until it is completely incorporated.

For the charred red onions: Turn the oven temperature up to 500 degrees. Cut the ends off the onions and peel off the tough outer layer. Cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice. Toss in olive oil and cook on a baking sheet for 15 to 20 minutes until you see a good bit of charred pieces. Cool.

For the zucchini: While the onions cook, cut the ends off of the zucchini and squash and thinly slice on a bias. Toss in a metal bowl with the olive oil, pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

To assemble the pizza: Leave the oven temperature at 500 degrees. Start assembling the pie by spreading the ricotta mixture all over the pizza crust. Place several slices of fresh mozzarella evenly over the crust. Next, add the cut zucchini and squash and charred red onions. Drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven on the aluminum pan or a pizza stone. Let bake for about 10 minutes, then slide the pizza right onto the oven rack and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

— Food Network

Broccoli-Brie Quiche

  • 4 yellow onions, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 pie crust
  • 8 ounces brie
  • 1 ½ cups half-and-half
  • 8 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Fry the onions in the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes (maybe longer). Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously; prepare an ice water bath. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove it to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Remove it from the water to drain.

Roll out the pie crust on a floured surface and press into a deep fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (or a deep-dish pie pan). Lay the onions over the base of the crust, then lay the broccoli pieces on top of the onions. Chop the brie and lay that in the crust, too.

Whip the half-and-half, eggs and some salt and pepper in a large bowl, then pour it into the crust. Sprinkle the chives on top.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet, cover lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown, another 10 to 15 minutes. (The quiche will still seem slightly loose, but will continue to set once removed from the oven.) Let the quiche sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then, if using a tart pan, remove the quiche from the pan. Cut into slices with a sharp serrated knife and serve.

— Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

Tomato-Goat Cheese Tarts

  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into four ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11x11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.  

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, wine and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.  

Using a sharp paring knife, score a ¼-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.  

Place ¼ of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.