Put the words “flexible” and “vegetarian” together and you’ve got flexitarians — people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet.
The word first was coined in the early ’90s. By 2003 the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian the most useful word of that year.
Flexitarians get about 80 percent of their calories from fruits and vegetables and about 20 percent from meat, fish and poultry. They tend to eat a heavily plant-based diet due to environmental or health issues rather than strict animal rights concerns.
As more Americans become aware of the strong link between a poor diet high in processed foods and chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer, the numbers of those calling themselves flexitarians is sure to grow.
Whether you’re joining the ranks of the flexitarians or wish to remain an avowed carnivore, The Star’s recipe for Ratatouille Chicken Bake offers the best of both worlds. Ratatouille (pronounced ra-tuh-TOO-ee) is a rustic vegetable-inspired dish from the French region of Provence. It features eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs simmered in olive oil, a healthy fat. When the mood strikes, adding lean chicken breasts offers extra protein.
■ Shopping tip: If you’re adding chicken to the recipe, remember a 3- to 4-ounce portion is the size of a deck of cards.
■ Cooking tip: Adding pistachios adds an extra layer of texture to the finished dish.
Ratatouille chicken bake
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 small (about 3/4 pound) eggplant, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9-by-13-inch dish with nonstick spray. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft. Add pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant and chicken broth. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in herbs; season with salt and pepper. Place vegetables in baking dish.
Place chicken breasts on top of vegetables. Spoon some of the vegetables on top of the chicken. Bake until the chicken is golden brown and meat thermometer registers 170 degrees, about 25 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts.
Per serving (includes chicken and nuts): 260 calories (25 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 123 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.
Recipes developed for The Star by home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.
Food styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA; photo by DAVID EULITT/The Kansas City Star
A flexible feast
■ For more information about the continuum of vegetarianism, go to the Vegetarian Resource Group at www.vrg.org.
■ Looking for flexitarian recipes? Thumb through a copy of The Healthy Hedonist: More than 200 Delectable Flexitarian Recipes for Relaxed Daily Feasts (Simon & Schuster, 2005) by Myra Kornfeld and Sheila Hamanaka.
■ Want to talk to other flexitarians? Go to flexitarian.blogspot.com/.
■ Apparently, variety is the spice of life. Check out .htm. A former vegetarian author known for her popular Moosewood cookbooks, these days Mollie Katzen is offering flexitarian workshops.
■ You better believe there’s market potential here. One Boulder-based company, www.ecocuisine.com, has even trademarked the word flexitarian to create a line of healthy products “enhanced by the addition of animal protein, dairy or eggs.”