July 4 means barbecue and comfort foods - plant-based, of course

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Traditional Fourth of July menus can be transformed in delicious plant-based dishes, such as this plate of vegan BBQ, beans and Mac and Cheeze from Southern Fried Vegan. SOUTHERN FRIED VEGAN

July 4 is just two days away. It's time for barbecue and comfort foods, and I have just the suggestions for you if you want to eat whole food, plant-based.

My favorite picnic foods, fireworks-watching foods or just backyard fun foods include barbecued soy curls, baked beans, mac 'n' no cheese and cherry "nice cream." It's all plant-based, it's all delicious, and it's all perfect for a summer day.

Soy curls are extruded soy that, when cooked and spiced, do an excellent job of imitating chicken. They're made by Butler Industries in Oregon and can be purchased online.

I take one bag of soy curls, cover it in vegetable broth and soak for 10 minutes. While that's soaking, I dice half of a red onion and saute it in water. After draining the water from the soy curls, I add them to the pan with the onions, add black pepper, a package of taco seasoning and a jar of Bone Suckin Sauce.

I then stir, heat over medium heat, allow to cool and then place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to bring out the flavors.

For the mac 'n' no cheese, I start with whole grain macaroni and cook 10 ounces of it, per the package. Meanwhile, I peel and dice 1 cup of yellow potatoes, 1/3 cup of carrots and a ¼ cup of onion. I cook them in boiling water for ten minutes.

Then I place those vegetables in the blender with ¾ cup of the cooking water, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, a pinch of paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

Blend until smooth, and then pour it over the macaroni. This can be served immediately.

For the baked beans, I soak 1 cup of dried pinto beans overnight and then cook them. Then I put the cooked pinto beans in a Dutch oven and add 1 large, finely diced onion, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 4 tablespoons of ketchup and the juice of 1 lemon. Stir it well and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

And finally, the nice cream, my favorite part of the meal. I take six large, ripe bananas that have been cut up and frozen, and put them in the blender with two cups of frozen cherries, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 4 tablespoons of plant-based nondairy milk and 4 tablespoons of vegan chocolate chips. I pulse it to break up the fruit and then blend it until continuously smooth.

Then I add more frozen cherries and chocolate chips, and pulse it to create chunks in the nice cream. And that's all there is to it.

This July 4, enjoy a good whole food, plant-based meal as you enjoy the holiday.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.

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