But these former meat-eating millennial Miami Latinas weren’t keen on being sick, either, and they were. Exhausted and hypoglycemic, Caracas-born Quijada became “a different person” after two weeks on a plant-based diet. Like Rodriguez and Ruiz, the mother of twins now radiates health and is a vegan true believer.
Miami’s vibrant Hispanic community is among the city’s strengths — unless you’re a vegan. And if you’re Hispanic and vegan? Caramba.
“My family is still getting used to the idea,” acknowledged Ruiz, who with husband Alex Ruiz promotes South Florida’s vegan community with Planted in Miami, their podcast series highlighting “thriving on plant-based diets and living a normal and happy life.”
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Beats having cancer or heart disease. Latinos statistically have the highest rates for both. The problem lies on the plate.
“Meat — all the time, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the staple. You put meat in everything you make,” said Rodriguez, who also works at Baptist Health. “I wish there was more awareness for Latins. A lot have the same diseases my family has. It’s so common — I hear them comparing medications. I feel like going vegan is a simple solution — it’s right there.”
Enter LovinGreens. Cordon Bleu-trained Quijada teaches how to make healthier vegan versions of beloved Latino dishes sin carne, sin queso. “It’s all about the spices.”
Now if only Miami’s Latino restaurants would get with the program. “Oh, wow, they have nothing,” said Rodriguez. “They say, ‘What? You don’t want chicken?’ ”
Added Alex Ruiz: “Too many people think a plate full of veggies won’t taste good.” Vegan yet macho Latino, Ruiz heads the Miami chapter of No Meat Athlete. “Switching to this lifestyle has only helped improve my fitness.”
Vetoing vaca fritas, the Ruizes prefer vegan eateries like Jugofresh and Choices and Plantation’s Parlour Vegan Bakery, where the vegan tamales remind Jeanette of the meat-filled pasteles she used to love. But she doesn’t miss meat any more than she misses having digestive issues.
“It’s crazy, but my soul food now is my green smoothie each morning. The more you get the good stuff in your body, the more you’ll want to eat.”
You hear that, La Carreta?
Ellen Kanner: @soulfulvegan
Recipe courtesy of LovinGreens and Carolina Quijada. Enjoy with sweet potato chips or mariquitas (green plantain chips). The spicy ceviche marinade leche de tigre means tiger’s milk, but contains no milk, nor does it come from a tiger. Kelp seasoning available at Whole Foods and other natural food stores.
For the ceviche:
1 cup hearts of palm, drained and sliced into half moons
1/4 cup red onion, small dice
1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced small
1/4 cup mango, diced small
1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
1/2 avocado, diced small
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 habanero, seeded and deveined, diced small
Sea salt to taste
For the leche de tigre:
2 tablespoons celery, chopped
2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped
1/2 habanero, minced
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon kelp or dulse seasoning
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup coconut milk (canned)
Sea salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Gently combine all the ceviche ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
In a high-speed blender, blend the celery, cilantro, habanero, red onion, kelp seasoning, lime juice and garlic until smooth. Add coconut milk slowly and continue blending until emulsified. Correct seasoning (kelp or dulse, sea salt and white pepper) and toss gently with the ceviche preparation. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
Yield: 6-8 servings