Growing up in a traditional South American family and marrying into an even more traditional Central American family, food has always been a big part of my life.  Food and family are like bread and butter. So many classic Central and South American dishes are centered around meat and dairy though. We are practically raised on the notion that if there isn’t meat on our plates it isn’t a complete meal.  At the same time, if you were too poor to afford beef or chicken then you would make good old rice and beans of some sort.  Of course no rice and beans are complete if not accompanied by a fried egg, cheese and or crema (sour cream).

The list of Latin dishes and snacks that incorporate cheese and meat is huge!  My father’s favorite late night snack is fried plantains served with a sprinkling of Adobo Goya seasoning and slices of cheese.  It’s quick and easy to make, and satisfying. Crunchy, salty, fatty, Mmm, Mmm, good!

This week my mother-in-law said she wanted to make a couple of traditional dishes like Arepas (Colombian corn cakes made with shredded cheese sometimes stuffed with more cheese) or Nacatamales (tamales with pork, pork fat, rice and a slice or two of onions and tomatoes inside).  I politely told her that the kids would love to have some but I won’t be eating any. I could see her little bubbles bursting before my eyes.

We should still be able to enjoy traditional meals though, vegan style. There are some things that just won’t be the same though like the Nacatamales.  We all agreed that if you take out the pork it’s no longer a Nacatamal.  Just give it another name and call it a night. This week we successfully made a few dishes with substitutions.  You can find recipes for the Arepas and Black Bean Salad here.

Arepas
The breakfast of my childhood minus the cheese, still yummy!

Black Bean Salad
One of my favorite recipes!  We eat it with chips or as a side for Arepas.
This week I made a big pot of brown rice and made burritos with it.
Check out the recipe here.

Soy sausages replaced pork Chorizo in this traditional plate.
With fresh tortillas, tomato salad and avocado on the side, I didn’t miss the hunk of cheese that usually rounds it out.

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