'Peas and Thank You' cookbook makes it easy to switch to vegetarian diet

If your family is hooked on heavy, processed foods that lack nutrition, take heart in the case of Sarah Matheny, author and food blogger. The former divorce and custody attorney in Oregon changed her life and that of her family by making significant shifts in lifestyle and healthy eating.

In the colorful cookbook Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Harlequin, $21.95), Matheny details how she left law practice and became a full-time blogger, mom and champion of family-friendly vegetarian cooking.

The 255-page book is full of compelling photography and appealing meals. You'll see that a plant-based diet doesn't have to be as difficult as it sounds. Matheny's recipes for whole-wheat ginger pear waffles, green-and-red lentil enchiladas and better than ever black bean burgers are thoroughly tempting.

Herewith, we offer two of the delightful meatless entrees for your family to try. Find more at Matheny's blog, (Note: Specialty ingredients are found at Central Market, Whole Foods, Market Street and health-food stores.)

Mama Thai's cashew pineapple stir-fry

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons organic sugar

1 16-ounce package organic tofu, drained and pressed, and cut into 10 2-by-3-inch slabs

1 bell pepper (orange, yellow or red), seeded and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 6-ounce can sliced water chestnuts

2 cups steamed brown rice

1/2 cup cashews

1. In a shallow dish or pie plate, combine lemon juice, water and sugar. Marinate tofu for 30 minutes or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

3. Bake marinated tofu for 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool, and then cut into bite-size pieces.

4. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, saute peppers, celery and carrots over medium-high heat until crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

5. Drain pineapple, reserving juice, and set chunks aside. Add cornstarch, soy sauce and vinegar to juice and whisk until smooth.

6. Add sauce to cooked vegetables and bring to a gentle boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Once sauce has thickened, add pineapple, water chestnuts and baked tofu and heat through.

7. Serve over brown rice and top with cashews.

Tempeh chili

1 8-ounce package tempeh, grated into crumbles

1/2 cup diced onion

1 stalk of celery, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (optional)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

22/3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon basil

1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes in juice

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 cube vegetable bouillon

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon organic sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings:

Chopped cilantro, sliced black olives, nondairy or organic sour cream or nondairy or organic shredded cheese

1. Lightly spray a large stockpot with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.

2. Saute tempeh crumbles, onion, celery and jalapeño, if using, until celery is softened and onion and tempeh are slightly browned. Add garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin and basil and saute for approximately 1 minute, until spices are aromatic.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 45 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

4. Spoon chili into bowls and pass optional toppings at the table.

For an even heartier meal, serve this chili atop baked sweet potatoes.