Fourth of July Vegan Feast Courtesy of Whole Foods Market

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Each year, we celebrate our country's independence by sharing a meal with family and friends, then watching the skies light up as a cap to the festivities.

And, in most cases, that meal happens to be from the grill. We're not sure why burgers and hot dogs became the classic all-American meal (especially since both probably have their origins in Germany), but they are -- in all of their highly processed glory.

See also: Vegetarian Grilling Options for Fourth of July (Recipes)

Whole Food Market's Healthy Eating and Green Mission specialist (and former Miami New Times Beet Reporter) Camille Lamb recently held a cooking demo to show that plant-based dishes can be just as fast and delicious as traditional Independence Day foods.

Each Monday at 7 p.m., Whole Foods Coral Gables hosts a free healthy eating cooking class. This week's saw a full house of couples, singles, and even mothers with tweens here to find out ways to make healthy and tasty meals. Lamb is engaging, interactive, and helpful. When someone asks a question about a thickening agent, Lamb offers up her email address so she could follow-up with a more detailed answer.

As Lamb demonstrates how to prepare veggie kabobs, spicy black bean burgers, kale slaw, and pineapple cool-lottas, sample portions of the food are passed out. Next week's class, Tango with Mango, will help you figure out what to do with all those mangos you'll have soon (reserve a spot by calling 305-421-9421). And, even if you're not vegan, think about incorporating at least one of these nutritious dishes into your July Fourth festivities and, as Lamb wold say, "declare your independence" from junk food.

Grilled Veggie Kabobs (serves four)


3/4 pound small new potatoes, cut in half

2 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise

1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch-thick pieces

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips

1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered

1/3 cup of your favorite salad dressing

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for two hours prior to using to reduce charring. Parboil potatoes until done, but still firm. Thread vegetables alternately on skewers. Brush generously with salad dressing. Grill for three minutes; turn vegetables over, brushing with extra salad dressing. Grill for another three minutes or until done.

Healthy Kale Slaw


3 cups each of cabbage, kale, and collard greens

1 cup raw cashews or almonds

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries

1 clove garlic

5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Chop the greens and place into large serving bowl. Blend the remaining ingredients into a dressing and pour over greens. Stir dressing into greens and serve.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers


2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces

1 onion, cut into wedges

4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chia seeds, soaked in 4 tablespoons of water for at least 30 minutes

6 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoons Thai chili sauce or hot sauce

1 cup quick oats

Tamari to taste

Use a food processor to finely chop bell pepper, onion, cilantro, and garlic. Then empty into a separate bowl. Put beans in processor and blend to thick paste. Combine bean paste with vegetable mix. In a small bowl, whisk soaked chia seeds, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the chia mixture into the bean mix. Mix in oats until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Form into patties and grill about eight minutes on each side.

Pineapple Cool-Lotta


1 cup fresh sliced pineapple

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup organic pineapple juice

2 cups ice

Cherries for garnish

(Add rum for a boozy version)

Blend ingredients. Garnish with cherry.

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