Gator Grub

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Vietnamese “Meat”balls

Dr. Brian Taschner is a cardiologist in Fort Myers, Florida, and an avid athlete who completed the Spartan Beast obstacle course and race. Founder of Vibrant Beat, an educational platform that promotes healthy lifestyle habits, he hosts lecture at venues throughout the community to promote the benefits of a plant-based diet on cardiovascular disease.

Vietnamese “Meat” Balls


  • 2 large Japanese eggplants (or 3-4 small to medium), diced
  • 8-9 ounces mushrooms (I used king trumpet but you can use any), coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons diced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/2-1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax + 3 tbsp water)
  • 2-3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste 
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews 
  • 1/4 cup gojuchang


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Layer eggplant on nonstick foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix in soy sauce, fish sauce (or miso), chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms to the oven (can use the same baking sheet but keep separated from eggplant) and bake an additional 10 minutes until soft. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  6. Saute onions over medium heat until soft (5 minutes).
  7. In a high-speed blender, pulse cashews until coarsely chopped. Add to a large mixing bowl.
  8. In two batches, pulse eggplant until chunky (not smooth) and add to cashews.
  9. Pulse mushrooms until finely chopped (not mushy) and add to eggplant/cashew mixture.
  10. Add all other ingredients. Can add more soy for saltiness, breadcrumbs if too wet, gojuchang for sweetness.
  11. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until browned (can also broil for 3-5 minutes).
  12. The serving suggestion as banh mi with condiments.

submitted by kavita rajasekhar, md '09


Dr. Kavita Rajasekhar is a public health physician in New York City, serving as the associate medical director for a worker health protection program. She recently completed culinary school training at the Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive, plant-based program, with an internship at Purple Kale Kitchenworks. Dr. Rajasekhar enjoys learning and practicing knowledge on the healing properties of food and other lifestyle measures, especially yoga.



  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup split mung dal (split mung/moong dal is a type of lentil, this can be found at an Indian grocery store, online, and even at Publix)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more, to taste)
  • 3 1/2 cups water


  1. Preferably soak rice and dal, if you can (for 1/2 hour or several hours; this softens this grain/rice mixture and also enhances digestion).
  2. Drain the water and rinse the grain/lentil mixture.
  3. Heat a medium-sized pot to medium heat.
  4. Add ghee when the pot is warm (olive oil is fine to substitute if you are vegan).
  5. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
  6. When the seeds start to dance, add turmeric and black pepper.
  7. Add the dal/rice mixture to the pot and stir gently for a minute or two.
  8. Add water (depending on your preference, may add a bit more water to make soupier).
  9. Add salt.
  10. Raise heat to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer.
  11. Simmer for about 25 -30 minutes/till the rice and dal are soft.
  12. Take the pot off the heat and serve warm. Add salt/ghee to taste.

submitted by Wendie Moore, MD ‘92

Vegetarian Crumbles 7 Layer Dip

Dr. Wendie Moore is a retired Diagnostic Radiology Specialist in Ocala, FL, and has over 28 years of experience in the medical field. Dr. Moore has recently been inspired to shift to a vegetarian/vegan diet after attending the first-ever UF Culinary Medicine Conference. She is enjoying incorporating her conference’s knowledge of her Gator lifestyle.



  • 1-12 oz package frozen Morningstar veggie Grillers Crumbles
  • 1 package low Sodium Taco seasoning
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1- 16 oz can Vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 2.25-oz can black olives, sliced & drained
  • 2 plum tomatoes or 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 cup mild salsa, refrigerated preferred (lower sodium content) but jarred fine also
  • Sliced jalapeño peppers, drained
  • Scoopers style whole wheat tortilla chips


  1. Heat a large nonstick fry pan to medium to medium-high heat. 
  2. Add veggie crumbles and stir almost continuously till hot. Avoid burning. 
  3. Add water, taco seasoning, and stir together with crumbles.
  4. Add refried beans, mix well with crumbles.
  5. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Spread crumble-refried bean mixture into the serving dish. A glass pie pan or 1-quart casserole dish works well.
  7. Evenly add the following layers: Half the shredded cheese, drained olives, chopped tomatoes with juice, sour cream (spread around gently), salsa, and rest of the shredded cheese. Can add jalapeños or place in the bowl next to dip for optional addition.
  8. Serve with scooper style tortilla chips.


Amaretto Sour Bars

From Dr. Scalabrino about the recipe: My grandmother loves all things lemon, so lemon bars were a staple growing up and always make me think of her. I adapted my favorite lemon bar recipe to include amaretto, which makes it taste like the popular amaretto cocktail.

sugar bar

Ingredients: Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients: Filling

  • 6 eggs
  • 7 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons Oak City Amaretto (sub 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract for an alcohol-free version)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch


  1. Cream together crust ingredients and press into a greased 9×12 pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, then stir in filling the remaining ingredients. Pour on baked crust. Bake for 45 minutes at 300°F.
  3. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm, but wait until cooled before cutting.