Vegetarian Awareness Month Highlights Delicious Plant-Based Dining at The Carlisle

By Greg Pascucci

October 1st is the annual kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s also the perfect time to consider a plant-based diet, which studies show may even reverse some chronic ailments, particularly in older adults.

At The Carlisle Naples, a luxury active retirement community, residents are reaping all the wonderful benefits of a plant-based diet thanks to a newly launched wellness program, Zest™. The initiative offers daily activities and events focusing on the mind, body and soul and provides residents with opportunities to help raise their energy levels and improve their overall quality of life. Through the dining component, Fresh Zest™, residents are able to enjoy a variety of entrees that are as delicious as they are wholesome.

“People hear words such as ‘vegetarian’ and ‘plant-based’ and often think raw vegetables or salads,” explained Executive Chef Marlon Perez. “With Fresh Zest, we’ve encouraged residents to think outside the box—or, in this case, outside the salad bowl.”

Chef Perez and his team have wowed residents and guests with mouthwatering comfort foods not typically associated with a plant-based diet. Black beans, for example, can be used to create meatless burgers, hummus and even decadent brownies while cauliflower can be used in dishes such as pizza, macaroni and cheese, tacos and buffalo bites.

For those wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle through a plant-based diet, Chef Perez recommends gradually incorporating vegetarian options into daily meals. He believes it’s important to be adventurous and sample a variety of foods before throwing in the towel.

“Have fun with foods such as eggplant which can be made into lasagna that would rival its meat-filled counterpart,” he said. “From mushroom stroganoff to shepherd’s pie and meatless meatloaf, practically every meal you know and love can be made without meat or dairy.”

Chef Perez points to chimichangas as a dish that though delicious, can account for nearly 40 percent of one’s daily recommended fat calories. The Fresh Zest alternative, Crispy Bean Chimichangas with Tomatillo Sauce and Cremini Mushrooms, is a much healthier option and has quickly become a resident favorite.

“Taste is never compromised,” said Perez, known for his use of fresh, local ingredients. “Residents who had been curious about a vegetarian lifestyle or may have been hesitant to order a plant-based menu item now request Fresh Zest options with confidence knowing they won’t be missing out on bold flavors and palate-pleasing cuisine”.

In addition to meatless comfort foods, Fresh Zest, which was added to the onsite restaurant’s existing menu, features dishes such as Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai and Cremini Mushroom & Artichoke Eggplant Cannelloni.

Not only can a plant-based diet be nutritious and appetizing, it can also play a role in cognitive reserve and brain function. A study found that diets higher in healthier foods were linked to a significant reduction in the risk of cognitive decline. Additional benefits include reduced risk of heart disease, decreased cancer risk and better management of diabetes.

Located at 6945 Carlisle Court in Naples, The Carlisle offers spacious one-and two-bedroom residences, weekly housekeeping and flat linen services, basic cable TV, all utilities except telephone, and a complimentary full breakfast plus choice of lunch or dinner in the community’s gourmet-style restaurant. For more information about the community, please call 239-221-0017 or visit

Cremini Mushroom & Artichoke Eggplant Cannelloni

– 1 ea. Eggplant (Sliced thin)
– 1 tsp. Black Pepper
– ½ lb. Cremini Mushrooms (Sliced)
– 2 tbsp. Olive oil
– 1 c. Heart of Artichokes (Chopped)
– ½ c. Ricotta Cheese (whipped)
– 1 tbsp. Fresh Basil (chiffonade)
– 1 tsp. Fresh Garlic (chopped)

1. Peel eggplant and slice thin. Coat ½ sheet pan with one tsp of oil and place eggplant slices, bake for 10 minutes then cool in refrigerator.
2. In a sautéed pan add one tsp of oil then, when hot add garlic and cook till golden brown, add mushrooms, artichoke hearts and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add fresh basil and white wine and reduce until dry, add black pepper and refrigerate.
4. Once mixture is cool, fold in whipped ricotta cheese, place it in two slices of eggplant and rolled. Baked for 10 minutes until hot.
5. Served with Basil tomato sauce and roasted garlic spinach Gnocchi.

The Carlisle, a luxury, resort-style senior living community in North Naples, offers both Independent and Assisted Living lifestyles. Available on a monthly fee basis, the ECC-licensed and CARF-accredited community boasts a full range of services and amenities including 12-hour restaurant dining, housekeeping, transportation and activities. Located on Airport-Pulling Road, between Pine Ridge and Immokalee Roads, the award-winning community’s lush tropical environment is highlighted with meandering walking paths around three lakes and tranquility gardens. For more information or to schedule a tour, please call Director of Marketing Greg Pascucci at 239-221-0017

Luxury Rental Retirement Living
6945 Carlisle Court, Naples, FL 34109
239-221-0017 .

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