April 25, 2011

Meatless Mondays, minus most common allergens

Happy belated Earth Day, friends!

One of many growing movements to create a greener world is Meatless Monday, whose goal is for everyone to go vegetarian one day a week.  Different environmental groups have pointed to the production and consumption of meat as a huge drain on our environment. The statistics are staggering: 1,800-2,500 gallons of water used produce a pound of beef?!  One-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the meat industry alone?!

As you can imagine, the environmental research groups and the meat industry disagree on the actual numbers.  Whatever the exact figures may be, it is safe to assume that producing meat for mass consumption does use a lot more natural resources than growing vegetables and fruits.

Eating less meat is fine with my tree huggers.
My husband and I eliminated hoofed animals from our diet years ago but recently I made a commitment to up our veggie/fruit consumption while lowering our meat intake even more.  The transition hasn't been bad at all because the kids love stir-fried tofu and will tolerate vegetables as long as they are accompanied with a pile of saucy noodles.  My biggest health concern with reducing our meat is making sure we still get enough Vitamin B-12 and protein.  Foods with the highest sources of vitamin B-12 are animal products so it's a little trickier for us to get a healthy dose, especially when we are dairy-free due to food allergies.  I try to make sure we get a good amount of fortified milk substitutes and cereals, eggs, and nutritional yeast in our diet.  To get the protein we need, I've been integrating more beans and seeds into our daily meals and snacks. 

To be honest, the kids aren't completely sold on beans.  They love homemade refried black beans (the tostada bar is a huge hit with them) but anything that still looks like a bean is a hard dish to sell.  I think I need to follow the #1 tip of my vegetarian friend, Dawn: "Puree the sh** out of them."  

While I have much more recipe-testing to do, here are a couple of easy bean or seed favorites that are free of most or all of the top eight food allergens.  For more information on the meatless movement including its health benefits, read up on Meatless Mondays and flexitarianism, a mostly vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian Chili

Chili is a super flexible recipe.  You can omit and sub in many different vegetables depending on what's in your fridge and what your family likes, and still make a tasty dish.  Don't let the long list of ingredients intimidate you -- for the most part, it's just chopping some veggies, opening cans, and measure spices.  Chili powder and cumin are key and, for me at least, so are the lightly sweetened baked beans.

2 Tbsp canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 or 2 red bell peppers, cut in chunks
3 small zucchini, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 or 2 yams or sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 28-oz can of organic tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can baked beans
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1.5 to 2 cups of water or vegetable broth
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin powder
1 t dried oregano
1T brown sugar (optional)
1 T distilled vinegar
sea salt to taste
  1. Heat oil on medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until onion for a couple minutes. 
  2. Add other chopped vegetables (except corn) and cook for 5-10 minutes. 
  3. Then add canned tomatoes, beans, corn, and 1.5 cups of water.  Stir in spices.  Heat until bubbling. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 30 minutes until chili thickens. 
  4. You can add more water after 20 minutes or so if it looks too chunky and not saucy enough.  Feel free to add more chili powder, cumin, and other seasonings to taste.
  5. If you're like me and prefer your chili extra thick, steam your cubed yams in the microwave for a few minutes before cooking them in the chili.  My husband doesn't like yams so sometimes I leave this out completely.  For those times, definitely make sure to include brown sugar to sweeten the pot.
  6. Sometimes I add in Trader Joe's 3-Grain Tempeh (not gluten-free) to give it a meatier texture.

Lentils and Onions (no photo so you'll have to imagine some yumminess here)
This is really just half of mujadarrah, a simple Middle Eastern dish consisting of lentils, onions, and rice.  I really do want to try a traditional mujadarrah recipe like this the next time I can get dry lentils. 

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions (or however much suits your taste), sliced
1 package Trader Joe's steamed lentils (18 oz)
  1. Heat oil over medium heat.  
  2. Cook onions in oil until caramelized.
  3. Add steamed lentils.  Cook and stir until heated thoroughly. (I usually do for 5-10 more minutes.)

Chocolate Sesame Bonbons (adapted from Reinfeld and Murray's cookbook The 30-Minute Vegan)

This is another easily adaptable recipe where fudging on the quantities and substituting different seeds or seed butters will not be deal-breakers.  If you can get your hands on some coconut butter, it truly makes these bonbons phenomenal.  I always try to throw in extra vitamin-and-mineral-rich sunflower seeds and calcium-rich sesame seeds.  I'll sneak in some Bob's Red Mill ground flaxseed meal in our next batch, too.

1 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (nut butter works fine if you don't have these allergies)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup agave nectar (if you don't have any, maple syrup works okay, too)
1/4 coconut butter (if you don't have this, add extra sunflower seed or nut butter)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Combine all ingredients.  
  2. Using your hands or a small scooper, roll into 1-inch balls.  (If I don't have time, I just serve it with spoons and bowls.
  3. Store in refrigerator.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free Brownies (adapted from Meal Makeover Moms' black bean brownie recipe)

Besides having a rich chocolaty taste, the key to the success of gluten-free, bean-based brownies is to disguise the texture, which can sometimes be a little gritty.  To create a texture diversion, add enough chocolate chips and a bit of sunflower seed butter.  I eliminated eggs in this recipe (you can use 3 eggs instead of the flax/water combo if you prefer).  To make sure the batter doesn't come out too gummy from the lack of eggs, I added 1/2 cup of brown rice flour. 

1 3/4 cup cooked black beans (or a 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained)
3/4 cup sugar (I use organic as regular sugar may be processed with bone char.)
3 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal + 9 Tbsp water, mixed
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (if you are also soy-allergic, use Enjoy Life semisweet chips)
1-2 Tbsp sunflower seed butter or other nut/seed butter (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8"x8"square baking dish or line with foil.
  2. Combine the black beans, flaxmeal/water mixture, and extract in blender or food processor until smooth.  If your blender is broken or your food processor is too small (um...like me), an immersion blender works okay but your batter might not be as ultrasmooth.  Add oil, cocoa powder, sugar.  Blend again until smooth.  
  3. Gently stir in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.  A few stirs is enough -- you don't want all the chips to fall to the bottom of the batter.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with additional chips over the top of the mixture.  You can also drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter on top of the batter, and then run a butter knife through the batter to swirl the sun butter.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 40 minutes. 
  6. Refrigerate before serving to deepen the chocolaty taste.

Thank you, Mother Earth, for providing us with ingredients for life.  We raise our glasses and full plates in your honor! 

1 comment:

  1. I tried this recipe with garbanzo beans instead. Yum! I liked the texture and taste even more!