It is never too late to make a change for the better. Consuming less meat is one of the simplest ways to boost our health and the health of our planet. Incorporating one meatless day per week offers multiple benefits and is much easier and more enjoyable than you think. You really don’t have to subsist on grass clippings on a meatless day – honestly!
Eating less meat helps control weight and lowers the risk of chronic diseases. It also reduces your exposure to antibiotic-fed livestock. Animal flesh (including seafood) is also more expensive than most foods, so skipping them once (or twice) per week not only saves money, it also presents you with the opportunity to explore new wholesome ingredients and recipes.
An equally important reason for reducing meat consumption is the devastating effect livestock and seafood farming has on global warming and the health of the environment as a whole. The industry’s heavy use of water and fossil fuel, deforestation of vast lands for grazing, animal croplands, and farm factories, pollution of air, land, and water bodies from fuel, industrial runoff, and animal-waste emission of methane gas, are only some of the catastrophic effects continually unleashed on the environment and human health at every corner of the globe.
When replacing meat and seafood with plant-based ingredients, meals should contain enough protein. This can be easily accomplished by including soy products, such as tofu, edamame, or soy milk in salads, pilafs, soups, chili, and stews. Add nuts or seeds to breakfast cereals and salads, or mix a combination of whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, or lentils). Literally hundreds of mouth-watering and nutritious dishes enhanced with herbs, spices, and delicious sauces can be effortlessly prepared without animal flesh. So join the hundreds of thousands of people around the globe who are already following Meatless Mondays, an exciting journey of cooking up better health for you and a better future for our planet. Here are two delicious recipes for you to try; they can be doubled if needed – enjoy!
SCRUMPTOUS MEATLESS CHILI
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon powdered cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 Jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
¾ cup cooked pinto or other type beans, drained
1 (8-ounce) package cubed Firm tofu, or a brick Firm tofu
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, cover, and cook about 12 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, drain the tofu and blot the excess moisture with paper towels. If you are using a tofu brick, cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes as follows: make parallel cuts, ½ inch apart, lengthwise, then crosswise through the entire tofu brick. Keep your other hand on the tofu to prevent it from falling apart while you are cutting. Now cut the brick horizontally in the same manner. Place the cubed tofu in a bowl and set aside.
3. When the onion is done, mix in all the other ingredients, except the tofu. Cover, and increase the heat to medium. When the chili begins to bubble, turn down the heat and cook slowly 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently mix in the tofu and cook 5 more minutes. If the chili is too dry add ¼ – ½ cup water and adjust the seasoning.
*Serve on a bed of cooked brown rice, or millet or any other cooked whole grain, including pasta.
RICE, BLACK BEANS, AND FRIENDS
¾ cup uncooked brown rice
1-1/2 cups water
1 medium tomato, cut into small pieces
2 green onions, thinly sliced, including their whites
2 tablespoons chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
½ cup raw, frozen sweet peas, thawed
¾ cup cooked black eyed peas, drained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon liquid from the olives
1-1/2 tablespoons dried dill weed
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (about 9 sprigs)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Rinse the rice in a strainer. Drain. Place the rice and water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly about 45 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the stove. Let cool.
2.When the rice is done, mix all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Add the rice and all the other ingredients.
Slow Food USA member Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food writer, nutritional cooking instructor, blogger, author, and speaker.