Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lentil Soup with Mushroom Broth and Spinach

I recently visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Reading the information on the exhibit signs heightened my awareness of why we should choose organic food whenever possible.  Agricultural runoff pollutes the rivers, oceans and lakes.   It depletes oxygen from the water, making it difficult or impossible for some aquatic species to survive.  Yet some other species, such as jellyfish, thrive in the new environment, both because they can live in the polluted conditions and because their predators, such as sea turtles and fish, are diminishing in number.  Did you know that jellyfish populations are increasing at alarming rates in the ocean?  Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible to help maintain our aquatic ecosystems.

I make lentils frequently and have posted recipes in the past.  I often use instant or prepared broth.  The other day, I wanted to keep the animal products out of my meal, and I had run out of the vegetable bouillon I often keep in my pantry.  Luckily, I had dried mushrooms in my pantry, and lots of basic vegetables in the refrigerator.  The result was a broth more delicious than store-bought, and easy to make.  It made a big difference in the final dish.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stewed Tomatoes and Green Chilies With Pork Over Cheesy Polenta

Here's another dish to use up that leftover pork from the pork shoulder we cooked in the slow cooker (posted 2 days ago).  My husband and kids LOVED this.  You should definitely try it.  And it is so easy to make.  Why is it green planet eating?  Because by using up leftovers, instead of throwing food away, you are conserving resources.  Feel good about it.  It saves money, too.  The pork shoulder used in the slow-cooker pork is an economical cut of meat, because it is very fatty.  The 9 lb. shoulder cost about $15, and this is the fourth meal made from it--and there is still more meat leftover for additional meals!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pork and Vegetables With Sage and Lemon Zest In Reduced Cream Sauce

I whipped this up in less than a half hour, and it was quite good.  I got the idea after watching "The Taste," a TV show on ABC.  One of the cook-contestants prepared a winning dish that she described as "braised pork in cream with lemon zest and sage."  All the judges loved it, so I thought that I might try to create a dish using leftover slow-cooked pork with cream, lemon zest and sage.  Since I am always trying to come up with ways to use smaller portions of meat with lots of vegetables, I pulled out what I had in the fridge:  broccoli, a carrot, a zucchini, a red pepper.  I figured that the pork that was braised in cream on the TV show had lots of flavor coming from the pork cooking in the cream.  Since I was starting with pork that was already cooked, I didn't have the juice that comes out from meat that is cooking and can flavor a sauce so nicely.  So I thought that if I started the dish with a sauteed onion, that could offer some flavor to the sauce.  The other vegetables also offer flavor.  This dish might not be as good as what people were eating on the TV show--I would not say it is "to die for"--but for a quick weeknight meal that is nicely palatable, I recommend it to you.  Everyone in my family enjoyed it.  It goes nicely with a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris!

1 onion, chopped
1 TBS coconut oil
1 carrot, cut lengthwise into 2” matchstick pieces
1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 2” pieces
¼ red pepper, cut into 2” strips
1 c. chopped broccoli
¼ c. orange juice
2 TBS fresh sage leaves, chopped
grated zest from 1 lemon
½ pint heavy cream (possibly a little more)
2 cups cooked pork (such as leftovers from slow-cooked pork shoulder)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute chopped onion until translucent.  Add carrot pieces and zucchini pieces and continue to sauté.  Meanwhile, microwave chopped broccoli and orange juice together in a glass bowl, covered, for a minute.  After carrots and zucchini have cooked for a couple of minutes, add red pepper, fresh sage and grated lemon zest and stir.  Pour in heavy cream and turn heat to high.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until cream becomes thick, then spoon out microwaved broccoli and add it to the pan, along with the cooked pork.  Add a little more cream if it seems to need more sauce.  Stir until pork is heated and all meat and vegetables are coated with cream sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over couscous, rice, or another simple grain.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder-Takes Only 5 Minutes of Prep Time!

The other day, in anticipation of a big snowstorm (which became a blizzard here in the Northeast U.S.), I purchased a pork shoulder, intending to cook it in my slow cooker.  I have found that pork shoulder or pork butt is one of the best things to cook in a slow cooker, because the fat melts away as it cooks and makes the meat tender, not dry and tough like some other meats become in the slow cooker.  This recipe is extremely simple, nothing fancy.  I have to give credit to my friend Kris for giving me the idea for this.  It was perfect for that snowy day because I ended up spending quite a lot of energy shoveling snow and did not have energy leftover to cook.  I got this going before I went out to shovel, and it cooked all day long.  This made for a hot meal that satisfied all the carnivores in my household, with a salad and another side dish to round out the meal.  It also provided lots of leftovers, which I will tell you how to use in my next postings!

Put pork shoulder (Mine was about 9 lbs.) in slow cooker.  Sprinkle herbs de Provence, sea salt, and black pepper all over the pork.  Pour apple cider in the slow cooker so that it is about 2" deep.  (Optional:  Throw in a handful or two of cranberries or dried cranberries).  Cook on high for 1-2 hours and then reduce heat to low for 8-10 hours.  That's all you have to do!  After eating this for the first meal, discard any remaining fat and remove meat from the bone to use for other easy recipes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Awesome Fudge Brownies

My friend Laurie gave me a fudge brownie recipe for my bridal shower, many years ago, written with beautiful handwriting and decorated on a sheet of heavy white paper.  I have saved it all these years and, I am ashamed to say, made more brownies with mixes than from this recipe over time.  I changed it just a bit, with the microwave melting and the addition of sea salt (which makes a nice difference).  But I realized, as I whipped up a batch yesterday and then another today (because the first batch disappeared so quickly!), that it takes only a few more minutes--no more than 5, and possibly not even that--to mix these up from scratch as to use a boxed mix.   And these are a thousand times more delicious than any made from a mix.  Furthermore, it is better for the planet to make something from scratch than to make it from a mix.  It takes far fewer natural resources to make something from scratch than from a mix, and it has to be better for you to avoid the various ingredients (do we even know what they are?) that get put into those mixes.  And think of how much cleaner our environment would be if we had fewer factories processing and packaging those mixes!  Eliminating the factory also reduces the resources involved in transporting ingredients to and from the factory, so the end result is fewer resources, overall, used for the transport of our food.  This is the kind of thinking we should all partake in to help our planet survive.

1 stick (8 TBS) unsalted butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4  tsp. sea salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or convection oven to 325 degrees.  Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe (I prefer Pyrex) bowl.  Stir together until smooth.  Add sea salt, vanilla, eggs and flour and stir until smooth.  Pour batter into greased 9 inch square pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Check for doneness before removing from oven:  toothpick inserted into center should come up clean.  If not quite done, bake for a few more minutes.  Cool on wire rack before cutting.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beef Stew

Animal farming consumes more of earth's resources than plant farming does, but animal farming on small family farms, especially ones located near where you live, consumes fewer resources than large corporate farming does.  If you do not want to be a vegetarian, you can still take steps towards eating in a way that is greener, by consuming meat that is farmed humanely and in a way that does not pollute on a massive scale, by consuming meat that does not have to travel far to get to your kitchen, and by decreasing the amount of meat you consume.  One way to decrease the amount of meat you consume without feeling like you are depriving yourself is by making dishes that load up on vegetables so that meat is a smaller part of the overall meal.  This recipe for beef stew has lots of vegetables in proportion to the meat, so that everyone partaking of it is eating less meat without even realizing it!  To increase the sustainability of your eating here, purchase grass-fed beef, preferably beef that has come from a local farm.  Purchase as many locally farmed vegetables as possible, too.

I roasted some of the vegetables before adding them to the stew because I am finding more and more that roasting vegetables in olive oil and salt brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables.  I can't get enough of them!