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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vegan Black Bean, Tomato and Avocado Tortilla

My "go-to" quick dish for black beans often involves tortillas and cheese.  I have been reading more and more information suggesting that cheese really is not that good for you, so I have been thinking about how to make things I like without using cheese.  I have read that nutritional yeast--an ingredient I do not have much experience with--can sort of substitute for cheese.  Not exactly.  It doesn't give you that gooey wonderfulness that cheese does.  But then, it doesn't clog your arteries, either!  But it is supposed to offer the elusive umami that I read about, which I do not entirely understand.  In any case, I set out to use some black beans that I had cooked in my slow cooker (see another post earlier this month) with tortillas in a simple, tasty dish.  I wanted it to satisfy my hunger this evening without contaminating my body with any animal products.  I like what I came up with.  You could make this dish for lunch, a snack, or a light supper, as I did.

½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup cooked black beans (preferably cooked using my slow cooker method with a dried chipotle chile in the pot—save the chile after it cooks)
handful of cilantro, about ¼ cup, chopped
juice of ½ lime
1 TBS nutritional yeast
¼ tsp sea salt
1 scallion, chopped (use both white and green parts)
6 corn tortillas
½ avocado, diced

Mix cherry tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, lime juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt, scallion in a bowl.  Add a little bit of chopped chipotle chile leftover from cooking in the slow cooker with the black beans.  (You might try adding a little chopped jalapeno instead if you like things spicy).

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium flame.  Cook each tortilla for 20-30 seconds on each side, then transfer it to a plate.  Fill tortilla with a spoonful or two of mixture, then fold over so it is a semi-circle.  Heat filled tortillas for 1 minute in a microwave, then top with diced avocado.  Makes 6. (I ate 4 for supper--I was hungry, so plan on 2-4 per person for a meal, maybe even 6 for someone really hungry).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Black Bean Quesadillas

These quesadillas make a terrific snack, lunch, or light supper.  Last week, I made a batch of spicy black beans in the slow cooker and the same day I made quesadillas for dinner.  Then I froze the black beans that were leftover, stored them in a small container in the freezer, and made quesadillas for lunches on several different days.  Super quick and easy!

2 small corn tortillas
spicy black beans (from yesterday's posting)
3 chopped cherry tomatoes (you could use bottled salsa instead if you don't have cherry tomatoes on hand, though this will add extra spiciness)
shredded cheddar cheese, or a blend of cheddar and montery jack

For each quesadilla, heat cast iron skillet, then put in 2 corn tortillas, one at a time,  for a few seconds on each side.  Place one tortilla on plate.  Put layer of black beans, then diced tomatoes, then cheese on top of tortilla.  Cover with the other tortilla.  Microwave for about 30 seconds.  Serve with guacamole and/or sour cream if desired.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spicy Black Beans in Slow Cooker for use in recipes

I accidentally discovered how fantastic a dried chipotle pepper is in a pot of black beans.  I wanted to try cooking black beans in my slow cooker in order to use them in simple, quick & easy recipes, rather than opening a can of beans.  This is easier than opening a can of beans, except that you have to do it ahead of time.  I was afraid to salt the beans too early because I was afraid the salt would make them tough.  But I wanted the beans to absorb some kind of flavor as they were cooking, so that they would not be too bland.  These actually turned out to have quite a bite to them, probably because the dried pepper I used was quite large.  Use a larger pepper if you like spicy hot food, or a smaller pepper if you prefer a milder flavor.  In any case, these beans have great flavor for use in mexican-style recipes.  Tomorrow I will post a simple quesadilla recipe using them.  You could also try them in tacos, bean dips, or whatever mexican-style foods you like.  If you have a mexican-style recipe you like that uses meat, try substituting these beans for the meat for greenplanet eating!

1 cup dried black beans
12 cups water
1 large dried chipotle pepper
1 onion, cut in half

Put all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours.  Add 1 tsp salt after 3 hours.  Remove onion and pepper.  Drain to use in recipes.

Tip:  If you don't use them all the first day, spread the remaining cooked beans on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and freeze them.  Once they are frozen, transfer them to a container in the freezer.  You can easily take out small portions of beans for quick and easy snacks or meals.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

White Bean, Kale and Wheatberry Soup in Slow Cooker

There are many reasons to try to reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products.  Unfortunately, human population growth is taking its toll on the planet, as food production becomes massive and industrial.  When food production was more localized, the Earth could more easily repair itself and adjust to the impact of food production.  Food production now relies more and more on unnatural processes.  Fish farming, feeding corn to cows (not the food they would eat in natural circumstances), chemical usage to produce ever larger crops (in part to feed livestock) and to make animals grow faster all contribute to environmental degradation.  Each of us can make a small, positive impact on this frightening trend by reducing our support of the types of businesses that harm the Earth most severely.  These types of businesses would include large-scale meat and dairy producers, most fish farms, and large food processors.  It would be difficult, probably impossible for most of us, to eliminate support of all of these food producers, but we can try to think about the source of each of the items we purchase at the grocery store and make choices that favor small, local companies over large, national and international ones.  Since plant production uses fewer planetary resources than animal production, this soup is a green choice, and very easy to make.  The vegetables and herbs provide plenty of flavor, and the beans and wheat berries are substantial and filling, so why would you think you need to eat meat?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stir Fry for Vegetarians and Carnivores at the Same Table

Yesterday I received in the mail and started reading a new book, Healthy Eating, Healthy World:  Unleashing the Power of Plant-Based Nutrition, by J. Morris Hicks with J. Stanfield Hicks.  It seems to pull together and build upon other books that have greatly influenced my thinking about what I eat:  The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell, and Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, as well as other books that I have not read but apparently also discuss the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Yesterday morning, I had pulled a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer and anticipated making a stir fry for dinner with chicken, veggies, and teriyaki sauce.  After reading the first chapter or so of this new book, I decided I really did not want to eat meat for dinner.  Yet I knew that others in my family would not appreciate or feel satiated by a meal of stir-fried veggies and rice alone.  So I decided to cook the chicken in a separate pan from the vegetables, using the same sauce to flavor the contents of both pans.  That way the people who wanted chicken teriyaki could have it, and I could just eat vegetables.  I used the vegetables that I found in my refrigerator. One thing that you might be unfamiliar with is black radish.  I bought this vegetable from a local farm, not knowing what it was or how to prepare it.  I have enjoyed it raw, dipped in hummus, and decided to see what it would taste like in a stir fry.  It was delicious!  If you don't have access to this vegetable, you might try substituting another crunchy white vegetable--jicama, jerusalem artichoke, or water chestnuts?--  for similar effect.

Now, I have posted Asian stir fry dishes on this blog with sauces I concocted from scratch.  Sometimes, though, I prefer the ease of pulling a bottle of Trader Joe's Soyaki Sauce from the pantry to quickly and easily flavor a dish.  It is definitely better for the planet, however, to make your own sauce (think about cutting out the middle-man factory that produces and packages the sauce, and all the pollution a factory creates).  If you want to combine the ideas in today's recipe with a homemade sauce, feel free to use the search bar in the upper lefthand corner to look for "stir fry" and  find a recipe I posted previously with a homemade sauce.  Those of you who decide to go with Trader Joe's Soyaki or another bottled sauce, just know that, once in a while, I share your imperfection.  We can try to compensate for our imperfection by taking some other action to counteract planet destruction:  maybe replace a plastic-packaged item in our shopping cart at the supermarket next time with an item that is sold in-bulk (ideal) and put it into a recycled container we bring from home (even more ideal), or at least replace the plastic-packaged item with something packaged in a non-plastic container.

It is time to start cooking!  First, slice the chicken breast into strips.  I used 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves to serve 3 people.  Place strips in a bowl and pour enough sauce over them to cover.  Toss so that all strips are covered with sauce.  Marinate on the counter while you make the rice and prepare the vegetables for cooking.