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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

White Beans, Kale and Delicata Squash

I just started to read a new report, Trade and Environment Review 2013, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development entitled, "Wake Up Before It's Too Late:  Make agriculture sustainable now for food security in a changing climate."  One of the things it discusses is that extreme weather events will reduce or eliminate the ability of some agricultural regions to produce food.  It also points out that raising livestock uses more planetary resources than growing plants for food. As human population increases and demands greater quantities of meat, as is the current trend, there will be less food available for the global population as a whole.  It predicts political instability and riots as a result.  Sometimes, thinking about large scale devastation and global problems seems out of our individual control.  Yet we as individuals can choose whether we will act in a way that will add to or subtract from the destructive trends of human behavior.  I might not be able to control how all the world behaves, but I can control my own behavior, and to an extent the behavior of my family members.  I hope to influence my readers, as well, who can then influence their family and friends.  We do what we can do.  By consuming plants instead of meat, we use our planetary resources more conservatively to feed ourselves.  By supporting local agriculture, we help to ensure a food supply even if a catastrophic weather event wipes out a major agricultural region that provides food on a large-scale.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roasted Beet, Orange and Feta Salad

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my recipe for millet cakes pictured with a roasted beet salad.  I got the recipe for that beet salad from epicurious.com.  While I was eating it, though, I thought, "this would taste so much better with oranges and a dressing made with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar."  I fantasized about the next roasted beet salad I would make ever since.  I had to get back to the farmer's market to buy more beets.  I had to pick up some oranges at the supermarket.  I continued to develop thoughts about how my beet salad would come together and what flavors I should include.  At the last minute, on the day I was finally going to make the salad, I ran out to buy feta cheese, because I imagined that the saltiness of the feta would nicely complement the sweetness of the beets and oranges.  I was right--I tried it with and without the feta and the feta definitely makes it much, much more delicious.

Sustainable cooking and eating requires local ingredients.  I am proud to say that I purchased most of the ingredients for this recipe from the farmers market.  Beets, shallots, honey and pea shoots are all available from local sources where I live (in Nebraska).  You might even be able to find locally produced feta cheese in many places.

This salad is hearty, so you can serve it with a light main course for a complete and satisfying meal.  We ate it with pumpkin ravioli.  Yum!

Dressing (you will probably have more than you need for this salad):
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
3 TBS Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (I found this at Trader Joe's)
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

6 or 7 small-medium beets
2 naval oranges, peeled and broken into sections
1-2 cups pea shoots

feta cheese

Wash beets and trim greens off.  Wrap tightly in foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour and a half, approximately.  Let cool, then slip skins off with your fingers and slice. 

Put beets with orange sections and pea shoots into a bowl.  Pour dressing on, toss, then crumble feta cheese over all.  Serves 3-4.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Kale and Tomatoes (Optional: With Chicken)

Last weekend, I cooked a couple cups of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) in the slow cooker.  It was really easy.  I woke up on Saturday morning, rinsed the chickpeas in a colander, put them in the slow cooker with a bunch of water and an onion, turned the slow cooker on "low" for 10 hours, and went about my day.  Later in the day I added some salt.  At the end of the day, I unplugged the slow cooker and let the chickpeas sit in the water for another hour or so, until I felt like scooping them out of the water with a strainer and putting them into a container in the fridge until I was ready to use them.  A very laid back way to prepare chickpeas, and much better for the planet than the canned alternative (think of the resources required to process the chickpeas in a factory, to put them in cans, to transport the cans to the supermarket, to transport the empty cans to a recycling facility and then the resources required to recycle the cans).

The next day, I made a small batch of hummus with some of the chickpeas.  (Use the search bar in the upper left hand corner of this blog to find the best hummus recipe.)  Last night, I knew I needed to finish the rest of the chickpeas.  I could have put them into the freezer right after I cooked them, and then there would have been no pressure to use them quickly, but I neglected to do that, so I needed to come up with a recipe.  I spent the day imagining how to prepare the chickpeas.  I have had dishes in the past that included chickpeas and canned tomatoes in a stew.  I had a couple of perfect, large juicy tomatoes from last weekend's farmers' market on my counter.  I decided to sacrifice one of them for this dish.  I also had a bunch of kale that needed to get consumed.  And I had garlic and onions on hand, as I try to always have these essential ingredients available.  As an aside, all of these vegetables except the chickpeas came from the farmer's market, so this is a true locavore recipe.  I had leftover brown rice from the night before, enough for the three of us who would be eating dinner together.  Simple supper!
I decided to be nice to the non-vegetarians in my family and provide meat for those who wanted it.  So I bought a skinless, boneless chicken breast (organic, and hopefully sustainably raised) and cut it into chunks.  I sprinkled Italian seasoning, salt and pepper on the chunks and then stir-fried them in a separate frying pan in grapeseed oil.  After the chickpea, tomato and kale dish was finished cooking, I transferred some of it to the frying pan with the chicken and heated it all for awhile before serving.  Thus I had a vegan meal as well as a meal with meat in it, all in one, more or less!  All delicious and easy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Baked Marinated Salmon

I believe that it is best to avoid animal products if one wants to do the utmost to protect the environment through one's eating and cooking practices.  I find it difficult to do this all the time though, and I do love seafood.  So once in a while I allow myself to splurge.  (Once in a while is better than every day, right?)  One can lesson the negative impact on the environment by purchasing wild caught seafood rather than farmed seafood.  I hear that there are some responsible farmed seafood sources, but do not feel comfortable evaluating them.  It is difficult to know whether any particular seafood farming source is truly environmentally friendly.  So I avoid all farmed seafood.  Luckily, wild salmon is still in season, and it is one of my favorite seafood dishes.  This is a quick and easy way to prepare it, and the result is good enough to serve to any foodie guest (unless they are vegan!).