Can your family embrace Meatless Mondays?
I got an email from celebrity chef Mario Batalli endorsing the Meatless Monday campaign from the Environmental Working Group. It's aimed at us non-vegetarians to give up meat just one day a week for health and environmental reasons. Batalli, who is no stranger to braised veal or specialty sausages, has Meatless Monday options now at all 14 of his restaurants and will serve at least two vegetarian options, whether entrees or pastas or pizzas.
He's not the only one. In June, Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the country to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign, with local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. Durham County, N.C., Washington, D.C., and San Francisco recently proclaimed Mondays as "Meatless Mondays." City schools in Baltimore and some in New York observe Meatless Mondays in their cafeterias.
What's going on here? The national campaign was launched in 2003 by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health and is backed by nearly 30 other schools of public health throughout the country. On the environmental side, EWG says that if every American stopped eating meat and cheese for one day a week, it would be the same as if we collectively drove 91 billion fewer miles a year.
"This issue is particularly important to me because it so profoundly affects children," chef Batalli said in his endorsement. "Studies have found that young kids are eating triple the currently recommended amount of protein, mostly from meat, yet few eat enough fruits and vegetables. If we don't take action now and teach our kids how to eat less meat, more and more of them could face serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and even some types of cancer as they get older."
But what Mario didn't send me in his email was recipes! Luckily, our food editor Janet Keeler wrote about this campaign in 2009. You can read her cache of recipes here. The Roasted Vegetable Lasagna recipe looks awesome. Janet also offered these helpful ways to think like a vegetarian:
• Breakfast all day. Omelets, quiches, meatless eggs Benedict, even hard-boiled eggs on salads provide a protein boost.
• Mexican. Lots of popular Mexican dishes can be made vegetarian using beans. Pile bean burritos and tostadas high with veggies, cheese and salsa. Serve guacamole tacos made from ripe avocados.
• Asian. Stir-fries and curries are commonly made without meat or seafood. Look at some of your favorite Asian recipes and see if they can be made with tofu. The pressed bean curd will pick up the flavors of whatever it's cooked with, plus add lots of protein. Get a couple of orders of pad Thai to take out and hold the shrimp, chicken or pork.
• Beans. Kidney, garbanzo, Northern, black and others bulk up main-dish salads. Add a can of favorite beans to pasta dishes; make a big pot of vegetarian chili. Make hummus from canned chickpeas and scoop it into pita bread with tomato, lettuce and feta cheese.
• Mushrooms. Mushrooms add meaty flavor and texture to dishes. Add them to quiches and omelets, or saute them for a topping for a bowl of grits. Grilled portobello mushrooms stand in for beef on burgers.
• Soups. Hearty soups are satisfying and can be very nutritious. Split pea, lentil, black bean or a loaded minestrone are filling meals with bread and salad.
• Cheese. Though cheese can have a lot of saturated fat, used sparingly it adds flavor and some protein to dishes. Sprinkle grated cheese on salads, pasta, vegetable dishes and soups. Add to a grilled vegetable hoagie or use it in vegetable lasagna.
• Bowl food. Rice, small pasta, polenta and grits fill the bottom of a one-serving bowl nicely. Top them with: sauteed grape tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese; roasted figs and goat cheese; a fresh tomato sauce and ricotta cheese, grilled eggplant, garlic and onions; or roasted asparagus, lemon zest and big curls of Parmesan.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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