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Meatless Mondays offer a non-threatening way to eat more healthfully

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." — Author Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food • There's a revolution of sorts going on about the way we eat. And these seven words by Pollan, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley and journalist turned food evangelist, sum up the rising tide. • Even carnivores with no intention of going totally tofu are giving up meat one or two days a week for health and environmental reasons. • Meatless Monday, a national campaign supported by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, along with nearly 30 other schools of public health throughout the country, is spearheading the effort to get us to think about satisfying our protein needs from plants at least one day out of seven. • "We are a campaign of moderation," says Chris Elam, editor of, which offers food menus and meatless recipes. "After a weekend of indulgence, cut back on the meat on Monday for your health and for the environment."

Eating meatless one day is not as overwhelming as going completely vegetarian, and it doesn't require the rigor about protein requirements, he says. If you don't get all you need on one day, there is always Tuesday and the rest of the week.

Think beans, eggs, cheese and nuts. Even tofu. Concentrate on the vegetables and grains that you're not getting enough of anyway.

Protein is essential to health — it builds and maintains muscles, bones, skin and other tissues — but we don't need as much as we're getting, nutrition experts say. Or at least we don't need as much from animal sources, which can be high in unhealthy saturated fat.

About 10 to 15 percent of our daily calorie intake should be protein, according to the Food and Drug Administration. That's about 65 grams for someone eating a 2,000 calorie diet, the equivalent of 9 ounces of beef. On average, Americans eat twice what they need, much of it from animals.

Increased meat consumption has health implications for sure, but there is environmental impact as well, which is helping the Meatless Monday movement gain steam, Elam says.

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and the recently released documentary Food, Inc. have drawn mainstream attention to the way our lifestyles affect the environment, Elam says.See a Q&A with Pollan on Food, Inc.E. The movie is scheduled to open at Tampa Theatre on July 24.)

Last month, singer and longtime vegetarian Paul McCartney threw his celebrity behind the cause, endorsing Meatless Monday.

The issue boils down to this: It requires more natural resources, specifically water and fossil fuel, to produce meat than it does fruits, vegetables and grain.

For example: 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef, according to Vegetarian Times. That's about four times more than it takes to produce the same amount of chicken and 10 times more than a pound of tofu, which is made from soy beans.

"We are hoping to turn it into a global movement," Elam says. "It's not threatening to give up meat one day a week."

The residents of Ghent, Belgium, would agree with that. In May, the city of waffles and chocolate made a pledge to go meatless on Thursdays. That's raising the salad bar.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at or (727) 893-8586. Follow her on Twitter, too (@keelerstircrazy). Read her daily recipe blog, Stir Crazy, at


Chickpea-Vegetable Salad
With Curried Yogurt Dressing

For the dressing:

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (8-ounce) carton plain fat-free yogurt

For the salad:

2 cups finely shredded carrot

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow or red bell pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomato

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

12 cups chopped romaine lettuce

To prepare the dressing, combine the first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; stir mixture with a whisk. To prepare the salad, combine carrot and next 5 ingredients (carrot through chickpeas) in a large bowl. Pour 1/2 cup dressing over carrot mixture, tossing gently to coat. Place 2 cups lettuce on each of 6 plates, and drizzle each serving with about 1 tablespoon dressing. Top each serving with 1 1/3 cups carrot mixture.

Serves 6.

Source: Adapted by from Cooking Light


Jamaican Jerk Tofu

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, sliced and pressed (see directions)

1/2 large sweet onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

Juice of 2 limes

Zest of 1 lime

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons allspice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (you can cut back to one or omit entirely if you don't like spicy)

Slice the tofu into thick slabs, then lay the slices on several layers of paper towels or on a clean dish towel and place a heavy plate or skillet on top. Let it sit for an hour or two. Pressing the tofu is a way to get the extra moisture out — and the drier you can get the tofu, the more of the flavorful marinade it can absorb. (The drier the tofu, the better.)

Puree all the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor to create the marinade. Place the tofu slices in a bowl, pour in the marinade, making sure to coat all the slices, and cover. Let it sit for an hour or two, flipping the slices about halfway through.

Heat a skillet with a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, lay the tofu slices in a single layer and saute until crispy and browned. That will take 8 to 10 minutes on each side.

Serves 6.



Black Bean Salad

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 small jalapeno, seeded, deveined and chopped

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 small garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon mustard

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 big handfuls baby arugula (or other salad greens), well washed and dried

3 cups cooked black beans

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 cup feta, crumbled

Start by making the dressing. Use an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor and puree the lime juice, vinegar, honey, jalapeno, salt, garlic and mustard. Add the olive oil and puree until everything comes together. Taste and adjust with more salt, honey, or lime juice if needed. Set aside until you are ready to serve the salad.

Just before you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss the arugula with a bit of the dressing. Arrange it on a platter. Toss the beans and most of the almonds with a generous splash of the dressing. Arrange the beans on top of the arugula and finish by sprinkling with the remaining almonds and the crumbled feta cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.



Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

1 pound eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

1/2 pound medium fresh mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 small zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

2 sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise into 6 pieces each

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 (15-ounce) container reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup egg substitute

1 (26-ounce) jar meatless spaghetti sauce

12 no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Coat two large, rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Place eggplant and mushrooms on one prepared pan. Place the zucchini and red pepper on the second pan. Combine the oil and garlic; brush over both sides of vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn vegetables over. Bake 15 minutes longer. Remove eggplant and mushrooms. Bake zucchini and red pepper 5 to 10 minutes longer or until edges are browned.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg substitute. Spread about 1/4 cup pasta sauce in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Layer with four lasagna noodles (noodles will overlap slightly), half of ricotta cheese mixture, half of vegetables, a third of pasta sauce and 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with half of basil. Repeat layers. Top with the remaining noodles and pasta sauce.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until edges are bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Serves 9.



Risotto With Red Beans

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/4 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup shredded Fontina cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large, nonreactive, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter and oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the onion is very tender and golden. Meanwhile, in a medium-size saucepan, bring the broth to a bare simmer. Add the rice to the onion, stirring to coat, and cook for about 2 minutes or until chalky white. Add the wine and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.

Stir in 1/2 cup broth into the rice and cook, stirring, until all the broth has been absorbed. Stir in another 1/2 cup broth and continue stirring and adding broth until the rice is creamy and just tender, but not mushy, about 35 minutes in all. Stirring vigorously, add the beans, Fontina, salt and pepper. Spoon into warmed plates and serve immediately. Side dish suggestion: green bean vinaigrette salad.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Beans by Sandra Gluck (Collins Publishers, 1995)

Fast facts

Think like a vegetarian

So, you've decided to embrace the Meatless Monday concept, but you're at a loss about what to cook. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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.

Janet K. Keeler

Meatless Mondays offer a non-threatening way to eat more healthfully 07/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 6:34am]
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