What’s your reaction to “Meatless Mondays”? Does it seem like a reasonable suggestion? Do you already practice it? Or does it instill a sense of dread that you’ll be subjected to a meal lacking in flavor and texture? Do you consider it purely a marketing ploy by some sector of our food industry? Are you simply wondering why I’m asking since I’ve often labeled my own diet “modified-Paleo”?
Well consider this… If every American went meat-free, just one day a week (or one extra day if he/she already abstains from meat at least one day a week), more than a billion animals would be spared each year from a factory farm life. A billion animals!! That’s insane, right? Furthermore, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “Half the world’s grain crops are fed to the world’s 65 billion farm animals—when more than a billion people suffer from hunger.” That last factoid is the reason I gave up eating mammals for 24 years.
Giving up just one pound of beef, (the most my family of four now eats in a week–by design), saves 1850 gallons of water, contrasted with a pound of vegetables which uses 39 gallons on average. We raise about 75 billion land animals globally for food each year. That raising causes a significant portion of the three largest greenhouse gas emissions–disrupting our normal weather patterns, increasing ocean temperatures and damaging ecosystems. And lest you forgot what an ecosystem is, it’s a biological community of interacting organisms and their environment–meaning, if you adversely affect one thing in the interconnected system, all the others in that system could also be adversely affected, and the entire ecosystem could eventually die.
For the sake of the environment and animals, consider adopting Meatless Mondays in your home. It will help our environment and save you money!! And if you’re already meat-free at least one day a week, consider going meat-free two or three days each week.
And I should clarify what I mean when I say I eat a “modified-Paleo” diet. (Several of you have asked because you’ve noticed I cook and eat many non-Paleo dishes.) Basically, by “modified-Paleo,” I mean I avoid grains and most legumes at least 75% of the time, and I avoid gluten more than 90% of the time. I consume very little dairy, and I try to eat only pasture-raised animals from local farms. I do not believe the Earth can sustain a majority of people eating a strict Paleo diet, which involves the consumption of relatively large amounts of livestock. However, I think a little red meat is sustainable, and I think it’s still environmentally responsible to eat moderate amounts of other meats, (poultry and seafood) depending on what species, where and how it was raised, etc.
I worry whether my family will get enough protein if I serve mainly vegetarian meals, so I am always on the lookout for good meat substitutes. I actually detest that expression, “meat substitute,” as it sounds like something a lab technician would use or a label tossed around by actors in a bad sci-fi movie. I prefer “faux-meat.” I also find myself wary of soy-based faux-meat products, since I’ve read so much literature on the adverse effects of the over-abundance of soy in many Americans’ diets.
I recently discovered Beyond Meat products, and I think several make good faux-meat options. While some of their products use soy as the base, the ground-beef substitute (“Beefy Crumble”) uses pea protein which I think shows a lot of promise–not to mention, it’s high in protein and fiber. Try my recipe for a basic pasta sauce with the added benefits of Shitake mushrooms. If you want meat, try making this dish using ground turkey–cooking it in a little olive oil before you saute the onions. If Shitake mushrooms aren’t readily available, substitute Cremini.
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup Shitake mushrooms, brushed clean and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh-ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 28oz can stewed Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 cups Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble
Pasta of your choice*
*My new favorite is Organic Red Lentil Rotini by Tolerant Foods, even though I photographed the bolognese sauce over a spaghetti-style quinoa, brown-rice pasta I also like. Tolerant’s Red Lentil Rotini is made from only non-GMO organic red lentils, give you a whopping 21 grams of protein per serving (and 13 grams of fiber), and provides large percentages of many important vitamins and minerals, including Calcium, Thiamine, Folate and Zinc.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan or large cast-iron skillet. Add in the chopped onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and mushrooms. Add in the spices, sugar and vinegar. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes more. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a soft boil. Turn the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta of your choice according to instructions.
Add the Beyond Meat, ground-beef substitute, to the sauce mixture and heat thoroughly, about 3-5 minutes. Adjust salt as needed.
Serve over your noodles with a little grated Parmesan if you’re not avoiding dairy.
Enjoy while savoring the thought that you’re saving 1850 gallons of water, spared an animal’s life and reduced green-house emissions!!