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pasta above

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.

pasta pkgpasta ground

 

Ingredients

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.

rotinipasta veg saute

 

Preparation

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.

pasta simmer

 

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!!

 

pasta shrooms

 

 

 

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mush tart abovemush tart close

 

 

mush tart slice2Mushrooms and I share a deep love that’s existed as long as I can remember. Growing up in Eastern Washington, I recall long walks in the forests behind our home, and annual trips to the Fourth of July pass, where my family of four would scour the ground beneath the trees in search of mushrooms like little buried treasures waiting to be discovered. We hunted–because the official expression is “mushroom hunting”–for chanterelles, shaggy manes, morels; each variety hungrily sought after at different times throughout the year. We considered morels the most precious, and would sometimes walk for hours with our heads bent down, scanning the pine-needle covered ground for the telltale bump, and perhaps even the “wrinkly”brown of an actual cap. Sometimes we would return with just a handful of morels, which my father would carefully clean, slice and saute with just a little butter and salt. In those cases, we would only get a few slices each, and we would savor each bite for as long as possible, tasting the earthiness, dampness and silkiness only captured by mushrooms. Sometimes we would score a bag of chanterelles or shaggy manes, which would be sauteed with a little white wine and greedily devoured the same evening.

For a brief period, I hardly ate any mushrooms, not because I had lost a taste for them, but because someone or something had misinformed me about their nutritional value, and I came to see mushrooms as a filler, like potatoes. Luckily, that phase was short-lived, and we now eat mushrooms every week–usually two times per week. I still love the slightly musty earthy flavor, and I now appreciate how healthy they are.

In addition to serving as an excellent source of low-fat, zero cholesterol protein, mushrooms provide good amounts of several important nutrients including niacin, riboflavin, selenium and copper. But the best news about these immunity-boosting forest dwellers lies in their anti-cancer properties. Numerous studies have linked regular consumption of mushrooms with a decreased risk of a range of cancers, most notably breast cancer. Several international studies have shown that eating just one mushroom a day can reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by more than 50%. Studies involving maitake mushrooms, also known as Hen of the Woods, suggest that regular consumption can limit or even reverse tumor growth.

Add mushrooms to soups and sauces, or use them as a meat substitute for your Meatless Monday. I regular add chopped shitake mushrooms to the pasta sauce and pizzas I make for the kids. They still won’t eat them whole, but it must be a texture thing since they love mushrooms chopped or pureed into many of their meals.

This mushroom tart is simple to make, and is rich and flavorful. It would make a nice addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas spread. I served it to my mother recently with my persimmon, avocado little gem salad. I devoured two pieces that evening and ate the remaining two servings the next day.

 

Ingredients

Dough for standard tart crust (standard or gluten-free, recipe here)

1 tbsp butter or ghee

1 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 shallots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme

4-5 cups of mushrooms* washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch thickness (any mix you like)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh-ground pepper

1/3 cup creme fraiche

3 tbsp parmesan cheese

* I used trumpet and tree oyster mushrooms, but you can make this dish even more spectacular using more expensive and exclusive mushrooms, such as chanterelles. Regardless, I think a mix works best.

mushroom tart shroomsmush tart shallots

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Prick the bottom several times with a fork and bake in the center of the oven for 12-14 minutes or until the crust is lightly gold on its edges.

 

mush tart shallots simmermush tart skillet

In the meantime, melt the butter or ghee with olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often until the shallots have softened and begin to turn translucent.

Add in the thyme leaves and mushrooms and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the wine and cook 2-3 minutes more. Add in the chicken stock and cook, stirring frequently until all the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in the salt, pepper and creme fraiche, and spoon the mixture into the tart crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

 

mush tart spread

Serve immediately.

This dish reheats surprisingly well, so you can enjoy leftovers the next day–if there are any!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Enjoy!
 
 

 

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