Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meatless Monday Matters

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.  In these uncertain times each of us needs to commit to doing all we can to lower our individual carbon footprint.

Eating less meat is one step we can take.

Wasting less food is another.

A small step is better than no step. It can be as simple as making a meal at home from ingredients you have on hand, especially those that are nearing the end of their shelf life.

If you feel like comfort food at the moment, this recipe might be just what you need. Inspired by a dish I once ordered at a pancake place, it comes out of the oven high like a popover and falls as soon as you cut into it. It will take you to a happy (ier) place. 

It is very easy to make and is a great way to use up apples picked earlier in the fall that are starting to become a little soft. If you do much cooking you probably have the other ingredients in your fridge and pantry.






BAKED APPLE PANCAKE
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 4 tart apples
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
Directions
  • Preheat ovn to 425°.
  • Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet.
  • Peel and slice the apples.
  • Add the apple slices to the melted butter and stir.
  • Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring often until apples are tender.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Combine the eggs, flour, and milk and whisk together until smooth. [You can use a blender.]
  • Spread the apples evenly in the skillet.
  • Pour the batter over the apples.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the pancake is puffed up and nicely browned.
  • Cut into 6 pieces and serve immediately with a bit of maple syrup.
[I have only baked this in a skillet but I imagine a casserole dish would work, too.]

This may not be the most nutritious meal, but there are far worse.
  • This comfort dish has benefits, too.
  • You have kept food in your fridge from going to waste.
  • You have lowered your carbon footprint by passing up meat AND by leaving your car turned off.
  • It is also a really cheap meal. Perhaps you can do some good with the money you save.
I am not saying this is all we need to do in the days ahead, but observing Meatless Monday is a good start.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”




Monday, October 31, 2016

The Great Pumpkin Revisited

Just in time for Hallowe'en! Today's Meatless Monday topic is the pumpkin. Celebrated at this time of year for its potential to grow to a gargantuan size and the ease with which it can be carved, the pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) has been a valuable source of nourishment for centuries. 

The pumpkin originated in Central America but is now grown on six continents. Pumpkins come in numerous varieties. Some are better for eating or growing large; others are better for carving. The Jack-o’-lantern in the photo was most likely carved from a Connecticut Field pumpkin

The Pilgrims were not familiar with the pumpkin when they landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts in the 1600s. But they soon learned of the many ways the Native Americans put the pumpkin to good use including roasting of long strips of pumpkin on the open fire for eating, and drying strips of pumpkin for weaving into mats. The creative colonists went on to invent uses of their own: the origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, filled the insides with milk, spices and honey and then baked the pumpkin in hot ashes. They also found a way to turn it into beer, a tradition that continues in the brewing of seasonal ale to this day.


Pumpkins are a nutritious food, low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 564 mg of potassium, an astounding 2650 IU of Vitamin A, and a mere 49 calories.


Newly-harvested pumpkins are readily available at farmers markets, farm stands, and supermarkets. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, store shelves are well stocked with cans of pumpkin that have been cooked and puréed to make life easier when you have to whip up a pumpkin pie on the fly. 


These cans of pumpkin are good for lots more than pie, so pick up a few before they disappear. They will come in handy when you crave a pumpkin treat and local pumpkins are nowhere to be found. One of my favorite uses for pumpkin purée is in a cornbread recipe I adapted from a recipe from The Muffin Cookbook: Muffins for All Occasions, a spiral-bound cookbook published to promote name-brand canned goods and dairy products.  



Tex-Mex Pumpkin Corn Muffins (Cornbread)

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow organic cornmeal
1 cup unbleached organic flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) of your favorite chili powder
2 eggs
1 cup canned organic pumpkin (NOT pie filling) 
[Note: Feel free to cook and prepare your own.]
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons organic canola oil
1 4 oz can chopped green chili peppers (mild) or one small, fresh chili chopped
3 oz (or more to taste; I use at least 4 oz) of extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated


In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl beat eggs; mix in pumpkin, milk, oil, and chopped chili peppers. Add wet ingredients to dry; combine with rubber scraper just until moistened. Turn into an oiled 10” cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 425° oven for 20-25 minutes —just until cake tester comes out dry. If you decide to bake as muffins, temperature should be lowered to 400°, time will be approximately the same, but check on the early side. Makes around 18 muffins. 

This cornbread is a wonderful accompaniment to pea soup or curried kale. Leftovers (if there are any) taste great after being lightly toasted in a toaster oven and then spread win a little grape jam.

Now for some Jack-o’-lantern trivia in honor of this holiday: This tradition was brought to the United States by the Irish. The myth behind the Jack-o’-lantern involves a stingy man named Jack who makes a deal with the devil and finds himself wandering forever after he dies, unable to gain admittance to either Heaven or Hell. Legend has it that the devil tossed Jack an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a carved out turnip which he carried with him as he roamed the earth. People in the British Isles began carving various root vegetables to make their own “Jack-o’-lanterns” to keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits away. The Irish used turnips (and sometimes potatoes). Upon arriving in the US, they discovered the readily available, larger, and easy to carve pumpkin. “Turnip Jack” soon became history and the pumpkin Jack-o’-lantern became part of American culture. 

[Note: This post was originally published in October 2010.]

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Meatless Monday: Water Saving Pasta

We are in a drought in Connecticut. Our fall palette is somewhat muted this year with russet tones replacing our normally brilliant reds. Our rainfall deficit is why state residents are being asked to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 10%. The New Haven Regional Water Authority has a number of water saving tips on its website. We don’t have a water shortage at the moment, but we need to preserve what we have in our reservoirs.

Over the past year or two in our house we have switched to low flow toilets, and we recently replaced a sink with leaky faucets. We have long had water efficient shower heads and aerators on our sinks. So we are down to the small things, mainly being more mindful of water use whenever we turn on the tap. This brings me to my Meatless Monday adventure of the day, my experiment with Barilla Pronto Pasta. Pronto promises: One Pan. No Boil. No Drain. Dinner for 6 in under 15 minutes!


I have long been a fan of Barilla in general and Barilla’s no-boil lasagna in particular because it allows me to make lasagna quickly on demand. So when I noticed Pronto products on the shelf I decided to give them a try. The Italian-American woman on checkout made a snide comment when she put the Pronto in my bag, but I brought it home and did a little research.

I checked out the Barilla website and found a YouTube video.

I decided Friday night was the night and I followed the directions on the box:
  • Pour the whole box of pasta into a large skillet,
  • Pour three cups of cold water into the pan, making sure that the water covers the pasta.
  • Turn the burner to high, stirring regularly, until most of the water is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and add your favorite ingredients.

It worked! Less water, and none down the drain. Fewer dishes.

Here are before and after images:

Starting Out

Done

I used cold water from the fridge and I couldn’t bring myself to turn the flame really high,  so it took 12 minutes instead of 10 for my pasta to cook. You will know when you stir it if your pasta is done.

I saved half the pasta for another day and topped the rest with a small batch of fresh pesto. It was delicious, and it had the taste and texture of the pasta I normally used.

I am not sure how they do it; the ingredients and nutrition info for Pronto Penne are the same as in the traditional variety. I wonder if you could do the same with the whole grain version, perhaps with a little more water, and a little more time? Could you use a little less gas by not turning the burner quite so high? I will have to do some experimenting.

What I do know is that Pronto made life a little easier on the night I tried it, and it did take less water.

Keep in mind that blue box pasta is not a nutritious meal in and of itself, but if your day has slipped away and you have the perfect something to serve on top, this product is really great.

FYI If you are used to microwaving your leftovers, be warned that Pronto tends to stick together when reheated. It will be fine once you add your sauce and give it a good stir.

Happy Monday!


I often blog on food, food issues, or topics related to growing things on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”