Monday, January 10, 2011

Meatless Monday: It’s a Frugal Thing

Happy Monday everyone.

By now most of you have heard that “going meatless” one day a week is healthy for you and for the planet. But have you ever thought about how healthy it is for your wallet? 

A bean-based meal, particularly if you soak and cook the beans yourself, is hard to beat in the frugality category. If you’re planning a dinner party on a budget, and if you have some time on your hands, choose a main dish with beans as a base. With all the money you save, you’ll have some to spare for a few more costly ingredients. 

We did that last week when we celebrated the first Meatless Monday of the new year with four friends, omnivores all! The dinner’s main course was Provençal Tomato Bean Gratin, a recipe from the New York Times which readers may recall from a post last March. As a side, I prepared Green Chile Corn Pudding, a new recipe from the Whole Foods site. Both were tasty and well-received. The most expensive ingredients were two cans of organic tomatoes ($1.79 each) and a small piece of Gruyére cheese ($2.85) for the bean dish, and 3 cans of chiles ($1.50 each) for the corn pudding. The bag of beans was $1.19. People had seconds, but there were still ample leftovers.

The star of the meal, however, was a sandwich inspired by one I had at a café years ago. For my attempt to replicate the recipe, I had splurged on the following ingredients: a jar of organic fig spread ($5.99), a package of organic baby arugula ($3.49), a 4 oz. log of goat cheese ($4.49), and a bag of Chabaso Bakery’s Olive Oil Ciabatta STIX™ ($2.99). 

To make the sandwiches I first cut each of the three STIX™ in half lengthwise. I was a little behind, so the first guest to arrive pitched in as sandwich assistant. She spread a thin layer of fig on one half of each pair, and a third of the goat cheese on the other. I sprinkled arugula on top of the cheese and closed up the sandwiches. We cut each stick into six pieces. Success — the sandwich of my dreams! There were no leftovers!

The carbon footprint for the sandwiches was a little large with the fig spread traveling from Croatia (4000+ miles) and the arugula most likely from California (around 3000 miles). The goat cheese was from Vermont, though, and Chabaso Bakery IS in New Haven. I try to be a locavore, but I admit that I am not hard core, particularly when planning a party to brighten up these oh so very short Winter days. 

The menu also included black-bottom cupcakes and libations (some local while local wine may be a problem, local beer is not). No one missed the meat  — no one! And nothing went to waste — I assure you! What better way to start off the new year than by celebrating Meatless Monday with a few friends?

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.”

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