Monday, January 26, 2015

Meatless Monday: Italian Lima Beans

If you live along the coast of southern New England, on this Meatless Monday you are most likely planning for the approaching blizzard (or at least thinking about planning). If you still need to run to the supermarket for your storm supplies, why not add a bag of dried beans to the shopping list? By now the bread aisle is probably wiped out, but I bet there are still plenty of beans. 

Beans are a very good source of protein, dietary fiber, and iron. Canned beans are relatively inexpensive canned, but are really cheap if you prepare them yourself. All you need is time for soaking and cooking. Since it looks like most of us won’t be going anywhere tonight or tomorrow, we have plenty of time available. So why not get some started? 

The directions for cooking dried beans can be found on any bag and are pretty much the same, although some beans take longer to cook than others. Here are the instructions from the Bob’s Red Mill Large Limas I recently purchased: Soak beans overnight in a large pot. Drain and rinse beans. Put beans back in pot. Add 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of Large Lima Beans. Liquid should be 1-2” above top of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.

[Note: Cooked beans freeze well and can be stored in a freezer for 6 months. They make a great addition to soups and salads and can be turned into a quick dip from ingredients you probably have in your pantry. So make lots!]

Once your beans are cooked you can turn them into a hearty, satisfying dish to warm you up when your shoveling is done. Here’s one idea — the Italian Lima Bean dish I cooked and served last week. 

I had cooked a bag of limas, intending to make succotash. But when I searched through my cookbooks for lima bean recipes I got inspired by a simple recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery for lima beans served with tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Lima Beans with Tomato Sauce

  • 3 cups cooked lima beans
  • 1 large can (approximately 28 oz.) crushed tomatoes [I like Muir Glen fire roasted.]
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 finely chopped medium onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 tablespoons fresh
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

  • Simmer the tomatoes with the garlic, onion, and basil.
  • Add the butter with the tomato paste.
  • Correct the seasoning.
  • Continue simmering until the sauce becomes thick.
  • Drain the beans and place in a deep platter or serving dish.
  • Spoon the tomato sauce over them and sprinkle lavishly with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • I mixed the cooked beans with the tomato sauce.
  • I set aside 1 qt. of the beans, let them cool, and froze them w/o cheese or parsley.
  • I wanted to serve my beans hot so I greased a casserole, poured the remaining saucy beans into it, and baked in a 375° oven until they were hot and bubbly. 
  • I topped the beans with the parsley and cheese just before serving.

They were delicious with a green salad and some hot Italian bread.

Happy Meatless Monday. Shovel carefully and, when you are done, watch out for any icy patches!

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.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Freebie Friday 1.16.15: Fast Casual in the News

Carnitas lovers went into a state of shock this week when Chipotle pulled pork from the menu at hundreds of its restaurants. According to AP, it was the first time the chain stopped serving one of its toppings. 

Chipotle prides itself on serving “Food with Integrity,” a commitment to “finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers.” One supplier violated the standards and Chipotle decided to remove pork from the menu rather than offer a conventionally raised substitute. A spokesperson for Chipotle did not disclose the details of the violations, but he did state that “most of the issues related to the violations concerned housing for the pigs.”

This news should not keep devotees away from the chain. There is still plenty of beef and chicken for meat eaters. According to PETA, there are six ways to be vegan

And, what better reason could there be, for everyone from vegans to carnivores, to accept Chipotle’s special incentive to try Sofritas, the most recent addition to their topping menu, on January 26? Sofritas is a topping made with organic tofu sourced from Hodo Soy that is shredded and braised with peppers, chilis, and spices. The details of the special offer can be found here. [Note: The Sofritas are rather high in sodium, so when you build your menu item you might want to hold the salsa.]

Panera also introduced a new offering to its menu this week — Broth Bowls. They come in a number of variations, with a base of either soba noodles or quinoa, and toppings that include lentils, kale, and cage-free eggs.

If you are a Panera card holder, be sure to watch at least three of the short videos about the new bowls – “How to Eat Adventurously” – to receive $5 off any broth bowl purchase. If you watch all six, a bonus of a free beverage will also be added to your card. [Note: The videos are silly, but mercifully short.] These bowls look delicious and are lower in calories than many other Panera items, but they are still somewhat high on the sodium.

There you have it — one BOGO, one $5 off with an freebie for your patience, and two excellent reasons to venture out in the cold. Get moving!

TGIF. Have a great weekend. 

FYI Why a piñata? Just like a blog link, until you open it, you won’t know what’s inside.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Meatless Monday: Monastery Lentils

This was one crazy, mixed up holiday season. With an out-of-town family wedding just one week before Christmas, things got a little out of control, and the usual ways of celebrating were lost for the year, or at least delayed.

I finally got around to preparing a lentil dish to greet the new year. But I was about a week late. For a history of this custom and for past lentil dishes, check out these posts from 2011 and 2014

This time I turned to a dog-eared recipe from one of the first cookbooks I acquired — Lentils, Monastery Style from Francis Morre Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, published in 1971. Perhaps “Monastery Style” alludes to the sherry, but, whatever the reference, this recipe is one of the best in the volume.

Here’s the original recipe verbatim.

Lentils, Monastery Style 
Serves 4-6

In a large pot sauté 3- 5 minutes:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
Add and sauté 1 minute more:
  • 1/2 tsp each dried thyme and marjoram leaves
  • 3 cups stock or seasoned water
  • 1 cup dry lentils, washed
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb canned tomatoes
Cook in covered pot until lentils are tender (about 45 minutes) and add:
  • 1/4 cup sherry
Have ready:
  • 2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese
To serve, place 2 tbsp of grated cheese in each serving bowl and top with soup. This soup is especially delicious served with corn muffins. 

I followed the 1971 version pretty closely, but I did tweak the recipe just a bit. 
  • I recalled that the lentils were a little crunchy following these directions, so I soaked them for several hours, and then drained and rinsed them before using.
  • For the stock I used 3 cups of water and 2 cubes of Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon, the no salt variety. [The tomatoes + the cheese should supply all the salt you need.]
  • I used a 28 oz can of Muir Glen fire roasted, crushed organic tomatoes
  • Because I used extra tomatoes, I also added a teaspoon of Penzey’s Bouquet Garni, a blend of savory, rosemary, thyme, Turkish oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon. 
  • Finally, in lieu of sherry, I added 1/2 cup of Marsala.
This dish made enough for two generous meals for the two of us when served with corn bread and salad, and it was delicious!

Notes on Francis Moore Lappé
Decades before the Meatless Monday movement began, Francis Moore Lappé wrote Diet for a Small Planet in response to the growing need for protein by the world’s rapidly increasing population. In the book’s introduction Lappé states: “For the first time it is possible to implement an end to the gross waste of literally millions of tons of high-grade protein, to release men from the confines of a largely meat diet, and to enjoy nutritionally sound protein from the richer and far more abundant sources that the earth provides. Here, step by step, is how you, the individual, can improve your own style-of-life— and at the same time help your very small planet.” Lappé is the author or co-author of 18 books and continues to work in the food movement. She is the cofounder of three organizations, including Oakland based think tank Food First and the Small Planet Institute which she leads with her daughter, Anna Lappé. See more here.

Happy Meatless Monday. 

And health and prosperity to you and yours in the year ahead.

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.”

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hopeful Highlights from 2014

In anticipation of good things to come in the year ahead, I’d like to share some of the high points of 2014 from my small corner of the world.

Greater New Haven’s citizens stood up for their trees. They came out in record numbers to object to the plans of the state’s utility companies to preemptively, aggressively, trim street trees in response to power outages during 2013’s severe storms. The power companies are still trimming, but they were forced to modify their “Vegetation Management Plans.” 

A new magnolia for YHP
Despite the rainy, cold weather, 650 cyclists braved the elements on April 26 to complete one of three routes in the 6th annual Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride, raising $152,157.55 for 26 environmental groups — the most successful Rock to Rock yet! Check out this article in the New Haven Independent for more. 

Yale University began to offer long-term employees the option of planting a tree in their honor in lieu of the usual commemorative gifts. Here is a photo of a magnolia tree planted outside the Yale Health Plan by volunteers and URI staff during the Yale Day of Service on May 10.

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven has two rain gardens in their demo lot, constructed as part of a grant from the Greater New Haven Green Fund to divert stormwater from the city’s storm sewers. They were installed by volunteers and NHS staff under the direction of Michael Dietz, Director of U Conn College of Agriculture and Natural Resource’s NEMO Program. The June 13 installation had to be called to a halt due to torrential rain. It was finished on June 26, a real scorcher! The conditions remained harsh for new plantings during the coming weeks; here is a late summer photo. I look forward to seeing how the garden grows this spring. 

Late summer NHS raingarden
New Haven’s Beaver Ponds Park was designated an Urban Oasis. The little spruce we transplanted in the park is thriving in its new surroundings and sprouted some cones.

EcoWorks, a creative reuse center for the arts, opened as a Project Storefront In New Haven’s Mill River district. They sell materials, collected from businesses and institutions, to teachers, artists, crafters and others seeking low-cost art supplies. Check their website for hours and upcoming events and this link if you have materials to donate. 

New Haven Green Drinks had a successful year, under the leadership of an enthusiastic team of co-organizers. The group met 12 times, in 12 different locations over the past year and heard speakers on a broad range of environmental topics. The group welcomes new members, new ideas, and new venues. 

These are some of the many reasons why New Haven is a great place to live. Follow #gscia on Twitter to see what others are sharing.

On a personal note, late last January I enjoyed a long-anticipated hike to see the seals of Año Nuevo with my family. I look forward to more West Coast adventures in the years ahead.  

This fall, I became a Connecticut Certified Advanced Master Gardener and was awarded a pewter trowel pin for my hours of service. Here is a board I made along the way in fulfillment of some of my outreach hours. 

Finally, I have recently taken up knitting. You will have to check back later in 2015 to find out how that is going and exactly what I have managed to knit.

Wishing you and yours a year of peace, health, happiness...

Happy 2015!