Curbing Climate Change

Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

A recent study at the University of Chicago compared two things: the environmental impact of swapping every vehicle in the country for ultra-efficient hybrid cars, and the environmental impact of reducing meat consumption by 20 percent. Which do you think had a greater impact? You might be surprised to find out that eating 20 percent less meat will do more to curb climate change than trading in your Camry for a Prius. And by cutting the meat out of your diet for just one day a week, you will reduce your meat consumption by 14 percent - so it only takes a day and a half's change.

The positive effect of going vegetarian on Mondays reaches across climate change to impact water and fossil fuel consumption as well. The amount of water required to produce one pound of beef is enough water to produce over ten pounds of soy. And the ratio is even more striking for fossil fuel consumption. The amount of fossil fuel required to produce one calorie of beef could produce twenty calories of plant based food. That means that for the same amount of energy, you could have one steak dinner or twenty vegetarian dinners. Not to mention the personal health benefits of cutting out the meat on one day a week. Call it food for thought.

Meatless Monday: Nora Ephron's Vinaigrette

What makes a good salad great? Some would argue that it's in the composition of flavors; others would say that it's all about fresh produce.

These are all true, but for this Meatless Monday I want to focus on dressing, or more specifically: my favorite salad dressing.  You can't avoid eating salad.  It accompanies more meals than just about any other side dish, and that goes for vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals alike, so you should enjoy it.

 

Heartburn, Nora Ephron's novel contains a handful of wonderful recipes.  Though hard to notice at first, if you read carefully you will find some culinary gems, like her recipe for vinaigrette.  This dressing is delicious and has the ability to liven up plain greens or to make a good salad great.

Her recipe is as follows:  "I came home and started dinner. I made a bouillabaisse, and creme brulee, and in between there was a salad. I taught Mark to make the vinaigrette. Mix 2 tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard with 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar. Then, whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add 6 tablespoons olive oil, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy; this makes a very strong vinaigrette that's perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive."

Vegetarian Christmas Dishes from Around the World

Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

When it comes to the Christmas meal, there are two camps: tradition-lovers and those like me to whom the Christmas meal looks a little stale.  If you're thinking of starting a new tradition this year for your Christmas meal and don't know how to finesse the yuletide feast into an impressive, family-convincing meal, I have compiled a vegetarian menu full of traditional Christmas dishes from around the world to help you.

The meal begins in Denmark, with a traditional starter of roasted chestnuts with salt and butter.  Roasting chestnuts smell heavenly, and will scent your home with sweetness and nostalgia.

Then, a bright borscht soup from Ukraine cleanses the palate for the main event.  It has a bright, Christmas color from the beets.  The vermilion soup is studded with cubes of beets and topped with a dollop of refreshing sour cream.

For your main course, I suggest either Polish pierogis served with sauerkraut and mushrooms, or the Italian version: ravioli.  If neither appeals, try a lanttulaatikko.  Not only is the name a mouth-full, but this traditional Finnish casserole packed full of rutabaga is hearty, and will be sure to please even non-vegetarians.

In the Czech Republic, a side of potato salad with eggs, peas, and onions is traditional.  A warm basket of the Belgian Christmas bread, cougnou, which means "bread of Jesus" is a perfect accompaniment to this extensive feast.

And of course, the most important of all: dessert.  In Hong Kong, like other Christmas-celebrating locales, gingerbread is a popular treat.  In Australia, pavlova, a beautiful meringue cake topped with whipped cream and pomegranate seeds ends the holiday meal.  Bolo Rei, or King Cake, is the Portuguese tradition, and it contains a prize for the eater who discovers a shiny gift.  Despite the excitement of finding this trinket, it's discoverer has to pay for the Bolo Rei the next year.  Maybe it's just in line with the spirit of Christmas, and the gift of giving, after all.

Here's to the holidays, and may your vegetarian Christmas be delicious!

Are Vegetarians Happier? - Meatless Monday With Katie

"One day a week cut out the meat." Sound familiar? It's the byline for the non-profit initiative behind the Meatless Monday movement. Their (and our) goal is to reduce meat consumption by fifteen percent - that's one day out of seven - and in doing so, to improve the health of the planet and the health of everyone that does their part on Monday. It's a wonderful movement that many chefs, schools, universities, bloggers (hello!), and even a few foreign cities are taking part in, all in the name of good health for your body and the planet. According to the Meatless Monday website, "going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel." Sounds like enough of an argument already, right? But I want to talk about something that's not mentioned anywhere in the Meatless Monday mission statement. I want to know, do you vegetarians, non-vegetarians, former or future-vegetarians think that vegetarians lead happier lives? A considerable amount of research has been done on the topic that seems to yes, vegetarians are happier. One case in particular stands out in my mind. A group of Seventh Day Adventists were spit down the middle into two groups, the first group followed a vegetarian diet and the second did not. Their religion is not important to the study except to provide that the participants in both groups had similar backgrounds and lifestyles, except of course for their diets. The results of the experiment were conclusive and clear: the vegetarian group had much lower incidence of depression and anxiety suggesting an "unrecognized benefit of vegetarian diets."

So are you convinced? And what do you think? Leave comments below and we can discuss this topic together. Or just give vegetarianism a whirl this Monday and see for yourself how your mood fares. You may be surprised by the satisfaction that you get from knowing that no creature perished on the prongs of your fork.

Chocolate Grows on Trees - Hot Coconut Chocolate Recipe - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

Who says that money doesn't grow on trees? Well, it doesn't today. But it used to. Many centuries ago the beans from the pods of cacao trees were used as currency by the Aztecs. According to historians, a turkey cost one hundred cacao beans but an avocado only cost three. That being the case, you were sure to find at least one cacao tree in the backyard of every Aztec home.

Today, cacao beans are put through an arduous, multi-step process to create cocoa liquor which is then separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. These components derived from cacao beans are the building blocks of the chocolate that we eat and enjoy in desserts, candies, and sometimes even savory preparations. When

mixed with different combinations of sugar, milk or milk powder, and vanilla, cocoa liquor and cocoa butter produce milk, white, and dark chocolate - and a lot of happiness too. But chocolate has only existed in hard form for the last two hundred years. Before it was discovered that cocoa butter and sugar could be added to cocoa powder to create moldable chocolate people only consumed chocolate as a beverage - not that that was not just as enjoyable. So for this meatless Monday, to celebrate the origins of the cacao tree - quite possibly the Aztec gods' vegetarian gift to humanity - here is a recipe for Hot (Coconut) Chocolate.

Ingredients:

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

1 2/3 cups milk

3 cups chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Directions:

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut milk and the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the cream and the milk. Bring to a simmer. Remove the milk from the heat and then add the chocolate to it to avoid burning - chocolate can be very temperamental! Stir just until the chocolate is melted. Pour the hot chocolate into 8 mugs and then pour some of the coconut milk on top. What you've got is a warm beverage fit for an Aztec god!