In this weekly series we have been discussing the benefits of a vegetarian diet including:better health, animal rights, public health, food safety, frugal living, global food crisis and the staggeringly huge contribution of meat/livestock production to climate change/resource depletion.

Animals raised for food in the U.S. produce far more excrement than the entire U.S. human population, roughly 89,000 pounds per second, all without the benefit of waste-treatment systems. According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, factory farming constitutes "a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems."

There are no meaningful federal guidelines that regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of the trillions of pounds of concentrated, untreated animal excrement that they produce each year. This waste may be left to rot in huge lagoons or sprayed over crop fields; both of these disposal methods result in runoff that contaminates the soil and water and kills fish and other wildlife. The concentration of parasites, bacteria, and chemical contaminants in animal excrement can wreak havoc on the ecosystems affected by farm runoff and can sicken people who live near these farms.

The Water We Drink

Many of the millions of pounds of excrement and other bodily waste produced by farmed animals every day in the U.S. are stored in sprawling, brown lagoons. These lagoons often seep or spill into surrounding waterways and kill massive numbers of fish and other animals.

The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. When 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river in 1995, between 10 million and 14 million fish died as an immediate result.

In West Virginia and Maryland, scientists have discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this deformity is the result of factory farm runoff from drug-laden chicken feces.

The massive amounts of feces, fish carcasses, and antibiotic-laced fish food that settle below fish farm cages also contribute to water pollution and have actually caused the ocean floor to rot in some areas.

Macca's Meatless Monday/Meatless Advocates is a solution oriented activist group, with solutions for some of the most pressing issues of our time including: climate change, global food/water insecurity and public health.  Here we don't just talk about the severity of the crisis.  Armed with knowledge about how our actions can contribute we become part of the solution.

I was inspired to create this series by former Beatle and vegetarian advocate Paul McCartney(Macca) who partnered with the Meatless Monday campaign to promote less consumption of meat.  We not only discuss the advantages of a less meat diet we also do some cooking, share recipes and listen to great Beatle music!

I'm a southerner at heart.  And one of my favorite southern states is North Carolina where the DNC is setting up shop to give us even more reasons than we need for voting democrat in November.  I've spent time in Charlotte and area for academic reasons and visited the Carolina beaches for fun and recreation many times.  I've even spent lots of good times hiking and skiing in western NC.  The urban areas there are much like urban areas anywhere.  But what I like to do when I'm in NC is wander off the beaten path in search of the old south.  I love finding the old southern architecture and the old southern country towns that you can only find if willing to leave the interstates.   And that's where you'll also find real southern country cooking.
A great reason to hit those winding country roads!

Today is a perfect time to showcase some southern country recipes that would be served at a typical NC Labor Day picnic.  I've updated these recipes so you don't have to go all piggie and unhealthy to have a delicious traditional southern picnic.
      Watermelon salad
A trad southern ingredient but used in a healthy updated recipe.  Serves 4

    2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    1 lime, zested and juiced
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 red onion, thinly sliced
    4 cups seeded watermelon chunks
    1 cup crumbled feta cheese
    1/4 cup mint chiffonade
    2 cups baby arugula

Add the white wine vinegar, lime zest and juice to a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the thinly sliced red onion and let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Add the watermelon, feta, mint, and arugula to a large bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve immediately after dressing.
      Macaroni Salad in Vintage Pyrex (Butterprint)
This was something I had growing up and I loved it.  I still love it but update it slightly to make it earth friendly.  Tastes even better!

1 lb elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise(I use Vegannaise-so tasty!)
Salt & pepper to taste

 Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the package directions call for. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the red onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the drained pasta and stir to combine. Let sit 5 minutes.
       Veggie BBQ with Fries at Jo's
Yes, you can have traditional North Carolina style BBQ and still be healthy and Earth friendly!  The secret is the trad sweet sour vinegar sauce which is so good it can become an addiction!.

 1 cup apple cider vinegar
 2/3 cup ketchup (recommended Heinz no salt added ketchup)
 1/4 cup yellow mustard
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown sugar)
 1 tablespoon molasses (if using light brown sugar add 1 more tbls. molasses)
 2 teaspoons louisiana style hot sauce
 2 teaspoons black pepper
 1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces seitan, cut into thin strips or use tempeh, veggie chicken strips, or even tofu (I use tempeh)
 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
12 pickle chips (optional)
 1 cup prepared coleslaw (optional but the best!) recipe below

Bring vinegar, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, molasses, hot sauce, pepper and salt to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook 5 minutes.

Transfer 1 cup of the sauce to a bowl, and set aside.

 Add seitan to saucepan and cook 10 minutes.  Divide among buns.

 Serve with coleslaw, pickle chips and extra sauce.

This is the traditional Carolina vinegar slaw dressing that is perfect with BBQ!

    1 large head of cabbage, finely shredded
    1 medium bell pepper, finely chopped
    1 medium sweet onions, finely chopped
    2 carrots, grated
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1 teaspoon celery seed
    1 cup cider vinegar

Combine coleslaw vegetable ingredients; chopped cabbage, chopped bell pepper, chopped onions, and grated carrots in a large serving bowl.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved; pour over vegetables and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Enough slaw for 8 to 10 servings.
       garlic jalapeno grits
Oh yeah!  healthy, earth friendly grits & greens.  So traditional & yummy! Serves 2

3/4 cup water
3/4 unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (almond or rice milk are also fine)
dash salt
1/2 cup corn grits/polenta (NOT instant)
1 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
freshly-ground black pepper
hot sauce (I like Texas Pete or Crystal)

In a small pot, bring the water, soy milk and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the grits. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and onion powder. Turn heat off, cover, and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Serve with ground pepper and hot sauce to taste.

Serves 2

1/2 bunch collard greens
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash salt

Wash and dry the collard greens well. Trim out the center stalk. Stack the leaves and cut into strips.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and Earth Balance (reduce the heat if necessary to prevent smoking), then toss in your greens and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and sautée until tender, about 10 minutes.
      fried green tomatoes
No post about southern cooking would be complete without something fried.  Southerners really love fried food!  Fantastic with the grits above!

    2 large green tomatoes
    1 12-ounce bottle dark vegan beer (I like Samuel Adams)
    1 cup yellow cornmeal
    1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
    Canola oil for frying
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Wash and slice the tomatoes into very thin slices.
    Pour the beer into a medium-sized bowl, and place the tomato slices in the beer. Make sure they’re all covered, and allow to marinate for 5 minutes.
    Combine the cornmeal and flour in a large bowl.
    Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil, and heat on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Test to make sure the oil is ready by sprinkling a little flour into the oil. If it sizzles, it’s hot enough.
    When the tomatoes are marinated, salt and pepper each slice.
    Dip each slice into the cornmeal mixture to cover both sides. Carefully place the tomatoes into the hot oil.
    Fry on each side for about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  Yum-0!
       Carrot cake
Southerners LOVE cakes especially Carrot and Red Velvet Cake which are traditional favorites.   I love baking and have been experimenting with vegan baking and OMG it is awesome!   I will never go back!

2 cups all purpose white flour
1 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of cinnamon
3 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup of canola oil
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 inch square pan with oil.

Mix together the flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Add the shredded carrots and the oil to the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon (not a hand mixer!).

Add the orange juice and mix again, then fold in the nuts, raisins and coconut.

Put the batter into pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

Let cool before topping with vegan buttercream or use cream cheese frosting recipe below red velvet cake.

Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup (112 g) nondairy, nonhydrogenated butter (such as Earth Balance), at room temperature
3 cups (300 g) confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (30 ml) nondairy milk (soy, rice, almond, hazelnut, hemp, or oat) or water

To make the frosting, with an electric hand or stand mixer, cream butter until it is smooth and begins to fluff. With the mixer on low speed, add confectioners' sugar and fluff for another few minutes. Add vanilla, milk and food coloring (if using).

Once all ingredients are well-combined, beat on high until frosting is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons more milk to achieve the right consistency. Cover the icing with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out until ready to use. Rewhip before using.

To frost cake, place one layer, rounded-side down, on a plate or cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula, spread some frosting over top of cake. Carefully set other layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Cover entire cake with remaining frosting. If desired, sprinkle with pecans.
        Red Velvet Cupcake

1 c (237 ml) soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 c (156 g) flour
1 c (198 g) sugar
2 Tbls cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c (78 ml) canola oil
2 Tbls red food coloring (liquid)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp chocolate extract (optional but good!)

Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a cupcake tin.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle (this is to imitate buttermilk. It is an important step because the vinegar gives the baking soda something with which it can react!)

In another bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Add the oil, food coloring and extracts to the curdled soy milk and whisk well to combine. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet and fold to combine, mixing just until large lumps disappear.

Pour into liners and bake 18-20 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 c (58 g) margarine, softened
1/4 c (58 g) vegan cream cheese, softened
2 c (312 g) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the margarine and cream cheese just until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar in half-cup batches, whipping thoroughly combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and whip until light and fluffy.
        Watermelon Slices
Or do what I usually do and crack open a watermelon and spit the seeds southern style.

"Coming Up"   Paul McCartney & Wings

"Country Dreamer"  Paul McCartney from Red Rose Speedway

What have you all been cooking?  Please share your recipes and fave Beatle music here!

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