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

The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population.
Every kilogram of beef produced takes 100,000 liters of water. Some 900 liters of water go into producing a kilogram of wheat. Potatoes are even less "thirsty," at 500 liters per kilogram.
More than 302 million hectares of land are devoted to producing feed for the U.S. livestock population -- about 272 million hectares in pasture and about 30 million hectares for cultivated feed grains.
About 90 percent of U.S. cropland is losing soil -- to wind and water erosion -- at 13 times above the sustainable rate. Soil loss is most severe in some of the richest farming areas; Iowa loses topsoil at 30 times the rate of soil formation. Iowa has lost one-half its topsoil in only 150 years of farming -- soil that took thousands of years to form.

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/McCartney music!

There are so many ways to replace meat protein in your diet and nuts are one of the most healthy with  walnuts considered the healthiest.   Nuts are also tasty and versatile with nut butters being one of the most accessible and popular foods for all ages and they add an earthiness to recipes that makes them especially welcome in the Fall season.
            Roasted rosemary brown sugar nuts
So delicious as a snack and makes a terrific house or holiday gift

    1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g brown sugar or natural cane sugar
    2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
    1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
    1/4 cup / 1 oz / 30g sesame seeds
    2 large egg whites
    1 lb / ~4 cups shelled walnut halves or use mixed nuts
    1/3 cup / 1 1/2 oz / 45 g chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Preheat oven with racks in the center to 300F.  Then line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, rosemary, and sesame seeds.

Now, in a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add the walnuts, and figs to the whites and toss until they are evenly coated - it'll take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the nuts and toss (really well) again.

Split the nuts between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating them the best you can.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts are toasted golden and the coating is no longer wet. Cool for a few minutes, then slide the parchment/nuts off the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container or baggie.

Makes 1 pound of nuts, or 4 medium bags.
        Pineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry
This is so good!   Make the quinoa a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge and you’ll be able to put this stir-fry together in a snap for an easy weeknight dinner. It’s a meal in itself. Serves 4

1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 cup pineapple juice (optional…you can just double the water but really recommend the juice)
1 cup cold water
1/4 t soy sauce

4 oz. cashews, raw and unsalted
3 T olive oil
2 scallions, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot red chili, sliced into thin rounds (optional!)
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper
2 cups snow peas
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin shreds
2 T finely chopped fresh mint
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
3 T soy sauce
1/2 cup veggie broth
1 T mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine) (optional)

Prepare the quinoa first: Combine the quinoa, juice, water, and soy sauce in a medium size pot. Cover and place on high heat and bring to a boil. Stir a few times, then lower the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 12-14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa appears “plumped” and slightly translucent. Uncover, fluff and set aside.

Prepare the stir-fry: Use the largest skillet you have (or a wok). Have all your ingredients chopped and easily within reach. Place the cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring them until lightly toasted, 4-5 minutes.

Remove the cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium, and add the oil, scallions, and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the sliced chili pepper and ginger. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper and peas. Stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and the peas are bright green. Add the basil and mint and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.

In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, veggie stock, and mirin. Pour over the quinoa/veggie mixture. Stir to incorporate completely and coat it. Continue to stir-fry for 10-14 minutes, until the quinoa is very hot. Serve with lime wedges and additional soy sauce to season individual servings to taste.
               walnut pesto
Easy, fast, healthy, economical and delish!

Put the following ingredients in your food processor;
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnuts
3 medium garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Pulverize the heck out of it. When it’s all ground up, slowly add:
3 Tbsp olive oil

When you’ve got a smooth paste, add about 1/4 cup boiling water.

Add it to 16 oz  hot cooked pasta of your choice..great with whole wheat!  (You can use half the walnut sauce on the 16 oz of pasta if you like a real light coating of sauce, or you can use it all.  I prefer more sauce.)

Note: You can add a little of the pasta cooking water to the sauce to make it even creamier.  Can serve with parmesan but that is optional.  An excellent accompaniment to this dish are roasted vegetables or just a green crunchy salad,
This is great for a special Sunday dinner or for a pot luck because it takes some time, but well worth it.  The pine nut cream makes a terrific, tasty sub. for a traditional bechamel.  N/T Veganomicon Serves 8

Note: The zucchini will likely be very watery after roasting, so when it’s cool enough to touch gently but firmly squeeze slices, by the handful, to remove any excess water. This will prevent an overly wet casserole and will help concentrate the flavors

For the vegetable layer:
1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 1/2 lbs russet-type baking potatoes (using large, long potatoes works perfectly in this recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil

For the sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine
2, 15 oz. cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

Pine Nut Topping:
1 lb. soft tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic
pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
white pepper to taste

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use panko)

Extra pine nuts for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Wash and trim stem from eggplant and zucchini. Scrub and peel potato. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and potato, lengthwise, into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to soften, briefly rinsing with cold water and squeezing out any excess liquid water.

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute 1/4 cup oil between the three sheets and sprinkle vegetables with salt (except eggplant if salted already). Toss to coat, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Spread vegetables out with minimal overlapping. Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 22 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

While vegetables are cooking prepare the tomato sauce. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and minced garlic to a large heavy bottom sauce pot. Bring to medium heat and let garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove bay leaf and adjust salt.

Make the pine nut topping:
In a food processor blend together pine nuts and lemon juice, scrapping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula until a creamy paste forms. Add tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan and pre-heat oven again to 400 F. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce in the pan, then add a layer of the following; eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half of the breadcrumbs. Spread all of the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer of eggplant, potatoes, sauce and breadcrumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut topping over the entire top, smoothing out any uneven spots. Scatter a few pine nuts on top if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
          White and Wild Rice Salad with Walnuts, Cranberries, and Figs

    1 cup long grain rice
    1 cup wild rice
    4 cups vegetable broth
    4 stalks celery, sliced
    4 green onions, sliced
    1 cup frozen peas, thawed  
    1/2 cup walnuts
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    1/2 cropped dried figs
    Salt and pepper

    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 Tbsp dark sesame oil

1 Put the vegetable broth in a medium sized saucepan. Add the rice and wild rice, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover. Let cook for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely.

2 Heat a small skillet on medium high heat. Add the walnuts. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Remove walnuts from pan and let cool.

3 Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil.

4 In a large bowl gently mix together the cooled cooked rice, chopped celery, green onions, peas, dried cranberries, pine nuts, figs and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Chill completely before serving. Serves 8-10.
         Sweet potato & pine nut risotto
serves 4

    1 1/2 lbs sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
    4 cups (1L) vegetable stock
    1/2 cup (125ml) white wine
    2 TBs unsalted butter
    1 onion, chopped
    2 cups (400g) Arborio rice
    2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    about 4 oz  baby spinach leaves
    2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
    shaved parmesan, to serve

    Preheat oven to 400F.Place sweet potato on a baking tray lined with baking paper and spray with oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and tender. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, heat stock, wine and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to very low. Keep the saucepan on the burner while you make the risotto. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add rice and garlic, and stir for 2 minutes or until rice is coated well.

    Pour 2 cups hot stock mixture into the pan, stirring regularly to avoid the rice sticking to the base of the pan. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add remaining stock, stirring constantly until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice is tender. This should take 15-20 minutes. Stir through the spinach, sweet potato and pine nuts, and serve with parmesan
         Ginger Pear Crisp
Great for all those pears coming into season!

Crisp Topping

    1/2 cup walnuts or almonds
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    a pinch salt
    6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter or use vegan butter such as Earth Balance


    6 ripe pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut in 1/2-inch dice
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toast the nuts until fragrant, about 7 or 8 minutes, and chop them medium-fine. Combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces. Work it into the flour mixture with your fingers until crumbly. Add the chopped nuts and mix well — the topping should hold together when squeezed. (The topping can be prepared up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)

Put the diced pears in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and taste; adjust if necessary. Sprinkle the flour over the pears and mix gently. Turn the mixture into an earthenware dish just large enough to hold the fruit, slightly mounded at the center. Spoon the topping over the pears, pressing down lightly. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow and bake on the center rack of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until the topping is dark golden brown and the juices have thickened slightly. Serve warm with ice cream or Armagnac-flavored whipped cream.

Variations: Other fruits may be substituted with the same general proportions, but some fruits require more or less sugar and flour, depending on their natural sweetness and juiciness. Rhubarb, for instance, requires more of both; apples require no flour at all.

"Not A Second Time"  The Beatles

"Don't Bother Me"  The Beatles

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

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