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

There are life and death decisions being made now in Durban, South Africa at the Cop 17 UN Climate Talks.  Some there are literally fighting for their lives and futures, especially the youth of our planet who are the primary stakeholders of these talks, the ones who will suffer if negotiators are unable to come up with a comprehensive plan to fight climate change, and they are there to tell the negotiators that we can no longer afford inaction.

But there is a disconnect in what is going on inside the negotiation rooms which seem impervious to the anguish and activism outside.  Developed countries as a whole including the US and UK are not taking climate change seriously as a global issue..   And the negotiations are hobbled by the worst polluters’ unwillingness to compromise on their own emissions, while poorer countries suffer the worst effects of climate change.

This is the way it is with everything now.  The corruption is so globally widespread that we can not look to governments to solve the most important issue we have ever  faced as a species and are having to do this ourselves.   I think we make a mistake and lose precious time when we wait for government to change our lives as that is in our own power. There are simple solutions that we can take as individuals that when taken together can solve the climate crisis.   The negotiations impasse at the Climate talks underline the need for individual action.

Eminent Climate Scientist Dr. James Hansen says most effective action individuals can take to reduce their carbon impact is to eliminate/reduce meat consumption.

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!

In last week's MMM there was a comment I was happy to see.  Meteor Blades left this comment with a request that I write a sugarless diary.  Of course I can do that and I immediately realized that not only do I have the recipes but I also have a song!  And since MB is now also cheeseless I will do that too!  Yes, MB is a cheeseless vegetarian, which means he is probably vegan and also does not eat sugar.   That is a very healthy diet and can be a challenge but with the right recipes is quite doable and delicious.   I'm thinking that MB's diet contributes to his pellucid thought process and enables him to write with such we can all benefit by these recipes.  When MB first took his leave of absence I tried to lure him back with this diary and it looks like that did the trick. ;)  So this diary is my way of welcoming MB and his fantastic posts back to DKos.
       2009-10-07 - Cheezy Smokey Potato Soup - 0004
This time of year a warming, hearty and healthy soup hits the spot.  Yes, you can have a creamy delicious soup without the cream and with very little fat.  This makes a complete meal with a crunchy salad and some whole grain bread.  Serves 4-6

    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 large white onion, diced
    2 medium garlic cloves, minced
    2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    5 cups organic reduced sodium fat free vegetable broth
    1 1/2 pounds Idaho or yukon potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, and diced small
    15.5-ounce cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and mashed
    3 whole green onions, chopped for garnish

    Heat the oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, rosemary, and salt. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Add broth and potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat.
    You may puree potatoes in a blender but I just use my hand masher and it turns out fine (or use immersion blender).   Add bell pepper, beans, and black pepper and cook over medium heat, covered, 8 minutes or until bell peppers are tender. May leave this consistency or use hand masher again for consistency you want.
    Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle evenly with the green onions.
note: If you like spicy you could add 1-2 tbp. of chipotle con adobo sauce (found in cans in ethnic section of your super) when you add the bell pepper etc.
      Beet, Orange and Walnut Salad
Citrus season is finally here and this colorful, healthy combo is perfect for showing off the navels growing in the neighborhood and showing up in the markets.  Serves 4  n/t Tasty Yummies

The Beets

1 lb. beets
olive oil

Wash beets, pat dry, peel and cut into wedges. Place in a baking dish and lightly coat with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake 45-60 minutes in a 375 degree oven until done. Cool and set aside.

The Walnuts

1/2 cup walnut halves
1 tbsp walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together and place on a baking sheet. Toast in the 375 degree oven for 5-7 minutes (keep a close eye on them after 5 minutes!!! they burn easily!!). Cool. Chop coarsely and set aside.

The Dressing

5 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Whisk together.

2 navel oranges (there are blood oranges in pic..but hard to find)
1 head romaine lettuce

Prepare the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom. Cut off the skins with a knife so that no white pith remains. Then cut into sections. Wash the lettuce and either tear or cut into pieces. Dry. Toss the lettuce with half the dressing and place on a platter. Toss the beets with the remainder of the dressing and place on top of the lettuce. Garnish with the orange sections and walnuts.
       Polenta fries
One thing people often miss when they first begin a sugarless diet is ketchup.  Commercial ketchup is loaded with sugar of all kinds including HFCS.  This spicy. tangy homemade ketchup, adapted from Food and Wine does not contain refined sugar and makes a fab homemade holiday gift!

2 Cups Apple Cider
1 Cup (Dry, Not Oil Packed) Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Soaked in Hot Water for 30 Minutes and Drained
2/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
3/4 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
Generous Pinch Cayenne Pepper
Pinch Ground Cloves
1 Small Yellow Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Toss everything into your blender or a sturdy food processor, and puree until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides as need to make sure that everything is thoroughly pulverized. Transfer the mixture into a large sauce pan and set over medium heat. It may seem like too large of a pot, but this stuff bubbles and sputters like mad once it gets going, so the high sides are helpful for protecting the walls (and yourself) from gruesome blood-red splatters. Cook at a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes, until slightly thickened or at least less watery, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent burning. Move the whole batch back into your blender or food processor, and puree once more to ensure a perfectly smooth texture. Let cool completely before bottling and storing.

Bear in mind that since this homemade ketchup lacks the additives and preservatives of mainstream brands, you will need to shake it well before each use, as it can separate a bit as it sit. Additionally, it should be kept in the fridge, tightly sealed for no more than 1 month.

Makes About 3 Cups

Baked Polenta Fries
Perfect with the ketchup

Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Polenta Fries are an easy treat anytime.  You could make your own polenta from scratch first, or the easy way as I did here.

1 tube plain prepared polenta
Olive oil
Coarse Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 450°.
2. Remove the plastic sleeve from the tube and cut your polenta in half crosswise.  Then cut in half length wise and cut those into 4 or 5 strips each. The fries taste best when they are not too thick.
3. Drizzle some olive oil on a baking sheet and place your polenta wedges on the sheet.  Use a brush to brush some more olive oil on the tops of the polenta strips.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and place your cooking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven.  Bake for 40 minutes or so (until lightly browned) , turning once about 1/2 way through the cooking time.
4. Remove your fries when they are crisp and lightly golden, place them on a paper towel.  You could at this time toss them with some nice spices like oregano or season salt.  Serve with ketchup.
          Hearty Lentil & Black Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika Recipe
Another hearty and healthy soup so comforting this time of year.  If you haven't tried smoked paprika..I highly recommend it.  I love it and have been using it on everything possible.  Serves 4  h/t CookinCanuck

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/2 large onion, chopped
    2 large stalks celery, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tsp smoked paprika
    2 bay leaves
    1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
    1 cup dried brown lentils
    4 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
    3 cups water
    1 (14 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    Salt and pepper to taste.

    Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan set over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are beginning to soften, 6 to 7 minutes.
    Add garlic, smoked paprika and bay leaves and saute for 30 seconds.
    Stir in diced tomatoes with juices, lentils, 3 cups vegetable broth and 3 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 25 to 35 minutes.
    Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer half of the lentil mixture, half of the black beans and 3/4 cup vegetable broth to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined, but not pureed. (Lazy folks instruction: just use hand masher like I do and I leave in same pot) It should be a chunky texture.
    Pour the blender mixture back into the lentils in the saucepan, along with the remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth and remaining black beans. Stir and reheat over medium heat. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
         Grilled Mushroom Sliders with Zucchini & Cilantro Almond Pesto Recipe
I included these because MB just seems like a sliders kind of guy and they would be great with the soups!   serves 4

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted
1 tbsp chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

The rest:
8 large (or 16 small) crimini mushrooms, stems removed
1 small zucchini, cut into four 1/4-inch slices
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 whole wheat dinner rolls (or mini hamburger buns), cut in half
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 slices

In the bowl of food processor, pulse cilantro, almonds, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper until finely chopped.  With the motor running, slowly add olive oil and lime juice.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

The rest:
Preheat grill to medium heat(I use stovetop grill pan).

Place mushrooms and zucchini slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place mushrooms on the grill and cook until they are very tender, but have not dried out, about 10 minutes per side.  In the last 6 minutes of cooking the mushrooms, add the zucchini slices to the grill and cook until tender, about 3 minutes per side.  Remove mushrooms and zucchini slices from the grill, and cut each zucchini slice in half crosswise.

Place the dinner rolls on the grill, cut side down and lightly toast.

Divide the pesto evenly between all cut sides of the rolls and spread.  Top the bottom half of each roll with one mushroom (or 2 if you are using smaller mushrooms), one piece of zucchini and one slice of tomato.  Cover with the top halves of the rolls.  Serve.
              Cannellini Bean Vegetarian
Who doesn't love spaghetti and 'meatballs'?  Especially if they are Earth and health friendly!  h/t Cookin Canuck

    1 ½ cans (15 oz. each) Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups)
    1 roasted red bell pepper (2 halves), roughly chopped
    ½ medium yellow onion, grated
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
    1 ½ tsp dried oregano
    1 egg or use egg sub. for vegans
    ½ cup dried breadcrumbs
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
    3 cups marinara sauce (your favorite sugar)
     Cooked spaghetti

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
    In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans and roasted red peppers. Pulse until chopped, but not smoothly pureed.
    Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl and stir in grated onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper until well combined.
    Using a rounded 2 tablespoon portion of the bean mixture, form “meatballs” by rolling between the palms of your hands. Place the “meatballs” on the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.
    Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and have developed a light golden brown coating, 15 to 20 minutes.
    In a large saucepan, heat you favorite marinara sauce over medium heat until simmering. Add “meatballs” and stir to coat. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes.
    Serve over spaghetti.
           Spicy Thai Tofu and Peppers with Peanuts
Lots of delish recipes welcome MB back!  Serves 4

Crispy Baked Tofu
1 – 14-16 ounce package of extra-firm tofu drained, pressed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Arrange tofu cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle over sesame oil and lightly toss to coat, sprinkle with salt. Bake 30-35 minutes, turning with a spatula every 10 minutes to get a good crunch on all sides.

Spicy Thai Tofu and Peppers with Peanuts

1/3 cup olive oil
2 large bell peppers, seeded, thinly sliced (I used 1 red and 1 orange)
3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
14-16 ounces of crispy baked tofu cubes
3 tablespoons low sodium gluten-free tamari soy sauce (regular soy will do)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
6-ounces organic baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh thai basil (you can use regular sweet basil, also)
1/3 cup lightly salted roasted peanuts

Heat oil in wok or large fry pan over high heat. Add bell peppers, ginger, and garlic; sauté until peppers just begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss 2 minutes. Add next 4 ingredients. Toss to blend, about 1 minute. Add spinach in 3 additions, tossing until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute for each addition. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle peanuts over. Serve.

Can be served over brown rice, thin rice noodles, or alone.
Had to include a Cuban style Caribbean black bean recipe because we know that MB loves Cuban food and you can't have too many BB recipes!   Adapted from Mark Bittman..serves about 3-4

3 cups cooked or canned black beans with about 1 cup of their cooking liquid
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 orange, well washed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, preferably red or yellow, peeled if desired, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry red wine
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Put the beans and their liquid in a pot over medium heat, add the cumin and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Halve the orange. Peel one half, and add the peel to the beans.  Then divide those sections (or chop) and set aside.  Squeeze the juice out of the other half and set aside.

3. Put the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring, occasionally, until the pepper softens, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute more.  Add to the beans.

4. Turn the heat under the skillet to high and add the red wine to the skillet.  Cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add to the beans along with the reserved orange juice.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve with rice, garnished with the reserved orange sections and cilantro, or store covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.
            Vegan Pumpkin Pie Smoothie  
This holiday treat makes a great breakfast with the addition of protein powder.  Does not include refined sugar but is sweetened with dried dates..don't know if dried fruit(with no added sugar) is included in MB's diet.  If not could sub. half a banana.   Serves 2  h/t Tasty Yummies

3/4 cup cooked pumpkin (canned is okay, especially organic, but fresh is best)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk (cold if possible)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
2-3 Medjool dates, pits removed (soak first in warm water if they aren’t soft)
(You can add honey or maple syrup if you wish for it to be sweeter for those not sugar restricted)
*you can experiment with adding a small handful of raw pecans to make it even more creamy and to get a nice lovely taste.

Add all of your ingredients to the blender. Puree until smooth and creamy.

If your pumpkin and/or almond milk isn’t cold, you could add a handful of ice.  You can also add a splash of water or additional almond milk if your smoothie is too thick. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg.  

"My Baby's Request"    Paul McCartney & of McCartney's retro 40's influenced songs...vid too!

"Get Back"  The Beatles

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

Originally posted to Meatless Advocates Meetup on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by The Durban Daily.

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