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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, water and land depletion and the immense contribution of meat/livestock production to climate change/resource depletion

Each time you have a plant-based lunch you reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of C02

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 2.5 Pounds

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

If you have a PB&J instead of a red-meat lunch like a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you shrink your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Conserve Water: 133 Gallons

You'll conserve water at lunch too! How about 133 gallons of water conserved at lunch versus the average American lunch? To put this in perspective, five PB&Js or other plant-based lunches per month would save more water than switching to a low-flow showerhead. If you're replacing hamburgers, it should take you just three lunches to conserve more water than the low-flow showerhead.

Save Land: 24 Square Feet

Don't forget the land you save from deforestation, over-grazing, and pesticide and fertilizer pollution: about 24 square feet at lunch.

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!
   Gasparilla Flotilla 2009 (175 of 449)
                            pirates capturing my city on Gasparilla Flotilla

In my area we have an annual tradition which began in 1904 and is very similar to the tradition of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday which is being celebrated tomorrow in New Orleans.  Our celebration, Gasparilla, is named after a fictitious pirate; also includes a huge parade, drunken towns folk dressed as pirates and lots of beads, beads and more beads.   Annually our city is captured by these renegade pirates and the Mayor always ends up having to give them the keys to the city.  After the capture, there is a huge parade,  dozens of parties and the best of food and drink.  The food is southern style and similar to the food served in New Orleans with its emphasis on southern and latin favorites.  Today I've made those favorites healthy and Earth friendly to show you don't need to wreck your diet and the planet to have a delicious Mardi Gras style celebration.
     Vegan Gumbo
VEGETARIAN GUMBO
This adaptation of a Whole Foods recipe is so delicious!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 peppers, 1 green, 1 orange and 1 red or use your fave color
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1/2 to 1 tablespoon blackened cajun spice (see below)
3 vegetarian sausage links, cut into 1" slices (I use Field Brand Chipotle Sausage links)
3/4 cup rice (white or quick-cooking brown)
8 ounces frozen cut okra
hot sauce

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot until warm. Add garlic and sauté briefly. Add peppers, stir well. Cook another 4 minutes then add tomatoes, beans, seasoning and sausage.  Bring to a boil and add rice. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add okra and simmer another 10 minutes or until rice is cooked. Serve with hot sauce on the side.

(Here's what's in the blackened creole blend: Dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, paprika, chili peppers, fennel, black pepper, thyme, lemon peel, oregano, white pepper, cayenne pepper)
    Dirty Rice
NOT SO DIRTY RICE
This recipe gives you an easy, economic and yummy festival style entree.  All you need is a crispy salad for a fast, healthy meal.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles (or two veggie burgers, thawed and finely chopped)
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice (I use brown rice)

 Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, burger crumbles, Tabasco, thyme, salt, and cayenne. Stir to combine and heat through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until hot, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve hot.
    Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes
CRISPY CAJUN CHICKPEA CAKES
Festival style burgers, serve on toasted buns with lettuce, tomato and Sriracha Mayo Sauce (see below)

Makes 10-12
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/4 cup diced green pepper
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 28 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying

1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion, green pepper, and celery for 5-7 mins, until softened. Remove from heat.
2. Place chickpeas in a food processor along with the onion mixture. Pulse until chickpeas are no longer whole, but dont process them too much. Place chickpeas in a bowl and add spices, hot sauce, and parsley. Mix well. Add flour and cornstarch and mix well. Place in the fridge for 30 mins.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan over med/med-hi heat (around 350 degrees). Shape chickpea mixture into 10-12 patties and fry in batches, about 2-3 mins per side, or until crispy and browned. Flip a few times if they are browning too quickly. If you have trouble forming the patties, add some more cornstarch to hold it all together.

Sriracha Mayo Sauce

Mix desired amount of Veganaise with Sriracha for fantastic spread/dip
      cajun yam fries
CAJUN YAM FRIES
Perfect with the burgers above. May sub. sweet potatoes for yams.  Just multiple yams as needed.  Delish and Healthy! Serve with Sriracha Mayo Dip from above

1 Yam, peeled and chopped into fry shapes
    Olive Oil
    Cajun Seasoning

    Preheat oven to 425 degree F
    Spread yam in a single layer on baking sheet
    Spray with olive oil
    Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning
    Bake for 10-12 minutes
    Flip, Re-spray, and Re-sprinkle
    Bake for another 10-12 minutes
      Vegan Jambalaya
JAMBALAYA
Wonderful party entree from Emeril. Serves 10-12

 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups small diced onions
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 cups small diced bell peppers
2 cups small diced eggplant
2 cups small diced yellow squash
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups chopped tomatoes
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne
3 bay leaves
3 cups long-grain rice
6 cups water
1 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, shallots, bell peppers, eggplant, squash, and garlic and saute until tender about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and cayenne. Add the bay leaves. Add the rice and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the water, stir and cover. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Do not stir during this cooking time. Remove from heat and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Add the green onions and mix.
     Willie Mae's Red Beans and Rice
BEST CREOLE RED BEANS
I have yet to find a better recipe for New Orleans style red beans...great with the jambalaya above.

1 pound red kidney beans, dry
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 4 or 5 cloves)
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 or 2 bay leaves
As many dashes Crystal hot sauce or Tabasco as you like, to taste
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce (or use vegan Worcestershire like Annie's brand)
Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
red pepper and black pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight, if possible. The next day, drain and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a rolling boil. Make sure the beans are always covered by water, or they will discolor and get hard. Boil the beans for about 45 - 60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.
While the beans are boiling, sauté the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) until the onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans,  seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot.   If it's still not getting creamy, take 1 or 2 cups of beans out and mash them, then return them to the pot and stir.)

If you can ... let the beans cool, stick them in the fridge, and reheat and serve for dinner the next day. They'll taste even better. When you do this, you'll need to add a little water to get them to the right consistency.
             Cajun Boiled Peanuts
CAJUN BOILED PEANUTS (Goober Peas)
A real southern treat.   Addictive and healthy too!

    1 pound raw peanuts, in shells
    1 (3 ounce) package dry crab boil (such as Zatarain's® Crab and Shrimp Boil or Old Bay)
    1/2 cup chopped jalapeno peppers
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1/2 cup salt
    2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
    1/2 cup red pepper flakes

Place peanuts, crab boil, jalapenos, garlic powder, salt, Cajun seasoning, and red pepper flakes into a slow cooker. Pour in water to cover the peanuts and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low until peanuts are soft, at least 24 hours. Stir occasionally, and add water as needed to keep peanuts covered. Drain; serve hot or cold.
   Pecan Pralines
SOUTHERN PRALINES
I grew up with this traditional simple candy.  Makes a great holiday gift.

         1 cup light brown sugar, packed
         1 cup granulated sugar
         1/2 cup light cream
         1 ½ cups pecans, halved
         2 tablespoons butter

    Combine sugars and cream in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until mixture forms a thick syrup.

    Add pecans and butter and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.

    Remove sauce pan to a heatproof surface (such as a wire rack) and let cool for 10 minutes.

    Use a tablespoon to drop rounded balls of the mixture onto sheet wax paper or foil, leaving about 3 inches between each ball for pralines to spread. Allow to cool.

    Makes about 12 candies.

"Johnny B. Goode"     The Beatles with a Chuck Berry cover  "close to New Orleans"

"Sweet Little Sixteen"   The Beatles  with more Chuck Berry  

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

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