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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, frugal living, public health, water and land depletion and the staggeringly huge contribution of meat/livestock production to climate change.

The UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) released a new report called Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not, in which the organization also highlighted the inherent resource wastefulness that animal agriculture entails. It said that “an increase in animal-based production” – as it expected with population rise and increasing demand from emerging markets – “will require greater land and resource requirement, as livestock farming demands extensive land use. One hectare of land can, for example, produce rice or potatoes for 19-22 people per annum. The same area will only produce enough lamb or beef for only one or two people.”

Animal agriculture also demands much more water. As the UN report said and the new report confirms, the production of beef uses around 50 times more water than vegetables. {...}

The wastefulness of animal food production is easy to picture when we find out that it takes 35 calories to produce every calorie of beef consumed. On the other hand, it only takes three calories of energy to produce one calorie of plant-based food.

What is clear is that there just isn’t enough space for current levels of meat consumption. Humans currently use about 4.9Gha of the useable 10Gha of land available. It is impossible to increase land usage without impacting on other eco-systems. If we increase animal agriculture that certainly will be the case, as it is already happening in the Amazon, where livestock accounts for 70 percent of all deforestation.
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!

Meet below the fold for more Macca's Meatless Monday!

Finally some good news coming out of Capital Hill with the formation of the new 'Vegetarian Caucus'. Roll Call breaks the news which was a long time coming.

Interest in and membership of the Vegetarian Caucus has exploded in the weeks since the group was profiled in a March 14 article in Roll Call.

That was when the 10-member staff organization went public with its quest for better and more diverse vegetarian and vegan options in the eateries scattered throughout the Capitol complex. In the aftermath, 20 staffers, including Dominguez, reached out and joined the caucus’s efforts.

That interest turned into a standing-room-only kickoff luncheon on Monday; 200 staffers gathered for a vegan lunch and to learn about ways to live a healthy and sustainable plant-based lifestyle and get information about the caucus itself.

This is just the beginning. We know that Washington follows the lead of the American people and the American people have reduced their consumption of meat 12% in five years for health and environmental benefits.

The hope is that with raising consciousness in Washington policy changes will follow.

Today I'm focusing on the lowly potato which has been known to feed the world. It's an amazing carrier of flavors. The potato is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat and corn. Per wiki, the annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 73 lbs of potato! I know I do my share and today I'll share some of my fave potato recipes with you.

What could be better than the famous traditional Senate white bean soup? That's easy; the Senate white bean soup made healthy and Earth friendly!

    2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
    1 onion, diced
    1 stalk celery, sliced
    1 carrot, peeled and diced
    8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
    2 cups vegetable stock
    2 cups water
    Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn into small pieces (4 cups)
    1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
    2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar (optional to taste)

    Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, celery, and carrot until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

    Add potatoes, stock and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Mash half the contents of the pot until slightly thickened.

    Add kale and beans and continue cooking until kale is tender, 6 to 8 minutes more.

    Stir in vinegar and adjust seasoning if necessary. Drizzle with oil before serving.

This time of year I start looking for new recipes to add to my holiday menus. I like using traditional seasonal ingredients and update them to fit more contemporary lighter tastes. This sweet potato hummus fits my menu perfectly.

1 pound sweet potato (about 1), chopped into 1 inch cubes
¾ cup dried chickpeas
½ cup olive oil
½ cup lime juice
½ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cayenne

1) Soak the chickpeas
Rinse and soak the chickpeas overnight or up to 24 hours. Soaking dried legumes before cooking is beneficial for two reasons: It allows certain starches to be broken down so digesting is easier. I also allows the legumes to be cooked in less time, thus requiring less energy.

2) Bake the sweet potato
Place the sweet potato in a metal or glass baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and poke a few holes with a knife so steam can escape. Bake the sweet potato at 400F (204C) for 40 minutes.

3) Cook the chickpeas
Drain and transfer the chickpeas to a medium saucepan. Add enough water so the chickpeas are submerged by a couple inches and simmer until soft which should take about 45 minutes.

4) Process the ingredients into hummus
Drain the legumes in a colander and transfer them to a food processor. Add the sweet potato, olive oil, lime juice, tahini, garlic, salt, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne and process until smooth. Transfer to a covered container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. This recipe makes about 1 quart of Sweet Potato Hummus.

So yummy and healthy too!  

Enchilada Chile Sauce:

1 onion, cut into small dice

3 large green chiles (such as Anaheim or even Italian-style long green peppers), roasted, seeded, peeled, and chopped coarsely.  The best way to roast peppers is over high heat right on top of the stove burner.  Use tongs to turn them, and rotate as they blacken & blister.  When 75%  done roasting, drop the pepper in a paper bag, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes, until it's cool enough to handle.  Peel away the skin, and then dice.  No worries about remaining charred parts. May also roast in a very hot oven.  Use canned green chilis in a pinch.

2-3 teaspoons of chile powder, preferably ancho chili
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (epazote) or regular oregano
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred--like Muir Glen.  I prefer crushed to diced.)
1 tsp. sugar (opt. or use agave)
salt to taste (optional)

Potato and Kale Filling:

1 pound waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold or Red
1/2 pound kale, washed, trimmed, and chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water (plus more for sauteeing onions & kale)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) coarsely chopped, plus additional for garnish
Salt to taste (optional)

6 large sprouted grain tortillas, like Ezekiel or French Meadow, or Ezekiel Gluten-free.  (alternatively, you can also use 12-14 corn tortillas)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and have ready a shallow casserole dish, at least 11 1/2 X 7 1/2.

Prepare the enchilada sauce first:

1. In a large, heavy bottomed non-stick saucepan over medium heat, saute the onions.  Let them start to brown & give off their own liquid before adding any broth or water to the pan.  When they start to get a little dry, and start to stick a bit, add a little vegetable broth or water--just enough to deglaze the pan.  Add more liquid as needed, but not too much.  Saute for 4-7 minutes, until the onions are softened.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat.  When the mixture has cooled enough, taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

3. Puree the mixture with an immersion, regular blender or processor until smooth and even.

Prepare the filling:

1. Peel and dice the potatoes, then boil them until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2. Saute the garlic in about 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth in a large saucepan or frying pan (that has a lid) over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the garlic is sizzling and slightly browned (be careful not to let it burn!!)

3. Add more broth if necessary, and then add the kale, sprinkle with a little salt, and raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly to cover the kale with the garlic.  Partially cover the pot to steam the kale until it has wilted, 4-6 minutes.

4. Remove the lid and mix in the potatoes, the 1/4 cup of vegetable stock, lime juice, pumpkin seeds, and salt, if you're using it.  Use the back of a wooden spoon, or the bottom of a flat drinking glass to mash some of the potatoes.  Cook another 3-4 minutes, until the stock is absorbed.  Add more lime juice or seasoning to taste.

Create an enchilada assembly line:

1. Have ready a pie plate or something similar filled with about 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce, a 9 X 13 casserole dish, your stack of tortillas, a heated griddle or a pan large enough to heat your tortillas--because that's how you'll soften them up, and the potato and kale filling.  You can also soften the tortillas one at a time in the microwave if you prefer--follow the directions on the package.

2. Ladle a little bit of the enchilada sauce onto the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch casserole dish and spread it around.

3. Take a tortilla, place it on the heated griddle or pan for 30 seconds, then flip it over and heat until the tortilla  has become soft & pliable.  Or soften them in the microwave.  Drop the softened tortilla onto pie plate filled with sauce; allow it to get completely covered in sauce, flip it over, and coat the other side.

4. Now, place the tortillas either in the casserole dish (the easiest way) or on an additional plate.  Place 1/6 of the potato filling down the middle of the tortilla and roll it up.  Continue with rest of tortillas, tightly packing enchildas next to each other.

5. Pour about a cup of sauce over the top (reserving some for later when you serve the enchiladas), cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until edges of the tortillas poking out of sauce look just a little browned.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.  Top individual servings with any remaining enchilada sauce, warmed slightly.

You know I would have to include a favorite curry dish and there is none better than the classic potato curry combination.

    3 large potatoes, scrubbed and roasted or boiled until tender and cut into roughly 1 1/2 inch pieces (peeling the potatoes is optional)
    1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1/2 cup dried or 1 14 oz can)
    2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
    1/2 cup hot water

    2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
    1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
    2 dried whole red chilies, broken into pieces
    1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
    2 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
    1 tablespoon ground coriander
    1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri or other chili powder
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon asafetida
    4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon jaggery, brown sugar or coconut sugar
    handful of dried curry leaves
    generous handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
    1 1/2 cups hot water or more as needed

    1 teaspoon garam masala
    1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
    juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)

    Scrub the potatoes and roast or boil as desired until tender (peeling the potatoes is optional). Cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

    Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup of hot water for 20 minutes. Strain, squeezing as much liquid from the pulp as you can, and reserve the liquid. Discard the pulp.

    Heat the oil or ghee in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds. mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds if using, and stir for 30 seconds or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop.

    Toss in the dried chilies, ginger, fresh green chilies, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric, amchoor powder if using, and asafetida. Continue to stir for 1 minute.

    Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the jaggery or sugar, curry leaves, half of the cilantro and the hot water. Reduce the heat slightly, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened.

    Gently stir in the potato, chickpeas, garam masala and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until your desired consistency is achieved, adding more water as necessary. Mash up some of the potatoes and chickpeas to thicken up the mix. Stir in the lemon juice, simmer for another few minutes, and taste for seasoning. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.

    Serve hot, garnished with the remaining cilantro.

A perfect brunch dish served with the scramble below.

1 large sweet potato
1 tsp oil
1 tsp rosemary, fresh or dried
1 tsp freshly-grated Parmesan (optional for vegan)
sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Peel the sweet potato and cut into strips. Place them in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for 20 minutes. This removes excess starches and helps them crisp up with the oven-baked method.

Drain the fries and dry them thoroughly. Put them in a medium bowl, add the oil, and toss until coated. Add the rosemary and Parmesan and toss again until coated. Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet and spray it. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer, being careful not to crowd them too much. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake 15 minutes and then flip. Bake 5 to 7 minutes more until done. Serve with lots of ketchup if you like.

This is a basic tofu scramble recipe, you can add any additions; suggestions below. This is a staple in my house; served with hash browns or the fries above. H/T postpunkkitchen

Spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, to taste)

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Fresh black pepper to taste

First stir the spice blend together in a small cup. Add water and mix. Set aside.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the ban. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the nutritional yeast and fresh black pepper. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

You can include these additions to your scramble by themselves or in combination with one another.

Broccoli – Cut about one cup into small florettes, thinly slice the stems. Add along with the tofu.
Onion – Finely chop one small onion. Add along with the garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Proceed with recipe.
Red Peppers – Remove stem and seed, finely chop one red pepper. Add along with the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Proceed with recipe.
Mushrooms – Thinly slice about a cup of mushrooms. Add along with the tofu.
Olives – Chop about 1/3 a cup of sliced olives. Add towards the end of cooking, after mixing in the nutritional yeast.
Spinach – Add about 1 cup of chopped spinach towards the end of cooking, after mixing in the nutritional yeast. Cook until completely wilted.
Carrots – Grate half of an average sized carrot into the scramble towards the end of cooking. This is a great way to add color to the scramble.
Avocado – I almost always have avocado with my scramble. Just peel and slice it and serve on top.

Warning: addiction possible

½ cup Balsamic Candied Pecans

1 cup Vegan Cashew Cream or Vegan Soy Cream. May also use commercial vegan cream

1 cup sweet potato puree (about 2 medium jewel sweet potatoes)

½ cup water, non-dairy milk
¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon barley malt syrup
1 Tablespoon arrowroot flour or tapioca flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Prepare the candied pecans and non-dairy cream
Prepare the Balsamic Candied Pecans and the Cashew Cream or Soy Cream and set aside.

2) Chop the sweet potatoes and bake them
Thoroughly peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1 inch square pieces. Place them in a baking dish and cover it with tin foil. Poke about six small slits in the tin foil to allow steam to escape while the sweet potatoes are baking. Bake at 400F (204C) for 40 minutes.

3) Purée the sweet potatoes
Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, allow to cool, then purée in a food processor for about one minute.

4) Simmer the ice cream ingredients then cool
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the Cashew Cream or Soy Cream, sweet potato purée, water, non-dairy milk, sugar, barley malt syrup, arrowroot flour or tapioca flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer then remove from heat while whisking constantly. Whisk the mixture for an additional 5 minutes to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a covered container and place in the refrigerator to cool for about two hours.

5) Process the vegan ice cream to perfection
Stir in the vanilla extract and mix in an ice cream maker for about 30 minutes.

6) Mix in the candied pecans then transfer to the freezer to harden
Mix the Balsamic Candied Pecans into the ice cream with a spoon. Transfer to a covered container and put it in the freezer for 3 hours.
This recipe makes about 1 quart of Vegan Sweet Potato Pecan Ice Cream.

"Fool On The Hill"   Paul McCartney

"The Night Before"   The Beatles

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

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