Veggy snacks, greens, quesadillas, and Meatless Monday fact

 I’ve been writing about vegetarian menus for Meatless Monday for about 3 months now. I’ve been realizing that this is one of my favourite blog projects.  Why?  I’ve been a vegetarian for many years— or almost vegetarian, because in recent years I started eating fish. However since I began this blog series, I’ve looked at the fish question more closely and decided that if I maintain a diverse vegetarian diet, including lots of essential fats (omega 3, 6, and GLA), I’ll be healthy and ‘sane” without fish.

Meatless Monday gives me an extra incentive to plan  home meals and cook on the weekend;  as an additional bonus, I usually have leftovers that last for at least part of the week.

Meatless Monday Fact—According to a 2006 UN study, global livestock operations generate 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Livestock farming involves five GHG emitting sectors: agriculture and forestry, land use, industry, energy and waste.  Deforestation for pastures and feed crops, manure, and “enteric fermentation”, aka digestive gas, are major sources of livestock emissions (Source: Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options, report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006).

Snack Bars—Protein bars are convenient quick snacks that can be carried with you while you are out and about.  This week I tried a peanut butter granola bar recipe which I will make again.  Very easy to prepare and bake, the ingredients are peanut butter, honey,oil, rolled oats, wheat germ, raisins, and chopped dried apricots.  I excluded the dried fruit and used slivered almonds instead (that’s what I had on hand).  Recipe link:  Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

Cooking Greens—Eating green vegetables is important every day.  This recipe includes beans, adding extra protein.  Cooking fresh vegetables takes a little effort—washing and chopping is part of the bargain.  However I find, once I get into it, the process and results are rewarding. 

Collards are big leafy greens with sturdy stems (the picture shows asian kale, similar, but with softer, narrower leaves).  I prepare them by soaking in water and vinegar, rinsing, cutting out the stems, rolling up each leaf and slicing the roll in ¼ to ½ inch strips, resulting in long green ribbons.  Like any greens, collards can be steamed or sautéed in garlic, ginger or onion. 

Recipes that combine collards or kale with beans, with or without tomatoes, provide delicious and satisfying results—the starch of the added beans complements the vegetables.  Recipe link:  Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Indian Spices.  Yesterday I cooked this using white kidney beans, instead of lentils, and leftover tomato paste, instead of chopped tomatoes.

Swiss chard is a sweeter, lighter green leafy vegetable.  For preparations tips and a swiss chard quesadilla filling, take a look at the video at the end of this blog.

Dinner/ Lunch Selection: Quesadillas

Last week the bean burritos were so successful I decided to continue on the Mexican theme with Quesadillas.  These foods are suitable for lunch or dinner, hot or cold.  Bite size pieces can be used as appetizers—something to keep in mind as we approach weekend celebrations for Easter and Earth Day (April 22).

What’s a quesadilla?  It’s a grilled tortilla sandwich—a tortilla is topped with a filling, such as cheese, vegetables, or refried beans, followed by another tortilla and then fried on both sides, like a grilled sandwich.

I’ll be trying two or three of these recipes on Monday: 

Guacamole and Refried Beans Quesadillas 

Corn Tortilla Quesadillas with Summer Veg (zucchini, red pepper, and cheese filling)

Swiss Chard Quesadilla—the video below shows swiss chard being harvested from the garden, and cooked for quesadillas, with full recipe details.   In this approach to quesadillas, the chef folds one tortilla in half for frying, rather than using two tortillas—it looks delicious.

View the video by clicking on this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BzuPPIFkRk

Bon Appetit!

Minestrone Soup and Bean Spreads

    This photo is from a vegetarian meal we had last Monday–it shows black bean stew, red cabbage with walnuts, rice noodles with peanut sauce, and Mexican brown rice. All of the recipes, except the noodles, are from Cooking Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Joseph Forest.  It was an impromptu photo, so the balance is not “perfect” but the meal was good.
 
 
Here are my cooking plans for next Monday:
 
Minestrone Soup with Chickpeas or Kidney Beans
 
A Bean Spread, such as Hummous or a Northern Bean Spread
 
Steamed Kale with Red Pepper, oil, vinegar, and Sesame (or Sunflower) Seeds
 
I am using the cookbook I noted above as my guide, but I am sure similar recipes can be found elsewhere on the web.
 
Just as I did last week, I’ll cook up this chow on the weekend.  On Monday we’ll have lots of vegetarian food for lunch and dinner.  For breakfast we’ll have our usual tahini (sesame seed butter) or peanut butter and toast.
 
Vegetarian Thought for the Day:  Spreads are great for toast, crackers, sandwiches, condiments, and dips.  My favourites are nut or seed butters, particularly tahini (sesame seeds) and sunflower seed butter. Other options are almond butter and pumpkin seed butter.  Vegetarians also enjoy hummous and other bean spreads, which typically have a lower fat content.