Friday, November 9, 2012

One Year Of Meatless Mondays



On November 3, 2011, I wrote and posted my very first blog entry.It explained why I was making a commitment to observing Meatless Mondays for one year and why I felt the need to blog about it.Well, here we are a year later and I'm happy to report I did it!

For those of you unfamiliar the Meatless Monday movement, it is a global initiative to eliminate meat products from their diet one day each week (or about 15%). There are lots of reasons to consider going meatless one day each week. Some do it for health reason, others to promote a better environment and others still for ethical reason. In my case, I'll readily admit that my reasons were different (and maybe even more trivial) compared to the others. Very simply, I wanted to see if I could do it. Nothing more, nothing less. It sounded interesting and I wanted to challenge myself. If you want to know more about Meatless Mondays and the global movement, click here.

As I stated in my first post, I'm not a vegetarian. I don't particularly want to be a vegetarian (yeah, that bacon thing). I do however, like vegetables, so the idea of eating more of them one day a week didn't seem that daunting. What I didn't immediately consider a year ago was that I was essentially committing my wife, Cynthia, to a year of vegetarian cooking on those Monday nights were ate at home together. I travel in my job some, so there were probably a dozen Mondays that I was away from home. There were something int he range of another ten when we ate out locally on Monday. That still leaves about 30 Mondays that Cynthia willingly and expertly made vegetarian meals at home. Thanks for being such a willing an supportive partner.

So, you may ask what did I get out of this grand experiment?

First and absolutely foremost is the satisfaction of having made a commitment to do something that I didn't have to do and required a change in behavior and sticking to it for a full year. Secondly, it exposed me to a pretty heretofore unexplored variety of foods that, as it turned out, I liked a lot. During the year, we ate meals that included quinoa, farro, tofu, forbidden black rice, adasi and falafel. (If you haven't figured it out, each of these links will take you to the original blog post on the topic).

Another curious outcome of the past year is that I simply ate less meat - not just on Monday, but in general. There was a higher level of conscious thought about what constituted a "meal". When we ate meat, we both seemed to eat less of it. Instead of two steaks, we would cook one and split it (after all the recommended portion of protein for an adult is around 4 oz). The makeup of our dinner plates morphed in a way that the meat was more of a side dish and the vegetables were more of a main course. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that this is some path (for me) to vegetarianism - it's not. It is however, a redefinition of how a meal is constructed. For those of you that worry that this type of diet is protein deficient, don't. We ate lots of beans, lentils and other protein rich non-meat foods.

So, after a year, I have decided to stop doing Meatless Mondays. Why? It's not that I have lost my faith in their overall goals. I haven't. In fact, I strongly support what they promote. For me, however, the goals have not only been achieved, but have been integrated into my routine - every day. I eat less meat (more than 15% less than I did before) while still enjoying it when I do eat it. I've discovered that there are plenty of vegetables, grains and fruits that can add taste, texture and enjoyment to meals. I feel like I'm eating a more balanced diet - every day. Institutionalizing it to Mondays no longer seems necessary for me.

If you're interested in reading about some of the other Meatless Monday meals I ate during the year, both at home and out, head on over to A Reluctant Foodie and explore. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You’ve Got To Pick a Pepper or Two!



A Guest Blog by Anneli

I asked Al to guest post for me over on Delicieux and happily he agreed and it kind of turned into a little ingredients cook off! Wanting to keep it seasonal and from the garden if possible, Al suggested ‘peppers’ as he still had some beauties just turning ripe. We too had peppers a plenty although somewhat smaller and less fabulous! But the ‘Pepper-off’ was born and so here we are!



Immediately my mind was racing with possibilities and I found myself lying in bed at night pondering ingredient combinations. In my usual manner, I came up with lots and narrowed it down, but still couldn’t settle on one outright favourite. So I set about a week of stuffed pepper suppers! I knew I had to try them all to make up my mind.



A little oddly, eating this many peppers did not become dull. Every dish was interesting and enjoyable and reminded me just how damn delicious peppers are! In fact I am not a fan of peppers raw but roasted they are just so sweet, juicy and full of flavour that they become something else entirely. But actually, I discovered that this was something I needed to be careful of. Peppers are so powerful that they can overwhelm less robust ingredients and wash away all your well planned deliciousness.



Peppers are such clever little vessels for stuffing. Upright or laying down they offer up an empty cavity just begging to be loaded up. A whole pepper is very filling when packed to the brim and makes a substantial main course. But cut in half and filled, half a pepper makes a great starter or lunch.

First I shall tell you about a failure as I feel that full disclosure is a good thing in this instance. The reason for this failure of this pepper dish was because of the sum of its parts when in fact, individually everything was fantastic! This is where I learnt the valuable lesson about pepper power. I decided to stuff a pepper with a fresh cream cheese pesto risotto. In my head this was going to be a winner. I blended my pesto, rich with garlic, pine nuts, basil and cream cheese and stirred it into my oozy soft risotto. It tasted frankly incredible. Then I stuffed it into a pepper that I had roasted a little already and popped it back in the oven, I truly expected great things. But when it came to the eating, so much of the wonderful flavour of the risotto just disappeared under the clout of the pepper! In the end, my husband and I were reduced to scooping out the risotto and eating the pepper separately. They were not lovers…..

So, moving swiftly on to the successes. There were two dishes that worked really well but I only have space for one recipe. Suffice as to say, peppers stuffed with garlic lentils and tons of veggies was a delight. But I shall opt instead to tell you about Peppers Stuffed with Spiced Onions and Egg. Does that sound like a strange combo to you? Well, I thought it sounded rather nice and I was proved right!

The foundation for this dish is an Indian inspired spiced onion mixture and a whole egg baked within the pepper. This for me is a nice lunchtime or brunchtime dish. The baked eggs should have lovely soft yolks still so that when eaten, the yolks spill over the onions and pepper coating all in a gooey eggy sauce. I served my peppers sitting on a little mound of turmeric spiced basmati rice.

Peppers Stuffed with Spiced Onions & Egg

Serves 4 for lunch

Ingredients

2 large peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
4 small tomatoes, skinned & de-seeded & chopped
1 tsp Garam Massala spice
1 mild chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
½ tsp cumin powder
4 medium eggs
Basmati rice cooked with a teaspoon of turmeric to serve

Preparation

Pre-heat your oven 180Fan00C/395F. Carefully cut your peppers in half lengthways, cutting through the stem if possible. Gently remove all the seeds and white pith from within to leave a lovely clean cavity to stuff.


Brush very lightly with a little olive oil all over. Place in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your remaining olive oil and fry your onions on a medium heat until softened but not coloured. Then add your chopped chilli. Whilst these are frying you can skin and de-seed your tomatoes and then chop them into smallish chunks.
Add your tomatoes to the onions and your dry spices. Cook this out for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down around the onions made a thickish sauce. Season and taste and adjust your spicing if necessary.

Take your peppers out of the oven and spoon a little of the onion mixture into the base of each pepper. Not too much mind – you must leave enough room for the egg.
Take an egg and break it very gently, close as you can to the pepper in order to control it so that it does not slide out of the cavity. Repeat with all your peppers and eggs.

Pop them back in the oven for 8-12 minutes – keeping a close eye on them – as you want your eggs to be just cooked with a slight wobble still ensuring a runny egg yolk.

Season the eggs and serve your peppers sitting on a mound of basmati rice.



Blog by Anneli Faiers from www.delicieux.eu
Biog: I am a Private Chef living South West France. I am a 35 year old, mother of two, living the rural dream. I love to cook all food and am inspired by fresh produce and the cuisine here in France. From rustic traditional dishes to vegetarian to fine dining, I try to cook it all and share my journey with you. Stop by and check it out!

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior