Meatless Monday

Last year at the Santa Monica Good Food Festival and Conference, I met Chris Elam, Program Director at Meatless Monday, a nonprofit initiative of the The Monday Campaigns (in partnership with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health), which strives to help reduce meat consumption by 15% in an effort to help the environment and our overall personal health.  It is no secret that over-consumption of meat leads to an increase of cancer, heart disease and obesity – and a general decline in health.  Not to mention how it degrades our environment – land and water pollution, increase usage of limited fossil fuels, rapid deforestation, abuse of antibiotics and hormones in meat…

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Elam, one of the guest panelists  of “Food and Its Environmental Impact” (which will be discussed in a later post), shared with the audience the goal of Meatless Monday – to reduce meat consumption and by doing so, reduce our carbon footprint and increase our health.  By making the goal to eat just one day per week as vegetarian, the goal becomes non-threatening and easily attainable.  I think Elam creates an intriguing challenge:  Seriously, how difficult is it to give up just one day of meat?  Eating less meat has been, to me, an evolutionary process. My decision was a culmination of things, really. Living abroad on a tight budget  forced me to consume less meat.  You see, meat is expensive.  To me it was a logical choice: Eat less meat, save money.  By the time I returned home to the US, this subconscious way of eating had taken hold and remained with me.  I totally gave up eating beef nine years ago as a conscious environmental decision. Now, it’s become second nature to create meals that were centered around plants, instead of meat.  Although I’m not a vegetarian (if you want a label, then I guess I fall into the flexitarian camp), most of my meals are vegetarian with a few throughout the week containing lean proteins, such as chicken or fish.  After hearing Elam speak about his nonprofit, Meatless Mondays, I found renewed inspiration to continue this manner of eating.  I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the Meatless Mondays website and learn about their mission (plus, it’s full of great recipes!) and become inspired to eat less meat.  By doing so, you are opting for health, not only your own – which is very important – but the overall heath of the environment.

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How are you trying to eat less meat?

What do you think of Meatless Mondays?

Do you have any vegetarian recipes you’d like to share?

Check out my Meatless Monday recipes!

Whole Wheat Penne with Burst Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini and Fresh Mozzarella

Serves 2-3

Total Time: 30 minutes

Whole Wheat Penne with Burst Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini and Fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. bag whole wheat penne pasta

1 pint farmers’ market cherry tomatoes, larger ones cut in half

2 small or 1 large zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 medium red onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tsp. dried oregano

zest and juice of 1 organic lemon (organic is important since you are using the zest or peel of the lemon)

1 large ball of whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil.

2. Once oil is heated, add the chopped onion and lightly season with kosher salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 mins over medium heat.

3. Add minced garlic, tomatoes, zucchini and oregano.  Season lightly with kosher salt and pepper.

4. Cook vegetable mixture for 15 minutes until zucchini has caramelized and tomatoes begin to blister and burst, releasing their juices.

5. Meanwhile, in a large stock-pot, bring pasta water to rapid boil. Once boiling add a handful of kosher salt to season the water and the penne pasta.

6. Cook pasta according to package instructions, approximately 6-9 minutes for al dente pasta.

7.  Drain pasta, saving a cupful of starchy pasta water as reserve.

8. Add drained pasta to the cooked tomato and zucchini mixture and stir.  Add the lemon zest and juice.  If pasta is is too dry, add the reserved pasta water to create a sauce.

9. Pour pasta onto a serving plate and add pieces of fresh mozzarella.  The heat of the pasta will begin to melt the cheese.

10. Serve and enjoy.

*Fresh mint would be fantastic in this dish, as would fresh basil.  Feel free to change the herbs anyway you like.  Or the cheese for that matter – feta would be delicious as well!

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