Have you heard about the “Meat Free Monday” campaign promoted by our old Beatle friend Paul McCartney? By giving up meat for one day each week you can save money, reduce your environmental impact and live a healthier life. It takes little effort to feast on a great veggie salad with pasta and marinara sauce for dinner, or replace your regular burger choice with a vegetarian patty. Now there’s another option that’s easy on the cook: vegetable stew. A food trend that McCartney calls “flexitarianism” or vegetarian-inclined diet is on the rise globally. People simply cut down on meat and choose more vegetables, but are not truly vegetarians. Behind the move to more plant-based diets is the belief that humans are heating up the planet. Livestock production is responsible for some 13 percent to 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The more meat we eat, the bigger the carbon footprint we leave. Healthwise, most of us eat more meat than we need to stay healthy. Links have been found between high meat diets and common diseases, and the World Cancer Research Fund found links between high consumption of meats and cancer.But what do you make for dinner? Most of our dinner plans revolve around a basic serving of meat, vegetables and potatoes or rice. There are some great alternative recipes on McCartney’s website at: www.meatfreemondays.com, but they may not be easy to adapt to our measurement system. The following Vegetarian Stew is a favorite with me. By joining together in having one meat-free day each week we’ll be making great steps toward reducing the environmental problems associated with greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll also be giving your own health a boost, and with the added benefit that vegetables cost less than meat, having one meat-free day each week means it’s also good for your pocketbook. Vegetarian Stew2 tablespoons julienne sliced sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (with oil)1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil2 cloves garlic minced2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh culinary sage1⁄4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley1⁄2 teaspoon smoky paprika1 cup diced sweet onion1 cup sliced fresh celery1 cup sliced fresh carrot1 cup chopped fresh red “bell” pepper1 medium sized Yukon gold potato diced (one-inch dice)1 medium sweet potato or yam diced (one-inch dice)1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans with liquid1 15-ounce can white kidney beans with liquid (cannellini beans)1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes or use 2 to 3 fresh large tomatoes, diced1⁄2 bunch fresh kale, coarsely chopped (dinosaur or curly kale), about 4 or 5 large leaves1⁄2 cup vegetable broth or waterFreshly washed and dried baby spinachOne dollop, per serving, of light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, if desiredRed chili pepper flakes for extra heat, if desired.Remove the stems from the kale and chop, if desired, to use in stew. Place dried tomatoes in oil and one tablespoon olive oil in large saut pan or saucepan on stove. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrots, red pepper, chopped kale stems, paprika and finely chopped herbs. Saut on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potatoes and stir, sauting for additional minute. Add additional olive oil if mix seems too dry. Add canned tomatoes, beans, and vegetable broth. Cover saucepan and simmer at medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add coarsely chopped kale and cook until potatoes are tender when tested with a fork. Meanwhile, place about 1⁄2 to 1 cup fresh baby spinach in the bottom of each serving bowl. When stew has finished cooking and potatoes are tender, ladle stew into each serving bowl on top of spinach. Garnish with a dollop of light sour cream, if desired. The spinach wilts in the bowl as you stir it into the stew. Makes about six servings.Think of this recipe as just a place to start. Try this stew with a fried egg or grated cheese on top instead of the sour cream. Try different vegetables such as petite peas, fresh or frozen, cubed zucchini, yellow squash or butternut squash. Add mushrooms or replace the kale with chard. This recipe allows you to pick and choose the vegetables you like most.• Carolyn Eichin owns B Street House Bed and Breakfast in Virginia City.
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