Lifestyles

Meatless Mondays Jamaica

Thursday, November 04, 2010    

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A couple of weeks ago, I had shared that I was working on an exciting new project. For the past few months, I have been in communication with Meatless Mondays in New York City. I'm totally in love with what they do, and really wanted our beloved island to be a part of this healthy movement. Last Friday on TVJ's Smile Jamaica, I was given the opportunity to speak about this project which I hope one day will be spread nationally with your support. Prior to that, I also appeared on CVM at Sunrise and waxed lyrical about eating fresh vegetables. Today my editor, Novia McDonald-Whyte, has graciously allowed me to speak about this wonderful adventure.

One of my observations in this country is that we do not eat enough vegetables. I don't care if I sound like a parrot but I will keep repeating it until I see real changes. We seriously need to change our dietary patterns. I couldn't understand the minuscule servings of vegetables I sometimes received when purchasing lunch, because when I was growing up, vegetables were a main feature on my plate. However, based on my own shopping experiences and talking to people, cost is a huge factor. A second problem is that many of us do not know how to prepare vegetables creatively or to think outside the box of traditional methods.

I'm not knocking our local dishes, as I am a huge fan, trust me, I love Jamaican food! However, my palate likes different tastes and I know I am not the only one as evidenced by the emails I receive from you on a weekly basis. This is one of the main reasons that occasionally I will do a vegetarian series in this column. Not only is this in aid of vegetarians who sometimes feel left out by the mainstream food press, but a personal crusade to teach the average meat lover who would like to consume and experiment more with vegetables.

Funnily enough, meat, poultry and fish are becoming increasingly expensive so many of us are forced to decrease our consumption of these animal proteins. Fret not. This is not a bad thing - in fact it forces us to revisit non-meat options. It was due to my meatless recipes that I caught the attention of Meatless Mondays whose founders believed that I would be an ideal person to begin a movement here. Before I go further, let me tell you who the founders of Meatless Mondays are, their philosophy, and why it's important that Jamaica should join the other 11 countries and counting, who are catching on to this incredible lifestyle.

Meatless Mondays was founded as a grassroots public health initiative by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2003. The basic premise is to reduce your intake of meat by 15 per cent to improve not only your personal health by helping to prevent certain lifestyle diseases, but that of the environment by slowing down negative changes in the climate. This movement was also inspired by history. During both world wars American presidents of the era encouraged the public to go meatless on some days because of rationing.

Mondays were chosen, as it is the day of the week when we start new things. As such, psychologically it made sense to encourage people to start this habit change at the beginning of the week, as it is easier to sustain. The movement doesn't tell you to stop eating meat, but rather to increase your intake of vegetables and fruit and to make healthier choices. I don't think it is too difficult to sacrifice just one day for our personal well-being. Using myself as an example, I go meatless at least three times a week and I have seen improvements in my health coupled with exercise.

Today I would like to ask you to join me by taking charge of our collective public health. I want to encourage you, as it is not that hard. It is my plan to take Meatless Monday nationwide in schools, supermarkets, hospitals, restaurants, and in your homes. I'm asking for support from the local food industry, health industry and corporate Jamaica and any other entity who believes in a healthier Jamaica and a better environment. We will be the first in the region to do so. Let us be an example to our neighbours.

Sadly, as I type, we are threatened by another storm, Hurricane Tomas, so I believe when you read this it will be pouring outside even if we don't get a direct hit. It still hurts as we have not yet recovered from Tropical Storm Nicole. Our crops have taken a beating, but with all that said, we will bounce back becauseJamaicans are some of the steeliest survivors I know. Seriously, we need to get behind our farmers and get back into farming and feed ourselves to the point that when disasters do strike, we have an emergency stockpile of certain items. I can't wait for that day. Currently the scarcity of local vegetables and the expense of the imported vegetables in our supermarkets is staggering, but in the meantime we have to be creative and make things "stretch" with what we do have.

Here is a typical Meatless Monday meal for myself. For breakfast, I may have a wholegrain-based meal such as oats porridge, muesli or granola coupled with fruit and my usual tea or coffee. For lunch I like to have a big salad of seasonal vegetables, a mini vegetarian pizza or vegetarian burger, and for dinner a bowl of pumpkin or lentil soup or bean stew. Some famous people who follow Meatless Mondays are former Vice President and prominent environmentalist Al Gore, ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and celebrity Italian American chef Mario Battali.

JuicyChef's Meatless Monday Fiery Pumpkin and String Bean Curry

During my appearance on Smile Jamaica, I took this dish with me to showcase an example of a meatless meal. I chose pumpkin and string beans because both are locally grown and affordable. Unfortunately due to the weather situation we have been facing, string beans are scarce at the moment and I wasn't able to procure any for my photo. However, get creative and use other green vegetables to add to this spicy sauce! If you can't handle hot pepper, please leave the Scotch bonnet whole instead.

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into wedges or cubes

Handful of string beans, trimmed and cut in half

1 onion, chopped

1 to 2 stalks of escallion, chopped

1 Scotch bonnet or hot pepper, deseeded and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 heaped tbsp Hot Curry Powder (Jamaican or Indian)

_ tsp ground ginger

2 tbsps tomato paste

1 can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime

1 vegetable stock cube or salt to taste

Water

Vegetable oil

Fresh herbs

Method:

In a large pot, sauté the onion, escallion, garlic and hot pepper in vegetable oil

Add hot curry powder, ground ginger and mix well cook until fragrant.

Add tomato paste and stir until melted.

Pour in coconut milk, then half-fill the can with water pour that in and add the vegetable stock cube and pumpkin wedges.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until pumpkin is tender. Add lime juice.

Add string beans (or other green vegetable) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Serve with brown rice, and garnish with fresh herbs.

JuicyChef's Meatless Monday 3 Bean Veggie Burgers

I like to make my own veggie burgers versus the pre-packaged variety. You can have these simply with a salad, or in a hamburger bun. This recipe yielded 8 good-sized burgers.

Ingredients:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 can of butterbeans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 sweet pepper, deseeded and diced

1/2 hot pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 small bunch of parsley, stalks removed, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stalks

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp paprika

1 tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp crushed pimento (or ground Allspice)

1 egg (if not enough to moisten, add another egg or two tablespoons water)

200g oats (roughly a cup)

50g breadcrumbs (roughly 1/4 cup)

Method:

In a food processor, mix beans, garlic, onion, sweet pepper, hot pepper, herbs and eggs together with the spices.

In a bowl add oats and breadcrumbs

Add bean mixture to oat mixture and combine well. If too moist, add more breadcrumbs or oats, if too dry add more egg or water until perfect consistency is reached

Form mixture into several balls in your hands and press flat to form a vegetarian burger.

Fry patties in olive or vegetable oil for roughly 5 minutes or more per side over medium heat until they are nicely browned.

Many thanks to my sponsors MegaMart

If you are interested in supporting the local Meatless Monday movement, please email me at meatlessmondayjamaica@gmail.com or info@juicychef.com

Bon Appétit!

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