Just another Meatless Monday—When is the last time you tried cashew cheese?

I pressed the pause button, deciding to briefly meander from my focus on General Patton’s Southern California connection. A brief sideline…but a tasty one.

Months ago I mentioned my interest in the Meatless Monday movement.  The grassroots campaign is a gentle force, but significant. Linked with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, the objective is to provide  information, recipes and support to interested health-conscious individuals with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15%, a controversial and contested point of view.

Debate ensuing, the theories still hold well for me and Meatless Monday is compatible with my goals for health and well-being. Many people enjoy the creativity of occasional vegetarian cooking without holding to any particular social aim. For those of you in that camp, you might be interested in exploring a few new vegetarian options just because they taste good.

Last year I  joined the on-line VegCookBook Club.  Each month we select a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and work our way through as many recipes as we have time to try. Then, on Meatless Mondays, group leader, Britt Bravoposts information and photos about the recipes she’s tried, and others add descriptions to the discussion thread and post photos on the club’s Flckr page.

So in anticipation of another Meatless Monday, let me share two of my favorites from January’s cookbook selection, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, by New York Times bestselling author Kris Carr with Chef Chad Sarno.

Kris Carr is a frequent contributor to Hay House Radio, and in health and wellness circles she is a rather amazing example of what a carefully designed  diet regimen is capable of supporting in the fight against disease. On Valentines Day 2003, Ms. Carr was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer, stage IV sarcoma. She was 31 years old.

She has authored several books outlining her vegan diet choices paired with attention to modifying stress and an overall healthy lifestyle. Although she is told she will never be in remission, for ten years she has held the disease in check, while reporting to feeling amazingly strong and now working to help people with diabetes, heart disease, and myriad other illnesses change their diets and experience the same improved well-being she enjoys.

Who isn’t interested in improved well-being?

Ta-Da! I know this doesn’t look like much, but it’s delicious! You’re looking at Cashew Cream Cheese.

Cashew Cream Cheese

I often wish vegetarian dishes weren’t given names that suggest they are a direct substitute for a non-vegetarian food. Especially a popular food. This is absolutely delicious, but it doesn’t really remind me of cream cheese. But I can tell you that it is addictive. I’ve shared it with several people and each has pronounced it “delicious.”

I didn’t have all the suggested ingredients on-hand but I was confident I could make appropriate substitutions and give it a try. This wonderfully tasty and dairy-free spread is excellent on toast, crackers, baby carrots, or as the cookbook suggested, as the spread in a Mediterranean Wrap.

The recipe is very easy to follow. I’ve adapted this slightly from the original.

Blend two cups of soaked raw cashews (soak for a few hours or overnight) with 1/2 cup of water, some lemon juice, 1 TB nutritional yeast and a small amount of minced red onion. I added a little dill. If you need a little salt to enjoy this, go ahead. I didn’t bother, and the dill more than compensated.

Mediterranean Wrap

The wrap is up to you! The cookbook recommended a Mediterranean flair, combining the Cashew “cream cheese” on the whole-wheat wraps, with caper berries, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula.

De-Lish!

So was the next recipe, but Red Thai Coconut Soup was a little more challenging to me. I couldn’t find a Thai coconut, so I substituted Melissa’s Brand Sweet Young Coconuts.

Getting to the coconut water while attempting to “poke a hole” in the  designated area, threatened a trip to the emergency room. So I roughly cut away what I could, tapped into the liquid, and made the decision that next time I’ll use coconut water from a carton.

Once I figured out how to “carefully” open the coconuts, I strained the water to remove the shell particles and added fresh lime juice, diced red pepper, garlic, some dried ginger (recipe called for fresh), 1 TB. yellow miso and 1 TB of coconut sugar to the blender and just whirred away. It couldn’t be easier.

These were both great recipes and I intend to make them often. I wish I could share a taste, because I don’t think the photos do justice to just how satisfying and delicious they are, but food photography is tricky business!

I’ll add a bonus to compensate for my poor photos.

One blogger who photographs her recipes very nicely and also shares her technique, is Charlie, at Hotly Spiced. Click here  to learn some of her methods used to improve lighting and focus. And while you’re at it, you’ll enjoy Charlie’s recipes and the humor associated with her family stories.

You know how I like family stories–mine and others.

I’ll be back to adding a little to the Patton family history this week and I’ll also observe Meatless Monday with a new vegetarian recipe.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll learn which new February vegetarian cookbook leads in the group vote.

If you’re so inclined to play along, you might think about joining our on-line book club and occasionally trying simple and creative vegetarian/vegan recipes.

However your week begins, I wish you a very happy Monday…meatless is always optional.

I wonder what Mark Zukerberg is up to this Meatless Monday?

Did you hear Mark Zukerberg’s recent decision?  I learned that he routinely takes on significant personal challenges, but when I first heard his decision to only eat meat that he killed himself, I immediately flashed to the picture of a bored gazillionaire just trying to spice it up a bit! Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger.com cites categories for people who fall into part-time vegetarian status.  Hill lists one category,“The Assassin,” which like  Zukerberg,  includes people who only eat meat they first hunt!  Hill outlines his own struggle with conscience, since as a certified “green guy” he considers a vegetarian diet better for the planet; however, he just can’t quite go all the way.

So, in a speech presented at a TED conference and published as “Weekday Vegetarian” he describes his compromise, a decision to only eat meat on the weekend, and he offers a range of categories including The Happy Mealer, people who only eat sustainable meats, The Vampire, meat-eating only after sunset, and The Holier Than Thou–meat only on Sunday.

Although I don’t claim to be a vegetarian, I happen to really enjoy most “meat substitutes” and so it’s not hard for me to shift to a predominantly plant-based diet. I’ve been a part of the Meatless Monday Campaign for a long time, and have gradually extended that into most of the week. Why consider this at all?  I don’t have any one answer, except to say that my tastes have certainly shifted and I generally feel better.  But I think I need to find a new category of my own. Maybe my category could be The Ill At Ease—someone who eats meat only in social situations when a vegetarian option is not available. I prefer making my choices optional when other people are hosting a gathering. And actually, I’m a little self-conscious with the entire discussion, sensitive to how much privilege is associated with even having the abundance of choice!

A new fresh awareness of privilege played out purchasing a Subway sandwich. I was next in line behind a young woman, fascinated at her confidence as she deliciously chirped the most specific instructions to the sandwich artist, requesting “just heat the meat but don’t toast the bread,” and “can you put mayo on only one side of the sandwich?” She was ordering several to-go items and each one had variations I’d never heard before. The impatient lunch crowd was not short on eye-rolls, heavy sighs or under- breath remarks, but I was truly impressed with what seemed a rather ordinary, every-day example of the privilege of abundant choice!

One of Zuckerberg’s statements is that he thinks it is important to  be more aware of where his food comes from, and although I cannot even imagine his extreme-of-choice, and I almost cringe at the vocabulary associated with “conscious eating,”  I do think a measured response is to count it a privilege to have choice in the first place. So with much gratitude, I do observe a few simple challenges of my own, and think you may enjoy learning more about The Meatless Monday Campaign, too.

If you, or someone you care about is interested in learning more, I suggest going directly to  Meatless Monday | one day a week, cut out meat and learning more.  You might find it intriguing…I did.  And then I regularly follow this interesting site, Have Fun • Do Good: meatless monday, with many helpful suggestions. Simple food for thought.

And for such abundant supply, I encourage a week of gratitude.

…Debra