I just finished listening to one of NPR's On Point shows for today. Tom interviewed Mark Bittman who is a food columnist for the NY Times and many years ago wrote a cookbook called "How to Cook Everything". More recently, after having several health issues and also some concerns about the environment, he changed his eating habits to be more plant based and unprocessed. He wrote a book based on his new lifestyle called "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating". Of course, I am in favor of his new lifestyle, and while I already know and agree with most of the principles he follows, he did share a couple of pieces of data that still managed to shock me. He read a list of the top 10 foods that make up America's calorie consumption. Soda was number one. So, not even diet soda because there aren't any calories in that. I think cheeseburgers, beer and french fries also fell in the top ten. I can't remember what else. That's so appalling though. If we are what we eat, that doesn't say much about us as a culture, does it? We are a big glob of high fructose corn syrup. We are not going to stay the most powerful country in the world that way. We should be a lot smarter than that.
I hope his book is able to reach more of the masses. "China Study" and "Omnivores' Dilemma" are also convincing in promoting a plant based diet, but are probably too scientific for the average person to get through, and they are not cookbooks. Mark Bittman seems like a pretty average guy, and he was able to adopt this lifestyle pretty easily. He is not a hardcore vegan, but most of his meals are now free of animal products. It's alarming to me how many people say they can't go without meat for more than one or two meals (and that's just meat, not factoring in cheese or eggs, etc). I don't know what this is all about - if it's really some sort of image thing (especially with men), or if people just don't feel full enough without meat. I'm sure the "full" you get from an animal product free meal is a little different than one with meat. But, time and time again I hear from people that eat meat free for a while, but then "splurge" on a cheeseburger that they feel awful afterwards.
Bittman also made a good point about Vegetarianism: being a Vegetarian is not synonymous with being healthy and that being vegetarian can be just as bad, both health wise and environmentally as being a full time carnivore. Someone could eat nothing but Snickers bars and call themselves a vegetarian. Or, like many vegetarians do, one could replace all their meat with cheese and eggs. In this scenario, they are not doing their own health (cholesterol levels, etc.) any favors, and the dairy industry has the same farming issues (use of antibiotics and hormones) and treats animals just as poorly as the meat industry. As an aside, I believe he said that 18 billion animals are slaughtered each year in this country. Is that possible? I need to look into that.
Anyway, I am again reminded that I have let my dairy consumption increase over the last year, and I was reminded of this as I was sprinkling cheese on top of the stuffed squash I was making that really didn't need cheese. I am vowing right now, at the very least to change up my breakfast and stop eating yogurt every morning. I'm not even eating it because I enjoy it. I'm eating it for the bacteria and the calcium, but I can take acidophilus pills, and get my calcium elsewhere, like increasing my tofu intake.
Acorn Squash stuffed with Quinoa
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup veggie broth
2 acorn squashes, cut in half cross-wise, pulp scooped out
1 can black beans
1/2 cup cooked spinach (if using frozen), or 1-2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 tblsp cumin
salt and pepper
1. Rub some olive oil onto the insides of the acorn squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put flesh side up on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
2. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Put quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. In a tblsp of olive, saute onion, yellow pepper and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add black beans, cumin, and the veggie broth. Cook for a few more minutes, then add the corn and the spinach. When quinoa is ready add that to the mixture.
4. Take acorn squash out of the oven. It should be getting soft, but still not too easy to stick a fork in it. Put some stuffing in each. If you wanted to use some cheese, you would mix a little in now and sprinkle some on top. You will probably have more stuffing than you need, but you can have extra to eat on the side.
5. Bake for about 20 more minutes, until squash is easy to slide a fork into. It can be a bit "al dente". It doesn't need to be extremely soft.