As you all well know by now, I love to cook, eat, learn about foods and also learn what good or bad things they do to our bodies. My husband is always in awe, saying “how can you be reading about food again?”. It’s intriguing stuff and after all, it is our lifeline. That there are now countless magazines, books and tv shows about it is another thing all together. And can someone answer this for me? Why, when you are watching such shows as Chopped, do so many of the chefs seem to want to portray themselves as so bad-ass? Tats up and down the arms, piercings (do I sound old yet?)? And on some of these shows, the way the head chefs scream, scream, scream at their protegees? I know that cooking and food has become big business and I love it as much as the next person, but honestly, we are splitting eggs not atoms.
But I digress. So, in all my reading, the one thing that keeps popping out to me time and time again is that to eat a plant-based diet is JUST. PLAIN. HEALTHIER. Healthier for our planet because in raising all of the livestock that we consume, we are stripping and destroying our landscape and launching heinous amounts of greenhouse gases into our air which, of course, seems to be doing horrible things to the planet. I read some statistic that due to the current irresponsible fishing practices, if we continue on this path, there will be NO more fish by the year 2028 or some such thing. I’ll have to find where I read that. It’s an insane thought, isn’t it? No more fish? Anywhere? Eating less meat is also is healthier to humans…consume less meat products and more plant products. Better heart health, fewer cholesterol issues, more nutrients, vitamins and crucial minerals. More vitality, potentially longer lifespans.
Hmmm. I will admit that the thought of not enjoying a perfect slice of filet mignon ever again would make me cry. Don’t even get me started on…gulp…bacon. So what’s a girl to do? Just scale back, I say. This is something that I can control. In the current food climate of GMOs, pesticides on our crops and in our soil, pollution, and poor water quality, I’m going to try to control what I can control. Yes, I can buy organic and try to circumnavigate the pesticide issues (for example), but it seems that isn’t even necessarily a guarantee due to crafty labeling and lack of full-disclosure on the part of some companies. Frustrating, I tell you, very frustrating. A person just wants to eat good, healthy, tasty food and somehow this has become something you have to actively think about. Honestly.
So, that’s my solution at the moment. Just scaling back on our meat consumption. Not going vegetarian, by any means or certainly not launching into any “meat substitutes” (gross. blech. ew) but just cutting back a bit. Upping our plant consumption, getting creative with more vegetarian meals and eating more sustainably farmed fish. For adults, at least the adults in this house, we could make this leap in a relatively painless fashion, but feeding kids more vegetarian meals is where things get tricky for me. Some folks are trying the Meatless-Monday approach..I’m just letting the meat-free days land where they will during the week. I’m crazy that way.
Annnd…this sends me back to my cookbooks and cooking mags (and looking for new ones)…much to the amazement and amusement of my husband.
In one of the recent issues of Bon Appetit magazine, a noodle dish sprung off the pages at me. I think the gods had been hearing me talk about the whole less-meat thing, so they threw this recipe at me from one of my favorite noodle shops on the planet. It was in the “ask about a restaurant dish” section of the magazine and I was thrilled to find it. Penny’s Noodle Shop is in Chicago and is just delightful…big bowls of wonderful noodles, swimming in flavorful broths, topped with all manner of ingredients…my mouth waters thinking of the Chicago days and Penny’s.
Enjoy this meatless (or meatfull, if you prefer) dish!
Hot Pepper Noodles, courtesy of Penny’s Noodle Shop, via Bon Appetit
*equally good with tofu, beef, or shrimp in place of chicken
2 Tb. oyster sauce
1 Tb. Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 Tb. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
10 oz. dried wide rice noodles
2 Tb. vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 8. oz, skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 3/4″ pieces
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1 small onion, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai
Stir oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl to combine. Set aside.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and set aside.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add chicken (or tofu or whatever using) and cook, tossing often (or gently if using tofu), until cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
Add pepper, onion, tomatoes, and 2 Tb. reserved sauce to pan and toss to combine. Add noodles, egg, and remaining 2 Tb. sauce and toss to combine. Add basil leaves and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles and vegetables are completely coated with sauce and heated through, about 2 minutes more. Serves 2.