Meatless Monday? Try Meatless Month!

http://www.motherearthliving.com/Food-Matters/green-city-garden-girl-meatless-monday-try-meatless-month.aspx

KyLynn HullKyLynn Hull is a freelance writer who dabbles in many things including writing, urban farming and raising backyard chickens. She writes regularly for garden and food blog, Green City Garden Girl - Bound by the Seasons. 

After my sister and I returned from a 3,800-mile, food-coma road trip, we declared a need for a change.

Road trips are awesome in every way, except when you're constantly grabbing for the keep-awake Cheetos. I can't believe how many different flavors Cheetos come in. Unfortunately, we tried them all only after scarfing down the last bit of keep-awake beef jerky (sensing a theme here?) my sister dehydrated only moments before we hit the road. And I, also, took the initiative of trying every burger in every town when we did finally stop for a rest each evening. (By the way, have you tried the glorious Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City? Yes, my brother-in-law and I ordered the "Crown Burger," a char-broiled cheeseburger with a high pile of hot pastrami.)   

roadtrippers
The roadtrippers at Bryce Canyon, Utah. Photo Courtesy KyLynn Hull. 
 
I'd like to say things were different when we headed back home, however, there was no such move when it came to choosing our cuisine. On our last night, we ended up with a triple-decker pastrami, corned beef and turkey sandwich in Las Vegas. Hello! I guess that's what long road trips are for—saying "screw it" and succumbing to all those ridiculous burgers, heavy meat sandwiches and bags of cheese-flavored orange things.
 
So, when we returned to our respective homes, we almost couldn't wait to go meatless. We devised a menu and—living 8 hours away from each other—promised to talk about what we were preparing each night and swap recipes.
I reached out to my favorite vegetarian, a friend named Shelley, and asked her what some of her favorites were. This might seem hypocritical after reading what we all just ate on our road trip, but we typically don't buy processed food and cooking from scratch is the majority rather than the opposite. So, when I wanted to recreate my burger-in-every-city philosophy, yet, replace with a meatless option, I didn't want to rely on the pre-packaged meatless burgers, but rather make my own.

The process to create our menu got rather interesting and brought something to my cooking I've lacked recently—getting creative. Everything thing from fajitas, rice and beans and lasagna to Pomodoro and double-decker tacos, not to mention those black bean burgers were added. My sister's teenagers didn't even notice they were going meatless until after the first week when my sister mentioned it to a friend and one of them overhead and asked, "We haven't eaten meat all week?" Surprise, surprise!

We've decided we may extend our meatless month beyond its timeline. We aren't putting an end date to it. If the time is right, or if we go on another road trip, we may find ourselves enjoying a Rib-Eye steak once again.

So, in support of our "If we can go meatless, anyone can" philosophy, I'd like to share a few favorites from our personal menu plan. As always, adjust to your liking!!!

black bean burger patty
The Black Bean Burger before hitting the grill. Photo By KyLynn Hull.    

I-Kid-You-Not Black Bean Burgers   

1 15-ounce can black beans
1 red pepper (or orange, or yellow)
1 cup corn
1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups brown rice (cooked and cooled)
2 eggs
Salt and Pepper
Spicy aioli sauce
 
Puree black beans and red pepper and add to large bowl. Add corn, bread crumbs, brown rice, eggs and salt and pepper. Mix with hands and make 1-inch thick patties. Grill until heated through and top with favorite toppings. We added sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, homemade pickles and red onion, and finished it with a spicy aioli sauce: whisk mayo, cayenne and olive oil. Wha-La!

Rustic Lasagna 

Whole-wheat lasagna noodles (I've never found this, but my sister has!)
1 onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 big handfuls fresh spinach
Ricotta
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese

Saute onion, mushrooms and spinach. Cool slightly and mix with Ricotta. In baking dish, spoon tomato sauce in bottom and layer with cooking (or no-boil) lasagna noodles. Add layer of Ricotta/saute mixture and cover with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Follow with noodles and each layer until finished. Mozzarella should be added to top layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool 15.

Pomodoro   

Olive Oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Whole Wheat linguine or spaghetti noodles

Heat oil and add garlic to saute for a couple of minutes. Add Roma tomatoes and saute, turning stove down and simmering for 15-20 minutes. Cook pasta a la dente and drain; adding olive oil to keep from sticking. Return to stove and add chopped basil leaves, salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and serve with fresh parmigiano reggiano.