Give the planet a break with these meatless meals

You’re never too old to make a difference in the world. Nor is it too late to make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Fortunately, there is a very easy (and delicious) way to perform tikkun olam and reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers at the same time — eliminate animal products from your diet for a few meals a week.

It is now common knowledge that raising commercial livestock is responsible for the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest. It takes more resources to produce one pound of meat than any other food. One pound of steak requires five pounds of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline and erodes about 25 pounds of topsoil.

By contrast, it takes about 14 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat.

There is a strong correlation between meat consumption and deaths from heart disease and cancers of the bowel and prostate, as cited by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In “The China Study,” T. Colin Campbell writes that a study of 260 people age 65 to 90 found that ?a diet with less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and more carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals may be advisable not only to improve the general health of the elderly but also to improve cognitive function.”

Not only is raising and slaughtering animals for food destructive to our planet, it is unhealthy for our bodies. Longevity and a plant-based diet are closely correlated.

Eliminate animal products from your diet for a few meals a week. Not only will you be repairing the planet, you can help heal your body as well

Violet’s Spicy Red Beans and Rice | Serves 6-8

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, through the press
1 tsp. ground cumin seed
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbs. hot sauce
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups cooked white rice
fine sea salt
black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin and oregano and sauté until onions are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce, beans and rice, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Pita Crisps | Makes 32 pieces

4 large pitas
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
Cut the pita into quarters, then separate them horizontally. Lightly brush both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt. Bake the pita on a baking sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes, or until crisp.

Salat Hatzilim (Israeli Eggplant and Garlic Salad) | Serves 4-6

2 large eggplants, sliced
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
5 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
3 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Sprinkle the eggplant slices with the coarse sea salt, and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Rinse well with cool water, and pat dry. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with 4 Tbs. of the olive oil, place on baking sheets and roast in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until very soft.
Toss the garlic cloves with the remaining Tbs. of olive oil. Place the garlic cloves on the baking sheet with the eggplant and roast for 30 minutes, or until very soft. Remove the eggplant and the garlic from the oven, allow to cool slightly, then mash everything together with a fork. Mix in the parsley, salt and pepper. Serve with fresh pita or pita crisps.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].