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In this weekly series we have been discussing the benefits of a vegetarian diet including: better health, animal rights, public health, food safety, frugal living, global food and water security and the staggeringly huge impact of livestock/meat production to climate change/resource depletion.

               

Macca's Meatless Monday/Meatless Advocates is a solution oriented activist group, with solutions for some of the most pressing issues of our time including: climate change, global food/water insecurity and public health.  Here we don't just talk about the severity of the crisis.  Armed with knowledge about how our actions can contribute we become part of the solution.

I was inspired to create this series by former Beatle and vegetarian advocate Paul McCartney(Macca) who partnered with the Meatless Monday campaign to promote less consumption of meat.  We not only discuss the advantages of a less meat diet; we also do some cooking, share recipes and listen to great Beatle music!

Tis the season for gifting and it's a great opportunity to not only show how much you care but to make it a value gift that shows kindness not only to the recipient but to our planet as well. On the 12th day of Christmas you don't want the gift you purchased to be just junk.  I like homemade gifts; inviting guests over for a delicious dinner,  a good bottle of wine or a food gift that shows you were willing to give them a precious gift of your time.

For me, a food gift that includes chocolate is festive and special.  Make sure that the chocolate you choose for your recipe is fair trade and has not contributed to deforestation.  And definitely enjoy chocolate like there's no tomorrow because for chocolate there may not be as the production of chocolate is  being threatened by climate change.

Many of our recipes today would make delicious, thoughtful and economical gifts for family and friends.  Just wrap up in some holiday bags and ribbons and your gift will be welcomed and appreciated.

Thanks to all my eco-foodie friends this past year has been a year of firsts!  Starting with my trip to the United Nations in NYC and to DC to present my paper on livestock production and climate change.

In appreciation for your support I have the special e-book Monday Burger Cookbook Enjoy!

Now on to the chocolate!

       Nikki's Healthy Cookies
                                     Thank you Heidi Swanson
NIKKI'S HEALTHY COOKIES
Just because it's chocolate doesn't mean it's not healthy.  These cookies are fantastic for breakfast or snack and make a fab gift.

    3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm - so it isn't solid (or alternately, olive oil)
    2 cups rolled oats
    2/3 cup almond meal (can make you own..process almonds in processor until mealy)
    1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    6 - 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don't worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect - about 15 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.
          Untitled
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD
The most sought after gift this year I kid you not.  So many things you can do with this if you can keep from just eating it out of the jar.

    1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
    1 tsp vanilla
    3/4 cup powdered sugar
    1/4 cup cocoa
    3-4 tbsp vegetable or safflower oil
    2 tbsp soy milk

Using a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until fine and powdery. Process for another minute or two until the hazelnuts turn creamy and smooth.

Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy, adding a little bit more or less liquid to get desired consistency.
       Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD
Perfect for a holiday breakfast.

    1/4 cup soy milk
    1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    2 cups all purpose flour ( 9 oz)
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt plus a little pinch
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
    1/2 cup granulated sugar or organic sugar
    3 ripe bananas
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
    Some nuts for sprinkling on top (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Rub a loaf pan with oil and line with a rectangle of parchment.
    Mix together the soy milk and vinegar; set aside for about 2 minutes.
    Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and chocolate chips.
    Beat together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar, then beat in the bananas – you can mash them ahead of time or let the paddle attachment of the stand mixer do the work for you. I just chunked the bananas in with the oil & sugar and beat them that way. Continue beating on high until very light. Reduce speed to low and add milk/vinegar mixture. By hand, stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture, being careful not to overbeat. I like stirring flour mixture in with a heavy duty scraper. Sprinkle some nuts on top if using.
    Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for about 15 minutes then flip from pan. Makes 1 awesome loaf.
        Chocolate & Nut Covered Pretzels
NUTTY CRUNCHY CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS
A universally popular snack and a fast, easy gift.

1 medium bag of salted pretzels
1 12 oz. bag of semi - sweet chocolate
1 cup of walnuts (pecans or almonds would also be fine), chopped

Over a double boiler melt the chocolate. Using a butter knife spread the chocolate on the pretzel (it doesn't matter how messy it looks). Repeat. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the chopped nuts all over. Let cool completely, bag, and enjoy!
       extra caffeine
CHOCOLATE EXPRESSO BEANS
I don't like candy very much but these babies are addictive yummy pick-me-ups Makes about 1 cup...makes a perfect gift when packed in a pretty cup and wrapped.

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons espresso beans

Slowly melt the chocolate in a pan or double boiler over low heat, stirring as you do. You can also heat in a microwave oven on high for about a minute.

When the chocolate is completely melted, spoon in the espresso beans and stir to coat. Take two forks (Short tined forks such as salad forks work best) and lift several beans out of the chocolate, letting them drip a little if needed. Take one fork and gently push off the beans one at a time onto a cookie sheet. If more than one bean comes off, it's okay. Just separate them.

Continue until all the beans are on the cookie sheet.

Let the beans dry completely before storing them in an airtight container, such as a decorative jar. Keep in mind that drying takes longer under hot and humid conditions, and in some cases, you may want to dry them overnight.   Don't worry if they're not perfectly round they'll still be delish!          

        chocolate chili
CHOCOLATE CHILI
We can not live on treats alone so here is a hearty and healthy chili recipe that includes chocolate!

    1  tablespoon  olive oil
    1  clove garlic, minced
    1  small onion, finely chopped
    1  green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
    2  tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice, or one 16-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
    2  15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or use black beans)
    2  15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    5  cups  vegetable broth
    2  teaspoons  ground cumin
    1  teaspoon  salt
    1 1/2  ounces  bittersweet chocolate

    In a stockpot, over medium heat, cook the oil, garlic, onion, and green pepper until slightly softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
    Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, vegetable broth, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
    Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    Before serving, stir in the chocolate until melted.

      Squash, Chard, Chocolate Mole over Polenta
                                 h/t Heidi Swanson
BEAN MOLE with ROAST WINTER SQUASH
For a cozy at home winter evening. Serves 4

    1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) fresh borlotti beans or cook dried beans may use pinto or black beans also
    1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) winter squash
    olive oil
    4 - 5 big leaves of kale (3 1/2 ounces)
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 - 4 red jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded, and chopped
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 pound of fresh plum tomatoes, chopped or 14-ounce can
    2 teaspoons paprika
    1 ounce of almonds, dark roasted and finely ground
    2 ounces dark 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
    salt

Preheat oven to  350F / Gas mark 4. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the borlotti beans and cook for about 10-15 minute until they are just cooked or even slightly undercooked. Drain and cool under cold running water, and set aside.

Cut the squash flesh into good-sized chunks, about 2 cm or 3/4-inch squares, place them in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized on the outside but still firm. Reduce the oven temperature to  250F / Gas mark 1/2. (or you can brown the squash in a skillet.)

Without removing the central stem, cut the kale across the leaf into 2cm / 3/4-inch slices. Melt the butter into an oven-proof casserole dish (pot) and fry the onion and chilies gently over a low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized. Add the garlic and fry for three minutes more. Add the tomatoes and paprika, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the ground almonds, chocolate, squash, borlotti beans, kale, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven to cook gently for 2 hours.

Serve with polenta, tortillas, mashed potatoes or potato latkes.

"A World Without Love"  Peter and Gordon  written by Paul McCartney and given to P&G as a gift... "I don't care what they say I won't stay in a world without love

"Junk"  Paul McCartney

What have you all been cooking?  Please share your recipes and fave Beatle music here!

MMM will be taking a 2 week break.  Hope you all have a happy and peaceful new year.  See you in 2013!

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