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Celebrate not one but two green holidays this week

Honor the Great American Meatout on March 20


by: REVIEW PHOTO: BARB RANDALL -  These spinach puffs would make a fun and special St. Patrick’s Day meal. Serve them as a side dish or as a vegetarian entrÉ©e. I know you are expecting recipes with an Irish influence in today’s column. As the luck of the Irish would have it, I selected recipes that celebrate the green of the holiday.

The Green Grits, offered as the eleventh entry in my 52 Sunday Dinners, is a bright and beautiful shade of green — certainly the dish will make a startling focus at a St. Patrick’s celebration. And the Spinach Puffs are as cute as buttons and twice as delicious — as well as green.

While neither dish is an example of Irish cuisine they both fit the bill to help you celebrate another very green holiday: The Great American Meatout.

Celebrated around the world on the first day of spring, people celebrate the Great American Meatout by pledging to eat no animal products just for the day, or longer.

Meatout is coordinated by FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement), a national non-profit, public interest organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The event is organized by local people who want us to consider participating in the event for three simple reasons:

1. Billions of animals are killed every year in the meat industry.

2. Agriculture is a leading cause of global warming and other environmental issues.

3. A majority of the illnesses faced in the United State stem from animal consumption.

The purpose of the Meatout is to expose the public to the joys and benefits of a plant-based diet, while promoting the availability and selection of alternatives to meat and dairy in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants and catering operations.

Let the Meatout be your test drive of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Research has found that people who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle enjoy a number of health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, a healthier body mass index, decreased risk of heart disease, decreased risks of cancer and better control and prevention of diabetes.

By pledging to celebrate the Great American Meatout you are also making the world a better place. Consider these “green” benefits of the holiday:

If you pledge to eliminate animal products for just one or two days a week over a year’s time you can spare 28 animals, preserve 770 square feet of rainforest and save 190,000 gallons of water. That’s a pretty big return for a small change in diet.

A totally plant-based diet is called a vegan diet. Vegans enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Here is a sample of what you might eat:

Breakfast — berries or banana sprinkled over your favorite cereal with a milk alternative, such as soy, rice or almond milk. (I’m loving Grapenuts with almond milk.)

Lunch — Salad topped with almonds, tomato soup, hummus or tofu pate with pita bread. (Have you tried Toby’s jalapeno tofu pate? It is pretty yummy!)

Dinner — pasta with marinara or puttenesca sauce, tossed greens, steamed asparagus.

Consider participating in the Great American Meatout. You can take baby steps toward the Meatout. Pledging to delete meat from your diet on March 20 is a benefit to you and the planet. Learn more at meatout.org.

The recipes I share today are vegetarian; they do include egg, cheese and butter, which are animal products. You can make them vegan by substituting egg substitutes and dairy-free cheeses and butters, which are easy to find in local groceries. And you get a little extra leprechaun treasure: a recipe for Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pistachios.

Bon Appetit — Eat something wonderful!

Spinach Puffs

I suggest you double this recipe as it makes only 6 servings. Serve it as a side dish or as an entrée.

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/4 cup minced onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped dill

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounces package), thawed, rolled out to a 12” square, kept chilled

Special equipment: A standard 6-cup muffin pan

Using your hands, squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as much water as possible (too much water will make for a soggy filling; you should have about 2/3 cup well-drained spinach). Mix spinach and feta, onion, olive oil, dill and garlic in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg to blend; fold into spinach mixture.

Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Reserve 1 strip for another use. Cut each remaining strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold pastry over filling, pressing corners together to meet in center.

Cook’s note: You can assemble the spinach puffs to this point up to 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Beat remaining egg to blend in a small bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash (this will give the pastry a nice sheen). Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around pan edges to loosen; turn out puffs onto rack to cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2012

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pistachios

Dark beer and molasses add rich depth of flavor to this moist and delicious cake.

Makes 10 servings

Cake:

1 cup Guinness extra stout or dark beer

1 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Candied pistachios

1 cup finely chopped pistachios

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 tablespoons sugar

Cream cheese frosting

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange peel

2 cups powdered sugar

For the cake: preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour three 8-inch diameter cake pans. Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Let stand 1 hour to cool completely.

Whisk flour, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs and both sugars in medium bowl to blend. Whisk in oil, then stout mixture. Gradually whisk stout-egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in fresh ginger.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centers of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; cool. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake separately in plastic and keep at room temperature.)

For candied pistachios: Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Mix pistachios and corn syrup in medium bowl. Add sugar and toss to coat. Working quickly so sugar doesn’t melt, spread pistachios on prepared baking sheet. Bake until pistachiuos are pale golden, about 8 minutes. Cool completely. (Pistachios can be made 1 day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

For cream cheese frosting: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Chill frosting 30 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer, rounded sided up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, rounded side up, then spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer, flat side up. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with candied pistachios. (Finished cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Cut cake into wedges and serve.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov. 2002.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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