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Weekly challenge: consider going meatless on Mondays

Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation on Friday to embrace the notion of “meatless Mondays,” after the city council passed a resolution to urge residents to make a pledge to go vegetarian -- if they aren’t already -- one day a week. Restaurants will probably start offering more vegetarian options on Mondays, and supermarkets may put certain items like tofu on sale at the beginning of the week.

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative affiliated with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. The website provides information and recipes each week to help consumers reduce their consumption of meat by 15 percent to improve their health and the “health of the planet.”

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By meatless, the group means practically vegan if the recipes on the site are any indication. While beef and chicken are certainly out, so are fish and most dairy products. (I found yogurt and feta cheese in a few of their recipes.)

But this recipe for creamy porcini pasta uses tofu, lemon juice, honey, olive oil, and white wine vinegar to create a cream sauce because, well, creating a traditional vegetarian cream sauce can deliver a lot more saturated fat and calories than a lean 4-ounce cut of top round sirloin or a skinless chicken breast.

If you’re thinking of going meatless this Monday, try the group’s recipe for winter stew which uses seitan -- a wheat protein that’s packaged with a cut and texture similar to pepper steak -- instead of beef.

Winter Warmer Stew*

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound seitan, cut into chunks

1 large onion, sliced

4 medium carrots, sliced

4 medium potatoes, cubed

4 cups vegetable broth or water (enough to cover the vegetables)

1 15-ounce can beans (black or kidney)

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons low sodium tamari or soy sauce

2 teaspoons brown miso*

1 tablespoon flour (optional thickener)

Directions

Sauté the seitan and onion in olive oil, until onions are translucent. Add the carrots and potatoes and sauté for a few minutes longer. Add the vegetable broth to cover them.

Puree beans and diced tomatoes together in a blender until smooth. Add to the stew. Cook until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Add tamari and brown miso. If you would like a thicker stew, mix the flour with a small amount of water, and stir that into the stew. If you like more vegetables, you can also add diced mushrooms, celery, or any other fresh or frozen vegetables to this mix.

* courtesy of Meatless Monday

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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