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Meatless Monday: Small, Sustainable World

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It's a small world, as Walt Disney told us. And we're all hungry. I was thinking of this last week in Anaheim, where 60,000 of us converged. We weren't all going to the Magic Kingdom but to Natural Products Expo West, all of us eager to influence what you eat.

Our influence doesn't seem felt much right outside Disneyland, where there's nothing natural about the eats, just fast food, with nary a fresh vegetable to be scrounged. Inside the Anaheim Convention Center, it was a different story. There were plenty of natural and organic companies hawking products. Your food choices matter -- now more than ever. But better than the food and free samples was the vibe. The biggest Expo in its 32-year history coalesced around the idea of a magic kingdom where we all have access to fair, fresh, fabulous, healthy and sustainable food.

With so many of us, of course, we all have our own ideas about the best way to get there.

For me, well, you know, the beauty of a vegcentric lifestyle is ever on my mind, and it was an Expo extra to see more people and products proud to be vegan.

For the Organic Farming Research Foundation, what matters most is supporting organic farmers and the food they grow.

For James Beard, award-winning chef, and Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan, it's closing the food fairness gap by establishing local farmers markets in underserved communities.

For chefs like Akasha Richmond and Donna Prizgintas, it's making whole food accessible and awesome.

For Kamut king Bob Quinn, it's getting people to eat more nutrient-rich ancient grains and less processed food.

For Austin farmer Brenton Johnson, it's about growing organic food and growing his community.

What matters? All of it. All of it seems like a lot to swallow. It's best taken in small bites like these:

Go meatless at least one day a week. Monday works. I'll always have a seasonal meatless recipe for you, plus there's that nice alliteration. Keep the plant-based love going tomorrow, too, for Meatout.

Eat an ancient grain. Bite for bite, you get more nourishment than you do with processed grains and zero genetic modification.

Swap fast food for a feast from your farmers market -- we have over 7,000 across the country now. Support nonprofits like Wholesome Wave so fresh produce is available in every community.

Just sign the Just Label It pledge saying you demand genetically modified products be labeled.

Insist on organic. I'm not just saying this because I got to speak at the OFRF luncheon. Until there's a law identifying gmos, buying and eating organic is the only way to be sure your food hasn't been genetically monkeyed with and your food and our resources aren't being dosed with chemicals.

Support your local, organic farmer and you support your community, too.

We might have different ideas about the best way to create a healthy food system, the important thing is that we all play a part.

Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, commited citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Turns out that despite our record numbers, what the folks attending Expo West want is pretty much the same thing. Small world.


Kamut with Lemon and Mint

It is possible to be all of the above -- plant-based, organic, ancient grainy and accessible. Behold this recipe for kamut.

Kamut needs to be soaked overnight or at least several hours before cooking, so plan your life accordingly. This dish can be tarted up a million ways -- swap the spinach for other vegetables in season -- it's lovely with the first asparagus of spring, if you can wait that long. Add some diced tempeh, garnish with pistachios.

1 cup Kamut (sometimes sold as Kamut berries)
3-1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided use
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas (roughly half a 15-ounce can)
1 lemon, juice and zest
4 ounces (3 cups) fresh spinach, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring three cups of vegetable broth to boil in a large pot. Add rinsed and drained Kamut. Stir and return to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer Kamut for 90 minutes -- yes, alas, an hour and a half. But in that time, the Kamut will have grown exponentially, aborbed all the liquid and the result will be a fabulous ancient whole grain with both charm and chew.

Set Kamut aside to cool slightly.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and scallions, stirring gently until vegetables turn fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add chickpeas and Kamut. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium.

Squeeze in lemon juice, add chopped spinach by the handful, then add mint.

Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until Kamut is heated through. Finish with a lavish addition of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serves 4.

Keeps covered and refrigerated for several days. Flavor deepens over time. So if you make it for Meatless Monday, it'll be even better for Meatout. I'm just saying.

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