Meatless Monday: Meatless Monday's BFF -- DeStress Monday

03/20/2017 07:07 am ET

You know, I could totally love Mondays (like I ever thought I’d say that). Maybe it’s because I’m coming off three days of bliss at World Happiness Summit . Maybe it’s because today’s the International Day of Happiness, Maybe it’s because the Monday Campaigns — the same folks who brought you Meatless Monday — have launched DeStress Monday.

Meatless Monday and DeStress Monday play well together. Stress is a killer — and not just a buzz kill. It beats down our immune systems, never a good thing and now it’s cold and flu season. Happiness is just as contagious as the flu, and a lot more fun. It can be your secret weapon, and today’s the best day of the week to deploy it. Each Monday lets you start each week fresh, energized, with new positive intentions. Starting the week with an up frame of mind not only puts you in a better mood, it contributes to better health, reducing blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease. You sleep better, you eat better. Which brings us to Meatless Monday. A produce-rich diet is another secret weapon linked to lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease. It’s also proven to reduce your cholesterol and your risk of everything nasty from cancer to diabetes even while it increases your risk of happiness.

These days, you can’t avoid stress. But DeStress Monday helps you manage it with techniques “to refresh your mind,” says Monday Campaign President Peggy Neu. There’s audio meditations (including some led by Neu herself — a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, by the way), yoga videos and infographics that change up your energy and makes you smile. In honor of International Day of Happiness, DeStress Monday’s spreading happiness with Happy New Week cards.  Designed and developed with pros at NYU Langone and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the program, the cards and the happiness are all free.

The World Happiness Report ranks countries on overall happiness, using a metric of

  • GDP per capita
  • social support
  • healthy life expectancy
  • freedom to make life choices
  • generosity

In the findings for 2017, just released today, America came in #19 among nations for overall happiness, and down six rankings from 2016 — not so happy. We also came in dead last when it comes to the amount of time we spend in the kitchen and at the table. You can’t tell me there’s not a connection.

Making more Mondays meatless can make you happy, make animals happy and destress our challenged planet, too. Call it Destress Monday, call it Meatless Monday — either way, we can create enough happiness to go around for everybody.

Miso Lacquered Tofu Bowl with Vegetables and Brown Rice

This Japanese-inspired bowl features miso, which like other cultured foods including kombucha and kimchi, promotes a healthy gut, proven to improve mood. Adding a squirt of sriracha adds a nontraditional but nice touch.

2 cups water or vegetable broth

1 cup brown rice

1 14-ounce container firm tofu, pressed, drained and blotted dry and cut into

bite-sized batons or cubes

2 tablespoons white miso

3 tablespoons sake or sherry

2 tablespoons mirin (rice wine)

1 tablespoon garlic (about 2 cloves), minced

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 teaspoon agave

1/2 cup water or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon neutral oil, like grapeseed or peanut

2 carrots, chopped

8 ounces shiitakes (or substitute white mushrooms),

1 bunch bok choy (or half a small cabbage), shredded

chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts for garnish

Pour water or vegetable broth into a medium saucepan. Heat over high heat and bring to boil. Pour in brown rice. Stir. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for 30 or 40 minutes or until the grains are tender and plump and all the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, make the marinade for the tofu. In a small bowl, combine white miso, sake or sherry, mirin, garlic, ginger and agave. Stir to combine into a thickish paste, somewhere between the consistency of tahini and nut butter.

Spread tofu on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with miso marinade — you will have some leftover. Broil on high heat for three to five minutes, or until the tofu starts to turn golden and blistered. Turn and continue broiling for another minute or two, until done on the other side.

Heat oil in a large saucepan, over medium-high heat. Add the sliced carrots and shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, or until vegetables soften. Add the shredded bok choy or cabbage — it will look like a lot, but the greens will wilt down once they meets the heat of the pan.

Stir the water or broth and rice vinegar into the remaining miso marinade. Pour it into the saucepan and stir into the vegetables to make just enough sauce. Heat through, another few minutes.

Spoon about 3/4 cup brown rice into four separate bowls. Top with a generous amount of vegetables and a scattering of the lacquered tofu. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro as desired.

Serves 4.

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