These curried chickpea collard wraps serve as a delicious way to eat a savory curried dish-on the go!
A while back, I went to my fridge, and was trying to figure out what to do with all of the borderline produce that was about to go bad. After scratching my head, I thought ‘Why not make a curry??’
So I did. If you have not caught on, Curried anything is one of my favorite ways to eat my food. Ther’s something about that combination of spices and creamy consistency you get when you ingest that morsel of goodness.
Back to my story.
I decided to make a curry with some leftover veggies, and added chickpeas for their protein and delicious flavor. I wanted to take it up one step and turn my curried medley into wraps. I realized that I had some leftover collards, so I decided to use the collards as the wrap vessels. Doing so gave this a nice, lower carb bite with a hearty dose of vitamin K. While many boast using lettuce as wraps, I really think that using collards is the way to go. The leaves are large, pliable, and can easily fit a decent amount of food. You just have to make sure that the collards are blanched, and I will guide you through that step in the recipe.
I used a vegan mayo to make this recipe completely plant-based, but you can use whatever type of mayo you want! Don’t have access to dates?? Sub dates for 1 small pear or apple, and that will taste just as mouth-watering!
If you are looking for a simple and delicious way to enjoy chickpeas (and your veggies!), I highly recommend that you give this delicious curried chickpea collard wraps recipe a try. So let’s move onto the recipe!
These Curried Chickpea Collard Wraps are a delicious way to eat a savory curried dish-on the go!
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword: gluten-free, vegan
32oz.can of chickpeasdrained
4collard green leaveslarge
Prepping collard leaves-Allow large pot of water to boil. While boiling water, afterrinsing collards, gently remove stalks from center of collard leaves. Oncewater is at a rolling boil, gently place collard leaves and Blanche for 30seconds. Immediately remove, place in ice cold water for 25-30 minutes, oruntil collard leaves have softened. Pat down with clean towel, and set aside.
Finelydice the onion and carrot until there are 1/4” cubes. Set aside
Take askillet and preheat and add the cooking oil to the skillet.
Oncethe skillet is warm enough, add all of the ingredients (except mayonnaise andchickpeas) together, and sauté on medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes,until the carrot/onion mixture has some light golden brown charring. Add thechickpeas during the last 4 minutes of the sautéing.
Once the chickpea mixture has finished sautéing, turn off skillet & remove fromheat. After cooling off for about 2 minutes, add in the veganaise, and mixwell. Serve over your favorite type of bread (or wrap/ or leafy green wrap!)and enjoy!!
Nutritional information per serving (without bread):
Throughout the course of my mere 30 year existence on this planet, I have had the privilege of meeting and connecting with some incredible folks who are doing beautiful things to help make this planet a better place for all. Jon Dengler is no exception. Jon wears many hats: He’s a chef, an artist, a handyman, an entrepreneur, a community leader, and a good friend of mine.
Among other hats, Jon is also a survivor. When he was 17, Dengler survived a major car collision which nearly took his life. A couple years later, Jon encountered Jesus through an LSD trip he had with friends. This magical encounter led to a transformative life re-direction, which eventually led him to connecting with the houseless on the streets, and eventually founding what we now know as The Well.
Today, Jon is the founder, and Executive Director of The Well, a Tampa-based organization and movement of people committed to living in direct relationships with the poor. The work that The Well is doing is encompassing, and involves the intersections of social enterprise, community empowerment, and food justice.
The Well’s origins are faith-based, and inspired by the teachings and examples of the life that Jesus lived; a life that centered on loving the poor, feeding the hungry, and giving voices to the voiceless. The Well movement facilitates meal sites, hosts a monthly open mic. night (known as The Conscious Party), operates a bicycle shop social enterprise (known as Wellbuilt Bikes), among other amazing things. This is truly an organization that works diligently to put their faith in action. Everyone is welcomed to have a seat at their dinner table.
I have worked on and off with Jon throughout the years, and wanted to reconnect with him, to learn more about his life, and what he has been doing with The Well. In this edition of Farm to Spork, I am proud to feature my good friend, and introduce you to this fabulous organization, known as the The Well. The following is an interview that I had with Jon Dengler back in late August of 2019. Please note that this transcript of our interview has been lightly annotated and edited, for clarification purposes.
[The Funky Spork] What is The Well?
[Jon Dengler]The Well is a Community of people that are trying our best to try to walk in relationship with folk, who are often in material need. Over time, we became a 501c3 organization. That community is making up excuses to build bridges between folks who have and need resources. Sometimes we build tables, and sometimes we build bike shops for the excuse of bringing people together across racial and socioeconomic lines. In these tables we sit together, and listen to one another’s stories, and hopefully form relationships.
We do stuff with food, gardens, and bikes, and open miss. We use different excuses to bring people together.
[The Funky Spork] It definitely sounds like The Well is a movement, and not just a place. A place you put yourself what and wherever the needs are.
[Jon Dengler]Yes. We did have a place at one point, which did cause an identity crisis. The Well, that was a community, that was clear to us, rented out a space to do our work. For many, the physical location, rather than our social movement, became regarded as The Well. As the neighborhood our headquarters was located in began to gentrify and experience a demographic change, we got pushed out of our building, and therefore had to leave. Because of this, many thought that The Well had come to an End.
The eviction from our physical location resulted in us forcing ourselves how to adapt and continue to bring the services of The Well to the community. For example, our free pantry, which previously ran in in the previous location eventually became a mobile market, which we now call The Kinship Market. The Kinship Market now goes out to neighborhoods and other areas around Tampa which are either considered as food deserts or have a lot of people experiencing food insecurity. The Kinship Market gives us the opportunity to bring food to families-food which might have otherwise gone to waste.
[The Funky Spork] What geographic areas do you serve? I understand that a lot of the work you do has been focused in Tampa. But do the services of The Well reach any other part of the Tampa Bay area?
[Jon Dengler]It is all in Tampa right now. Our services are focused on familiar neighborhoods and areas we already know. For example, through The Kinship Market, we serve dinners at locations, such as The Good Samaritan Inn, the Sulfur Springs neighborhood, the University Area (dubbed ‘Suitcase City’), and here at Waters Avenue Church. I am currently in talks about bringing services of The Kinship to St. Pete.
The beauty of The Kinship is that it is a community-driven movement. If there is a group, such as a church or other organization with a group of members who are interested in volunteering with us on a consistent basis, we can connect them to one of our meal site locations, where the volunteers can eventually form meaningful relationships with the people that they are serving.
[The Funky Spork] What inspired you to launch The Well?
[Jon Dengler]When I became a Christian, I began to read The Bible and take it seriously. But I never went to church, for years. And then eventually, I did and hated it. I found that my experiences going to church had nothing to do with the Jesus I’ve been reading about in the scriptures, besides hearing his name in the worship songs. I didn’t get it, and thought that something was probably wrong with me. Once I heard about the church’s $6 million capital campaign, I became disinterested, and left that church.
I eventually heard about a church that was sharing food with the homeless. Their outreach resonated with me, and I became interested in volunteering. The name of the church was Bethel. One Florida winter night, I joined other volunteers, and hoped in the church van in order to pass out blankets and food to the homeless around downtown Tampa. That night, I remember walking down a dark alley, which smelled of strong urine. While there, I connected with a man, squatted next to him, passed him a blanket and warm food, and awkwardly asked him to share his story with me. I remember strongly resonating with him and his story.
Later that night, after volunteering, I remember going back home, and lying in bed with my warm blanket, and pillow. All night, I kept thinking about how people often do this type of outreach and became perplexed about the fact that people often do this type of outreach and feel good, afterwards. I was not feeling good, and was feeling like crap. I remember thinking about the fact that I had clothes in my closet, a car in the driveway, a roof over my head, running water that heats up, a refrigerator with food in it. I kept thinking about the fact that I had access to all this stuff, while this brother that I just connected with was sleeping in that alley, and was probably sleeping in his own urine, hoping that someone comes by with some food.
That night began a haunting. It was that cold night that really pointed to the beginning. It was that night that made me realize that I cannot continue living in a world that works this way. So if I’m not going to kill myself, I’m going to kill myself trying to change it. I’m not really sure if I have made a difference, but I know that it’s made a difference to me.
[The Funky Spork] The Well has a food pantry and a garden. How do you see The Well fitting within the overall food systems process?
[Jon Dengler]In North America, we waste a tremendous amount. Over 40 percent of food produced is winding up in the garbage. This may be because of buffet lines, expiration dates, and a bunch of other reasons. Part of what we are trying to do is capture perfectly good food from the waste stream, save it from landfills, and bring it to people who might often go without food.
I will tell you that in the United States, nobody is really starving. There is food to be had. People, on the other hand, might be malnourished, with limitations to unhealthy, processed junk foods. What we are trying to do is bring healthy food to those in need. While we know we are not solving world hunger, we know that we are building relationships through our time serving food.
As far as our gardens are concerned, we are inviting people into the production of food. Someone may be without work or food, and we can help empower them by providing them with a space to grow their own food.
Not only do I love food, but food is one of our most intimate connections with Creation, with the planet. It is something that we all depend on. Food is sacred. Food is so central to existence and relationships. We bond over a shared meal, we connect with the Earth over a shared meal, and we encounter God over food. I really want to invite people into the production of food, the preparation of food, the harvesting of food.
Ultimately, I believe in building bridges in unity and connections, because I think that poverty grows out of relationships that they should. We have houses that are empty, and people without houses. Food that goes wasted, and people without food. The relational healing that is needed is access to one another. I believe that that happens with relationship, and relationship happens around the table. This is why I use the image of the table, even if we are just turning wrenches around a bike. For me, it’s common tables that we want to set.
[The Funky Spork] Has your view of food changed at all, since establishing The Well?
[Jon Dengler]My view of food has changed dramatically. Back in the day, my now fiancé and I did an experiment. We did a 40-day fast, where we only ate food that was sourced within a 100-mile radius of us. We didn’t even consume oils, such as olive oil, and only consumed salt later on into the fast. Our bodies eventually became so physically deprived of salt, we went out into the Gulf of Mexico to obtain a few buckets of seawater, and laid them out in flat pans above my roof, until all of the water was evaporated, and sea salt remained (something that I don’t recommend!).
The experience of the fast deeply affected me, for the first reason being that we even did the fast in the first place. The experience also made us realize how little locally-sourced food there was readily available around us. For instance, I found that since the Gulf of Mexico encompassed a large portion of the 100-mile radius of Tampa, I spent a lot of time fishing out on the gulf. One of the reasons this fast had deeply affected me was because I realized that if we didn’t have systems that were bringing in food, the cost of a tomato would be bloodshed, and I want to do something about that. And I want to do something about that with gardens, I want to do something about that with community-building and development. We have got to do something to work on food security, collectively.
[The Funky Spork] What’s next for The Well?
[Jon Dengler]There’s a lot that we want to do! Our vision statement is for us is ‘To see needs met, bridges built, and a city made whole’. We especially want to build as many bridges as we can. We want to use as many excuses as we can to do so. We have a lot of ideas on how we can do that, including our current social enterprise initiative, known as Wellbuilt Bikes. Wellbuilt Bikes has been a powerful lesson for us to deepen our conviction around social enterprise, and leveraging business for the sake of our aims. Wellbuilt Bikes has been a powerful lesson for sustainability and impact purposes. So we want to iterate on all of that by focusing on food.
Stay tuned. As we aim toward developing a well-built city, you will see lots of initiatives beginning. We want to get our hands in a lot more places. We believe we can use our movement to address needs around food, housing, clothing, and transportation. We also believe that we can develop sustainable opportunities for folks to earn income, as well. And we are going to work like hell on that. We would like to invite everyone to contribute to our vision of a well-built city.
WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.
This year, my husband and I decided to become members of a local CSA (Community-Supported Agricultural system), and decided to become members of Steed Farm, the local CSA in our hometown. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a CSA is a system where the consumer has the opportunity to subscribe to the local harvest of a local farm or collective of farms (Click here if you’re interested in seeing my CSA video-its good stuff!).
I recently received my first share of produce, which was super exciting. No joke…we probably came home with about 7 pounds worth of produce. Among all of the goodies I received, I had two very large and hefty zucchini fruits. After trying to figure out how I was going to prepare them, I had an ‘A-ha!’ moment: Why not turn them into fritters?!?! I had most of the ingredients, to do so.
The Moment of Truth
After experimenting with this dish three different times, and modifying each of the ingredient quantities, I am proud to announce that I finally came up with a recipe that I am super proud of. Folks, I present you with my very tasty zucchini fritters. These fritters contain feta cheese, which naturally gives these the salt and amount of zing these babies need. If you don’t want to fry them, no worries! I included a step which shows you how to bake ‘em. These fritters are pretty low in carbs, which is why I opted for Almond flour in my recipe. But you can use whatever other type of flour you’d like! The flour ratio should still be the same.
A couple disclaimers before I proceed:
The quality of the skillet you use matters (take it from me). If you opt for frying, these fritters are prone to sticking on the bottom of the skillet and WILL crumble a part if you do not make sure that you do not have a non-stick surface.
WARNING: These fritters are addictive. Even though they are low in carbs (per serving), you may wind up wanting to eat the whole batch. Just a heads up…
WARNING: These zucchini fritters are extremely addictive.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Keyword: low-carb, vegetarian
1tbsp.crushed red pepper flakes
Finely dice onion into ¼" cubes, and set aside.
Coarsely chop zucchini into 1” Cubes, separate them into three batches. Place each batchinto a food processor and pulse for about three seconds, two-three times, untilthe zucchini pieces are roughly ¼” in size. Repeat this step for each batch.
After all of the zucchini has been pulsed, take a cheese cloth, and squeeze as muchof the water out of the zucchini chunks, until almost all of the liquid has drained out. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl, except the oil. Gently stir untileverything looks evenly mixed.
Cookyour zucchini fritters using one of two methods:
Frying:Heat your large skillet to medium heat, and add the cooking oil. While theskillet is heating, take your batter, and create balls which are about one-one anda half inches in diameter. Creating the mini patties is best to use with atablespoon. Gently drop each medallion-sized patty into the skillet, and allowto fry on each side for about 2 minutes on each side (no more than three minutes),until each side is golden browned. Try not to fry more than five patties at atime. Repeat until all pieces are cooked.
Baking:Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once oven has pre-heated, lightly grease a largebaking sheet, and form mini patties the size of 1-1.5 inch medallions. Bakefritters for about 25-30 minutes, until the fritters have golden browned.
Enjoy your zucchini fritters with some marinara sauce, or sour cream!
Nutritional Information per serving (serving size- 4 fritters):
These spicy honey-baked chicken thighs are a beautiful dance filled with sweet, bold, and juicy flavors that you and your family will love!
You may be similar to me in the sense that you do the best
you can in order to consume ethically-sourced food, as often as humanly
possible. This could include sourcing your veggies from a community garden, or
making your own batches of vegan ice cream. Others, including myself, have been
on a quest to find ethically-sourced meats.
Is that even possible?
While this specific question can certainly be seen as controversial, and filled with arguments from the sides of vegans and omnivores, I would like to take the argument and say ‘Yes!’ It is possible to find ethically-sourced meat. The key is to find sources of meat that come from local, small-scale farmers. As an alternative to environmentally-degrading factory farm systems, there are many small-scale farmers what are intentional about raise their livestock in a free-range manner, free of any use of antibiotics or added growth hormones. Many of these farmers work to ensure that the animals are not only provided with ample space, but are raised with dignity.
Local Meat FTW
I recently had the opportunity to befriend John Roberts, the owner of Olivor Farms, a small-scale livestock operation based out of Dover, Florida. John and his wife Chrysti raise free-range chickens and grass-finished beef cows on open pastures around the Dover area. This couple and their brand truly believe in the importance of transparency and honesty. I wrote a recent Farm to Spork feature about Olivor Farms, which can be accessed here.
After interviewing John, I knew that I had to try some of their chicken, for myself. And let me tell you…it’s delicious and worth every penny. Being that I absolutely love eating dark meat, I developed a mouth-watering recipe that I believe you and your family will enjoy.
The thighs turned out absolutely juicy, and had a lovely tangy-spigy-sweet flavor. But in my opinion, the heat was very tolerable, and not at-all unpleasant. I sourced the particular spicy honey that I used for this recipe from The Corner Store, a Plant City café and natural goods market that specializes in the sale of gourmet, organic, and locally-sourced items. If you have sensitivity to heat, you can definitely opt for a milder honey!
Describing the baked chicken sure is making me hungry…let’s
move onto the recipe!
These spicy honey-baked chicken thighs are a beautiful dance filled with sweet, bold, and juicy flavors that you and your family will love!
Course: Main Course
4raw chicken thighswith skin
In a large bowl, combine the entire set of spicesby whisking with a fork until well-blended. Gently puncture each of the thighswith a fork until there are several small holes in each piece. Place each thigh in large bowl and gently mix marinade into chicken until each thigh iswell-coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes-overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once oven has finished pre-heating, take a onoven-safe casserole dish, lightly grease the bottom of it, and place thechicken thighs in the dish. Allow to bake for 30-35 minutes, or until thejuices run clear. If you have a food thermometer, the internal temperatureshould be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Allow chicken thighs to cool for at least 5 minutes, and enjoy!
You can have your meat, and eat it too! This became evident, as I had the chance to become acquainted with the husband and wife duo John Chrysti Roberts, owners of Olivor Heritage Farms. Olivor Heritage Farms is a Dover-based farm which specializes in the raising of pasture-raised poultry, and eggs. The farm also specializes in the production of grass-fed beef, heritage pork (such as Berkshire hog), cheese, butter, wild game meats, and pasture-raised duck. At the end, The Roberts’ mission is to encourage the public to eat more humanely-sourced and raised meat and animal products. This couple also believes in the importance of transparency, by informing consumers about where and how their products are sourced.
from their products, this couple is very intentional about placing their family
at the epicenter of their lives. Even their company name Olivor, was a hybrid
between the names of Jon’s two grandkids: Olivor and Ivor! Before the farm
began raising a wide array of livestock, the Roberts’ thought about their own
family’s needs, and the value of wholesome foods. This couple wanted to make
sure that they knew at all times where and how their food was being sourced,
and wanted to not only instill these values upon their family, but to share
this passion with the community at-large. Hence, Olivor Farms, as we know it,
The following is a portion of an interview that I recently conducted with John Roberts. Please note that this interview has been lightly annotated and edited, for clarification purposes. Interested in the delicious Spicy Honey-Baked Chicken Thigh recipe I created, using their chicken? Click here.
[The Funky Spork] How long have your been farming, and what inspired
you to go into this venture?
My wife and I retired back in February of 2016, and began raising chickens and
eggs back in 2015. We had started the farm a year beforehand and were primarily
served as a source of retirement income. My former work consisted of 30+ years
within the produce sector. Since my wife
and I were already retired, our intention was not to start a full-time
business. My interest in establishing Olivor Farms generated as a result of my
frustration with meat coming from factory farms, and the inhumane treatment of
animals in the process. So I originally raised beef for me and my family to
consume, as a result.
We should be responsible
in our supply chain. If you’re rising your animals in a healthy, clean
environment, not only are they happier, but the quality of the meat will be
better. It just makes sense on both sides: It’s not only good from an ethical
stance, but it’s also good for our food supply. Its healthier food, its cleaner
food, and the animals are more humanely raised. It’s just better all the way
around, and raising livestock in this manner is completely sustainable.
[The Funky Spork]What differentiates your operation from a more conventional produce and meat operation?
I’ll give you one example: In the space that we raise two of our Berkshire
hogs, the conventional or factory farming type of situation would have 200-300
pigs in that area. Or, similarly to a space size where we would raise 25
chickens, a factory farming operation would raise a couple hundred chickens.
So, factory farming is not as sustainable.
What we are also doing
is good for everything around us, including the supporting of other farmers.
For example, we work with other local farmers that grow row crops and berries.
We can put our chicken tractors in their fields where they may be growing a
crop, such as strawberries. As a result, our chickens leave fertilizer, and
also till the land, which regenerated the land. We are getting with other
farmers in the area to create a complete cycle: We will have our chickens go
behind the cattle of a host farmer. As a result, the grass around the chickens
begins to grow, and we can then place the cattle back in that area to consume
the grass. We are therefore helping to create a sustainable cycle.
[The Funky Spork] Are there any other types of sustainable
practices that you are utilizing in your operations?
We use Non-GMO feeds. We also don’t use any pesticides, herbicides, or
fungicides on our land, at all. We stray away from using products, like
Roundup. We don’t use any of those products or chemicals on our property or on
[The Funky Spork] What would you recommend look for, ask for,
or consider when purchasing meat?
[John] Don’t be
afraid to ask questions:Definitely, ask about its source. Country
of origin matters, because they don’t necessarily have to label the country of
origin. Most meat sources also do not have to label whether or not their
products are genetically modified. So you would want to ask your vendors where
does the meat come from, where is it processed, and was it genetically
We can look at grass-fed beef, as an example. Grass-fed and grass-finished
piece of meat. The finishing during the last 90 days is where all of the bad
stuff takes place. If the beef is grass-finished, it’s going to more likely be
sustainable pasture-raised cattle. USDA only requires that a ‘grass-fed’ label
be applied to cattle which have only eaten grass for duration of 30 percent of
its lifespan. Therefore, as a consumer,
you will want to ask whether or not the beef you are about to purchase is
grass-finished. Don’t be afraid to search the company brand online to find out
where and how their meat is sourced.
antibiotic-free label is also a joke, because it’s illegal to use human
antibiotics in animal production. In the meat industry, we have to different
categories. Antibiotic free just means that the meat was tested antibiotic
free, where most antibiotics take about 30 days to get out of an animal’s
system. As a consumer, you want to ask if the product is never ever
antibiotics, which means that the animal was never given antibiotics in during
the course of its life.
There is economic
value in locally-sourced meat:For example, if you went to McDonalds and
purchased a value meal for one person, you could pay anything from $8-$10. With
that same amount of money, you can buy a pound of grass-fed finished beef,
hamburger bunds, and toppings for about the same cost, and feed four people.
With smart choices, good shopping, and complete (heat-to-tail) use of the
animal, you can have a good economic value. If the livestock is raised, and
consumed properly and ethically, you can actually have a good system.
Get to know your
farmer:One of the best ways to source quality meat
is by supporting local farmers. You can not only get to learn more about the
person farming and raising the livestock, but you will get to build a
relationship, as well. We want to build a trusting, relationship with our
customer, who becomes part of our family. Our customers value that we are
giving them truthful information.
If you live in Hillsborough County, you can purchase Olivor Farms meat at the Brandon location of Chuck’s Natural Fields Market, located at 114 N Kings Ave, Brandon, FL 33510.
This mesquite cauliflower and lentil bowl is a dish that is delicious, and planet-friendly!
You’re probably like me, in the sense that you are trying to live your best life possible. Maybe this effort includes giving back to the community by being physically active, and trying to eat as healthy as possible-on top of every other responsibility you may have.
What about this planet? Where does being a good environmental steward come into play with you trying to live out your best life? What steps are you making in order to make sure that your actions, and decisions have a good impact on the Earth, and everyone else who lives here? Then the effort of living your best life shifts to living our best life.
A Global Perspective
Let’s take a step back and think globally, for a second. According to a 2017 study conducted by the United Nations, by the year 2050, Planet Earth’s population will surpass 9.8 billion inhabitants-all fighting for the same diminishing resources. Trying to live your best life, while also trying to live healthily and being a mindful steward to our ever-crowding planet may not only seem heavy, but can also become an extremely overwhelming effort.
What if I told you can take the first step of living an equally healthy and sustainable life by choosing what and how you eat? It’s definitely a great place to begin. While attempting to adopt such a golden diet may seem daunting, there is one team of scientists and researchers which may have one solution to this dilemma. In 2019, The EAT Lancet Commission was formed as an effort to address this dichotomy. The EAT-Lancet Commission comprised of over 37 leading scientists and researchers from over 16 countries who work in the arenas of agriculture. Human health, environmental science and political science who worked together to develop scientifically-backed global targets for healthy diets and a sustainable food production system (“Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission”, 2019).
A Planetary Health Plate
So what and
how does the EAT-Lancet Commission reccomend we eat? The Commission developed a
planetary health plate that consists of roughly half a plate of fruits and vegetables.
The Other half of this plate would primarily consist of whole grains (such as
rice and barley), plant-sourced protein, and unsaturated plant oils (such as olive
and sesame). The Planetary includes minimal consumption of animal-based foods
(such as meat, dairy, and eggs), sugars, and even includes a significant
limitation of starchy vegetables and (“Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission”, 2019).
Ever since I found out about the Planetary Health Plate, I have been intrigued. I definitely fall within the camp of folks who is trying my best to eat in a healthy manner while also being environmentally conscientious. I wanted to accept the challenge of eating in a way that complies with the principles of the EAT Lancet Commission, as best as I could. With that being said, I bring you my first Planetary Health Plate Dish-or should I say bowl, in this case?
An Earth-Friendly Meal?
With this, I bring to you a very delicious and hearty Mesquite Cauliflower and Lentil bowl. This delicious bowl has a very rich set of flavors, which combine the natural meatiness of Lentils, with the versatility of rice. The roasted cauliflower with the homemade mesquite marinade gives this dish a burst of subtle smoke and heat-packed flavor. The incorporation of onion, garlic and generous amounts of kale help to ensure that at least half of this bowl comprised of vegetables-a recommendation of the Planetary health plate guideline. I will admit that while the guidelines recommend a minimal amount of starchy vegetables, I did incorporate a small sweet potato into my recipe, since I wanted to clean out my fridge in the process-therefore, reducing food waste. The incorporation of the sweet potato is entirely up to you! All in all, this dish took about 40 minutes to prepare, excluding the time you are preheating your oven. This may seem like a long time, but the dish was actually simple to prepare, since most of these ingredients cooked themselves, with minimal effort to watch over.
Ready to get cookin’?! Let’s move onto the recipe!
This mesquite cauliflower and lentil bowl is a dish that is delicious, and planet-friendly!
Course: Main Course
Keyword: gluten-free, vegan
1cupBlack rice(*or whatever other rice you have)
Roasted Mesquite Cauliflower
4oz.can tomato sauce
2cupskale or spinach
1sweet potatodiced (optional ingredient)
First, before moving forward withany other step, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooking the Rice
[Method 1: Rice Cooker] Load the rice cooker with the rice and water, press the startbutton, cover, and allow for the rice to cook for about 25-35 minutes, or untilthe cooker indicated that the rice has finished cooking. Afterwards, fluff withfork.
[Method 2: Stovetop] in a medium pot, combine the rice and water, and heat onmedium-high and allow to boil. Once the rice reaches a rolling boil, reduce theheat to low, cover, and allow to cook for 25-35 minutes or until you see thatall of the water has evaporated. Afterwards, fluff with fork.
Whilewaiting for the rice to cook, begin preparing the roasted cauliflower:
Coarselydice cauliflower into pieces that are roughly 2”-3” in size. Place in anoven-safe casserole dish, and set aside.
Makingthe mesquite marinade: In a bowl, combine the maple syrup, the chili powder,smoked paprika, oil, and salt until well-combined.
Gently pour over the mesquite marinade over the cauliflower pieces, and gentlymix marinade with your hands until each piece of cauliflower is well-coated.
Placein center rack of oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Afterwards, take out of theoven, flip each piece over, and place in the oven again for 15-20 minutes, oruntil each piece of cauliflower has lightly caramelized.
Whilewaiting for cauliflower and rice to finish cooking, begin preparing lentilstew.
In a fine mesh, rinse out lentils, until small rocks and debris have been removed.
In a medium pot, add the cooking oil, and let it heat up for about 10-30 secondson medium-high. Gradually, add in the onions and garlic and sauté for about 3minutes, or until the onions become translucent. At that point, add thelentils, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, turmeric, salt and sweet potato andallow to heat up until boiling. Once you see that the stew begins to boil,reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow the lentil stew to cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils have absorbed the broth. During the last 10minutes of the lentils simmering, mix in the kale, and cover again.
Addeach of these elements into a bowl or plate of your choice, and enjoy!
When we examine the overall scope of our
food systems, we must acknowledge the diverse array of characters involved
within the equation: Some folks may be farmers, while others may be local
business others. Others, in this particular case, may be academics. I recently
had the privilege to meet Dell Dechant, the Associate Chair and Master Instructor
of The University of South Florida’s Religious Studies Department. For the past
ten years, DeChant’s work has focused on the concept of Food Sovereignty, a
concept we will delve into throughout the course of this article. His work is
seen beyond the classroom, and evident throughout the town of Newport Richey. As
a longtime New Port Richey resident, DeChant has been involved with several
local food movements, including his efforts in helping the city establish and
adopt a community gardening and urban farming ordinance, both of which
encourage the growth and cultivation of food.
better way to learn about the character and breadth of DeChant’s work, than by
sitting down, over a casual lunchtime chat? The following is an annotated
transcript of our recent interview, which took place at Roses Bistro, a local
restaurant located in the heart of Downtown New Port Richey. As a note, our
interview has been annotated and lightly edited for clarification purposes.
1. [The Funky Spork]
Tell us about yourself, and the academic work that you do.
I would like to first begin by clarifying that the study of Religion is the
study of culture systems, the study of language, history, and the way cultures
interact with one another. We also look at the study of the Sacred Legitimation
of a culture. What do we value? What do we place meaning in? What we value and
what we find meaning in is a Sacred component of our life experience.
experiences within popular culture can also be considered within the
examination of Religion. What I study are manifestations of the Sacred within
contemporary culture: That can look like traditional expressions of what
we call religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and so on. But
manifestations of the Sacred can also occur in seemingly secular aspects of
culture: politics, economics, and the media. For example, in terms of
manifestations of the Sacred: What does it mean for a culture to
embrace the acquisition of goods and consumerism as a source of meaning,
value, purpose, and identity? In other words, what are we, as a culture, willing to
make sacrifices for? What are we willing to put all of our energies into for
the sake of enrichment, empowerment, and for self-understanding? These are some
of the nuances that attracted me to Religious Studies.
2. [The Funky Spork] How
do you intersect the academic work you are doing in religious studies with the
Food Sovereignty and justice movement?
My study of religion and contemporary culture eventually led me to the study of
Religion and Ecology, and Religion and Food Systems, two areas that I have been
working on for the past ten years. I helped to establish the Urban Food
Sovereignty group, at the University of South Florida.
My work in Food
Sovereignty also extends to New Port Richey. In our town of New Port Richey, we
have a sustainable movement called FarmNet. FarmNet is an effort to establish
a sustainable community inspired by agrarian ideals – likeFood Sovereignty. FarmNet unites local farmers together with local
markets and restaurants, supports locally owned and operated
businesses of all sorts, hosts Farm to Table evenings, and promotes seasonal
As a result, more residents are learning about the local foodshed and
seasonal produce, what businesses are locally owned and concrete actions that
can be taken at a local level to restore community, local economics, andFood Sovereignty.
Folks are beginning to ask local
businesses about the sources of their food ingredients, and these businesses,
in-turn, have been listening.
3. [The Funky Spork] Can
you explain what Food Sovereignty is, and what it means?
Food Sovereignty is the opportunity and the right for persons to determine
their own food systems. This includes the farming, the gardening, and the
actual production, and processing of their own foods. This allows individuals
and their communities to have that opportunity and fundamental right to make
decisions about how they will produce, acquire, and share their food with
others. The Food Sovereignty movement
emerged several decades ago in the Central American region, with roots dating
to the Via Campesina movement, where indigenous farmers and people had become
displaced from their land and dispossessed of resources to produce food due to
the encroachment of industrialized agriculture (link). The Via Campesina
Movement began as an effort of indigenous people who re-inserted control over
their own food production and food choices, so they could determine what was
appropriate for them and their community independent of control from large,
multi-national corporations, as well as their own government.
One nuance regarding
Food Sovereignty in the US is the challenge of individuals in urban environments
having the ability to produce their own food. The challenge involves food that
is produced in immediate local urban environments, according to local seasons
and local knowledge; a process which is clearly superior to food that is
produced using industrial methods and then shipped into urban environments. In
fact, to add to this argument, the contemporary scholar Wendell Berry observed
that for two generations beginning with the Baby Boomer Generations, US Culture
has lived with the costly luxury of living thoughtlessly about the sources of
our existence: The sources of food, water, clothing, and community. The cost of
this luxury impacts sources, such as distant individuals working in
exploitative conditions, and the destruction of our environment’s natural
resources, along the way. US culture has
largely not had to worry about where our food comes from or how it’s produced. The
vast majority of US society primarily thinks about their food sources in terms
of the industrialized outlets (such as grocery stores, restaurants, or food
delivery services). Because of this luxury, both ignorance of and
indifference to the way food is produced, the distance it travels, the working
conditions of farm laborers, the treatment of animals in CFOs, the damage to
done ecosystems, the decimation of wildlife, and so on. We consume food
without context or care – and we can do so because of the industrial food system.
As with other elements of our
industrial consumerist culture, the industrial food system sacralizes
over-production, over-consumption, convenience, speed, and low costs, and
indifference to the negative consequences of production.
These patterns therefore result in large amounts of food waste. Correspondingly,
because of the same forces that are at work in the industrial food system is at
work throughout the industrial system of the United States and the West.
Ironically, those same forces are what also result in impoverished people
having an inability to purchase food.
4. [The Funky Spork]
What are the intersections between religion, and food?
Once again, the way I approach the study of religion as the study of
manifestations and Sacred Legitimation: What do we value? What
are our sources of meaning, value, purpose, and identity? What defines us and tells us about
our world? And what are the myths and
rituals that are most important to us within a particular culture or system? These questions led me to
the study of new religious movements, which led me to the study of popular
culture, in general, and then eventually into questions about ecology and the contemporary ecological crisis. In each of those moments
of research, I was finding that there were overarching streams that lead to the
manifestations of the sacred. In terms of contemporary popular culture, examples manifestations of the
sacred can be seen in holidays, sporting events, media, music festivals, logos,
and consumerism, politics and other activities that relate us to government.
I eventually became
interested in I
eventually became interested in how
our forms of sacred legitimation impacted the natural world, and this led me to
the study of religion and ecology. From there, I became
interested in studying Religion and food systems. The overarching correlation
between all of these subjects was the study of the Sacred, and how that concept
manifests into the society that we are born into. If you think about religion
in a very generalized sense, all involve the consumption of food: Some
traditions are explicit about the importance of fasting or adopting a
particular diet, in order to live a proper religious life. Other religions may
have certain foods that are symbolic of the context of their Sacred practices
and rituals. For example, Christianity has a ritual meal, known either as the
Lord’s Supper or Communion. Religious rituals, such as the concept of prayer or
saying grace have been a Sacred method when eating. Food has been a major component of Religion
from the very beginning of humanity.
5. [The Funky Spork]
What are some words of advice you would offer to someone who is interested in
doing more to promote food justice within their everyday lives?
Learn the sources of your existence, and act accordingly. Grow
your own food (even a single plant), find local growers and support them, buy
only seasonal produce, avoid industrial food (grocery chains, fast food,
convenience stores), shop local, talk to others. While individual work may seem pointless, individual commitment is critical. A
small hinge can move a heavy door. Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus.
Greta Thunberg sat down in front of the Swedish parliament building. The work
of individuals is part of the change that is occurring and can become massive
and culturally transformational.
It is important to do what we can as individuals to certainly make a difference
in our own life. But it is also important to move to tell others about the
importance of this type of work to the degree that we possibly can. It is also
imperative to involve larger institutions, particularly government (local, state, and national), to get
on board with these changes and work to share the necessity of such changes with the broader community
– anyone who will listen, really.
6. [The Funky Spork]How
can people find out more about the work you or the food group is doing, if they
would like to get involved?
The USF Department of Religious Studies and the USF Urban Food Sovereignty
groups will be hosting the Tampa Bay Urban Food
Sovereignty Summit on October 22. The summit will bring together local growers,
gardeners, farmers, academics, researchers, local organization, and Activists
that do work pertaining to food justice and sovereignty. This free public event
will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. at the USF Gibbons Alumni Center, located at
4202 E Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL, 33620.
For those unable to attend the summit, we ask that you get involved with the USF Food Sovereignty group. You can also connect with the New Port Richey FarmNet’s Facebook page, and express your interest in joining the USF Food Sovereignty group. You can also directly contact me, by messaging me at email@example.com, and I will add you to our email list.
This dish is fun, delicious, and a definite crowd-pleaser. I hope you enjoy creating (and eating) this as much as I do! 🙂
For those of you who may not know, my family comes from Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Therefore, I am what you call a ‘Dominirican’. Both nations often intersected my household, through the collaborative sounds of salsa, bachata, and merengue filling the living room crevices. It was never a true Saturday, unless our Dominican Hair Stylist was playing an episode of Sabado Gigante on her large screen television. Family gatherings often consisted of dancing, and some fiercely competitive matches of Domino.
One of the joys of being a Dominirican is the rich and delicious array of cuisine our countries have to offer: We always enjoyed some crispy & flaky empanadas filled with piping hot goodness. Yucca served with ajo (garlic) was always a delight. A party was never reallya party (fiesta), unless a giant calderon (rice pot) of arroz con gandules (seasoned rice with pigeon peas) was served.
One of my favorite dishes is what is known as platano relleno, also known as stuffed plantains, in English. Stuffed plantains usually came in the form of a few iterations. One version of platano relleno is known as mofongo, a Puerto Rican delicacy that uses deep-fried green plantain. The version of this particular recipe uses platano maduro, ripened plantain. While unripened green plantain has a more savory, bread-like flavor and firm consistency, platano maduro is much softer, and sweeter in flavor. Ripened maduros form black spots-don’t be intimidated by that, at all!
This version of platano relleno is made with a very Funky Spork twist. To add additional mass with a lower carb intake, I incorporate cauliflower into this recipe. While most traditional recipes call for ground beef, this version is vegetarian (and with the utilization of textured vegetable protein in place of the Morning Star griller crumbles, this version can be veganized, as well!). To top things off, this baby gets baked, instead of deep fried-reducing both calories and fat!
This dish is fun, delicious, and a definite crowd-pleaser. I hope you enjoy creating (and eating) this as much as I do! 🙂
·4 ripe plantains
·1 small head of cauliflower
·12 oz. Morning star griller crumbles/ pre-soaked textured vegetable protein
·1 small yellow onion
·2 large peppers or four small peppers
·1 tsp. adobo seasoning
·4 cloves garlic/ ¼ tsp. garlic powder
·2 tbsp. tomato paste
·2 tbsp. Cooking oil
1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is preheating, preheat medium-large pot and allow water to boil. While water begins to heat, coarsely chop the cauliflower head. Once water begins boiling, gently place diced pieces into boiling water and allow to boil for 10-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender with the touch of a fork. Drain and set aside.
2.While waiting for the water to boil, coarsely chop the onion, and pepper until each piece is about ¼ inches in size. Afterwards, finely mince the garlic cloves until they form into very fine pieces, less than the size of corn kernels, but no smaller than the size of a grain of uncooked rice. Add to onion mixture, and then set aside.
3.Take a wok or large skillet and add the cooking oil and let it heat up on medium-high for about 45 seconds. To test heat, add one piece of onion. If you see that it starts to bubble around the edge, it’s time to add in the garlic mixture. Sautee in the wok for about 1½ minutes, until the mixture becomes fragrant and becomes slightly more translucent. Gradually add and sir in the chopped onion and bell pepper mixture. Cover the mixture and let it steam for about two minutes, or until the onion begins to turn slightly translucent.
4.Lift the lid from the sautéed onion, pepper, and garlic mixture and stir several times for about a minute, and let the veggies cook covered for about three minutes. During the last two minutes, gradually add in the plant-based meat crumbles and tomato paste, and liberally sprinkle in the adobo seasoning during this point. Once finished cooking, set aside.
5.Un-peel the plantains and then slice them up. Afterwards, add cauliflower mixture and the diced plantain into a bowl, and mash the mixture until smooth, where most of clumps have disintegrated.
6.Take a large flat baking sheet, and either grease the bottom or use parchment paper. Then split the plantain mixture into five sections, and take half of each section and form a flat 3 inch diameter patty. Afterwards, scoop 2-3 tbsp. of the protein mixture on top towards the center of each plantain patty. After forming and topping five patties, you will take the remaining five sections of the patty mixture and gently spoon over the entire protein mixture and patty, until they form turn into mounds: the stuffed plantains.
7.Place the stuffed plantains in the oven to cook for 30 minutes, then allow them to broil on high for about 1-3 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown on top. Enjoy with friends [or by yourself!]!
One of my amazing girlfriends’s recently had me over for a ‘girl’s night in’, a couple Friday nights ago. It was one of the best times that I have had in a while. There was so much laughing, joking, dancing, and eating. More than that, we shared a beautiful moment of bonding. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can be really hard to for me to see my friends on a regular basis. So that particular night was really a sacred time and space for us ladies to let our hair loose, and have a good time!
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
One of the highlights of our girl’s night in was getting to eat some damn good homemade Puerto Rican ‘street’ food. I wanted to show my friends how to make a classic Puerto Rican dish, called Jibaritos. Jibaritos (Hee-ba-ree-toes) is a Puerto Rican-style sandwich that uses tostones (fried green plantains) as the bread. Typical Jibaritos are simple, and traditionally contain skirt or flank steak, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce (referred to known as ketcho-mayo).
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Since going plant-based, I showed my friends how to make these sandwiches with a healthy, vegan twist. Instead of steak, I used Lions Mane mushroom, and substituted ketcho-mayo with a garlic guacamole. To cut out on unnecessary fat and calories, I opted for baking my tostones, as opposed to frying them. And I must say that my remixed version of the Jibaritos sandwich was a delicious success!
You may be wondering what the heck Lions Mushrooms are. A good friend of mine who is launching a local gourmet mushroom farm gifted me with a couple pounds to try out for my recipes. When raw, they almost resemble miniature white fuzz balls (see photo below).
Fuzzy Lions Mane Mushrooms (left), green plantains (right). Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
When sliced and cooked, these fuzz balls have a resemblance akin to dark meat chicken, and emit a beautiful caramelized color and robust meaty flavor when cooked. Far from unpleasant, these delicious mushrooms make a great alternative for any recipe which calls for the use of sautéed chicken or pork (see pic, below).
Mouth-watering cooked Lions Mane mushrooms. Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are not as common to find around, so if you don’t find any available nearby, you can always opt for fresh oyster mushrooms, which have a relatively similar flavor and will work just as well! If for SOME reason you cannot find oyster mushrooms, you can always use sliced portabella mushrooms. Just keep in mind that they won’t have the fibrous meaty-texture like the Lion’s Mane or oysters do. But the flavor will still be tasty!
Before I move onto the recipe, itself, I wanted to share a couple words of wisdom. Folks, no matter how busy your life schedule gets, please do yourselves a favor, and never forget to regularly carve time out to spend with your friends. Be intentional about cultivating the relationships you have with those around. Be purposeful in surrounding yourself with individuals who will uplift, inspire, challenge, motivate and accept you for YOU! We can either choose to allow the relationships around us lift us up, or tear us down. Make every moment and relationship count.
Photo courtesy Victoria Saunders
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Two large green plantains
Approximately 16 oz of fresh Lions Mane or Oyster mushrooms
Two ripe hass avocados
3 large garlic cloves
4 tbsp cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
1 small red onion
2 tsp adobo seasoning
½ tsp salt
1 cup of fresh spinach leaves
1 sliced tomato (optional)
2 tbsp ketchup (optional)
2 tbsp veganaise (optional)
Recommended Kitchen appliances:
1-8.5”x10” baking tray
1 tostonera (plantain smasher), or a plate flat enough for smashing
1 skillet (minimum 10” diameter)
1 set of tongs
1 medium bowl
1 large fork or smasher
1 sharp cutting knife (one you like to use for chopping produce)
1 cutting board
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is pre-heating, take each of the green plantains and with your knife, slice off both ends of each plantain, and gently slice open the peel, lengthwise on each side. The skin peel is about 1/8”- 1/4” deep, so at this point, be able to have sliced the peel open and can take each plantain out of their tough exterior skin (images below).
Photo Courtesy WikiHow.com
2. Take each plantain and split them directly in half. Then, take each half and carefully slice down the middle, until you get two halves from each piece. Those will serve as the ‘bread’ for your sandwiches (image of slices, below).
Photo Courtesy Carribbeanpot.com
3. Take two tablespoons of the cooking oil and gently massage each of the plantain halves with the oil until they are well-coasted. Take your baking tray, and line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the plantains are coated, line them individually on the parchment paper and let them bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
4. While the plantains are baking, this serves as a good opportunity to begin preparing your onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Set the garlic aside.
5. Take your onion, and slice into approximately ¼” thick slices. Set aside.
6. Take your mushrooms and cut into ½” slices. If you are slicing the Lion’s Mane, slice with the grain. Set aside.
7. Take your plantains out of the oven and either place them on the cutting board or another flat surface. Take your tostonero or plate and gently smash each of the tostones until they are about ¼” thick. Place each of the smashed plantain pieces back into the tray and take the salt and season them during this time. Place tray back into the oven and allow them to bake for an additional 15 minutes.
8. While the tostones are baking the second time, heat your skillet on medium-high. Place the remaining two tablespoons of your cooking oil into the skillet. Place 1 ½ of the mashed garlic cloves into the skillet and allow them to sauté for one minute, until the smell becomes fragrant. Gradually add the mushrooms into the skillet by gently placing them down flat-wise with the tongs. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with half of the adobo seasoning and then place the sliced onions around and on top of each mushroom. Let the mushrooms cook for about three minutes, and season the top halves with the rest of the adobo seasoning. After three minutes, gently flip each mushroom and onion piece over and allow to finish cooking for three minutes, until the other side also has a caramel brown coloring to it. If the tostones have not yet finished baking, turn the heat down to low, to keep the mushroom/garlic/onion mixture warm.
9. Slice each of the avocados in half. Place the avocado halves and remaining 1 ½ garlic clove chunks in the medium bowl and with a masher or fork, mash mixture until the avocado mixture is smooth-similarly to a guacamole. Lightly season with salt (optional). To prevent the avocados from turning brown, place the avocado seeds into avocado mixture.
10. (Optional step) in a small bowl, take your ketchup and veganaise mixture and mix well until the mixture turns into more of an orange hue. Then you have created a vegan ketch-mayo!
11. Once the 15 minutes are up, check on the tostones (the mashed baked plantains). They should be golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool down for a couple minutes. Take each long half, and layer with the mashed avocado, and then take the mushroom/onion mixture and gently pile on each ‘sandwich’. Layer with some spinach, tomato, and even the ketcho-mayo mixture.
12. Eat, and enjoy the hell out of this potentially messy sandwich eating experience!! 🙂
397 Calories/ 7 grams protein/ 24 grams of fat/ 46 grams of carbohydrates/ 9 grams fiber
Did you try this recipe? Did you do any substitutions?? Comment below!
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