Friday, March 12, 2010


I never meant to be "crunchy." You know, as in granola. I had a friend in grade school who had "crunchy" parents. Her mom sent her to school with natural peanut butter sandwiches and carob-chip cookies. As a kid I could think of nothing worse than carob. You know that it doesn't really taste like chocolate, right? I still think it is a cruel trick.

Fast forward 30 years. Here I sit under my Energy-Star roof, eating organic, driving a Prius and making most of my kid's snacks. Um, hello crunchy!

So it should not have come as a surprise one day last summer when my hubby, freshly sweaty after his evening bike-commute home from work (crunch, crunch) announced that he didn't want to eat beef and pork any more. Nothing on four legs. He had articles and statistics, but mostly he had a renewed passion for the environment. I respect passion and love a culinary challenge. Game on.

This is the point in the story where the rubber meets the road, swerving gracefully around bacon and cheeseburgers.

What I thought would be an easy no-four-legged destination has really been a complex culinary adventure. I initially struggled to find new and interesting recipes that the family loved. There were notable bad substitutions and an epic lost battle with Mahi-Mahi. Ground turkey has been used in ways never imagined. My beloved Cooks Illustrated subscription has been traded in for Eating Well and the Asian chapters of Cooks Illustrated International Recipes. Soy sauce has become the condiment of choice.

Almost a year latter we are pretty good about not eating beef or pork at home, with the obvious exception of bacon (more on that later). Sometimes I still pine for family favorites. Not for the meat per se, but for the comfort and memories. There is the occasional cheeseburger out, which tastes Mighty Fine if you haven't had one in a long time, but always ends up sending my guts into a tail spin.

We have achieved an equilibrium of fish and fowl, dabbling in the vegetarian, and it feels good. Not just health-wise, which is important, but for a passionately small impact on the environment. Crunchy!

Stovetop Cassoulet is a wonderful dish for winter and low-hanging fruit in our four-legged aversion. Maybe not the easiest as it takes some initial chopping and browning attention, but completely worth it! I soundlessly tore the recipe out of a Southern Living in the Pediatrician's office and have made a couple changes over the years. The recipe called for smoked pork sausage. I now use smoked turkey sausage, making it four-legged free! Easy peasey!

Stovetop Cassoulet
* feeds 4 with lots of leftovers

1 lbs Smoked Turkey Sausage, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 16oz cans of great Northern Beans, undrained

Brown sausage in a large skillet or Dutch Oven over medium high heat until brown on both sides. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In the same pot, Saute the chicken in any sausage drippings until brown on all sides, 8-10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In the same pot, Saute the onion, bell pepper and garlic for 5-6 minutes until tender, but not brown.

Stir in chicken, sausage and everything else. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until sauce is slightly thick and the cassoulet has a stew consistency. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Recipe Notes:
I used to make this recipe in my BIG skillet, but it is non-stick and I have been trying to wean myself off of non-stick, thus the Dutch Oven. I think that it works well in both, but you need to cook it a bit longer with the dutch oven because the heat surface area is smaller.

Wow, you say! That is WAY more than one clove of garlic. Well, yeah. I REALLY like this recipe and want to eat it for leftovers more than once, so I stretch the meat out a bit. I use 3 cloves of garlic, 3 peppers total, 1 can of tomatoes roughly drained and one not drained, and 3 cans of beans, roughly draining one. Increase the Thyme to 1 1/2 tsp and add another bay leaf. Ta Da! Now you have enough for an army and much less meat per person. Consider it!

Here are my ingredients and my bad cat on the counter. No, I didn't let her lick the chicken even though she begged. You don't use chicken broth in this recipe. I don't know how it got on the counter. Maybe it was the cat!

The sausage in my dutch oven, browning up.

Sausage out, chicken in.

Chicken out, veggies in. Hope you enjoy the recipe.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, but oh my God, my sister is turning granola.