Thai peanut sauce with veggies and tofu

This meal is a great way to make a lot of people very happy (and healthy) with a low carbon footprint—it is ridiculously delicious and easy to throw together.  You can lay out rice or noodles, steamed veggies, and peanut sauce in individual bowls so each person can make a creation.  Or, to keep things simpler, just throw veggies into the boiling noodles for the amount of time you’d like and drain it all together.  While all of that is cooking, you can warm up the peanut sauce, and you’ve got a great weekday meal on your hands.  Go ahead and make a double batch of peanut sauce—it freezes well.

PBnoodleCropped1

Pottery credit: Joey Sage Jablonski

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • Rice or noodles (white or brown will work well)

For the peanut sauce

  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk (you can use light or regular)
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 T maple syrup or brown sugar
  • Juice from 1/4 small lime
  • 2 t sweet chili sauce, 1/2 t chili powder OR 1 1/2 t chili garlic sauce or siracha (optional)

For the veggies and tofu

  • 4 cups broccoli, chopped.  Remember you can peel the stalk—the inside is delicious.
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • one block of firm tofu (or use edamame)

Directions:

  • Start cooking pasta or rice for four people according to the directions.
  • Steam the veggies (either individually or together),
  • Braise the tofu in a bit of soy sauce if you’d like, or just steam it
  • For the peanut sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, turn it down to low until everything else is ready.

Lay it all out and enjoy!

The sauce alone already has 10-13 grams of protein per serving (depending on which coconut milk you use), so if you just want to serve rice and veggies with it, you will still have a filling meal.  The additional 4 oz. of tofu per serving adds another 8 grams of protein to each serving.

Also, this sauce makes a great salad dressing!  Just pack up a container of the sauce and bring along some romaine lettuce with whatever raw veggies you like.  You will look forward to that lunch all morning!

This is comfort food, plain and simple.  And, it’s easy on you and the planet.  Here is the carbon footprint breakdown for the major ingredients:

Ingredient Amt g CO2-equivalents
Coconut milk 1 can

498

Peanut butter 2/3 cup

332

Garlic 3 cloves

6

Broccoli, chopped 4 cups

146

Red bell pepper, chopped 1 large

131

Carrot, chopped 2 medium

65

Tofu 16 oz block

680

Total  

1,858

The meatless nature of this dish contributes to the low carbon footprint.  For comparison, 16 oz. of chicken would contribute 2,297 g CO2-equivalents to the dish (for a total of 3,475 g CO2-equivalents if you use chicken rather than tofu)!

Considering the peanut sauce alone, the carbon footprint is 836 g CO2-equivalents for the four servings.  For comparison, the carbon footprint of a cheese sauce with the same calories per servings as this recipe would be a total of 3,248 g CO2-equivalents (the breakdown is 322, 2,592 and 344 g CO2-equivalents for the 1 cup 2% milk, 265 g cheese and 2 T butter, respectively).  A dinner using peanut sauce rather than cheese sauce saves emissions equivalent to an 11-mile drive!  If you made a comparable switch once a day for a year, you’d save the emissions from driving your car over 4,000 miles!

Enjoy your meal!

You can post your creations on the FB page, or on instagram with the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you are up to!

And please follow the blog for more recipes!

The conversion factors come from:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12174

Nutritional information is from the USDA Food Composition Database.

 

 

 

 

 

Warm apple oatmeal and mindfulness

Oatmeal is a fabulous comfort food with a very low carbon footprint (it was mentioned twice in the Washington Post article about carbon footprint of food choices).  Once you start adding seeds, fruits, and nuts, the possibilities are endless and it becomes a nutritional powerhouse.

CroppedGreatShotOatmeal

This is my current favorite way to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • ½ cup rolled oats (I like old fashioned much better than quick)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Cinnamon and salt to taste
  • 1 T peanut butter (optional, but delicious!)
  • Flax and chia seeds (optional)
  • a bit of almond or soy milk for the top

You can do this in a saucepan if you’d like, but for one bowl, you can just mix everything through the cinnamon and salt in a bowl and microwave for two minutes.  Top with peanut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, and some almond or soy milk.  With the warm pieces of apple throughout, you may find you don’t need sugar, even if you usually add it to oatmeal.

Ingredient

Amount

Carbon Footprint

(g CO2-equivalents per amount)

Apple

1 small

54

Rolled oats

½ cup dry

19

Walnuts

4 halves

9

Peanut butter

1 T

31

Soymilk

¼ cup

43

Total

 

156

For comparison, a ¼ cup of 2% milk adds 81 g CO2-equivalents, so switching out even such a small amount of milk for non-dairy milk makes a difference of 38 g CO2-equivalents. Also, a serving of an English muffin with one egg and 1 oz. cheese has a total footprint of 472 g CO2-equivalents.  Each ounce of pork adds 220 g CO2-equivalents.

What does this have to do with mindfulness?

There is a saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”1 I interpret this to mean that if you are someone who tends to rush through much of life, you can always slow down, take a deep breath, and mindfully focus on whatever you are doing.  This will have a spillover effect–being in the moment is always available to you as a way to increase the mindfulness of your life in general.

Applying this to your food choices means that three or more times throughout each day you have an opportunity to joyfully take actions that are in support of values you hold.

We know gratitude is a game changer—the more of it we bring into our lives, the better.  Remembering how thankful we are for our food is a way to draw out and bolster our feelings of gratitude and contentment.

Supporting businesses and brands that are in alignment with your values means that each dollar you spend will be a vote for the kind of world you want to create.  Shopping at your local farmer’s market or requesting a veggie burger at your favorite burger place sends your dollars into the world in a way that nudges it in a direction you like.

Choices that result in less animal suffering create a more humane world and are good for our own psyche as well.

And what about small actions you can take that use less energy, like only boiling a cup of water when that’s all you need2,  and choosing a simple bowl of oatmeal rather than a breakfast with a higher carbon footprint?  I believe they are meaningful in several ways. First, they really do result in a lower carbon footprint, and any step in the right direction for the planet is helpful.  Second, they have a ripple effect (your friend who sees you do this will also now consider it).  Third, if you are mindful about the planet in the morning when you make have your breakfast, it may increase your chances of making mindful choices all day.  And most importantly, thoughtful food choices will increase your overall wellness—through both the nourishing food and the increased mindfulness you are promoting.

Enjoy your oatmeal and your journey!

Please comment below on ways you increase your mindfulness in general or through your food choices.  I would love to hear from you!

You can post your creations on the FB page, or on instagram with the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you are up to!

And please follow the blog for more recipes!

References

1Cheri Huber has a book titled, “How you do anything is how you do everything: A Workbook.”

2Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone Books.  Find it here.

Most conversion factors come from:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

The soymilk conversion factor (not available from Heller and Keoleian) comes from:

Meier, T., and O. Christen. 2013.  Environmental Impacts of Dietary Recommendations and Dietary Styles: Germany As an Example. Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 877−888.

Spicy Black Bean Dip

This is a really delicious and low carbon footprint dip to serve with veggies or chips.  If you really want to lay out a nice spread to get your party started, you can make this and Homemade Guacamole.  (They are both crowd pleasers.)

CroppedCloseupBlackBeanDip

It’s also quick and easy enough to make for an everyday lunch.  Just spin it all up, transfer to a container, grab some veggies and you’re good to go!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • One 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of one lime
  • One large clove of garlic
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • ½ t salt (to taste)
  • 1 t hot sauce (to taste)

Blend up in your blender or food processor (you may need to add a tablespoon or two of water or veggie broth to make it smooth), add salt and hot sauce to your taste, and enjoy!

Many of us are looking to decrease our carbon footprint, and there are so many great ways to do it!  For some people, decreasing our footprint will have nothing to do with food. But for many people, food can be a low hanging fruit for decreasing our environmental impact (and improving our health while we are at it).  Many of the most resource-intensive foods are ones we’d like to cut down on anyway!

Each serving of this dip has 148 kcal and 10 g protein, and results in just 95 g CO2-equivalents per serving.

Let’s compare this to the carbon footprint of some other appetizers.

  • Buffalo chicken wings: 236 kcal, 12 g protein, 287 g g CO2-equivalents per serving
  • Cauliflower buffalo wings: 239 kcal, 9 g protein, 58 g CO2-equivalents per serving
  • 1 oz cheese: 111, 7 g protein, 277 g CO2-equivalents per serving

The carbon footprint is low for the black bean dip because production of beans only results in 0.78 g CO2-equivalents per g of food.  For comparison, production of cheese, chicken, and beef result in 9.8, 5.1, and 26 g CO2-equivalents, respectively.  See the Science page for a table comparing embodied greenhouse gases in the production of protein-rich foods.)  Beans are especially environmentally-friendly because they need less nitrogen fertilizer, the production of which results in high greenhouse gas emissions.  Also, eating plants directly means fewer feed crops, food miles, and processing steps.

Follow the blog for more recipes!

Bon Appetit!!

Source for greenhouse gas emission data:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2014. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12174

Summer Smoothie Parfait by Chef Chloe

This tasty, healthy, and satisfying recipe is by renowned Chef Chloe Coscarelli, who has kindly agreed to let us use her recipe and photo on this site.  Please find the original recipe here. One of her cookbooks, Chloe’s Kitchen, is a go-to for me for special dinners.  You can find it here.

Smoothie pic

To make this gorgeous parfait, simply layer granola with a blend of fruit, non-dairy milk, and flax seeds.

Bananas often get a bad rap because they are not local.  However, the excellent book entitled How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything describes three reasons why bananas actually have a low carbon footprint, especially when you consider how much nutrition they provide (lots of vitamins and fiber):

  • They grow well in the climate where they are grown. Only natural sunlight is needed (no hothouse).
  • They can be transported by boat, and they keep well on the journey, without refrigeration. Travel by boat costs only about 1% the footprint of flying.
  • There is minimal packaging (they have their own!)

In addition, they don’t require refrigerated trucking, or in-store refrigeration. (See the Homemade Guacamole blog for more information on refrigerated trucking.)

Be sure to buy Fair Trade bananas, as there are justice and environmental issues associated with bananas.

Here is the ingredient-by-ingredient comparison for this recipe with a similar one (for two servings, blend the first four ingredients and layer with the granola):

Ingredient

(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

Ingredient

(traditional recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

3 bananas (354 g) 237 Yogurt (354 g) 715
8 oz. strawberries 79 8 oz. strawberries 79
1/2 cup soymilk 28 1/2 cup 2% milk 165
2T flax seeds 15 2T flax seeds 15
½ cup granola 19 ½ cup granola 19
Total 379 for 2 servings Total 993 for 2 servings

Sources for conversion factors: For the bananas, I used the value given in “How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.”  The book gives a value of 80 g CO2-equivalents for a banana, including shipping from the other side of the world.  For the rest of the ingredients, I used the Heller and Keoleian analysis.

For comparison, two servings of an English muffin with one egg and 1 oz. cheese have a total footprint of 943 g CO2-equivalents.

For an extremely low carbon footprint breakfast, try a bowl of oatmeal with fruit.  In fact, a recent article on the carbon footprint of food in the Washington Post (find it here) mentions oatmeal as a food that delivers a lot of nutrition for a small footprint.  For example, two servings of a bowl of oatmeal (made with ½ cup of dry oats cooked up in water, and topped with 4 oz. strawberries, 1 T flax seeds, and ¼ cup soymilk) have a carbon footprint of 232 g CO2-equivalents.

Each time you switch out the highest carbon footprint breakfast described here for the lowest (2 servings) saves 761 g CO2-equivalents, which is the equivalent of a 3.4 mile drive!  Put another way, each time you make a shift like this, it saves the emissions associated with burning a halogen bulb for 32 hours!

Enjoy!  You can post your creations on the FB page, or on instagram with the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you are up to!

Please follow the blog for more recipes!

References:

Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone Books.  Find it here.

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2014. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

 

Tacos by Alma

These delicious and planet-friendly tacos have a carbon footprint of 121 g CO2-equivalents per taco, compared to 277 and 818 g CO2-equivalents per taco for tacos made with chorizo and beef, respectively.

croppedtaco

A close friend and great chef, Alma Rafael, recently had us over for a relaxing summer dinner.  These tacos totally hit the spot!   She had fried up a large pan of Soyrizo, and while we were talking she threw together a simple, perfect salad of fresh cabbage, tomato, red onion, avocado, lemon, and salt.  No need to even measure anything!  She then heated up tortillas on a dry, hot pan, and everyone went to town.

Soyrizo is a very flavorful meat alternative, although this recipe would also work with refried beans.  Using beans actually results in the lowest carbon footprint (see below for details).

For 8 tacos:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Soyrizo
  • a quarter of a head of green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 small red onion, minced, or scallions
  • 2 large avocados, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 Corn tortillas
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Just heat up the Soyrizo according to the package.   Mix the veggies in a bowl and add lemon and salt to taste.  Heat tortillas on a dry skillet on medium high heat, flipping before they brown too much.

Put it all together, add hot sauce if you’d like, and enjoy!.

A recent paper by Nijdam et al. (2012) compared carbon footprints of various sources of protein, including meat alternatives.  Here is a table from the paper:

NijdamTable3

Here are the ingredient-by-ingredient carbon footprint calculations for this recipe, using values from Heller and Keoleian and Nijdam et al. (2012):

Ingredient

For 8 tacos

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

8 corn tortillas

132

8 oz. Soyrizo

232

¼ head cabbage

38

2 avocados

381

1 tomato

37

1 small onion

27

1 T lemon juice

8

Total

971 (121 per taco)

This recipe has just 121 g CO2-equivalents per taco!

Compare this to using pork chorizo (which has the same amount of protein per gram as Soyrizo, but results in roughly 5 times the greenhouse gas emissions per gram of food):

Ingredient

For 8 tacos

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

8 corn tortilla

132

8 oz. chorizo

1594

¼ head cabbage

38

2 avocados

381

1 tomato

37

1 small onion

27

1 T lemon juice

8

Total

2216 (277 per taco)

Accounting for all ingredients, a taco with pork chorizo has 277 g CO2-equivalents per taco, more than double that for the Soyrizo version!

Now let’s check out the impact of beef in place of the Soyrizo in this recipe.  Remember cattle are ruminant animals, and thus produce methane as part of their natural metabolism.

Ingredient

For 8 tacos

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

8 corn tortilla

132

8 oz. beef

5925

¼ head cabbage

38

2 avocados

381

1 tomato

37

1 small onion

27

1 T lemon juice

8

Total

6547 (818 per taco)

If you used 1 oz. of beef in each taco, rather than the 1 oz. of Soyrizo, the footprint for the beef alone would be approximately 741 g CO2-equivalents per taco, leading to a total of 818 g CO2-equivalents per taco for a beef taco.

Using cheese rather than any meat or Soyrizo results in a total of 352 g CO2-equivalents per taco.  Cheese has a heavy carbon footprint because it is a product from a ruminant animal.

The absolute lowest footprint comes from using beans rather than the Soyrizo!  The beans have a very low conversion factor for g CO2-equivalents per g food, resulting in a total footprint of 100 g CO2-equivalents per taco!!

Using Soyrizo instead of beef saves the emissions in 25 miles of driving a 40 MPG car!  If you made this switch every week for a year, that would save the equivalent of 1,300 miles in the same car!

With Alma (she is on the left) on our taco night!  Thank you, Alma!

AlmaJenny

Please follow the blog for more recipes!  You can post your creations to the Facebook page, or use the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet on Instagram, so we can see what you are up to!  Happy eating!

References:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12174

Nijdam, D., Rood, T., and Westhoek, H. (2012) The price of protein: Review of land use and carbon footprints from life cycle assessments of animal food products and their substitutes. Food Policy, 37:760-770.

 

Homemade guacamole

Making this quick and easy guacamole from scratch can cut its carbon footprint in half relative to store-bought!

Guaccropped

Gather these ingredients for a large bowl of guacamole:

  • 3 avocados
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • salt to taste

Simple cut the avocados in half, squeeze the lime juice into it, add the minced garlic (you can use garlic powder if in a hurry) and salt, and smash.  Add the chopped tomatoes at the end.  Also, you can add chopped red onion and cilantro if you’d like.

Ingredients alone (using conversions from Heller and Keoleian, 2014, which include average values for production and transport to a store or facility):

Ingredient

 

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

3 avocados

572

3 garlic cloves

3

2 limes

67

1 tomato

37

Total

678

When you buy a prepackaged guacamole, you also need to consider the energy in processing, packaging, refrigerated transport, and in-store refrigeration.

First, let’s consider refrigerated transport.  There is a great paper by Tassou et al. (2009) that compares the carbon footprint of various types of trucks carrying food at different temperatures.

In the paper, they give values for g CO2 per pallet per km (these values are for the energy required for transportation and cooling, but exclude refrigerant leakage):

Ambient Chilled Frozen
Med. rigid truck 88 106 112
Lg. rigid truck 85 102 108
City articul. 56 69 73
32 T artic. 51 61 65
38 T artic. 48 58 61

The paper also mentions a couple of other studies that indicate the greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 20% higher for the chilled and frozen scenarios if you do consider refrigerant leakage.

So, to send the same amount of chilled guacamole 1500 miles (assuming the pallet numbers and payload weights given in the paper for each type of truck, and assuming the 20% higher emissions with leakage), we would have to tack on 210 g CO2-equivalents for a large articulated truck (38 T) or 570 g CO2-equivalents for a medium sized truck per bowl of guacamole.

Next, what about the plastic container?  To make a 1 L plastic bottle requires about 270 g CO2-equivalents (Gleick and Cooley, 2009).  Assuming around the same amount of plastic for a fairly good-sized container of guacamole, we have a total of 480 to 840 additional g CO2-equivalents, just for the packaging and refrigerated transport of our bowl of guacamole.  This analysis does not take into account the energy to make the guacamole, or to keep it cold in the store.

In general, eating foods closer to their natural state and making things from scratch is preferable, since processing, the food miles associated with various processing steps, refrigerated transport, and packaging can really make a difference!

If you are in a hurry, though, go ahead and grab those pre-packaged healthy foods—relying on climate-friendly ingredients is still the best way to keep your footprint low!

In fact, a study on food miles by Weber and Matthews (2008) found switching out beef and dairy for foods with a lower carbon footprint just one day per week was as effective as eating locally seven days a week in reducing greenhouse gas emissions!!

Follow the blog for more recipes and tips!

References:

Gleick, P.H., and Cooley, H.S. (2009) Energy implications of bottled water. Environ. Res. Letters, 4: doi:10.1088/1748-9326/4/1/014009

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian, G.A. (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Tassou, S.A., De-Lille, G., and Ge, Y.T. (2009) Food transport refrigeration – Approaches to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts of road transport.

Weber, C.L., and Matthew, H.S. (2008) Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 42:3508-3513

 

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Stroganoff

This meal is hearty and delicious, and has a tiny carbon footprint compared to its counterpart.  It’s from Forks Over Knives, one of my go-to websites for recipes.  Click here for the full original recipe with portobello and porchini mushrooms.  I made this dish with crimini mushrooms, since that is what I had on hand (see below for pic).

MushStrogpic3

Ingredients: (modified slightly from the original to have ½ lb crimini rather than 1 oz porchini  mushrooms)

  • 2 shallots (or 1 small yellow onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t thyme, minced (I used less than 1 t dry thyme)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 t rosemary, minced
  • 1 lb Portobello mushrooms
  • ½ lb crimini mushrooms
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb whole grain fettucini
  • 1 12 oz package silken tofu
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T red wine vinegar

Abridged directions for this recipe (see link for full):

Saute shallots or onions over medium heat for a few minutes, adding water a bit at a time to avoid sticking.  Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for another minute.  Add salt, pepper, rosemary, mushrooms, and wine.  Cook for 20 minutes or so.  While it’s cooking, cook up your pasta according to the directions, and blend together the tofu with lemon juice and vinegar.  When the mushrooms looked cooked, add the tofu mixture, and toss it with the noodles.  Top with parsley.

The carbon footprint associated with the ingredients of this dish (1,141 g CO2-eq for the whole recipe) is dramatically lower than that for a comparable dish with beef (13,443 g CO2-eq for the whole recipe) instead of the Portobello mushrooms.  The reason for this is that cattle are ruminant animals, so the carbon footprint includes not only all of the feed that goes into raising the animals, but also the methane and nitrous oxide (both potent greenhouse gases) associated with the animals’ metabolism and manure. See below for an ingredient by ingredient breakdown of carbon footprint for the major components of this recipe.

Carbon footprint of the ingredients:

Ingredient

(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equiv

Ingredient

(w beef)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equiv

Onion 88 Onion 88
1 lb Portobellos 332 1 lb Beef 12,035
1/2 lb Criminis 166 1/2 lb Criminis 166
12 oz. Tofu 286 12 oz. Sour Cream 887
4 cloves garlic 4 4 cloves garlic 4
1 lb pasta 264 1 lb pasta 264
Total 1,141 Total 13,443

The difference, (12,302 g CO2-eq) is equivalent to taking a 55 mile drive!!  This really adds up—if you made a similar shift once a week for a year, it would equal the carbon equivalents of driving 2,860 miles!!

To keep your carbon footprint low, try not to boil more water than necessary when making your pasta.  There’s a great book by Mike Berners-Lee called How Bad are Bananas?  The Carbon Footprint of Everything.  I found it a great read.  (You can buy the kindle or paperback version on Amazon here.) In the book, the author gives estimates of the carbon footprint of heating water in various ways.  Stove top kettles are the most efficient efficient, resulting in a footprint of 50 g CO2-eq per quart of water.  An electric kettle has a footprint of 70 g CO2-eq to boil a quart, while a saucepan on the stove without a lid and with flames up the side has a footprint of 115 g CO2-eq.  In general, forgetting to use a lid wastes 20% of the heat, and having flames up the side wastes another 20%.

Even if you are just making tea, it’s a great idea to make sure you are only heating the water you need.  Adding double the amount of water to the kettle can increase the carbon footprint of your tea by 20 g CO2-eq. (This statistic is also from the How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything book.)

Enjoy!  And please follow the blog for more recipes!

Conversion Factor Sources:

Most of the footprint conversions for this recipe come from Heller and Keoleian (2014) (see below for full citation). However, there is no value for tofu, so I used this reference.  I averaged the values of 0.814 g CO2-eq / g for conventional tofu and 0.857 g CO2-eq / g organic tofu.

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2014. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planet-friendly Tortilla Soup

This delicious and decadent dish has roughly half the carbon footprint of a traditional recipe, and it is so full of flavor you won’t miss anything!  It uses summer produce and practically makes itself!  It’s amazingly simple–you just throw some roughly chopped veggies into a pan with a small amount of water and crank up the heat.  As the veggies stew, the whole mixture turns into a soup!  You just need to blend it up, add some spices, and enjoy!

Untitled

For toppings, you can add some freshly baked tortilla strips, chopped avocado, onion, cilantro, as you like.  This recipe is a big hit for our family dinners, and it is special enough to serve at a dinner party.  We make a topping bar, and each person can make his or her own creation.

I’ve modified (simplified) this recipe from the original, which is from Forks Over Knives. I am a big fan of so many of their recipes.  You can find the original recipe here, and you can buy their cookbook here.

Ingredients:

  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 6 large tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2 red bell peppers, halved or quartered
  • 8 oz mushrooms (can use cremini or white), roughly chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles (definitely still worth making even without this)
  • 5 sprigs cilantro (I would also consider these optional)
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • ½ t chili powder
  • sea salt

Possible toppings:

  • Scallions or chopped white or red onion
  • Avocado
  • Tortilla strips
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Black beans

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut the corn tortillas into ¼ inch thick strips.  Spread them out on a baking sheet (it works best if you have parchment paper).
  • Bake for 20 minutes or so.  You may want to push them around on the sheet part way through to get even baking.
  • Place everything from the halved or quartered tomatoes through the cilantro springs into a large saucepan with 1 cup water.  Bring to boil, and then reduce heat to medium and cover.  You can stir this occasionally over the next 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Fish out the cilantro sprigs and chipotle chilis if you used them, and discard.
  • Immersion blend your soup, or you can let it cool a bit and transfer in batches to your blender and then back into the pan.
  • Add the smoked paprika and chili powder.  Add salt to taste.  Add a bit (say ½ cup of water), and simmer for another five minutes or so.

Carbon footprint of the ingredients:

Ingredient

(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equiv

Ingredient

(tradit. recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equiv

6 large tomatoes

252

6 large tomatoes

252

2 lg red bell peppers

289

2 lg red bell peppers

289

8 oz mushrooms

166

8 oz chicken

1146

½ yellow onion

131

½ yellow onion

131

3 cloves garlic

3

3 cloves garlic

3

6 corn tortillas

93

6 corn tortillas

93

1 med avocado

191

1 med avocado

191

Total

1124

Total

2104

The chicken you might add to a traditional tortilla soup has a carbon footprint of 1146 g CO2-equivalents, which is more than the entire soup made the way presented here.  The mushrooms add taste and body, have lots of great nutrients, and contribute very little to the carbon footprint.  For this recipe, there aren’t enough mushrooms to make this a high protein meal; however, per calorie, crimini mushrooms are actually pretty high in protein!  And, if you would like to amp up the protein, you can add black beans as a topping.

Enjoy!

If you make this, please post on our Facebook page, or instagram using the hashtag #easymealsfortheplanet so we can see what you made!

Follow the blog for more low carbon footprint recipes using seasonal produce

.

 

 

Yummy and Planet Friendly Vanilla Pride Cake

This recipe is simple, delicious, uses only one bowl, and is quick—it will only take about 15 minutes to prep and then 30 minutes to bake. It’s completely delicious and only has ¼ of the emissions of a traditional recipe!

Pride Cake

This recipe is only slightly modified from a great vegan dessert cookbook:  Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  I highly recommend this book!

Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 1/2 t vanilla
  • ½ cup Earth Balance (or you can use 1/3 cup olive oil)
  • 1 t apple cider or white vinegar, or lemon juice

(The original recipe calls for 2 T cornstarch added to the dry ingredients, but it works well without it.)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease and flour and 8-inch layer pan.
  • Add the dry ingredients (the first four ingredients) to a bowl and mix well with a fork.
  • Add the wet ingredients and mix with a spoon or mixer.
  • Pour into the pan or pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
  • It’s done if a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean.

Vanilla Frosting

This recipe is also modified from a recipe in the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ¾ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup vegan butter (like Earth Balance)
  • Approximately 4 T soy milk (or other milk alternative)
  • 2 t vanilla

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in a bowl except a bit of the soy milk into a bowl and mix well.
  • Add the remaining milk as needed to get the right consistency.  You can also add more powdered sugar if it gets too runny.

Frost the cake when cool, and add seasonal fruits.

Here it is with just berries:

Berry Cake

Check out the ingredient-by-ingredient carbon footprint information.

Carbon footprint for cake alone:

Ingredient

(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

Ingredient

(traditional recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

1.5 cups flour 118 1.5 cups flour 118
¾ cup sugar 138 ¾ cup sugar 138
1 cup soymilk 56 1 cup 2% milk 326
½ margarine 131 ½ cup butter 1335
1 egg 156
Total 443 Total 2,073

 

Carbon footprint for frosting alone:

Ingredient

(this recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

Ingredient

(traditional recipe)

Carbon Footprint

g CO2-equivalents

3.75 cups conf. sugar 432 1.5 cups flour 432
½ cup margarine 131 ½ cup butter 1335
¼ cup soymilk 14 1/4 cup 2% milk 81
Total 577 Total 1,848

 

Carbon Footprint for Frosted Cake:

Total (this recipe) 1,020 Total (tradit.) 3,921

The big difference in carbon footprint comes primarily from switching out the butter and milk.  This is because these are both dairy products, and raising cattle for both beef and dairy is particularly resource-intensive, even when compared to other animal agriculture.  Like all livestock, most of the energy they consume throughout their lives goes toward their metabolism or is lost in manure.  But for cows and other ruminants, methane–a highly potent greenhouse gas– is naturally produced as part of their digestive process.  So, reducing products from ruminant animals seriously shrinks your carbon footprint!

Enjoy!

If you do make this, you can put it on Instagram with #easymealsfortheplanet so we can check out what you made!

And please follow the blog for 1-2 low carbon footprint recipes per week!

 

 

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