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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easiest climate-friendly comfort food: Black Beans and Rice

BlackBeanBowl

This meal is by far the simplest meal on the blog—it can literally take under five minutes to prep!  If you are literally too tired to chop garlic, or even to call in for food delivery, this is the meal for you.  Also, it can be made with just a few items you probably keep on hand.

Beans can be a staple food for those trying to lessen environmental impact.  Not only do they have low carbon, nitrogen, and water footprints, functionally, they can replace foods with much higher impact, such as beef.

So, for a while, I’ve been on the lookout for a delicious and simple bean recipe for days when I am really squeezed for time.  I wanted a meal that I would really look forward to eating, that would be healthier than take out, but wouldn’t require much energy.

This recipe was a success for the whole family!

You’ll need:

I can of beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup water and 1.5 t dry vegetable broth (or just use ½ cup broth)

½ t granulated garlic

¼ t cumin

¼ to ½ t black pepper depending on how much of a kick you want

¼ or so salt (you’ll want to add enough to make the flavors pop)

This is all you need for the beans (in addition to salt):

BlackBeanIngred

This only serves 2-3, so make sure you double it if necessary.

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Bring to a boil, and then simmer until heated through and the flavors have had a chance to meld with the beans.

Serve with a grain and a simple salad for a quick and very satisfying meal.  We most recently had these beans in a great bowl with rice, avocado, and tomatoes.  If you don’t have rice, or are trying to increase your greens, just serve these beans along with greens.  Add hot sauce and/or lime, as you like.

For a serving of this rice bowl, which has a total of 325 calories, the carbon footprint is 254 g CO2-eq, with 96 g CO2-eq coming from the rice, and 66, 64, and 27 g CO2-eq coming from the beans, avocado, and tomato, respectively.  A similar meal also totaling 325 calories but using beef chili instead of the beans would have a total of 2449 g CO2-eq, with 2261 g CO2-eq coming from the beef!  Switching from the beef chili to the beans one time save the carbon equivalents emitted in a 9.9 mile drive (assuming 40 MPG)!  Doing a simple shift like this everyday for a year adds up to avoiding the emissions in driving across the country!!

The nitrogen footprint of the whole beans and rice meal is 3.2 g N per serving, with 1.4 and 0.8 g N coming from the beans and rice, respectively.  For comparison, the beef chili results in a N footprint of 21.9 g N, with 20 g N coming from the beef.  There is bit about nitrogen cycle on the Science page of this blog, and the N footprint website is a great resource.

The water footprint of the bean and rice bowl is 325 L per serving, with 145 and 111 L coming from the beans and rice, respectively.  The beef chili meal has a water footprint of 745 L per serving.  Those extra 420 L are equivalent to running the shower for 44 minutes with a standard shower head, or an hour and 14 minutes with a low flow shower head!

If you are worried about flatulence, your body should adjust to increased legume intake.  A 2011 study compared gas production over an eight-week period in groups given added beans compared to controls and found that during the first week, 35% of the bean-consuming participants reported increased gas, but this number steadily decreased throughout the duration of the study, reaching 5% by week 5, and 3% by week 8 (Winham and Hutchins, 2011).

What about the carbon footprint of increased gas from beans?  A study by Tomlin et al. (1991) analyzed gas production in healthy adults given an additional 200 g baked beans to their diets.  They produced on average 0.010 g/day methane, and 0.140 g per day of carbon dioxide.  If we assume methane is about 20 times more potent than CO2, that gives 0.340 g CO2-eq.  Compare that to the 1,995 g saved when switching from beef chili to beans. (See the bottom of the Science section for citation info.)

Some tips to reduce gassiness: If you are using canned beans, rinse before using.  If you are cooking them from dry, make sure to soak and cook them long enough, and discard the cooking water.

Please follow the blog for weekly recipes with low environmental footprint!

Planet-Friendly Hummus Pomodoro

This beautiful main course (or starter) is planet friendly and soooo delicious!  The recipe is called Hummus Pomodoro with Warm Pizza Crust, and it’s by the amazing Chef Chloe Coscarelli.  You can find the recipe here.  The spread is actually a white bean puree with lemon garlic flavor, so think Italian, rather than Middle Eastern.

HummusPomodorpic

Please check out the original link for the full recipe.  I’ll summarize here:

  1. Process in a blender till smooth:
    • 1 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 T lemon juice
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  2. Combine one medium chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup freshly chopped basil.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  You can top the creamy garlic dip with this mixture, or leave in separate bowls.
  3. Spread the delicious creamy dip and tomatoes on warm pizza crusts (see recipe for homemade).  You can also use crostini or baguette slices.

This will serve 4 to 6 as a starter, although my husband and I polished the whole recipe off for dinner.

Variations:

  • I made it without the oil just to keep it lighter and it was still really yummy.  I added a bit more lemon and some water to make it smooth.
  • I added two cloves garlic rather than just one.

Nutrition Info and Environmental Footprint:

Assuming 6 servings, each serving has 314 calories (the version without oil has 230 calories), 9.9 grams protein, and a carbon footprint of just 89 g CO2-eq. The embodied water footprint is 223 L of water, and the nitrogen footprint is 1.9 g N lost per serving.

Compare this to a pasta with ground beef tomato sauce, which for the same 9.9 grams protein has a carbon footprint per serving of 552 g CO2-eq.  The water footprint is 285 L/serving, and the nitrogen footprint is 5.5 g N lost/serving.

The carbon saved by cooking this recipe rather than the pasta with meat sauce just one time is the equivalent of the carbon emissions in a 12.5 mile car drive!  If you made a similar switch every day for a year, it would mean saving the equivalent of about 4500 miles (assuming 40 MPG)!!

Enjoy!  Please follow the blog for weekly low carbon footprint recipes!

References:

USDA Food Composition Database

Leach et al. (2016) Environmental impact food labels combining carbon, nitrogen, and water footprints. Food Policy, 61:213-223.

 

 

 

Baked Buffalo Bites

Like buffalo sauce?  You will love this recipe for baked buffalo bites of cauliflower, tofu, or tempeh, and the planet will be happy due to the low carbon footprint!  Don’t be daunted by the directions, which sound a bit complicated.  The prep is actually really fun and pretty quick, and the bites are sooo delicious.  My nephew and his fiancé made a gigantic pile of these made out of tempeh for a dinner party, and everyone, omnivores and veggies alike, devoured every last one of them (even though many people were new to tempeh).  My family loves them best made out of cauliflower (a great way to increase your vegetable intake), and next best out of firm tofu.

Here they are made out of cauliflower:

BakedBuffaloBites

You can find the original recipe for tempeh wings here at Home for 28 Cooks (shown below).

BuffaloTempehcropped

You’ll need to set up four bowls in series:

  • This first bowl will contain at least 2/3 cup soymilk (you can also use other alternative milks)
  • 2/3 cup flour with the following mixed in:
    • 1 t salt
    • 2 t thyme leaves
    • 2 t paprika
    • 1 t garlic powder
    • black pepper to taste
  • another bowl of at least 2/3 cup soymilk
  • Italian seasoned panko crumbs (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.

Break a large cauliflower head into bite sized pieces.  Pick up each piece individually and dip it into each of the four bowls sequentially.  Place each bite onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake another 10 minutes, or slightly longer so the batter on each piece is dry.

You can toss these in straight Frank’s or a similar Lousiana-style sauce, or you can mix ½ cup of Frank’s with 2 T margarine and 1 T ketchup.

If you are using firm tofu instead of cauliflower, you can just slice it up straight out of the container, and start dipping. If you are using tempeh, it may taste better if you boil or steam it first (see the link above).

Enjoy!

Each of the four servings made by this recipe (using cauliflower, and margarine in the sauce) has 209 calories and 6 grams protein, and delivers fiber, Ca, and vit C.  The carbon footprint is a very modest 48 g CO2-eq per serving!  Using tempeh or tofu instead of cauliflower increases the calories, protein, and carbon footprint by just a bit (to 239 calories, 9 grams protein, and 57 g CO2-eq per serving), while also increasing the fiber, calcium, iron, and vit A.

If you made this recipe with chicken, butter in the sauce, and dairy milk, the carbon footprint of each serving would be 287 g CO2-eq, with 127, 83, and 54 g CO2-eq coming from chicken, butter, and milk, respectively.  Each 236 calorie serving has 12 grams protein, but is lacking in fiber and vitamins.

Each time you cook a batch of these using either tofu, tempeh or cauliflower, you save the equivalent of the gas used in a drive of about four miles, or the energy required to burn a halogen bulb for approximately 40 hours.

 

 

 

Easy Aloo Ghobi (Indian Potato and Cauliflower)

This recipe is crazy easy to throw together, and you won’t believe how great it tastes!!  It is a staple in our house, serving as an excellent side dish for red lentil dahl (last post).  Both dishes heat up well for lunches the next day.   To make this dish a main course, you can add a bag of frozen edamame to it.  A side salad topped with cumin powder, lemon juice, and salt is nice alongside it.

 

alooghobicloseup

 

Ingredients (serves 6):

1 medium head of cauliflower

4 medium potatoes

2 tomatoes (field production, not hothouse, to minimize footprint–see below)

1 T black mustard seeds

1 T cumin seeds

2 t turmeric

2 t salt (or to taste)

Directions:

  • Preheat over to 400.
  • Chop up the potatoes, cauliflower, and tomatoes, and put the pieces into one large bowl.
  • Add the whole seeds, turmeric, and salt.
  • Transfer to a roasting pan with a cover (or use foil).
  • Bake 40 min or until vegetables are soft. You might want to stir once during roasting so that you get even cooking.

Each of the six servings (123 calories each, with lots of vitamins thanks to the cauliflower and tomato) for this recipe has 76 g CO2-eq associated with it.  (The potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, and seeds contribute 21, 38, 9, and 8 g CO2-eq/serving, respectively.)  If you used hothouse tomatoes, the contribution from the tomatoes alone would be 159 g CO2-eq, and the new total would be 226 g CO2-eq!!

For comparison, one medium baked potato topped with onion and margarine would have a footprint of 67 g CO2-eq, while a potato with sour cream, butter, and cheese would have 534 g CO2-eq associated with it.  Just one portion of switching from the more loaded potato to the aloo ghobi with field production tomatoes saves the amount of gas used to drive a car two miles.

Amount and food g CO2-eq calories
1 medium potato 31 129
1 T margarine 19 99
¼ onion, chopped 14 15
2 T sour cream 65 43
1 T butter 167 99
¼ cup cheese 274 110

Notes on sources of data: Nutritional info is from the USDA Food Composition Database, and greenhouse gas emissions conversion factors all items except tomatoes are from Heller and Keoleian 2015.  Conversion factors for various production styles of tomatoes are from Heller et al. 2013.  Seeds and nuts are assumed to be in the same category, as in Meier and Christen 2013.  CO2-eq includes greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide (such as methane), expressed in terms of the warming potential of CO2.

Note on recipe: I originally learned to make aloo ghobi from Anand and Nisha Patel—a big thank you to these great chefs!!  Their recipe involves roasting the seeds in oil, and cooking the potatoes and cauliflower on the stove top.  It is fantastically delicious done this way.  For this recipe, I added tomato for some liquid while roasting, and I toss it all together into the oven just in the interest of simplicity.

References:

Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. 2015. Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 19(3): 391-401.

Heller, M.C., G.A. Keoleian., and W. C. Willett. 2013. Toward a Life Cycle-Based, Diet-level Framework for Food Environmental Impact and Nutritional Quality Assessment: A Critical Review.  Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 12632−12647.

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.

.

Red Lentil Dahl

This satisfying Indian soup is delicious, super healthy, and very easy on the planet.  It makes a great side dish, and if you serve it with a salad and rice or naan, it can be the main dish.

Dahlpic

Photo credit: Kai Patel.  Pottery credit: Joey Sage Jablonski.

Beans and lentils have an especially low carbon footprint when compared to other high protein foods, partly because they are plants, and partly because their roots support microbes that can draw nitrogen from the atmosphere and change it to a form that is usable by plants!  This saves a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, because making nitrogen–rich fertilizer requires a great deal of energy.

Once you get into the routine of making it, this soup is actually quite quick to whip up.  You’ll see many of the ingredients are listed as optional, so don’t be afraid to try this even without the particular spices.  Red lentils taste great cooked up with just salt and garlic, so you really can’t go wrong!

Ingredients: (Makes 8 servings)

2 cups red lentils (they are light orange in color but are called red lentils)

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1/2 to 1” piece of fresh ginger, grated (or use ½ teaspoon powder if in a hurry)

1 t turmeric

2 t salt plus more to taste

1 t cumin seeds or powder

1 t coriander powder

1 t garam masala (optional)

a bit of cayenne pepper (optional)

2 small onions, finely chopped (optional)

2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)

3 handfuls spinach (optional)

juice from a lemon (optional)

  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly.  For the first few rinses, the water will be very cloudy.  Keep rinsing until the rinse water is fairly clear.
  2. Put the rinsed lentils in a saucepan with 5 cups of water.  Start with the heat on high.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, through the tomatoes.
  4. When you reach a boil, turn the heat down and simmer uncovered.
  5. Add the spinach when the lentils start to get soft.
  6. You’ll know it’s done when it’s a nice consistency and the lentils are still distinct, but soft.  If you cook it too long the mixture will get pasty.
  7. Squeeze in some lemon juice at the end.

Variation:  Instead of the tomatoes and onions, you can add a cup of chopped cauliflower and a chopped carrot.  You can also leave out the garlic and ginger.

Each of the 8 servings has 212 calories and results in just 71 g CO2-eq.  Compare this to a beef chili, which for a serving with the same calories results in a massive 3,024 g CO2-eq.  Switching just one meal one time from the beef chili to the dahl saves the amount of gas required to drive 13 miles in a 40 MPG car (per serving)!  This really adds up—if every day you made a similar shift for one meal per day for a year, you would save the gas used to drive the same car 4,850 miles!

And while the protein in the dahl is somewhat less than in the beef chili (14 g versus 25 g), the iron is actually higher in the dahl (4.1 mg versus 2.7 mg), as are the fiber (15 g versus 1 g), vitamin A (850 mg versus 9 mg), and calcium (41 versus 28 mg).

The credit for this recipe goes to Nisha and Anand Patel, two of the very best chefs I have ever met!

 

 

Presto! Lasagna

This recipe works especially well if you are cooking for picky eaters, because you can customize small pans of lasagna to order!  If you have kids, you can just put out the dry noodles, cashew cream (which you spin up in the blender), red sauce, and extras in front of your kids and let them make their own creations.  Don’t worry if the kids have said they don’t like cashews—they will never know they are in there if you don’t tell them.

The picture above shows the process mid-assembly so you can see how easy it is to cater to different tastes.  All of the varieties would be covered in sauce as the final step before baking.

Ingredients: (Makes 12 servings)

2 24 oz jars of marinara sauce (Your favorite brand)

1 cup cashews (Cashews should be soaked for at least an hour, unless you have a high speed blender.  If you are short on time, you can use hot water soak for just a few moments.)

1 14 oz. package tofu

4 cloves garlic

2.5 T lemon juice

1 ½ t salt

1 t black pepper

No-boil lasagna noodles.  You can use either “white” noodles (made from semolina flour), or whole wheat.

noodleboxes

Extras: (optional)

1 bunch spinach

1 lb mushrooms

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 °C.

  • Blend the ingredients from cashews, tofu, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper through until smooth.  This is your “cashew ricotta.”
  • Put a small amount of sauce in the bottom of each of three small baking pans (or one 9 by 13 inch pan).
  • Layer some noodles over the sauce.
  • Dab on some of the cashew ricotta.
  • Add a layer of “extras” if you choose (spinach, mushrooms)
  • Spoon some sauce into the layer.
  • Cover with noodles.
  • Repeat layering the cashew ricotta, extras, sauce, and noodles.
  • Cover the top layer of noodles with a generous amount of sauce.
  • Cover and bake for 35 minutes.

Remember: the three pans of lasagna in the photo have not had their top layer of noodles and sauce added yet.

Without the extras, this recipe has a footprint of approximately 150 g CO2-eq per serving.

The breakdown is as follows:

Noodles           32 g CO2-eq per serving

Tomatoes        76 g CO2-eq per serving

Cashews          16 g CO2-eq per serving

Tofu                 30 g CO2-eq per serving

Total             ~150 g CO2-eq per serving

Compare this to a cheese lasagna

Noodles             32 g CO2-eq per serving

Tomatoes         76 g CO2-eq per serving

Ricotta            610 g CO2-eq per serving

Mozzarella      280 g CO2-eq per serving

Total               ~900 g CO2-eq per serving

Or a beef lasagna:

Noodles               32 g CO2-eq per serving

Tomatoes           76 g CO2-eq per serving

Ricotta              610 g CO2-eq per serving

Beef                  750 g CO2-eq per serving

Total                ~1500g CO2-eq per serving

So, a shift from beef to veggie lasagna saves 1,310 g CO2-eq per serving.  That savings corresponds to driving your car 6 miles (assuming 40 miles per gallon)!  An equivalent shift for one meal a day for a year adds up to emissions savings equivalent to over 2,000 miles!

A recent paper in Science (Notz and Stroeve, Science, 2016) reported a  direct linear relationship between CO2-eq emissions and sea ice loss.  For every metric ton (that’s 1,000 kg) of CO2-eq emitted, 3 square meters of sea ice are lost every summer.  This means that one person switching out just one portion of beef lasagna for veggie saves 39 square centimeters of ice.

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