Trendwatch: Less Meat is Hip
By Kate Heyhoe
Get ready: a new wave of cookbooks geared at cutting back (or cutting out) meat will soon hit the shelves. Hurrah! The reduced-meat diet is seriously catching on. Hopefully, we can all adapt the meat-free trend into our daily lifestyle, another step towards making “being green” into the new normal.
This month, I’ve picked four basic meat-free recipes to inspire you (one per week), no matter how busy you are. And I’ve got a handful of main dish recipes where only a handful of meat is used.
People ask me all the time: what are the fastest, easiest ways to go greener in the kitchen? Simple: consume less meat. Eating less meat shrinks your cookprint in big ways, reducing a whole chain of emissions that start at the farm, ride into your store, and end up at your table.
As I mention in Cooking Green, producing a single serving of beef requires more than 2600 gallons of water. Plus all the other global warming issues, like methane release and pollutants from livestock and factory farms. Plant based foods are the way to go, with loads of variety for wonderful flavor, texture, and nutrition: grains, nuts, leafy greens, root vegetables, legumes, and all the other fruits and veggies that fill our world. Don’t forget sea vegetables too, which are rich in nutrients, easy to prepare and great tasting, like my Wakame Salad.
Making a vow to eat less meat doesn’t mean committing to a total vegetarian diet, unless you want to. A meal that uses small amounts of meat as flavoring is still a great step to take if it replaces a meatier meal, where the steak, chop or chicken breast was at the center of the plate. Think fried rice, stir-fry, sausage and beans, pizza, paella, tamales, tacos and enchiladas, quiche and such.
Less is more, as they say. Gradually move from meaty meals to meat-free meals most days of the week. Cook fewer steaks and roasts, and more grains, beans and pastas. (And if you’re already a vegetarian, invite your carnivorous friends over and show them how to cook meat-free with style.) To get started, try the simple but delicious recipes below, from leading cookbook authors; they’re good templates, too, to customize with your own favorite ingredients. (And check out our archives of Pasta, Risotto and You for scads more recipes.)
DIY Basic Meat-Free Main Courses
- Hominy and Kidney Bean Chili
- Quinoa Pilaf (and Quinoa with Pecans)
- Polenta Lasagne with Spinach, Zucchini, Herbs, and Fontina
- Leek and Mushroom Strudel
Meat-Reduced and Fish Recipes
- Fish Tacos with Cucumber Salsa
- Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage
- Oregon Salmon Hash
- Pizza with White Beans, Prosciutto and Rosemary
Getting the LEDs In and Out
By Kate Heyhoe
LEDs are “in” and it’s time to get the word out about their energy-saving profile. Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, they don’t contain mercury and they’re even more energy efficient. And if you use a MacBook Air (like me), you’re seeing this by the light of an LED screen.
LED stands for light emitting diode, and everything from traffic lights, billboards, automotive running lights, laptop computers and TVs are increasingly beaming with LEDs. So are countries and municipalities, including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Technology advancements mean consumers will soon be using LEDs even more routinely.
Sapphire, it seems, is the secret behind 90 percent of LEDs, though these sapphires don’t look quite like the gemstone on your finger. One company, Rubicon Technology, provides most of the world’s sapphire substrates used in the LED chips, and recently announced its process for manufacturing the “super boule,” a 400-pound sapphire crystal that can produce large volumes of LEDs. Their improvements in sapphire wafer size, brightness and yield mean LEDs will become more widespread in residential lighting, laptop screens, smart phones, and other applications.
- Low energy consumption – residential LED lighting uses 75% less energy
- Long life—LED lighting lasts 25 times longer than incandescents
- No infrared or ultraviolet radiation—excellent for outdoor use because UV light attracts bugs and LEDs don’t
- Environmentally sound—LEDs contain no mercury and remain cool to the touch
- Versatile—Fully dimmable (most CFLs are not), with directional light distribution
Laptop and Lighting Facts:
- According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 22 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. powers lighting. And 9% of a household’s energy costs are related to lighting
- The typical American home has 40 sockets for light bulbs
- Notebooks typically require around 65 LED chips. Dell is currently transitioning all laptop LCDs to LED backlights. Apple already uses LED backlights for MacBook Air. Industry analysts predict market penetration will reach 50 percent by 2010.
- LED television sales are predicted to reach 32 million screens in 2015, up from estimates of 2 million in 2009 and 7 million in 2010, according to Samsung.
So keep LEDs on your radar. They’re coming soon to a screen (or a lamp) near you.
How Super-Sweet It Is!
By Kate Heyhoe
A food’s color makes an impact on consumer acceptance, and the normal color isn’t always the preferred one. Food coloring, for instance, is added to some farmed salmon to make it look bright rosy-red (not the dull, pastel pink it would be otherwise). Even so-called “natural” foods can be processed, bleached or dyed to enhance their appeal, which is somewhat oxymoronic.
I recently received a bag of Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder. The bag is printed with a pleasant graphic design on all sides, obscuring the contents, which I didn’t notice until I looked inside. The stevia was green! Not what I was expecting, but not bad at all, as it turns out.
We all know that green is good, yet when a food we’re used to seeing as white arrives green, it can be jolting. But this stevia’s green color also makes it greener in a cookprint-shrinking way.
A few years ago, stevia was barely known; today, white stevia is sold in major supermarkets under various brand names as a sugar substitute, and it’s a widespread ingredient in beverages, baked goods and other products.
What’s the appeal of stevia? Zero-calorie, zero-carb and no spikes in blood-sugar levels. It’s made from a South American herb with a sweetening power a hundred times that of sugar. As one person said, “Stevia is God’s gift to diabetics.”
Wes Crain of Navitas Naturals explained why they sell green stevia. “Most Stevia is white as it is highly processed and usually an extract or an isolated chemical of the plant. Ours is the whole leaf milled to a fine powder,” he explains. But what about using it on baked goods, will they turn green? “The color should not affect recipes as the amount you use is quite small.” Also, stevia does not brown or crystallize as sugar does, so don’t use it for meringues or caramelizing.
Indeed, a little stevia goes a long way. Add a few grains too much to tea, for instance, and a sweet surge is palpable. Navitas Naturals recommends very small amounts at a time—start out with a pinch—and gradually increase to avoid over-sweetening a dish. As a sugar replacement, one teaspoon green stevia equals the sweetness of approximately 1/4 cup cane sugar (and for reference sake, 1/4 cup = 12 teaspoons). Green stevia is not as potent as the more processed liquid or white stevia versions, and it’s best used to enhance other sweeteners, to lower the sugar content in recipes. It’s also good in beverages like teas and smoothies.
Even white stevia has a bit of an herby, licorice-like undertone, which is even more pronounced in green stevia. With coffee, I found green stevia’s aftertaste a tad too noticeable, but it’s perfect for offsetting the bitterness of some greens and vegetables. (My husband blends up our daily afternoon green drink using spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger and such, and a little sweet stevia balances the flavors in lieu of apple or fruit juice.) A little green stevia can enhance a salad dressing, where the herby flavor blends in well, or to bring out the sweetness of tomatoes.
Navitas Naturals Organic Stevia Powder is 100% organic, vegan, and kosher, and comes in an 8-ounce resealable pouch (which could last for years, given its potent sweetening power). It’s sold at natural food stores and online. MSRP: $11.99
CDN ProAccurate® Heavy Duty Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer
Other than the heater and AC, the biggest energy-guzzling appliance in your house is your refrigerator. To keep fridge and freezer, and the food that’s in them, at their optimum temperatures, use a thermometer. Ideal temperatures extend the life of perishables without burning excess energy or risking contamination.
I’ve been using the CDN ProAccurate® Heavy Duty Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer (model RFT1). It’s got several features that make it a winner: an easy to read dial (no squinting at thin red bars), at-a-glance indicators to show the ideal range, and mounting options for hanging or sitting wherever you want (no suction cups). It comes with a 5-year warranty but looks sturdy enough to last a lifetime. By using it, you can save energy and prevent food waste. At $7.99 or less, this CDN thermometer is money well spent.
by Kate Hehyoe
Recently, BPA’s been making headlines, but often with incomplete information. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a widely used chemical that can leach from packaging into foods and liquids.
As canned and frozen packaged foods go, BPA presents a real dilemma. It’s so ubiquitous, it’s even in soda cans. From Con-Agra to Carnation, Annie’s Naturals to Whole Foods, and conventional to organic, we’ve been eating products with BPA-packaging for more than fifty years.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest stops short of putting all BPA-lined containers (including cans) on the do-not-use list. But it does note that pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children are more at risk than the general population because BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone that affects brain development.
In early 2008, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that BPA-packaged products “are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects…At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles.”
But in September 2008, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and released before federal hearings linked exposure to bisphenol A with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities in adults.
Other studies suggest that as BPA leaches into ground water, it may harm fish and plants over time. (BPA does have a short half-life, chemically speaking, but it’s everywhere; as a polycarbonate component, it’s found in everything from CDs to medical equipment to fire retardant.)
The food safety issues are really just opening up. Things you should know about BPA include:
- If you see #7 in the recycling symbol on a plastic bottle or frozen food container, it may contain BPA. But #7 is a catch-all category, so it also includes both BPA and non-BPA containers.
- PVC containers marked as #3 can contain BPA in their plasticizers, but not all do.
- Any container of hard, clear plastic is likely to contain BPA, unless otherwise noted.
- BPA leaches out 55 times faster when exposed to hot liquids.
The good news is that non-BPA alternatives do exist. They’re either not widespread or not promoted as BPA-free. For instance:
- Eden-brand uses non-BPA cans for their beans (but not for their tomatoes).
- Aseptic containers (as with tomatoes) and pouched packages (as with tuna) are non-BPA alternatives to cans.
- For non-BPA plastic soda and water bottles, look for recycling symbols with 1 (PETE).
- Stainless steel and glass make good alternatives to hard plastic, polycarbonate bottles.
With increased consumer demand, more manufacturers will get the BPA out. You’ll probably never see labels stating the package contains BPA, but the brands that voluntarily go BPA-free will be smart to let us know.
This article is excerpted in part from Kate Heyhoe’s book (Da Capo Press, April 2009):
Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way
*Hundreds of tips and over 50 energy- and time-saving recipes to shrink your “cookprint”
(and affordable organics and pet food, too)
Brown bag lunches, wrapping up turkey leftovers, fall potlucks and festive tailgatings ramp up our use of plastic wrap, storage bags, trash bags, and paper products—all of which have greener options these days. But some can be pricey. Natural Value makes a full line of planet-friendly products at affordable prices, including plastic wrap and storage bags with no plasticizers or PVCs, unbleached recycled lunch bags, unbleached waxed paper bags, recycled paper products, home-compostable plates, and a full line of detergents, scrubbers, baby wipes, and trash bags with eco-positive aspects. They even make unbleached parchment paper (gourmet cooks listen up!). The Natural Value brand sells organic foods ranging from coconut milk from pasta to popcorn; some are also kosher. Got cats? Their cat food contains no preservatives, byproducts or coloring. Check out these products:
Plus: Refrigeration Storage Tips
What do you call the impact you make on the planet when you cook?
It’s your “cookprint”— the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process.
The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen and continues in your fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded waste, whether it’s organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further colors the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with, the way you store leftovers, and how you dispose of food waste.
In short, the cookprint measures every meal’s entire environmental impact. It’s the total amount of energy (from farm to fuel to fork) used in creating a meal. And it puts the cook squarely in charge of just how big, or how green, that cookprint will be—in ways that go far beyond buying organic or local, or eating meat or not.
In writing my next book, I couldn’t find the exact term I wanted, so I created “cookprint.”
I was having a tough time with the term “carbon footprint.” Not because of what it stands for, but because it’s such a cold, negative term, and my world revolves around upbeat, positive and inspiring ways to integrate food and cooking into our lives. Food writing should be mouthwatering and inviting, and “carbon footprint” was not.
Nor is the new buzzword “foodprint” exactly right. Coined by Cornell University researchers led by Chris Peters, “foodprint” is defined as the amount of land needed to supply one person’s nutritional needs for a year. It makes conclusions about meat vs. non-meat diets, but pivots mainly on agriculture land resources.
I wanted a word that was vested in personal actions: how we can each make a difference, every day. Even if you don’t cook, someone cooks what you eat, and that contributes to your personal cookprint.
Moreover, I wanted a term that involved a verb, not a foot or a food.
The “cook” in cookprint is a word of action. Just think of all the decisions, and all the physical steps, that go into answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”
Understanding your “cookprint” is about questioning the things we take for granted, and making greener choices with every meal. Sure, a “cookprint” includes ingredients—where they come from, how they’re grown, and how they’re packaged. But there’s more: it’s how you cook your food, the type of energy used, the amount of fuel consumed, the amount of water you use—and the amount of fuel and water you waste.
A cookprint covers even the smallest details. It’s about storing food in ways that use less energy, without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. This means making the refrigerator you already own more energy efficient, storing fresh fruits and vegetables in ways that make them last longer (meaning fewer shopping trips and less spoilage), saving leftovers in glass containers rather than plastic ones or zipper bags. Frying with energy-efficient skillets. And hundreds of other tips.
“Cookprint” is the foundation of this website, and what I consider the New Green Basics of Cooking.
Boiling Down Your “Cookprint”
Recipes and traditional cooking methods are also targeted when it comes to greening your cookprint. In places and times when fuel is scarce, people never take fuel consumption for granted. Neither should we. Does that mean giving up slow roasted foods or big, boiling pots of pasta? Absolutely not! But there are plenty of ways to stretch the fuels we use, every time we turn on the oven or fire up the burner, and green our cookprint by doing so. It’s time to stop being mindless energy hogs when it comes to cooking methods. It’s time to green our cookprints.
Cookprint Q & A:
From time to time, as I write my current book, I’ll be posting tips and articles intended to color your “cookprint.” To start, here’s a question that makes better use of your refrigerator.
Q: The refrigerator is the kitchen’s biggest energy hog. What’s the best temperature setting for your refrigerator?
A: When fresh foods are stored properly, at their specific optimal temperatures, they’ll last longer, meaning fewer gas-guzzling trips to the store. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to monitor your setting. In general, 37 to 40 degrees cools sufficiently without wasting electricity. Keep dairy products at 33 to 38 degrees, meats between 31 and 36 degrees, and eggs at 33 to 37 degrees. Store fresh vegetables and ripe fruits at 35 to 40 degrees. To stash foods in the coldest sections of the fridge, store them along the freezer wall (in a side-by-side) or in the back of the fridge, and never in the door. Some refrigerators come with programmable storage bins, so you simply set them for meats, produce or citrus. Tip: Place a freezer pack in your fridge or its bins, to chill down the immediate area (place it under meats or milk, for instance). The freezer pack will last several days, and you can refreeze it when it thaws.
This year, cooking comes with greater awareness. Jumpstarted in recent years by Warren Buffet and the Gates Foundation, George Clooney’s plea for Darfur, issues raised by The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Al Gore’s leadership with global warming, the national mindset is increasingly aimed at connecting with bigger issues. As the year progresses, I’ll be covering the emerging trends behind what we eat and how we cook it…
- Cast iron cookware, regular and enamel coated
- Made in USA (preferably local)
- Induction cooking, to keep kitchens cool
- Re-usable shopping bags
- Stovetop cooking, all year round
- Conscious consumerism: voting with your dollar
- Savory desserts
- More meatless meals, especially with whole grains
- Dark chocolate, organic and fair trade, 70% cacao
- Certified: Organic, Fair Trade, and domestic Fair Trade
- Ethical eating, humanely raised animals
- Kinder, gentler TV chefs with world vision
- Kitchen sections at second-hand stores
- Inhumanely raised livestock and poultry
- Inhuman, self-centered TV chefs with no vision
- Milk chocolate
- Faux organics and exploited workers
- Made in China, including questionable “organics”
- Double wall ovens, which stress cooling systems
- Beefy meals (though grass-fed beats conventional)
- Plastic and paper
- Oven cooking in warm weather
- Supporting the bad guys
- Corn syrup sweets
- Teflon and nonstick-surface cookware
- Salad shooters and one-trick-pony appliances
…from Kate’s Global Kitchen
If you support being clean and green, and your tastes lean toward refined design or a hip Crate-&-Barrel look, then Caldrea has a product for you. Made by the same folks behind the Mrs. Meyer’s line of cleaning products, Caldrea products are just as green, but their fancier packaging and selection of scents absolutely exude upscale elegance, kissed with exotic aroma-therapy benefits. (They’re biodegradable, not tested on animals, and really do work without harsh chemicals.)
Overly sweet, frou-frou smells choke me up, but these are as far away from that concept as you can get. Caldrea blends natural essences into such options as Ginger Pommelo, Basil Blue Sage, Lavender Pine, Sweet Pea, Citrus Mint, and Seville Orange Amber, among other fragrances, then infuses them into such household handies as dishwashing liquid, countertop cleansers, all-purpose sprays, powdered scrubs, laundry products, and linen sprays. They’ll make your home clean and dreamy, and while I never thought I’d recommend countertop cleansers or linen sprays as luxurious stocking stuffers, these can make unexpectedly wonderful gifts. (Trust me, with four cats and two dogs, I guarantee pet owners will absolutely inhale these products.) Caldrea’s website has new holiday scents, but these are the ones I know best:
One benefit of cast iron is that the seasoned surface is naturally nonstick and non-toxic at any temperature, unlike bonded surfaces like Teflon.
It’s not just enough to make products from green materials, or design cookware that’s more energy efficient. The greenness of the manufacturing process also comes into play, and every cookware company makes some degree of environmental impact. But at Lodge, they’re environmentally vested. Here’s the company’s report:
How Green is Our Foundry?
Lodge Manufacturing Company’s Pollution Prevention Success Stories
*Increased Use of Biodiesel:* In 2005, Lodge began using biodiesel to power several pieces of equipment, progressing to a 90% blend before cutting back to 20% in winter months. Biodiesel reduces ozone forming potential and also reduces emissions of sulfur, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and hydrocarbons compared to diesel.
*Cardboard Recycling:* Lodge began cardboard recycling by allowing outside companies to pick up cardboard at no charge. In 2001, the amount of cardboard recycle was 34.5 tons. In 2005, it was 48.1 tons. The program continues today.
*Establishment of Beneficial Use of Foundry Sand:* Lodge Mfg, the American Foundry Society (AFS), and the Environmental Committee of the AFS worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Solid Waste to request and help draft a beneficial use policy for non-hazardous foundry sand. The policy was adopted in April 1996 and is an example of industry and government working together for good of the environment.
Beneficial Reuse of Foundry Sand/Marion County Landfill: Lodge Mfg coordinated with Marion County government to have 9,225 cubic yards of foundry sand to create the required 12-inch protective cover over the liner in the first phase of two new cells. Completed in March 2003, the County saved $191,311.75 by using the sand.
*Settling Ponds Support Plant & Animal Life:* A stream flows from South Pittsburg Mountain through the Lodge foundry and into the Lake Guntersville Reservoir Watershed. Working to enhance the stream’s water, Lodge constructed three storm water settling ponds to support plant and animal life. Water lilies, cattails and fish have been introduced to the ponds and are thriving. Water quality is now above requirements.
*Planting Trees for Site Beautification & Ozone Attainment:* A total of 121 trees have been planted on the Lodge Mfg campus to help improve air quality and beautification. The establishment of 1.4 acres of trees is equivalent to removing one motor vehicle from the highway.
*Lodge Manufacturing receives the 1994 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction:* In 1991, Lodge President Henry Lodge replaces the cupola melting system with more environmentally friendly induction melt system. The result was that Lodge Mfg changed its status as a Large Quantity Generator of Hazardous Waste to Small Quantity Generator.