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
“Be the Change”:
A Green Monthly Planner for 2009
by Kate Heyhoe
Adopt one new green habit once a month, and keep it going all year long.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Ghandi. Even if the journey starts with baby steps, walk forward. Both Obama and McCain ran on platforms of “change.” If change is what you really want, take ownership: start making changes at home and in your own life.
Sound tough? Rethink your strategy, reduce it to something manageable. “Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win” is an oft-quoted bit of wisdom from author and educator, Jonathan Kozol.
Living green isn’t something occasional. It’s something to do every day. Try adapting month by month, like this:
January: Eat less meat. If you’re not a vegetarian, switch to meatless meals several times a week. If you’re already a vegetarian, invite your carnivorous friends to meat-free meals, and let them help make them.
February: Improve water heater efficiency. Insulate the pipes from heater to tap. Adjust the water heater thermometer to a low or medium setting (the high setting is usually overkill).
March: Plant seeds or trees. Preferably with edible benefits, like produce, nuts and fruits. Tend to them organically.
April: Capture water. Keep a jug by the tap, to water your garden. (Think of all the water you waste just waiting for hot water to reach the tap.)
May: Switch to low-impact brands. These are ones with less packaging or less water. If you drink Gatorade, for instance, buy the powdered version. Bottled versions require more fuel to transport. Ditto for laundry detergent: powder beats liquids in the good green race.
June: Skip the electric rush-hour. Run dishwashers and laundry machines late at night, or at times of off-peak consumption (avoid 5:00 to 8:00 PM.)
July: Dispense with disposables. Pack re-usable plates, cutlery and cups for picnics and barbecues.
August: Run ceiling fans. They use less electricity than air conditioners, and generate fewer greenhouse gases.
September: Hold an appliance swap. Or organize a rummage sale for charity. Let someone else make use of what you no longer want or need. Every appliance you reuse saves another unwanted appliance from entering this world.
October: Clean with vinegar. Instead of dangerous chemicals, use white vinegar. Never use anti-bacterial products, which kill the good bacteria with the bad.
November: Redistribute the freebies. Grocery specials can include 2-for-1 or buy-this/get-this-free deals, especially around the holidays. Even if you don’t want the freebie, accept it and donate it to a food bank.
December: Do good. Buy holiday gifts from charities, or choose a service or donation as your gift to others. One gift idea: Enrollment in a CSA, Community Sponsored Agriculture, program where recipients get a box of fresh, locally grown produce every month or week.
Find more ways to go green gradually in Kate Heyhoe’s book:
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”)