Not all food is created equal, and not all foods are healthy for the planet. You’ve seen the headlines. Manufacturing plants suck up water, pollute with chemicals and damage the surrounding landscape. Raising cattle and other livestock is also associated with earth-damaging consequences. Most environmentalists agree that plant-based products offer the best balance of nutrition and sustainability. Earth Day is right around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to focus on foods that show our love for the planet. If you’d like to curate a meal plan incorporating plant-based ingredients, seasonal goods and limited waste, here are some recipes to inspire you.
Spring offerings make for a delightfully fresh breakfast.
Eggs with asparagus and spinach
1. Broil a thick slice of rustic or sourdough bread on both sides.
2. Create an indent in the center of the bread. If applicable to your diet, add prosciutto around the edges of the bread. Fill the indent with a layer of cheese (your choice) and a generous layer of spinach. Arrange small, tender pieces of asparagus around the center. Then, gently break an egg into the spinach nest.
3. Cook at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are set and the vegetables are tender. Add a side of sliced apricot or avocado.
Well that doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? Maybe we should call it, “Keep from Wasting Vegetables Bowl” instead. The goal here is to use up whatever is in the fridge, so dig deep.
1. Roast whatever veggies you have. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peppers, turnip, parsnip, asparagus, beans … all of them! Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in the oven until tender.
2. In the meantime, make a cup of your favorite grain. Quinoa, brown rice, white rice, buckwheat, barley, farrow or amaranth are great options.
3. Mix it all together, and stir in your choice of beans: pinto, kidney, garbanzo, black, etc. Top with cheese, a squirt of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil or your preferred dressing.
Spring is a great time to enjoy young greens and cool-weather lettuce along with other seasonal fruits and vegetables. There are so many combinations to try, so feel free to mix it up any way you like!
1. Start with a base of arugula, green and red lettuce, romaine and/or spinach.
2. With your leafy greens in place, choose your veggies. Many of your favorites are likely in season right now. Consider beets (shredded), carrots of all colors (shredded or sliced), radishes (thinly sliced), peas (snow, snap and garden) and broccoli florets.
3. Add some fruit. Many people forget to consider fruit when putting together a salad, but early-season strawberries and spring apricots add the perfect zing to the mix.
4. For dressing, go with a vinaigrette. They are plant-based and easy to whip up, plus there are many flavor options to create.
For example, a soy/mustard combination includes:
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
While a traditional berry vinaigrette is made up of:
4 large strawberries or 1/3 cup raspberries or other berry of choice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp agave syrup
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
5. Top with nuts. The options are endless here too. Shaved almonds, cashews, roasted filberts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds are all excellent choices.
Easy homemade dinner pizza
If you are avoiding grains, create a cauliflower-crust instead of the one here. Choose any toppings that make you happy, but this recipe focuses on light spring eats. Note: The dough performs better if made the day before.
2 tbsp agave
3 cups warm water
2 packages dry active yeast
7 cups of flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp kosher salt
1. Combine agave, yeast and water in a bowl, and allow it to sit until it becomes foamy, about five to 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the flour, olive oil and salt.
3. Knead the mixture until smooth.
4. Coat the dough with oil, place in a bowl and cover, allowing it to rise until it doubles, about one hour.
5. Divide the dough into four balls and lay these on a sheet with space between them. Cover and refrigerate overnight. You can still use the dough without this rest period with pretty good results.
6. Warm your grill. You will be using indirect heat, so heat it up and then turn off half the flames on a gas grill or move coals to one side for charcoal.
7. Roll out one ball of dough and transfer it to the grill. Make sure your toppings are prepared and nearby. Stay close to your pizza while it cooks. Transfer the stretched-out dough to the grill. Don’t worry if it is not perfectly rounded; the handmade look adds a rustic appeal. Cook the dough for one or two minutes, then flip. Move it to indirect heat for an additional one to two minutes. Continue moving it back and forth, flipping frequently until it is bubbled and cooked through.
8. Add your favorite cheese and other toppings, and continue to cook the pizza until the cheese melts, keeping it off of direct high heat. The options for toppings are endless, but our favorite combination is toasted pine nuts, spinach, fresh basil, garlic and olives. Fresh spring flavors include arugula, fennel bulbs, peas, artichoke hearts and asparagus.
Vegan strawberry ice cream
No meal is complete without dessert, especially when you’re honoring the Earth. We’ll give credit to our friends over at Loving it Vegan for this sweet, plant-based option. Enjoy!
1 14oz (400ml) can coconut cream
1 14oz (400ml) can coconut milk
1/2 cup (100g) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) maple syrup
1 cup (232g) strawberry puree
1 tbsp strawberry extract
1/2 tsp salt
1. Add a can of coconut milk, a can of coconut cream, sugar and maple syrup to a pot.
2. Bring that to a simmer, stirring constantly.
3. As soon as it simmers, remove the pot from the heat and add in strawberries puree, salt and strawberry extract.
4. Blend everything until smooth.
5. Next, put the mixture into a storage container and place into the fridge to chill overnight. If you are in a hurry, place the mixture in the freezer for an hour or so.
6. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker until it reaches your desired consistency. This can take about 20 minutes to 45 minutes.
The best way to celebrate the planet is through your stomach. With the right ingredients, that’s a win-win!
Images via Shutterstock