Saving the planet may seem like an impossible task, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference your family can make—just with the time you spend in the kitchen.
by Lori Tinella
Celebrating Earth Day
Believe it or not, the kitchen gets more use than any other room in the house, so it’s the perfect place to start. Let’s face it, there’s no better way to celebrate earth day than to celebrate the bounty of produce and clean water we get from the ground.
Here’s a few ways to shop smarter:
- Check out your local farmer’s market —beyond supporting local (often sustainable) agriculture, you’ll get a feel for the foods available by season.
- When you really need fruits or vegetables out of season, opt for frozen over imported fresh.
- Choosing foods based on the current season is the easiest way to eat local. Get familiar with the produce section of your grocery store, and make seasonal adjustments to your favorite recipes. For example, if your stir-fry recipe calls for asparagus or snap peas, and it’s the dead of winter, try broccoli instead.
- Try to buy at least some organic produce —you’ll not only reduce your own exposure to pesticides, but you won’t be adding to the pesticides that find their way into our water system. Crops high in pesticide residue include apples, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, grapes, cherries, strawberries and green beans.
- One-pot meals use less energy than meals made using multiple stove-top burners in addition to the oven. Incorporate casseroles, main-dish salads and stews into your weeknight cooking—it’ll save on clean-up, too!
- Simply serving correct portions (four ounces of chicken or fish, three for beef) will do wonders for both your health and the planet. It takes a large amount of resources (both grain and water) to make one pound of meat. You’ll end up with a plate balanced with vegetables, grains and meat, rather than one that’s meat-heavy.
- Use cool water to rinse vegetables —even better, fill one side of the sink with a few inches of water and wash all the produce for your meal at once.
- Choose your appliances wisely: slow-cookers, pressure cookers and your microwave all use less energy than your range.
- In hotter months, avoid using the range. Opt for your microwave instead—it won’t heat up the house. Microwaves use from half to 1/5 the amount of energy as your range. Hint: for maximum efficiency, cook smaller rather than larger pieces of food. A whole meat loaf, for example, takes longer to reheat than the same weight of sliced meatloaf thanks to more surface area.
- Use your toaster oven if you need to bake something in the hot summer months,. It takes a lot less energy to heat a small space than a large one.
- Allow leftover food to cool completely before putting it into the refrigerator—it will take less energy for the refrigerator to maintain a cold temperature.
- Use dishtowels and cloth napkins instead of paper products. They’re more absorbent and prettier, anyway.
- Use cool water to rinse dishes as you load the dishwasher.
- Let the dishes in the dishwasher air dry.
- Fill a basin instead of washing directly under running water when washing dishes by hand.
- Switch to non-toxic soaps and cleansers for everyday tasks—they’re better for the environment AND safer for kids. Baking soda, for instance, is helpful for removing stubborn food and stains from pots and pans.
- Install a high-quality water filter instead of buying bottled water.
- Install a faucet aerator —you’ll get the same cleaning power with less water.
- Vacuum the coils behind (or under) your refrigerator regularly.
Celebrate the earth, eat environmentally friendly!
What better way to honor Earth Day than to prepare a dish that’s easy on the environment? Look for spring gems like asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and peas at your nearest farmer’s market. Eating local supports your economy and involves fewer miles traveled – and fewer pollutants emitted.
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- 2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Sauté asparagus in the pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and mushroom slices; cook 3 minutes more.
- 3. Drain pasta, and transfer to a serving dish. Gently toss pasta with asparagus mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan and crushed red pepper.
You’ll want to try these healthy, wholesome banana blueberry muffins that are both quick and easy to make. Full of fiber, these morning muffins are a great way to start a nutritious day.
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons egg replacer (dry)
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
- 2. In a large bowl combine mashed bananas, all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix until smooth. In a small bowl or cup combine water and egg replacer; stir into banana mixture. Fold in blueberries.
- 3. Spoon batter evenly, about 1/4 cup each, into muffin cups.
- 4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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