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A classic, in honor of Earth Day.

If you haven’t already, go do something nice for the planet. A few quick, easy ideas:

Replace an incandescent lightbulb with a CFL.
Take a shorter shower.
Shut off the water while you brush your teeth.
Bring your lunch to work in a reusable container instead of ordering takeout.
Consolidate errands to reduce the amount of driving you do.
Walk, bicycle, carpool, or take the bus when possible.
Try a vegetarian or vegan recipe.
Support your local farmers.
Shop at Goodwill.
Recycle.
Precycle.
Buy a Terrapass.
Calculate your environmental footprint.
Unplug the computer when you finish using it to reduce phantom loads.
Take your own reusable cloth bag when you go shopping.
Install a water filter on your kitchen faucet and use it to refill water bottles instead of buying more.

Emily

This past weekend, I had occasion to entertain a group of people that included a vegetarian who avoids cheese made with rennet. The recipe, which was my own invention, drew rave reviews from the whole group, including some pretty dedicated carnivores, so I posted it on Red Fork State of Mind. I thought I’d cross-post it here in case you’re trying to shrink your environmental footprint by working a vegan meal into your diet every now and then:

Vegan Lasagna

1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (or make your own with two cans of tomato sauce and your favorite Italian spices)
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 green bell pepper
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 c. chopped onion (frozen kind is OK)
1 box frozen spinach
1 bag julienned carrots
Half a can of cheap beer
1 lb. extra firm tofu (NOT silken)
Two bags vegan mozzarella shreds
Chopped garlic to taste — start with about six cloves and adjust to your liking
Olive oil or margarine

In a wok or large skillet, saute onion and pepper in olive oil or margarine until pepper is soft. In a heavy skillet, brown carrots in olive oil or margarine. Add beer and simmer until it evaporates. While carrots cook, add squash and mushrooms to wok and saute until squash is tender. Thaw spinach in the microwave. Add spinach and cooked carrots to wok. Cook until spinach is heated through. Add garlic and cook very briefly (30 seconds or so).

Using two knives in a criss-cross motion, crumble the tofu.

In a greased baking dish, place a layer of lasagna noodles, a layer of vegetables, a layer of sauce, a layer of vegan mozzarella, and a layer of crumbled tofu. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.

Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Extra-firm tofu is a healthful and less expensive alternative to ricotta cheese, which has a very similar texture and flavor. Lasagna is a very forgiving dish, which means you could start with this recipe and riff on it to your heart’s content. The squash seemed to be the key to the whole thing, but I think zucchini would work as well as yellow squash. If you don’t need it to be truly vegan, use real butter.

I’m not a vegetarian at the moment, although I have been off and on in the past, to varying degrees. I would never advise anyone to attempt a wholesale change in his diet overnight — it’s too extreme, too difficult, and too daunting a prospect to be sustainable for most of us — but eating less meat is a quick way to reduce your carbon footprint, so it’s certainly worth considering.

I’ve set a personal goal of trying one new lacto-ovo-vegetarian recipe and one new vegan recipe each week. I’ll post the best recipes here in case you want to play along at home.

Where possible, I’ll use local, seasonal ingredients, but this evening, I thought I’d give the environment a break by using up things I had on hand rather than making a special trip across town just to pick up ingredients for dinner … so I found a couple of falafel recipes and used them as a basis for improvisation. I was pretty happy with the results:

falafel.jpg

Falafel

1 can chickpeas
Five or six baby carrots
Two ribs of celery, cut into chunks
Five or six cloves of garlic
1/4 c. chopped onion (I used frozen, and it worked fine)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. paprika
A little ground red pepper
3 tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 c. flour
Canola oil for frying

Put all ingredients except oil in food processor and process until smooth. Remove batteries from smoke alarm. Turn on exhaust fan. (These are important steps in my house, as I seem to set off the smoke detector every time I fry anything.) Pour about a half-inch of oil into a heavy skillet and heat for a few minutes. Form falafel mixture into 1-inch balls, flatten a bit to make small patties, and fry in hot oil until browned and crispy on both sides. Makes about 30 pieces.

Falafel is fine by itself, but you can also serve it with tahini sauce (2 parts tahini, 1 part water, and 2 parts lemon juice) for dipping, or stuff pita pockets with falafel, tomatoes, cucumbers, and tahini or tzatziki sauce to make a great sandwich.

(Recipe cross-posted from Red Fork State of Mind.)

Emily