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How to Cook and Eat Sustainably: A Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

Written by Reya Borbridge

This week is all about sustainability! Slugs in the Kitchen wants to hone in on focusing on how to cook sustainably and doing so affordably. Although all the recipes we post are vegan already, they don’t always represent sustainability. But first, we need to understand what sustainability means in terms of cooking and eating.

When I say the recipes we show aren’t always sustainable I mean that because each recipe has almost an entirely different flavor pallet that uses a variety of spices, condiments, grains, veggies, fruits, etc. This means that we aren’t being affordably sustainable and can come across as expensive to be vegan or make so many different complex meals that sometimes require ingredients that are hard or expensive to source. We also don’t always show recipes that are seasonal. This is mostly because we want to showcase recipes from various cuisines for diversity, but understand that those ingredients may not taste as good as they would if in season. For example, some recipes I have posted lately have included ingredients such as bell pepper, cucumber, and tomatoes. These are not winter vegetables and so they obviously were more water-based and tasteless when grown during this time.

If looking for an easy way to start being more sustainable, stick to locally grown produce from farmers markets, and make sure it's organic and sustainably grown. This means farms that incorporate agroecology and cover cropping in their farming. It also means that the way they grow their food is natural without pesticides which is super important.

Food waste is a big problem our world faces, but when at home and not in a corporate setting we can make simple steps for ourselves to be more sustainable in the kitchen. First thing is composting! Composting is a great way to let that old produce be repurposed and later be used for growing new veggies! The second is to save your food scraps for stock. I find this to be such a simple thing that many people just are too lazy to keep up with. But what is amazing about this is that you can simply gather scraps such as onion peels and mushroom caps and place them in a zip lock bag, then place them into the freezer. Constantly adding to this freezer bag with veggie scraps will build a variety of flavors when ready to make veggie stock. When you have a full bag and enough time in your day to commit to the process of flavorful fresh stock you can dump your scrap into a pot with a bunch of water and some salt and then let it slowly simmer for hours to absorb the flavor. When all is done you can go ahead and strain the scraps out and store the beautiful stock in the fridge for soups or any recipes you want to try out. This trick is awesome for when just starting out your sustainability journey!

Homemade Granola

Some sustainable breakfast ideas to help jump-start your day in approaching what you consume include smoothies, oatmeal, plus a matcha latte. Oats are so sustainable and so good for you. Oats are also very affordable making them perfect for what we have been talking about. If you hate oatmeal then at least try oat milk, making homemade granola, or other products that now include oats. Matcha is another thing I love to add to my diet since it simply is ground green tea leaves that have a bunch of benefits for the body and a bunch of caffeine that is healthier for the body to process than coffee. Smoothies are also great since they are quick, easy, and versatile. The number of combinations are endless and using seasonal or frozen fruit makes them work year-round. Other breakfasts I like to consume are tofu scrambles, veggie and chickpea scrambles, breakfast tacos, chia pudding, and salads (I know it's kinda weird!!).

Overall sustainable cooking and cooking should be fun, and the more you experiment and practice it, the easier it will be, and the more your body will crave it. For the next two weeks, we will be posting sustainable recipes using seasonal ingredients so make sure to keep in the loop by following Slugsinthekitchen_ucsc and checking out our youtube videos under UCSC Basic Needs.

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