So, it seems sacrilegious for us omnivores to leave turkey off the grocery list on Thanksgiving, but this past weekend I experienced firsthand how it can indeed be sacrificed without marring a festive spread...or, at least, it doesn't necessarily have to be quite so center stage. I was really excited about cooking a veggie Thanksgiving for my friend Jessica and her boyfriend Bryce, who will be away in Patagonia over the actual holiday (I know, poor things!). In the process, I revisited the idea of eco-entertaining, something I've been striving to keep getting better at.
Last spring, writing an eco-entertaining article for Longmont Magazine, I became more cognizant of how easy it can be to toss good intentions out the door when we're under pressure. When pressed for time (such as throughout the holidays in general), it's so much easier to go disposable, toss things that could be recycled or composted, or just get a bit slack. One source I spoke to for a little perspective and a lot of great ideas was chef extraordinaire and "Chicago's conscious caterer", Greg Christian. Chef Christian completely overhauled his business as "Mr. Fancy Chef" to become a leader in sustainability when he discovered that going 100% organic dramatically improved his daughter's asthma. An inspirational role model, I figured then that if a large-scale caterer can go zero waste, there's no excuse for not trying our best in our own small kitchen. I was just reminded of this on Saturday, when I found myself tempted to trash my compostables just because I was feeling busy and reluctant to make the simple trek down the deck steps to the back yard. The theme of the evening being "vegetarian Thanksgiving", however, and in my mind therefore associated with protecting the earth, my guilty conscience did at least motivate me to get Dave to do the job. : )
Thanksgiving is a time of thanks, not waste...and fortunately the harvest splendor of this holiday makes it actually pretty easy to celebrate clean and sustainably. Here are a few thoughts to help you green up this season, or to fuel some extra pats on the back for the eco-friendly festivities you already share.
- If you're uncertain about toning down the prominence of Mr. Turkey, think about the brilliant colors, readily coordinated cooking times of veggie dishes, and efficiency of space less bird allows for. For our veggie-menu, I made: lentil and bean loaf, curried stuffing-topped carrot and broccoli casserole, honey-roasted root vegetables, whole wheat pumpkin cranberry loaf, garlicky mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, and a spinach and tomato quinoa skillet, plus dessert. It was A LOT of food, and felt totally festive...but the best part was, in spite of all the dishes, the prep wasn't all that demanding, and it seemed really easy to get the timing right.
- Cloth napkins! You're probably already using them. I LOVE them. We haven't used paper napkins for ages except when really in a pinch, and then it's usually half a paper towel out of desperation. They add a touch of added elegance and class, too.
- It's elementary, and goes without saying, but how can we not say it? Local and organic. Maybe the budget doesn't accommodate this always, but if it ever does, it's Thanksgiving. The harvest is golden, and there are plenty of bargains from your local farmers and growers.
- Be mindful of travel. This is a time for family, and traveling may be a must. You can offset your carbon emissions on numerous sites, including the Nature Conservancy's Carbon Footprint Calculator.
- Compost and recycle. Like all of the above, in all probability you're doing this already. I love being able to list things just for ticking off, though! It's a Kinder-teacher thing, maybe. Who doesn't enjoy the boost from a little pat on the back?
Lentil and red bean loaf
1 14-ounce can organic low-sodium lentils OR 1 1/8 cups lentils and 2 ¼ cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14-ounce can red kidney beans
1 medium carrot, finely grated
½ cup grated zucchini
¼ cup low-sodium tomato paste
1 cup whole grain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly grease a 9 X 5 loaf pan.
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add onion and cook gently until translucent, 3-5 minutes.
3. Rinse and drain the lentils and beans. Put in a food processor with onion and egg, and process until smooth.
3. Transfer lentil mixture to a bowl, and stir in remaining ingredients through cheese.
4. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour. Slice and serve.
nutrition info per serving : 273 calories; 10 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 91 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 34 g carbohydrates; 9 g fiber; 316 mg sodium