Happy Summer! While Ricky was at work today, Stevie and I kicked summer off right. We had quite the adventure today as we stopped by an outdoor green market, danced in a park that was promoting global music, rode on a carousel for the first time with Stevie, and walked through a stunning garden at Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Clearly, I am taking full advantage of my first summer break with Stevie! After our long day, everyone in my household is finally sleeping. Stevie was exhausted from fun overload, and Ricky was exhausted from not-so-fun work. Me on the other hand, I can’t fall asleep because I cannot contain my excitement that I finally have an opportunity to write. I apologize that I have been MIA for the past couple of days. It’s called mom life. I also didn’t have to worry about dinner for the past couple of days because I made a double batch of my Black and White Bean Chicken Chili which provided us with dinner and lunch for the past couple of days. As I always do to make life easier, whenever you have the chance for delicious leftovers, go for it. Mom wins again! Either way, it is now officially summer and things are heating up! So in the spirit of things heating up, I made a meatless meal for dinner tonight with global warming, and the environment in general, on the brain. Wait, huh? You might be thinking, “How in the world is a meatless dinner related to global warming and the environment?” At least, I hope you are thinking that because I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to share this information with you guys, hence my still being awake after an exhausting day.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you should be fully aware of the alarmingly sad and frightening state of our environment. Some of the main things that are a great threat to our one and only wonderful planet that all countries around the world are focusing on are global warming, water conservation, and the pollution of our great oceans. Just like everyone else, I would worry about these things and do my small part to “help” the environment. However, I am not afraid to admit that it took me an extensive amount of time to truly recognize how serious of an issue this was because for a long time I never felt directly affected. Sadly, isn’t that what it takes for most people to pay attention to anything – it has to directly affect them in some way? It was not until I was watching one of my all-time favorite shows on HBO, Vice, that it was finally put it into perspective for me. I was watching an episode focused on climate change on which they were discussing the rising global temperatures with a Russian scientist. They asked him a question along the lines of what would happen if the world did absolutely nothing to help stop global warming, if the temperature continued on its path to increase. The scientist’s reply is what has impacted me so immensely. He simply replied by saying something along the lines of, “You will die. Not you exactly, but your grandchildren.” Being that I now have a daughter, that went straight through my heart. Having grandchildren is not that ridiculous of a notion now. Since I already have a daughter, having grandchildren no longer seems like some distant life event that won’t happen for 100 more years. It seems…SO VERY SOON. Hearing this freaked me out. It made me angry. It made me want to help the environment more diligently and more effectively. What could I do? Even more so, how the hell did we let our environment get to such a poor state? What is the main cause of all of this? My friends, here is where the meatless meal comes in. HUH?
When you think of causes of global warming, pollution, and the drying out of our land water, what comes to mind? The main things we hear about are vehicle emissions, dumping and littering, emissions and water pollutants from large industry’s factories, etc. Environmental agencies and our government put out recommendations on how we can help “save the environment” by doing small actions such as taking shorter showers, turning off the water when you brush your teeth, riding a bike instead of driving a car, recycling all materials possible, not littering, and the list goes on and on. What if I told you there is something we could all do that would make a huge impact on the state of our environment that most environmental agencies and our own government are leaving out of their recommendations? Once again, here is where the meatless meal comes into play.
To preface the upcoming information, I want it to be clear that I am no scientist. However, I am a teacher. My area of expertise entails gathering knowledge and then educating others on my acquired knowledge. I have worked very hard to gather knowledge on the topic at hand, and it is my goal to now spread this knowledge to as many people as possible. Instead of writing endless amounts, I am just going to list some of the most shocking things I found out about the impact animal agriculture has on the environment through watching documentaries and reading articles extensively.
- Raising livestock gives off almost the same amount of emissions as the emissions given off from all forms of transportation. This number has been highly disputed, and there are some researchers out there that say livestock emissions are higher than all other contributors combined! Either way, it’s a huge factor.
The production of just one 1/4 pounder hamburger entails using 660 gallons of water. And we are told we can help by taking shorter showers? Yeah right.
- Animal agriculture is one of the top water polluters mainly due to factory farming
Raising livestock is responsible for the majority of the deforestation of the rainforest. 136 million acres of rainforest has been destroyed due to the lack of room for raising the amount of livestock needed to keep up with the world’s demand for meat, specifically beef.
The rainforest could be gone in next 10 years. We have heard for some time now that we need to save our rainforests. Well, it is only getting worse and at this rate some of the largest rainforests could be gone before my daughter reaches middle school. This is too frighteningly close for comfort.
One cow feeds on 140-150 pounds of grain PER DAY. It is for reasons such as this that about 50% of the grain grown IN THE WORLD is used to feed animals for agriculture, not humans. Meanwhile, we are trying to figure out how to feed starving nations. How about growing more crops for humans?
- Environmental agencies and our own government will never recommend eating less meat because of the amount of money they receive from lobbyists. Generally, they do not want to anger anyone who would contribute money to their fundraisers or organizations even though it could literally help save the planet.
- The meat industry is one of the most powerful, profitable industries in the world and would never want a recommendation of eating less meat to be given to the population as that would take away power and profit. If they don’t want it, it is highly likely it won’t happen. If confused as to why, please refer back to previous bullet point.
- People have literally been sued or even killed for speaking out against the meat industry while trying to expose the profound effect it has on the rain forest and the overall environment. Don’t believe me? Just Google Dorothy Stang and read some articles.
HOLY SHIT, right? I know it is uncomfortable to hear all of this. I mean, we all love our meat. So, I want it to be clear that I am in no way advocating for a vegetarian or vegan diet. Yes, that would be the ultimate way to help the environment, and if you are able to change your diet in that way, I applaud you. However, it is not realistic that everyone will become vegetarian or vegan. More simply, I am just recommending that maybe we could all just try to eat less meat in our own personal way for the sake of the planet. Eating less meat may seem difficult, but here are small steps you can take if helping save the planet is something that interests you. You could try out Meatless Mondays or really meatless any day you want! I personally do not eat all that much meat myself, however Ricky is your typical man who loves meat. Therefore, when I am planning the meals I will be cooking for the week, I make a compromise with both of our diets in mind. I always incorporate 1, if not 2 or 3, meatless meals into the lineup. When it is a meatless day, I make it a point to make incredible hearty, filling, flavorful recipes, and I have not yet had a complaint from my meat-eating man when one of these recipes is served. There is an even greater step you could take that would make an even greater difference if you are feeling you want to do more to help. Here’s the huge whammy if you are really feeling inspired to help save the environment but still can’t imagine giving up meat entirely. Being that raising livestock specifically, aka cows, has the most harmful effect on our environment out of all animal agriculture, one huge way that you could help save the world (yes, I keep going there) is by simply giving up beef. If you can’t give it up completely, why not just try to eat it on extremely rare, special occasions? Not only would you be helping the environment, you would be making a positive change in your diet for your health as well! In our household, we rarely even buy beef. It helps that I really don’t like it all that much which is why you will never see a recipe with beef on my page. Sorry if that disappoints you, but my distaste for beef just happens to be saving the planet over here! No worries; ground turkey is a great substitute if you are thinking you could not live without tacos or burgers or any other recipe you love that involves ground meat. I promise it will be equally as delicious.
So, there you have it people. Eat less meat and save the environment! It’s activism by eating! To start you off on your meatless meal journey, I now present you with the very first meatless recipe. Yes, it is another Mexican recipe; Ricky had nothing to do with this, I swear. I happen to have an enchilada obsession. Anyways, save the world and give it a try! Okay, maybe that seems extreme. So, just go make it because it is damn delicious. I swear you won’t even miss the meat.
Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Servings: 10 large enchiladas
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 large whole carrots, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cans (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 can (15 0z.) organic corn, drained (Corn is one of the main GMO crops, so always go organic with this one!)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1jalapeño, diced (with seeds for more heat, without for less)
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
Juice of 2 limes
2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
10 tortillas, organic corn (which are ridiculously difficult to find because of the whole GMO thing I mentioned above) or whole wheat
Enchilada Sauce Ingredients **If you are feeling kind of lazy, ignore this and check out the shortcut discussed below!**
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
Recommended Toppings (As always, I mean USE THESE TOPPINGS!)
2 avocados, diced
2 small Roma tomatoes, diced
5 green onions, diced
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
As much chopped cilantro as you prefer
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the diced sweet potatoes and carrots into baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to get everything evenly coated. Bake in the oven for 20 -25 minutes, until softened.
- While the veggies are baking, purée your chipotle chiles in a food processor. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan to start making the sauce. Sauté garlic for 1-2 minutes, be sure not to burn. Add all other sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and then simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring throughout. Set aside. *Shortcut: If you do not feel like making the sauce, just use 2 jars of your favorite salsa. It should be smooth, restaurant style salsa. If your favorite salsa is thick and chunky, just throw it into a food processor to smooth it out. I do this often when I do not have as much time to cook, and it tastes just as scrumptious!
- While the veggies are still in the oven, chop up all of the other veggies and place them in a large mixing bowl. Once the sweet potatoes and carrots are done, add them to the bowl as well as 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Then, season with all spices and add the lime juice. Stir to combine all ingredients. Be sure it is mixed well.
- Spread a thin layer of the sauce onto the bottom of a casserole dish. Place a tortilla into the dish and scoop filling into the tortillas by placing it down the middle. Roll the tortillas so the seam side is down in the dish. I sometimes have to use both a large and small casserole dish to fit all enchiladas.
- After you have rolled all enchiladas, pour remaining sauce over the top and top with the remaining cheese. If you prefer more cheese, no one is judging if you want to add some more on top!
- Bake in the oven covered with foil for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has turned into gooey, bubbling goodness.
- When serving, be sure to top with all of the toppings listen above.
- Chow down.
Whenever making this for dinner, I usually serve these with a side of rice. I personally have this issue where I cannot eat enchiladas without rice. Instead of making a box of Spanish rice which usually has a vast list of mysterious ingredients, I just make brown rice and toss it with some of the sauce. I may even add some chopped chipotle chiles or cut up some veggies to add in if I am feeling really motivated. Either way, I hope you give these a try. More so, our planet hopes you gives these a try as well!
As always, this recipe is made from only organic, non-GMO, whole foods. If you happen to make this recipe, please let me know what you think of it. I would love to hear some feedback from you guys and am always interested to hear if you added something or tweaked the recipe in any way.
Before I leave you and this recipe alone, here are some links to the eye-opening documentaries and articles that provided me with most of the knowledge I am sharing with you. Check them out for yourselves to get the full picture. I would love to hear your opinion on these matters as well!
Peace, Love, and Honest Food,