Smoky Whole Roasted Cauliflower: Celebrate Earth Day with a Planet-Shaped Plant-Based Meal

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Earth Day, i.e. that friendly little reminder that we planet dwellers have a responsibility to our home, kind of snuck up on me today! Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had been planning to do a post highlighting some of the important ways we as humans can leave less of a King Kong-sized carbon footprint. I’m seeing so many of these great posts out there today, with all kinds of helpful tips for living more environmentally friendly (Especially L’s post on Bubbles and Booyah, also check out Green Bee, an inspiring new-to-me site that has all kinds of eco-friendly tips). Although we as a family try to use greener personal care and cleaning products, buy organic produce, take shorter showers, and purchase efficient Energy Star appliances for our home, I know there is room for improvement, and I’m always looking for small ways I can live greener each day.

corn chowderOne easy way we can all do a little less damage to mama earth, is by eating less meat and animal products. Now, I’m not saying everyone has to pledge to be plant-based for life in order to make an impact. I really believe in progress, and not perfection. After all, I haven’t been meat and dairy-free my whole life, nor did I become a plant-based eater overnight. Even small steps can make a huge difference. According to the Environmental Working Group, if a four-person family skipped meat and cheese just one day a week, it’d be equivalent to taking your car off the road for five weeks. If everyone in the U.S. skipped meat and cheese just one day a week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road [1].

The fact of the matter is, raising livestock uses lots of water, fossil fuels, and generates exponentially greater amounts of greenhouse gases than producing grains and vegetables.

  • It takes about 1,900 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef and only about 40 gallons to produce one pound of vegetables [2]
  • Compared to vegetable production, meat production significantly increases each of the three main components of green house gas (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide). Beef, for example, produces 30 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of food, while carrots on the other hand, produce only .42 kg of GHG per kg of food [2]
  • According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, producing just one calorie of animal protein requires over 10 times the fossil fuel needed to produce one calorie of plant protein. More than one third of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. go towards animal agriculture. [3]

If your family consumes meat and dairy, consider choosing one or two days a week to eat completely plant-based. Also, being mindful about where your meat, dairy, and eggs come from and how it’s raised is another way to help reduce your environmental impact. A lot of fuel is needed to transport not only feed for the animals, but the animals themselves. Whenever possible, buy organically raised meat and dairy from local farms and farmer’s markets. It’s better for your health, your community, and the environment. Need some inspiration for plant-based meals? Check out my recipe page, or do a quick search on Pinterest or Google, there are so many amazing ideas out there!

basket of apples

Like I said, nobody is perfect. I could stand to buy more local produce, and I certainly do enjoy some fruits and vegetables that are shipped from other regions and/or countries. Eating seasonally is also important, although it can be difficult for those of us living in the northern regions. Each grocery shopping trip is an opportunity to make better choices, even if it’s just a few changes at a time (i.e. instead of those mangoes, how about a bag of locally grown apples?).

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Now that we’ve talked about all that, let’s get on to the recipe, shall we? If you’re looking for something plant-based to cook up for dinner, that is not only delicious, but looks super fancy and impressive, try my Spicy and Smoky Roasted Cauliflower! Roasting a whole head of cauliflower is new to me, although other folks have been doing this for a while, apparently. I was intrigued by a recipe on thankyourbody.com, because it involved brushing on a thick marinade made of spices, lime juice, and greek yogurt. Since I didn’t have any dairy-free greek yogurt on hand, nor any plain dairy-free yogurt I could use to make my own, I decided to concoct my own version, using a homemade cashew/almond cream and some of my favorite spices, like smoked paprika.

The cool thing about the thick, creamy marinade, is that roasting it transforms it into a golden brown, crisp outer shell. Just beneath that flavorful crust, is a juicy layer of marinade, then a steaming-hot, perfectly tender and buttery roasted cauliflower core. (It just occurred to me that this is the perfect recipe for celebrating our planet, this cauliflower sphere has three layers, just like the earth! Ok, so the inner core maybe is a lot bigger than the earth’s in proportion to the other layers… but still. I digress. Enough 4th grade science, for now).

To make this recipe, you’ll need a head of cauliflower, some raw cashews and almonds, spices, and a blender. Just whip up your marinade, dab it on your cauliflower planet, and throw it in the oven (global warming analogy?… Nah? Ok, that might be going too far).  Give it a good 45 minutes to an hour and presto! A beauty of a roasted cauliflower, fit for a holiday dinner. Slice into thick wedges and serve alongside some protein-rich quinoa and a green salad or fresh, steamed asparagus.

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There you have it, a plant-strong main dish, high in nutrients (check out cauliflower’s impressive health benefits here), and low on negative environmental impact. Happy Earth Day!

Smoky Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole head of organic cauliflower, washed and stem/leaves carved out (so it sits flat)

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup cashews (preferably soaked overnight)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (preferably soaked overnight)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • dash of cayenne, or more to taste
  • 1/4 + 3 Tbsp of water (a splash more if needed to get it going in the blender)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a shallow baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper

2. Place all of the marinade ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water (a tablespoon at a time) if needed. This may also work in a food processor, although I haven’t had a chance to try it. Also, if the almonds and cashews have been soaked overnight, it may also work in a regular blender, but you may need to adjust the water and/or spices as well (i.e. if you add a substantial amount of extra water you’ll want to add more salt and spices).

3. Using a spatula, coat the whole cauliflower with the thick paste/marinade. I did this right on the prepared pan. I used almost all of it, but still had about a 1/4 cup or so, which I served alongside it as a sauce. Make sure none of the cauliflower is showing through.

4. Roast the cauliflower for about 45-55 minutes, until the marinade is lightly browned and has formed a firm crust.

5. Slice into wedges and serve!

Sources:

1. http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/reducing-your-footprint/

2. http://www.meatlessmonday.com/about-us/why-meatless/

3. Sustainability of Meat Based and Plant Based Diets and the Environment (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/660S.full)

4. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/22/cauliflower-health-benefits.aspx

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