Plant + Planet: A Cookbook Review

Plant + Planet: A Cookbook Review

Lately I have been interested in eating a more sustainable diet. I’m not as informed as I’d like to be on this topic. I don’t know much about the carbon footprint of my food, or which types of fish are sustainable and which are not, and I’ve always liked the idea of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture, click here if you have not heard of them) but have always hesitated to do so because I tend to be whimsical with what I choose to cook. So I decided to look into cookbooks that focus on sustainable food. Finding one that intrigued me, I reserved it at the library, with the idea that I would buy it if I liked it after testing the recipes.

What to Expect:

This is a vegetarian cookbook and most of the recipes have instructions on how to make them vegan. The recipes are good, but this isn’t merely about the recipes. It’s about looking at how you prep your meals and how to minimize waste in the kitchen. It tells you how to eat in season and do package free shopping. There are meal prepping tips that encourage you to cook up a pot of grains and a pot of beans each week to create a simple base for your meals. One section encourages you to use parts of the fruit or vegetable you would normally discard: pie recipe that uses the citrus peel along with the fruit, a beet hummus that uses the greens and stems. There are even recipes devoted to cooking with your scraps: making baked potato chips with your potato peelings or making vegetable stock with veggie scraps (with a table that shows which scraps are/are not usable). The sections are as follows:

  • Work Smarter, Not Harder: a chapter on meal prep
  • A Lot with a Little: 5-ingredient recipes
  • 10 Under 10: meals that can be made in less than 10 minutes
  • Waste Not, Want Not: zero waste recipes
  • Clear Out: making use of your pantry and freezer ingredients
  • Live a Little: healthyish treats
  • Let’s Raise a Glass: plant based drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic
  • The Preservation Society: pickles, jams, nut butters, and more
  • Bread and Butter: lots of breads and two butters

As for the recipes, these are simple everyday recipes with short ingredient lists. This isn’t dinner party food. It’s the food you cook on a random Tuesday when work runs late and you have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. Approximately half of the recipes have accompanying photographs.

Recipes Tested:

Cacio e Pepe Socca: From the Bread and Butter section. Socca is a pancake or flatbread made with chickpea flour. Made as written, this socca was too salty but showed promise. On a whim, I made it again with less than half the salt recommended, and it was amazing. In full disclosure, I was out of parmesan when I made it the second time so I used what I had in my kitchen, which was goat cheese. Perhaps not a proper “cacio e pepe” when using goat cheese, but delicious.

Verdict: Would make again with reduced salt.

Miso Ramen Noodles: From the A Lot with a Little section. I made this one because the ramen, miso, butter, and kimchi combo sounded delightfully weird, like something that might so weird that it’s surprisingly perfect. I expected it to be a lot funkier than it is, given that it contains a cup of kimchi in it. Instead it’s mellow, rich, and creamy due to the miso/butter combination. It’s delicious, but not what I expected.

Verdict: Would probably make again, but I’m thinking of reducing the butter and using sauteed mushrooms in place of the kimchi.

Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup: From the 10 Under 10 section. Once I saw that this vegan tomato soup contained hummus, I knew that it would be good. Several years ago, I learned from the Oh She Glows blog that adding hummus to marinara adds a creamy flavor as well as protein, but I’d never thought to add it to tomato soup. This is an extremely easy recipe, as you blend up everything in a food processor and then heat it. After the cacio e pepe socca fiasco, I reduced the salt in half, but I really shouldn’t have. This one is perfect as written (or I assume, having added more salt after cooking). Since I am not a virtuous vegan, I had this with a swiss and cheddar grilled cheese. It’s possible that this recipe might be slightly too tangy if you are not eating it with something cheesy. If that’s the case, a bit of either sweetener or a pinch of baking soda should fix it.

Verdict: Would definitely make again. Since this has the option of using canned or fresh tomatoes, I’ll definitely try it in the summer with garden fresh tomatoes.

Baked Oatmeal: From the Clear Out section. I’ve been making baked oatmeal ever since Heidi Swanson started the baked oatmeal craze with her cookbook Super Natural Everyday. This is pretty similar to Heidi’s original recipe except it uses a mashed banana in place of a sliced one (a definite improvement in texture) and whatever fruit you have in your freezer. As I am the type of person who makes a smoothie for breakfast every day for a month, only to forget that smoothies exist for the next four months, I always have random odds and ends of fruit in the freezer. I used a peach and blueberry combo for this one, and I was slightly concerned as my peach looked somewhat frostbitten, but it turned out delicious with just the right amount of sweetness.

Verdict: Will definitely make again.

Whole Beet Dip: From Waste Not, Want Not. I skipped the seedy crackers that you were supposed to make it, as that was too granola even for me. This dip is essentially a beet hummus, only it uses the full beet with the leaves in a pesto topping and the beet and stems in the hummus. The hummus was a fairly basic beet hummus but the beet green pesto added freshness and acidity that elevated it.

Verdict: Not sure if I’ll make this again. I liked it but I hate how beets turn your kitchen pink. I’m a person who buys precooked baby beets at Trader Joe’s to fuel her Greek salad obsession.

Verdict on Overall Book:

While I haven’t purchased this yet, having cooked from a library copy, I am planning to do so. I am particularly intrigued with some of the recipes I didn’t try, as they weren’t in season.

I would recommend Plant + Planet to home cooks who:

  • Are looking to eat more plant-based foods
  • Are concerned about sustainability
  • Like simple recipes with minimal fuss
  • Prefer to eat seasonally
Earth Day Considerations: Transitioning to a More Plant Based Diet

Earth Day Considerations: Transitioning to a More Plant Based Diet

Photo by Viktoria Slowikowska on

Earth Day is Saturday, April 22nd. We all know Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but we don’t always consider the relationship between nutrition and the environment. 

There are many ways to make your diet more sustainable: eliminate food waste, eat local and in season, and buy foods from farms with sustainable practices. One of the important ways is to reduce consumption of animal products. The EPA estimates that 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US are from livestock.1  One study estimates that if the population were to transition toward more plant-based diets aligned with standard dietary guidelines, global mortality could be reduced by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 29–70% by 2050.2

My intention is not to promote any specific diet–vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, flexitarian, etc.–on anyone here. Everyone’s body is different, we all have different energy needs, and different diets are sustainable for different people. What’s easy and healthy for me might be a nightmare for you and vice versa. What I am encouraging people to mindfully consider is to:

  1. Eat more plants.
  2. Reduce meat and animal products.

That is it.

I won’t ask you to put on your Birkenstocks and hoof it to your nearest food coop or to make homemade granola religiously every weekend. Hippie lifestyle 100% optional.

I feel I should offer one disclaimer: I am not an RD, and this should not be considered to be anything but an anecdotal account of how I learned to balance my diet when I was a vegetarian. I am writing this partly for myself, as my diet has been less than healthy the last couple of years, and I would like to return to how I used to eat. If you are able to work with an RD, I would encourage you to take advantage of that.

Where is your protein?

Everyone who has been vegetarian has some story about how everyone around them becomes an expert on protein once you say that you don’t eat meat.

I must admit one of the biggest adjustments in moving to a more plant-based diet is how you incorporate your protein. This is true whether you are going full vegetarian or simply reducing your meat intake for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. A regular combination found in omnivore meals is protein, starch, and veggie. A turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato. A chicken breast with broccoli and a potato. A soup with chicken, noodles, and veggies. A casserole with animal protein, rice, vegetables, and a cream sauce.

When I went vegetarian cold turkey fifteen or so years ago, my initial impulse was to either leave out the protein altogether or replace it with a faux meat alternative because that was the only way I knew how to eat a vegetarian meal. I’m sure it will surprise no one that I gained weight on my new mac & cheese and veggie burger diet. To find a healthier balance, I had to do two things: 1. Learn to cook, which was something I was illogically terrified of in my late twenties. 2. Learn to microdose protein throughout the day because sitting down to a giant block of tofu at dinner is neither exciting nor appetizing.

Here are some examples of what it might look like to add small amounts of protein throughout the day (includes dairy and eggs):

General Tips:

  • Your carb consumption will inevitably go up a little when you eat less meat, so experimenting with whole grain choices will keep you from eating too many simple carbs. 
  • Use Greek yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream whenever it makes sense to do so.
  • Keep trying new recipes and new ingredients. This will keep you from being bored with your diet. I love Pinterest for finding new meal ideas and I make heavy use of my library card to try out cookbooks before I buy them.
  • Don’t over rely on any one protein source like nuts or eggs. Mix it up and your diet will be healthier.
  • If you have small amounts of random vegetables in your fridge at the end of the week, odds and ends of various recipes, repurpose them in a mixed salad or a stir fry or a soup to eliminate food waste.

The Real Question: Where is Your Iron?

Yes, everyone talks about protein, but honestly, iron intake can be even trickier, especially if one menstruates.

Aim to eat the following:

Slow Is Fine

For those of us who live in the US, we culturally have an issue with all-or-nothing approaches to food (and a lot of other areas of life). We like dramatic transformations and diets that promise that you will drop pounds quickly. And, for this reason, it’s really easy to both be obese and have an eating disorder at the exact same time.

So please don’t go vegan cold turkey. Or do anything cold turkey. The key to a healthy and sustainable diet is to make changes slowly and develop good habits. If you don’t know how to cook a meatless meal that is filling and delicious, commit first to a Meatless Monday. Try that for a month, then make another small change. Every bit helps. And if you never completely give up bacon or burgers, that’s fine. Simply reducing your meat intake will have a positive effect on the environment, even if you keep it strictly to Meatless Monday. Be kind to the earth and be kind to yourself.


Blogs worth checking out include:

Honorary mention: Skinnytaste is not a vegetarian blog, but Gina has many vegetarian recipes

Favorite cookbooks:



1 EPA. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (Accessed April 18.)

2 Springman M, Godfray HCJ, Rayner M, and Scarborough P. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. PNAS. 113(14)4146-51.