Food Plant Based Cooking Vol. 26 No. 04

Earth Day April 22 –Reduce Food Waste; Embrace Sustainability


Established in 1970, Earth Day- April 22- is a global movement to promote environmental responsibility and activism to protect our planet. Sadly, the Earth’s own worst enemy is human behavior, from environmental pollution, food waste, toxic chemicals to apathy and denial.

The best way to protect the earth is to be better stewards of it. But it is a collective effort starting with reducing food waste and embracing sustainable practices. Approximately one-third of the global food chain never gets eaten, and Americans throw away around 20 percent of the food they buy. Food waste is sent to landfills where it decomposes and generates substantial amounts of methane into the environment.

Fortunately, organizations like Chefs Manifesto are working to help fight climate change and food waste by establishing sustainable goals. Started in New York City in 2017, Chefs Manifesto now has 600 members around the world and works closely with organizations like the World Health Organization.

Chef Alejandra Schrader is a founding member of Chefs Manifesto and a Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America whose career mission is to help promote and educate both industry professionals and consumers about low-carbon cooking. She defines low carbon cooking as utilizing foods, production and cooking methods that are all environmentally friendly.

Chef Alejandra Schrader, environmental activist and plant-based chef

Schrader was born in the United States and raised in Venezuela. She recalls the poverty and lack of food in Venezuela and the care her single mother took to create economic meals with minimal waste. In her debut book, The Low-Carbon Cookbook (DK/Penguin Random House), Schrader addresses the cause and effect of food waste, greenhouse emissions, climate change and a broken food system, and provides actionable steps we can all take to grow better food, shop wisely, cook resourcefully, and embrace sustainable consumption, from farm to table.

Schrader says, “Climate change is impacting farmers around the world. We need to speak with our dollars, consider how we purchase our food and support farmers and farming cultures. Also, we need to cook more resourcefully. Stop throwing away foods you can use. Save the avocado pit; cook the potato peels and radish and carrot tops.”

She also advises restaurants to incorporate more plant-based dishes on their menus and consider expanding your vegetable repertoire. The Low Carbon Cookbook offers 140 sustainable recipes. Here is an example:

Nopal cactus pad & quinoa salad
Photo credit: Kelley Jordan Schuyler

Nopal Cactus Pad & Quinoa Salad

“This features nopal cactus pads and the fruit (also known as prickly pear). I grew up eating the fruit in Venezuela, but I was introduced to the pads in Southern California. The fluffy texture of the quinoa and crispiness of the tomatillo and bell pepper complement the nopal’s density,” said Schrader.

Prep time: 8 minutes. Cook time: 18-20 minutes. Yield: 2 to 4 servings.


2 cups water

3 small fresh nopal cactus pads (about 10 ounces [285 grams), thorns removed

1 cup cooked Quinoa

½ cup small-diced tomatillos

½ cup minced red bell peppers

½ cup finely sliced scallions

1 tablespoon minced jalapeños (optional)

2 to 4 tablespoons cilantro leaves

For the Dressing:

1 small red nopal fruit (prickly pear), peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro stems

¼ teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus more

¼ teaspoons ground black pepper


In a medium pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the nopal pads and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the pads are tender, about 18 to 20 minutes. (Nopales will change from bright green to opaque and olive in color while cooking.) Strain and rinse generously under water to wash away as much of the viscous liquid as possible. Pat dry with paper towels and dice. Set aside.

In a blender, make the dressing by processing on high all the ingredients until smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve.

In a large bowl, combine the nopal pads, quinoa, tomatillos, red peppers, scallions, and jalapeños (if using). Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Divide the salad into 2 to 4 bowls. Garnish with the cilantro leaves before serving.

» quick tips If you can’t source fresh cactus pads, you can use 8 ounces (225 grams) of diced jarred tender cactus, or “nopalitos.” Just drain the brine from the jar and rinse well prior to using. Fresh is always best for the environment and human health. Many markets sell nopal pads with thorns already removed. If found whole, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to carefully remove the thorns, trying to keep as much of the outer dark green skin. Save cilantro stems for other recipes. Store in a reusable storage bag in the fridge to use in dressings or sauces or to make zero-waste vegetable broth

Recipe credit: “Excerpted from The Low-Carbon Cookbook & Action Plan reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 Alejandra Schrader.”

Publisher: DK Random House/2021

#investinourplante #earthday2022 #lowcarboncooking

Follow Chef Alejandra Schrader on Instagram@chefaleschrader

Follow Chefs Manifesto on Instagram@chefsmanifesto

Featured photo: Steven Weeks (Unsplash)

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An engaging speaker and writer, Melanie Young hosts the weekly national radio shows, The Connected Table Live, featuring conversations with global thought leaders in wine, food, spirits and hospitality (a Feedspot Top 10 Food & Drink Podcasts for 2021), and Fearless Fabulous You, a lifestyle show for and about women (both on iHeart and more than 30 other podcast platforms). Young has contributed articles on wine, spirits, food, and culinary travel to Wine Enthusiast, Seven Fifty Daily, Wine4Food and Jewish Week. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Wine Media Guild, and Women of the Vine & Spirits. Young’s former marketing and events agency, M Young Communications, worked with global wine, food organizations, publishing companies and nonprofits. She had an integral role in the creation, launch and management of The James Beard Foundation Awards, New York Restaurant Week, and Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund (2001) which raised funds to provide for the families of restaurant workers killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Instagram @theconnectedtable

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