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Sustainable cooking is the act of choosing to cook and eat foods that are not only healthy for our bodies, but healthy for the environment. Issues surrounding waste management and climate change are putting the future of our planet at risk. According to OzHarvest, 35 per cent of the average household bin is food waste, with over 5 million tonnes of food ending up as landfill each year in Australia.

On top of this, it can be difficult to shop, cook and eat in a sustainable manner when foods are wrapped in excessive plastic packaging at supermarkets, and are often produced within a long, resource-heavy supply chain. This week, we tested out some easy and attractive sustainable recipes for you. Here’s some of our favourites that will keep the planet and your tastebuds happy!

Homemade Almond Milk

Milk and it’s substitutes are widely consumed, whether that be in cereal, coffee or baked goods. But with dairy farms contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, and milk bottles being made of plastic, homemade nut milk is a simple sustainable alternative.

The recipe involves soaking some almonds before blending them with water, a couple of dates, and a pinch of salt. You then need to strain this mixture through a thin cloth to draw out the liquid which becomes your almond milk, and the leftover pulp can be used in various baking recipes.

The milk was quite simple to make as all the ingredients were just thrown into a blender. It was, however, slightly tedious and messy when it came to straining the liquid though the cloth. Once I got the hang of it though, it was easier. The overall taste of the milk was fairly neutral, and the addition of the dates made it sweet and enjoyable.

Sustainable tip: You can buy almonds and other similar food products loose from bulk food stores and place them into reusable glass jars or fabric bags to minimise waste from packaging. It’s also cost-effective, which comes in so handy for us uni students! Bring your sustainable snacks into uni when you need some sweet relief on a long day.

Mango Vegan ‘Nice-cream’

Ice cream is a cult favourite sweat treat enjoyed by many. The problem, however, is that ice cream containers are often made out of plastic which takes years to decompose. On top of this, we all know the amount of sugar, preservatives and artificial flavours found inside ice cream.

This recipe for nice-cream involves blending 2 very ripe frozen bananas with some dates, fresh mango and mixed raw nuts. The blended frozen banana is what gives the nice-cream its smooth, creamy consistency. You can try changing up the flavour by swapping the mango for mixed berries, cacao powder or natural peanut butter.

The recipe was easy to follow and required only a few simple ingredients. I enjoyed the taste of the nice-cream and was pleasantly surprised by its creamy texture. It was quite refreshing and can be a healthy snack to have on a warmer day. You could even eat it for breakfast! I didn’t think the nuts were necessary though – it would have worked fine without them.

Sustainable tip: All the ingredients in this recipe can be found at supermarkets free from packaging. Using whole or over-ripe fruits can minimise food waste and if you have any excess peel, try putting it in a compost bin.

Leftover Veggie Fridge Soup

Are you often left with a sad, odd looking mix of vegetables at the end of the week? Instead of throwing these in the bin you could make a hearty, nutritious soup. Using most out of what you have helps save the planet and your wallet.

Start by making a simple base by frying some garlic and onion. Then add any leftover root vegetables like carrot, potato and pumpkin to give some substance to the soup. Boil them up with a few cups of stock and some mixed herbs, and then throw in whatever vegies you’ve got lying around—cauliflower, diced tomato, broccoli florets or wilting spinach work well. You can either blend the soup or leave it chunky, depending on your preference. Got some stale bread in the pantry, too? Try cutting it into cubes, roasting them in the oven and then placing on top of your soup like croutons.

Making a soup in this way limits the amount of vegetables thrown in the bin. It is also a great way to get extra nutrients into your body in a quick and simple way.

Sustainable tip: You can also try putting leftover foods into curry sauces or homemade burger patties to add more nutrients into your meals and minimise food waste. Leftover over-ripe fruit can also be blended into smoothies.

Vegetable Bolognaise

A study conducted by the University of Oxford found avoiding meat and dairy was the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the earth. This is due to the large amounts of land, feed and water required to produce meat, as well as the excess greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock in the process. Eating less meat is great for students too, as it can often be expensive to buy. Try giving a meat-free meal a go with a simple pasta dish: this one involves minimal waste, no meat and lots of vegies—meaning its good for you and our Earth.

Start by frying off some diced onion and garlic. Then add one grated carrot and zucchini, some chopped mushrooms, a tin of brown lentils, ¼ cup of frozen peas and 2 tins of chopped tomatoes. Simmer the sauce in a large pot with some fresh basil and dried mixed Italian herbs until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve over freshly boiled pasta.

Sustainable tip: Buying locally grown, in-season vegetables direct from farmers markets means there is little distance between plant and plate, which is friendlier for the environment.

For more tasty recipes or tips for being more sustainable, visit the Minimalist Baker or 1 Million Women.

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