Updated November 16th, 2023
Cook Earth-friendly this Holiday Season and Beyond
For many, the holiday season means getting together with loved ones to celebrate with hearty meals, snacks and desserts. While everyone is cautiously aware of over-indulging in rich foods during the holidays, there is another thing to keep in mind that not only affects your health, but also affects the environment.
According to the American Journal of Agriculture Economics, the average U.S. household wastes 31.9% of its food, much of which ends up in the landfill. Additionally, nearly 25% more waste is generated during the holiday season.
With just a little extra planning, you can enjoy traditional holiday foods with a healthier and more sustainable twist, in addition to cutting down on your food waste.
The 2nd Street Market offers the perfect opportunity for you to grab all the fresh ingredients and prepared foods you’ll need just before Thanksgiving on Stock Up Wednesday, Wednesday, Nov. 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Brothers and seasoned culinary specialists Larry and Lester Gates own and operate Invoke, located at the 2nd Street Market, 600 E. Second St. in downtown Dayton. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Invoke offers brunch, lunch and dessert items that are packed with flavor and high-quality ingredients. With truly something for everyone, the Gates brothers use tasty, simple swaps to create some of Dayton’s most loved vegan options, including the “car dog” and “freeze cake.”
The brothers have both been cooking for over 10 years and have grown into approaching cooking with not only taste, but science, nutrition and sustainability in mind. Here are their tips for planning and prepping your next holiday meal:
Shop fresh and local: When sourcing ingredients, buying directly from local farmers is the more sustainable choice. Fresh, local produce is often healthier and is always less taxing on the environment, as it is not transported far distances. The Gates brothers source a lot of their produce from fellow vendors at the 2nd Street Market, including Dayton Microgreens and Dayton Urban Grown.
Tradition isn’t cheesy, so bring on the cheese: Sticking to tradition – especially when it comes to food – is expected during the holidays. Find a few holiday meal staples that you consider comfort food to make and enjoy with your loved ones. Lester sticks to baked mac and cheese, as this was a holiday staple made by his mom. Larry spent a year learning how to perfect a savory – not sweet – cornbread recipe that is his go-to during the holidays.
Serve safe and cutdown waste: Larry suggests individual meal prepping as a solution to feeding a group of people. Home cooks can package meals beforehand, rather than serve family-style or buffet dinners.
“You would be handing out meals that would cut down on prep, it’s safe and extra food can be frozen,” said Larry. This can be as easy as creating pre-made plates of food before guests arrive using recyclable containers.
Find a few food swaps: While the Gates brothers offer vegan and vegetarian options on their menu, they understand diets are a personal choice and cutting down or eating more of any one food item isn’t for everyone. However, science indicates that incorporating more healthy fats, fruits and vegetables into your diet has a variety of benefits, including cutting down risk of cancer and heart disease. Additionally, those who are trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle may want to cut back meat consumption in favor of adding more whole, plant-based foods. According to a study by the University of Illinois, meat production accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production.
With this in mind, the Gates bothers offer vegan and vegetarian options at Invoke and encourage people to explore their tastes at home by learning more about plant-based swaps. For example, Larry’s favorite candied sweet potato dish calls for sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon. He suggests swapping out the butter, sugar and syrup for medjool dates. In addition to the sweet taste, you’ll get more potassium and calcium.
Veggie-friendly swaps can even be as simple as using veggie stock in lieu of chicken stock when making traditional stuffing, according to Lester.
Outside the kitchen: Those who have caught the cooking bug may want to take a deeper dive into culinary methods, the science of food, nutrition and how to nourish your body while being kind to the environment. One of the easiest ways to keep building your skills is to continue learning. Larry suggests the book The Science of Good Cooking by Cook’s Illustrated.
Additionally, Larry is a huge advocate of growing your own food. In fact, he reached a point where he was growing so much food and plants, there was no space in his yard for landscaping.
A great way to feed your garden and cut down on food waste is to start composting. The Gates brothers compost and suggest others start at home.
“One of the easiest things to do is to designate an area in the yard to start throwing your scraps,” said Larry. “Leave out things like heavy proteins, bones and certain types of veggies, then cover with dirt.”
For those who don’t have the space in their yard, Larry suggests purchasing a composting bucket that can be churned into rich soil for your garden or houseplants.
Keep it going: Any new cooking endeavor, adjustment to your diet or lifestyle change can be difficult to maintain. The brothers suggest keeping it simple if you want to stick to meals that are more sustainably made and focus on whole foods.
“Stick to the 80/20 rule,” said Lester. “This means 80% of the time you’re trying to eat more plant-based, either in one meal a day or a few days a week.”
Larry suggests starting with cuisine that is naturally big on flavorful veggies and low on meat, such as Indian and Asian cuisines. His go-to is a fried quinoa dish, a take on fried rice that uses protein-packed quinoa and sauteed veggies in a plant-based butter.
About the 2nd Street Market
Hungry yet? Plan to visit Invoke during the holiday season and during Stock Up Wednesday.
The Market is currently open Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the Market is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, it is open Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Invoke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie
Want to bring some plant-based goodies to your kitchen right now? Here’s Invokes recipe for its Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie:
- 448g (2 cups) vegan butter
- 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 220g (1 cup) brown sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seed + 2.5 tablespoons water)
- 442g all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp. arrowroot (cornstarch will work as well)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 200g (1 ¼ cups) chocolate chips (if you are trying to stay vegan, use vegan chocolate chips)
- 90g (1/3 cup) date paste
- 45g (3 ¼ Tbsp.) Earth Balance (plant-based butter)
- 5g (1 tsp.) maple syrup
- Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated and set aside. Keep at room temperature so date butter will spread easier.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream butter in bowl for 1 minute.
- Add sugars and vanilla and mix 1 more minute.
- Add chia egg and mix another 30 seconds.
- Sift together dry ingredients and add to the wet mix. Mix until incorporated. DO NOT OVER MIX.
- Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill for 30 mins or overnight.
- Butter rectangular baking pan (9×13 will work best) and press ⅓ of cookie dough in the bottom of the pan. Cover with date butter and top with remaining cookie dough. Bake in a preheated oven for 18 minutes or until cooked though.