I’ve been thinking about food choices, lately. Ingredient choices, more specifically. Although it’s just one part of the lives, the ingredients we buy and the meals we eat day after day, month after month, year after year… do have an impact on our world, either for better or worse, beyond the short-term considerations of our wallets. That’s one of the central ideas that drives Fresh Planet Flavor: that our food choices matter, and that every dollar we spend at the grocery store, at farmers markets, and at restaurants can be harmful, or neutral, or regenerative for our bodies and our environment.
Which is why I want to highlight a detail in this favorite easy weeknight meal: the chili garlic sauce is made with yogurt from Straus Family Creamery (the first certified organic dairy and creamery west of the Mississippi). I’ll explain a bit more about the innovations in particular, but first! Since Fresh Planet Flavor readers are based all over the world, there’s a high likelihood that Straus products aren’t available in your area. But, the bigger principle applies: as you’re selecting ingredients to make meals to feed yourself and loved ones, take a moment to ask yourself whether you can support sustainability and innovation at the same time. Chances are, there’s a product, like Straus yogurt, that is the result of pushing the boundaries of our food system in a positive direction. Contemplate that while you enjoy this picture of Straus Creamery cows:
That being said, what’s the “methane digester” in the title? It’s actually just one of the ways in which Straus Creamery is innovating to keep our planet fresh. Straus makes 100% organic dairy products that are 100% GMO-free, minimally processed and contain no additives. Albert Straus–who runs the operation–says they’re committed to sustainable production at every level, from the way they cultivate their pastures to feed their cows, to the methane digester they use to produce their energy, to the reusable glass bottles they use to package the milk.
The methane digester makes electricity from the manure of Straus Creamery cows. It creates enough renewable energy to power the entire dairy, to charge Albert Straus’ electric car and to feed some electricity back into the grid.Innovation in our food system: methane digesters make electricity from cow manure. Click To Tweet
How does the methane digester work?
- Barn slurry, sileage runoff, and creamery waste flow into the slurry pit
- This mixture is pumped into a device which separates the manure’s solids and liquids (ten cubic yards of manure solids are produced each day, which are hauled to another location, composted, then spread on fields as fertilizer)
- The liquid flows by gravity into the digester pond
- Anaerobic digestion = bacteria digest the waste and give off methane gas
- The methane gas fuels a generator that offsets the farm’s energy use by 90%
- Heat captured from the engine makes hot water used to wash equipment in the milking barn
Here’s a diagram from a recent Civil Eats article on the true climate impact of dairy farming in California that illustrates the concept.
How does the methane digester make a difference (in 30-40 days)?
- Saves money by generating 300,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year
- Eliminates a greenhouse gas 23 times more damaging than CO2
- Converts nitrogen into a more usable form for plants
I’ll make every effort to select Straus Creamery yogurt whenever I am making this easy, tasty, healthy meal (which can be enjoyed as dinner or a hearty breakfast). The days are getting shorter (even here in San Francisco, where there is just one season) and the nights chillier, so variations on this tasty meal have been my go-to because it’s Q-U-I-C-K and delicious, not to mention tasty broth-boiled carbs to accompany the gorgeous pastured eggs. By the way, the broth I’ve been using is made with carrots, so that is responsible for the wonderful color we’ve got going on with the rice.
Speaking of the eggs, I wouldn’t say no to eggs with every meal, I love them that much. I’m also a huge fan of the widely-available Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce, which the yogurt takes to the next level with its tart creaminess. Finish it off with whatever fresh herbs that you have on hand, and more chili flakes if you want to up the spicy quotient (and I always do). Enjoy!
- 2 eggs, sunny-side up*
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups broth
- 1½ cup green beans, fresh or frozen
- ⅓ cup Straus Creamery yogurt
- 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh herbs and chili flakes (optional)
- Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the rice, and bring back to a gentle simmer.
- Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low, cook for 20 minutes or until tender.
- While the rice cooks, blanch the green beans (if fresh) or heat them (if using frozen). Fry the eggs according to your preferred method.
- When the rice is tender, turn off the heat and let stand a few minutes--covered--then remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Mix the chili garlic sauce with the yogurt, then divide the rice into serving bowls, and top with the eggs, yogurt, and fresh herbs and chili flakes (if using). Serve warm.