Sustainable Living in the Kitchen: Meat Fee Meal Ideas

For all of those looking to be a bit more in line with sustainable living around the dinner table you may have been following the buzz on how much ditching meat from your diet could reduce carbon emissions and in turn global warming. You don’t have to go vegan and oust eggs and dairy too but at least making an effort to opt for vegetable alternatives to that burger a few times a week will make a huge difference. For meal ideas there is the Sustainable Living in the Kitchen: Meat Fee Meal Ideas series to get you started.

This week there is the Black Bean Chili-Topped Baked Sweet Potatoes courtesy of Beverly Lynn Bennett aka The Vegan Chef. There is her website as well as books that are available for more delicious and sustainable living friendly foods and entrees. Here’s the scoop for the chili:


4 large sweet potatoes, washed well (do not peel)
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 1/2 t. olive oil
1/2 cup green pepper, destemmed, deseeded, and diced
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, destemmed, deseeded, and diced
2 t. garlic, minced
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed, and drained
1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
hot pepper sauce, to taste


1) Poke holes in the skins of the sweet potatoes with a fork in a few places. Place them on a cookie sheet and then on an oven-proof rack. These will be baked for 60-75 minutes at 400 degrees. When they are done they should be soft if you squeeze them a bit.

2) With the sweet potatoes in the oven get a medium saucepan and add the olive oil. Sauté the onions until they are soft, about 3 minutes. Once done in go the green peppers and continue to sauté until all the ingredients are tender; about another 3 minutes. Add in the garlic, tomatoes, and seasonings and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.

3) Add the tomato sauce and black beans to the pan and use the hot pepper sauce to season. Stir all ingredients and let the chili simmer for 10 minutes. You can continue to season to taste.

4) Take the pan from the heat. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and let them cool.

5) To prepare put one of the sweet potatoes in a bowl, halve it, and then spoon chili over the top and enjoy!

This sustainable living dinner or lunch will happily serve four diners and sure to put a smile on their face without so much as a beef patty. Going meat free just one day a week has been shown to make a huge difference worldwide and every little plate counts. There are also meat alternatives and soy cheeses that you can add to the mix that are also heart healthy being that they generally have lower fat and cholesterol levels. You’ll find that dining on local vegetables and produce is not only in line with environmental awareness but good for your health. So raise a fork to sustainable living.

Photo credit: EJ Chang