Archive for October, 2011

October 16, 2011

If You Stop and Think Before You Toss Your Leftovers,

it’s amazing what you can do.

We have spent the last week trying to reduce our food waste in a serious way.

We composted routinely – greens, apple peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, the soft veggies that remain after you make a veggie stock.

We made a list of what was in our veggie drawer, and made a point to cook with what was in the drawers.

We didn’t do a regular grocery shop, but used what was in our fridge and freezer and pantry.

We put our leftovers into lunch-box-sized tupperware so that they would more easily be included in next day lunches.

And you know what? We ate well.

Our menu this week included:

  • omelettes and banana bread
  • zucchini, tomato, and feta casserole
  • cauliflower and potato curry
  • roasted broccoli and red onion
  • steak salad
  • pork butt steaks
  • roast chicken
  • chicken noodle soup with corn bread (using the carcass from the roast  chicken, of course)
  • pasta with butter and parmesan
  • apple pie
And more not recorded here.
It is amazing how a simple challenge posted on a fellow blogger’s site can set revolutionary change in action.  But I guess that’s what Blog Action Day is all about, right?

So, before you put the lemon rinds in the garbage, think “Can I grind these in the disposal so that the disposal will smell lemony fresh?”

And when you’re done preparing the broccoli, take the time to put the stalks into a freezer bag, and make veggie stock over the weekend.

And remember that the stale baguette makes a great bread pudding.

Your fridge will thank you, as will your wallet, and you can reduce your contribution to the unbelievably large problem of  food waste.

October 12, 2011

The Zero Waste Challenge Increases Mindfulness

When you are engaged in a challenge, and you are planning to blog about it, and your entire family now knows that you are doing it, there are conversations in the kitchen rarely had before.

1. Like, when you come downstairs after a long weekend, and smell the coffee already made, you realize that the eldest was listening when his dad and I were discussing the need to compost the coffee grounds, because when you ask him what he did with the coffee grounds, he says, “I composted them, wasn’t I supposed to?”

2. And when you and your spouse are making dinner, the man of your dreams turns to you and says, “These are too big for the compost, what should we do with them?” and you realize that if there are parts of the produce (like cauliflower or broccoli stems) that are a bit too “chunky” for the compost …. you can put them in a bag and store in the freezer for making more veggie broth over the weekend. I already have a gallon bag full (most of that is the radish leaves that came attached to our CSA radishes this week that I know I won’t be cooking – so if I freeze them then I can use them for broth and then add them to the compost.)

3. And then there are the internal “duh” conversations like, hey, when I have enough leftover cauliflower and potato curry for three lunch boxes, put them in the small lunch-box-sized tupperware containers instead of the large 2 cup size that will sit in the fridge for weeks and then become food waste. Then they will magically disappear from the fridge and nourish our family, not our garbage.

I still haven’t figured out what to do with “extra” egg shells.  Because we are a family of five, we contribute a lot of egg shells to the compost, and the man of the house (who is in charge of the compost) said we needed to take a break after the weekend.

But our garbage is nearly food free (except for two old leftover items that didn’t get tossed in the fridge clean over the weekend).

I’m feeling pretty positive that we can make a big impact on the amount of food waste in our house just by the simple act of paying attention.  I’m amazed already with the progress we’ve made.

October 10, 2011

Day One Towards Zero: We’re Not Quite There Yet.

So, a couple of things to note on this first day of our effort to zero food waste.

First, remember that coffee grounds should be composted. When you are in a routine, and you are a bleary-eyed morning person, it’s very likely that your coffee grounds from yesterday will hit the trash BEFORE you remember that they are food waste and have another use …

Second, remember to tell your dear husband that you have proclaimed it zero food waste week in our household, so that he knows that the handful of peas that didn’t make it into the omelets this morning should have been repurposed…and thank him for unwittingly participating in the zero food waste challenge by making omelets that used up left-over grilled veggies and one of the tomatoes that needed eating and incorporating one of the seen-better-day bananas into a “splorch” snack (a smoothie w/o any dairy).

Third, it’s okay to look in the trash can (which is mostly empty of food waste – except for those blessed peas) and take out the two lime peels that contributed the lime juice to the splorch and put them into the disposal and grind them all up — freshening the disposal naturally.

Lessons for tomorrow:

(1) To forestall bleary-eyed errors, empty the coffee grounds into the compost before you go to bed.  Bonus: your pot is ready for new grounds in the morning!

(2) Think about a scrap bin to put compostable items in as food preparation happens….

***Thanks to Microsoft Office for the image…

October 9, 2011

Can We Get to Zero?

Zero food waste, that is.  A goal to which I have aspired for over the past year or so (ever since I read Diet for a Small Planet), but have fallen woefully short more times than I care to note.

But, it is a new week tomorrow, and Green(ish) Monkeys is going to give it a try, and I thought I’d join in.

So, today I got ready.

I cleaned out my fridge:

1. I threw out the greens rotted beyond recognition, as well as indeterminate contents of tupperware.

2. Greens on the yellow side were added to the compost.

3. All other limp veggies, and leftover but unconsumed veggies and stems from dinners last week were put in pot of water.  I added an onion and some fresh thyme and celeriac stems, and let it simmer all day while we enjoyed the awesome Indian summer day.

Now, we have 6 cups of vegetable broth in the freezer for use this week or next.

4. After those were cooked and strained, those veggies were added to the compost.

5. The Man of the House made an apple pie, and homemade tomato sauce using the last of our garden tomatoes, and some dribs and drabs of pesto, and half a can of leftover tomato paste… that we enjoyed over our pasta this evening.

6. And then I made a list of what I need to remember to cook this week, rather than going to the store to buy more food that I might not use in time…

  • salad greens
  • arugula
  • cilantro
  • thyme
  • 4 spicy peppers
  • potatoes
  • 1 bunch cauliflower
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • a few beets
  • 3 good sized radishes
  • 8 small tomatoes
  • 2 bananas
  • more apples
  • lemons
  • limes
  • fresh ginger
  • fresh black beans
  • pole beans
  • the rest of the limp basil….
Of course, there’s lots more in the freezer and in the fridge not included here (eggs, cheese), but the real challenge for me is making sure we eat all of the produce that comes in to our house. As you can see  – we do not lack for produce.  And Tuesday we get more from our CSA!
So since I’m home tomorrow, maybe I’ll make zucchini bread, and a cauliflower and potato curry, and a green salad for sure, and more pesto – both basil and arugula.  I think the bananas will go into smoothies in the morning… using some frozen berries too. Once you start thinking of all you can do with what’s already in your fridge it can be hard to stop :)!
I’ll try to post throughout the week to report out how we do.  Join in if you wish!
October 5, 2011

What’s In Your CSA? Autumn Share, Week 2

When you make eating local a priority, and if you decide to join a CSA, you might start to wonder ( or at least I did) what is showing up in shares around this great country of ours. So I began to use the 21st century tool of the internet to see if I could find other bloggers tracking and sharing about their shares. And you know what? With a little time and persistance, I was able to begin to satisfy my curiosity.

But let’s start with what was in our CSA share this week.

This is our second week of the Autumn share. We have moved to the mini-share, so that is what is pictured above.

What did we get?  Lots of fall greens – bok choy, tatsoi. Purple-icious eggplants. A last bouquet of basil to make pesto with. A couple of radishes. Pole beans.  Tomatoes. A beautiful clipping of thyme.

But what do we find if we travel across this great country of ours?

In Maine, a bit more northerly and westerly than we are, and stop by the living local experiment, you see turnips and cheese and brussel sprouts, and a beautiful squash!

In New England, CrunchyMetroMom, there is some overlap with ours – tomatoes – and we see garlic and butternut squash (which we had last week), but they also have corn and apples (which we purchase at the market, but is not part of our share), and honey!

In New York City, With a Fork and a Knife are feasting on peppers and celery and rainbow chard and apples and pears…

Or, if you live in Jersey, you can order a winter CSA of frozen summer veggies.

And Colorado’s not so different from the East Coast – squash, tomatoes – but still seeing peppers and cucumber.

In California, you can still get watermelon in your share!

But in Kentucky, the folks at Jockey Full of Bourbon are saying goodbye to their CSA for the season.

And I’m not sure where Cooking Cacophony hails from, but I love that their CSA includes all the fixings for pizza!!

What variety – and how fun to see how unique every CSA delivery is!

Readers, please do add your experiences, and let me know what you love (and maybe don’t love as much) about your CSA!


October 2, 2011

The Season for Soup: Black Bean Soup

The weather has turned here in the greater metro DC area, and in our house, this means that soup will begin to be featured on our menus.  I had been having a hankering for black bean soup, and had purchased some ham hocks in preparation.  Last week was nutty at home (nothing like two back-to-school nights in a row) and work and I was planning to use the slow cooker.  But the Man of the House raised a red flag.  He protested that making the soup in the slow cooker would lead to mushy beans, and that was completely unappealing to him. Of course, when we’re out of the house all day, it’s hard to get the soup going  on the stove top.

So, I put my thinking cap on….and thought that if  we soaked the black beans during the day when we were at work instead of overnight as cookbooks typically suggest, then maybe we could make the soup in the evening and we could eat at a reasonable time. [Note to any readers with young kids – we have three teens, so dinner is often served on a later schedule in our house (we like to think of it as European style), typically between 7:30 and 8:30 — which might not fit your model of a reasonable dinner time.]   And you know what?  It worked!

So here’s what we did:

First, we soaked a 16 ounce package of dried black beans all day while we were at work.

At 6:30, when I returned home, I drained the beans, refilled the pot with fresh water, added two ham hocks, brought the pot to a boil, then brought it to a simmer and partially covered it.

Then, the Man of the House and I took a 45 minute walk while the kids finished their homework.

When we got home, we checked the beans.

They were “al dente” (okay, that’s probably not the right term, but you know what I mean – soft but not mushy). VICTORY!

So, I then prepped the veggies (all local in origin – either from the farmer’s market or our CSA):

carrots, red onion, celeriac (the funny looking vegetable in the picture – leaves like celery, root like a mild fennel), red pepper, leftover corn, a handful of leftover rice, and  a mix of dried Italian seasoning, and added them into the pot.

We let it simmer for another15 or 20 minutes until the carrots were soft (cutting them thin helped here), toasted some leftover sourdough bread from last week’s farmer’s market, and served it up with fresh lime slices. Pictured below is what is left – not too much broth left – fortunately we can just add a little more water when we reheat and we’ll be ready to go.

Easy to make, fits into our evening schedule, and is much better than when it’s made in the slow cooker.

I’m moving to the soaking during the day model from here on out….

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