Monday, November 10, 2014

Real food staples

Last post, we talked about why preparing your own food is important.  Today, I want to share with you some of the things that have become staples in our kitchen and improved our cooking (and eating :) 

1. Chicken Stock
We usually roast a chicken once a week, and then use the leftover bones to make chicken stock.  While the stock will have to cook for several hours, the amount of hands on time is about two minutes.
  • Throw chicken carcass into your stock pot.
  • Put one to two onions (don't bother peeling, just wash, halve and cut off the ends), carrots (washed, unpeeled) and celery stalks in.
  • Add a bay leaf and a few pepper corns.  And a dash of apple cider vinegar. 
  • Cover with water and simmer for three to four hours (or more if you like).
This is super, super easy and adds tons of flavor to homemade soups and sauces.  If you are a vegetarian, you can make homemade veggie stock.

2. Homemade Applesauce
I like to put applesauce in my oatmeal every morning during the cold months.  This stuff is so much better than the canned variety.
  • Slice/core your apples.  You don't need to peel them.  I usually use about nine apples at a time.
  • Throw them in a pot.
  • Sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple of cloves.
  • Simmer until the apples are a little mushy, and then throw in a blender or food processor.

3. Whole Wheat Bread
See recipe here.   Whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, salt, water and yeast.  That's it.  Good for sandwiches and spreading jam on.  Once you taste homemade bread, you will never go back.  For those weeks where we are very short on time, we do get bread from the bakery, which is still a much better choice than the prepackaged, preservative-filled breads on the store shelves.

4. Yogurt
Homemade yogurt is very easy to make.  Heat up some milk, add a little bit of pre-made yogurt, let sit overnight.  See recipe here.  Not only is this great with fruit in the morning, it also can be good as a dip (add a little lemon and dill!) and a nice addition to salads.

5. Salad Dressing
Most likely, you have everything you need to make a nice salad dressing already in your pantry. I use the recipe here, except instead of white wine vinegar, I use balsamic.  I recently used this on a kale, beet and barley salad, which was AWESOME.

This week, I challenge you to pick one thing you usually buy prepackaged, and try your hand at making it yourself.  It doesn't have to be complicated (it could even be just soaking and cooking your own dried beans!).

Let me know what you are going to make this week in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why cook real food?

Making your own food from scratch is probably one of the best things you can do to "go green," reduce packaging and be healthier.  (If you are not familiar with the issues of packaged food, I would strongly suggest reading "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss.  It was an eye opening read). While the other things I have discussed on the blog are important, in my opinion, food tops the list.  What we eat fuels our body and keeps us healthy.

At least in the United States, it seems as if we have been trapped in a mindset where convenience always wins.  Adults are over-scheduled, children are over-scheduled, and suddenly what we eat moves from the back burner to the microwave, and we become completely distanced from where our food comes from and how to prepare it.

Why real food matters | Cellist Goes Green

1. By making your own food from whole ingredients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.), you avoid additives like food dye, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings in packaged and processed food.

2. When you make your own food, you control the amount of salt, sugar and fat that goes in to it (and what kinds).  Processed foods often make up for lack of flavor by increasing these ingredients to unhealthy levels.  And while your body will still process all sugar as sugar (so it should be enjoyed in moderation!), I would rather eat raw honey than processed corn syrup. 

3. Real food tastes better.  If nothing else convinces you, this should.  Real food tastes like food.  Compare something you would normally buy packaged at the store to a time when you had that food homemade.  Did they taste the same?  Probably not.  Canned or boxed chicken stock just can't compare to the kind you make on your stove with real chicken and vegetables.  Homemade roasted tomato sauce with extra virgin olive oil is not the same as what you buy in the jar.  And that bread wrapped in plastic on the shelf is miles behind homemade or what you can get at the bakery.

4. It does not take that much time.  One of the biggest excuses for not preparing home cooked food is lack of time (I often used this one myself as a college student--I am not pointing fingers!).  Yes, it will take more time than throwing a box in the microwave, but not that much more.  And that added time is not always "active time." While chicken stock technically takes several hours to cook, those hours are not spent slaving over the stove.  Just throw everything in the pot and walk away.

5. Cooking brings us together.  Passing down recipes, techniques and sharing them with friends and family.  Taking pride in something you made and sharing it with others. All things that are invaluable and shouldn't be underestimated.

So, if you're up for a challenge: this week, pick one thing you would normally buy in a box or can and try making it yourself.  It does not have to be a big thing, it could be as simple as pumpkin puree (yum!) or soaking your own beans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wine in a plastic cup, a new Facebook page, and sending my broken charger back to Apple

So, a new piece of plastic has migrated into my plastic tally this month--a plastic wine cup.  Sadly, I do not have a picture, but nonetheless, it's part of the tally.  We were in an outside deck portion of a restaurant with my husband's family, and I saw they were serving drinks in plastic cups, but there were a few people with wine in real glasses, so I naively assumed that would be a safe choice.  Unfortunately not.  I asked for a real glass as soon as it was served (not too keen on enjoying wine in a plastic cup, waste aside), but the cup still went to the landfill.  I always find these things so hard to navigate, as I try to not always be the crazy plastic lady and annoy the poor waiters and waitresses, but often times when I don't say anything, I end up with unwanted plastic.

In other news, I will definitely be sending back my broken power cord to Apple, at the suggestion of Lindsay from Treading my Own Path.  If you have a broken power cord or charger from Apple, I encourage you to do the same.  We shouldn't have to accept (expensive!) products that break down so quickly, or the waste they produce.
My broken power cord, if you missed it :(
I will update you when it gets sent out.  Here is their address, if you are planning to send back your own broken charger:

1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Just started a Facebook page for the blog, like us over there if you're on Facebook :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plastic Free July update: Week 2

Sorry this update didn't come sooner, I've been busy cello-ing (I am playing in a musical that runs pretty much every day through the rest of July).  I will try to get this week's update out a little sooner :)

Plastic dilemma:

As you can see, the cord to my computer is completely shot.  It's not just the cord itself, but the magnetic adapter that actually goes into the computer (so no electrical tape fix here).  I bought a used one off of ebay, but it was unfortunately bubble wrapped.

But what to do with the old cord?  The broken cord was a REPLACEMENT for the original that came with my computer, and was probably about 1 1/2 years old.  I am really frustrated about how short the lifespan is on these things.  Is there somewhere to send it to get repaired?  Can I send it back to Apple for them to refurbish?  Anyone have any experience with this? (I saw PlasticFreeTuesday had a similar dilemma...)

So, outside of the bubble wrap and broken cord, plastic collected since last time consists of:

5 milk tops
4 milk rings (my husband threw one out before I got a hold of it, so only three in the picture)
3 produce stickers
1 olive oil top and foil
1 vinegar top
1 spice jar seal (no bulk spices near me)

How is everyone else's Plastic Free July going?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Plastic Free July: Days #1 and #2

Yesterday was a successful day.  We went to a friend's house for (a delicious) dinner, and were asked to provide some dessert.  My lovely husband bought these from a local bakery:

No plastic!  Hooray!  And they were excellent.

But today, I ended up with a bottle cap from a glass bottle of vinegar (for cleaning).  Boo.  Our Whole Foods used to have bulk olive oil and vinegar, but no more.  I wouldn't have been able to afford that vinegar for cleaning anyway.  So plastic caps it is.

Plastic Tally: 1

Also on the agenda today is some homemade hummus from scratch.  I will let you know how it goes.