Archive for March, 2012

Waste Case Project: Weekend Wrap-Up

March 31, 2012

The week is coming to an end, and the Waste Case Project diary is coming to a close.
As a grand finale in using my food to the fullest, I had the chicken stock I made last night with a bit of shredded chicken and diced carrots for lunch, bringing the meal toll for one lowly little roasted chicken up to 6!

Tonight, a little celebratory take-out and a glass of wine (which somehow never goes to waste around our house) while I reminisce about the project…

The week has been an eye-opener. Here are a few of the big take-aways from my experience:

1. Consciousness is half the battle. I knew we were wasting food, but never really thought about how much we were tossing out needlessly. The idea that others are starving and we are lucky enough to live where food is plentiful and accessible, is a gift which should not be taken for granted. Thinking about the issue inspired me to find ways to decrease our food waste.

2. Taking inventory of exactly what you have laying around that is still fresh and usable is the key to avoiding waste. Planning around those items, instead of starting fresh every day, makes a huge difference in what gets eaten and what gets tossed out.

3.Proper wrapping and storing of food makes a big difference in it’s taste and freshness. Leaving the seed in the leftover avocado and wrapping it well, and drying the washed lettuce and rolling it in a paper towel before bagging it are just examples of how I increased the shelf life of our food.

4. Shoving food down your throat so it “doesn’t go to waste” is worse than throwing it in the dumpster. Eating excess food  and stuffing yourself leads to weight gain and health issues. If you have to choose between your food “going to waste and going to your waist” I choose the former every time.

5. Leftovers can be boring. Just reheating last night’s dinner held very little appeal for me. Up-cycling last night’s dinner was an interesting challenge. I could reinvent that roasted chicken in 100 different ways, yet I rarely tried. Now I know that a roasted chicken means at least 2 dinners, not one. The creativity will come in the second night.

5. Nobody is perfect. There will be food that goes to waste. But, just because this experiment is over, it doesn’t mean we will go back to our old ways. I will be a conscious shopper and chef, now that I have seen what a difference a little planning can make.

6. The only thing more frightening to your husband than the thought that his wife will turn into her mother, is the fear that she will turn into his mother. My mother in law would save a bread crust in the hopes that someone would eat it. She kept everything way too long and thought the freezer was a cryogenic crypt that preserved things for perpetuity. While there is definitely a limit to my food scrap hoarding, she was definitely on to something! Know when to say when. and if it seems at all ‘iffy” I say toss it, rather than risk illness.

7. Indigo Jones readers are loyal and loved having something to follow everyday. I promise to find something new to pique your interest, and post more often, even if it’s just a little tidbit that your might find of interest.
Thanks for joining me on this journey !

Waste Case Project: Day 5

March 30, 2012

I am starting to get the hang of this! Tonight, I only spent $5.99 at the grocery store, vs. the usual $40 or so.

I used all the lettuce I washed and chopped yesterday,( the arugula hung in there one more day!) part of the avocado from Tuesday (which kept surprisingly well when stored properly), some cheese I had on hand, some of last night’s roasted  chicken and a chunk of green apple that has been sitting around feeling lonely in a basket in the kitchen. I tossed it in some olive oil and  aged balsamic vinegar and  “Viola!” a great dinner salad using all leftovers…woo hoo!

The others had the chicken shredded and cooked with bar-b-que sauce on whole wheat buns with potato chips; my 2 purchased items for the day. Bailey had the rest of my apple and some yogurt, and Spencer put the last of the avocado on his sandwich, and shared my salad as a side dish.

The remnants of the chicken are now simmering in a pot, with yesterday’s onion and 2 carrots, accompanied by some parsley I discovered in the produce drawer (score!). It won’t yield much, but a few cups of chicken stock can always be popped into the freezer and used anytime a recipe calls for it.

My husband likened me to a “depression era housewife” which is fodder for a whole other blog post, but he has a point. We need to start thinking of food as a precious commodity, and use it to it’s fullest. Today I learned to plan around what I had that was fresh and usable, and buy around it if necessary. If I wasn’t trying to please a picky eater, I wouldn’t have needed to purchase anything to make a fresh, nutritious and tasty meal.

Tomorrow’s challenge: What’s for dinner? The produce and meat is gone, so our next meal starts with a clean slate. Although I might be able to use that chicken stock for something….

photo: Glasshouse Images

Waste Case Project: Day 4

March 29, 2012

Tonight was the big test…a whole roasted chicken! Every week, I buy a whole chicken, and of course we never finish it. I’m told that it is going to get eaten for lunch, but every Saturday, I throw away what is left. Today, I decided to take the “chicken challenge” and make sure it gets eaten. I personally packed up the leftovers, so that I could assess the remnants. There is a huge amount left, and easily enough for dinner tomorrow night. I bought 2 organic carrots and an onion, thinking I would make a small pot of chicken stock with the leftovers,and use up some herbs festering in the produce drawer. Will there be enough chicken left to bother, or will we actually eat it all? If I don’t make the stock, what becomes of the onion and carrots? A new dilemma!

I cleaned and chopped all the lettuce I bought, including the arugula that is miraculously still hanging in there after a few days, and put what I didn’t think we needed in a plastic bag with a paper towel in it to absorb the moisture. There is plenty for another meal,and the work is already done for me!

I even used a rubber spatula to get ALL the yogurt out of the container, instead of tossing those last few spoonfuls.

Awareness of the problem is proving to be half the battle for me. Planning for waste is helping me eliminate waste.

Stay tuned to find out what REALLY happens to that roasted chicken!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Waste Case Project: Day 3

March 28, 2012

Last night, I was a careful shopper and chef, using what I had to enhance what I bought. Some wanted tacos, and I used the shredded mozzarella cheese and arugula that I already had on hand, instead of purchasing regular lettuce and jack cheese, and having all 4 items go to waste. There is still some left, and the arugula is looking a little sadder than I’d like it to. One more day and it’s going to be history. I cut the avocado in half, and wrapped the unused portion with the seed left in, to prevent it from going brown.
I had salmon, cut to a single serving, and literally bought 5 small mushrooms and a handful of  shredded kale from the”prepped and ready to cook” section at Whole Foods. While it might have cost more per pound than buying a full bunch of kale, I purchased only what I could eat in one serving, so it ended up being a better choice.

Lesson of the day: Bigger is not always better! Buying in quantity often seems like a bargain, but spending more per oz. for a smaller amount and not wasting the rest is a better deal in the long run for your wallet, your waistline and the environment. Being conscious of food waste is helping me think through grocery shopping, and causing me to be more selective about what will actually get consumed in it’s entirety.

Stay tuned: it’s only Wednesday!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Waste Case Project: Day 2

March 27, 2012

Last night, I made a real effort to use what I had on hand.

I chopped up the last of the lettuce from a previous dinner, tossed it in an aged balsamic vinaigrette made right in the bowl ( no leftovers there!) only to throw away the remaining portion at the end of the meal. I find this happens a lot when I have guests, and dressed salad is a soggy mess the next day. A good solution would be to serve dressing on the side, or only dress a small part of the salad, and replenish as it gets eaten.

I took some leftover tomato puree that would have normally gone by the wayside, and spiced it up as a dipping sauce for B’s breaded shrimp. Of course there was way more than she could eat, and it ended up down the drain anyways, but I felt proud that I am heading down the right track.

I just threw out the sorry remains of a container of cottage cheese, with just a couple of bites left  in it. I am not going to become one of those people who eats up every morsel and gains 10 pounds, just so things don’t go to waste. In my mind, throwing unwanted food into my stomach is worse than throwing it in the trash.

This is a work in progress, but awareness is half the battle. Let’s see what tonight’s dinner holds in store.

To be continued…

Waste Case Project: Day 1

March 26, 2012

It’s 9:00 a.m. and I have already tossed a few slices of turkey which had been hanging around since early last week, an opened and never resealed bag of granola lurking in the cupboard, and a partially consumed container of fat free ricotta cheese. I re-wrapped and tucked a piece of fresh ginger into the produce drawer of the fridge, hopefully extending it’s life, while not attracting fruit flies. Not an auspicious start to a new week,and a new goal. The refrigerator is almost empty, and I boldly used some full fat milk and low fat vanilla yogurt, when I prefer skim milk and fat free plain Greek yogurt. Will I end up giving up my own standards of eating just to save on waste? I certainly hope not!

Clearly, food shopping is on tonight’s agenda, so hopefully,I will buy what we can use quickly, and in it’s entirety.

Stay tuned….

Waste Case

March 25, 2012

As food prices soar and more people in the world go hungry, I am more conscious than ever of the amount of food that gets thrown out each week.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the average American household throws out between $500 and $2,000 worth of food per year.

I suspect the waste in my household is even greater.

I admit to being a freshness fanatic, and rarely a day goes by that I do not hit at least one market to purchase groceries. Even with a “ buy as needed” attitude, there is a ridiculous amount of waste in our kitchen.

I set out to do a little research as to how long food can be kept before it goes bad, and I had a few surprises. Foods last longer in the refrigerator than I assumed, and the freezer does not extend food life indefinitely, as I had been previously told. Here are a few common foods, and their shelf life both refrigerated and frozen:

Food Refrigerator Freezer
Hot dogs; opened 1 week 1-2 months
Deli lunchmeat; freshly sliced or from an open package 3-5 days* although the deli manager at Whole Foods recommends 3 days only 1-2 months
Ground meats; raw 1-2 days 3-4 months
Raw poultry 1-2 days 9months for pieces/12 months if whole
Red meat; raw 3-5 days 4-6 months for chops / 6-12 months for steaks + roasts
Soups and Stews 3-4 days 2-3 months frozen
Hard cheese 3-4 weeks Not recommended
Soft cheese 1 week Not recommended
Ice cream 1-2 months
Mayo 2 months once opened Not recommended
Cooked leftovers 3-4 days Varies
Butter 1 month Up to 9 months
Milk 1 week Not recommended
Eggs 3 weeks Not recommended

This week, I am committed to reducing our family’s food waste. While I may not be comfortable keeping things around as long as this chart dictates as safe, I will be more cognizant of recycling our leftovers quickly into healthy and tasty dishes that we can consume, instead of toss.

Stay tuned for this week’s adventures as I blog about how I reduce food waste creatively.

Join the conversation, and post some of your ideas in the comment section.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Instant Indulgence

March 18, 2012

In our self indulgent, instant gratification seeking society, we want what we want when we want it.  So what do you do if you want a freshly baked gourmet cupcake at 2:00 in the morning? Well, if you live in Los Angeles, your problem has been solved.

Sprinkles, the L.A. based cupcake emporium of the moment, has installed a kiosk outside of their shop stocked daily with over 600 fresh cupcakes in various flavors.

Just make your selection on the touch screen, swipe your card and the machine dispenses a boxed cupcake, instantly.

Don’t be jealous New York; Sprinkles plans to install 3 cupcake automats before the summer begins.

Risky Business

March 14, 2012

New research suggests that a diet rich in red meat not only raises cholesterol and blood pressure levels, but could also impact your life span.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study, which reviewed the eating habits of 121,342 people over a 20-year period.

During this time, 23,926 deaths were recorded from heart disease and cancer.

Scientists claim that the link between red meat consumption and premature death is substantial and could result in a 21% increase in morbidity.
Just a small 3 oz. portion of meat eaten daily (about the size of a deck of cards) increased the risk by 13%, while the risk was much greater in those who consumed processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon.

On the positive side, more healthful proteins can increase life expectancy.

Nuts are said to reduce the mortality rate by 20%, whole grains 14% and low fat dairy by 10%.

While the study does not go into the details of the cuts of meat eaten, it is recommended that small amounts of lean meat be eaten only once or twice a week, and processed meats limited to once every 6 weeks.

photo: Glasshouse Images

A division of Glasshouse Publishing

Super Foods to the Rescue

March 11, 2012

We are constantly bombarded with the latest “super food” that we should add to our diets. Some of us are more influenced by the hype than others. A certain male in my family jumped on the soy shake bandwagon a few years ago, only to find out that it’s benefits centered mostly on relieving menopause symptoms!

These latest additions to the super food list come from afar, and are packed with medicinal properties to protect, enhance and boost your health.

Seaweed:

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry has concluded that seaweed can be just as effective at lowering blood pressure as some medications. It’s also a great source of iodine, which helps control the thyroid, thus preventing weight gain. It contains natural magnesium, which can improve sleep quality.

Seaweed is a staple in the Japanese diet, and is used in making sushi, as well as tasty salads. Trader Joe’s has a great dried seaweed snack that is only 30 calories per serving and costs a mere $.99 per bag. Try the sea salt or wasabi versions as an alternative to highly caloric chips for a quick snack.

Miso:

This Japanese soy paste is popular when made into a soup, or used as a condiment to make sauces. It has also been linked to a low incidence of prostate cancer in Japanese men. A recent study has shown that women who ate 3 or more bowls of miso soup per day had a 40% less risk of breast cancer than women who at just one.

 

Super Easy Super Food Miso Soup:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Stir a little bit into 2-4 tablespoons of miso paste and add it to the boiling water. As miso pastes differ, taste and add a bit more until you find the flavor that is best for you.

Add sliced green onions, soba noodles, cilantro, watercress, cubed firm tofu and maybe even a little seaweed if desired and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

A division of Glasshouse Publishing


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