Archive for the ‘Kitchen Tips’ Category

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste.  It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!

Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions

 

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Sustainable Food Storage

I’ve just discovered the most wonderful product called Bee’s Wrap. Handmade in Vermont by a young mother and her team, it’s the perfect alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. Bee’s Wrap is made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over.

Use Bee’s Wrap to wrap sandwiches, cheese, baked goods, bread, a half avocado, cucumber or lemon, or to cover a bowl of leftovers. It is not recommended for meat. With the warmth and pressure of your hand, the malleable sheet easily molds around the food to create a seal. To reuse, clean with a mild soap and air dry. With proper care and usage, it should last up to a year.

Bee’s Wrap comes in five sizes – small, medium, large, bread, baguette, and an assorted 3 pack.

Not only do food and plastic not go together, plastic wrap is not easily recycled. Here is at last a clever, easy, reusable and safe alternative for food storage. Congratulations to this creative young entrepreneur!

Minimally and attractively packaged, Bee’s Wrap can be found on line at beeswrap.com and at natural food stores and specialty shops all over, even internationally. For you readers on Cape Cod, Farm Fare Market at 68 Tupper Road in Sandwich carries them.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Celebrate with a “Green” Thanksgiving!

As we give thanks for family, friends and delicious and abundant food this Thanksgiving, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful earth we live on too.  Why not make your Thanksgiving a “green” one and try the ideas below.

Image by Ilrena Flickr.com
  • For your holiday dinner, support local farmers who grow organic produce. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Local food by contrast is usually transported 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe.  It is obviously fresher and better.  Farm stands and supermarkets have an abundance of local winter squash, carrots, potatoes, greens, herbs, apples, and pumpkin. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
  • Try a locally grown, free range organic turkey available at local farms and Whole Foods.  Fresh turkeys are unbelievably moist and delicious and not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.  You won’t believe the difference.  For the vegetarians at your table, try a Tofurkey (available from Trader Joe’s).  It come with its own vegetarian gravy and is really good!  If possible, use organic cranberries for your cranberry sauce – cranberries are a heavily sprayed crop.  Heart healthy salmon makes a delicious Thanksgiving dinner too!
  • Add freshly baked local artisan bread and rolls.
  • Consider serving organic wine along with your meal. Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, meaning grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.
  • China, silver and cloth napkins are obviously better for the environment than paper plates and plastic utensils.  They look better too!  If you are expecting a big crowd and need to opt for disposable, get the biodegradable and compostable plates and utensils.
  • Thanksgiving dinner generates a lot of leftovers and food waste.   According to earth911.com, “at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person.” Careful planning and portion control is a good way to avoid waste. Leftovers are inevitable however, so consider donating them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.                                                                                                                                                                   Use Less Stuff created a handy list of approximate per person food portions for Thanksgiving dinner:
    • Turkey- 1 pound
    • Stuffing- ¼ pound
    • Sweet potato casserole- ¼ pound
    • Green beans- ¼ pound
    • Cranberry relish- 3 tablespoons
    • Pumpkin pie- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie
  • After the big feast, don’t forget to recycle cans, cartons, plastics and bottles and compost kitchen scraps.

With your healthy and “green” holiday feast, you won’t feel so badly about overindulging!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Palm Oil

I use a variety of oils. Olive oil for salads, salad dressings and even washing my face like they do in Greece; grape seed oil for sautéing and roasting; coconut oil for cooking, baking, moisturizing and swishing; avocado oil for dressings and face washing. Depending on the recipe, pumpkin seed and walnut oils are delicious alternatives in salad dressings too. All are tasty and nutritious, but not the powerhouse of the oil I’ve recently discovered, red palm oil. Red palm oil has been a staple in indigenous cultures for 5,000 years. According to ancient legends, red palm oil was a sacred food, revered for its healthful properties and entombed with the pharaohs of Egypt for their enjoyment in the afterlife.

Health Benefits

The high beta-carotene and lycopene content give red palm oil its color and numerous health benefits. The same antioxidants are found in tomatoes and carrots, but there are even more in red palm oil. The carotenoids help support the immune system, protect the skin from UV rays and improve eye health, as well as guard against osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis and liver disease. It’s high in Vitamin A and contains rare tocotrienols and tocopherols of the Vitamin E family. Studies funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have shown that tocotrienols can help reduce the effects of stroke by protecting the brain’s nerve cells. Tocotrienols also improve blood flow to brain cells, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. With red palm oil, cholesterol levels and blood pressure are improved. It’s also a potent anti-cancer food.

Cooking with Red Palm Oil

In addition to its many nutritional benefits, red palm oil is a stable oil meaning it has a high smoke point and remains nutritionally rich when cooked or heated. Its buttery taste makes it perfect for sautéing, baking, cooking or as a popcorn topper. Fried eggs are especially tasty when fried with red palm oil instead of butter. I’m a firm believer in eating a variety of nutritious foods for optimum health. Nutritionists say with fruits and vegetables, try to eat every color of the rainbow daily. Variety is important for oils too – no one oil does it all. And, it’s fun trying different ones for different applications. Go ahead and give this powerhouse oil a try. You can find red palm oil at Whole Foods or other natural food markets. Make sure to buy organic, raw, unrefined red palm oil. Once refined and processed, its color and nutritional benefits are destroyed. Information compiled from: www.droz.com and nutiva.com   For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Are Frozen Dinners Worth the Convenience?

We live in a busy, fast-paced society where taking the time to prepare a delicious and healthy meal is not always possible.  Pre-prepared foods and frozen dinners offer a quick and easy alternative, but at what price?

Typical frozen dinner

Most frozen meals are loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives with low vegetable and fiber content.  Though we need sodium in our diet, about one teaspoon a day or 2300 milligrams, for fluid balance, muscle strength and nerve function, most of us get far more than that with our consumption of frozen and processed foods.  We are all well aware of the dangers of too much salt and sugar!  The right kind of salt is important too.  Click here for more information about salts.

Certain frozen dinner brands, and specific meals produced by those brands, are worse than others.  Hot pockets, chicken potpies, and turkey and gravy dinners are among the worst.  Usually organic frozen meals are better, but it’s important to take the time to read the labels carefully, as with all processed foods.  Just because a product says “natural” doesn’t mean it is, even with frozen veggie burgers. Be on the lookout for salt’s various disguises like sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate, as well as added sugars under the name of high fructose corn syrup or natural cane sugar and unhealthy fats.

As Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation including moderation”, so the occasional frozen dinner won’t hurt you.  There is no substitute however, for a fresh, home cooked meal seasoned properly with healthy herbs, enhanced with a small amount sea salt, and prepared with love.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Information compiled from: http://channels.isp.netscape.com/,

http://www.webmd.com/

Turn Your Kitchen Waste Into Gold!

One more Vitamix advantage that I neglected to mention in last week’s blog – When making a smoothie or juice drink in your Vitamix, the whole fruit is juiced, which includes the juice and the fiber.  The fiber contains valuable nutrition that is missing in extracted juice, making your Vitamix drinks even more nutritious!

Several of my readers have asked me about composting.

Composting means recycling food waste or organic material to the soil, which is then broken down by natural bacteria and turned into compost or a dark, soil-like humus and an incredibly rich (and free) organic fertilizer!  Compost adds nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure, eliminating the need for high nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, and produces thriving, pest resistant plants.  Compost is unbelievable fertilizer for your gardens and lawn.

Composting is just as important as recycling cans, bottles, papers, plastics or anything else.  According to the EPA, “ In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only four percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.” When food is thrown away and goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You can compost all organic matter – kitchen waste including fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags, (but avoid meat and dairy which turn rancid and attract scavengers and citrus which is toxic to the worms); grass clippings; and yard waste including leaves.  Do not add weeds or chemically treated grass clippings.

I keep a compost bucket with a charcoal filter (to prevent odors from escaping) in my kitchen sink, which I then empty into the compost pile in the backyard. You can buy compost bins online or from garden centers that cost approximately $30 – $100, but you can easily build your own. It takes about a year before the organic materials are broken down into compost and ready to add to your garden soil. Regularly turning the pile and occasionally adding a compost inoculant to help break down organic material speeds up the process, but isn’t necessary.

For Apartment Dwellers

Some cities like San Francisco and London offer kitchen waste pick up service, but most don’t.  You can still compost however, even without access to a yard.  There are two fun options.

One is vermicomposting, or composting with worms.  Vermicomposting involves buying a shallow worm container and lid (punch holes in the top and sides for drainage and ventilation), making a bed for the worms using torn newspaper mixed with leaves and potting soil, then adding kitchen waste (it works better if it is small pieces) and about 2000 red wriggler worms, sold at garden centers or ordered online through commercial growers.   Leave the lid off so the worms will burrow underground; they are sensitive to light.  In two to three months, your worms will produce dark, rich, nutritious worm castings or organic fertilizer, which your plants will love.  Click here for more information.

A second option is bokashi bin composting. Bokashi means fermented organic matter in Japanese.  This method uses a mixture of “effective microorganisms” in a medium like wheat bran.  You simply add your food waste to the bin and then sprinkle the microorganism mixture on top.  The microorganisms help to break down the scraps and if managed properly, there won’t be any smell.  This system works fast – it makes compost in two weeks!

With both indoor systems, be careful not to compost too much food waste at once.

I never stop marveling at the beautiful rich soil transformed from my kitchen waste.  It’s another one of nature’s miracles.  Get ready for spring and start composting now!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from www.bokashicomposting.com, http://www.howstuffworks.com, epa.gov, and www.ecolocalizer.com

 

 

 

Vitamix Bliss!

My nephew and his adorable new bride inspired me to write a blog post with some simple recipes for the new Vitamix they received as a wedding gift.

If you don’t have a Vitamix, I highly recommend getting one.  Though similar to a blender, it’s far more powerful with endless possibilities towards delicious healthy eating! You can make beverages, soups, dips and spreads, sauces, breads, desserts, baby food, dressings and marinades.  The Vitamix is built to stand up to demanding commercial use and decades of use at home. With its ability to chop, blend, cream, purée and more, it’s the only appliance you need!  Another advantage? It’s self-cleaning.

I use my Vitamix at least once a day for my morning smoothie and usually more.  Click on the link for my smoothie recipe or search online.  There are several.  I will say however, I find that smoothie supplements like chia seeds are easily ground up with a Vitamix.

Almond Milk

I love using fresh, homemade, completely additive-free almond milk as the liquid base for my smoothie, and with the Vitamix, it’s a breeze to make.  Nut and seed milks are high in protein, contain the “right” fats and provide calcium.

I cup almonds, soaked 12 hours or overnight

4 cups purified or filtered water

Rinse and drain soaked almonds.  Place almonds and water in Vitamix and process on high until completely broken down.  Place nut milk bag (or cheese cloth) into large pitcher or bowl, positioning so that the bag stays open.  Pour nut milk mixture into bag, allowing liquid to drain through to container.  Gently squeeze with hand to press all liquid through the mesh bag.

Compost the pulp or freeze for later use in inventive recipes.  Have fun trying milk made from other nuts and seeds, or try blending different kinds.  Each has its own unique flavor. 

Homemade Peanut Butter

My husband spreads peanut butter on everything – toast, crackers, apple slices, and celery. Freshly made, and without additives, it’s not only nutritious, but has a special taste.

Ingredients:

3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts

  1. Place ingredients into the Vitamix container and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.
  4. In 1 minute you will hear a high-pitched chugging sound.  Once the butter begins to flow freely through the blades, the motor sound will change and become low and laboring.  Stop the machine.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

Attention: Over processing will cause serious overheating to your machine.  Try making other nut butters too!

Avocado Tortilla Soup

This soup can be made from start to finish in your Vitamix  – you can’t get any easier or quicker than that!

Ingredients:

2 cups chicken broth

5 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1/3 bunch cilantro

1 garlic clove

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ avocado, peeled and pitted

½ lime, peeled

½ cup canned black beans, drained

½ cup canned corn, drained (You can use frozen too but thaw first.)

2 ounces tortilla chips, crushed

  1. Place all ingredients except corn, beans, and tortilla chips into Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Blend for 6 – 7 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from vented lid.
  5. Reduce speed to Variable 2 and remove the lid plug.
  6. Drop in corn, beans, and tortilla chips through the lid plug opening.  Blend for additional 10 seconds.
  7. Garnish with a tortilla chips, sour cream, and a sprig of cilantro.

Vitamix’s powerful motor actually cooks the soup!

Strawberry Yogurt Freeze

Ingredients:

1-cup non-fat, plain, vanilla or strawberry yogurt

1 pound frozen organic, unsweetened strawberries

1/3-cup sugar (Coconut or pure cane sugar) (Omit sugar if using flavored yogurt.)

  1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Use tamper to press ingredients into the blades.
  5. In about 30 – 60 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds should form in the mixture.
  6. Stop machine.  Do not over mix or melting will occur.  Serve immediately.

Try experimenting with other frozen fruits and yogurt flavors!

The Vitamix is amazing and will change your eating habits.  Attending a Vitamix demonstration is extremely helpful in understanding exactly how it works and its possibilities.  Most retail outlets that sell them offer demos.  Visit Vitamix.com for more wonderful recipes.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

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