Zero Food Waste 2016, Week 6

zero food waste challenge 2015

Hello all! I was at my uncle’s funeral last week, which was sad, of course, but I’m really glad I went. It’s also thematic with the zero food waste concept because deaths tend to create a lot of food. People were dropping things off at my aunt’s house all week, and then there were huge leftovers from the funeral reception (which my uncle’s company paid for because so many of his co-workers wanted to come.)

Do y’all have any creative ideas on saving the leftovers from funerals, weddings, etc? I think so often these big events produce much more food than the family can eat. Sometimes a local community will take leftovers like this, although typically it would be a shelter or informal church group, because this is prepared food that needs to be stored/packaged properly and eaten right away, rather than being the kind of thing that can be handed out at a food pantry. Has anyone done this successfully? Or have more ideas?

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Return of the Zero Food Waste posts

zero food waste challenge 2015Good morning! One of the nice things about being firmly back home after a long absence is that I can start resetting my diet, which was iffy at best while I was visiting my parents and a complete disaster during my work trip. At least I mostly managed not to outright waste any food.

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Homemade Apple Butter: The Only Post You Need

zero food waste challenge 2015There’s no grocery list this week, because I’m away visiting some friends over my university’s fall break. Instead, I’m taking this opportunity to write up the results of my big apple butter experiment. And because I did so much research, reading, and batch-testing, I’m declaring this The Only Post You Need to Read, because I’ll tell you all about what I learned reading everyone else’s :)How big, you ask? Well, this is a picture of the apples I brought home from the farmer’s market:

IMG_20151010_105403525The egg carton is for scale. That’s a half-bushel of apples, which is, uh, a lot of apples. Many, many, many apples. The thing is, the entire bag cost me $6 — yes, six American dollars — and it was perfect for making butter: it was a mixed lot, and it was full of seconds, which are apples that are totally fine except they have some minor cosmetic flaw or else are a little bruised. As long as you cut out the bruised parts, they’re totally great for cooking. Continue reading “Homemade Apple Butter: The Only Post You Need”

Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.

zero food waste challenge 2015A little surprisingly, given how much else about my life has been out of control the last couple of months (again, mostly in good ways), I’m still on the zero (or rather very little) food waste track. The only things I can remember throwing away recently are half a bundle of mint that I didn’t get around to drying, and two chunks of feta cheese that went bad before I used them. I had some minor victories, too; I opened a can of pureed pumpkin to use for cupcakes a couple of weeks ago, but only needed half of it. I ended up using some of the leftover in lieu of apple butter in a scone recipe I made, and stirred the last of it into this week’s oatmeal — which is the first oatmeal of fall! I’ve been eating cereal or toast or fruit for breakfast all summer. But now that it’s chilly, I’m excited to make oatmeal again, now with the addition of blueberries I picked myself in June and froze. Continue reading “Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.”

Zero Food Waste, Week 29: Keep Others From Wasting Food

zero food waste challenge 2015Back on the food-writing wagon! Now that my big work project has finally debuted, I have a smidge more free time, though things won’t really normalize until I’m more caught up — maybe stretching into September.

However, I did want to get back to a slightly more typical blogging schedule, and as it happens I have a really nice, and money-saving, Zero Food Waste tip today!

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Zero Food Waste, Weeks 24 and 25: Fall in Love (plus chickpea wraps)

zero food waste challenge 2015Yes! I’m in love! No! It’s not with some dude! It’s with something admittedly less cuddly, but in its own way very, very, very, very satisfying.

I’m in love with a cookbook.

I’ve shared recipes here a few times adapted from the blog 101 Cookbooks, and I finally decided to buy one of her books, Super Natural Every Day.

I’ve bought far far fewer cookbooks (and weeded my old ones a lot) since I’ve been cooking from blogs so much. But the ones I do still own are used often, and this is clearly going to be one of them. In fact, it’s the only cookbook I can remember where I’ve literally wanted to make every single recipe — though granted, I’m not a fan of seitan or tempeh, so I might make those dishes with tofu or even chicken instead. I’ve had it for two weeks and so far I’ve made lemon-zested bulgur wheat with coconut milk, honey, and toasted almonds; millet muffins (also with honey); hardboiled eggs with dukkah (a spice mix); and, twice, the chickpea wraps (see below.) I love that it’s a cookbook that includes a section on lunch that is full of recipes that really are the way I actually eat lunch (salads, soups, and sandwiches that are creative, with multiple components, and deeply flavored, but not fussy or weird), a section on snacks that focuses on protein (but also includes popcorn with mustard, thyme, chives, and butter, which I intend to make the second it’s fall), and a lovely selection of drinks that are mostly not cocktails. She uses a wide variety of grains, flours, nuts, seeds, and beautiful dark sugars, doesn’t kill produce with overcooking, has great sturdy sauces that are often yogurt rather than mayo-based, so they’re both lighter and less prone to spoiling…. This is exactly the way I want to be cooking right now and I’m just loving it.

So, uh, my grocery bill went up a bit 🙂

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Let’s Talk Preserving

Uh, hi guys. You might have noticed — ok, you probably haven’t noticed — that I haven’t been around much the last week or so.

That’s because I’ve been spending basically all my time either hunting and gathering fruit, or preserving fruit 🙂

I promise this isn’t turning into a food blog, although I am so excited about the recipe I have to share on Wednesday, but hey, canning and preserving are kind of frugal topics, right? Except for the parts where you have to acquire equipment in order to do them 🙂 But as far as I’m concerned, anything to avoid paying for and eating unseasonal berries in February. And actually the equipment’s not so bad. I’ve bought three flats of half-pint jars for about $7.50 each (for 12 jars) and, while I intend to give away a lot of my jams for inexpensive hostess and holiday gifts, I’ll be able to reuse any jars I do hang onto. Other than that, I just use a stockpot, and a jar lifter and wide-mouth funnel that I’ve had for a while now.

First, I went sour-cherry picking again. I loved doing this last year and this year was also really good, though really different. This time, I went on the second day of the season with a friend of mine and a friend of hers. So it was social, and also the cherries were practically dripping off the trees. It only took us about forty minutes to pick as much as we each thought we could handle — I ended up with 16 lbs, one of my friends with 19, the other with 8.

16 lbs of clean sour cherries

16 lbs of clean sour cherries

They’re super cheap because you provide most of the labor. Only $1.50 a pound!!! Once you get them weighed, it’s off to the cleaning room, where you dunk them in icy cold water and get rid of any remaining debris (stems, leaves, etc.) They end up in a bucket, and then the main event, the industrial cherry pitter.

Isn’t that cool? The cherries get sorted into a kind of metal honeycomb, and then pins push through them. My 16 pounds took all IMG_20150703_114040104of two minutes to get pitted! Then I took them outside to bag. I learned a few things from last year, when I didn’t realize you had to bring containers; the orchard has plastic trash bags that they’ll put all your cherries in as a backup and that’s what I did last year, but this year I was prepared not only with quart-sized ziploc bags (exactly the right size for the six cups you need for either jam or a pie filling) but also a cup measure to use as a scoop. Then we had lunch (we’d brought a picnic) and drove home.

At that point, I headed over to a park where someone had told me there were wild blackberries (I figured my fruit-picking mojo was good) but actually it turned out they were wild black raspberries! I ended up paying in blood — so many mosquitoes, oof — but I picked about a quart and they’re currently in my freezer. They really were just starting to ripen so I hope to go back in a couple of weeks and get more (with bug spray. On me, not on the berries.)

Then I came home and made jam. Lots of jam!

The next morning, July 4, I woke up and went straight to the farmer’s market before I’d even had my coffee (!!!) because I knew it’d be crazy later in the morning. I got rhubarb and carrots, among other things, and at the grocery store I got local sweet cherries and a daikon radish. I came home and made cherry pie to take to the party I was going to later, but also sliced the vegetables and rhubarb and pitted the cherries to freeze (I plan to make cherry butter with them, but I’m going to wait a few months because it doesn’t keep as well, once canned, as jam does.) Then, off to the party. The pie lasted all of about five minutes, after taking hours of prep and baking time, but hey, that’s what it’s for 🙂 Someone else had made a truly awesome pulled pork shoulder and there was good homemade coleslaw and all in all, although I was there for the company as much as the food, it was a lovely afternoon.

I decided I preferred a quiet evening to going fireworks-hunting, so I headed home around dusk and got back into the kitchen, pickling the daikon and carrots together with coriander and mustard seeds. By the time I was done cleaning up from all of that I was more than ready to crawl into bed! Today after church I went and bought more jars, having run through my entire supply of half-pints, and then this afternoon I made rhubarb jam with Earl Grey tea and vanilla, which wasn’t much trouble seeing as how I’d cut the rhubarb up yesterday — once that’s done it’s pretty much simmer, stir, and can.

So, at this point I have 12 half-pints of sour cherry jam, 6 half-pints and 1 pint of rhubarb jam, 4 pints of vegetable pickles, and, in the freezer, three quarts of sour cherries, a quart of black raspberries, and about three pounds of pitted sweet cherries, along with two quarts of strawberries that I put up in simple syrup a couple of weeks ago. And blueberries haven’t even come in yet! I hope to have a lot of U-pick blueberries both frozen plain, and jammed, and I also want to get more rhubarb to chop and freeze since it’s good in baked goods. I need to investigate the apricot situation around here, too; I really want to put up apricots in some form, but I don’t know if they grow here. In New York I used to get the most beautiful apricots at the farmer’s market and I’d hate to have to use “imported” ones.

In case you were wondering, I got the recipes I used for all the canning from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. It’s a really handy book, but the author also writes a blog, Food in Jars, and she gives out a lot of free advice and recipes there (in fact, I found her last year searching for a basic, unfussy recipe for cherry jam.) It’s really fun to finally get to can, which I’ve wanted to learn to do for years and years; it just never made sense when I lived in New York and had no storage space to spare. But I’ve got plenty of it right now! I’m looking forward to figure out more stuff to preserve in the future.

Some of the goods! cherry jam on the left, carrot pickles in back, rhubarb jam on the right.

Some of the goods! cherry jam on the left, carrot pickles in back, rhubarb jam on the right.

Zero Food Waste, Weeks 22 and 23: Did I Mention Meal Planning? (Plus Kale, Date, and Avocado Salad)

zero food waste challenge 2015So, this week’s tip could be shorthanded: Maintain control! I was staying with my friends for much of the first half of June, and I did most of the grocery shopping (they paid me back!) but remembered how hard it is to do this zero food waste thing when all the members of the household aren’t pulling in the same direction. Since I am normally a household of one, I only have to get my worst instincts in line with the rest of me, which is much easier than corralling an entire family.

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Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 19: Trust Your Instincts (plus steel-cut oats)

zero food waste challenge 2015Good morning! The weather’s been mostly awful here, very humid. I find it really difficult to cook in weather like this, mostly because, well, who wants to turn on the stove? All I want to do is lie around on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade and a fan pointed directly at me.

Later in the summer, when the weather gets like this, I just eat lots of cold things (cheese, summer sausage, yogurt) and cut up raw vegetables and fruits. But we’re not at the point where the farmer’s market is producing enough to keep me fed, so I had to wing it.

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Zero Food Waste, Week 17: Saving Leftover Salad

zero food waste challenge 2015Morning, everyone! I went right out after I wrote that post on Monday and bought a metric ton of greens — arugula, kale, and chard — all of which have been making me feel much better 🙂

However, the salads I made do bring up the problem of how to handle leftover salad, so that’s the topic of today’s post, after the grocery list. Continue reading “Zero Food Waste, Week 17: Saving Leftover Salad”