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Turnip tip

Turniptip

One of my turnips from this weekend’s farmer’s market has an especially nice hourglass figure. I wonder what biological factors caused the variation in the shape of this usually spherical root vegetable. I love turnips. They’re members of the Brassicaceae family (along with kale, cabbage, radishes, etc…). I usually eat them thinly sliced in a fresh salad. To store them, I remove the greens, which will draw water out of the root if left attached. Then I float the turnips in a bath of water in a container kept in the refrigerator. They’ll stay fresh and crunchy for more than a week this way, though they never last that long in my house because I eat them so quickly. The greens needn’t be tossed out—they’re edible, and quite tasty. They can be used raw in salads and stir-fried as a stand alone dish or with other ingredients. They can also be added to soups or used to make a broth. I get such a kick out of growing, shopping for, and eating plants that can be consumed in their entirety. Roots, stocks, leaves, flowers, fruit, and all. No pealing or shucking required.

During a class discussion on recycling in my Master Composter Training course, I learned that food storage plastic wrap (Saran wrap, Clingwrap) is not a recyclable plastic film. Plastic film receptacles are located at major grocery stores and pharmacies across the state of Rhode Island to collect stretch plastic poducts like plastic bags, which shouldn’t go into your bin with your other recyclable items. I thought that plastic wrap fell into this category and would sometimes deposit rinsed pieces that had been used at catered events at my office. Learning that the material cannot be processed to become resource material (plastic lumber for decking or park furniture for instance) secured plastic wrap a place at the top of my list of household trash “offenders”. In preparation for a No Trash Talk I gave recently, I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to present basic tips to people who are interested in reducing their waste output but don’t know where to begin. At the end of the talk I encouraged audience members to start in the kitchen, and I tried to impress upon listeners that one habit we should all try to break is purchasing and using plastic wrap. I really think it’s a completely unnecessary product and a waste of money. I’m not sure what case can be made to suggest that using plastic wrap is easier than using a container to store leftovers. Besides, who wants to futz with that stuff anyway? It’s always clinging to itself and it never stays put. Food storage can be effective, efficient, and convenient without disposables!

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Picnic trick

tiffinit

A colorful homemade, trash-free meal on a grey and dreary day at work. I love my 3 tier tiffin. Thank you J and P for this beautiful, functional gift! I’ve been putting it to good use.

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Rainbow chard

From the farmer’s market. Pow!

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Baby bok choy

From Fertile Underground Grocery. Love those purple and green hues!

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Willimantic Food Co-op

Bulk Vermont-brewed organic Kombucha tea! This is the first time I've seen this. The elderberry flavor is so delicious!

Bulk Vermont-brewed organic Kombucha tea! This is the first time I’ve seen this. The elderberry flavor is so delicious!

A lovely selection of bulk teas.

A lovely selection of bulk teas.

Dish soap, laundry detergent, and Dr. Bronner's castile soap.

Dish soap, laundry detergent, and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap.

So many bulk spices!

So many bulk spices!

I spent this past weekend visiting friends and family in NYC. On my trip back up to Providence, I made a slight detour to check out the Willimantic Food Co-op in Willimantic, CT. I learned about the co-op from a woman who works at As220’s Foo(d) counter when I was picking up dinner last week and my reusable take-out containers sparked a conversation about package-free food shopping. She told me that her parents have been members since the co-op opened in the early 1970s and that a visit is worth the drive from Providence. So while traveling across the state, I made my way up to Route 6 and stopped in.

The co-op is impeccably clean and well-stocked. It’s larger than Fertile Underground, the Alternative Food Co-op, and Harvest Co-op Market in Jamaica Plain. The extra space allows room for an impressive variety of dry and liquid food and hygiene bulk goods. I bought some wild rice, local organic chestnuts and apples, and some ever-elusive package-free black quinoa. I also picked up some dish soap, shampoo, and Vermont-brewed Kombucha tea, which is available on tap from a stand on the edge of the produce section. The store employees were all wonderfully helpful and friendly and there was no hesitation in granting me permission to take photos inside the store.

This project has led me to so many wonderful discoveries. Seeing beautiful, inviting, and efficient establishments such as the Willimantic Food Co-op bustling with happy customers is energizing. Though I don’t live in the neighborhood, as I strolled amongst other shoppers, weighing my containers and writing down PLU codes, I couldn’t help but feel that I am part of a community of people in pursuit of a better way to get what they need.

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Takeaway

Oh Garden Grille, you do me right. But I always order more than I can finish because your dishes are so delishes. So I’ve learned to come prepared, with my own to-go wares.

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Coconut Milk

Last week I made coconut milk. Before starting my No Trash Project, I would pretty regularly buy cans of coconut milk to use in many favorite Indian and Thai recipes. Since I stopped buying foods in packaging, I have been adapting recipes that call for coconut milk, by either adding shredded coconut, or some other homemade nut milk. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until recently that I could just make my own. After reading over a few different recipes online, I went to the grocery store and picked up two coconuts. My friend cracked them open and helped me remove the meat from the shells. I diced the meat into small pieces, placed them in a large bowl, added 4 cups of water and blended until smooth. Then I strained the solids from the milk. Voila. Delicious, fresh, and package-free.

The the milk was a little on the thin side and I had some trouble with separation in the bottle shown above. I ended up pouring the milk back into a bowl so that I could hit it again with my immersion blender before each use.

I came across several coconut milk recipes that call for shredded coconut, which I can get in bulk at nearby food co-ops. I think I’ll try to make it that way next time to see if my result is any different. Buying the shredded coconut would certainly save a little time and labor, but may cost a bit more.

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Venda Ravioli

Picked up some Mozzarella from the cheese counter at Venda Ravioli on Federal Hill. There was some hemming and hawing between the employees over whether or not they were allowed to accept my reusable containers, but in the end they decided it was okay. I did come away with the paper price sticker…

Magpie is very interested in the contents of this jar.

castelvetrano

Castelvetrano olives from Venda Ravioli.

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Hake

Picked up some hake in my stainless steel container from The Local Catch today at the Farmer’s Market.

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Thanksgiving

‘Tis the season for family gatherings. I visited with my grandparents yesterday for Thanksgiving. After work on Wednesday, I swung by the Wintertime Farmer’s Market at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket and picked up some ingredients to make a couple dishes to share with extended family and friends. I bought a butternut squash, an onion, bulk cranberries (displayed in a large reed basket), russet potatoes, and apples. With the orchard bought sugar pumpkin I had on my counter at home, I made organic vegan potato, butternut squash, and pumpkin mash—seasoned with ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I also made cranberry sauce with my fresh berries, co-op bulk honey, lemon, and ginger. I poured the food into stainless steel and glass containers and refrigerated them until Thursday morning. My grandmother reheated the mash before dinner and the cranberry sauce was served chilled. The container above sits on the maple dining table my grandfather built for my grandmother. Dinner was delicious, and the conversations even better.

Back home with a friend tonight, I made soup from the leftover mash, sautéed onion and garlic, homemade vegetable broth, cayenne, cracked pepper, and olive oil.

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Float

The perfect thing.

Long before beginning my No Trash Project, I used to store carrots in disposable plastic produce bags in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. They’d hold up fairly well for a couple days, but then quickly become limp and rubbery. While researching ways to keep foods fresh without plastic, I read that storing carrots, celery, and radishes in a bath water keeps them fresh for weeks. In my experience, this is absolutely true. Submerged in fresh water, the veggies stay crisp, crunchy, and flavorful. Sometimes l change the water if I’m storing them for more than a few days. Because the stems and leaves draw water and nutrients from the vegetables, cutting the greens off also helps preserve freshness. And of course, the greens are great for making vegetable broth.

I love my 5 cup glass refrigerator storage container. The size and shape is particularly well-suited for keeping carrots. It can be used in the oven at temperatures up to 425˚F. The glass is also far easier to clean than any kind of plastic container. Plus I find the utilitarian design of the container aesthetically pleasing, especially when it’s filled with vibrant, nutritious food!

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Well-stocked

More cruciferous veg from the market. Brussels sprouts still attached to the stock will stay fresher longer than those sold individually. I always put the end of the stock in a cup of water and refrigerate it, snapping the sprouts off over the next several days as needed. This one is pretty tall so I will halve it to fit.

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Sandy

I visited my parents over the weekend. My stay was extended when the travel ban went into effect in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy and I rode out the storm with them. Fortunately, my mom and I were able to get to the grocery store before the worst of it hit landfall. Customers and employees were anxious to get home. Shoppers stocked up on “non-perishables”—namely canned soups and meats, jars of sauce, boxes of pasta and rice. Last year my parents were without power for 10 days after Hurricane Irene. I thought about how to shop without making trash if I weren’t able to refrigerate foods for 10 days or longer.

The majority of the groceries I buy day to day are fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which sit on the countertop because I shop frequently enough (at least twice a week) that I don’t have to worry about refrigeration. But there are certain foods I eat regularly like greens (salad and sauté) and some vegetables (carrots, radishes) that I usually put directly in cups or containers of water, then into cold storage. The rest of my regular groceries include dried bulk items and occasionally meat (fish, poultry). Dried bulk foods like legumes and grains certainly qualify as non-perishable and are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There are quite a few in season fruits and vegetables that will keep for a while (depending on variety and freshness) without refrigeration, such apples, citrus fruit, unopened pomegranate, potatoes, yams, garlic, onion, and squash (delicata, butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc…). Selecting unripe fruits that can soften slowly without rotting and choosing bulk dried fruits and vegetables that offer some nutritional value are also options for long-term room temperature storage.

Back at the house we filled the tubs with water to wash and cook with if we lost the power. My parents are on well water and they don’t have a generator to power the pumps during outages—this has never been an issue for me in Providence because I’m on city water. But my parents are lucky to live on a river, so they can collect water in buckets to flush the toilets, conserving the tap water reserves in the tubs. Sure enough, we lost power early Monday evening as the winds whipped through the river valley. My dad cooked us dinner by flashlight with the little water that remained in the pipes. My parent’s have a gas stove, which my dad was able to light with a match. As I watched him it occurred to me that in the event of an outage I wouldn’t be able to use the electric stove/oven in my apartment to prepare many of the above mentioned foods that require cooking. I do however have a wood stove with a steel cooktop and could use it to steam, boil, or sauté foods. When dinner was ready, we sat eating by candlelight listening to the sounds of nearby exploding transformers and trees breaking and falling on all sides of the house. Without the distractions of the TV or our respective laptops (all of which are often in use at once during my visits) we stayed talking with each other until the early hours of Tuesday morning. It’s a time spent with my parents that I’ll never forget.

In the light of day on Tuesday we were able to see the damage the storm had caused. Trees were down everywhere and power lines littered the roads. The interstate travel ban was lifted and I was able to snake my way around impassable backroads to the highway home. I got a flat (shredded) tire on the highway probably from debris left by the storm. I will post more on dealing with the tire business soon…

Losing electricity and running water for nearly 24 hours makes me realize how much I take it for granted every day. As we move closer to the winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and much of my work is done after sunset. I think about my parents and the rest of the 8 million who lost power during the storm and could be without it for weeks while crews work to clean up after Sandy. The weather is supposed to shift to colder temperatures as we enter the month of November and many will be without heat. And I think about the people in the world who live their whole lives without plumbing or electricity. At the moment, I’m especially aware of how much I depend on the internet. For my work but also for my No Trash Project research and blog. My friend just sent me a link to WWWASTE, a site that calculates the amount of CO2 you emit each day by surfing the web. One more site to spend energy by visiting, but perhaps an important measurement to be aware of as our lives become more and more interfaced.

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Green tomatoes

I returned home to find my garden looking pretty shabby after a couple chilly nights moved through Providence while I was in Canada. I spent some time this week putting it to bed for the winter. I collected all the remaining ripe and unripe fruit from my browning tomato plants and then pulled them, clipped them up, and added them to my compost.

I’ve read that green tomatoes can be ripened on a windowsill or in a brown paper bag. I plan to try both. I may also dig up some recipes for green tomatoes. I was thinking that sautéing them in oil or even roasting them in the oven would soften both the flavor and texture a bit. Does anyone have any good green tomato tips?

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Milestone

It’s been exactly one year since I started this blog. Posting about my daily No Trash adventures—however large or small, has become an important ritual in my life. Dialogue with friends and readers about the project renews my resolve to continue sharing my experiences on this platform. Thank you to everyone for your interest, your inquiries, and your encouragement.

Tonight I shared a delicious meal with a friend at a Cantonese restaurant in Toronto. My meal was pretty large so I scraped what I couldn’t finish into my stainless steel lunchbox, which I had toted around the city during the day. It’s lightweight and this particular box doesn’t take up much space. The rectangular shape fits nicely in my backpack. It’s become one of my favorite objects. I’m looking forward to eating these leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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Refrigerated bulk

At a Toronto area grocery store—chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, ground flax, pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, almonds, etc… It’s the first time I’ve seen bulk nuts and seeds (which can go rancid in warm temperatures or when exposed to air because of their oil content) kept in the refrigerated section of a market.

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Air travel

Yesterday I took a trip on a plane. Trash-free air travel takes a bit of planning, but it’s very manageable. To tote toiletries, I fill small glass jars and bottles that I use specifically for traveling with my essentials (baking soda, shampoo, and grape seed oil) and pack them in a small nylon zip pouch.

Airlines make a ton of trash through food service and I find bringing my own sustenance is easy and far more agreeable than anything I could get from and airport cafe or on the plane. An airplane cabin is a pretty dehydrating environment, so I make sure to drink plenty of water the day before and the day of before going through security. I bring my stainless steel canteen and fill it at the water fountain on the other side of the checkpoint. Yesterday I packed my stainless steel lunchbox with a small meal made with ingredients from my garden—stir fried eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and basil. I also brought an apple… ‘tis the season after all. I brought a small bamboo utensil that I think I received as a stocking stuffer many years ago. It’s perfect for travel—practically weightless and compact. The meal was light and delicious and held me over until I reached my destination (Canada). My neighbor in the seat next to me expressed his jealously of my spread.

I sometimes get cold during flights so I like to bring a large scarf/wrap that I can use as a blanket rather than having to ask for plastic wrapped one from a crew member.

At the end of the day, the only piece of trash I made was my boarding pass, which feels good especially when I’m electing a mode of transportation that uses so much fuel.

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Good Tern Natural Food Co-op and Café

I checked out Good Tern Natural Food Co-op and Café today. Another great local bulk goods source located in Rockland, Maine. They had an impressive variety of spices.

I was so excited to see seaweed in bulk at Good Tern. Wakame, Kelp, and Dulse. It was the first time I’d come across it loose in a jar and not in a cellophane wrapper or stretch plastic bag. I’ve dreamed of package-free, homemade seaweed soups and salad.

Got some miso soup in my stainless steel container from the Good Tern Café.

Beautiful local produce!

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Bench lunch

Chickpea, tomato, peach, and basil salad with olive oil, balsamic, and black pepper. Fuel.

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Rubies

Blueberries, raspberries, and red currants picked from the property I’m staying at. Brought these with me to the studio today.

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Wood school

The last two weeks have been fantastic. My weekdays are filled with studio work—learning to sharpen hand tools and cutting dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. I’m working amongst some really inspiring people here and I’m making friends. Breaks from the work are filled with adventures on land and in water. Hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing.

Getting package-free food in this new setting is going really well so far. There are a couple great dry bulk grocery store options (one of them even sells bulk spices) and for the most part I’ve been able to get what I need. For the sake of research and curiosity, I plan to check out a couple recommended co-ops that are a bit farther (one 7 miles and the other 25 miles) away at some point. I may need to refill on cooking oil before I leave Maine and I’d also like to get some bulk tea.

I’ve been making dinner at home for friends and myself and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day at school. There’s also a business not too far down the road from campus called the Market Basket with a great prepared food selection and the employees have been so nice about filling up my stainless steel container on the days that I arrive to school without lunch. The picture above was taken on such a day. I enjoyed a meal of wild rice with walnuts, roasted potatoes and stuffed grape leaves at my workbench.

I had one fail at a fish market in Rockport called Graffam Bros. Seafood Market when I went to get a piece of Arctic char to cook at home. I introduced myself to the woman at the counter and proposed my special request. She happily agreed but then laid two pieces of sheet plastic on the counter to cut my piece to size. At the register I asked her if there was anyway around having to use the plastic and she explained that she needed to cover the counter surface to make the cut. Understood. The next time I went back, I was shopping to make dinner for myself and two others. The young man behind the counter that day was able to tare my container and put one large uncut fillet directly into it. The piece ended up being the perfect amount for the three of us. It was super fresh and delicious.

For sustenance, I’ve been toting stone fruit, carrots, almond butter, nuts, and energy cubes to class. Yesterday I snacked on wild blueberries while out on a hike with a friend. My land people have been extremely generous in offering me sugar snap peas and berries from the property and when the grapes on the deck are ready, I will help myself. I’ve been eating like a king.

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Sugar snap peas

From City Farm.

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No trash tailgating

I have been meaning to share this image of a recent trash-free tailgating session. Last month I went to a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts with my two best friends in the world. We made a hearty quinoa dish with apples, walnuts, kale, carrots, olive oil, and lemon juice, packed it in one large container and carried it in a cooler. We brought water in glass bottles, homemade trail mix in a jar, some fruit, and three forks. The venue doesn’t permit concertgoers to carry in their own food or beverages so we loaded up on the protein-rich meal in the parking lot for stamina, eliminating the need to purchase overpriced, over packaged food from inside. As we grazed and chatted, I stood admiring my friends in the pink light of the setting sun thinking, “I could do just this all night.” But the show ended up being pretty fantastic too.

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Heat wave

I decided the last couple days were too hot to cook at home (indoors or out), so I opted for takeout. I love the Saag Tofu from Rasoi, an Indian restaurant just over the border in Pawtucket. The employees are always so nice and they never have any problem putting my order in the containers I hand them (I give them two so that the saag and rice stay separate until I’m ready to eat). It’s a lot of food, but it stores well in the fridge so I always get two meals out of it. I brought my filled containers back to work and sat on a bench outside enjoying my dinner as the sun set. It was still in the 90s at 8:30pm.

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Olive del Mondo

After shopping the Lippitt park farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the recently opened Olive del Mondo at 815 Hope Street. My friend Seth sent me word about it at the beginning of the week and I was excited to check it out. As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, I have been getting my oils and vinegars from the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield, RI. I travel down there every 1.5 to 2 months to restock. The co-op products are very satisfactory—especially for cooking, but when it comes to dressing oil and vinegar, I have longed for a bulk source of specialty products. Growing up, my Italian father was always so excited to bring home dark green earthy olive oils and thick sweet balsamic vinegars to feed us. He’d open a bottle or can, drizzle it’s contents over a tomato or soak it into a piece of bread and present it to me with ebullience saying, “you’ve got to try this!”  It spoiled me.

As I stepped into Olive del Mondo, a huge smile came over my face. Glinting stainless canisters or “fustis” of oils and vinegars line the walls and island displays. Printed cards carefully describe the contents of each. I immediately noticed the emply dark glass bottles with cork stoppers that fill the lower shelves, and thought, “this looks promising”. I approached the young woman at the counter and introduced myself. I expressed my excitement and asked about the bottling system. Jennifer (that’s her name) explained to me that customers buy a small or large glass bottle to fill with the oil or vinegar of their choosing and then when they’ve finished with the product, they can bring the bottle back to the store to be washed and reused. The shop is equipped with a washing and drying system (bottle trees) in back. Fantastic! Plastic sampling cups and utensils are provided for customers to try different flavors, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem to use one’s own sampling vessel brought from home.

http://olivedelmondo.com/

Jennifer and her husband Salvatore—who came in while we were talking, opened the business together. Both are graduates of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and their sensibilities show in the details of the store layout. We chatted about waste reduction projects. They told me it was a bit of a struggle to convince the Department of Health that the reusable bottle system could be sanitary, but eventually they were able to get it approved. I asked about the containers their products are delivered to the store in and Salvatore told me that they do come in plastic jugs (this is standard in shipping because of plastic’s lightweight characteristic—more weight equals more money and fuel). One jug fills one entire fusti. The plastic shipping container is certainly an imperfection in the bulk goods shopping system. It’s something that I discussed with Rosemary, the manager of Alternative Food Co-op, when I toured the store in January. She told me that paper and burlap are still being used to distribute many dry bulk goods, but today most liquid bulk products are shipped in plastic.

It’s important to acknowledge that buying imported food products is not a Zero Waste practice. As implicated by the shop’s name, the products Olive del Mondo carries are shipped here from around the world. While writing this post I realized that I did not know where the olive oil I buy in bulk at the co-op comes from. So I called them up and spoke to Liz, who is the store buyer and she told me that currently the olive oil they are purchasing in bulk is indeed imported and that it’s an issue they are both aware of and concerned about. So far they have not been able to find a distributor of bulk domestic olive oil.

When it comes to shopping for liquid bulk goods, variety is not always easy to come by… but there’s no shortage of it at Olive del Mondo. I really enjoyed speaking with Jennifer and Salvatore and I so admire the work they’ve done to set up the reusable bottle system. Currently, oil plays an important role in my diet, as it’s one of my main sources of fat. And while vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, the real reason I continue to consume it is that I simply love it. I passed on sampling in the shop because I didn’t have a vessel on me, but I did purchase a small bottle of 18-year aged balsamic and a reusable pour cap (the standard stop caps cannot be returned for reuse). As it turns out, it’s the most delicious balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted. I will savor every last drop.

 

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Garlic scapes

From Schartner.

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Sea robin

From The Local Catch.

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Almond milk

Since making oat milk at home, I’ve wanted to try making other dairy-free milks. For some reason I had the impression that nut milks would be more complicated than the oat milk but, as it turns out, the almond milk I made today was even easier! It’s raw so the cooking step was eliminated.

In a pot, I covered raw almonds (purchased in bulk!) with water and soaked them overnight. In the morning rinsed them, added more water and blended them in the same pot with my immersion blender. The soft nuts broke up more quickly than I had expected. I probably blended them for one minute total.

Then I strained them through a clean mesh produce bag. Straining them through a bag is quicker than though a mesh wire strainer because you can squeeze every last drop of milk out, leaving only the almond solids. There are nut milk bags on the market designed specifically for this purpose, but my produce bag worked perfectly.

I am saving the solids to make my next batch of energy cubes. But they could be useful for many cooking projects.

Delicious raw almond milk. No Tetra Pak and no added ingredients like evaporated cane juice, calcium carbonate, tapioca starch, salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, or sunflower lecithin which you often see listed on the back of store bought brands. This homemade version is naturally sweet and with the 1 to 3 ratio I used, it’s thicker than any almond milk I’ve ever had out of a box. I may experiment with honey and spices for future batches. Maybe even a little cocoa powder for chocolate milk!

So here’s the recipe written out…

2 cups raw almonds 

6 cups water

Soak the almonds in water for about 8 hours or overnight.

Discard soaking water and rinse almonds.

Combine almonds with the 6 cups of water.

Blend until smooth.

Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or a nut milk bag (I used a mesh produce bag). Save the solids and use for a baking project, mix into a cooked grain dish, or use as a filler for energy cubes. Store the milk in the refrigerator. Drink it straight, pour it over cold cereal, or use it to cook hot cereal like oatmeal.

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From the market

Sunflower sprouts!

Flounder from The Local Catch.

I love, love, love arugula.

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Potato crisps

Another package-free snack food I enjoy is homemade potato “crisps”. Thinly sliced organic russet potatoes tossed in oil and baked on a cookie sheet. Sometimes I add a little cayenne pepper or sliced garlic. These came with me to work today along with a delicious kale salad. I honestly prefer them to any kind of potato chip. Baked in oil, they’re certainly healthier than deep fried chips.

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Soup to-go

Homemade spicy lentil soup to go. There’s an electric cooktop in the kitchen of the office building I work in. I can put this container directly on the burner to reheat food. I keep my own kitchen towel in the desk in my office to use as heat pad for a hot container, to clean up spills, and to dry my hands after washing.

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Leftovers

Leftovers from last night’s dinner with friends = today’s lunch. Raw beet, jicama, and carrot salad with avocado. I carried it to work with me in one of my stainless steel lunch boxes.

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Energy cubes

Many people have asked me if I miss eating snack foods like chips, crackers, and granola bars, which are only available in packaging. To my surprise, after nearly a year of working on this project, I can honestly answer that I do not crave any packaged food—savory, salty, or sweet. I’ve managed to find healthy, package-free replacements to satisfy every kind of hankering. When I look at the dried bulk and produce section of the grocery store, I see ingredients for small snacks or large meals.

After consuming nearly all of the energy cubes/chunks I purchased at the co-op last week, I decided to try making my own. I looked at a few recipes online and then just improvised. I ended up with a vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, nearly raw (except for the almond butter and the popped amaranth), delicious snack.

My “recipe” is below. The measurements are approximate. I used what I had on hand—any other nuts, seeds, fruits and grains can be substituted.

1 cup honey

1 cup nut butter (I used almond)

1 cup popped amaranth

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup chopped dried apricots

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup pumpkin seeds

Heat honey until warm. Slowly add nut butter until just mixable.

Add and mix in the remaining ingredients one by one. When the mixture became too stiff to stir, I used my hands to fold in the rest of the dry ingredients.

Press the mixture into an oiled 8”x8” pan. Cool for one hour. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month. Freeze indefinitely. 

Popped amaranth is really easy to make.

Place a skillet or a saucepan on the stove over high heat. Let it become hot enough that a drop of water disappears when you drop it on the surface.

Put a spoonful of dry amaranth seeds into the skillet (only pop a small amount at a time, otherwise the amaranth will burn).

Shake the skillet or stir the seeds continuously until all the amaranth has popped (about 15-20 seconds).

Pour the popped amaranth into a bowl and add more spoonfuls to your skillet until you have the desired amount.

Pressed in the pan…

They are sticky and delicious. I’m storing them in 16oz glass jars in the refrigerator. They’re a great snack before or after a run, or even as dessert.

Okay, last one… look at all that good stuff!

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Oat Milk

I decided to try making oat milk at home. The standard recipe that I found on several online sources looked really simple. The ingredients are: oat groats, water, and salt (optional). So I picked up some organic oat groats in bulk from a nearby Whole Foods.

The oat milk was so easy to make. Here’s the recipe I followed:

1/4 cup raw organic oat groats

4 cups water 

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.

Soak the oat groats in a bowl of water for about 8 hours. Rinse the oats and discard the soaking water.

Place the oats, salt, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oats cool completely.

Blend the cooked oats with the 3 cups of water until very smooth (I used my immersion blender and added the water directly to the saucepan—which meant less dishes to wash afterwards!).

strain through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container. I reserved the solids to use in a baking recipe (not sure what I’m going to make yet). The oat milk will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

You can also make raw oat milk.

Leave the soaked and rinsed oats in a colander in a cool spot for 12-24 hours to initiate the sprouting process. Then blend the oats with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 4 cups of water until very smooth. Let the blended oats sit for 1 hour before straining.

The texture of the oat milk is smooth and creamy. Cooked oat milk tastes nutty and I’ve read that raw oat milk has a grassier flavor. Homemade oat milk is a wonderful solution to a packaging problem. Store-bought oat milk (and other boxed liquids) come in a drink carton that is comprised of 75% paper, 20% plastic, and 5% aluminium foil. There is also usually a plastic pour spout on the top of the carton. Making your own is also far more economical. A quart of organic oat milk from the store will cost around 3 to 4 dollars. The oat groats I bought in bulk only cost $1.69 per pound.

f drinking the milk straight, you might try sweetening it with a little honey. Today I topped mine with freshly ground cinnamon. It was delicious.

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Greens

From today’s market. Stored in cups of water in the fridge, these leafy good foods will stay fresh for several days.

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