Tag Archives | food storage

Blue cornbread

cornmeal

I’ve had this blue cornmeal hanging around for a while and I’ve decided to put it to use before it spoils. Like many dry cereal grain flours, cornmeal has a very good shelf life (it may keep for several years if stored in a freezer), but it can eventually turn rancid. So I’m kicking some cornmeal projects into gear.

cornbread

Blue cornmeal is more flavorful and higher in nutritional value than yellow or white. You can use it in any recipe that calls for cornmeal. Today I made skillet blue cornbread. I love the taste of food cooked in an iron skillet and it’s a fantastic non-toxic nonstick surface. The bread is delicious! I’ve already consumed quite a bit more than the slice missing in this photo. I looked at several recipes online and then composed my own, which allowed me to work with the ingredients I had on hand—all of which were purchased without packaging as always. Here’s what I came up with:

1 1/2 cups blue cornmeal

1/2 cup oat flour (any flour could be substituted here, or just use another 1/2 cup of cornmeal)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup raw oat milk (made fresh from oat groats soaked overnight)

2 eggs 

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup finely chopped red pepper

1 medium size minced jalapeño pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the oat milk, eggs, apple cider vinegar, honey (warm to liquify if necessary), and canola oil in another bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in red and jalapeño pepper. Pour the batter into a 10″ cast iron skillet that has been rubbed with oil. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until done. Serve with a wink and a smile. Store in an airtight container. 

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Baby bok choy

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

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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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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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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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East Side Pockets

Package-free hummus to-go from East Side Pockets. So delicious!

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It started in the kitchen…

A lot of time passed between the point at which I decided to create a blog about the No Trash Project and the point that I finally got it started. I’ve been thinking (probably too much) about how to organize it. Of course a blog is a wonderful platform for documentation, and I know that as time goes by, it will become a sort of album and journal. Ideally, I would like the content to be useful to others as well.  I’ve decided to try to outline the ‘big picture’ ideas motivating the project and also describe the details of the daily problem solving involved.

I think it’s important to talk about the reevaluation of both need and habit that has been necessary for me to make any kind of progress.  As cliché as it may sound, we are ‘programmed’ to participate in trash-making routines.  It’s easy to accept that the products we see on television, billboards, and store shelves will enhance the quality of our lives. I was very much in the habit of buying and using things that just seemed necessary to function in a productive way. Now, the question I repeat over and over everyday is, “Do I need this?” Do I really need a different cleaning product for each and every surface in my house? Do I need dryer sheets to keep my laundry fresh and static free? Do I need plastic wrap to keep my food from spoiling? After several months of making these continuous checks, I’ve found ways around the trash to get what I need to be happy and healthy. Eventually I came to the question, “Do I still need my trashcan?”

I want to stress that at the beginning of this project I decided that the venture must always be about feeling good. I wanted to be very careful not to make this process about deprivation, especially because I would be working on it with another person whose wants and needs vary from my own. The system is not perfect. There are many stubborn problems still to solve. A small amount of recyclables still go out to the curb every week. There’s always room for progress and I love watching the project grow.

Okay, now for some specifics. To start down the no trash road, I needed a plan of attack. I had to organize the steps required to establish working systems in my home and the rest of my life. I looked at the different ‘zones’ in which I make trash. In the broadest sense, I categorize my trash production into three zones that exist both in and outside of my home.

Zone 1: Food–before I began this project, the majority of the trash in my can was from food products

Zone 2: Hygiene–both personal and household

Zone 3: Work–for me this zone applies to both the practices of my artist studio, and my university film department job

For the rest of this post I’m going to talk about the food zone, as it’s the area that is working most efficiently today. Here is a breakdown of the food zone subcategories.

Shopping: As I mentioned in my first post, bulk grocery shopping was a catalyst for the project. I buy all my food in bulk and I try to limit my produce and animal product shopping to farmer’s market as much as possible. A local fishing company has agreed to take my container home and return it at the next market day, filled with a fresh caught fish of their choosing. When I do go to the grocery store I shop the perimeter. I purchase all my fruits and vegetables without packaging of course and I have someone at the meat and fish counter put my purchases directly into a container I’ve brought from home.  They place the empty container on the scale to get the tare weight, and then place the meat directly into the container. No paper for the cat to pull out of the trashcan at home.  I fill up peanut butter and almond butter from the grinder machines into my own jar. The tare weight is subtracted at the checkout register. While there are great selections of bulk dry goods at my local markets, discovering a nearby co-op helped me to take the project to the next level. There I can fill tea, spices, oil, vinegar, and many non-food products into my own containers. It’s wonderful. Finally, choosing responsible distributers at the markets and buying organic has become an important part of the overall no trash effort.

Food Storage: Once the food gets home, the dried goods are poured into glass jars of all shapes and sizes, greens are placed into cups of water, and meat is kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The humidifier drawer is helpful in keeping vegetables longer. Carrots and radishes will stay crunchy for a surprising amount of time if stored submerged in water in the fridge. With regard to perishables, I’ve found that it’s imperative to only buy what I know I’m going to consume in the next couple of days. This way I can altogether avoid throwing out spoiled food. My refrigerator is not cluttered with forgotten groceries like it used to be. It has become a very efficient space that is constantly being emptied and restocked with colorful foods. I’ve established a collection of storage containers that play a daily part in this cycle. Luckily I live in a place that’s within close proximity to many grocery stores and farmers markets.

Food Scraps: Compost, compost, compost. After years of talking about it, I finally built a compost bin. It sits in the small yard behind my city apartment—my landlady was nice enough to allow it. All the scraps from the kitchen (except for citrus) go into the pile, and the compost fertilizes my plants. The local farmer’s markets also have a compost service.

Make Your Own: There are many products that cannot be purchased in bulk or without some kind of packaging.  Of those, most I’ve found are very easy for me to live without. I’ve learned to make some of the foods I still crave at home, from ingredients purchased without trash—like hummus or kombucha for instance.

Eating Out: Here is another area where it is important to choose responsibly. Supporting businesses that buy locally, serve no processed food, and plate reasonable portion sizes is important to me. A reusable container from home can replace the need for a doggie bag. Also, a container can be brought to a restaurant for takeout service or to the window of a food truck. I make a lot of meals at home to carry with me to work or on a day trip.

So there it is—a scratch at the surface. A bit of the macro and the micro.

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