Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recipes that help you eat well and waste less

Mixed fruit smoothie

Smoothies are great for brown bananas and other fruit about to go over the edge...

Peel bananas, peel and slice apples, pears and other fruit that you don't think you'll get to in time and pop them in the freezer. Instead of going to waste the frozen fruit will make a great addition to a morning smoothie.

4 parts fruit (frozen and/or fresh)
One part yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon or  4 T of any other fruit juice

Whirr in a food processor for 30 seconds to one minute. Enjoy.

Minestrone soup
One of the best ways to use up leftover bits of fresh and frozen veggies is to toss them all in a soup. You can adjust the consistency to your liking by using more or less broth.

2 T olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 stalk celery, minced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2-4 cups of other chopped veggies (zucchini, peppers, anything left in the fridge)
6-8 cups good broth (veg or chicken, can use water in a pinch)
1 can whole or diced tomatoes (large or small)
handful or two of greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard)
1 1/2 cups cooked beans (white or chick peas)
1/2 cup dry pasta
1 t each of oregano and thyme
sea salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat saute onion and garlic for a few minutes then add celery & carrot. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add other veg along with the broth, tomatoes, beans, herbs and firmer greens if using (kale). Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the veggies seem soft.

Bring soup to a gentle boil and add 1/2 cup dry pasta. Stir and cook until the pasta is tender.

Add softer greens if using (chopped spinach or chard). Add fresh parsley and/or basil if you have them on hand.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve wtih fresh parmesan grated over.

You can use a diced potato in lieu of the pasta if you prefer. Just toss it in with your carrot. Add more herbs if you preefer a stronger flavour. This tastes much better the next day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are you throwing out good food?

Have you ever stopped to tally the amount of food that gets wasted in your household? I think it’s time to take notice. A study released last fall by the Value Chain Management Centre found that about 40 percent of all food produced in Canada goes to waste.

Although the waste occurs all along the farm-to-table route, more than half of the food waste occurs in the home. This is the food that goes bad in the fridge before eaten, the leftovers that sit in the fridge until they go bad and the uneaten food on your plate that gets scraped into the trash or compost. It’s estimated that half of all salad, a third of all bread, a quarter of all fruit and a fifth of all vegetables are thrown away uneaten.

You can build a stark picture of the economic waste at the household level. What may not be so clear is that there is also a significant environmental impact to all of this waste.

More food than is actually required is grown and shipped to be processed. (Think of the fertilizer, water and machinery required to grow food that goes in the trash.) There is the energy used to cook food that doesn’t get eaten, plus transportation and packaging. And finally, when food is put in a landfill rather than composted it produces methane, the most toxic of all greenhouse gasses.

About one-fifth of the food that gets thrown away in homes is food scraps like cores, peels and bones, but the rest is perfectly edible food. According to Statistics Canada, in 2007 more than six million tones of solid food went to waste between retail stores and homes. That’s about 600 pounds per family. (Another 2.8 billion litres of liquids went to waste, like milk, juice, pop, coffee, tea).

Meanwhile we’re all aware of the severe food shortages people in other parts of the world are enduring. Globally we actually produce enough food to feed the world, but food waste is a complicated problem.

While you can’t do much to reduce food waste that occurs between farms and retail stores, you can make an impact in your own home. With grocery chains announcing that prices will rise five to seven percent by the end of the year, you might have more incentive too. Here are some tips.

Don’t buy more than you need. 2- for-1 deals and bulk sizes of perishable foods are only a deal if it all gets eaten.

Don’t cook more than you need for a given meal, unless you plan to use the leftovers quickly. And when you do have leftovers use them up.

Watch your portion sizes so good food doesn’t get left on the plate.

Remember you can freeze fruit that’s about to spoil and use it for smoothies. Yogurt can be frozen then used for baking.

Compost uneaten food. Don’t put it in the trash.

Use Earth Day to kick-off some greener, healthier habits

 Spring is a busy time of year for anyone who is eco-minded. That’s when all of the “green” celebrations occur. World Water Day was March 22, Earth Hour was March 26 and now Earth Day is coming up on April 22.

Although it’s technically one day I prefer to stretch Earth Day into a week-long celebration full of fun ways to live better. It’s like Lent for the eco-minded.

If you’d like to mark the day, or the week, and are in search of suggestions the list below should be enough to get you started.

You can approach it like a meal plan (plastic-free Monday, litter-less lunch on Tuesday…), try to do it all, or pick something from the list to do all week long.

Pack a litter-less lunch that includes nothing that will end up in the trash. Avoid all packaged food and instead make your lunch from scratch and pack it in reusable containers or bags.

Go a day without buying, acquiring or using plastic. A plastic-free February challenge was started in the U.S. this year but it’s never too late to give it a try, even for a day. It’ll remind you of how much plastic you have in your life, and how many plastic items are just an unnecessary waste of fossil fuel.

Celebrate Earth Hour again. Choose an evening to turn out the lights for an hour, either between 8:30 and 9:30, or start earlier if you have young children. Chat, play a board game or read by candlelight.

Plan a 100 mile meal. Remember eggs, meat, fish and dairy are all produced locally, and some root vegetables at grocery stores were grown in Atlantic Canada. Speerville Flour Mill whole white flour is made from wheat that is grown and milled in New Brunswick. Honey and maple syrup are produced locally too. From that list of options you should be able to plan a meal with food that is, at the very least, grown or produced in Atlantic Canada.

Enjoy a meatless meal. The environmental impact of meat production (we’re talking mostly the large factory farms) is so extensive that the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that the best thing you can do for the environment is to eat less meat.

Go without bottled water (or any sort of packaged beverage) and drink tap water instead.

Substitute a homemade version of something that you always buy. For Earth Hour this year I made homemade graham crackers to use for s’mores. Try making your own salad dressing or tortillas.

Unplug the dryer and hang your clothes to dry. It’s spring, use the clothesline. Drape newly-washed bedding over the railing of your deck if you don’t have a line.

Plan a screen-free day meaning no TV, no computer, no handheld electronic games. Play outside instead and visit http://www.takemeoutside.ca/ to learn more about why getting outside more often is important to our health and happiness.

However you choose to celebrate, consider Earth Day a spring kick-off to some greener, healthier habits.