Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reducing Food Waste in your Household

The amount of food wasted in America is staggering. As this infographic shows, a report from the NRDC found that around 40% of food produced in the US is wasted. While some of this waste is at the production and shipping level, we as consumers are guilty of wasting tons of food too, and that also means a hit to our wallets. We might as well be throwing money out the window. But with a conscious effort you can greatly reduce food waste and perhaps even eliminate the fridge haunted with unrecognizable new subspecies that evolved out of the forgotten organic strawberries at the bottom of your produce drawer.

Utilize Your Freezer

Many food items may be frozen to prolong their shelf life. Keeping freezer labels and containers on hand make it easier to freeze foods that are in danger of not being used up before they go bad. Some of the things I throw in my freezer are ripe bananas I'm not going to eat before they go mushy. I use these in smoothies. I open up a jar of spaghetti sauce and only use part of it to make a nice homemade pizza. Instead of sticking it in the refrigerator where it will be forgotten I take a sharpie marker, write the date on it, and stick the jar in the freezer. Same with broths and canned pumpkin. Other items that can be frozen include cookie dough, leftover pancakes and waffles, pasta, homemade pies, breads, and excess mashed potatoes. You can even freeze milk and buttermilk, though I've never tried it. 

Like I mentioned in my last post, I also freeze my fresh ginger. It seems like my ginger always shrivels up or starts growing before I can use it all up. I also find that grating frozen ginger is a lot easier than grating the fresh root.

Dry It Out, Preserve It

Make homemade banana chips, dried apples, etc. You can also make fruit leather from home. While it is more efficient, you don't need a food dehydrator. You can use your oven at a low temperature. Here is a good link to making dried cherries, but all fruit can be dried using the same procedure. The time involved may very depending on the juiciness of the fruit. How to Dry Fruit in the Oven

If you have an excess of herbs growing in your garden or you bought fresh from the store or local farmers market and can't use it all up you can dry it and use it later simply by tying a string around the plant cuttings like tying a tiny bouquet. Then simply hang upside down in a warm dry place until the herbs have dried. To keep the leaves clean and dust free you may place a paper bag over the bundle before tying.

Know how to Store it Properly

Store onions, potatoes, and winter squash in a cool, dark, dry place. Produce like cabbage, lettuce, carrots, and beets should be stored in a cold, moist environment. I will even take carrot sticks and place them in a container with cold water to keep them crisp. If you don't eat them quickly, you will need to change out the water periodically. Cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant can actually be stored in a cool spot in your kitchen and should not be refrigerated long term.

Buy Only What You Need

I know sometimes it is tempting to buy the larger can of whole olives because they are cheaper per ounce, but if I only need enough sliced olives to put on a homemade pizza and I stick those left over olives in my refrigerator they are in danger of getting lost at the back behind the milk and juice. I will find them sometime later stewing in their brine and end up tossing them because of their questionable state. So I buy the small can of sliced olives, use them up, and recycle the can. I have saved nothing if I buy the larger, cheaper by the ounce, can if I end up throwing a third of them away. That goes with any ingredient you use infrequently. If you can't freeze it or somehow preserve it after using what you need, then avoid the larger quantities no matter how cheap it may seem.


About the only things you can't compost are dairy products, raw eggs, and meat products. Anything else is a go, fruit rinds, eggshells, coffee grounds, your wilted salad, moldy bread. Many urban backyards now have compost bins and a lot of cities are even incorporating compost centers and picking up grass clippings and food waste. There are many plans on the internet for DIY compost bins or you can pick one up at your local gardening or hardware store. 

Leftover Night

When we start having a build up of leftovers in the fridge we have leftover night (remember that scene in The Incredibles?). Just like Mrs. Incredible, I pull out all the options and everyone chooses what they want for dinner. On to the plate and into the microwave it goes. Voila! I don't have to cook, everyone is fed, and I have kept our food waste down.

What are ways you reduce food waste in your family?

copyright Disney Pixar  2004

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Best Homemade Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ha, ha! Yes, another ice cream recipe! After all it is summer. And this one is heavenly! While it took me three days to put it together, it was well worth it. I made the raspberry sauce one day, the base the very next day, and finally put it all together the third day. Obviously, it doesn't have to take you three days to make.  You could make the raspberry sauce and the base early in the day or the night before to give it time to cool.  In less time than it took for me to make it the raspberry cheesecake ice cream was gone. Sorry about the lousy photo. We ate it all up before I could take the time to set up a nicer picture.Yup, I'll be making this one again.

I've modified it from the original recipe to make it more healthy, replacing the corn syrup with agave nectar and corn starch with tapioca starch or flour. Make sure you use the finer ground tapioca starch and not the pearled tapioca or you will have lumpy ice cream. I also dropped the addition of raspberry extract as I felt it really didn't need it. 

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Raspberry Sauce

  • 3 1/2 - 4 C fresh raspberries, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 C sugar, raw or white
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp tapioca starch
Stir all ingredients together in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir. Boil gently for about 2 minutes or the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and run through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Cool sauce before using in ice cream.

Ice Cream Base
  • 1 C sugar, raw or white
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 C whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 2 Tbsp softened cream cheese
Stir together all ingredients except the cream cheese in a 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil Continue cooking until mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in cream cheese and pour into ice cream freezer container. Refrigerate overnight or until cold. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. 

If your ice cream maker has an opening to add ingredients while it is running, add the raspberry sauce to the ice cream when it is nearly frozen, being sure to get the sauce swirled evenly throughout the base. If you do not have this option you may add the raspberry sauce at the very beginning of the freezing process or swirl it into the mixture by hand after it is frozen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tummy Soothing Banana Ginger Smoothie

I unfortunately started off the first several days of my summer break with a stomach ailment. I'm not sure if it was a tummy bug or food poisoning, but either way it was no fun. A day of bloating so bad I looked pregnant again, followed by two days of fatigue and diarrhea. When I have any sort of stomach discomfort I like to bring out the ginger. One of my favorite tummy tonics is ginger beer. I have been meaning to try making my own but for now I usually buy Reeds Extra Ginger Jamaican Ginger Brew. This stuff helped ease morning sickness with the little and is my go to drink when illness hits. As far as my budget goes it is a bit on the expensive side but well worth it. 

I needed something with a bit of calories and energy to get me through this last bout of illness so I concocted up this smoothie using ingredients to give energy and calm an upset stomach. It seemed to do the trick and was yummy as well. No need to wait until you are experiencing an upset stomach to try it. Ginger is a great addition to your diet anytime as it has many known health benefits including acting as a natural antibiotic and easing inflammation. It may even be beneficial in killing cancer cells.

Banana Ginger Smoothie

1 ripe banana
1 heaping Tbsp almond butter
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp local raw honey
1+ tsp grated fresh ginger. The more the better.
1 C cold chamomile tea or water

Blend together until smooth and drink up! 

** Really cool and useful tip on storing ginger root: If you are like me you never get around to using the whole root before it either starts growing, molds, or shrivels up on you. Simply plop it in the freezer and it will keep for a long time. It is also easier to grate. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Natural Homemade Toothpaste.

I am on a quest to find the best homemade toothpaste for a four year old. Natural toothpaste for children is expensive and the mainstream toothpastes marketed for kids is just plain scary. I mean, who in their right mind thought it was cool to make sparkly toothpaste? I don't even want to know what they put in it to make it sparkly. Other ingredients that scare me are artificial sweeteners and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. 

I have been on a coconut oil kick lately. I use it daily as a moisturizer. It doesn't cause breakouts and is absorbed quickly by my skin. It also serves as a natural sunscreen for everyday exposure, though if you are going to have a fun day at the beach a stronger sunscreen might be a good bet. 

Anyway, I came across a toothpaste recipe using coconut oil and decided to mix some up for the little one. Of course, I gave it a try first and realized this is a great adult toothpaste and will probably replace my Tom's of Maine toothpaste, especially after I read that it contained Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It is nice and minty and leaves my mouth feeling really clean, however the baking soda gives it a little too much grit and a salty taste that the little one will not like. I also need to use another flavor, perhaps orange, because he does not like mint. So, as a natural, inexpensive adult toothpaste I give this a thumbs up. In the mean time I am still searching for something a little more kid friendly.

Coconut oil Toothpaste

6 Tbsp Coconut oil
6 Tbsp baking soda
2 packs Stevia powder
25 drops peppermint or cinnamon essential oil

Blend together coconut oil and baking soda. Add essential oil and stevia. Mix well. It can be stored in a small jar with a screw on lid. To use, simply dip toothbrush in to coat. 

If mixture gets too warm the baking soda will settle to the bottom as the oils separate. Simply stir it up again and it is ready to use.