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Tuesday

17

September 2019

2

COMMENTS

Red and Green Enchiladas

Written by , Posted in Baking, Beans, Cheese, Dinner, Main Dishes, Meat, Poultry, Vegetables

Today didn’t go as I’d planned. I had some work that I was supposed to do. It didn’t happen. Not by choice. But then, I got to choose to not be frustrated. Do you hate the expression “It is what it is”? I know some people do. But, sometimes, it’s really the only thing that works. I could be mad that things didn’t go as I’d planned. I’d organized my week accordingly. Instead, I got to have a low key day. I watered the garden and gave the dog a long drink from the hose without hurry. I listened to the sound of food cooking in the skillet. I had a glass of wine at 4pm while I washed the dishes. It was a good day.

I had intended to make these enchiladas for dinner tomorrow. But, they looked too good to wait. I have our meals planned for the rest of the month. For tomorrow, now I have no idea. It might be tater tots dipped in chipotle mayo. Or sushi from the grocery store (our chef is amazing). Maybe cereal. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. For now, I’m here, and this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

I always want to hurry into the future, only to get there and want to move on to the next thing. Ever since I was a kid… I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed as much of the present as I could have. Until this summer. For the first time, maybe ever, I’ve been here, in the now.

I don’t like summer. I hate hate hate being hot. Sweaty is for workouts, but not for regular living. Humidity could leave forever and I’d be glad. I’m sure it’s great for my skin. Whatev. I don’t like that so many tourists come to here. I mean, I get it, it’s important for the economy blah blah blah… Many of them are quite lovely yada yada yada. But, it’s busy, it’s loud, it’s claustrophobic. I like quiet and cold. I like the hibernating times more than the big, busy, social events. I like a small, but meaningful life… And, I don’t like summer.

Everyone likes summer. Especially around here. But, every once in a while I’ll come across a kindred spirit who can’t wait for the chill of autumn.

This year, I’ve embraced it. Summer and I became friends-ish. It could be that it’s easier now that we live somewhere with seasons. I know it’s not going to be hot forever. So I can enjoy it while it lasts. There’s something to be said for weekends spent in the garden, glass of rosé in hand, nose in a book. For watering the garden, and then pointing the hose heavenward and gasping as the freezing water hits my skin. I found joy in summer this year. I’m glad it’s feeling more like fall, but summer was more than ok.

When we lived in Burbank, I missed things like soup in the summer. Because summer lasted for like ten months. This year, I didn’t think about it at all. I was too busy eating green beans in the garden. This summer we discovered pizza on the grill. We don’t want to turn the oven on, but who can go three months without pizza?! Solved that one. But, then I made an amazing potato chowder the other day. And I was ruined. Summer can be over. I’ve made soup again.

Today, I wanted enchiladas. I had a jar of salsa verde in the pantry that needed to not be in there anymore and a frozen plomp of ground turkey taking up the bacon’s space in the freezer. Seemed like it was time. The oven, alas, was ready to turn back on.

Enchiladas start with humble ingredients: onion, bell pepper that has seen better days, white beans, and salsa verde from Arcadia’s Kitchen.

The salsa is delicious. And sooooo spicy. I used only two tablespoons in the filling and I could feel the heat. I was originally going to make just salsa verde enchiladas. But, I wasn’t sure if our faces would burn off if I added enough to make a sauce. So I added some tomato sauce to balance it out. It was perfect. Spicy, but not too.

We’ve discovered a company called TortillaLand that makes fresh tortillas. They contain five ingredients and are ready to cook. We haven’t bought regular tortillas since we found these.

Enchilada assembly isn’t difficult. Scoop some filling on a tortilla. Fold in the ends and then roll it up. Or don’t fold in the ends and just roll it. I did a pan of each. I poured some of the tomato-salsa verde mixture into the bottom of the pan, added the rolled enchiladas, then poured the rest of the sauce overtop.

Once I topped everything with cheese, they went into the oven. It’s just the cheese that needs to melt and the sauce that needs to bubble. The filling is already hot, so twenty minutes was perfect.

I had two problems with this dinner. I finished cooking at like 3:30pm, because I wanted to photograph with the natural light. So I took a bite, cooled them down, then reheated them for later dinner. Second problem, I’d eaten all the sour cream a few days ago. I’d def add some to this. It would help with the heat from the salsa verde, and it just tastes good. Tim thinks I use a weird amount of sour cream on tacos and enchiladas. But, I like it. So I use what I use, and sometimes then I don’t have enough for my spontaneous blog post. But, it is what it is. Right?

Happy Eating!

Red and Green Enchiladas

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 T oil
  • 1 pound ground meat (I used turkey)
  • salt
  • 2 1/2 C bell peppers (about 2), chopped
  • 1 C onion, chopped
  • 1-15 oz. can white beans
  • 2 T salsa verde
  • 8 fresh tortillas
  • 1/4 C salsa verde
  • 1 C tomato sauce
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • stock or water
  • 1-2 C grated colby jack cheese
  • toppings: avocado and sour cream

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the meat and cook until it’s cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the salt, bell pepper, and onion. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the beans and 2 tablespoons of salsa verde. Cook until the beans are hot, about 2-3 minutes more.
  2. While the filling is cooking, cook the tortillas in a separate skillet, keeping them warm once they’re done in a clean tea towel. In a 2 cup measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup salsa verde, 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then fill with stock or water up to the 2 cup line.
  3. Taste the filling and add more salt if needed. Pour a few scoops of the salsa verde-tomato mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 (or around that size) pan. Divide the filling between 8 tortillas. Roll them up and place them into the pan. Top with the remaining filling and sprinkle with cheese.* Bake until sauce is hot and cheese is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Let them cool and set for a few minutes, then serve topped with avocado and sour cream.
  4. *(The enchiladas can be cooled, covered, and frozen at this point. I prefer to use a metal pan if freezing. It can go right into the oven from the freezer – take plastic wrap off and cover the pan with tinfoil. From frozen will obviously take longer to bake than the original. Give it an hour-ish and check it on your instant read thermometer to make sure it’s come to a safe temp. If not, bake it some more.)

Thursday

5

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Prep Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Written by , Posted in Holiday, How To

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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Is it just me, or does it feel like it should only be June or July? It was just January… wasn’t it? In any case, ready or not, here they come.

Whether your hosting or a guest who’s bringing a side dish, there’s plenty that can be done ahead of time to get your kitchen ready for some holiday cooking. I’m a plan ahead, list making, organization loving kinda gal. I don’t like last minute changes, or coming to a busy time of year unprepared. So I make to do lists and a menu plan way ahead of time.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can feel one step ahead as we roll into the holidays.

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Four Weeks Ahead

Menu Plan

Come up with a rough idea of what you want to serve for your holiday dinner. Jot down a few ideas for other meals around that time too, especially if you will be hosting overnight guests, or people for more than one meal. Then, take a deep breath and jump in. (P.S. You’re so brave. I admire you. Way to go!) If you need some help getting started, I’ve done a menu planning series, plus have a few posts with holiday menu ideas (including brunch).

Invite Guests

Figure out who’s coming with plenty of time to adjust the menu and seating chart accordingly. You’ll want to ask if anyone has dietary restrictions or allergies. If you come across any, and if you’re letting guests share in the cooking load, have those with the restrictions bring a dish that they can eat (and let them know if there’s anyone else coming who eats the same way). This will save you or other guests from buying expensive ingredients that you may only use once. Plus, someone who always eats a certain way is more likely to be a pro at cooking that way. Of course, it’s also nice to have other dishes that they can eat too (just one thing for dinner would be super boring).

Order Meat

One of the reasons you want to have an idea of who’s coming and what you’re making is you need to order your meat ahead of time. Turkeys tend to go quickly, so you don’t want to be serving tofurkey to your carnivores just because you didn’t get your order in on time. If you’re not ordering and are buying from a local store or market, it’s still a great idea to pick up your meat in advance (if you’ve got room in the freezer, or have a friend who could store it for you). There will be better selection than the day before the holiday, and you don’t run the risk of them running out.

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Two Weeks Ahead

Nail Down the Menu

Figure out exactly what you’re going to be serving. List all items, including those being brought by others (and double check that they’re still planning to bring them). Write it down or type it out so it’s not just found in your head. This is a great time to figure out some ideas for what to do with your leftovers too.

Grocery Shop

Everything except the perishable items. If you wait until the week of or even the day before a holiday, you might be out of luck and Auntie Gertrude won’t get her canned cranberry sauce.

Make Your To Do Lists

My brain melts without organization. So, if I was going to host a big holiday dinner, I’d need many many lists of all the to dos. I’d want a list of the food to be served (with a note about who is preparing it, what serving utensils it will require, if it will need space in the oven etc). I’d make a schedule of the week leading up to the event, and the day of. For the day of (and probably day before), I’d go hour by hour with what will be done. I’d have a list of the household chores to be done and who is responsible for each one (guest rooms to prep, bathrooms to clean etc). Since others will want to know what they can do to help (cough, clean the bathrooms, cough), it may be helpful for each person to have a “honey do list”, that they can keep with them and mark things off as they go. Whether you do each list individually, or make one master list is up to you. I’d probably end up doing both, since I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to list making. Do whatever helps you to feel the least stressed.

Stock the Kitchen

Spices – I like to have salt (table salt and a good finishing salt), pepper, cayenne, paprika, coriander, chili powder, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and ginger (the last four are what I use for pumpkin pie – you don’t have to buy the pre-mixed bottle) on hand. They might not all be used for a holiday meal, but I use them so frequently that they’d at least get used when transforming leftovers into something delicious.

Herbs – Fresh herbs are always my preference. But, if they’re not available, dried will work well too (just remember to use less since they’re more concentrated than fresh). In either case, for the holidays, I like to have basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and tarragon on hand. I don’t buy poultry seasoning since it can be made with herbs and spices that I have on hand (it usually consists of: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg).

The Pantry – You don’t want to run out of olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the middle of cooking for your big dinner. So make sure you have a few staples on hand. I like to have: olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine or apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, baking powder, baking soda, flour, vanilla, salt, honey, maple syrup, and sugar (brown and white).

The Fridge – Eggs, cheese, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt are staples in my home no matter the time of year.

Clean the Kitchen 

Like a good deep clean… It might be a good time to do the same for the bathroom. This way you can clean the week of, but it won’t take nearly as long. I’d suggest cleaning out the fridge and freezer (and using up some of the food to make room for the turkey, made ahead meals, and leftovers), sink, shelves, stove, oven, and other small appliances that may get used (mixer, microwave, toaster oven, blender). There’s going to be a lot of traffic in your kitchen, whether it’s just your own two hands doing a lot, or many others. It’s always better to start with everything clean.

Wash and Fold Linens

This can be done the week of. But, it’s something simple to get off your to do list, and it can be done while relaxing with a glass of something yummy, while watching something fun (and yes, others can help, especially the kids!).

Count Plates, Platters, Bowls, Serving Bowls, Silverware, Serving Spoons, Glasses (water and wine) 

You want to be sure that everyone has not only a plate and cup, but a fork to eat with. Everything doesn’t have to match (unless you want it to), so if you’re not sure you’ll have enough spoons, borrow from someone who will be attending the event (then they can take them home at the end of the night, leaving you with one less thing to do), or who will be out of town (and not needing them for their own gathering). If you’re borrowing someone’s fancy dishes and you have children coming to your event, be sure to ask if they’re ok with kids using them, or if you should have special plates for the kids, rather than risk breaking them.

Prep Freezer Meals

It wouldn’t hurt to have a meal or two in the freezer for two days after your big dinner. You’ll probably have eaten leftovers the day after, but maybe you don’t want to eat the same thing three days in a row. A frozen lasagna or shepherd’s pie would be perfect, and will feed many if you still have loved ones in town.

Prep Breakfast Foods

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. But, if you want to make something ahead of time, your guests are sure to feel extra loved. If you’re not crazy about making even more food, or your freezer is completely full, cereal and toast will be just fine. I mean, your guests have a comfy bed to sleep in and your wonderful company. What more could they really ask for?!

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The Week Of

Grocery Shop for Last Minute Items

Any perishable items that you’ve waited to purchase. Try to avoid shopping the day before or day of the holiday if you can. Selection will be better and your sanity will thank you.

Sharpen Knives

Either sharpen or use a honing steel to realign your blades before cooking your holiday feast. It’s important to keep knives sharp, so don’t neglect them.

Defrost Meat

Be sure to give your meat plenty of time to defrost in the fridge. No one wants to end up with a beautiful outside, but still frozen inside turkey. For large cuts of meat you will need days, so plan accordingly and make room in the fridge. I like to keep meat covered, on the bottom shelf, in some sort of a pan with sides so there’s no way that it will cross contaminate other foods in the fridge.

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Mis en Place

You have your lists made, so you know what you’re going to need and when you will need it. You could save some time and prep ingredients for the big cooking day by chopping and measuring in advance. Things like carrots and celery for stuffing, dry ingredients for biscuits or pancakes, and nuts for green bean casserole can all be prepped in advance and stored in glass or plastic containers (in the fridge or not, depending on what they are). Pie crusts can be made and frozen. Mashed potatoes can be completely cooked and then reheated the day of. There’s lots to do so that the day of isn’t stressful.

The Kids

The kids don’t have to just be cute little observers/distractions/noise makers. They can lend a hand too. Some things that kids can do to help are: tidy their rooms, help with other household chores (sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and depending on their ages, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen), doing dishes, setting the table, whisking, stirring, measuring, chopping (depending on your comfort level with them using a sharp knife and their knife skills), coming up with menu ideas (they might be more likely to eat it if they’ve come up with the idea), folding linens, counting silverware, and on and on… lots for the kiddos to do.

With these tips, I hope that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that you’re able to enjoy your time with loved ones – in the kitchen, around the table, and wherever your holidays may take you.

Happy Eating!

Saturday

31

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

Ten Ways to Use Pumpkins

Written by , Posted in How To, Vegetables

HowToUsePumpkins-3

Pumpkins are a super cute way to welcome fall. They’re fun and cheerful and their orange flesh makes me happy. They can be used in so many ways. They make a great addition to a fall centerpiece at your dinner party or just amidst fall decor. They are fabulous to eat. And, they are so much fun to carve.

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Pumpkins as Decor and for Carving

1. I love pumpkins anywhere. They’re cute atop a table by the door, or added to the garden. If you want to leave them outside, they will last longer if they’re not carved, so wait to do that until a day or two before you need them.

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2. If you can never get enough of them, save some of the seeds from this year’s pumpkins and plant them in your garden next year. They will take up lots of room, so be sure you have space before you plant. Tim found a broken lattice and put it back together for me so that when I plant some more winter squash it can climb up rather than take over the rest of the garden (and in the spring I’ll use it for peas).

3. The seeds that you don’t save for planting, toss them with some oil and seasonings and roast them. They’ll make a yummy snack.

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4. Pumpkins and other winter squash make for a beautiful centerpiece. You can collect leaves and press them in books, collect pinecones, and set them around the pumpkins for a lovely fall table. I will use any type of pumpkin or winter squash that I have on hand. I think they’re all pretty.

TimObergCarvedPumpkin RS

5. If you’re going to carve*, you could get creative and trace some leaves and either carve all the way through the pumpkin or just slice off a bit of the skin so that a light inside makes the carved leaves glow. If you want to keep carving after Halloween, you could carve the words “GIVE THANKS” for Thanksgiving, or carve things that you’re thankful for (pictures or words).

6. If you want to decorate the pumpkin and then eat it, I’d suggest waiting to decorate until the day before you plan to cook it so it won’t spoil. You could use clean pushpins and press leaves, cranberries, sage leaves, or other colorful fall treasures into the skin of the pumpkin. You could work on something abstract, or try to create a fall-scape.

7. With smaller pumpkins you might hollow out a bit of the top and put votives or small candles in them.

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HowToUsePumpkins-9

8. They even look great on a drink cart or atop some treasured books (just be sure to check it each day to make sure it doesn’t get moldy if it’s sitting on something that can’t be cleaned). If you’ve got a pumpkin drink, you could serve it on the drink cart, in a large pumpkin with a ladle.

Pumpkins for Eating

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9. I’ve been working on some pumpkin (and winter squash) recipes for you. The first one was a Winter Squash Dip that’s fabulous no matter what kind of squash you use. If you have a pumpkin or a sturdy squash that can be used for serving, I’d give it a try!

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The second was a Pumpkin Pasta. The pumpkin doubles as a serving dish and a key ingredient. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, or for a special occasion. And, bonus, if you have extra sauce, it makes a fabulous broccoli and potato soup. We enjoyed this for dinner the other night – it’s now one of my all-time favorite soups.

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The third is a Pumpkin Pie Latté that was such a treat that I drank it all by myself and then made more.

10. Pumpkin can be added to sooo many things. Yum! Here are some suggestions for other foods to add pumpkin to.

Cookies Pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies would be fabulous.

Muffins Pumpkin apple muffins with a sprinkle of cinnamon would be a great fall breakfast.

Pancakes and Waffles Add some pumpkin and then top them with some spiced apples or pears.

Parfaits Mix some plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a drizzle of maple syrup. Top it with some homemade granola, chopped nuts, and a drizzle of caramel.

Hot Chocolate Add 1 T pumpkin and some caramel to your hot chocolate.

Quesadillas Black beans + pumpkin/winter squash + cheese = perfect fall lunch.

Grilled Cheese Spread a layer of salted, puréed pumpkin on the inside of a slice of buttered bread (butter the outside), then top with cheese before closing and cooking.

Tomato Sauce Add pumpkin/winter squash to your favorite tomato sauce.

Pizza Substitute the tomato sauce for a pumpkin sauce (or do half and half) and top with greens and gruyère or fontina cheese.

Salad A frisée salad topped with roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, crispy onions, mushrooms, and a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and lemon zest would be perfect for a dinner party.

Hash Chop up some pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, onion, and garlic and sauté. It could be served on its own, or topped with some olive oil fried eggs.

Roasted Toss with olive oil and some salt, then roast until crispy outside, tender inside, and serve with chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans). You could also drizzle with maple syrup and add a bit of cheese.

Gratin Shittake mushrooms, pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, and gruyère would make a lovely gratin.

Stew A hearty pumpkin or winter squash stew might also contain carrots, chickpeas or white beans, chiles, onion, coconut milk, spinach, and herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Serve the stew in the pumpkin for a great centerpiece.

Happy Eating!

*Carved pumpkin was lettered, carved, and photographed by Tim Oberg.

Monday

12

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Make Herbal Teas

Written by , Posted in Herbs, How To

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We see a lot of herbs come through our kitchen. Most from the weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box, a few from my garden. Many of them are the perfect compliment to soups, pastas, or pizza. Some stand on their own as the star in dishes like pesto. Last summer I tackled cold drinks using some of our favorite herbs. Now that we’re in the full swing of fall, let’s sip some tea together.

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I will admit that I’m not a big tea drinker, although I like it a lot more than I used to. In the past, I only drank tea when I was sick, giving it a negative connotation. I have now found some teas that I really enjoy, no matter how sick or healthy I’m feeling.

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One of my favorite uses for tea is as a stress reliever. Just the act of sipping a hot beverage is soothing. But, even more than that, many herbs are known to be relieve stress. Some that are more commonly known are lavender and chamomile. But, basil and lemon balm can be added to that category too.

Here are a few things that some of my favorite herbs are known for:

Lavender

A part of the mint family, lavender is said to aid with sleep and relaxation and to be anti-inflammatory.

Basil

I love it for its taste and smell. It’s a big part of some of my favorite dishes. But, basil is also known to be a digestive aid, to help with headaches, and poor circulation. It’s also said to be an antioxidant, anti-viral, antimicrobial, and a stress reliever.

Chamomile

My go-to tea when I’m not feeling well, chamomile is known to aid digestion, relieve hay fever, anxiety, inflammation, muscle spasms, insomnia, ulcers, menstrual cramps, and gastrointestinal disorder.

Lemon Balm

Another member of the mint family, lemon balm is said to soothe jittery nerves, improve mood and mental performance, relieve stress, and contain antioxidants. (It’s also used by some as a mosquito repellant.)

Rosemary

I haven’t tried rosemary in a tea, but it’s supposed to help relieve gas and colic (although too many cups/day could irritate the stomach).

Thyme

Another favorite of mine when cooking, thyme is said to help alleviate lung congestion. It’s also said to be helpful for gastrointestinal problems.

Mint

One of my favorite herbs to grow, because of how easy it is and how much I use it, mint is known to stimulate digestion, help alleviate hay fever, nausea, stomach ache, and irritable bowel syndrome, and it is also said to be an antioxidant.

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Tea Parings 

I’ve come up with a few ideas for herbs that I think might taste good together in a tea.* I’ve added a few extras, like honey and citrus, where I think they’d be especially nice.

To Soothe

basil + mint + lavender + chamomile + honey

basil + mint + lavender + chamomile + lemon balm

lavender + basil + lemongrass

lavender + orange zest + cinnamon

For the Tummy

lavender + thyme + mint

basil + chamomile + mint

mint + ginger + lemon zest

basil + ginger + thyme + lemon

mint + ginger + lemon zest

Under the Weather 

lemongrass + ginger + cayenne + honey

rosemary + lemon balm + thyme + honey + cayenne

thyme + cayenne + honey + lemon zest + lemon juice

chamomile + thyme + mint + honey + lemon juice

thyme + basil + lemon balm

Just Because

rosemary + lemon balm + mint

mint + lemon zest + honey

Tea can be made tea with fresh and dried leaves. It can be hot, cold, or somewhere in-between. Tea can be comforting, invigorating, and healing… Now I think I’ll go make myself a cup.

Happy Sipping

*If you are pregnant (or trying to conceive), nursing, have health conditions, or take medication that may be interfered with, please consult your health care professional before using. Possible health benefits of herbs are my opinions and ideas, based on the research that I’ve done, but are in no way intended to replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.
Sources:
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., with Lara Pizzorno, M.A., L.M.T., Atria Books 2005
Reader’s Digest Foods That Harm Foods That Heal, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1997
Wikipedia

Monday

14

September 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Compost Reuse and Recycle

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

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This summer I wrote about conserving water in the kitchen. Now, let’s take that conversation one step further, and let’s talk about composting, reusing, and recycling.

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Composting

We live in the city, but I have a small garden, so I have a composter in the yard. It’s a ball with a lid on either end that can be rolled around the yard to turn it. It looks like the Death Star (it gets some weird looks from people walking by). My parents have always composted, Tim’s parents do too, so it’s something that’s ingrained in me. It’s not something that I know a lot about, so I’m learning as I go. But, so far it’s been a great addition to my garden.

My rules for composting are as follows:

All fruit and veggie scraps go in, even those that aren’t organic. While I don’t want pesticides in the garden, I still feel like it’s better to have those scraps in the compost than in a plastic bag in a landfill. That’s just me. I’m not super picky. So we add egg and nut shells, fruit pits, and seeds.

Cardboard goes in if it hasn’t been printed on. Usually this is egg cartons and toilet paper rolls, torn into small pieces. I skip the cereal boxes, because I’m not sure about the shiny printed on side.

The butcher paper from the weekly box of produce from Abundant Harvest Organics gets torn into small pieces and added(usually the dog will help with this chore – you can see a video of him “helping” here).

Paper towels and tissues, as long as their not super gross.

Compostable packaging (some companies have made things like chip bags, forks, plates, cups etc out of biodegradable vegetable products).

Things that we don’t add: Animal products (meat, dairy – mostly because we don’t want to attract animals and because of the smell), large quantities of oil or leftovers. Leftovers will just depend on their makeup and amount. I think that a little bit once in a while isn’t too bad.

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Reusing

When I was a kid, I was the one whose sandwich was in the washed milk bag (I grew up in Canada – milk comes in sealed plastic bags). At the time, sooo embarrassing, amiright?! But now, I totally get it. Twist-tie plus milk bag is a perfectly acceptable sandwich holder. Since I don’t live in Canada anymore, we wash and reuse any ziptop bags instead of milk bags (unless they’re way grody).

I often save peanut butter jars, salsa jars, and sometimes even a wine bottle or two. The jars are washed and saved to store things like leftovers, homemade veggie stock, and homemade yogurt. We wash the wine bottles, and Tim has scraped the labels off them, and we keep them filled with water in the fridge (and we have a few more empties on hand in the cupboard for when we host dinner parties). These jars (especially super cute mason jars) can be washed and used if you’re short on drinking glasses. They can also be used to store fresh herbs and flowers. Once you’ve scraped the label off (a razor blade works great for this), a bit of burlap could be wrapped around a jar, or a ribbon or some string could make a nice bow, and they’d make a nice centerpiece for your dinner party table.

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Recycling

There’s a lot that can be recycled rather than thrown in the trash. Cans, glass bottles, plastic, and even some types of styrofoam (although some is now corn-based and can be composted). Many grocery stores will take your plastic bags and recycle them (they shouldn’t be added to curb-side recycling as they can get caught in the sorting equipment at the recycling center). Depending on your location there may be different regulations, so check into them so you know what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Another option is to collect containers for cash. It takes a while to collect enough to make any serious money. But, when every little bit counts, it can make a difference. My very first job, if you can call it that, was a “company” that my friend and I started. We’d pull our wagon around our neighborhood and ask the neighbors if we could have their cash refund applicable recyclables. Then we’d take them to the recycling center and get money for them. I don’t think the business lasted long, but the idea was a solid one. There are people who collect recyclables for charitable organizations too. You save ’em up and bring them on a designated day and they’ll do the rest.

We can all do more to lower the amount of waste that we’re producing. Recycling, reusing, and composting are three great ways to start. Even if you start small, it can lead to big changes. Our commitment to wasting less has led me to be more mindful about what I buy. I try to avoid products with excessive packaging, I prefer glass over plastic, and I bring reusable bags to the grocery store. There’s always going to be more that I can do, but it’s a great place to start.