Archive | food waste

The Best Snack Mix Ever!

{The Greening Of Westford} Best Snack Mix EVER
 

I made more of this snack mix recently and was asked for the recipe on Facebook.  I tweaked a recipe I found on allrecipes and when I went to find the original recipe, it was gone!  My old link sent me to a mac and cheese recipe, which looked great, but not what I was looking for.   Time for a recipe post!  

 
I started making this when my kids were small.  They LOVE it.  So do their friends.  It is requested a lot.
 
The actual mix of ingredients isn’t important.  Use what you like or what you have.  Chocolate candies could be added later or even dried fruit.  I wouldn’t add the fruit until AFTER this has cooked.  I have used stale pretzels, plain cheerios and other items that didn’t go over very well.  Once they are in the mix with the seasonings, they are usually eaten.
 
 
The Best Snack Mix Ever!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups oyster crackers
  2. 2 cups Crispix cereal or shredded wheat (I use the store brand)
  3. 2 cups pretzels
  4. 1 cup nuts of your choice (omit for a nut-free snack)
  5. 3 TBSP butter, melted
  6. 1 TBSP veg. oil
  7. 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 tsp seasoned salt (I use Penzey’s seasoned sea salt)
  9. ½ tsp garlic powder
  10. ½ tsp onion powder
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine cereals and nuts. In a small bowl, combine butter, oil, and spices. Pour over the cereal mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  2. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Bake at 250 for 45 mins, stirring every 15 minutes.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/
 
 
This snack mix rarely lasts more than a day or two in our house.  In fact, I had to make this again just to get a picture!
 

What are you favorite snacks to make?

 

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From Food Waste to Fried Rice

From Food Waste to Friend Rice {The Greening Of Westford}

This year’s goal is to reduce my food waste.  It amazes me how much food goes bad in my house.  And I think I’m pretty good at planning and eating up leftovers!

The biggest issues I have now are:

  1. Condiments
  2. Using my freezer
  3. Eating things out of my freezer

For some reason, I have loads of condiments both in the pantry and the refrigerator.   Some I use on a regular basis – like soy sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar.  Not a problem.   But then there are others like white balsamic vinegar, deli style spicy mustard and an array of Asian items.  Things I bought for one particular dish and probably never used again.

I have been making an effort to freeze items I won’t use BEFORE they go bad.  I made corn chowder and a lentil pasta sauce recently.  Both really yummy, but too much to eat.  Before they went the way of the science experiment, I froze them.  Of course, I also tossed a few things that didn’t make it to the freezer in time.  You win some you lose some!  To help me with this one, I find I need to have loads of freezer containers around. I use glass mostly, either mason jars or jars from pickles, apple sauce or spaghetti sauce.  Marking them is key too – I have found that a dry erase marker works wonderfully on a metal lid!

This leads to issue #3 – eating food from the freezer before freezer burn sets in.  My freezer is stocked! Time to start eating.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to plan my meal sizes better.  We are ending up with too many leftovers.  I try to get creative with the leftovers.  I’m not big on reheating the same meal – and neither is my family.  I try to think of the leftovers as ingredients for something else like pizza toppings or add-ins to pasta.

My latest creation is fried rice!  I made some the other night with leftover brown rice, eggs, leftover veggies and the most usual array of Asian condiments.  I had little bits of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.    So I mixed them with a little rice vinegar and fresh ginger.  It was pretty tasty!  And I eliminated 2 of my random condiments.  Now I will say right up front – the picture at the top is NOT mine.  Honestly, it tasted WAY better than it looked!

There are great resources on the web and pinterest.  Some of the most helpful to me are:
All Recipes – you can enter the ingredients you want to use up and they will suggest recipes
Love Food Hate Waste – great information on the food waste problem and how to combat it
Still Tasty – for each category of food, there is detailed information on how long it is good for and the best way to store it.

It is amazing what you can come up with with a little effort.  Now I just need to work this into my weekly routine.

How do you deal with food waste?

Top Photo Used under Creative Commons License.  Credit Jerry Wong via Flickr.

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6 Oddball Things I Always Save

You know how you see something and think, “I bet I could use that for something.  I should probably save  it.”    Well, here are 6 things that I always save and always use.

Rubber bands    Lots of produce comes with rubber bands on it.  I save them all.  I use them to hold various electric cords together, holding a cereal bag liner on a watermelon or holding a cut apple together so it doesn’t brown.

6 oddball things to save money
 

Glass Jars   I save ALL glass jars that come into the house – spaghetti sauce, jelly, salsa, pickles, condiments, etc.  I use these for EVERYTHING – dry goods like beans, flour, sugar and dried fruit; leftovers, freezer storage, crafts.  I like to save all of them because then I can pick just the right size for the job.  The possibilities are endless and they look so cute and clean.

Popsicle Sticks   We don’t buy them often, but when we do I save the sticks.  They come in very handy when making beauty products and crafts.

 

Cereal Bag Liners   This is a new one.  I now have several on hand at all times. They are great for anything you would use waxed paper for.  I use them when making granola bars to help with pressing the bars into the pan and separating them in the freezer so they don’t stick.  I store them in an old cereal box with the top cut off.  Eventually this box will be decorated to make it look pretty….

Veggie Scraps   Carrot peels, ends of onions, you name it, it goes into my “Veggie Scraps” bag in the freezer.  When I make stock, these scraps help flavor the stock.  I usually have enough so that I don’t have to add anything else except a few herbs and some salt.

The key here is to have a place for these things to go.  This way you actually can reuse them!


Do you have uses for oddball stuff?

This post has been shared at Healthy 2Day WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable Ways, Frugal Tuesday TipPenny Pinching PartyTeach Me TuesdayFrugal Friday,  Simple Lives ThursdayYour Green Resource,  Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Living Big Less Money, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Simply Natural Saturdays

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Why I Chose To Cut The Crusts (Homemade Breadcrumbs)

 
 
Why I Chose To But The Crusts {Homemade Breadcrumbs}
 
 
I never thought I’d be a Mom who cut the crusts off their children’s bread.  What’s the difference?  I figured if I just didn’t start doing it, then my kids wouldn’t know the difference?  They eat wheat bread and really, to this day, don’t know too much about white bread.  
 
So I continued not cutting off the crusts.  As my oldest turned 2, I noticed that she would leave large parts of her sandwiches uneaten – the parts around the crust!  For almost a year, I refused to cut the crusts figuring she would get used to it.  Well, she didn’t.  Finally I gave in.  And you know what?  She ate the whole sandwich.  If I just cut off that tiny edge, I avoided wasting more of the sandwich.  She would always leave a huge margin to ensure her lips did not touch the crust!
 
Now, if I was organized, I could have managed to do something with the crusts as well, right?  At that point in my life, I had a toddler and infant twins.  If I could manage to keep us all feed and relatively clean for the day I was doing great!  So the crusts were tossed.
 
When things calmed down a bit and my second daughter began baulking at the crusts too, I was ready to save them.    BREADCRUMBS were the answer!  Along with all those leftover ends that no one eats or bread that goes stale.   The trick is to use your freezer to make the whole process more doable.
 
METHOD
 
 
 
Save the ends, crusts and other bread “crumbs” in the freezer until I have enough and some time to make the breadcrumbs.  
 
 
 
 

Dry out the bread.  I usually do this when I’m making granola or snackmix.  I use the oven on a very low setting – like 250.

 
Homemade Breadcrumbs
 
 
Let them cool completely.  Otherwise, they might get soggy from the steam when you grind them.  
 
Grind them in a food processor or blender until they are the consistency you like.  The nice thing is that you can grind them as coarse or fine as you like.
 
 
Store the breadcrumbs in freezer.  I keep my breadcrumbs plain and add seasoning depending on what I am making.
 
I use any kind of bread we happen to have left and just mix them together.  Usually that is wheat bread, the occasional hamburger bun or pita.  I have also added crackers or tortilla chip crumbs as well.  I bet certain cereals would work too!
 
The first time I used my homemade breadcrumbs to make “chicken nuggets”, my husband said they tasted even better and asked what I did differently!
 

Have you ever made your own breadcrumbs?  What else do you make yourself instead of buy?


This post has been shared at Your Green ResourceSimple Lives Thursday, and Frugally Sustainable.

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Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

Ways to deal with food waste and save money {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}
Dragon Fly Farms produce at the Westford Winter Farmers Market

I took a slight detour this week – I purged my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and other stashes of food.  Sort of like this food challenge post. The amount of food that goes wasted in this country astounds me!  

In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.  It is the second largest category (paper is #1 – don’t get me started on that!)  This does NOT include yard trimmings, which accounts for another 13.7%. Not only could some of this food be eaten, but it is costing towns and cities millions (maybe billions) to dispose of.  Money that should be spent elsewhere.  Trash disposal fees are big in municipalities.  Many of them are turning to Pay-As-You-Throw situations where homeowners pay for each bag of trash they dispose of – most tend to be charging around $2 per bag.

I volunteer with our town’s Recycling Commission.  We are focused this year on getting more people to compost to reduce the trash and thus the trash budget.  One member did a quick calculation on the annual savings: Almost $74, 000 saved if ALL 14.1% was composted (or eaten)  instead of thrown in the trash. If only 10% of our residents composted their food waste, the town could save over almost $7,400. Think of it this way, if 14.1% of trash is potentially compostable, then that is a potential savings of 14.1%  of the trash budget.

I recently saw a special on Food Network called “The Big Waste“.  It dealt with the waste that occurs commercially.  I was sick!  If you get a chance, watch it.  I can’t believe the amount of food that is tossed from grocery stores and suppliers.  There has to be a better way!  Can’t some of this get donated to food pantries?  Or sold to customers at reduced prices – like the quick sale items?

Back to what I did this week to reduce my food waste. I am usually pretty good about meal planning, but I also tend to track prices and stock up when I see a sale.  So, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a lot of stuff in house.  When I look through all the food we had, I realized I had plenty to make meals this week without going shopping.  I really like to do this once in a while.  I can use up things before they spoil and remember what I have so I don’t buy more.  It also gets me to be more creative and find uses for odds and ends.  I have developed or found many favorite recipes this way. I must confess – I did go to the store once.  But I only got a few things – fresh fruit, milk and deli meat for lunches.

We ate pretty well.

Turkey Burgers – I used ground turkey in the freezer, served with homemade fries and green beans (left over from another dinner)

Homemade Pizza – This is definitely a staple on our menu.  It is a great way to use up leftover meat and/or veggies, condiments, you name it!  I always keep Whole Foods organic wheat pizza dough and mozzarella in the freezer.  This week, I used one of the leftover turkey burgers and sun-dried tomatoes that were sitting in the frig.

Pasta Primavera  – Another staple.   This is one of those recipes that was created out of a need to use up leftovers.   It tastes great and is a great way to use up veggies, meat, and beans.    To make it, I saute veggies and garlic,  make a simple sauce (flour, butter, and chicken stock) add Parmesan cheese, any meat or beans you want, and whatever other herbs or spices your’d like,  then toss with pasta.  If the sauce is too thick, I add some of the pasta water.  I have also used milk, half and half, evaporated milk – whatever dairy I happened to have left over – to make it more of a cream sauce.

Shredded BBQ Chicken –   I came across some chicken thighs in the freezer – not a big fan and I had bought these by mistake.  I also had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce!  I put 2 boneless chicken breasts and the thighs into the crock pot with BBQ sauce and about 4 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook away.  I didn’t have any rolls, so I served them on tortillas.

Snack Dinner – This is my version of eating leftovers for dinner.  My kids love it.  They think they are getting away with eating “junk” for dinner.  I pull out whatever we have – leftovers, hummus, bread, wheat crackers, cheese, applesauce, veggies (I always have carrot sticks in the fridg), fruit, yogurt, whatever I can find.  Everyone fills their own plate with an assortment.

I still have quite a bit of food left, so I will continue this week using up what we have and really planning my menu so I buy very little.

How do you deal with food waste?

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Change The World Wednesday – Clean Out The Pantry

 
 
Last week, Reduce Footprints’ weekly challenge was this: 

 
This week, use what is in your cupboards, pantry, freezers, etc. before buying new food items.  

I am usually very good about making a menu for the week and shopping from that menu.   It really helps reduce food waste and we eat so much better.  I started this about 7 years ago when I had 3 children under the age of 3 and started dreading 4pm when I would need to start thinking about dinner.  We ended up eating horribly and I was stressed every day at the worst time of day!  So I started making up a menu for the week.  I’m not saying I spent hours on this.  In the beginning I spent maybe ½ hour.  When I had time and energy I would look for a new recipe to try.  It’s to the point now, where I could probably throw together a menu in about 10 mins, check for what ingredients we need and I’m out the door.  It makes the week go so much smoother too.  I can look ahead and plan an easy slow cooker meal for busy days or plan to use leftovers in another recipe.
 
This challenge could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  In the summer, my meal planning goes out the window.  So over the past few weeks, I have been shopping randomly without a plan.  We have lots of food, but nothing really to eat.  Know what I mean!
 
I went through the frig, freezer, pantry and other storage places and figured out what I could make from it all. 
 

What we ate this week

 
Roasted Chicken, potatoes, frozen peas – Night one was pretty easy.  I had a frozen chicken from my meat CSA that we hadn’t used yet.
 
Homemade BBQ chicken pizza with some of the leftover chicken.  I always have frozen pizza dough and mozzarella.  You can actually freeze shredded cheese with great results if you plan on using it in some sort of melted application – lasagna, mac ‘n cheese, pizza…  When I make this pizza, I use BBQ sauce instead of marinara and usually add caramelized onions.
 
Quinoa, black beans, corn and tomato salad – Used up some extra black beans I had from another recipe earlier in the week, leftover corn on the cob and one lonely tomato from the garden.   This was awesome!  I remember a friend of mine making something similar years ago.  I used this recipe loosely but improvised in some places.  I will definitely make this again!  Lime juice was the key.
 
My Fake Lasagna Bake – Think the ingredients of lasagna but all mixed together  instead of layered neatly.  Didn’t have ricotta, so I mixed together penne, the rest of a jar of spaghetti sauce, defrosted and drained spinach, pink beans I found in the freezer, 2 cans of diced tomatoes (about to expire), and mozzarella left from the pizza.  I also added sauteed onions and garlic for flavor.  My parents happened to stop by and I served it to them.  My Mom asked for the recipe!
 
Overnight French Toast – Loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from the freezer(honestly have no idea how long it was in there!) , last of the eggs, and some cream leftover from another dish.  Basically you layer the bread in a 9 x 13 buttered pan, mix the eggs and cream together and pour over the bread.  There needs to be enough egg and milk to cover the bread.  Let it sit overnight then baked for about 30 – 40 mins in a 350 degree oven.  The kids loved it and the bread tasted great soaked with the cream, eggs and covered in maple syrup.
 
Iced Tea – Apparently I have lots of tea!
 
Homemade “Chex” Snack mix – Used up some stale pretzels and cereal in this one.  Everything crisps up nicely.  I have been making this for a while.  Here is my basic recipe.  You can easily substitute with whatever you have on hand.  It’s a great way to use up stale cereal or other snacks.  Or things your kids didn’t like.
 
Quesadillas – No tortillas so I made them with some help from my friend Sally.  So good!  I also pulled out some salsa and a few veggies – lunch! 

To prevent leftovers

 
Although this challenge was a great opportunity to use up some things, I like to plan a little more so that I don’t end up with lots of leftovers.
 
Make a plan for the week – This one really works for me.  It makes shopping and making dinners so much easier.  I also found I was spending less on food.  Guess why?  I was thinking about how much we actually eat in a week instead of throwing a bunch of stuff into my grocery cart.  Some of which would get thrown away because I had no real plan for when to use them or I bought too much.  I can also think ahead and pick easy dinners (like in the crock pot) for busy days.   If I want to try a new recipe that means I need to buy something I normally don’t use (like fresh herbs) I can look for another recipe to make within the same week to use up that ingredient.
 
Plan for the leftovers – I don’t like leftovers.  Reheating the same meal to eat again, yuck!  This way I can think about how to use what is left in another recipe.  This is where the pizza and pasta recipes and other tips below come in handy.
 

What to do with leftovers

 
Pizza – I make homemade pizza almost once a week to use up leftovers.  Two of my favorites are:  1)  BBQ chicken with some caramelized onions 2) Turkey burgers with feta, Kalamata olives and  sun-dried tomatoes. 

Pasta – I got this recipe from my Italian hairdresser.  I mix eggs with some milk – maybe 4 eggs with about 1 cup of milk.  I have also used evaporated milk, cream and half and half.  Once the pasta is done, I drain it, reserving some cooking liquid, and put it back in the pot.  Over low heat I add the egg and milk mixture and cook it gently stirring constantly.  When it’s almost done I add tons of Parmesan cheese and whatever veggies I have.   It’s sort of like a pasta carbonara without the bacon – unless I have leftover bacon!  Or ham or anything else like it.
 
Search the Internet –  You can find recipes for almost anything.  I really like
 
www.allrecipes.com.  It has an ingredient search feature so you can enter the items you have and recipes using those ingredients come up. 

Use Your Freezer – If you don’t use it by the next day, freeze it!  I do this with a lots of meats then use them on pizza or in soups later.  Here are some others to try:
  • Freeze bananas for smoothies or banana bread.
  • Fresh herbs – try drying or freezing them.  Freezing works well for most green herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley).  Basil can also be frozen but requires a little extra effort.  You can make pesto and freeze that.  Or chop the basil and add it to a little water and freeze in ice cube trays.  I have done this with Rosemary and it’s great!  The Rosemary isn’t as powerful as fresh, but not as mild as dried either.
  • Wine – Freeze for use in cookingI have not tried this myself, but I really should.   Tried it!  Love it!   I love cooking with wine, but when I open an entire bottle for that ½ cup, I almost never finish the bottle.
  • Greens – You can’t freeze greens, but you could add to smoothies and freeze those.

 

I am going to keep this challenge going a little longer.  I need to use up some odd things I have picked up along the way.  I have some curry paste, capers and hoisin sauce, among other things, that I have yet to open!  Anyone have recipes for those?

Update: Nov. 29, 2011 –Fried Rice is a new addition to my “Use up the leftovers” recipe collection.  I sautee whatever veggies I have left with some garlic.  Add to scrambled eggs, rice and soy sauce.

 
 

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Yummy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

What to do with those leftovers?! I have to admit that I am not the best with leftovers. They sit in my refrigerator until I finally don’t feel guilty throwing them out. I really don’t like just heating up the same meal.

But I also tend to cook more than we need. I am Armenian. Food is central! Think Italian families. The table is full of food. To not have at least double what you think you will need is a sin! So I finally learned to reuse my leftovers as ingredients for a new recipe.

I love making pizzas with leftovers. I’ve made BBQ chicken pizza, Greek pizza with left over turkey burgers and feta, and white pizzas. You put anything on a pizza and it tastes fresh again! One tip – I hardly ever use spaghetti sauce on these pizzas and always use just plain mozzarella cheese. I either brush the crust with olive oil or use some other sauce like pesto, BBQ sauce or, on the Greek pizza, I like olive tapenade. You could make a pizza with your Thanksgiving leftovers. It might be interesting.

Here are a few others.

1) Use the turkey in your favorite enchilada or burrito recipe.

2) Turkey pot pie – you can use the turkey and some veggies.

3) Potato Pancakes with the mashed potatoes.

4) Soups – think beyond turkey soup. With leftover sweet potatoes or squash, you can make a really delicious and simple soup. My mother-in-law makes the most delicious roasted squash soup. You roast the squash in the oven, saute onions, add the mashed up squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper, let it simmer, then puree the soup. You can also add a little ginger if you like. She adds cream or half and half. I use evaporated milk. Even without the roasted flavor, this soup is really great. If you want to freeze it, don’t add the milk.

5) Sandwiches – again think beyond the turkey sandwich. Try a Croque Monsieur. Typically they are made with ham, but try turkey and a different spread.

6) Sweet Potato Bread – with lots of sweet potatoes or squash try this quick bread. My kids LOVE it.

7) Cranberry Pork Roast – if you have lots of cranberry sauce left, try this recipe. It is amazing!

Now, the first R in the 3 R’s is REDUCE. But like I said above, this isn’t really an option for my family especially on Thanksgiving. If you plan for your leftovers, then there is no waste. Plus, you might even be saving energy. To cook a larger turkey or more sweet potatoes doesn’t take more energy. Heat up your oven once and eat twice! Have any recipes to share?

Bon Appetite!

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A Greener Thanksgiving

We just finished Halloween, Christmas decorations have been in stores since late September and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Such a busy time!

Since I was born, my Thanksgivings have been spent at my grandparents’ or parents’ house with my huge extended family. Now, the extended family consists of several cousins, their spouses and children and of course the aunts and uncles. With all of these people, the paper plates, plastic cups and (gasp!) Styrofoam coffee cups come out of the woodwork. Who wants to do dishes for a crowd of at least 30! Not me. We have come a long way at Mom and Dad’s house. A few years ago, I gave them my version of a “Go-Eco” gift pack for Christmas (more on that in a later post) After a little nagging and guilt from the grandchildren, they have taken it to heart. But, the crowd of 30! So here are some things my mom and I are going to try this year to green up Thanksgiving.

– Instead of using zip top baggies or plastic wrap to send leftovers home, we are saving large yogurt, cottage cheese containers and any other large containers with a lid, to reuse. Auntie Marie can pack herself some leftovers and recycle the containers at home.

– I will be bringing our reusable bottles and encouraging the rest of the family to do the same. As a backup plan, a permanent marker will be placed near any plastic cups so people can write their name on the cup and use the same one all day long. Of course, these will then be recycled.

– A clearly marked recycle bin will be placed near the trash and the family will be told what items they can put in the recycle bin. I will be enlisting the kids on this one. If I tell them what is recyclable, they can “police” the grown ups. The grown ups will think this is so cute coming from them.

– So those yummy leftovers don’t go to waste, I am researching recipes now that use cooked turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and anything else we normally have leftover. I will be posting these for you as well. If you have any favorites, please share them!

– We normally use paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and Styrofoam coffee cups for these events – again dishes for 30! My Mom has enough dishwasher safe dishes, utenseils and coffee cups for everyone! The dishwasher will be ready to go, so no dish pan hands. As for cloth napkins, I’m still working on that one. We don’t quite have enough for everyone and my Mom is crazy about ironing everything which puts a lot of work on her since I hate to iron. If we can work something out, then great, but I figure we ditched the paper plates, plastic utensils and the coffee cups so that’s a great start.

– We will be saving a little electricity and dining by eco-friendly candles.

Other green options include going organic and/or local with your food choices. For now, I’m sticking with these. I think this is the right dose of green for my family. What will you be doing this turkey day?

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