Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green-up your kitchen

In a time when we are all trying to "green-up" our footprint, I can't think of a more appropriate place to look than the kitchen. The room that is dedicated to consumption can actually generate a sickening amount of waste, if we let it. But with a little effort, your kitchen can be impressively efficient. And the truth is, you can actually save time and money in the process.... do I have you yet??
Here are a few ideas on how to reduce your impact while shopping, storing, cooking and CONSUMING!!! Waste not, it has never tasted so good.

Buy and Store Your Food in Glass Jars
Create a collection of glass jars, and they will become the cornerstone of your kitchen. Not only is glass safe for hot liquids (unlike plastic), it is easy to clean and will last forever. Old peanut butter jars, mason jars, jelly containers, salsa jars, keep them all. Bring them to your local grocery store, ask them to weigh each one and write the weight on the bottom in permanent marker. When shopping in the bulk section for grains, beans, nuts, seeds etc. (which really helps keep the wallet fat), simply fill your jars and write the codes next to the item on your grocery list. No plastic bags, no extra twisties, no transferring to storage when you get home. Simply bring them home, throw them in your pantry and DONE. These same jars will come in extremely handy for storing leftovers in the fridge as well. Look for used mason jars at church sales (canners love to sell their old jars), yard sales or in bulk at hardware stores.

Make Vegetable Stock
Use up unwanted vegetable scraps to make a fresh vegetable stock each week. Simply keep a medium container in your fridge at all times and collect applicable scraps, such as onion and celery ends, carrot butts, potato peels and mushroom, cilantro/parsley and broccoli stalks. Throw the lot into a large pot at the end of the week along with a strip of kombu, a few bay leaves, a tablespoon of peppercorn and a few smashed garlic cloves. Add enough water to cover the vegetables (about 2 quarts) and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a very low simmer and cover, letting it cook for one hour. Turn off the heat, cool and strain your stock into a large glass jar, to use in the upcoming week to cook grains, add to sauces or make soups. Not only will your trash be slimmer, but your dishes will benefit from the depth a fresh stock adds, as well as the boost in vitamins and minerals salvaged from those unwanted scraps!

Wash and Reuse your Plastic Bags for Produce

There are plenty of mesh and fabric bags out there on the market for purchasing produce, but let's face it, none of us have enough money for all that (especially due to the copious amounts of produce that goes into our shopping cart each week, RIGHT?). The good news: those plastic bags you find in the produce aisle are extremely resilient and will last for months if washed and reused. Rigging up a bag dryer isn't too hard with a few rods and a central pole (those exist out there for sale in consumerland as well... but come on...). Simply rinse and dry each bag you use, and stick it in your grocery bags to use next week. Super easy, and super green.

Buy Fresh
Centering your shopping around the produce section and farmer's markets will reduce packaging, encourage local and seasonal ingredients, and promote health. You will end up saving a significant amount of money as well by purchasing food grown by your neighbors, rather than processed, packaged, shipped and resold across the country. It seems like an obvious one, but I think we can all pay a little more attention to filling the cart with products that are best when fresh.
Here is a wonderful pesto recipe that will help you use up any fresh herbs and greens starting to look a little wilty in the fridge. It is high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids (hemp seeds, walnuts and flax oil), detoxifying bitter greens (dandelion and arugula) and fresh summer flavors!!! Use it as an outline and swap ingredients depending on what is in season (or needs to go!)

Dandelion Pesto
Makes 2 cups
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 bunch basil, washed and chopped
1 cup arugula (or spinach, mixed greens etc.)
1/4 cup hemp seeds
Juice from 1/2 a lemon, about 2 Tablespoons
1 teaspoon miso
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon flax seed oil (optional)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Process the garlic and walnuts in a food processor until well ground. Add all of the greens, hempseeds, lemon juice, miso, and yeast and process to combine, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. While the motor is running, add oils until the pesto is holding together. Season to taste with salt as needed.
Relax. Eat Well.

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