Thursday, September 8, 2011

More feelings toward trash-free eating

All and all, this diet is going just as well today as it was when I started. I'm happily chowing down on fresh fruits and veggies and I even made some cloth bags to get bulk produce in. My trips tot he store have to be far more calculated than ever before (especially now since many of the roads to my favorite co-ops have been damaged by the hurricane), but my everyday needs are easily met by the farmer's market and the local health food store.

We had a pot luck at work today, so last night I made some yummy peanut butter oatmeal cookies (nom nom nom). The food was mostly crappy stuff I would never touch, but OH MY GOD SOMEONE BROUGHT TRISCUITS! My immediate reaction was something along the lines of "come to me my precious, salty, crunchy, heaven-in-a-box treat!" I proceeded to eat a few more than I probably should have, but I would like to see your self-control when paired with a stack of Triscuits after abstaining from any form of packaged food for months on end. Those crackers won't stand a chance.

Baby spinach was also on the pot-luck menu. I took a few bites because I thought I should have some greens with lunch, if available. Mistake. Another side effect of only eating fresh unpackaged foods, is that packaged produce tastes terrible. Like eating leafy cardboard. I dumped some homemade salsa on it (made with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro right from the garden) and that improved it considerably.

Then I ate a few more Triscuits.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reflections on month three

OK. I figured out the hardest part of the no-trash diet. It's this blog. My spare time is down to almost nothing right now, so when I have it, I don't usually want to spend it writing in the blog. I have books to write about and recipes to post and a few stories about food trash. I went to SolarFest and NYC and thought about food waste and thing to put in this blog the whole time, but sitting down to write... eh. So I'm sorry. Kind of. But I did conquer the mountain of dishes in the sink and I plan to make a blueberry pie today, so maybe I'll snap some pictures and do a post when I finally crash-land on the couch. Cross your fingers.

Just know that even though my dedication to blogging is not so much, I'm still 100% on my year of no food waste.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zucchini Salad

2-3 green onions
1 Large green zucchini
1 Large yellow zucchini (summer squash)
1 Large any other kind of in season squash (globe, pattypan, scallopini, etc)
1 Large cucumber
2 Large carrots , or 3-4 small ones
2 T Olive oil (not extra virgin) or veggie oil if you prefer
½ t Garam Masala
AC vinegar

Chop up green onion and dice squashes into bite-sized cubes. Heat oil in a large pan, add garam masala and turn heat to med-low. Add onion and toss until coated, then add squashes. Salt to taste. While the squash is cooking, chop the cucumber into bite sized chunks and set aside. Continue cooking squash and turning in pan until it's cooked and a bit soft, but still has a bit of crunch. This should only take a few minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer into a large glass food storage container. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then add cucumbers, mix and put in fridge. Store until cool.

Grate carrots into a small bowl and add some AC vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar. Serve shredded carrot on top of squash salad.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate Mint Rice Milk

½ recipe of rice milk found here. This will make extra, but cutting the recipe down even further seems silly. I added a handful of raw cashews to each blender batch.
2 T cocoa powder
2 T Raw sugar
3-4 fresh mint leaves, bruised a bit to draw out flavor

Fill blender with rice milk, add cocoa, sugar and mint. Blend. Taste and adjust. Strain into small mason jars for single serving travel cups. Shake well before serving.

I actually didn't strain mine because I don't mind the mint particles, but some people might. You'll also want to make this as close to the time you're going to use it a possible, because in my experience, this rice milk does not keep very long.

Monday, July 25, 2011

White Bean Hummus

2 cups cooked white beans
1 large clove garlic (or about 4 scapes, depending on size and season)
4T olive oil
2T tahini
2T AC vinegar or lemon juice
Salt to taste

Throw everything but the water into a food processor and process until smooth. Add a little water at a time until you reach the consistency you are looking for. Hummus is a completely personal experience, and rather hard to ruin. Adjust flavors to suit your palate. You can use more olive oil and less water to get a richer flavor, but water works if you're on tight budget or running low on oil.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paper plate picnics are for parasites

Grab your bonnet honey, we are going on a picnic!I was reading this silly thing on the internet about famous picnics in literature and I suddenly got an unsurpressable urge to have a picnic. What better day than July 4th? My friend Gravy was coming to town that day to hang out, so I decided to drag him along. The weather has been hot and humid so I wanted something that would be cold and refreshing, but not too simplistic like macaroni salad and veggie burgers. At the farmer's market on Sunday the stalls seemed to be overflowing with zucchinis of all shapes and sizes, so I grabbed some greens and yellows and started a mental meal planner. Cold, seared zucchini with cucumbers, shredded carrots and white bean hummus. Perfect.

Monday finally came and I headed to the kitchen to start my plans when I realized that the perfect companion to this meal would be pita bread. Being on a no-trash diet means making everything from scratch, and I was out of yeast. The health food store in town pre-bags all of their bulk yeast, so I have to make special arrangements to fill up my own jar, which doesn't work for last-minute plans. I also realized that chocolate milk would be needed. Obviously. As usual, my quick projects turned into huge and frantic undertakings.

Rice milk takes about three hours to make and a big pot, which I didn't own. I decided to finally use that money the parents sent me as a house warming gift and bopped over to the local kitchen store to buy a nice stainless steel stewing pot. Then I scurried over to a friend's house to snag a few teaspoons of yeast. 1:30pm and I hadn't even started yet! The pita would need time to rise as well! At least the white beans were done though.

Gravy got to my place a little after 2pm and I put him to work shredding carrots while I cooked the zucchini. When the rice was done cooking I put him in charge of straining, and he promptly spilled a bunch of it all over my pristine kitchen. Taking deep breaths is the key to sharing a kitchen. Luckily he brought his dog who took care of anything that managed to make it to the ground. Hummus in the food processor, cocoa in the rice milk, zucchini in the fridge, pitas on the counter cooling and all at once the food was together in time for picnic supper. A July 4th miracle!

Everything got packed in reusable containers. I took two normal, totally breakable and oh-man-I-have-to-wash-these-when-we're-done plates and forgot the spoon for serving (good thing I remembered a cloth napkin when our fingers had to be used instead). Everything got carefully packed into two fabric bags along with a blanket and some hippy-dippy bug spray. Presto! Delicious trash-free picnic!

Along comes another multi-part post of recipes; White bean hummus, zucchini salad, and chocolate-mint rice milk. I won't be posting the pita recipe because it wasn't mine and it didn't turn out as I had planned. Mine were a semi-failure and Gravy laughed at my dismay. Jerk. If anyone has any good pita bread recipes to share, please do!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflections on month two

I still can't get over the initial reaction that most people have to my no-trash diet, “Wow, that must be so hard!” I can't stress enough how easy it is. It's a little weird how we're predisposed to think that we need waste to live our lives. It's crazy how quickly we reach for a disposable item without thinking if we really need it, or if we can use something else.

I was at the grocery store with a friend the other day. I had brought my own bags for produce, but not enough. He hadn't brought any. I quietly got what I needed and when I ran out of bags, I simply loaded the rest of the produce (things that were large and not fragile, like potatoes and bananas) into my basket without bags. The checkout people don't care. We met up a few minutes later and he commented on my free-floating produce, “Oh, I hadn't thought of that.” I'm not judgmental. I know how automatic certain things are, because it's taken me effort to program myself to think “do I need this?” before I use anything. I told him I do this all the time, and when the checkout person showed no signs of interest in the lack of bag, he accepted this practice as something to use in the future.

The same thing happens when I take my container to the bagel place. It starts a lot of conversations. Even the ladies at the local health food store have said my containers have made them think about their own disposable habits. As with everything, I'm happy to answer questions that are asked of me, but I almost never bring the issue up unless I need to.

I must make a small confession though. That rule about not eating out twice a week... hasn't really been super accurate. I like to grab a bagel before work sometimes. Not more than once a week, but it happens. I also like to eat at the farmers market. And I like to go out to the bar with my friends after work. So sometimes I go out more often. However, I have my container in hand at the bagel place, don't order bottled cider at the bar, and the farmer's market, well, I don't think I need to explain that there's not really a lot of waste involved with anything there, as compared with a restaurant or grocery store. I don't feel guilty, I just think it was not a very useful rule.

The trek continues.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fiesta Food! - Part 3 of 3

Red Chile

1/4 Cup water
2 T oil (I use olive for better flavor,but you can go neutral)
1 T flour (your choice, I use whole wheat pastry because it's what I have and adds no flavor)
4 tablespoons (at least) red chile powder
pinch of cumin
salt to taste

In a small sauce pan, combine water, oil and chile. Heat and mix until everything is combined fully. Add flour and cumin, heat until thick and bubbly. Add Salt. Adjust spices (aka, add more chile). Heat a bit more to bring out the heat. It should be thick and red and amazing and unforgettable.

In terms of what is “traditional” or not, I don't really care. You can email me and tell me I'm doing this all wrong and that it's not really traditional red chile unless you make it standing on one leg with a gila monster stuck to your head, but honestly, I don't care. If it's vegan and it tastes good, I'm eating it. That being said, you can make this sauce with any red chile powder, but if you really want something amazing, you'll make it with red chiles grown in NM. Specifically Hatch, NM.

Shit. I misplaced my gila monster again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fiesta Food! - Part 2 of 3

This isn't exactly fiesta food, but since I used it for tacos, it's fiesta food today.


1 cup vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup veggie broth or water (you might need more or less, so add slowly)
2 T soy sauce
Spices of choice (stick with powders and nothing chunky)

Mix up your dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour water in and mix by hand. Mix in soy sauce. Knead. And knead. And Knead for about 5 minutes. You MUST do this by hand. Let it sit for a few minutes, then knead again. Break up your glutenous ball of yum into three or four pieces and stretch them out as flat as you can. These will expand when cooking, so the thinner you get it now, the better. Bring a large pot of water or vegetable broth to a boil and drop these bad boys in. Simmer for about an hour. They're going to expand, so make sure the pot is pretty huge.

You can store seitan really well in the freezer. Just be sure to cut it up before freezing, which will make it easier to work with later.

Next post: Red Chile

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fiesta Food! - Part 1 of 3

I talk a lot about my job at the bookstore, but the truth is, that's a part-time job. The job that pays my bills is an office job I have for a non-profit. Things that I love about it include: schedule flexibility, no dress code, and we will accept any excuse to have a party at work. This month we lose our Urchin co-worker, Sarah. To see her off properly she would need a rockin fiesta. Sarah is my vegan partner in crime at the office, so I was ever so excited to make awesome seitan tacos for her.

I'm not going to post the recipe for the tacos, because it came from Terry Hope-Romero's cookbook Viva Vegan. It's an excellent book and you should all buy it. Also, I (not so) secretly want to be her. What I am going to post are three staples in my home that can be made with (little or) no waste: seitan, corn tortillas and red chile.

The only tricky parts about making this 100% waste free is the masa harina, a kind of corn meal that's treated with lime and is used to make corn tortillas, and wax paper. I can't find masa herna in bulk around here, but luckily I had a huge bag in my kitchen. If I run out before the year is up I guess I just cry. I also use wax paper with my tortilla press (instructions online always recommend plastic wrap, but that's just silly and wax paper can be reused much more easily). I use the same two bits of paper until they are totally ruined and I really can't get away with it anymore. I've had the same roll of wax paper for over a year and I'm only half way through it, so I can attest to the usefulness of wax paper.

All of these things are easy to make, and significantly cheaper and healthier than what you'll buy in the store.

Oh-my-god-easy Corn Tortillas

½ cup Masa Harina
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt

Mix masa harina and salt in a bowl. Make a well. Pour water into the well and mix by hand for 2 minutes. Adjust if the dough seems too sticky or too crumbly*. Make into 4 balls. Heat a pan that is just lightly brushed with cooking oil. Depending on your pan, you can do this dry. You know your cookware better than me (I hope). Line bottom of tortilla press with wax paper, place ball in center. Place a bit of wax paper on top. Press. Toss into pan. Cook. Flip. Cook. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Done. Store in plastic in the fridge.

*Use cation when adding water and only add a teaspoon at a time. Too much water will create dough that sticks to everything but itself, is difficult to work with, impossible to please, and may even put bubble gum in your favorite pair of shoes. So easy on the water.

Make 4 tortillas. Duh.

Next up: Seitan

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Month one recap- Belated

Several people have asked me what the hardest part of this challenge has been so far. At one month in there's only been one big setback and that is eating out. Restaurants always want to give you napkins, there are always unexpected wastes like toothpicks, chopsticks and wax paper, and then if you don't finish your food, there's take out containers.

I had lunch in Albany just after this challenge started and quickly realized that I would need to bring my own container for leftovers and also my own chopsticks. I have both of these items now ready to go, the tricky part will be remembering them when I go out.
Napkins, napkins, napkins. I've asked at least one person to omit my napkin, but in most places they are already on the table. Chances are, if you ask that they be removed they'll just end up in he trash anyway. I think I've also mentioned my extreme discomfort with drawing too much attention to myself, or being anything other than completely forgettable two minutes after I've left a person's presence. I could say it would be nice to get over my fears, but it wouldn't. I don't like people who draw extra attention to themselves and I like not being one of them. I don't have a problem asking people to leave the napkin out if I'm a regular, but I might just have to deal with a stray napkin or two when I eat somewhere new.

I'm open to suggestions though. Maybe only eat at places that use cloth napkins? Pass it off as a serious napkin phobia and say that I've brought my own? Right. Right.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Farewell My Subaru by Doug Fine

I stumbled upon this book in one of Brattleboro's FIVE bookstores. It was on sale so I picked it up, thinking it looked like fun. Turns out you can judge a book by its cover, because fun it is. Doug Fine is a humorous writer and a great story teller. At 200 pages it's a quick and enjoyable read but still full of insight.

Fine moves to the New Mexican desert with the goal of kicking his fossil fuel habit and getting off the grid. He has no experience whatsoever with ranching, farming, or any of the things people need to be self-sufficient. To top it off, he's a Wal-Mart addict. But, he kicks his addiction early in the book and makes no secret of the fact that he asks for help whenever he can. He also buys two goats to help him get his other habit off-grid: ice cream.

A few solar panels, and one veggie oil run monster truck later and Fine is well on his way to reaching his goals. He plants a garden (several times, due to many crop-decimating hail storms), installs a solar hot water heater and gets himself some chickens. He almost makes the task seem simple (given the right friends and enough money, of course). He certainly makes it seem fun, especially with all of the humorous and well-placed recipes (rattlesnake stew when he discovers a rattlesnake near his home, although in this case the rattlesnake escapes unharmed).

The part that I found most interesting was his veggie oil car. I had all but forgotten about these little miracles with my secret (ok, not so secret) obsession with buying an electric car and powering it with solar panels. Of course a much cheaper option is to get an old diesel car and convert it to veggie oil. It's a great deal all around because normally restaurants have to pay someone to pick up their used oil and normally drivers have to pay higher and higher prices for their gas. The image of a massive fuel-guzzling truck roaring around town spurting out chinese food-scented emissions is almost too good to pas up!

My only criticism of this book is the lack of sources. Throughout the story Fine drops a few facts and figures having to do with energy and resource consumption, typical statistics to find in a book on environmentalism, but he sites no sources. Where did this information come from? There is no bibliography, no where to go for further reading. If he picked these facts up from the internet, what are the websites? Who did the studies? Who collected this data? I've never come across a book with facts that lacked sources and I found the whole thing confusing.

All in all, it was a great book and although it's not in my section at the bookstore now, it will soon.

Buy it Indie!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Oh hello again. I'm just here to tell you that I'm moving right now. First my office, then myself. Posting really isn't going to happen for a little while, but I'm still cooking and still shunning waste, so never fear! The no trash blog is coming back soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hello potatoes!

Here are a few quick things you can do with potatoes which don't involve waste, or more than a few minutes of your time and attention. I'm in love with potatoes, so I make these things often. They're so easy that I feel stupid for posting them.

No waste baked potatoes

Take a potato, poke some holes in it with a fork, rub some olive oil into it, throw it in the oven directly on the rack and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. Viola. Potato. Who says you need aluminum foil to bake a potato?

(Charles, you can even do this in a toaster oven. It will take a bit longer.)

Potato chips

Take a potato, slice it into chips (very, very thin, if you can), place slices on a baking sheet, brush slices with oil, sprinkle on some salt, bake at 350 until crispy and amazing. Goodbye bagged potato chips. Hello saving money and resources!

Mashed purple potatoes

Take several purple potatoes, quarter them, boil them until soft, transfer to a bowl, add a bit of rice milk, salt, pepper, olive oil, a tiny dab of coconut cream (trust me. Dooo it), minced garlic and then mash. Mash some more. Mash a little bit more....... now STOP! ACK! YOU'VE OVER-MASHED IT!!!! No I'm kidding, it's ready, just eat. Side note: Isn't it super cool how the boiling water turns blue??!

French fries (but baked)

Take a few potatoes, slice into wedges, put into glass bake tray, coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil, add salt and pepper and garlic, bake at 350 until done. No need to flip. Seriously. You'll need ketchup and mustard for these. Spicy ketchup...mmm.

Monday, May 23, 2011


After several unsuccessful attempts to find fiddleheads I was getting ready to call up a few friends and ask them where they find theirs. Then one morning I was taking my compost out to the woods behind my house and nearly stepped right on a patch of fiddleheads! I gathered some up and tossed them in the fridge before heading to work.

I rode my bike that morning and as I coasted down the office driveway I peeked into the garden and what did I see? FIDDLEHEADS! The whole garden at my office is overrun. I gathered a bunch of them and had a wonderful fiddlehead stir fry dinner. I even left one on a co-workers desk as a present.

There is some mixed information out there about fiddleheads and how safe they are. Some websites and books will tell you that you need to cook them before they are safe. There doesn't seem to be much evidence of that. What is more probable is that the people who got sick had eaten a different variety of fern than the ostrich fiddlehead. Having compared the two kinds side by side, it's really quite easy to tell the difference between the different varieties and I'm not worried about eating the wrong kind. The key thing is that edible fiddleheads are smooth and shiny and have a very deep groove along the inside of the stems. When they are uncurled, they stick straight up and don't lay close to the ground.

I like to throw my fiddleheads into my stir fry and cook them just a little. They add a great, clean crunch and some healthy, early greens to dinner. Bon appetit!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Macaroni Salad

As it gets warmer I always start to crave macaroni salad. Delicious, cold macaroni on a warm day is a good indication that winter really is over and the next 6 months are going to be lovely. I almost never make it though because it means buying a jar of vegan mayo and I don't really use it for anything but macaroni and potato salads, which means it would just go bad. Buying a jar is out of the question anyway because of the no trash thing, so I did a quick google search for homemade vegan mayo and came up the modified concoction below.

I forgot to take a picture of my food, so here's a random one from the internet. Don't worry, it's vegan too.

Half a block of tofu
2 T water
2 T olive oil
½ t apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt
½ t sugar or other sweetener (I used agave syrup)

Put all of this into a blender and blend until smooth. You may want to add things a little at a time and taste as you go. The wonderful thing about making your own mayo is that you can make it as strong as you want. You can go sour or sweet. You can use veggie oil instead of olive oil for a more neutral taste.

I combined this with some pasta, chopped onion, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, celery and PRESTO, macaroni salad for my spring celebration.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meh. Sorry.

If there's one thing readers should know about me, it's that I never post as often as I say I will. Never fear, I have some posts written and more are coming soon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recipe: Veggie stir fry with coconut rice

As with all cooking, I encourage people to adjust things to taste. This is a concoction that I really enjoy, but you can just as easily skip the wild rice and go with all brown (though you'd be a fool). I used a lot more hot sauce than I indicated below and more mustard and chile, but not everyone likes spicy food like I do. But so help me, if you defile this recipe with a green bell pepper... I will find you in your home and rip that freaking pepper out of your hand. And then compost it.

For the rice:
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup wild rice (soaked overnight if you have time)
1/2 cup short grain brown rice (soaked overnight if you have time)

For the stir fry:
1 Small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic- minced
1 Yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
A big bunch of swiss chard, chopped (probably about 6 cups, once chopped)
2 medium carrots, chopped
A little olive oil for frying
1/2 t Chile powder
1/2 t favorite hot sauce
1/2 t mustard powder
1/2 t ginger powder
Salt to taste
Sesame oil to taste
A touch of maple syrup (optional)

For rice:
Put water and coconut milk into a saucepan and add wild rice. Cover. Bring to boil, and simmer for 5 minutes, then add brown rice and continue simmering until done. Don't stir! When rice is done, remove from heat, but allow it to sit covered in the pot for about 10 minutes to steam. Fluff with a fork to bring wild rice to the top.

For the stir fry:
Heat olive oil on medium heat in large frying pan with spices and hot sauce. When it's hot enough, add the onions and some salt. Cook until soft then add garlic, bell pepper, chard and carrots. The chard will cook down, so don't worry if the pan overflows and you can't add it all at once. Adjust salt and continue to stir fry until chard is cooked down and veggies are extra-tasty. If the chard is a little more bitter than you'd like, add a touch of maple syrup (don't go overboard). Remove from heat and add a little sesame oil.

Serve veggies over rice. Oranges make a great dessert after this yum-fest.

Serves: 2

Monday, May 2, 2011


On Easter Sunday, with no other plans to speak of, I decided to go for a hike and try and locate some fiddleheads, a much adored spring treat. I took my field guide to edible plants book with me, just in case I saw something else that might be snack-worthy. I'm 100% new to this in every way, so I really didn't expect to find anything. I walked over to Benson's hole and proceeded upstream. I imagine a lot of the area is private property, but I didn't encounter any fences or signs, so I just went along my merry way.

As expected, I found nothing. May have been a bit early for fiddleheads anyway. I'll be trying again as much as possible over the next few days. Fiddleheads should be popping up at any time. Wild asparagus too. I decided to proceed to town and forage the fridge at the non-profit office. I found half a bottle of champagne from a celebration we had had the week prior. Still fizzy, I took it home.

This made me think that maybe dumpster diving counts as no-trash food. It's already in the trash, at least I'd be putting some of it to good use and reducing some of the trash, without adding to it. It's a thought. Though the idea of creeping around the Price Chopper dumpsters at night really isn't at all appealing. If only we had a Trader Joe's. I've been told they have the best dumpster food. I tip my hat to Food Not Bombs on this one.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

So it begins

The last round of trash this month. Yikes. I'm looking forward to giving up Woodchuck; I spend way too much of my money on it. I've been thinking of giving up most of my alcohol drinking anyway because of my money situation. It's just empty calories anyway. Sorry folks, gonna go drown my sorrows in a cup of tea.

I am going to miss Liz Lovely though. Best freaking vegan cookies ever, and my favorite gluten free brand as well. Still, not buying junk food for a year (home made potato chips, anyone?) will be healthy for me and my budget.

To top this all off, the idea of making paper out of my receipts and produce stickers was offered to me and I love it! I just need to find a few supplies and I can start grinding all that crap up into my own brand of paper. Who has a few pieces of scrap wood and screen for me?

April 20: Liz Lovely cookie wrappings
April 21: Eggplant sticker
April 22: Napkin, empty woodchuck bottle
April 23: Potato chip bag, avocado sticker
April 24: None
April 25: empty woodchuck bottle
April 26: Paper bagel wrapper, empty woodchuck bottle
April 27: Napkin, wax paper, empty woodchuck bottle, straw and straw wrapper
April 28: A bit of parchment paper
April 29: None
April 30: Foil wrapper

Thursday, April 28, 2011


When I first started living on the farm a few years ago we ate salad all the time. Bonnie and Oliver never buy dressing, instead they just made it themselves right before the meal. I never really considered this before living with them. Salad dressing is just one of those things I took for granted as something that needed to be purchased pre-made. I had no idea how to make it.

Oliver seemed to think it was a silly to buy it from the store; a complete waste of money. He's right. I've been making my own dressing ever since then. I even wrote down the ingredients to my favorite store-bought dressing so I can make it at home whenever I want. This is not that recipe. Maybe later.

I was reading some cooking magazine the other night while it was slow at work and I came across a salad dressing recipe that used avocado. I instantly forgot what was in the magazine recipe (it was probably boring anyway). However, it did inspire me to create the one below the other night. I thought it was amazing and I threw it on shredded red cabbage. Instant treat!

Creamy Avocado Dressing
½ an avocado
1 small garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
2 T tahini
¼ cup water
Salt to taste
Chives or green onion to taste

Throw everything except the chives/green onions into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add green onion a little at a time, tasting as you go. Depending on how strong they are, it can easily overpower the subtle avocado. Adjust other ingredients as necessary. Enjoy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz

I loved this book so much that the whole time I was reading it, I just wanted to find Mr. Katz and shake his hand. And then invite him over for dinner.

The bookstore had this book sitting on the shelf for about a year and no one had purchased it. Our book buyer wanted me to pull this lovely treasure from the shelf and return it to the publishers to make room for books that might sell better. I couldn't do it. Even though I had not yet read the book, I knew that with a title like this one, it had to be good. So I promised to read the book, write a review and attempt to hand-sell the crap out of it. And although my hand-selling skills are limited, I will certainly talk to anyone willing to listen about the reasons this book deserves a spot on the shelves.

This book mixes the some of the good bits of Pollan, Kingsolver, Bittman, even a bit of McKibben. The point is, you can pick up this book anywhere along your journey to food knowledge and activism. It can be a beginning, or it can be the next book in a long series of food system information. Katz touches on environmentalism, heath, the overcomplicated food system, and even throws in some recipes.

What's even better is that Katz doesn't stop short after bringing up all of the problems, he gives examples of what others are doing to solve these problems. He cites specific organizations and people who fight the system and how they are doing it. Each chapter has several pages of resources for more information on the problems and solutions. The bibliography alone is enough reason to buy this book. Getting through it will probably keep me occupied for years.

Buy it indie!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eggplant steaks

This isn't really a recipe, so much as instructions, but I made some eggplant a few weeks ago and forced an eggplant hater to try it. Turns out it got a vote of approval and now she's asking for the recipe. Here is an attempt at one.

2 medium sized eggplants
½ cup olive oil (more or less depending on the vessel you use to marinate)
salt to taste
chile powder to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
balsamic vinegar to taste
2 T maple syrup
2 T BBQ sauce

Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 4 “steaks.” Fill a large bowl with warm, salted water and soak the eggplant sliced in it for about 15 minutes. I weigh them down with another bowl of water on top. Don't skip this step, it will cut a lot of the bitterness associated with eggplant.

I mix everything in the baking pan (not a baking sheet, think large brownie pan), this works fine with glass because it's easy to clean later. Taste the marinade and adjust spices and ingredients as you see fit. It should be slightly sweet to counter any possible bitterness, but you're not making eggplant candy (wait... mmmm).

Make some slits lengthwise in the eggplant to help it absorb the marinade. Place all of the slices in the pan and try not to put any on top of any others. I realize you could put everything into a ziplock bag and not have an issue, but I never do this, 1. because I don't have ziplock bags, 2. because this is a no trash diet, and 3. because plastic leaches nastiness into food.

Marinate for 15-20 minutes, then flip and marinate some more. I kind of shake the mixture around to coat the tops as well as soaking the bottoms.

Throw the whole thing in the oven and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When the eggplants are nice and soft, but not mushy, they're done.

I like to serve it with brown rice.

Serves 4

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Round two of trash confessions

I don't have much to say about all this, other than I ate out a lot more than usual this week. The local sandwich place charges a fortune for these really yummy sandwiches. I think it might be to cover the cost of the half roll of saran wrap they use to pack up your sandwich. Sheesh. I'm tempted to ask them about bringing my own container, but in this case, I think my wallet will thank me if I just abstain from this place all year.

April 15: Straw and wrapper, napkin, empty potato chip bag
April 16: Paper wrapping from bagel, empty potato chip bag
April 17: Styrofoam bowl, plastic fork and spoon, paper plate, tiny paper cup, paper ice cream cup
April 18: Plastic wrap, paper bag
April 19: Foil wrapping, napkin

Coming soon: Recipes! I'm working on these tonight. Really. I am.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


On Sunday I packed up two vegan friends and one cyber hitchhiker and drove us all to VegFest in Worcester, MA. Why on earth would I travel three hours for a festival? Perhaps for the community? Perhaps for the free samples? Perhaps for the abundance of vegan food? Perhaps the plethora of information on veganism? Kind of. A little. I know that's why the three others in my car were excited, but I had another motivating factor: the chance to meet an author.

For months I have been jittery with excitement over Will Potter's book, Green is the New Red. How could I possibly pass up the chance to meet him and tell him in person what an inspiration his book and his blog have been? How could I miss the chance to hear him give a little talk in person? I couldn't! So I told him all of these things and shook his hand. (Yes, yes, I've washed my hands since then. Grudgingly.)

The festival itself was fantastic. I sampled some really amazing soy-free ice cream, got a cup of vegan soft-serve ice cream, watched Terry Hope-Romero make some seitan tacos (yummmmm), ate a ton of spring rolls, “egg” rolls, and other asian treats, and got a few business cards and pamphlets of foods and organizations that were interesting. Oh yeah and did I mention I met Will Potter?

I'm glad the food waste challenge doesn't officially start until May 1st, because all of those yummy samples came on disposable plates and cups and such. We did our best to reduce this by grabbing a bowl at the beginning and having the samples put into our bowls instead of using new ones. Lunch and ice cream didn't really conform to this, but I think we did an ok job. Strange that three environmentalist vegans didn't even think to bring our own utensils to this thing. Duh. Well, it's on my radar for next time.

This time, I just enjoyed being in vegan heaven.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Snag

There are going to be a few unavoidable bits of trash during the year. So far the two examples I've though of are produce stickers and receipts. I will surely buy produce from the supermarket during my year of no food trash. All Grocery stores put those little stickers on fresh produce. There's not much I can do about this. The store I shop at for produce always prints receipts and a few coupons (oh coupons, how I have always had a secret hatred for you). I'll certainly ask them if they can refrain from doing this, but it seems unlikely. Another opportunity for me to bring up my endeavors to complete strangers and report back I guess.

My friend Rayon K. thinks I should use all of the unavoidable food trash to create art, that way it's not a complete waste. His other idea was to save it all and send it back, an idea that made me laugh. I'd love to save all of my receipts for a year and then bring them all back, but I think it would have very little effect. Maybe a few odd looks. At the very least I can recycle these receipts. If anyone can think of a use for produce stickers, let me know. No, I'm not going to eat them, a suggestion made by both Rayon K. and my mother.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The list of trash so far

Time to 'fess up I guess. As promised, I've been keeping track of all of my food waste. So far the list goes something like this:

April 1: An empty bag of frozen broccoli
April 2: Paper wrapping from a bagel I picked up for breakfast, THREE stickers on an avocado (apparently one wasn't enough?), Empty bag of frozen mixed veggies.
April 3: none
April 4: Empty can of chili, 2 stickers from eggplants, a teabag
April 5: Tea bag wrapper, a pair of chopsticks, 2 empty soy sauce packets, sushi take-out box, empty can of diced tomatoes, empty wine bottle
April 6: none
April 7: Empty Tortilla chip bag (in my defense, I didn't buy these, I found an almost empty bag at work and finished them off)
April 8: Hard cider bottle
April 9: Tissue paper wrapper from bulk carob bar
April 10: Empty tempeh package, empty bag of frozen broccoli
April 11: None
April 12: None
April 13: Straw and wrapper, napkin
April 14: Empty tempeh package

I imagine there will be a few things during my year of no food trash. I have decided that I'm going to keep using what I already have, even if it is packaged. I don't want to waste the food along with the packaging by letting it go bad. The product has already been purchased, so it's getting used. The point is not just to remove the trash from my life, but to remove myself from the entire trash-making system as a whole. In the case of what's already in my kitchen, I've cast my monetary vote and it's too late to undo it now. So the packaged food in my fridge stays. And there's not much of it.

Here's the fun part though: for every packaged food I consume because it's already in my kitchen, I will try to find a way to make it or get it without a package. Apparently I'm crazy for thinking about making miso.

May 1st, I'm getting ready for you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dish Soap

Does the packaging involved with dish soap count as food waste? I think it might. The soap is associated with my dishes, which is of course for my food. What to do?

The soap I have is Seventh Generation, a Vermont company that makes phosphate-free soaps along with other household products that are easier on the environment than what is normally found in people's homes. I don't think I can get this soap in bulk, so I thought I'd take a peek at the ingredients to see exactly what is in it, because maybe I could concoct something close.

I was shocked to find sodium lauryl sulfate as the second ingredient. Much like I had with Tom's of Maine, I took for granted that a company that prides itself on being all-natural, earth-friendly and vegan, would not be hazardous to my own health. Oops. No more Seventh Generation soap for me. My dishes don't need cleanliness with a side of poison. I clearly need to find a new source for my dish suds.

Along comes a possible solution. I have this awesome, teeny book called Nontoxic Housecleaning. I'll write more about it later, but it's the book I consult for all of my cleaning needs. I opened it up to see what it said about dish soap and apparently any unscented castile soap can be used for dishes. Dr. Bronner's is castile soap and I can get it in bulk. Problem solved? I'll experiment with it a little and get back to you on that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


There's a local bagel place I really, really love. The bagels there are excellent and the people are are nice too. I never allow myself more than one bagel a week, because I consider bagels to be a bit of a junk food (vegan cream cheese? Totally unhealthy and delicious crap). I would like to continue my occasional bagel indulgences during my year of no trash, so I realized that I needed to address the issue of the bagel being wrapped up in paper.

I normally don't talk about my oddities. I don't mind mentioning them online, but face to face I try not to bring up all of my green habits at home, or my diet. Plenty of people don't know I'm vegan until we eat together, or someone else tells them. My choices are personal, they have nothing to do with anyone else and I don't judge others based on the choices they make for themselves. If people are curious about why I do the things I do, or live the way I live, I'm more than happy to explain, but I'm not the kind of person to just throw this information in people's faces. At least with my blog people can chose if they want to read all of these ramblings.

Speaking of which, I've rambled off track. Bagels. I went to Bagleworks over the weekend and I realized I would have to open my mouth and admit to my less-than-mainstream behavior if I wanted to keep my bagel habit. So I explained my upcoming project a little and asked if I could bring my own container for bagels. They didn't see the problem. And that's what's awesome about being a regular customer (I'm telling myself that to further justify my bagel habit). I would never have made that request while I was living in NYC. Never. Bagel problem solved.

Pass the tofu cream cheese.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No Impact Man by Colin Beaven

I knew the moment I saw this book that I would love it. And I do. Beavan spends a lot of energy judging people and governments for the state of the environment, but does little to examine his own life, or even make the simplest changes. After watching Anne Leonard's video, The Story of Stuff, he realizes it's time to make a change. He devises a one year project called No Impact Man that will rid himself and his family of all possible environmental impact.

I'm a strong believer in doing all of it, or none of it, which made me really appreciate Beavan's amazing commitment. I found a lot to be inspire by in this book, even though I consider my own footprint to be fairly light. His complete refusal to create any waste really made me think about how much I waste, that I really don't need to.

The best thing about this book was that Beavan creates a more fulfilling life for himself and his family by simplifying. Instead of rushing around, they make more time for each other. Instead of take-out, they cook their own food and sit down with each other. Instead of taking a cab, they enjoy the city by waling or biking. Instead of watching TV, they play games. On top of the improvement in their health and quality of life, they saved a ton of money by not shopping, using no electricity, cutting out disposable products, making their own cleaners, and not paying train and cab fairs. Not to mention what they will probably save long-term for medical bills by taking better care of themselves.

Beavan doesn't just write about what he did, he writes about why he did it. He writes about what he got out of it. His reflections about our way of life are so simple and logical, yet we hardly ever stop and really think about the fact that we can change if we want to. He discovers that there is no reason for him to rush around when all he really wants to do is spend time with his family. There is no reason to order take out when he can make the time to cook. There is no reason to wrap his baby girl in toxic plastic diapers if they can take a few extra minutes to wash some fabric ones, which she prefers by the way.

The motivation behind every choice he makes is backed by statistics and very clear research. The facts he uses throughout the book really drive his point home. The need to get involved becomes emotional. It's not some far-off problem we'll deal with when it happens, it's something we have to address now. The fact that stuck with me most, which I have pondered every day since reading it, is this: 80% of everything manufactured on this planet today is created to be used only once. We live on a planet of finite resources. People all over the world die for oil, entire ecosystems are ruined for it, and we are throwing away 80% of everything we make with it after the first use? Why?!?!

It's no wonder his book inspired me to change my own habits. I'm not sure how anyone could read it and not be driven to change, even just a little.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Taking a trash inventory

In the month leading up to the start date of this project I'll be keeping a record of all the food trash I generate. I'd like to see just how much trash I produce in one month, that is strictly related to my food. I won't go so far as to weigh it all, but there might be some photographs and certainly a list.

I'm going to conduct myself as usual and not try to plan ahead too much for my year of no trash. I have set aside a bunch of containers for bulk food buying, but I won't be going out of my way to stock up on items I can't get without packaging (ketchup, mustard, alcohol, etc.). That's certainly cheating. I will, however, be making an order of bulk food from the buying club I'm part of, which produces some trash. It will be my last order before the year starts and I would have done it anyway. I've actually crossed a few things off that list to buy from the bulk bins locally.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The No Trash Diet

Now starts the reinstatement of a certain hooligan's blog. At least for now. I'm starting a project and, in true pop-culture style, it will need to be blogged about. Consider it a matter of public record.

I recently finished reading Colin Beavan's No Impact Man and became inspired to go on my own year-long no impact journey. I won't be turning off electricity or not using my car (though with the spring creeping and winter finally heading out, I will be using it much, much less). I've decided to go on a no trash diet. The reasoning is this: The only trash can in my apartment is a 5 gallon bucket. I empty that bucket every 2-3 months. That's very little trash, but trash is trash. I think 90% of it probably comes from food scraps and packaging. So! Starting May 1st I will be cutting out all food associated garbage. No packaging whatsoever.

All good challenges need rules, so here they are:

1. All food scraps will be composted, fed to chickens, or thrown in the woods
2. I will bring all of my own containers to the farmer's market and the co-op
3. If I have a choice between local and non-local, I always go with local
4. Eating food prepared not in my own kitchen will be limited to twice a week, unless I am out of town.
5. This challenge does not apply to friends who cook for me
6. Any prepared food I buy from restaurants or delis must not come in any packaging
7. My cat gets a free pass, though I will talk to local farmers to see if I can find a source of pet food straight from the farm (I don't have the stomach to make it myself).

Some of the challenges I foresee are things like tofu, tempeh, vegan butter, and rice milk. If I can't make it myself or find it in bulk, I will just have to do without. I think figuring most of this stuff out will be pretty fun and I've already gotten offers of help.

I'm hoping to keep this blog as a record of the challenges and the solutions. I also want to start reviewing books again, though I will keep them relevant to the challenge. Some days you might get recipes, some days book reviews, some days cost comparisons, some days bouts of frustration, some days might bring great thankfulness and joy (do I do that? I'm sure I must). For the days leading up to this challenge I'll be posting about my preparations and, of course, a bit about what I'm reading.

Stay tuned!