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!