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Indulge me for a moment, will you? Go to your fridge right now. Do a quick inventory. Take special note of any fruits, veggies, or odd leftover boxes of Chinese take-out rice that might be inching just a little close to “not edible anymore.” If I asked you to make dinner tonight with JUST that food, could you do it? Would you want to?
It’s tough to come up with ideas on the fly for all those odds and ends, right? You’ve had a long day, the kids, or well, probably YOU, too, want dinner NAOW! You may not feel terribly motivated to be creative after giving all your energy to other stuff all day. I get it. But, I think we all also get that those leftover bits we don’t know how to use will probably end up in the trash, maybe the compost, but definitely not on the dinner table– that’s money wasted, time wasted, and (duh) FOOD wasted. That’s why I’m so stoked about a new meal planning service called Ends + Stems, designed specifically to help make sure you use up those, well, ends and stems.
Alison Mountford is the brains behind the operations at Ends + Stems. She’s been a professional chef since 2004, and her career has spanned from personal cheffing, to running a meal delivery service, to some time spent in large scale food tech. Over the course of the last 14 years, she’s had the opportunity to work closely with small farmers, to get an up close look at how our food system works. But, she’s also worked in the homes of families who use the food grown by those farmers, and has taken note of how they do their shopping, how they utilize food, and the logistical concerns that could stand in the way of making that little bit of extra effort to help reduce or even eliminate household food waste.
“The classic advice to reduce your food waste is 1. Write out a meal plan, 2. Shop intentionally. But that takes so much time and effort! The thousands of families I’ve spoken with do care about their waste and its effect on the environment, but they’re already so busy and asked to care about so much,” she says.
In other words, Alison gets it.
She decided she wanted to launch Ends + Stems as a full blown meal planning service in July of this year, and TODAY the very first meal plan goes live.
Meal plans come with easy to follow recipes for nutritious meals, as well as your weekly shopping list, designed to help you purchase only what you need to cook through the recipes. The final recipe for the week helps you pull together what’s left over from your shopping trip, so nothing goes to waste.
This post isn’t sponsored. She didn’t ask me to write it. I heard about Ends + Stems through another chef friend, and after getting the full scoop, I was totally on board to support a product that ticked so many boxes for me. Woman-owned business? Check! Helps reduce food waste? Check! Does all my thinking for me (at least when it comes to meal planning)? Check! Check! Check!
Here’s another big win– If you sign up with Ends + Stems anytime in the next six months, it’s free! Alison and her team believe that by building a community of Ends + Stems meal planners, trading tips, talking about their favorite recipes, and really helping to make Ends + Stems a resource for home cooks, word will spread and everyone will want to get on board this No Food Waste train. Small, meaningful change in how we shop and cook CAN make a difference.
I’ve made it super easy for you to sign up… just click anywhere you see Ends + Stems in this blog post to head over to the website and get started. Once you’ve signed up, spend a little time checking out any of the great videos posted there, look through more tips on reducing food waste, and connect with Ends + Stems on social media to keep up with all the newest stuff being added to make your experience even richer.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
If you aren’t plugged directly into a chef’s brain, you might not understand the special relationship we have with our knives. They’re not just another kitchen tool, they’re an extension of us. They’re how we get almost everything done. The right knife not only cuts, chops, dices, and fillets; it can make us feel invincible. Most chefs have more than one knife, and even more than one “chef’s knife,” but we all have a favorite–the one we reach for more than any of the others.
However, loyalty to “the one” isn’t exclusive to chefs. I know plenty of home cooks who are just as attached to their knives. Whether you’re a chef or a home cook, finding that perfect blade comes at the end of a lot of trial and error. The right weight, the right balance, the right size for your hand, how well the blade keeps its edge, and let’s face it, the price (knives can get expensive, yo!)… all of those factors go into finding your sharp-bladed soul mate.
Occasionally, I get questions from friends and readers, unsure about where to start looking. My honest answer is that your first step should be to go into the store and try some out for yourself. The kind of store that will let you do that… well… let’s just say, Target and Walmart aren’t going to be too pleased if you come in with a potato or a carrot and start cracking open all the plastic clam shell packages to test out their knives. No, you need to go to a place where they not only expect, but encourage you to play with their knives. Of course, you’re going to walk in there and see that huge display of knives, in all sizes, brands, and blade styles, and maybe get a little overwhelmed. Thankfully, we have some help in that department. The kind folks over at Reviews.com have done quite a bit of work for us, having their team of chefs, cooking instructors, and knife experts test out a whole bevy of knives to come up with a list of recommendations to help get you started.
The team at Reviews.com took 11 of the best selling chefs knives on the market and put them through their paces. A good chef’s knife does more than just chunk up potatoes–it’s a multi-tasker. So, they chopped and minced herbs, sliced carrots, sliced and peeled tough butternut squash, and butterflied a lot of chicken breasts to identify the five that stood up to the rigors of a real kitchen. They range in price from $45 to right around $200, and in experience level from starter knives all the way up to the kind that’ll tackle the workload of a pro.
One of my personal favorites, the Wusthof Classic 8″ chef’s knife, made the top five, I’m happy to say.
If you’re on the hunt for The One Knife to Rule Them All, or just looking to add some great quality to your growing collection, I recommend checking out the full review over at Reviews.com. As an added bonus, they’ve also generously included some great tips on how to take care of that beautiful blade once you’ve brought it home. If you treat it right, a great knife can last you a lifetime.
P.S. Don’t forget, my new cookbook, Recipes for a Revolution: A Practical Guide to the Care and Feeding of Activists, is on sale now for Kindle over at Amazon.com. A great knife would come in super handy to prep any of the 50 recipes you can find in there.
Friends, I’ve been keeping a pretty big secret from you. It’s a good one, though, and now that I’ve finally going to spill, I don’t think you’ll mind too much.
This summer, I’ve been writing a cookbook.
Correction. This summer, I’ve been procrastinating, suffering from writer’s block, stressing, furiously writing, recipe testing, mumbling to myself, and taking up the booths at Bardo Coffee for literally entire days–the result of which is a cookbook.
Recipes for a Revolution: A Practical Guide to the Care and Feeding of Activists, is part cookbook, part pep talk, for those of us who have heard the call to speak up and to act up– on behalf of equality, the protection of human rights, the protection of the environment, better education, better healthcare, a better food system, and to stand in the way of those who may be threatening those things. But, it’s not a book on how to be an activist. Rather, it’s a guide for activists who find themselves trying to juggle work, school, family, and the important work they do for the causes they believe in.
So many times, we find ourselves giving all our energy to everyone else, and not saving any time to care for ourselves. As we set aside our own needs for healthful, nourishing food; for time to recharge; for the simple act of staying hydrated, we become more run down, more tired, maybe even sicker. This book serves as a gentle reminder that we must prioritize our physical, mental, and emotional well-being if we are to stay strong as activists and advocates for the issues that are important to us.
Recipes for a Revolution contains over 50 recipes, all carefully designed and chosen to provide an approachable, accessible, practical way to set ourselves up for success as we do this work of resisting. Whether you’ve only just heard the call to act, or your activism is much more developed, I believe this book can serve as a reference, a check-in with yourself, to help get your kitchen calibrated with that activism.
RFAR is available for pre-order in Kindle format for $13.99. If you buy now, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle device when it releases on September 20th If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it by downloading the free Kindle app to your phone or tablet, or reading it on your desktop through Amazon. However, I will have a .pdf version available for purchase, as well. You can pre-order now, and receive it the same day it releases for Kindle.
To pre-order the Kindle version, Just click here!
To pre-order the .pdf version, please e-mail email@example.com with “Cookbook Purchase Request” in the subject line, and I will send you a pre-order payment link through PayPal.
For those of you wondering, I will be creating a funding page to help cover the cost of generating a paperback version of the book later this year. If you’re like me, cookbooks are just a thing you want to be able to hold in your hands, make notes in the margins, and keep close-by in the kitchen. Self-publishing a printed version of a book can be expensive, but it’s something I definitely want to make happen.
Thank you, so much, for your support!
It’s been a busy summer, people. I got back from Oregon and hit the ground running with work, a book project (stay tuned!) and digging in on preparations for the 5th Annual Feast of Fermentation for the Boulder Food Rescue. It’s happening on September 23rd, at the Avalon Ballroom. Last year was my first time cheffing the FoF, and it was such an amazing time, I’m doing it again. (And honestly, for as many years as they’ll let me.)
In addition to some great local beers from the likes of Nighthawk Brewery and Montucky Cold Snacks, a homebrew competition sponsored by Boulder Fermentation Supply, a silent auction full of great items to bid on for any budget, and some highly danceable tunes from The New Family Recipe, my super talented (and a lot more organized than me) sous chef Elizabeth and I are developing taco bar and noodle bowl menus that are going to make your facehole so very happy. We’ll utilize not only a TON of delicious fermented product like kim chi, sauerkraut, salsas and hot sauces from the excellent folks at Ozuke and McCauley Family Farm, but also bring in other products grown and produced by companies in and around the Boulder, Colorado area. Also, the Boulder County Farmer’s Market has hooked us up with market dollars to round out the menu with gorgeous, local, farm fresh produce. You guys, if you’ve never gone on a full blown farmer’s market shopping spree, let me tell you, it’s 100% some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my pants on. And getting to turn all that lovely produce into yummies for hundreds of members of my community? Pinch me! So cool!
If you live in the Denver/Boulder area, please come join us! I promise you’ll have a good time, and you’ll support an organization that is passionate about reducing food waste and bringing nutritious food to low income residents in Boulder and Broomfield counties. Win-Win, right? Tickets are $45 for an all you can eat, all you can (safely) drink, dance your face off evening of fun. But, if you can round up 5 friends to go with you, the individual ticket price for each person in the group of six is $35.
If you don’t live nearby, I’m not going to leave you empty handed. Behold! Instructions on how to put together your own quick, easy, and tasty noodle bowls. This should make enough for four large bowls.
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cups & measuring spoons
Blender or food processor
Large pot for boiling water or broth
Tongs for portioning everything into bowls
Small serving bowl and spoon for the sauce
For the Sauce:
1/4 cup peanut, almond, or cashew butter
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (the stuff in the tube is fine)
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin (rice wine vinegar)
A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Additional salt to taste, if the soy sauce alone doesn’t work for you
Puree everything together in a blender or food processor until all the ingredients are incorporated.
For the Noodles:
1 14oz box rice noodles
10 oz boiling water or broth, for extra flavor (veggie, chicken, mushroom, beef… whatever floats your boat)
3 peeled and crushed garlic cloves
Healthy pinch of salt
Bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the crushed garlic and the salt, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the garlic “steep” in the liquid for about 5 minutes, then remove. Add the noodles to the hot liquid and cover. They’ll be soft enough to eat in 5-7 minutes.
Literally any combination of fresh veggies will work here, plus about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of your preferred protein, pre-cooked. If you’re drawing a blank, here are some ideas:
Baked or grilled chicken, sliced
Firm tofu, cubed or cut into matchsticks and sauteed
Julienne bell peppers
Thinly sliced carrots
Sliced greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens)
Thin sliced green onions
Chow mein noodles
Crispy roasted chickpeas
I don’t think there’s a bad combination here, so go crazy kids!