healthy

Reduce Food Waste at Home with Ends + Stems

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.

Instagram: @endsandstems
Facebook: Ends + Stems

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

Happy Cooking!

My own personal chicken-based rebellion

NOTE:  This post is not sponsored. I just got curious and I had a coupon for this product.

I’ve been feeling a little rebellious, lately. Sassy, if you will. If you’re into astrology, you might have some logical explanation for why a Virgo who thrives on order has literally decided to thrust herself into Let’s Just See What Happens-land this year, but from my end, it just feels like it’s not the time to play it safe. Even when I cook, I’ve been throwing caution to the wind. I’m usually not good at things not coming out the way I want them to in the kitchen, so this is kind of a big step for me, this being okay with not being sure thing.

But, here we are.

I’ll admit, this chicken recipe was somewhat of a calculated risk, in that, I sort of knew that if the product was what I thought it was, it would probably not be awful. However, when I saw a coupon for a free package of Bush’s “Hummus Made Easy” product on the local grocery store app, I will also admit to not really reading the package before I grabbed it and threw it in my cart. I got a general sense that if you put the contents of the packet into a food processor with a can of chickpeas, you’d end up with something resembling hummus.

You guys, I didn’t want hummus. I’m a little sick of hummus right now. I thought about hummus and it just made me kind of sleepy.

But it was free! And I already took it home! So….. I literally thought about nothing but the fact that I didn’t want to make hummus with this stuff for like, a week. Every time my brain tried to go into “screen saver mode,” it would jump back to this free package of hummus mix that was sitting in the cupboard. Waiting.

I’m taking a really long time to tell this story. Sorry, I got a little stream of consciousness there.

Anyhoots, someone at work used the word “marinate” when talking about thinking about something for awhile before making a decision, and then it hit me. Yes! I’ll use it as a marinade. Because I’d been marinating on this whole, “what to do with the free hummus stuff” thing so long, I feel like it was sort of meant, you know what I mean? I finally read the ingredients and discovered that the list was really straightforward. Nothing to be creeped out about at all: Water, tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon juice, sugar, and a little citric acid.

My FoodKeepr app told me I had some veggies in the fridge that were about to not be edible anymore, so I gathered those up, along with a package of chicken thighs, and set about turning this stuff into actual food. Not hummus.

Equipment:
Cutting board
Knife
Gallon sized zip top bag
Baking dish/Casserole dish type thing

Ingredients:
1 package of Bush’s Hummus Made Easy, Classic Flavor*
4-6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
2 cups (ish) large diced red potatoes
1 cup (ish) white button mushrooms (or whatever kind you have handy), sliced or cut into quarters
4-5 stalks green onion, peeled and trimmed, but otherwise left whole
Pan spray
salt & pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray your casserole dish with a little pan spray, and set aside.
2. Season both sides of each chicken thigh with a little salt and pepper. Add the whole package of Hummus Made Easy to the plastic bag, then toss the chicken thighs in. Seal it up and give it a good roll around, then stick it in the fridge to marinate while you prep your veggies, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Dice your potatoes and mushrooms, and trim/clean the green onions. Add the veggies to the baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and give them all a toss so they make friends with each other.
4. Arrange the marinated chicken thighs on top of the veggies, then drizzle the whatever is left of the marinade over everything.
5. Cover the chicken and veggies with foil and pop into the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. If you want the thighs to brown a little, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

I served this with some farro, but it would work with plain old rice, or even couscous. Bear in mind, these are the veggies I had to use up, but if you have a different combo, go for it. Or, if you want to use a different protein, that’s cool, too. I think the Southwest version would be especially tasty with some pork chops, sweet potatoes, chunked up white onion and large diced pasilla or ancho chili peppers.


On the tasty scale, I give this one a solid nine, only because I didn’t get the foil off the chicken in time and the skin wasn’t as brown and crispy as I like. But that marinade really brought so much flavor to the party without having to add a lot of anything else, and it mingled with the chicken and veggie juices in a really lovely way. On the difficulty/effort scale, this recipe comes out at around maybe a four. You can have it on the table in, I’d say, an hour and 15 minutes, at the most, which makes it great for week nights, especially if you’re a meal prepper and have some of the work done ahead of time. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think!

*It also comes in a Southwest flavor, and a roasted red pepper flavor, and I’m sure those would be just lovely, as well.

Kitchen Tech Saturday: Online Lunch delivery with EatPakd

Note: This post is not sponsored, and the discount code given at the end of the post is not an affiliate code. All opinions are mine.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of all the grocery delivery, local food delivery, and meal prep delivery kits available online these days. If you never want to leave the house, but can’t quite get yourself to give up that pesky habit of, you know, eating, there’s a service out there that can help.

I love going grocery shopping, I can definitely plan meals and cook for myself, and most of the time, if I’m going to eat food from a restaurant, I’d like to enjoy the perks of actually eating there. However, there’s been one particular meal that’s been a little bit of a challenge for me– breakfast.

I have to be out the door no later than 530am to get to work anywhere close to on time. I am NOT a morning person, so the chances of me getting up any earlier than I have to to make breakfast are, well, let’s not kid ourselves, not good. I tried doing the overnight oats thing, but discovered that driving and eating a two handed breakfast meant not only was I driving with lots of distractions (and I’m not the most awake driver at that hour, as it is), but I also ended up with about 10 percent of my breakfast on the front of my shirt.  I needed something I could eat one handed that also didn’t force me to look down to see where my spoon was landing. I saw a mention about EatPakd on Twitter, and after poking around their website I thought, “Ok, maybe this will work.” I found a coupon code that gave me a discount off my first week of meals, and we were off to the races.

 

EatPakd was designed for busy parents who may not always have time to pack a healthy lunch for their kids in the morning. They use organic and non-GMO fruits and veggies whenever possible, and each meal is balanced with lean protein, good carbs, and fresh ingredients– Great for moms and dads who don’t want rushing out the door to mean they’re sending their kids out into the world with a less than nutritious lunch. For me, it means I’m getting breakfast without having to rely on fast food or pre-packaged stuff with a dubious ingredients list.

The website is easy to use. Within each weekly menu, I can go with their pre-set combinations, OR I can customize my own meal packs based on what appealed to me, and what would be the most commute friendly combination. You can plan up to a month at a time, but you have until Sunday night to finalize your order for the following week.

 

But of course, you know I wouldn’t even be talking about EatPakd at all if the food wasn’t good. It is. The fruits and veggies are flavorful, and taste as fresh as if I’d cut them up that morning. The entrees for my first week ranged from whole grain waffle bites with sunbutter and jelly, to a steamed pork bun that, I’ll admit, I was a little dubious about, but turned out to be one of my favorites of the week. The packaging is easy to open, one handed and without looking, and each section can be separated from the others, in case you want to say, save that cookie for later in the day, or hold on to those tomatoes and crackers for a pre-gym snack.

If there are any cons to EatPakd, I’d say it was probably that some weeks the gluten free and vegetarian options right off the shelf are a little slim. However, because you can customize your meals, there are ways to work with the menu to get what you want, and you can opt to say, take the meat off that turkey roll up. All of their ingredients are nut and tree nut free, except for a few items that contain coconut.  If you have questions, or can’t quite figure out how to get exactly what you need, their customer service link is available on every page, and while right now you can’t call them directly, I got an answer to my customer service question within 12 hours. They’re also very responsive on social media.

Pricewise, for me, this is definitely about the same as I might spend getting a fast food breakfast or buying something microwaveable. You can decide how many meals you want per week. If you want to just keep a few of these around as a back up for those mornings when everyone is running late, the 4 meal plan might work for you. if you’re looking for an every day solution, the eight or twelve meal plan might be a better fit.  Of course, you can also skip weeks, say, if you’re going on vacation.

If you’d like to give EatPakd a try, use the code GONNACOOKTHAT at checkout to get $15 off of your first week. If you do try it, let me know what you think!

Kitchen Tech Saturday – Reduce food waste with the foodkeepr app!

I’m going to try this cool (?) thing for Saturdays, and I’d love some feedback. Every Saturday, I’m going to introduce you to a piece of tech designed to help you out in the kitchen, doing your shopping, keeping track of recipes, etc.

I’m not so clever with the names. If you can think of a better name for all this *waves hand around the post*, please speak up! I haven’t designed a graphic to go with the series because I’m sincerely hoping someone far more clever than me can help.

Anyhoots, this week’s technological wonder is the foodkeepr app. It’s a simple little app that helps you create a shopping list, then, once you’ve made your purchases, keeps track of the expiration dates of all perishables and will remind you to use them up before they go bad. It’ll even connect you to Food Network to help you find recipes to use up those last little bits of things before they’re past their prime.

foodkeepr
$200 BILLION (!) dollars worth of food, or about $1100 per household, is wasted in this country… Thrown away because we didn’t get around to using it before it went bad. That’s both horrifying, and preventable. Little things, like shopping lists based on what you really need, meal planning, and getting over that weird fear you have of leftovers (ok, maybe those of you who have been subjected to 4 day old tuna noodle surprise might not find that so easy) can help.

Join me in the fight against food waste by using foodkeepr grocery list!

Android: http://goo.gl/t0QBZJ

iOS: http://goo.gl/zMIWLq

Against the Grain

That’s actually a horrible title for this post, because I’m so very NOT against the grains. In fact, I’ve been really getting into using lots of different grains for my “starchy element” instead of just rice or pasta. The grocery store had quinoa and barley on sale, so I loaded up.

This week, the barley made an appearance in a really easy, but at the same time, kind of complex spring salad made with roasted radishes, barley, fresh strawberries, Manchego cheese (my favorite), and a bright, slightly sweet vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and honey. We’re talking layers of flavor and texture here, folks– great on its own or with some additional protein to give it a little more umph for a lunch or dinner sized portion.

Equipment:

Medium pot with a lid for cooking the barley
Measuring cups & spoons
Knife and cutting board
Sheet pan for roasting the radishes
Large bowl
Mixing spoon

Ingredients:

For the salad (makes 4 side salad sized servings):
1 16 ounce package of radishes, washed, trimmed and halved or quartered
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper
1 cup strawberries, large dice
1 1/2 cups cooked barley (follow the package directions for cooking)
2 oz Manchego cheese, shaved or broken into chunks

For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Wash the radishes and strawberries, and prep as described above.

Toss the trimmed and halved radishes with the vegetable oil, salt and pepper, then roast for 25 minutes. While they’re roasting, cook the barley according to the package directions. Allow both to cool after cooking while you prepare the vinaigrette.

Whisk the apple cider vinegar and honey together until well combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies. The traditional ratio for a vinaigrette is 3:1, oil to vinegar, but if you want to make it even lighter, just drizzle in enough oil to make sure the vinaigrette will coat all the salad components well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the roasted radishes, diced strawberries, barley, and cheese in your large mixing bowl. Drizzle as much of the vinaigrette as you like over everything, and stir gently. I recommend letting this salad hang out in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to let the barley soak up some of the vinaigrette. I didn’t have any on hand, but you could also throw in a handful of some fresh chopped herbs like mint or Italian parsley to add another interesting layer of flavor.

We had this salad for dinner with some poached jumbo shrimp, and it was pretty great. Grilled chicken would also be nice, or even just a handful of toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans. This would actually be a great make-ahead lunch for work, now that I think about it.

IMG_1917

Enjoy!