Technology

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!

Kitchen Tech Saturday: The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™

Today’s Kitchen Tech Saturday comes to you courtesy of one of my many trips down the internet rabbit hole. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what I originally searched for, but an hour or so later, I ended up at thehenryford.org, and I was not even a little bit disappointed.

“Wait,” you say. “Didn’t Henry Ford build cars? What’s that got to do with food or cooking?”

Oh honey, let me tell you. This online collection is about so much more than cars. It’s about innovation in all areas, from American Democracy and Civil Rights, to Information Technology, to, you guessed it, Home Life, including life in the kitchen. The physical collection, housed at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, includes something called a PartioCart, used by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1960’s, and described as “an all-in-one electric range, charcoal barbeque, and rotisserie.” Sweet!

But, it’s the online recipe collection that’s gonna get all us foodies and food historians all in a tizzy. The good kind of tizzy. This database of historic recipes and cookbooks, helpfully organized both by recipe type and historical era, goes all the way back to the 1700’s, and includes reprints of recipes from women like Fannie Farmer and Ida Bailey Allen, who served as America’s first “celebrity chefs”  before Bobby Flay was even a twinkle.

 

One of my favorites, from a cookbook called “Catering for Two” by Alice James (1898), is something called a Pineapple Jardiniere that sounds like just the kind of fruity, boozy concoction we all need to keep a big ole bowl of in our refrigerator all summer long.

 

And speaking of boozy, how about Peg Bracken’s Hootenholler Whisky Cake, from the 1960 “I Hate to Cook Book”? Any recipe that begins with an instruction to do a shot of whisky and ends with encouragement to get a little stabby is definitely gonna find its way into rotation in my kitchen.

This isn’t a database of hundreds of thousands, but the recipes it contains are carefully curated to give you the best representation of each era, and honestly, anything more might be just too overwhelming.

As hard as it might be, I’ll encourage you to not just get stuck in the recipe and cookbook section. The entire “On Living” section of the website is worth perusing.  Honestly, I wish I’d known about this website back in culinary school, when I had to write all those papers for my American Regional Cuisine class. Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t. It provides such an in depth look at home life through the decades, my food history nerdery might have hit a particular peak of Jordan-ness.

Check it out!

Kitchen Tech Saturday: My Kitchen

Hi folks!

Today’s Kitchen Tech Saturday is a little different. Today, I’m talking to you about a web page that doesn’t specifically have anything to do with food, or cooking, or food policy. It’s my Patreon page, and it’s a tool I’ve added to my toolbox to help hold me accountable for my consistency (or lack thereof, thus far).

I’ll tell you more about Patreon in a minute. But first, a little update on what’s going on with me.

I’ve been in Chicago since the end of February. I’ve been working part time to pay the bills, cooking as often as I can, and trying to get out into the world to experience the food culture of this Windy City, but not everything has gone exactly according to plan. Chicago is expensive, and I actually live pretty far outside of Chicago proper (25 miles from the nearest park and ride train station), so getting into and out of the city as much as I’d like has been prohibited by the cost of just… doing it. In other words, I can pay my bills, but not much else.

My time here in Chicago is coming to an end. I head back to Colorado for a week on April 30th, then onto the next adventure, hopefully somewhere in the Pacific Northwest or Northern California. I’ll be doing it all on a shoestring, and quite honestly, I’m not sure the money is going to stretch as far as I want the journey to go.  I’ve come to realize that if I want this blog to become the multi-media, multi-platform COMMUNITY that I’ve envisioned, I’m going to have to put more into it than just the extra $20 bucks I scrounge up here and there.

Enter, Patreon. It’s a website where creators of all types can invite micro-investors to be patrons of the work they’re doing. And when I say micro-investors, I’m talking… as low as $1 a month. How can $1 a month possibly help? Well, if 20 people invest $1 per month, I can create two recipe based blog posts that month. If another 10 people invest $10 per month, I can create two blog posts each week, PLUS be able to produce additional food policy, food activism, or food system related content for the blog and social media. I am very good at making dollars stretch, and those dollars… trust me, they add up.

Why Patreon? Because I want those who support me to be a reflection of the values of this blog. I have been approached with opportunities to do sponsored posts for products and to start running banner ads on my site. But… the products involved were not ones I believe in. They were made with ingredients that are harmful, and/or with processes that create damage to our bodies and/or our environment. I would not be able to control the advertisers promoted in the banner ads, and there are definitely companies whose values don’t align with what this blog is about.

Utilizing the Patreon platform requires a huge amount of trust… from both sides. I have to trust that my patrons will continue to support my work, as long as I continue to produce it. My patrons have to trust that I will consistently provide them with content that is relevant, informative, educational, and entertaining.

This is way bigger than fund-raising. This is me, setting a powerful intention to continue to create, come hell or high water, every week. This is me saying, “You can count on me.” This is you, saying, “You do the work, and I’ll continue to invest in content I enjoy and appreciate.”

It’s not easy to ask for… anything. I have friends who have built successful networks that support and promote their work, and I’ve always wondered what sort of magic it takes to put yourself out there like that. And then, of course, I realized there’s no magic. You just have to put yourself out there. Yes, like that.

I’ve built some more immediate rewards into the investment tiers… things such as the opportunity to more directly influence the development of content, exclusive access to patrons-only content, and personalized video walk-throughs. Notice something? All of those rewards require me to make content. I literally cannot stop creating without breaking our trust, and I’m not about to do that.

I have a big vision for what I’m Gonna Cook That! can be, and you’re a part of that.

Please click here to join me in building that future.

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: Online Cooking Classes

Happy Weekend, my lovelies!

The big grocery store chain in the Chicago area, Jewel-Osco, is running a Monopoly game promotion right now. The cashier hands out game pieces according to how much you spend at check-out, with some items in the store being worth bonus pieces. Of course, we’ve probably all played a Monopoly game like this before. I know that the big prize, in this case, $1 million dollars, is likely not going to happen for me. Buuuut, since they’re handing me those game pieces anyway, I always pop them open to see if any of them are instant winners or have any good coupons. So far, I’ve won a free tub of potato salad, a free Shutterfly photo book, and two online cooking courses from Rouxbe Cooking School.

Kinda crazy, right? I’d never heard of Rouxbe, so of course I went poking around the interwebs for some reviews (here, here, and here, to name just a few). Turns out, Rouxbe has a pretty good reputation for offering great classes that cover a broad range of topics, from a beginner level plant-based cooking course, to basic knife skills, to food safety. A lot of the courses for home cooks are definitely things we covered in culinary school, but for home cooks who are looking to step up their game in the kitchen, I can definitely see the benefit in investing the time and money to really dig in. If you’re interested in checking out Rouxbe, they do offer a free trial, so you can see what you’re getting into before you drop the cash for the membership fee.

Obviously, this became a big ole rabbit hole for me, and I started looking around at other online cooking schools. A lot of the big names you’d expect to see came up in my search… Allrecipes.com, Sur la Table, America’s Test Kitchen, and one of the newest, Gordon Ramsay’s Master Class. Of the first three, Allrecipes.com and America’s Test Kitchen both offer some sort of free trial period, and Sur la Table provides a short preview of each class. The Rouxbe classes, as well as the other three mentioned have discussion boards available to bounce ideas and questions off of fellow students, and the Rouxbe classes offer instructor feedback, quizzes, and an actual grade at the end, which is nice if you really need the accountability to stay on track. All of them are self-paced, which means you can fit the classes into your week at your convenience. The Gordon Ramsay version is a set of 20 lessons for one set price, but the likelihood of getting direct feedback from Ramsay himself seems pretty slim.

If you’re ready for a little more of a challenge, want to dive deeper into a particular style of cuisine, or you’re looking to fine tune your basic kitchen skills, online cooking classes might be the next step for you. I guess my advice, as someone who’s shelled out a LOT of money for culinary school, would be to really do your research to find the online classes that best fit your budget, your learning style, and the amount of time you’re willing to commit. Some programs offer full access to all their classes for a membership fee up front that let you see the full course catalog, and then an additional cost associated with each class. Others will let you pay for classes as you take them. Some will provide a good amount of instructor feedback, and for others, the feedback comes primarily through discussions with other students. This can be a great way to really hone your skills, as long as you choose the program that’s right for you.

If you’ve taken any online cooking classes in the past, I’d love to hear your feedback. What site did you use? What class(es) did you take? What the experience beneficial? Do you still use what you learned?

I’d also like to offer one of my readers the chance to take a Rouxbe class, using one of my Monopoly prize codes. You’ll have to use the code by May 30th, and then you have 60 days from redemption to complete the course. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment here on this blog post telling me which one of the three available courses interests you most:

The Cook’s Roadmap

Wake up! Becoming a better cook doesn’t have to be a nightmare of sifting through endless online and offline content. Let Rouxbe’s guided instruction open your eyes to understanding the “world of cooking” — a set of puzzle pieces that can be rearranged to unlock the code to tastier, healthier and more nutritious food.

Plant-Based Cooking: Level 1

As kids, we’re told to eat our veggies as an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But what about quality and taste? Don’t panic. Take a step back and look at the big picture of cooking and health. This course will guide you through essential techniques and ingredients to help you incorporate more high-quality and surprisingly delicious plant-based dishes into your life.

Knife Skills

Start chopping! Learning to use a knife will radically change your kitchen experience and your health. The more comfortable you are cutting food, the more you will cut. The more you cut, the more you cook. The more you cook, the better you feel, so get chopping and change your life.

I’ll draw the winner on Friday, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, and announce it both here and on Facebook (So make sure you follow me there, too!) on Saturday, March 18th by Noon, Central Standard Time. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me, or the prize is forfeit.

I’ve just signed up for the Plant-Based Cooking class. We’re headed into Spring, and that means all those delicious seasonal vegetables are about to start showing up in grocery stores and farmer’s market. What better way to get in that veggie state of mind?

Good luck to everyone who enters!