Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Blog: Food Wastage Project (Vikki Kay)

The Four Pounds of Cheese Project was started by Online Pastry Chef Jenni Field (blog ‘The Balanced Pastry Chef’) as a way to raise awareness about food waste in the United States and around the world. The project name comes from an article in the July, 2011 issue ‘National Geographic Magazine’ entitled ‘How to Feed A Growing Planet’. In the article, there is graphical representation of an average of how much of several categories of food Americans purchase (and waste) each year. The average American purchases 28 pounds of cheese per year, and ends up throwing away four pounds, or about 14% of what they purchase.

During the week of August 1-7, 2011, participants took photographs of all the food waste they created every day and then posted it to a blog. Because I haven’t got a blog, I am hijacking my sister’s! The goal is to help us all to be aware of the issue of food waste and to encourage us all to reduce our waste as much as possible.

For me, this is a matter of money wastage. I try to buy organic, or if this is too expensive, reach for unsprayed, local produce as often as I can. Although our fruit and vege scraps go into the compost bin (and some will soon be going to our new hens when their taj mahal is constructed), the food scraps are clearly worth more money as food than compost. On the other hand, as another blogger has pointed out, finishing off the plate when you are already full, is also wasting food, so it is better to reuse leftovers in the next meal/s than finishing a plate for the sake of it (see here).

Day 1: Was disappointed to have to compost one feral lemonade and one rotten apple. Also regretting celery stalks and carrot ends which were organic, and could’ve been made into vege stock or soup if I had a system of storage for the stock ingredients or a soup on the menu for today or tomorrow. Cleaned out the egg shell to go to sister’s chooks (baked, and ground fine, and added to their scraps).

Day 2: Once again found rotten fruit; it means I’m not checking the fruit bowls to use the oldest pieces first. Whole kiwifruit and half an apple. Thinking about the amount of citrus skins that are going in: there are lots of things I could use them for, too. See for example: and here.  Although, maybe a pomelo peel is taking it a bit far (that baby is THICK!).

Day 3:  Today success – ate the cucumber end, and a tomato end, and roasted potatoes without trimming off the eyes. And we didn’t *die*. Some apple and pear cores went into our smoothie, as did one baby cos lettuce stalk; one citrus skin went onto the meat as a marinade. My husband cut up our bulk meat tonight. The tough gristle he trimmed is going next-door to our neighbour’s dog with 2 bits of cartilage from our y-bone dinner. I thought I could take the y-bones to dad’s place because he buries bones, but apparently, he doesn’t do it anymore because unless they are buried very deeply dogs, scrub turkeys and other scavengers dig them up. Due to council regulations we cannot burn bones. Some more advanced composters will add them to compost, but we don’t fall into that category. So they were ‘wasted’.

Day 4: Tricky day as we were not at home, and had to box up our scraps to bring home with us! However, the orange and lemon peels and pith were all blitzed up and put into the freezer for future baking use (or meat marinade, which made the meat taste very gourmet in my opinion!).

Day 5: Sadly, I bought sourdough multi-grain bread that was right on its used-by date and it developed mold even though I stuck it straight in the freezer. Perhaps I didn’t check it closely enough at the shop. Some pieces I trimmed the mold off before toasting and eating, but the last slice I just gave up on. Another over-ripe lemonade. The coriander scraps I actually ate the next day. We had people over, and the chunk of cake and the bread crusts were their left-overs. I do not count cake as ‘food’, due to the anti-nutrient qualities of the sugar. It went in the rubbish bin. I did compost the white bread, but again, I don’t believe that its combination of over-processed ingredients (and chemicals) should be regarded as ‘food’, and as such I did not reuse the leftovers as I would’ve with fruit discarded by another child for example.

The eggshells I had left-over from my baking, and I did bother to wash them, but it is a very annoying job.

Day 6: A few things that you will *not* find in my scraps... Root vegetables and tubers are never peeled in my kitchen. Even when potatoes are mashed, you hardly notice the skins, and I prefer the taste. Carrots, turnips, and Swedes just get washed and diced. Pumpkin skin can be a bit tough (I call it *crunchy*), but for a long time it’s only been visitors to our table leaving the skin behind on the plate (which will end up in a stew or stock). Naturally, I am careful to wash all my fruit and and vegetables when I am using the peel. I had a great natural-bristle scrubbing brush, but it deteriorated eventually, and I am happy to use my Enjo Fruit & Veg Cloth (although any microfibre cloth is good for removing surface ick). My Vitamix helps reduce wastage, too: I blend kiwifruit fuzz, and apple and pear cores into smoothies (their seeds are very healthful in small quantities), and after roasting whole pumpkins, I blitz them seeds’n’all into soup (tastes nuttier). Broccoli and cauliflower stems are diced into stir-fries, and the hard cabbage and silverbeet stems, and the thick cauliflower outer leaves can be added to stocks (I have tried various methods of cooking them, but they were too tough) and blitzed after a LONG time in the pot. Cheese that is tasting too mature goes into cheese sauce, and milk goes into potato bake, custard, or rice pudding before it goes off.

These eggshells I didn’t bother washing, but I will crush up and put in my compost.

Today I made another heap of lemonade and orange peel into a citrus butter that I spread on my homemade sourdough rye bread – delicious!!!  Recipe: In Vitamix I blitzed one whole orange with three other lots of citrus peel (I used peel from two oranges and a lemonade fruit). Add honey to taste.

Day 7: We spent the day with friends, and I couldn’t fit the wasted food in a photo: there was too much of it. I didn’t offer to take the compostables with me, so they all went in the rubbish bin, as did too many outer leaves of lettuce, *generous* trimmings from other salad veges, prawn shells (dubious as to whether I would have made stock out of this, but apparently chooks love them), large amounts of strawberry tops (instead of just the greenery), and, (my biggest wince factor) the food that our hosts’ children did not finish off their plates. But, as with all habits, changing the public perception is a big part of producing less waste, and as we all try to get the word out and lead by example, hopefully there will be more impetus to get better value for our money, waste less food and be kinder to the environment.

My Conclusions:

1. I waste a lot of water in my kitchen! I am going to set up a medium-sized bucket in my sink to catch the water while I wait (interminably) for it to turn hot. This *may* mean that I actually water my vege garden more regularly (another source of waste – if I don’t look after my plants, they die!!!). I can also use steamer water, soaking pots water and (just quietly) kettle emptying water (which does go on… I won’t name any names…).

2. I make bone broth/stock at least once a month, so I will put another empty (yoghurt) bucket in the freezer for my organic vege scraps and peels. Other bloggers use a snap-lock bag for the same purpose. When I whack the bones in the saucepan, I can chuck the scraps in, too.

3. As the weather is getting warmer, we will be having smoothies every day. Cores and greens scraps can go daily into the smoothies; will probably keep a smaller container in the fridge so these bits aren’t left out overnight. Citrus peels are still an issue, I can’t add too much to a smoothie because they are way too strongly flavoured; I am going to use more of the ideas in the websites above.

I don’t think these three ideas will add substantially to my cooking prep or clean-up time, but will cut my food waste by up to a half. Then later on I can think about what to do with other areas of waste that irk me – bones, and pineapple skins (blitz and strain??) for example, and work on reducing the plastic bag/bottle/container usage and wastage somehow!!!

Well, it was fun sharing briefly with you all, and thanks Kathie, for letting me blather on.

(You're welcome Vikki - I found this all very interesting and although I am quite happy in the knowledge that I have no compulsion to eat cucumber/tomato ends, I really do need to be more vigilant in checking scraps for further use.  I know watermelon rind is actually extremely high in good stuff & can be juiced, so will look forward to trying that!  Also, Nigella always adds strips of lemon peel to her chicken/meat marinades.  I must try to get into the habit of zesting or peeling a lemon/orange/lime before juicing it so as to get the maximum out of it.  Thank VIK!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chocolicious Delights

In deference to my older sister who gently chides me for occasionally overdoing the chocolate experimentation, I have deliberately been withholding some of my recent chocolate epiphanies.  However, I now send her a very respectful raspberry as I finally get to share my totally rocking raw chocolate recipe!  I do believe I stole this off a Thermomix website, but it works just as well in my Vitamix and it is the closest I've tasted, to normal chocolate.  Bear in mind, though, that I've been eating 70% dark chocolate for quite a while now so it still may not be as heavenly to you as to me.

Why make your own chocolate?  Ummm ..... because you can!  And of course, this recipe is actually full of ingredients that are actually great for your health, so can be eaten with a lot less guilt than normal crappy chocolate that is full of refined sugar, feral fats, detrimental soy derivatives and heavily processed milk (if you're lucky ;-)).  All the ingredients needed in this recipe will not normally be found in your pantry but are readily available in most health food shops, and once in your pantry - will absolutely, positively be used - and not just for cooking:

Raw Cacao Butter - this is just the natural fat of the chocolate bean, cold-pressed so as to retain all it's goodness.  It's high in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids - all very good for your body.   It is not just good to "cook" with but it is the most amazingly nourishing moisturiser to use on your body.  Read more about it here.  It's not cheap, but you will use all of it and how nice is it to smear on a natural lip balm that actually smells like chocolate!

Raw Cacao Powder - this is what is left of the chocolate bean, once the cacao butter is extracted.  It is nothing like cocoa as this is processed to the point of tasting like dust and having no nutritional value whatsoever.  Raw cacao however is considered a Super Food as it is sky-high in antioxidants, amino acids, feel-good (phyto) chemicals & minerals, especially magnesium which is well know for it's muscle-relaxing and stress relieving properties ...... need I say more????  Yes, it does contain caffeine - only a minute amount in relation to tea or coffee, but enough to still be aware of giving your kids gobs & gobs of it, and of course to maybe not imbibe in masses of it before bedtime.

Raw Agave Syrup - this is a natural sweetener extracted from the Agave cactus at low temps.  It has a lower GI than cane sugar but is sweeter, so you can use less of it.  Read labels carefully as Agave Syrup that is not raw, can be overly processed and have little or no nutritional value.

Vanilla Bean - Did you know that Vanilla Extract contains preservatives that aren't great for you?  I do now make my own Vanilla Extract with just vanilla beans and Bourbon for baking, but it ain't so good for plonking in the raw stuff (that you're not cooking) and handing it round to the kiddies.  So, I always have a stash of whole organic vanilla beans so that I can just scrape out when necessary.  For this recipe I actually just grind up half of the whole bean (not just scrape it) with sea salt till very fine - no waste!

High Quality Sea Salt - Himalayan, Celtic - you must have a salt that is extremely high in essential minerals as this is necessary for your bodily functions.  You can't live without salt, however, normal table salt is B.A.D. for you.  It is soooo processed that your poor body doesn't know how to deal with it.

OK, so now that you have some beautiful ingredients, extract the maximum benefit out of them, and keep them raw!  Cacao butter comes in a solid state so to get it liquid for this recipe, shave off and weigh out the amount you need, place into a bowl, and then place this bowl into a larger bowl of hot water.  It will take about 10 mins to become liquid.

 Be very careful not to get any water in with the cacao butter!  And then you are ready to start.

100g raw cacao butter, liquified (see above)
35g raw cacao powder
45g raw agave syrup
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch of whole ground vanilla bean

Pour cacao butter into a blender or food processor (I use my Vitamix) and add cacao powder to it.   Blend this on the gentlest speed available for 10 - 15 minutes.  This is incredibly important to get the high quality smoothness you want.

Add agave, salt and vanilla & blend well again. Taste, add more sweetener if you want.  Line a small tray with baking paper or grease a mould and pour mixture onto it, and refrigerate.  Feel free to add any further flavours to your chocolate before you set it.  I have only added roasted whole almonds so far - and that is to die for.

And my other great achievement is coming up with a "healthy" chocolate spread for my kids:  Coconutella!  I doubt they'll spread this on bread but it is fantastic drizzled over Cocolicious Icecream or  to dip your strawberries into.  Me:  I was just slurping it up in spoonfuls.

1 cup softened Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil (you don't want this in liquid form as you want to be able to beat it up like butter)

2 cups sifted Raw Organic Cacao Powder (you need the chocolateyness to take away any chance of it being too overwhelmingly coconutty)
1/3 cup raw agave syrup (that's all the sweetness I needed, but you can add more if you want)
Pinch of sea salt (this just enhances the flavour)

Put it all together and whip it up!  I chose not to use my Vitamix because I find it hard to scrape every last bit of goodness out of it, and I wasn't wasting any of this.  I actually just used a hand-held beater, but any stand mixer or food processor would be fine.  Store in a very clean glass jar in the cupboard.  Just like coconut oil, it will harden when cool, and soften when warmed.  I prefer it drippy like chocolate sauce so will often warm it before use.


For normal people, this Coconutella should last you a couple of months.  However, for us, I'm hoping it lasts the week.  Enjoy :-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yummy Rawness (and how grows my garden .......)

I have been meaning to be a little more adventurous in making some more raw meals, and for this I needed and acquired 2 very beautiful items:

My Vitamix

My Spirooli
 It makes raw cooking so much more exciting and a lot easier.  The Spirooli makes the most gorgeous spirals out of fruit and veg and I've found I've been using it a lot more for the kids than for myself.  Apples and carrots are definitely their favourites.  But my main purpose for this was creating my own raw pasta out of zucchini - sooooooo easy.  And when softened in hot water (not boiling, as this would "cook" it) it does actually take on a lot of the characteriestics of al dente pasta.

And for a luscious raw tomato sauce to go on top, I used this recipe:

6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked for 2 hours
6 chopped fresh roma tomatoes
a handful of fresh basil leaves
4 medjool dates, soaked for 2 hours
1 garlic clove
generous pinch of sea salt & splash of cold-pressed olive oil

Throw all into the Vitamix and blend till smooth.

This recipe has everything you need:  intensity from the s-d toms, the zestiness of the basil, sweetness from the dates & the depth from the garlic.  Totally delicious and you can basically use this as a dip if you wanted or just eat it straight out of the Vitamix. To go over my pasta, I warmed it gently (place the amount of tomato sauce you need in a small bowl and place that in a bowl of hot water, that comes up the side of yr first bowl.  Stir).  A meal that is not just vibrant with colour and freshness, but bursting with flavour and goodness.  Give it a try!

The other thing I cannot live without my Vitamix for, is my morning Green Smoothie.  Yes, I've become a little more adventurous with my morning juices, and am now inovlving a hearty dose of green stuff in there as well.  Kale is my first choice, and a couple of leaves in with my banana & pineapple juice and it goes a ludicrous green!

You do not taste the kale, but man, do you feel the benefits - it's like an adrenalin shot!  It is the perfect energiser to start your day with.

And now, for a progress report on my garden. 

If not for my spectacular peas, things would have been a little more dire.

I've enjoyed picking the leaves off of my kale and rocket and lettuce, but to say there's been a bumper crop, would be a massive understatement!  I haven't dared to dig out a carrot yet, and my poor leeks look quite peak-ed.  It may not be good news on that front either.  However, I have managed another capsicum off of my hard-working bush, and another glorious tomato bush has sprung up.  Maybe next winter I'll just stick with peas ......