Simple, Fresh

21 Mon, 2011 § 10 Comments

The bulk food bins & I have bonded deeply the last few years.

You know it’s serious when your husband says,

“I’ll leave you to it – this is like Disneyland for you,”

before he darts off for the meat & cheese counters.

Buying bulk is less expensive & less wasteful, especially if you BYOB [bags].  It offers variety & a chance to try small quantities of something, by buying only what you need; this means your goods are likely fresher.  It also seems fresher to pour my grains, seeds, beans, nuts & dried fruit from glass rather than plastic bags or containers.

We keep a lot of our bulk items in our favorite snap containers from World Market.  I always have more bulk than I have containers for though, so I also store food in mason jars as well as reuse other food jars, which once held oils, pickles, etc.  Food storage does not have to be expensive; in fact, it can be downright cheap.

As long as it stays fresh, I am happy.

Dave is right: the bulk section makes me embarrassingly excited.  Whatever my food mood, I can generally fill it here.

Lately, my Spring [fever] mood has been light & distinct, using only a few ingredients to highlight simple flavors.

Five[or six]-ingredient grain salads.

[I have seen variations of these online but can’t find the links now.  Sorry.]

Lentils & Barley with Cardamom

  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup almond or hemp milk
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cashews, toasted

Combine & rinse barley & lentils.  Combine with water & milk & bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover & simmer 30 – 40 minutes until most of the water is absorbed.  Toward the end of cooking, stir in cardamom, salt & raisins.  Once water is absorbed & grains are cooked, allow to rest a few minutes.  Stir in coconut & garnish individual servings with cashews.

Tarragon Vinaigrette over Quinoa & Roasted Beets

  • 3 T champagne vinegar
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T tarragon [fresh if available; I used ~1 tsp dried]
  • ~6 medium beets, roasted
  • ~2 cups cooked quinoa
  • pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • sea salt & fresh pepper

Combine  vinaigrette ingredients & toss with quinoa & roasted beets.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper & top with roasted pumpkin seeds.  Tarragon is my new favorite combination with beets.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some fresh.

~

Do you shop the bulk section?  What has been your favorite find?

Love For Earth

9 Wed, 2011 § 4 Comments

Taking your own bags to the grocery store is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste & threat to wild animals & birds, yet I still see many people leaving the store with arms loaded with paper & plastic bags.  😦

Hundreds of billions of plastic bags end up in our environment each year. Their production process consumes large amounts of non-renewable petroleum & uses toxic chemicals.  They are not biodegradable.  Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled.  The cost of recycling these is high with end results not all that appealing or profitable for recyclers.  Many bags sent to be recycled actually end up being shipped to countries where they can be cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws.

Reusing seems to be the only viable option.

I am really happy with my bags from Love For Earth & always get a lot of compliments when I am filling these lovely, mesh bags with fruit & veggies at the store or farmers’ market.  They come in various sizes & colors & secure easily with a drawstring closure [I think you might have to specify if you want the drawstring].  Easy to clean with soap & warm water, I simply hang them over the sink to dry quickly.  The mesh bags even store most produce in the fridge until you are ready to use it up.

My mom uses the mesh produce bags now.  She seems to be a fan too.

Kara is wonderful to work with, & her bags are beautiful, high quality & some of the most reasonably priced I have found.

She was even kind — & creative — enough to make a bunch of durable bags for my bulk grain & legume shopping.

The only thing these are missing is a drawstring.

They will certainly last — & be well used — for a long, long time.

~

Have you found any wonderful, reusable bags you recommend?

It’s the Little Things

23 Wed, 2011 § 7 Comments

It is strange sleeping alone – well, I am not exactly alone.

[that’s Eisley’s little white-tipped nose…they are kissing]

I have become an Allie sandwich with Bodh-Eis bread.  These sweeties have sure softened the blow of my loneliness the last couple nights.

To show them how much they mean to me, I biked home yesterday during my lunch break to give them some love.  The act seemed small because my time with them was pretty short.  I would like to think this act is notable though & softened their lonely day.  My commute takes about 30 minutes in the morning, but happy anticipation pushed me home in 20.  This isn’t a leisurely stroll either; I’m cranking & have a decent climb over a hill that had slipped my mind.  They are worth it…their greetings makes it worth it too.

How on earth can I give Bodhi the attention he deserves with a needy pup in my face?  I try though.  After playing fetch with her for awhile, I distracted Eisley by letting her lick the skin off one hand while brushing Bodhi with the other.  😀

The little things have been on my mind.  I am recognizing & appreciating the small acts I do not normally notice on a day-to-day basis, like Dave always setting the alarm clock or turning on the space heater for me.  I mean, I am a big girl & can set my own clock, but honestly, I was a little paranoid it was not going to go off after I messed with it.

There are the big things too of course, like coming home to a clean – I mean immaculate – house.  We are both generally tidy people who prefer cleaning different areas, which makes us a great team.  If things are clean, I am good at keeping them clean…but the floors hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned since we moved in.  Confession: we have not replaced our vacuum yet & I am being picky about the dust mop I want, which is apparently out of stock indefinitely [or so it seems].  Christine was nice enough to drop off her vacuum & Swiffer before we left for Albuquerque, so Dave cleaned while I was gone – he vacuumed, organized, scrubbed & laundered.  Our home feels lighter & fresh.  I am simply happier because of it.

You know what else brings light, fresh & happy to mind now that we are in AZ?

Local oranges.

While I was away over the weekend, one of Dave’s Valentine gifts arrived, but he had no oranges.  He is the oj drinker of the house, & while I usually pass, it seems sad just sitting on the counter, so I will just have to break it in.  Oh what a life.

Nothing quite like fresh.  It just seems happier.

Cheers.

~

Open your eyes & heart today.  What small acts of love do you overlook?  Express your appreciation & make your own love known now!

The Good Foam [Homemade Almond Milk]

9 Wed, 2011 § 7 Comments

We like the taste of almond milk & the convenience of buying it – heck, we like the fact we have the option of buying this.  What I am not enjoying is throwing the packaging out every week.

So…we started making our own again, which is actually more delicious.  It lives in a cute, glass carafe in the fridge & will keep ~5 – 7 days.  I like the taste of the stuff from the store just fine, but it still tastes a little processed.  Fresh tastes, well, fresh — & the foam —

oh the foam!

  • 1 C almonds, soaked overnight to germinate
  • 3 C water

Rinse & strain almonds & combine with water in a blender & blend.  Pour through a cheese cloth into a container & squeeze all excess liquid from the almond pulp using the cheese cloth.  You can leave it at that or combine pulp & liquid & blend again for thicker, creamier almond milk.  I make ours with a small magic bullet, so it is triple & quadruple blended! 😀

Save the pulp to sprinkle over salads, stir into cereal or morning porridge or try Dave’s favorite: bread chicken [or tofu or seitan I’m sure] with the shredded almond meal & pan fry.  Keep almond pulp in the fridge for ~5 days; it also freezes well if you are not going to use it within 5 days.

You can also add vanilla or cinnamon or cocoa, a sweetener, etc for more flavor, though I usually keep it plain.

I won’t lie.  Though worth it once made, Dave & I are both guilty of catching the lazy bug when it comes to grabbing soaked nuts from the fridge to whip up milk.  Some days it takes a couple lonely cookies to finally coax me into making a new batch.  I promise the thick & foamy result is worth the “hard work”.

~

What kind of milk do you drink?

Keepin’ It Clean

27 Thu, 2011 § 4 Comments

Convenient.  Gets the job done.  Disposes of the messy evidence.

No wonder we have a hard time letting go of paper towels.  We are trying though.  They are probably one of the biggest waste contributors & likely the easiest to give up —

because the alternatives work even better.

Inexpensive microfiber cloths are easy to find — I found a pack of 5 for $5 at Family Dollar — these stay in the kitchen, readily available when the moment hits.  They have worked great & obviously absorb even better than a paper towel.

Something that is not as seamless to get rid of are garbage bags/liners for the trash can.  It means we will be hauling the container out, but we have yet to make a trip out there since becoming more mindful of our waste…though we forgot to put it in the closed closet & even if you have a perfect little pup…if you leave the garbage out, she is going to string it all over the house get in it…

Not having a liner means wiping out the garbage can more often, but I don’t mind having a cleaner, more sanitary pail anyway.

Speaking of sanitary, I have never been a fan of sponges or replaceable scrub-brushes.  They sort of gross me out.  I have always used 100% cotton-yarn, handmade dishcloths.

My mom crocheted some for me when I first moved out & taught me to make them myself; I have also learned to knit them.  This cute flower-shaped one was actually crocheted by my grandma.  I love the way they work & the fact I just throw them in the wash to clean them.

I recently grabbed a set of Twist sponge blossoms for a little extra scrubbage, which gross me out less than typical sponges; though honestly I have only used it once.  You can wash it in the top rack of your dish washer.

Hand-washing dishes has changed quite a bit for me.  I realized we used wasted a lot of water with our usual method, so now I do what I have always had a hard time doing: fill the sink — even the rinse side which is something I learned from my father-in-law — I have always dreaded reaching into “dirty” dish water.  Oh well, I got over it.  I also almost always keep the stopper in to catch water when we wash our hands, rinse pots, pans, etc. & just place dishes in to soak [before adding it to the dishwasher] rather than constantly running the faucet to rinse.  I have even been holding onto a recipe for our own dishwasher detergent, which I will share as soon as I run out of our current.

Something I will share now to make up for all the dirty talk:

If you are unaware, I love chickpea flour.  When Ashley made Chickpea Bake, I had to try it.  I love the texture; it’s dense & most.  I left the curry out & did not really care for the garlicky flavor though, so I tried it again with my own twist & loved how it toyed between sweet & savory.

Here is my Cinnamon Basil variation, but check out her original recipe too.

  • 1 1/4 C chickpea flour
  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk
  • 1T unsweetened applesauce maple syrup
  • 1T safflower oil coconut oil [I melted the oil in my ~9×9 baking dish then poured it into the rest of the ingredients to mix.  I had my oil; the pan was greased!]
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1t curry
  • 1/2t garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • few shakes of garam masala
  • 1 – 2 tsp basil [1 for subtle & sweeter; 2 for a stronger savory flavor]
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine dry ingredients; combine wet ingredients.

Mix together until just combined.

Bake at 375* for 30 minutes. [Ashley’s baked for 40 minutes but mine didn’t need that long, so check at 30.]

~

Have you ever baked with chickpea flour?

What are your favorite cleaning/waste reduction methods in the kitchen?

Minimalist Kitchen

26 Wed, 2011 § 5 Comments

Our kitchen does not look bare but is defined by its restraint according to Dave.  This statement quickly became clear as he noted the obvious enthusiasm I exude when stepping into a kitchen supply store.  It does take much restraint to not leave with arms full of fun & ingenious goods.

There are special devices for slicing each type of fruit, a utensil for every conceivable dish & numerous other clever tools that could surely be put to use in nearly any kitchen.

I could easily fill our kitchen with gadgets & various odds & ends but have decided all I really need to get the job done is quality cookware, a few basic tools & a good set of knives.  My weakness is dishware & photo props, but the few I have acquired or generously been gifted by my sister have been second-hand.  Re.Used.

I have found new uses for items, like this cute little tart tin I had once turned into a magnet.  Now it holds freshly ground sea salt on the stove for accessible pinching while cooking — & because of the magnet, it does not budge!  Ok, so this was Dave’s idea — how crafty is he?!

I also recently went through every drawer & cabinet, analyzing its contents, searching for items we truly did not use.  The only thing I came out with were replaceable rims to our Magic Bullet cups.

I guess I will donate these, though I cannot imagine anyone would want just the rims.  Perhaps they are recyclable?

~

As we are trying to reduce waste & live simply, it is difficult for me to grasp the 80-20 notion.  I have heard the average household only uses 20% of the stuff filling their home; so in theory you could get rid of 80% of your belongings.  I cannot imagine this is accurate as it does not ring true for us; but perhaps this is because we purged much of our belongings during the big move & do not buy a lot of extra things.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the 80-20 concept!

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