Preserving the Fall Harvest & 2 Big Improvements To the Canning Kitchen

Sunday, September 17, 2023

It's been a while! Just wanted to say hello ๐Ÿ‘‹and share some great ways to make use of fall's bounty.

Inky and an early tomato, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023. All rights reserved.

Despite the weird weather, we've had a very good tomato year in our garden. There's been some blight but we've managed to minimize it by mulching well with crushed straw, fertilizing a few times, and trimming all the affected leaves and branches off. And the wasps have mostly been keeping up with the dreaded tomato hornworms. We planted two Sungolds, a purple Cherokee, an heirloom beefsteak, and six Amish paste tomato plants that local farmer Jay of Four Winds Farm swears by for making sauce. They have produced a ton of fruits. ๐Ÿ…

Tomatoes from the garden, copyright 2023, Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog

I'm excited to share two big improvements here in the Garden of Eating kitchen.

1. Induction Stove
Last winter, we made the decision to 
swap our propane gas kitchen stove out for an induction cooktop and oven. I was a bit hesitant at first since I abhor electric stoves but am happy to report that it's been a real gamechanger and is nothing like cooking on an electric stove. One of the perks is that it's cut the time required to boil water and heat things in half - a real boon for canning projects! And there's no more noxious gas smell from the cooktop or oven (we had both.) It's also very easy to clean. And we're producing a lot fewer greenhouse gas emissions since most of our electricity comes from our solar array. Although I was drooling over this gorgeous AGA stove (maybe someday), we ended up getting this far more affordable Samsung model. Regardless of whether you can afford the high or low-end version, I highly recommend making the switch to an induction rangeit's a big improvement over cooking with gas.

Our affordable Samsung induction range, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023

2. Ditched the Plastic Funnel
Given what I now know about all the toxic chemicals used in plastics from my job at Beyond Plastics and the likelihood of said chemicals leeching into food in the presence of heat, I've also swapped out my plastic canning funnel for a set of stainless steel funnels. I feel much better not pouring boiling food through a plastic funnel.

Stainless steel funnels, no more plastic! By Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2023. All rights reserved.

Now for the recipes!

Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce To Freeze
In July, I made a few quarts of roasted tomato, garlic and herb sauce and froze them for future meals.  Core and cut up the tomatoes, toss them with fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano), and whole cloves of garlic and bake on sheet trays at 300°F for a few hours, moving them around a few times to prevent uneven cooking. Once everything is cooked down into a soft, mellow mess, remove any herb stems, transfer to a pot and use an immersion blender to blend until it reaches your desired consistency. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can blend the sauce in batches in your blender or food processor until you acquire one of these magical devices (trust me, you will love this thing!) Add salt, pepper and perhaps a bit of sugar to taste. Let it cool and ladle it into glass jars (or another freezer-safe container of your choice) and freeze. 

Variations

Slow roasted heirloom tomatoes with garlic and herbs by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Heirloom Tomato Salsa
I've made and canned several batches of Aunt Maggie's salsa because it's so much tastier than jarred store-bought salsa. Made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, salt, vinegar and sugar, this recipe is delightfully unfussy because you blend it all prior to cooking. Recipe and canning directions here.

Salsa ingredients in the cuisinart by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

Crushed or Whole Peeled Tomatoes
I've also made quarts of plain old crushed tomatoes to have on hand to add to soups and stews this winter or to use as the base for tomato sauces. Our younger son discovered penne a la vodka during the pandemic so that's now in our semi-regular rotation :) Ball Canning Book's recipe here. You can, of course, also freeze crushed tomatoes if you prefer a quicker, less labor-intensive method of preserving.

Jars of crushed tomatoes fresh out of the canning pot, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023, all rights reserved

If you prefer whole tomatoes to crushed, check out my instructions for canning whole peeled tomatoes. I'd say they require the same amount of labor since you have to remove the peels, something I don't bother doing for crushed.


Today, I plan to make and can a batch of pizza sauce with the latest round of 'maters from the garden. I'll try to share the recipe for that soon.

Sun gold tomatoes on the vine in our garden by Eve Fox, copyright 2023 The Garden of Eating blog. All rights reserved.

Applesauce
It will soon be time to switch to making applesaucea project I always liked but enjoy roughly 1000 times more since we bought this simple apple peeler/corer/slicer combo tool five years ago. It feels like cheating but I don't care. Latkes, here we come!

My recipe and canning instructions for easy cinnamon applesauce are here.

Apples on our neighbors' tree by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2007

I hope you're all doing well - that the weather in your neck of the woods is not too extreme, that those of you with kids are enjoying a smooth start to the school year and appreciating the return of a solid routine, that you're watching a great show or reading (or listening to) a great book, and that you're finding moments of joy, fun and peace in this rollercoaster we call life.

You might also like:


20 Terrific Tomato Recipes


Sheet Pan Dinner: Crispy Ramen Noodles With Glazed Tofu & Roasted Shredded Cabbage

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Spicy sweet tofu with crispy ramen noodles and roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

Well, helloooo. Long time, no post - life's just been too busy. But I'm breaking my years-long silence to share a new family favorite with you.

This perfect dinner was inspired by a recipe I found in the New York Times Cooking section over the winter. The bones are the same but I've made some adjustments -- punched up the marinade (it needed ginger and a little spice) and increased the amount of it, replaced the bok choy with thinly sliced cabbage which becomes deliciously sweet and mellow when roasted, and split the ingredients into two sheet pans to make room for more noodles and more cabbage.

Crispy spicy sweet sheetpan tofu by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

Our family includes both a newly minted vegetarian and also a major noodle lover and this recipe ticks both boxes as well as providing protein and a vegetable. I recommend serving it another veggie side like a simple cucumber or green salad or some edamame to round the meal out. It's a hit every time we make it. I hope you like it, too.

Sheet pan crispy ramen noodles by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.
-- print recipe --

Sheet Pan Crispy Ramen Noodles With Glazed Tofu & Roasted Cabbage
Recipe is adapted slightly from Hetty McKinnon's recipe in NYTimes Cooking

Ingredients

  • Dried ramen noodles (at least 9 ounces) although you can use spaghetti if you can't find ramen noodles (do NOT include any flavor packets)
  • 2 Tbsps neutral oil, such as grapeseed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, pressed to remove the liquid, patted dry and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • Half a small head of cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, thinly sliced or shredded
  • A handful of cilantro leaves
For the marinade
  • 4 Tbsps hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsps sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsps maple syrup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsps sesame seeds
  • A good-sized (2") knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
  • A squirt of sriracha, or more to taste if you like things spicy

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles.
  2. Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well.
  3. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions then drain and toss with a splash of grapeseed or olive oil.
  4. Dip the tofu slices in the marinade on both sides and lay them on one of the baking sheets.
  5. Toss the sliced cabbage with salt and grapeseed oil until well-coated and lay it on the other half of the baking sheet the tofu slices are on. Put the tray in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, arrange the ramen noodles on the other baking sheet. When the timer goes off, check the cabbage and tofu, stirring or flipping as needed then put it back in the oven along with tray of noodles and set a timer for 10 minutes.
  7. Check both trays and stir the noodles some to ensure that the ones on top get crispy but not burned, toss the remainder of the marinade over the noodles and bake for another 5 minutes or until the top noodles are crispy and lightly browned.
  8. Remove trays, let cool, sprinkle with sesame seeds, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro and serve.
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Why You Should Go Plastic-Free + How To Start Right Now

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Even if you're not following the news about recycling and plastic pollution as closely as I am, you've probably seen some of the articles (try this one or this one or this set of photographs to start) or noticed that your garbage company or city has changed the rules about recycling of late.

The shake up in recycling is caused by the fact that China - who used to buy the vast majority of our recycling to process and turn into plastic pellets for sale - stopped accepting it in January of 2018 because it was too contaminated and was destroying what's left of their rather battered environment.


Which leaves us with a whole lot of "recycling" on our hands. A few other countries in South East Asia have been accepting smaller amounts of it but they're getting quickly overwhelmed by both the sheer volume and the messy state it's in. Facing massive price increases from waste management companies, some U.S. cities and towns have recently stopped recycling altogether. Others are now burning it all in energy-producing facilities. While producing energy from a waste product is theoretically a good idea, it's undermined by the deeply negative effect this petrochemical infused smoke is having on air quality and public health. Nish-nish!

It's a complicated mess -- our reliance on plastic, our mania for convenience and corporations' quests for ever-greater profits are turning our planet (especially our oceans) into a gigantic garbage dump that's killing marine life like sea turtles who routinely and understandably mistake plastic bags for jellyfish - one of their favorite foods.


There is no natural process that can break down conventional plastics. As a result, nearly every piece of plastic ever produced is still with us either in a landfill, in our oceans or just lying along the roadsides. Plastic doesn't ever go away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually infiltrate our groundwater, soil, food and air, filling our bodies with bad chemicals that increase our risk of cancer and other ills. That's the bad news.

The good news is that there are two levels of solutions you can pursue: personal solutions and policy solutions. Although this post will focus on the personal, I want to be clear that while personal solutions are important, policy solutions are actually far more important and effective. We can't just switch to glass storage containers and metal straws and call it a day, we have to push for systemic changes on a much larger scale. I plan to write a series of other posts on the policy solutions with clear, simple instructions on how you can help tackle things like banning plastic bags, straws and polystyrene foam in your community and putting pressure on manufacturers to change the way they package their products.


But since I know you probably spend a decent amount of time in your kitchen, we'll start today with some simple changes you can make in your own life right now. Some of these may be tougher for you than others. Most will take some repetition to cement them into habit but you'll feel much better about your impact on the world. If this list overwhelms you, just pick one or two to start, bookmark this post and come back to it when you're ready to take on another one or two.

KICK THE PLASTIC HABIT


1. Stop using plastic wrap - it's bad news. Try one of the wax-infused fabrics like Abeego, Bee's Wrap or other brands or make your own which is significantly cheaper and could be a good project to do with any kids in your life as most kids love wax! You can also get a set of silicone stretch lids to cover bowls and pots. Even easier, you can do what I do and simply cover the bowl with a clean plastic produce bag or a plate that's the right size - both work well and are don't cost a cent.


2. Stop buying foods and other things packaged in plastic. Just say "no" to foam trays, blisterpacks, clamshells, shrink wrap, plastic wrap, and the like. If you can't buy it in bulk (see below) or get it at your farmers market or in your CSA box, opt for a version sold in glass, cardboard or metal. And while you're resisting, it would be very helpful if you politely told the store manager that you are not going to buy things packaged in plastic and urged her or him to consider choosing other products.


3. Buy in bulk, bringing your own reusable containers to fill. Search for stores that sell food, soap, shampoo, moisturizer, etc., in bulk near you and/or see if you can join a mail-order coop locally. Here's my advice on this topic (old but still good.)

Bulk bins

4. Bring your own bags and stop taking plastic bags for your fruits and veggies, too. If you're like me, you've got a ton of reusable canvas totes at your disposal. Squirrel them away in any spot you might ever need one - your car, your bike, your little grocery cart. Place them by your front door to make it easier to remember them when you head out to fill the larder. If you're in the store and realize you forgot them, either run back out and grab them or just load everything into your cart and then pack it into your bags at your car. If you absolutely have to take a bag from a store, make it a paper one. This is a habit that takes a bit of repetition to establish but, thankfully, plastic bag bans are on the rise (including right here in my neck of the woods!) so, hopefully, stores near you will stop offering plastic bags soon which will force you to remember your reusable bags. It's a good example of the power of intelligent public policy. ๐Ÿ˜

Bag O' Bags
One of my many tote bags filled with cleaned, dried, reused plastic bags for produce.
5. Replace plastic tupperware with glass and metal storage containers. My previous advice on this quest is here and it's still all true. If you want recommendations, this 8-piece set with snap lids by OXO is nice as is this 9-piece set by Utopia. I like that both are made from borosilicate glass which means  can withstand dramatic temperature changes without breaking (unlike frikking Pyrex whose parent company Corelle quietly switched to using cheaper, less durable glass in its U.S. products about 20 years ago...) I'm also partial Luminarc's glass working jars with lids which I like to use for things like salad dressing and yogurt. I do own a whole lot of glass Pyrex storage containers, too. And we rely on a selection of metal Lunchbots bento box-style containers and Konserve round containers that see heavy use in our kids' lunches.

Inside of my "tupperware" drawer post plastic-removal by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

6. Don't succumb to plastic cutlery - bring your own set of reusable cutlery with you. When I was in college (twenty years ago - how did that happen?!0, I bought a bunch of sets of metal knife, fork and spoon on a ring and gave them to all my friends and family in little canvas carrying sacks I'd made. I still have mine and they're in perfect shape although the canvas carrying bag is rather dirty - I keep them in my backpack so they're there when I need them. Others have had the same idea since and now there are similar sets made out of bamboo. I am also intrigued by this folding metal spork and this 5-in-1 combination deal (though it has a plastic handle.) You really do not have to buy anything to embrace this concept - just take your smallest fork, knife and spoon and put them in a small carrying case.
7. Skip the plastic straw - you can bring your own stainless steel or bamboo straw or just (gasp!) drink straight from your reusable cup or mug. I bought a four-pack of these metal straws years ago - they're indestructible. You can also get glass straws but it seems like asking for trouble to me, particularly if you're going to carry it around with you.

8. Use actual cutlery, plates, cups and napkins next time you host a party or event and plan to just wash it all after the fun is over. Don't forget to put out separate bins for food scraps to compost and for any recyclable cans and bottles. It might take a few dishwasher runs to get through it all but don't you want your kids to inherit a habitable planet?! If it's a really big event, you can rent dishes, glassware, silverware and napkins.


10. Bring your own mug or cup when you get coffee, tea, a smoothie or other drinks out. There are some great options out there nowadays including this double walled glass travel mug, this insulated steel mug and this insulated stainless steel tumbler. If you have time to sit down, just ask them to serve it in a china mug or a glass.
This fancy, insulated deal includes a steel top and straw - equally good for hot or cold drinks.
11. Do NOT buy water or other drinks in plastic bottles. In addition to littering the planet, they're bad for your own health (that leaching problem again). Bring a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you and use it, instead. I am a loyal Kleen Kanteen user and also really like these Hydroflask insulated water bottles. Glass is a good if somewhat heavier and more fragile option (better for adults, methinks) and Lifefactory has some nice ones.


12. Bring your own take-out containers to restaurants and stores so you don't have to take a foam, plastic, plastic-coated cardboard or aluminum takeout container home with you in your efforts to avoid wasting food. One thing I do is to leave a clean, multi-tiered, metal tiffin in the trunk of my car so I can run out and grab it if I need it. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to say the word "tiffin" which is just such a pleasure :)
13. Wash and reuse Ziploc and other plastic bags as well as sturdy plastic containers from yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, etc. Use them until they finally give out. When they do give up the ghost, replace them with a set of washable cotton produce bags like these. Meanwhile, you've been buying in bulk, making your own yogurt and choosing milk and other products sold in glass bottles so you should not be collecting nearly as many of these containers anymore, right?

Makeshift Bag Drier

14. If you pack lunch, switch to metal containers and reusable sandwich and snack bags. There's been a lot of innovation in the last decade so there are great options out there including my personal favorites, Lunchbots stainless steel divided bento box style containers. If you're looking for something to replace Ziplocs and sandwich bags, try Lunchskins and Stasher -- even though the Stasher bags are made of silicone - which is plastic - they are sturdy enough to last for years, taking them firmly out of the single use category. Of course you can always reuse plastic containers you have on hand - something we do every day along with our Lunchbots and reusable sandwich bags. You've already got my recommendations on the best water bottles.


15. Stop using wipes. I know this is a tough one for parents of babies and toddlers (it's definitely hard for me!) but I read this article in the Atlantic recently and now I can't unsee it -- the term "fatberg" seems permanently etched in my memory ๐Ÿ˜ฑ. Wipes are made from plastics and synthetic cellulosic fibers that will never fully degrade but instead break into microplastics which transmit harmful chemicals to marine wildlife (and ultimately, to us). So it's back to toilet paper, washcloths, rags and good old-fashioned soap and water to clean our dirty butts and kitchen counters. If you don't already have a set, try these fabulous Swedish cloths in lieu of wipes or paper towels. Environmentally-friendly (made from cotton and wood pulp-derived cellulose), washable, durable and cute to boot.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post, I am very impressed as I know it's been a long one. Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know where you are in the journey to cut plastic out of your life. I am curious about what's been hardest and easiest for you to change and eager to hear any tips and tricks you want to share.

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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Preserving the Fall Harvest & 2 Big Improvements To the Canning Kitchen

It's been a while! Just wanted to say hello ๐Ÿ‘‹and share some great ways to make use of fall's bounty.

Inky and an early tomato, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023. All rights reserved.

Despite the weird weather, we've had a very good tomato year in our garden. There's been some blight but we've managed to minimize it by mulching well with crushed straw, fertilizing a few times, and trimming all the affected leaves and branches off. And the wasps have mostly been keeping up with the dreaded tomato hornworms. We planted two Sungolds, a purple Cherokee, an heirloom beefsteak, and six Amish paste tomato plants that local farmer Jay of Four Winds Farm swears by for making sauce. They have produced a ton of fruits. ๐Ÿ…

Tomatoes from the garden, copyright 2023, Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog

I'm excited to share two big improvements here in the Garden of Eating kitchen.

1. Induction Stove
Last winter, we made the decision to 
swap our propane gas kitchen stove out for an induction cooktop and oven. I was a bit hesitant at first since I abhor electric stoves but am happy to report that it's been a real gamechanger and is nothing like cooking on an electric stove. One of the perks is that it's cut the time required to boil water and heat things in half - a real boon for canning projects! And there's no more noxious gas smell from the cooktop or oven (we had both.) It's also very easy to clean. And we're producing a lot fewer greenhouse gas emissions since most of our electricity comes from our solar array. Although I was drooling over this gorgeous AGA stove (maybe someday), we ended up getting this far more affordable Samsung model. Regardless of whether you can afford the high or low-end version, I highly recommend making the switch to an induction rangeit's a big improvement over cooking with gas.

Our affordable Samsung induction range, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023

2. Ditched the Plastic Funnel
Given what I now know about all the toxic chemicals used in plastics from my job at Beyond Plastics and the likelihood of said chemicals leeching into food in the presence of heat, I've also swapped out my plastic canning funnel for a set of stainless steel funnels. I feel much better not pouring boiling food through a plastic funnel.

Stainless steel funnels, no more plastic! By Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2023. All rights reserved.

Now for the recipes!

Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce To Freeze
In July, I made a few quarts of roasted tomato, garlic and herb sauce and froze them for future meals.  Core and cut up the tomatoes, toss them with fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano), and whole cloves of garlic and bake on sheet trays at 300°F for a few hours, moving them around a few times to prevent uneven cooking. Once everything is cooked down into a soft, mellow mess, remove any herb stems, transfer to a pot and use an immersion blender to blend until it reaches your desired consistency. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can blend the sauce in batches in your blender or food processor until you acquire one of these magical devices (trust me, you will love this thing!) Add salt, pepper and perhaps a bit of sugar to taste. Let it cool and ladle it into glass jars (or another freezer-safe container of your choice) and freeze. 

Variations

Slow roasted heirloom tomatoes with garlic and herbs by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Heirloom Tomato Salsa
I've made and canned several batches of Aunt Maggie's salsa because it's so much tastier than jarred store-bought salsa. Made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, salt, vinegar and sugar, this recipe is delightfully unfussy because you blend it all prior to cooking. Recipe and canning directions here.

Salsa ingredients in the cuisinart by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

Crushed or Whole Peeled Tomatoes
I've also made quarts of plain old crushed tomatoes to have on hand to add to soups and stews this winter or to use as the base for tomato sauces. Our younger son discovered penne a la vodka during the pandemic so that's now in our semi-regular rotation :) Ball Canning Book's recipe here. You can, of course, also freeze crushed tomatoes if you prefer a quicker, less labor-intensive method of preserving.

Jars of crushed tomatoes fresh out of the canning pot, copyright Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating blog 2023, all rights reserved

If you prefer whole tomatoes to crushed, check out my instructions for canning whole peeled tomatoes. I'd say they require the same amount of labor since you have to remove the peels, something I don't bother doing for crushed.


Today, I plan to make and can a batch of pizza sauce with the latest round of 'maters from the garden. I'll try to share the recipe for that soon.

Sun gold tomatoes on the vine in our garden by Eve Fox, copyright 2023 The Garden of Eating blog. All rights reserved.

Applesauce
It will soon be time to switch to making applesaucea project I always liked but enjoy roughly 1000 times more since we bought this simple apple peeler/corer/slicer combo tool five years ago. It feels like cheating but I don't care. Latkes, here we come!

My recipe and canning instructions for easy cinnamon applesauce are here.

Apples on our neighbors' tree by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2007

I hope you're all doing well - that the weather in your neck of the woods is not too extreme, that those of you with kids are enjoying a smooth start to the school year and appreciating the return of a solid routine, that you're watching a great show or reading (or listening to) a great book, and that you're finding moments of joy, fun and peace in this rollercoaster we call life.

You might also like:


20 Terrific Tomato Recipes


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Sheet Pan Dinner: Crispy Ramen Noodles With Glazed Tofu & Roasted Shredded Cabbage

Spicy sweet tofu with crispy ramen noodles and roasted cabbage by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

Well, helloooo. Long time, no post - life's just been too busy. But I'm breaking my years-long silence to share a new family favorite with you.

This perfect dinner was inspired by a recipe I found in the New York Times Cooking section over the winter. The bones are the same but I've made some adjustments -- punched up the marinade (it needed ginger and a little spice) and increased the amount of it, replaced the bok choy with thinly sliced cabbage which becomes deliciously sweet and mellow when roasted, and split the ingredients into two sheet pans to make room for more noodles and more cabbage.

Crispy spicy sweet sheetpan tofu by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

Our family includes both a newly minted vegetarian and also a major noodle lover and this recipe ticks both boxes as well as providing protein and a vegetable. I recommend serving it another veggie side like a simple cucumber or green salad or some edamame to round the meal out. It's a hit every time we make it. I hope you like it, too.

Sheet pan crispy ramen noodles by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.
-- print recipe --

Sheet Pan Crispy Ramen Noodles With Glazed Tofu & Roasted Cabbage
Recipe is adapted slightly from Hetty McKinnon's recipe in NYTimes Cooking

Ingredients

  • Dried ramen noodles (at least 9 ounces) although you can use spaghetti if you can't find ramen noodles (do NOT include any flavor packets)
  • 2 Tbsps neutral oil, such as grapeseed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, pressed to remove the liquid, patted dry and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • Half a small head of cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, thinly sliced or shredded
  • A handful of cilantro leaves
For the marinade
  • 4 Tbsps hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsps sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsps maple syrup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsps sesame seeds
  • A good-sized (2") knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
  • A squirt of sriracha, or more to taste if you like things spicy

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles.
  2. Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well.
  3. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions then drain and toss with a splash of grapeseed or olive oil.
  4. Dip the tofu slices in the marinade on both sides and lay them on one of the baking sheets.
  5. Toss the sliced cabbage with salt and grapeseed oil until well-coated and lay it on the other half of the baking sheet the tofu slices are on. Put the tray in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, arrange the ramen noodles on the other baking sheet. When the timer goes off, check the cabbage and tofu, stirring or flipping as needed then put it back in the oven along with tray of noodles and set a timer for 10 minutes.
  7. Check both trays and stir the noodles some to ensure that the ones on top get crispy but not burned, toss the remainder of the marinade over the noodles and bake for another 5 minutes or until the top noodles are crispy and lightly browned.
  8. Remove trays, let cool, sprinkle with sesame seeds, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro and serve.
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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why You Should Go Plastic-Free + How To Start Right Now

Even if you're not following the news about recycling and plastic pollution as closely as I am, you've probably seen some of the articles (try this one or this one or this set of photographs to start) or noticed that your garbage company or city has changed the rules about recycling of late.

The shake up in recycling is caused by the fact that China - who used to buy the vast majority of our recycling to process and turn into plastic pellets for sale - stopped accepting it in January of 2018 because it was too contaminated and was destroying what's left of their rather battered environment.


Which leaves us with a whole lot of "recycling" on our hands. A few other countries in South East Asia have been accepting smaller amounts of it but they're getting quickly overwhelmed by both the sheer volume and the messy state it's in. Facing massive price increases from waste management companies, some U.S. cities and towns have recently stopped recycling altogether. Others are now burning it all in energy-producing facilities. While producing energy from a waste product is theoretically a good idea, it's undermined by the deeply negative effect this petrochemical infused smoke is having on air quality and public health. Nish-nish!

It's a complicated mess -- our reliance on plastic, our mania for convenience and corporations' quests for ever-greater profits are turning our planet (especially our oceans) into a gigantic garbage dump that's killing marine life like sea turtles who routinely and understandably mistake plastic bags for jellyfish - one of their favorite foods.


There is no natural process that can break down conventional plastics. As a result, nearly every piece of plastic ever produced is still with us either in a landfill, in our oceans or just lying along the roadsides. Plastic doesn't ever go away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually infiltrate our groundwater, soil, food and air, filling our bodies with bad chemicals that increase our risk of cancer and other ills. That's the bad news.

The good news is that there are two levels of solutions you can pursue: personal solutions and policy solutions. Although this post will focus on the personal, I want to be clear that while personal solutions are important, policy solutions are actually far more important and effective. We can't just switch to glass storage containers and metal straws and call it a day, we have to push for systemic changes on a much larger scale. I plan to write a series of other posts on the policy solutions with clear, simple instructions on how you can help tackle things like banning plastic bags, straws and polystyrene foam in your community and putting pressure on manufacturers to change the way they package their products.


But since I know you probably spend a decent amount of time in your kitchen, we'll start today with some simple changes you can make in your own life right now. Some of these may be tougher for you than others. Most will take some repetition to cement them into habit but you'll feel much better about your impact on the world. If this list overwhelms you, just pick one or two to start, bookmark this post and come back to it when you're ready to take on another one or two.

KICK THE PLASTIC HABIT


1. Stop using plastic wrap - it's bad news. Try one of the wax-infused fabrics like Abeego, Bee's Wrap or other brands or make your own which is significantly cheaper and could be a good project to do with any kids in your life as most kids love wax! You can also get a set of silicone stretch lids to cover bowls and pots. Even easier, you can do what I do and simply cover the bowl with a clean plastic produce bag or a plate that's the right size - both work well and are don't cost a cent.


2. Stop buying foods and other things packaged in plastic. Just say "no" to foam trays, blisterpacks, clamshells, shrink wrap, plastic wrap, and the like. If you can't buy it in bulk (see below) or get it at your farmers market or in your CSA box, opt for a version sold in glass, cardboard or metal. And while you're resisting, it would be very helpful if you politely told the store manager that you are not going to buy things packaged in plastic and urged her or him to consider choosing other products.


3. Buy in bulk, bringing your own reusable containers to fill. Search for stores that sell food, soap, shampoo, moisturizer, etc., in bulk near you and/or see if you can join a mail-order coop locally. Here's my advice on this topic (old but still good.)

Bulk bins

4. Bring your own bags and stop taking plastic bags for your fruits and veggies, too. If you're like me, you've got a ton of reusable canvas totes at your disposal. Squirrel them away in any spot you might ever need one - your car, your bike, your little grocery cart. Place them by your front door to make it easier to remember them when you head out to fill the larder. If you're in the store and realize you forgot them, either run back out and grab them or just load everything into your cart and then pack it into your bags at your car. If you absolutely have to take a bag from a store, make it a paper one. This is a habit that takes a bit of repetition to establish but, thankfully, plastic bag bans are on the rise (including right here in my neck of the woods!) so, hopefully, stores near you will stop offering plastic bags soon which will force you to remember your reusable bags. It's a good example of the power of intelligent public policy. ๐Ÿ˜

Bag O' Bags
One of my many tote bags filled with cleaned, dried, reused plastic bags for produce.
5. Replace plastic tupperware with glass and metal storage containers. My previous advice on this quest is here and it's still all true. If you want recommendations, this 8-piece set with snap lids by OXO is nice as is this 9-piece set by Utopia. I like that both are made from borosilicate glass which means  can withstand dramatic temperature changes without breaking (unlike frikking Pyrex whose parent company Corelle quietly switched to using cheaper, less durable glass in its U.S. products about 20 years ago...) I'm also partial Luminarc's glass working jars with lids which I like to use for things like salad dressing and yogurt. I do own a whole lot of glass Pyrex storage containers, too. And we rely on a selection of metal Lunchbots bento box-style containers and Konserve round containers that see heavy use in our kids' lunches.

Inside of my "tupperware" drawer post plastic-removal by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

6. Don't succumb to plastic cutlery - bring your own set of reusable cutlery with you. When I was in college (twenty years ago - how did that happen?!0, I bought a bunch of sets of metal knife, fork and spoon on a ring and gave them to all my friends and family in little canvas carrying sacks I'd made. I still have mine and they're in perfect shape although the canvas carrying bag is rather dirty - I keep them in my backpack so they're there when I need them. Others have had the same idea since and now there are similar sets made out of bamboo. I am also intrigued by this folding metal spork and this 5-in-1 combination deal (though it has a plastic handle.) You really do not have to buy anything to embrace this concept - just take your smallest fork, knife and spoon and put them in a small carrying case.
7. Skip the plastic straw - you can bring your own stainless steel or bamboo straw or just (gasp!) drink straight from your reusable cup or mug. I bought a four-pack of these metal straws years ago - they're indestructible. You can also get glass straws but it seems like asking for trouble to me, particularly if you're going to carry it around with you.

8. Use actual cutlery, plates, cups and napkins next time you host a party or event and plan to just wash it all after the fun is over. Don't forget to put out separate bins for food scraps to compost and for any recyclable cans and bottles. It might take a few dishwasher runs to get through it all but don't you want your kids to inherit a habitable planet?! If it's a really big event, you can rent dishes, glassware, silverware and napkins.


10. Bring your own mug or cup when you get coffee, tea, a smoothie or other drinks out. There are some great options out there nowadays including this double walled glass travel mug, this insulated steel mug and this insulated stainless steel tumbler. If you have time to sit down, just ask them to serve it in a china mug or a glass.
This fancy, insulated deal includes a steel top and straw - equally good for hot or cold drinks.
11. Do NOT buy water or other drinks in plastic bottles. In addition to littering the planet, they're bad for your own health (that leaching problem again). Bring a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you and use it, instead. I am a loyal Kleen Kanteen user and also really like these Hydroflask insulated water bottles. Glass is a good if somewhat heavier and more fragile option (better for adults, methinks) and Lifefactory has some nice ones.


12. Bring your own take-out containers to restaurants and stores so you don't have to take a foam, plastic, plastic-coated cardboard or aluminum takeout container home with you in your efforts to avoid wasting food. One thing I do is to leave a clean, multi-tiered, metal tiffin in the trunk of my car so I can run out and grab it if I need it. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to say the word "tiffin" which is just such a pleasure :)
13. Wash and reuse Ziploc and other plastic bags as well as sturdy plastic containers from yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, etc. Use them until they finally give out. When they do give up the ghost, replace them with a set of washable cotton produce bags like these. Meanwhile, you've been buying in bulk, making your own yogurt and choosing milk and other products sold in glass bottles so you should not be collecting nearly as many of these containers anymore, right?

Makeshift Bag Drier

14. If you pack lunch, switch to metal containers and reusable sandwich and snack bags. There's been a lot of innovation in the last decade so there are great options out there including my personal favorites, Lunchbots stainless steel divided bento box style containers. If you're looking for something to replace Ziplocs and sandwich bags, try Lunchskins and Stasher -- even though the Stasher bags are made of silicone - which is plastic - they are sturdy enough to last for years, taking them firmly out of the single use category. Of course you can always reuse plastic containers you have on hand - something we do every day along with our Lunchbots and reusable sandwich bags. You've already got my recommendations on the best water bottles.


15. Stop using wipes. I know this is a tough one for parents of babies and toddlers (it's definitely hard for me!) but I read this article in the Atlantic recently and now I can't unsee it -- the term "fatberg" seems permanently etched in my memory ๐Ÿ˜ฑ. Wipes are made from plastics and synthetic cellulosic fibers that will never fully degrade but instead break into microplastics which transmit harmful chemicals to marine wildlife (and ultimately, to us). So it's back to toilet paper, washcloths, rags and good old-fashioned soap and water to clean our dirty butts and kitchen counters. If you don't already have a set, try these fabulous Swedish cloths in lieu of wipes or paper towels. Environmentally-friendly (made from cotton and wood pulp-derived cellulose), washable, durable and cute to boot.
If you made it all the way to the end of this post, I am very impressed as I know it's been a long one. Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know where you are in the journey to cut plastic out of your life. I am curious about what's been hardest and easiest for you to change and eager to hear any tips and tricks you want to share.

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