food

What I’ve Read Recently

I have been on a library kick lately.

So much so that I went into my Amazon list and removed all the books on my wishlist and added them to my “For Later” shelf in my Chicago Public Library account.

While basically zero of my books have been cozy-up-by-the-fire-and-finish-in-one-day-books, they have all been really enlightening and I read them on the bus commuting to work.

Here’s what I have been reading. Have you read any of these?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

By: Michael Pollan

omnivores dilemma

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. His absorbing narrative takes us from Iowa cornfields to food-science laboratories, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds, always emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on.” – Michaelpollan.com

What I learned:

  • Next time you eat a chicken nugget really think about the taste. Does it actually taste like chicken?
  • Organic agriculture is almost as bad as conventional agriculture
  • Buying local is better for everyone involved

Dress with Sense

By: Christina Dean

Dress with Sense

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“This four-chapter guide will cater to your appetite to have a more conscious dress sense and will take you through how you can:

BUY better and make more responsible choices when hitting the shops

WEAR your clothes more creatively, and rescue hidden treasures from the depths of your wardrobe.

CARE for your clothes by learning better more environmentally friendly ways to wash

DISPOSE of them by swapping, gifting, donating or recycling – anything but throwing them in the trash!” – redress.com

What I learned:

  • Take care of your clothes
  • I need to learn how to sew more than a button or fix a hole
  • Avoid low-quality clothes, go for high-quality and then make it work for you
  • If your clothes don’t fit, take them to the tailor! I have a skirt and dress pants with the tailor right now

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By: Florence Williams

the nature fix

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.”- florencewilliams.com

What I learned:

  • Take the more scenic route to work, its better for you even if it is longer
  • Listen to some nature sounds, birdsong preferably
  • Basically living in the city is terrible for you

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste

By: Bea Johnson

zero waste home

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better: they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been.” – zerowastehome.com

What I learned:

  • The zero waste queen didn’t start this lifestyle until later in life, so that means it’s never too late to start
  • Lots of good resources and recipes

Life Without Plastic: The Practice Step-by-step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep your Family and the Planet Healthy

By: Chantal Plamondon

life without plastic

source: amazon.com

Summary:

“LIFE WITHOUT PLASTIC: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy strives to create more awareness about BPA-based products, polystyrene and other single-use plastics, and provides readers with ideas for safe, reusable and affordable alternatives. By removing plastic from your home, you can reduce your environmental footprint, minimize threats to wildlife, support local businesses and live a healthier, simpler life.” – lifewithoutplastic.com

What I learned:

  • I really don’t like reading about all the ways plastic can kill us
  • That’s it so far, I just started this one!

Other books on my radar:

  • Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything, by Daniel Goleman
  • The More of Less: FInding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, by Joshua Becker
  • Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, by Susan Strasser
  • Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and A Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver
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Snacks Sans Packaging Leaves Me Hangry

I am almost a week into my package-free snack Lent challenge.

During the workday, I have been doing okay. I stocked up on fruits and nuts and double downed on carrots and hummus.

Now that I look back on the week, it is cool to open my lunch bag (which is more than just lunch, I pack food for the entire day) and see that everything in it is a whole food.

My troublesome area so far is when I come home from work. I am pretty famished and just want to eat the first thing I see when I open the kitchen cabinet. The usual bag of popcorn (or pretzels, wheat thins, whatever it may be that week) is off limits and I have eaten enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day that I don’t want to snack on an apple when I get home.

On Friday, my third day of this challenge, I made stovetop popcorn for my after work snack. As annoying as it sounds, and much more time consuming than opening a packaged bag of popcorn, it really isn’t that much more work. It takes maybe 5 minutes and tastes way better.

It may just be my saving grace.

So I will share it with you!

popcorn recipe

If you don’t end up eating it all (which is hard), I was able to keep it fresh until the next day by storing it in an airtight container.

Do you have any other snack suggestions? Please share!

Buying Local: Week 24

It’s our last CSA box this week. I am kind of sad, but am also kind of happy. We have an unreal amount of apples for the size of our fridge (which is not even full size). I have to play Tetris to get them all to fit in the drawer.

That means I am going to have to do some baking or giving away. Anyone want some apples?!

Next week I will be reviewing our entire CSA experience. So look out for that!

last CSA

What We Bought:

  • Bread from Local Foods
  • Sausages from Local Foods
  • Eggs from Local Foods
  • Mustard from Local Foods
  • Spinach
  • Delicata Squash
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Assorted apples
  • Leek
  • Russian Blue potatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Green Beans

What We Learned:

  • Look out next week for when I review our whole local foods/CSA experience!

 

Buying Local: Week 22

Thank goodness apples keep for a long time because we are overflowing over here. I already gave some away to friends on Saturday and am even considering bringing some in for people at work.

This week is the end of the sweetcorn, which I am kind of happy about because I am corned out. Too much. And we still have some in the freezer…

csa week 10

What We Bought:

  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Empire and honey crisp apples
  • Arugula
  • Red mustard
  • Yukon Potatoes
  • Kalettes  (Kale sprouts)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Apple cider
  • pumpkins (for decorating, not eating)

What We Learned:

  • K pickled his first batch of green beans, we shall see how they taste
  • I think I said this before, but omelets are great ways to use up some produce, paired with some homemade home fries

 

Buying Local: Week 21

We are in the middle of a CSA box from last weekend, and it is one of the last boxes we will receive. Our CSA ends at the end of October. 😦

Some homemade chili tied us over for most of the zombie jetlag last week and we did not eat at home a couple nights.

Now that we are a week and a half out from vacation, we are fully back in our regular schedules, and getting back to eating regularly and normally. Eating 6 large pretzels over 3 days is not normal (I am looking at you Munich and Oktoberfest).

 

DINNER

Our first real homemade meal back. 

 

What We Bought:

  • From Local Foods
    • Whole chicken
    • Milk
    • Sausages
    • French bread
  • From Nichol’s Farm in Marengo, IL
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Green beans
    • Mixed Greens

What We Learned:

Buying Local: Week 19 and 8th CSA

This week we had to do a lot of cooking, storing, and preserving of our CSA box. That is because we are going to be out of town (and the country) for the next 10 days. More on that tomorrow.

Once we got home from the farmers market with our box, K got right to work making a pepper sauce and a tomato sauce. We sliced the corn off the cob and froze that for later.

CSA week 8

What We Bought:

  • From our CSA in Marengo, IL
    • Honey Crisp apples
    • Mixed Cherry tomatoes
    • Roma beans
    • Sweet colored peppers
    • Eggplant
    • Korean or tropical melon
    • Mirai Sweetcorn
    • Leek
    • White kennebec potatoes
  • From Local Foods
    • Bread
    • Chicken
    • Sausages
    • Sprecher’s root beer (yum!)
    • A soft pretzel
    • Onion

What We Learned:

  • K is really good at accidentally making tomato soup. He originally was going for making a sauce with all the tomatoes we got, but it ended up being really amazing.
  • There are still some veggies we have to freeze or give away!

Buying Local: Week 18

We are rolling a bit behind this week. We lost some produce due to mold (peaches, eggplant, tomatoes). Going out to eat for two meals over the weekend also did not help and kind of set us back on using produce.

CSA week 7 v2

What We Bought:

  • Hamburger buns from Evanston, IL

What We Learned:

  • Real food can get moldy FAST. Some of my peaches did not even make it 5 days, and some of our tomatoes and peppers had to go straight to the compost bucket.
  • Potatoes and onions should not be stored together. We are a bit tight on kitchen storage so we had both of them in the same drawer. Now we have them separated.
  • You’re not supposed to store cucumbers in the fridge. No wonder they didn’t make it.

Buying Local: Week 17 & 7th CSA

These CSA boxes/bags ARE GETTING HEAVY!

That’s also because we got a melon this week! CSA week 7

What We Bought:

  • Mixed Cherry tomatoes
  • Assorted slicing tomatoes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Shishito Peppers
  • Tropical melon
  • German Butterball Potatoes
  • Mirai Sweetcorn
  • Kohlrabi
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Zestar apples
  • Peaches from St. Joseph Michigan

 

corn chowder

K’s homemade corn chowder used up some CSA potatoes and corn

 

What We Learned:

  • More about vegetarian cooking. K bought a new cookbook so we could further utilize our boxes instead of relying on vegetables only as sides.
  • Meal planning is so important in order to use what we have available without wasting it.
  • Our compost game is STRONG! The last two months we have overflowed our bucket and had to have extra containers at pick up time.

 

vegetarian cookbook

K’s new cookbook

 

Buying Local: Week 16

We are ALMOST FINISHED WITH AN ENTIRE BOX!!

The cauliflower is on the meal plan for tomorrow, and I eat an apple every day. Now what to do with all those cucumbers?

Sixteen weeks into this journey K has finally figured that we should take a closer look at a more plant-based diet. We shall see where that takes us.

Our CSA box runs through October and it is already time to start thinking about signing up for a fall box that would last through December. It is definitely something to consider!

CSA week 16

What We Bought:

  • Brussel sprouts from Marengo, IL
  • Spring lettuce mix from Marengo, IL
  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • Corn from the Midwest (grocery store was not very specific…)

What We Learned:

  • How to freeze apples, beets, corn, and tomatoes. The apples and beets will be used in smoothies and the tomatoes for sauces.
  • How to blanch tomatoes.
  • K tossed some of the frozen corn into our chicken and bean quesadillas the other night and it was super convenient to have cut up corn on hand.
  • We did end up getting additional corn from the grocery store, but both of us have declared that farmers market corn tastes way better.

Buying Local: Week 15 & 6th CSA

We have really been rolling with our box this week.

K made a tasty veggie ragu Saturday night, then we used the cucumbers in a tangy yogurt sauce Sunday, and we also tried our hand at cooking green beans two different ways.

CSA week 5

We are going to attempt to finally get through an entire box without any of it going to waste. I will keep you updated if we accomplish that. Fingers crossed.

What We Bought:

  • Bell peppers
  • Red thumb potatoes
  • Mix tomatoes
  • Jersey mac and pristine apples
  • Mira sweetcorn
  • Candy onions
  • Newhall Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Assorted cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Jalepenos

    veggie sauce

    veggie ragu sauce

What We Learned:

  • Thank goodness we have compost because we are creating a lot of food waste when we don’t get to something on time.
  • To use up some of the veggies from the previous week and a couple of the new ones, K made a fantastic red vegetable sauce. We ate some and then froze the rest.
  • You can freeze corn! We got 6 ears of corn in our box so we are going to save a few by cutting the kernels off the cob and freezing it for later.