Cloth Napkins, Scraps, and BYOF

Here are 3 easy things you can do to be a just little bit greener whilst cooking and lunching.

Cloth Napkins

Although it’s actually greener to use recycled paper napkins at restaurants, it is marginally greener using cloth napkins at home. (See this informative little article on TreeHugger.com). Yes you have to wash them and that uses energy, but (shh) I don’t wash them after every meal. Not fancy at all, in fact quite the opposite, I get the paper napkins out for guests. Even little Zoeya takes a cloth napkin in her lunch box.

Kitchen Scraps

This surprised me, but it’s actually greener to throw your scraps away than to put them down the disposal. Down the drain, they will have to be treated with chemicals and will be strained out and sent to the landfill anyway. So shift your habit! Now I can feel a little better about all those months the disposal was broken. Of course, scraps in the landfill are not much better, leftover food will sit around releasing methane, so the best thing of all to do is compost.

BYOF

Bring your own fork! This is a big one for me, I bring my lunch to work every day and I forget to do this half the time and end up using one of the plastic forks from the break room. Reducing single-use plastic products is a really important thing to do; besides filling up our landfills, plastic takes a huge toll on marine life. This is something I’m really going to focus on. I use reusable shopping bags, we have a water filter instead of buying bottled water, and I’m really going to try to remember to pack my fork.

Roasted Green Pepper Soup

green-pepper-soup

The notion often occurs to me that I could both be saving a lot of money as well as buying healthier food. It’s not that I make a lot of expensive purchases (well…sometimes for parties). I don’t eat out a lot, lentils are a staple, and I am definitely not spending a lot of money on processed, nutritionally devoid crap. On the less-healthy side of money-saving, produce is organic only if it’s from the farmer’s market or if aftershocks of various documentaries are rippling through my mind, same for meat, and I still buy regular eggs.

I think with a little planning I can save money and buy better. Although I do have a well-stocked pantry which allows me not to run to the store all the time, often I’m just dropping in to Harris Teeter (expensive!) out of convenience instead of going to the right shops for the right things. I have a Costco membership where I know I can be buying organic chicken and grass-fed meat, but I rarely make the trek over there. I continuously allow HT to gouge me for avocados, coconut milk, and Bustelo when I don’t feel like making an extra trip to the Indian/Arabic/Spanish grocery. I think if I’m planning ahead, shopping at the right places, I can not only save money but buy organic all the time.

I was talking about planning with my sister and she said “Oh that sounds so depressing!” Does it? I was thinking it sounded fun, but I’m a nerd. She’s right in a way though, I do love to feel gloriously extravagant and go where I want when I want and buy whatever I want. The dichotomy of wanting to save money yet feel rich was on my mind as I flipped through BrokeAss Gourmet, a site I love with lots of delicious recipes you can make to feel fun and festive while saving your hard-earned cash.

I liked the idea of this Roasted Green Pepper Soup which uses the cheaper yet oft neglected green pepper. As I am obsessed with coconut oil/milk and Indian spices, I took this idea and made my own version, pondering the delicate balance between time, money, health, and festivity as I stirred the pot.

Roasted Green Pepper Soup

3 green bell peppers
1 heaping tsp cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 c coconut milk
1 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
sriracha

Roast the green peppers exactly as you would red (I do mine at 450° right on the grate, turning occasionally, until they are blistered). Put in a glass bowl and cover with saran wrap, this will make them really easy to peel.

In a dry pan, gently toast cumin and coriander seeds until they are fragrant. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle (it’s ok if you don’t completely pulverize it).

Heat coconut oil and cook onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices until soft. Transfer to a blender, along with peeled, seeded, and sliced green peppers. Blend, adding a little broth if necessary.

If you are feeling fancy you can put this through a sieve before returning to the pot (but if you were feeling fancy, wouldn’t you have used red peppers?). Add coconut milk and chicken or vegetable broth, adjust seasoning if necessary, and heat through. Serve drizzled with sriracha.

This soup was the perfect balance of sweet to salty to spicy, and although hot it felt fresh and summery. As a red pepper worshiper, I did like the use of green peppers, and I really want to say I’m a green pepper believer, but…I couldn’t help but wonder how this would be with red peppers. Choose as you will.

Spilled Milk, Home Cooking, and Spicy Honey Chicken

thumb_honey-chicken

Spilled Milk Podcast

Who knows why it took someone such as me, who is very into food and very into podcasts, so long to start listening to Spilled Milk, but once I did I’ve been snapping up fifteen-minute episodes like Puffy Snacks (see ep. 25). Molly Wizenburg (Orangette, A Homemade Life) and Matthew Amster-Burton (Roots and Grubs, Hungry Monkey) are a charming, knowledgeable, and very funny duo, who basically cook up good food and talk about it. I absolutely love it, but it’s difficult to listen at work because they make me laugh and look stupid and they also make me hungry.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

I’ve read Laurie Colwin’s second book of food-related essays, More Home Cooking, and just loved it. I can’t explain it, but something about her writing makes me feel both comforted and nostalgic. I picked up Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen at the library this week and am just diving in, but it promises to be another collection of essays that illustrate her life through food, written with honesty and humor.

Spicy Honey Chicken

“What’s for dinner?” Ah, the eternal question with a different answer every day. I often find inspiration in other (better!) food blogs. One of my favorites, Rasa Malaysia, recently featured a guest post by Zurin@Cherry on a Cake, this yummy-looking Spicy Honey Chicken. However, you can’t expect a harried working mother to follow a recipe, so I completely remixed this in a way that would probably make Malaysians cry. Instead of bone-in, skin-on thighs, I used boneless breasts which I sliced. Instead of deep frying on a weeknight, I stir fried. Instead of ketchup, which I have an un-American distaste for, I used tomato paste. I made a little more sauce than specified and thickened it with a little corn starch. Somehow despite all my irreverence, it turned out delicious.

Also, I submitted a recipe to Spicie Foodie’s Your Best Recipe of July, a nice little list!