The biggest takeaway for me this week was to more thoughtfully consider what we do with what we have. As far as being a reducer, re-user, and recycler, I'm definitely in the know and I know our family does this better than we used to. However, there are still many, many things we can do as a family to improve our impact on the environment. Every day brings new opportunities to make changes to "how" we run our home.
It's easy to get complacent. It's disheartening, here in the west, when we know that no matter how much we give and alter our lifestyles and choices, there are other countries around the world that don't care and don't make any changes. But we are responsible for our choices, and if nothing else, we can make a difference locally. Buy those ugly vegetables. Reuse your plastic bags when you buy fruit and vegetables, and bring your own boxes or bags to the grocery store. Recycle what you can, and minimize what you can't. There are almost always better choices to make- none of us has this completely covered.
How about you? Have you had any epiphanies this week about what changes you can make to give your kitchen a waste-reducing makeover? #wastereductionweek2016
Here are a few final ideas for reducing kitchen waste, and here is a pretty decent article I found online this morning.
All the best this week, friends.
Cooking involves a lot of energy. An avid cook such as myself uses the stove top multiple times a day, the oven several times a week, and the slow cooker at least once a week, sometimes more often. All of our household appliances use energy, of course, and we can always buy more energy efficient appliances, but when you're not in the market for an expensive kitchen makeover, what are some of the steps you can take to reduce energy usage in your kitchen?
I have heard that because slow cookers use very little energy they are more energy efficient. However, the difference may not be as great as you think. I was shocked to learn today that, because the slow cooker cooks consistently and constantly over the time it's on, it can use more energy than your oven, which cycles on and off to reach the right temperature as it cooks. Many variables come into play, such as how efficient your oven is or how much you open your oven to check your food. The energy use makes sense when thought about- I just didn't think about it! Here's an interesting article that discusses this.
The other major cooking appliance in our kitchens is the stove/oven. There are 3 choices available for your cooktop- gas, electric, and induction. Gas is typically more efficient than electric, and the electric ignition does away with the pilot light, which makes them much less scary for me to contemplate using.
According to Consumers Reports, there are various types of electric stoves which can vary energy efficiency, so do your homework before buying a new stove. In the meantime, you can reduce your energy usage by planning your meals efficiently. Use the element closest to your pot size so you reduce the amount of wasted heat radiated around your pot, and cover your pot with a lid to enable it to reach temperature more quickly. If you need to boil water, don't forget to turn down the burner once the boil is reached and continue to cook at a low simmer rather than a hard boil. Use as little water as possible when cooking, as suggested in my cooking water challenge post.
I am intrigued by the idea of induction cooking. I've seen induction cooking surfaces for sale over the last few years that are stand-alone and can be plugged in to use. They cook using a magnetic field, which in and of itself is fascinating. Though I have heard they are more energy efficient to cook with, remember that they also both use electricity to cook. In one article I read, the suggestion is there that The US Department of Energy did a study to compare the two, but the study link refuses to open the document beyond the first page so I can't speak for the results myself. I don't want to spread more confusion into the already confused internet on the merits of energy efficient appliances, so I will not draw conclusions here. However, there are several reasons I would like to try induction cooking, and it is on my list for future purchases.
The most energy efficient cooking appliance in your home to cook a meal is the Microwave, but again there are so many variables at play, as this article lays out.
The most important consideration, regardless of what type of cooking you choose, is to cook thoughtfully. Use as little liquid as possible, cover your pots with a lid when possible, and choose the right burner size to fit your pot. Keep your works surfaces clean to avoid potential fires or (in the case of gas) to be more efficient. Many dishes, such as roasting a turkey or cooking a casserole, don't require preheating. You can turn the burner or oven off a few minutes before the timer sounds, and the residual heat is probably enough to continue cooking your food to completion. (I've done this with pasta and high-temperature roast pork loin and it's worked well...let me know if you experiment!) Cook ahead to make meal starters for future meals, plan to use your leftovers, and read your recipes before beginning. Becoming aware of wasted energy through heat is enough to start thinking about your cooking processes, and thinking through your own processes may make it easier to come up with ways to use less energy. Here's an article on Energy-Wasting Myths to read if you'd like more information!
I look forward to hearing ways you save energy when you cook! #wastereductionweek2016
Enjoy your day,
We go through a lot of apples in our house. It's the one fruit my second son will eat every day without a fight, and the rest of us enjoy them too. The photo above shows on the left what's left when I'm done with my apple. If I slice them for the kids or myself, I'll cut out the seed bits and the core. If I eat it whole, the core and stem are left behind. My husband, however, eats an apple down to the stem, as shown on the right.
He's challenged me this week to find a use for the bits of fruit we throw away. I can't imagine eating an apple until only the stem remains, but I agree there is some usable fruit left behind when I'm done with it. What I'm going to try to do is cook down these bits in a little water and strain it after. I'm hoping some version of fruit juice will be left behind- maybe not as strong as commercially prepared fruit juice, but enough flavour that I can freeze it and use it as a base for punch, fruit based desserts, marinade for pork and chicken, or apple cider.
I've got some ideas in mind for the daily grapefruit peel my husband leaves behind. The zest from it, anyway. I have a recipe idea percolating!
Today's challenge for you is to think about the remnants of fruit that is often thrown away. How can you squeeze just a little bit more out of it? It is deferred waste, but I think that is ok. Until garbage disposal units that create electricity are invented on a large enough scale to affordably keep in every household, we are going to have garbage. The challenge lies in focusing on the 3-R's- reduce, reuse, recycle. #wastereductionweek2016
Enjoy your day, friends!
Water is a valuable, non-renewable resource. Growing up as a child of the 70's and 80's, we seemed to have a very laissez-faire attitude about water in Alberta. It was here when we needed it, and would always be.
Now, however, our kids are growing up in a different world. There are routine water shortages and droughts. We watch the snow pack and rainfall levels, and we hear every year about devastating forest fires here in Alberta as well as around the world.
Today, we're going to talk about cooking water. Let me give you an example of how I changed what I do with it.
First, I now steam potatoes in a steamer pot rather than boiling them. They turn out just as cooked, and cook just as quickly, but use much less water. Another benefit to cooking potatoes in this way is giving them the opportunity to retain more of their nutrients. When vegetables are immersed in boiling water, some of their nutritional value gets absorbed by the water and then (usually) thrown away (more about that in a few minutes!). Another benefit of steaming gives you the opportunity to add passive flavour to your vegetables. Last night, for example, I added dried rosemary and sliced lemons to my steaming water. That gave my potatoes a subtle flavour boost that made them just that much tastier when it was time to eat them.
One of the ways I reuse cooking water is to strain out the solids- in this case, the rosemary and lemon- and refrigerate it overnight. Use it as a base for soup or stews the next day, or label it and freeze it flat to use it in the future. If that seems like too much work or too much planning, consider reheating it to a boil the next day and using it as the base for washing your not dishwasher-safe dishes. Add some soap and just enough cold water to make it possible to immerse your hands, and wash away.
Obviously my favourite way to re-use cooking water is to cook with it again. You retain all the nutrients that made their way into the water, and constantly buying soup stock isn't the healthiest or cheapest option. However, sometimes life gets hectic after dinner and you forget to put your cooking water in the fridge overnight- option #2 at least gives a second life to your water before it gets dumped.
Today, I challenge you to re-frame how you think about cooking water for every step of the journey. From how much you run the water before filling the pot, to how much water you cook with, to what you do with it after the fact. #wastereductionweek 2016
Enjoy your day, friends!
Today, let's talk about kitchen waste- specifically, food waste. There was a time when no-one recycled or composted. I remember throwing out empty cereal boxes, milk jugs, and carrot peelings because there was no other option for them. How exciting that we can make a difference now!
I was thinking about the definition of waste in Waste Reduction, and the concept of "deferred waste". When I cook most meals I start with a garlic and onion base. Into those savouries I usually add some celery, sweet peppers, tomatoes...it depends on what I'm cooking. Up until recently I would throw the bits I'd cut off into the garbage, or in the summer the compost bin. Now, however, unless it's moldy or goes off if exposed to air (like potatoes), I toss them into a freezer bag. When it's time to build a crock pot full of stock, a bag of vegetables gets added to the bones. Did you know you can actually cook with tomato leaves? At my next opportunity those will be added to my stock in small amounts. I think they'd impart a really good flavour.
My question for you to ponder today is the same one that I have been thinking about: what about deferred food waste? True, we are getting more nutrition out of our money by saving and using those bones and vegetable pieces, but does it really end up as less garbage in the land fill? Does it make a difference in the overall scheme of things? I don't know the answer, actually, and I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer to this question. What is your opinion?
October 17 to 23 2016 is Waste Reduction Week in Canada. As an individual and business owner, I'm proclaiming my dedication to Waste Reduction!
You may have noticed I feel very strongly about reducing waste in the kitchen, and the environmentalist in me is so excited to be able to marry my love of all things food and nutrition with practical ways we can all help to minimize our impact on the environment. It may seem like a daunting task, but if everyone took responsibility for their small part in this big world of ours, I believe we could really make a difference.
Each day in the coming week I will be posting articles and challenges related to Waste Reduction Week. I can't wait to share these challenges with you and I hope that you'll play along with me!
Looking forward to spending this week with you, friends!
See you tomorrow,