REDUCING FOOD WASTE: Sharing the Wealth

I started another Facebook group called More With Less a few days ago and invited about 25 of my friends. We now have over 100 people, many I don’t know personally, who have joined us in the effort to offer tips of all kinds and funny things to help us all get through these unusual times. Join us.

My husband posted an easy recipe to make glazed donuts and opined he wished I would make some. So, anyone who knows me appreciates that I like to bake. I have a sweet tooth. This is an ongoing issue and my weight exhibits my hobby. Over the past few years, I made a decision to stop baking so often and started only baking when we were planning to go somewhere for dinner or having guests here. (I dropped 50 pounds but that was not the only change I made.)

Homemade Glazed Doughnuts (Krispy Kreme glazed donuts) Best Donuts ...

So the ONLY way I will attempt to make those donuts is if I will share output…because heaven knows I have no off button and would eat more than a reasonable person without this addiction would.

So that got me thinking about all food preservation end results. The recipe ALWAYS gives you more than you need to eat at one time. I’ve collected a lot of recipes to consider for Can-Do Real Food and they might produce 2-12 jars. Super! Two jars are perfect for immediate use and shelf storage, but once you get above that, you just don’t need that much jam. Pasta sauce is another story.

My point is, plan that once you get into preservation, you will have a partner to trade with. Neither of you needs to prepare 100% of your own food need. In fact, I would love to pair up with someone who has skills I have not perfected, like fermenting. I could make pickles but I just don’t. So, it would be fun to trade. And perhaps your food partner could be the grower of the garden and you preserve for that family and YOURS.

Each winter a group of people has gathered in the Carnegie Room at the McMinnville Public Library for a swap session. Over the years I have enjoyed other people’s apple cider, jam with fruit I never have been able to access and a few other vegetable concoctions. I even scored a small container of homemade deodorant! My point is that while a swap session is out of bounds right now, an arrangement with one of two other friends can lighten the load and allow for sharing the surplus above the amount you prepare that you can reasonably expect to eat.

Long Beach Food Swap: A Place to Trade the Handmade, Homegrown ...

I’ve read with a bit of discomfort that some people eat home-canned items that might be 5 or 6 years old. There are ways to be mostly certain that the food is safe to eat, but if you preserve the amount you do eat and only preserve those items in high quantity that you know you will consume, you can keep your home pantry to a reasonable amount. Over producing leads to storage space issues AND increases your risk of food decaying in QUALITY over a long time before you might eat it.

I’ll talk more tomorrow about those “expiration” dates on commercially packaged foods and how to think about them safely.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: What’s in the Crisper Drawer?

Just because I have been a commercial food processor whose mission is to reduce food waste does not mean I am innocent. Oh Lord, no. I wrote about my own fuzzy scientific experiments in the containers in the back of my frig before. But this is shameful because now, going to the supermarket to get more food is WORK. I need to gain more respect for the food I bring into this house for us to eat. Perhaps you do too.

So here is a photo of my crisper drawers before we used some of it for supper prep. Let’s talk about what to SAFELY do with tired veggies.

First, see that blue plastic “apple” shaped item? That is a tool used in a lot of commercial kitchens to absorb the gas that decaying produce emit, thereby theoretically slowing down rot. And, even tho it looks like it has not worked, it can….if I just replace the pellets inside…….. I picked this gem up at the Fancy Food show a few years ago. Only food professionals can attend and it is an amazing event held each January in San Francisco and in June (not this year probably) in Manhattan. So, when I keep the pellets inside refreshed, my produce in my crisper drawers last about twice as long as without. And you can buy it too, but we should not need to.

Those carrots embarrass me., but I’m owning up to their current state because I know I am not alone with this issue. I picked up 4 carrots (these will keep well, I thought) 3 weeks ago, and I already had 4 carrots. They do not keep forever, and the older ones are just at the point of no return. Tomorrow I will make another soup and the good ones will go in cut up and yes, we will get more carrots the next shopping. But not 8 and I will plan to use them.

And that is the key. Check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Plan your menu for the week and then make a list of those items AND THE QUANTITIES you need for that week. That way you won’t buy fresh stuff you will not use.

Make Shopping Lists

Then check the pantry again to look to add a couple more items from that master pantry list to expand your spices, or your pasta selection or some other shelf safe item that can help you make the best of what fresh you can keep……in good eating order.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: Choosing how to start preserving food

We got our first puppy when I was three-years-old and quickly discovered I was allergic, but that’s another story. (I ALWAYS had a dog until worsening asthma made me….not have any pets again. ) A few months after losing my boxer who had been my wonderful companion during my single years, even tho her status reduced as I married and then had 2 kids…..she moved from riding shotgun to the back back of the station wagon with love in her heart and an eagerness to always be the best she could be……we decided it was time for another dog. My husband admitted to me that he really did not like boxers. What???? Okay…..so I found a book at the library how to pick a dog to fit your family. What a concept!!! It rated 50 breeds by 15 characteristics, so we looked to see how boxers were rated and we looked for that or better…and ended up with a delightful Australian Slehpard, the easiest dog I ever trained!!

My point? Dogs are not one size fits all and neither is food preservation methods. They require different techniques and skillsets and if you have never done any, you might as well start with the one that will be EASIER to learn, right?

Food preservation.

This article discusses the pros and cons of each preservation technique. After you read through it, ask questions and we can guide you further.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: The easy way to preserve: dehydration

I learned to can shortly after I moved to Oregon. Yup. I’ve only known how to can for about 6 years. There are people who live among us who have FORGOTTEN more about canning than I will ever learn. As wonderful as canning is as a method to preserve foods we enjoy eating, I quickly learned how much easier it is to dry food for safe storage and later use.

The point is to remove moisture, thereby eliminating mold as a destroyer of food. This can be done using the sun (yeah for our Oregon sunny summers), the oven (at its lowest setting) or an electric dehydrator.

I picked up my first dehydrator at a yard sale for $10. By the time I opened Can-Do Real Food the next summer I had learned some basics and was ready to plop more money down for the higher volume I would need to produce for the business. My family went in together and bought my first one as a Christmas present. Over the years the Excalibur machines have come down in price considerably and by watching sales, you can get one for under $300. The type of machine makes a difference for larger volume drying….the fan and temperature selection options can make a significant difference in the time needed. I found a timer was nice and I actually found the analog dial easier to use than the electronic models.

I purchased several books about dehydration but stopped needing to look for any more after I read the introduction to Dried and True by Sarah Dickerman. Not only did the intro provide a tip that would make my life easier, but the book also provides something I have not seen elsewhere: a chart that explains how to prep each kind of fruit or veggie or meat and how long it can take to dry and what it should feel like at that point to be safe. For someone who is self-learning without a mentor, a chart like that is SO much more helpful than the typical “dry until finished” in most other books.

So, what can you dry for later enjoyment??

Image result for fresh and dehydrated apples compared

Fruit: Not only can you dry cut pieces of fruit for simple snacking, but you can also puree fruit and dry as leather for a fruit roll-up. You can season the fruit or leather with spices like cinnamon, or even add other fruits for a combined flavor, as I did when I made applesauce roll-ups with blueberries. Commercially prepared dried fruit usually has added sugar which is not needed. Like anything else you prepare at home, you can control the ingredients.

Image result for equivalent dried herbs to fresh
Basil

Herbs and Greens: These have to be the fastest things to dry!! In a couple of hours, you can take fresh herbs from your garden and dry them for later use in the year when fresh herbs are no longer available. I have dried greens like kale for use in soups, spinach to add to a veggie or chip dip.

Image result for dried zoodles

Zucchini: okay…..you grew it and it has now overrun the garden. You heard about how prolifically squash plants produce but come on already!! Well, you can make zoodles for year-round gluten-free pasta substitute enjoyment. Shredded zucchini can be stored on shelves in the equivalent of the 2-cup measures you have been saving in your freezer for year-round zucchini bread. Free up that freezer space! I also developed several soup recipes with zucchini (and a canned marmalade….and that was a pleasant surprise).

Pumpkin Powder (FRX1178)
Pumpkin powder

Winter Squash: Pumpkin or squash puree can NOT be safely canned but it can be dehydrated so you can add liquid when you want to use it. Can-Do Real Food has a fantastic instant soup recipe with butternut squash and pumpkin that won best in Dehydrated Division at the State Fair in 2016. That recipe was developed from one submitted for inclusion in a community cookbook The Wild Ramp (Huntington, West Virginia) produced. So, while ingredient quantities have to be figured out carefully, whole-food recipes CAN be converted into dehydrated mixes.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: The joy offered by the supermarket roasted chicken

Oh roast chicken: how many ways can we use you? Whether you buy it already roasted at the supermarket or grab a whole chicken there and roast it yourself at home, the zero waste person can get MULTIPLE meals out of one 3-pound bird.

Roast chickens at a Paris marche (open-air market)

First, roast chicken with roasted veggies. Set the oven for 350 degrees. If you have an uncooked chicken, clean it (yes, you really need to wash it) and then season it. That can be done simply with some dry herb mixture your family enjoys or even a liquid cooking sauce. Veggies should be cut into fairly similar sized pieces and also sprinkled with some seasoning. Roast for 45-60 minutes. There are many many many recipes online if you need more specific info to get started.

Second, trim all meat off the bones. Place meat in a sealed storage container in the frig (to use within 2 days) and prepare to make broth. You need a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the bones to the pot. Cut up an onion. Wash and peel a couple of carrots and slice them in. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a slow simmer, covered, for two to five hours (YES! The longer the deeper the flavor!) Add washed and peeled small diced potatoes or pasta or rice, salt and pepper and other seasonings. Veggies will be cooked in another half hour and you have some soup to enjoy!

Third, those meat trimmings. Adding chopped onions for tang, green or red peppers for crunch, maybe walnuts if you are leaning towards something different, and then mayo or your favorite salad dressing for a salad or sandwich filling.

Does anyone have more suggestions???? Add them below in the comments.

Reducing Food Waste: Plan Your Garden

Please remember I am not a farmer. I am not a gardener. But I still have a piece of advice for other people going to try to grow food this year.

Start with a list of what you and your household likes to eat. No, sorry, you can’t grow chocolate here.

Seriously, if you refuse to eat zucchini, don’t bother growing it. If you can tolerate it, though, we already know it produces abundantly. In fact, I will risk pushing your tolerance and suggest it was NOT bread and fish, but zucchini that fed the masses. But if you and yours will not eat zucchini, do not waste your soil nor your energy. Otherwise, think of what foods that you DO eat that grow easily and produce prolifically because this is what you will enjoy all winter.

If you like tomatoes, think about how often you eat them raw (salads and sandwiches) and how often you used a cooked style (pasta sauce, pizza, soups, etc). Your selection of variety to plant should be balanced with what you expect to eat. If you don’t really eat salads much, 1 or two plants will take care of you probably. But you will want more of the meaty varieties if you like sauce.

During harvest, I will offer ways to keep things safe to preserve while you are gathering the volume you need for cooking a recipe. So, plan to plant a bit more than you think you will eat, but be ready for kitchen time. I will help you preserve that garden produce so you can eat from it all winter!!

So plan your garden now around the food you want to eat. Talk to the garden experts now. Get your soil prepped. Planting time is coming and it all will be great!

Welcome to the World of Reducing Food Waste

Can-Do Real Food had its genesis about 6 summers ago when I worked as a farm laborer (yes, me!) for about eight weeks. It was hard work and I ate a lot of Advil those days. As I had helped establish a local indoor food market in West Virginia, other than some small gardens at home, I had never “farmed.” I am NOT a farmer. I am not even a good gardener. This is why I LOVE my farmers. Thank them every chance I have for producing food for me to eat.

My job then becomes important: how can I use these foods raised with such dedication and effort in all kinds of weather, how can I be careful not to waste any bit of this nutritional yumminess.

Let me help you with some daily tips. With all the other projects I have, I will limit it to short tips. Please add your own in the comments on the blog or on Facebook when it gets posted.

FREE SOUP: Some have called this “Depression Soup”, as the concept was taught to them from moms and grandmothers who lived through financially hard times. When you trim your produce for salads or for cooking, put all clean pieces into a container (I re-use and re-use and re-use a gallon ziplock) in the freezer. When the bag is full, pull out a dutch oven, fill with your veggie scraps and a potful of water. Simmer 1-2 hours for veggie stock and the basis for a flavorful soup.

(Then rinse the bag and let it air dry and re-use it with more veggies!)

Being Prepared

Here in Oregon we are not concerned about what Hurricane Dorian will do to us.  Our weather may be doing its seasonal shifting with more clouds and some rain expected over the next week, but nothing a slow sweep on the windshield can’t handle.Image result for weather oregon rainfall

I’m reading my Facebook feed and seeing friends along the east coast are in a state of readiness. One guy in the Virginia Beach area had been planning a week’s vacation on the Outer Banks and believe it or not, he is complaining his vacation was ruined. He also mentioned he has his house prepared for whatever would have come his way including making sure his generator has fuel.  He knows he got off lucky this storm.

source: The Washington Post

Another friend in Nova Scotia made a simple observation which I want to repeat: “Whether the experts are right about this storm or not, there’s one thing I do know. The time you spend being preparing for it is nothing compared to what you might have to spend if you don’t.”

Let’s look at that for a second. 

Image result for rail and I-84 closure in columbia gorgeHere in Oregon’s Willamette  Valley we have seen the effect of snow and of wildfire in the Columbia Gorge close the railroad line and I-84. With no transportation moving in that corridor, store inventories decreased a bit, but not badly because we are not isolated. We still could get shipments from the south, from California and beyond.

Imagine just for a moment if those lines are also restricted. Whether it is caused by some trade war or some earthquake.

Now, consider what you have in your house right now that you can eat.

Next consider what you have in your house right now to eat if you have no power for your refrigerator or your cooking.

Now, start preparing a bit. We’re heading into winter. We’re heading possibly into a recession.

I can’t teach you prepper tricks, but there are plenty of websites and youtube videos that can. What I can do is remind you that an alternative cooking source (your grill, perhaps) and a 2-3 week supply of shelf-safe food will go a long way to making sure you and your family will stay fed. Shelf safe food is found in cans, bottles, and plastic bags. Canned and dehydrated foods like Can-Do Real Food makes can provide easy meals and snacks.

Image result for stock your pantry From now until the downtown farmers’ market closes in October,   Can-Do Real Food will be preparing our Loaded Pasta Sauce and dehydrated meal mixes and soup including our Moroccan Tangine Meal Mix, Vegetarian Tortilla Soup, Kale and White Bean soup and more. We currently have jams, cooking sauces, salsas, and snacks, as well as some Mole Meal Mix.

Stock your pantry. And, if we have a normal year with no devastating emergencies, GREAT!!!

 

Juggle Juggle, but don’t drop the Tomatoes

In my weekly market reports recently I’ve been mentioning that we seem to be at the peak of the harvest. How can I tell? Simply, when I walk down Cowls Street as the farmers’ market is setting up I am amazed at the overflowing bins of produce the farmers haul there. Tomatoes of all kinds, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes large and small, sweet corn, summer squash glowing green white and yellow, winter squash in acorn and spaghetti models, strawberries from everbearing varieties, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, and on and on and on.

In the past week in the Can-Do kitchen we handled 50 pounds of blueberries, 40 pounds of Asian pears, 30 pounds of tomatoes, 30 pounds of prune plums, and still have about 100 pound of onions to deal with. Today we were gifted about 20 pounds of peaches and the day is only half over.

asian pears in dyrerI keep our dehydrators running almost all the time now. The Asian pears are in there as I write this (plain and cinnamon) and the peaches will go in next. (Onions after that probably)

Mike, the guy who owns Cream ice cream and I have a good time chatting flavor combinations each week at the market. When I told him I was getting this gift of peaches (more coming this next week that are already planned for 2 types of jams) he suggested something which fed a need of his: powdered peaches he could add to ice cream in the winter.  So we will chop the peaches and then dehydrate it, powdering some, leaving some small chunks.  Mike can get some for his ice cream and you can get some for your yogurt or baking or other yumminess you like to do.

carmelized onionsThe onions……oh my. We add onions to our Loaded Pasta Sauce, so some will be used on Monday when we prepare that.  But I’ve made a few very small batches of caramelized onions for our home kitchen and one friend’s and I suppose you might be able to enjoy after I get some of these 100 pounds cooked up and then dehydrated.

 

So, you might ask, why was that “one friend” so lucky as to gain some caramelized onions?  Well, she presented me with some extra onions she had.  That’s pretty much all it takes and now she tells people she has her own “food processor.” One person responded, “oh yeah, I have one of those chopping machines too,” but you know it’s a tad more involved than that.

Anyway, lots to share with you. If you want to know if I can make something, shoot me an email at BethRankinOR@gmail.com. If there’s a safe way to preserve it, I’ll let you know.

tomatoes

Also, if you want Loaded Pasta Sauce, let me know how many and in pints or quarts. This has been a funny tomato season. It started late (really only about 3 weeks ago) and looks to be ending early. So I probably will not be getting a lot of tomatoes. Right now I have orders for 40 quarts so they will be fulfilled first. If you want some, tell me now. In a few weeks it will be too late.

 

 

Stock Your Pantry

We seem to be in the height of the harvest now and it is a great opportunity for people to grab what they can to enjoy the tastes of summer through the winter. 2014-10-03 11.21.47Can you imagine tasting a summer peach in February?  The ones available in the supermarket are currently in flower in  South America. They will be harvested a bit green to make the 1500+mile journey to us without spoiling. They will be presented in the grocery store a bit hard and you will ripen them on the counter. When you taste it, it will be very pale in flavor compared to the tree ripened, freshly harvested fruit you can pick up in the market.

So what can you do?

You COULD consider eating in season. We used to do that when I was little because fruits and veggies grown overseas and brought in were very expensive. Then shipping prices dropped and here we are, expecting to eat watermelon in January. Consumer demand drives corporate decisions. If we the people who love our food to taste good decide we will not buy unripe produce during the winter three things can happen:

  • The stores will reduce what they bring in.
  • Local farmers probably will pick up the slack as much as the climate permit.
  • We learn that eating in season brings a lot of joy as we welcome a favorite flavor once again for the first time.

Image result for canning equipment canning toolsAnd there is a fourth, but it’s all on you: preserve the food available in season. You can freeze (easy), dehydrate (also easy and you can pick up a dehydrator that will work well for you for as little as $50), canning (a bit of a learning curve and you need a huge canning pot and attention to food safety issues), and freeze drying  (if you have a spare $3500 to purchase one, I want to use it for just 2 kinds of processing, please).

Of course, there is an easy way: shop Can-Do Real Food and stock your pantry.personal pantry

For example, right now we have a lot of dehydrated fruit offered as single types, combinations and fruit leather (roll-ups).  Can you imagine buying some watermelon strips now and holding them in your cupboard until January?  That will be a ripe full-flavored yumminess.

Image result for summer poeach winter peach comparison

The tomatoes began to show up in the market a few weeks ago and last week the farmers who provide surplus to Can-Do Real Food started sharing. I had enough to make salsa, some mild (golly gee, people, I ONLY used bell peppers…..and some mild Hatch chilis that barely stirred my palate, so be BRAVE) and some we loaded with jalpenos and more but Graham says it is “medium”. Heat lovers will have to taste to know if it provides enough pain/pleasure.  So, when you buy, buy TWO and put one in the back of your cupboard and forget about it……until the holiday gatherings. Then pull out the taste of August!tomatoes from BS

The next tomato project is the Loaded Pasta Sauce. Buy 6, get 10% off. Buy 8 and get your choice of a small (9 ounce) jar or a small dehydrated bag of your choice free. Buy 12 and get 15% off (and the freebie that you earn at 8).

Why do I suggest this? Because eating locally grown food supports our neighbors, the farmers who work from beyond sunrise to sundown in all kids of weather.  I want you to enjoy eating local food year-round and if you don’t preserve today’s harvest, take advantage of the fact that I do…with no artificial anything.cropped-mission.jpg