Monday, February 28, 2011

Bitlets For You This Past Week: Feb 21-27

Foodie related round up numéro two!

Thee BEST blog post I've read in a LONG time, my friends.

I don't know if I've somehow been living under a rock all this time, but I JUST discovered this!

Another way of thinking about where your food comes from. From the Urban Organic Gardener. Heavy stuff, but it's important to be educated about what's on your plate.

This isn't gluten free, but amazing! Have you delved into marshmallow making?

McDonalds (quite possibly one of the biggest contributors to our obesity "problem") takes on oatmeal. And fails.

Image found here.

Oh, and maybe you heard about this McDonalds flub as well.

A very cool way  to grow a bit of a garden, even if you have NO yard, balcony, windowsills or lawn.

Given all the wacky weather worldwide (that's a mouthful!) this winter, it's unavoidable that our food costs will be going up. This article lays out the details on which types of foods we're going to be (or not) shelling out a few more bucks for.

And this might help you save a few precious dollars!

A Weeks Worth Of Plastic: Round 3

After going over last weeks accumulation, I really wanted to hunker down and work on the major contributor of our plastic: junk pre-packaged convenience foods. And while much to my frustration, there are still "goodies" lurking in my cupboards, refrigerator, freezer etc that are added to the list when we use them up. Like french fries. I honestly don't consume these often AT ALL, but somehow there was a partial bag of them that needed to go. So they did. We still have most of a case of ramen noodles in the cold room and a few packages of rice crackers that were bought on sale awhile back, but these things take time I suppose.

1. Butcher's paper from chicken sausage (not shown)
2. 2 Rice cracker packages
3. Restaurant ketchup package (ancient- ketchup doesn't go bad, does it?)
4. French fries bag
5. Various stickers from fruit
6. Pistachio bag
7. 2 "Lucky Flowers Anti-Mold Sticker" found inside shoebox
8. 2 Biodegradable plastic bags that shoes came in (lined with bubble wrap & with a giant plastic envelope stuck to the outside- makes it not-so-biodegradable, now doesn't it?)
9. 2 pouches from risotto packet
10. 2 Coconut ice cream plastic seals entire tubs of ice cream. Guilty.
11. Single serve instant miso soup packet (not shown)
12. 2 Bulk bin bags (I bought these on etsy this week!)
13. Plastic ring from price tag off of Christmas gift
14. Deli paper
15. Salad tub plastic seal
16. Sobey's keyring scan tag (broke, but we don't have Sobey's here anyways, so I wont be getting another)
17. Salad tub
18. Mayo jar squeezable... tube (?) (We have yet to find a mayo substitute suitable to our dietary needs, but are investigating making our own!)
19. Post-It Flags dispenser (had for ages, came free with something, finally used up)
20. Fish packaging
21. Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix bag. (It's available in a much larger bag, but I've never seen it in stores here in Canada). Used for these. Also, I have converted a pancake hater with this stuff- it's GOOD.
22. Ring from seal of glass bottle of goat's milk (we're doing a little dairy experiment here....)
23. 6-pack plastic ring
24. 3 sample packages (acquired a few years ago) of lotion
25. 7 pieces dental floss
26. 1 pasta bag with 3 single serving "rings"
27. A couple of band-aids (& packages) resulting from new work shoes
28. Packaging from buffalo sausages
29. 2 Garbage bags from weeks worth of trash from kitchen & bathroom.
30. Sachet of couscous inside box
31. Dish from taco place (it's better to eat something rather than going grocery shopping hungry, right? And, it did look like it was cardboard, don't you think?)
32. Bread bag with tag
33. 2 DVD-R's that did not burn successfully
34. Instant soup package
35. Soup tetra pack (recyclable)
36. Pull tab from almond milk carton
37. Partial yeast packet (the last of em'!)
38. Rice cake bag (from before we moved!)
39. Old dish sponge & wrapper from new one (was stashed in the cleaning supplies box)

I decided to purchase fish from work this week (instead of our seafood place) as we were planning on making Fish & Chips. I came armed with my biggest glass container at eight am (as to not be a nuisance on my day off). This is what I found:

While I did save a few bucks by getting it at restaurant cost, I'll choose the seafood place next time. On a more positive note, we did discover a near-perfect way of making potato chips along with our fish this week. I'm happy to report that there are NO chip bags in this weeks garbage pile. I'm also happy to report that I've not purchased any from the store either! AND I did find pistachios in bulk this week too :)

On another positive note, I DID find Heinz ketchup in a glass bottle at Save On Foods, which for my Calgary readers isn't available (hey, we don't have Safeway, Sobey's OR Co-op here!). I'm sure you could find one too if you really looked! Our last bottle of ketchup was "hippie ketchup", but damn it was good! We wont be purchasing it again as long as it's in a plastic pouch. Sadly, my favorite honey garlic sauce also comes in this format. Once we run out of the ketchup that's currently in the glass bottle, what to do? It looks like Heinz isn't planning to go back to glass anytime soon. I've seen large cans of ketchup, which we could refill into our bottle, but it would likely take us ten years to go through that much of the stuff! Aside from making our own, which is a likely possibility, any thoughts?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Product Review: Biscuits



texture: 4/5
taste: 1/5
color: 1/5
ease of preparation: 5/5
overall: 2/5

Sadly these were NOT the best gluten free biscuits I've ever had from a mix. I haven't ever purchased anything from this brand before, and this will probably mean that I wont ever either. The texture was dead on, but there was zero taste & they were going moldy after just a few days. They were tolerable smothered with jam, but that's about it. Super simple prep, but I'd much rather go to the trouble of making some up from scratch.

Bobs Red Mill:
texture: 4/5
taste: 5/5
color: 5/5
ease of preparation: 5/5
overall: 5/5

These are by far our favorite biscuits! We prepared them with butter & water (rather than milk, as the choice is given). They are a bit on the dry side, so they do fall apart (in chunks, not crumbs) easily, but when made with cheese they stick together better. Everything's better with cheese, right? Mr. C says he would eat biscuits more often if these were around...


Note: the first time I made these I thought I had been glutened. Turns out there is chickpea flour in the mix, so if gas is your first sign of gluten poisoning & your body isn't super-used to digesting legumes, be aware!

texture: 4/5
taste: 5/5
color: 4/5
ease of preparation: 5/5
overall: 4.5/5

These turned out... interestingly. The recipe claimed to make 5-6 biscuits, but I could only see it making three when I glopped the dough onto the baking sheet. I'm not chintzy with my biscuits, I like em' big. Buuut... they spread out like schoolkids running off the bus on a field trip. I had a puzzled look on my face when I pulled them out of the oven, thinking that I must have done something wrong, but there is NO room for error in making this recipe.

I was hesitant to take them off the cookie sheet right away, as they looked like they would crumble into oblivion. After 5 or 10 minutes, I took the plunge. Tasty. Tasty like I want to take another bite before I've swallowed the first one. And because the first bite was nearer to the edge, a teensy bit crispy. Good crispy though. The middle? Fluffy.


Side note? You probably don't need to spray your baking sheet for these. 
We LOVE using this stuff to make pancakes, so I don't have any reason to have had doubts. But for some reason I did. It seemed far too easy. Even though most other biscuit mixes call for about the same ingredients as this one. It was equally as easy as Bobs.

There are a few other biscuit mixes I found online, but none of them are available for purchase in Canada (yet). Including Gluten Free Bisquick. I thought about ordering them, but we'll save that for another day I suppose. I clearly have two very tasty options available at my fingertips (and one that I know I can steer clear of!).


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

As you may know, we've been keeping track of our plastic garbage as part of the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge. This week, we ran out of mayo. And on Wednesday, we had planned to have Fish & Chips. Tartar sauce requires mayo. Not wanting to buy another plastic bottle, I visited all kinds of places searching for mayo in a glass jar. Our two major grocery stores only stocked mayo in plastic, with the exception of the natural foods aisle. The "natural" mayo's at the health food store were either soy or canola based, which we're not terribly keen on. Even though this led me to read the back of our existing mayo container to learn that it too was canola based. In the end, we have no mayo. But, the fish is defrosting & dinner must go on! So what's a girl to do?

Make mayo.  

You'll need:
1 egg yolk (or more depending on how big a batch you need- 4 yolks makes about a quart of mayo)
oil of choice (I used olive)
vinegar or lemon juice (only a drop or two)
whisk or mixer (mixer highly recommended, as your arm will likely fall off whisking this much)

One yolk, in the mixer. Right off the bat, I want you to notice how orange our egg yolk is (you can read more about that here). This is a contributing factor in our final product NOT being fluffy white in the end (plus the fact that we used olive oil).

The gist of it is that you're going to slowly add the oil into the mixer. And I do mean slowly. Start with a drop at a time. I'm not kidding. If you add too much at a time it wont turn out. You're going to need to exercise some patience on this one. Add in a drop or two of white vinegar or lemon juice to help stabilize your concoction. Wait until each addition is completely incorporated before you add any more. Whisk as fast as your arm (or your mixer) can.

Still just a drop at a time... patience my dear. It'll be worth it! If things are starting to look a little dry, you can add A drop more of vinegar or lemon juice. Trust me, one drop makes a big difference. Continue on slowly adding in your oil. Once it's started to look creamy you can add a teensy bit more at a time, but still take it slow. After all this work, you don't want to wreck it now! Expect that this whole adding the oil part will take you ten minutes or so.

Aim to add no more than a cup of oil per yolk. Any more and you're going to have a mess on your hands. Season your mayo with some salt, maybe pepper and a splash of lemon juice to taste. Or if you're making tartar sauce, you can find the details on how to make that here

We found that one yolk made just about enough tartar sauce for the two of us. But I do this repulsive thing where I mix my tartar sauce up with ketchup for my fish, so any normal human being may need to make more tartar sauce than we did. It'll only last for a few days in the fridge, so don't bother making more than you're going to actually use.

Much thanks to this site for teaching me how to make mayo! We may very well never go back...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Week's Worth of Plastic: Round 2

The last go-around really brought my attention to the amount of garbage that goes in, well, the garbage! Not just the plastic, but everything. Having a furry critter running around the house (a critter that uses a litter box) adds to our accumulation for sure, but not nearly as much as we do. I'm again noticing the reoccurring theme of processed, unhealthier foods turning up in our plastic pile. This is where we can absolutely reduce our garbage output. As a household (6 adults) we more often than not fail to fill our garbage can by the time the weekly pick-up day comes around, but think about the term "garbage can". What comes to mind?

I envision an aluminum can that stands maybe three feet off the ground. This, compared to the wheeled plastic beast that lives outside our house. Our society, or more likely our cities have granted us this excess allowance. We go about our lives thinking that generating that much garbage weekly is acceptable. Clearly as much disposable packaging as will fit in the garbage throughout a seven day period is okay. Because everyone else on our street is doing the same, that must mean that this is the status quo? Defy the "norm", and challenge yourself to shrink the waistline of your garbage can (and likely your own as well!).

1. 50kg bag of sand (for icy walkway, used throughout winter)
2. Plastic wrap from picture frame (part of v-day gift)
3. 3 Bread bags (odds & ends from the freezer)
4. Wine cork (from these)
5. Band-Aid tabs & used Band-Aids (I acquired a brutal scrape on the back of my heel that interfered with wearing shoes all week)
6. Rice Noodle tray & wrapping (from this)
7. Potato bag (5kg)
8. Various stickers from fruit
9. PopChips bag
10. Lays chip bag (not shown)
11. Pasta bag
12. 2 Bread bag tags
13. 2 Styrofoam cups
14. 2 Plastic forks
15. 2 Dairy Queen Blizzard cups
16. 2 Dairy Queen spoons
17. Rice stick noodle bag (we had this for dinner on Friday
18. Plastic sample attachment from bottle of gin (at least the sample bottle is glass...)
19. Peanut bag (leftover from summer camping)
20. Bean sprout bag (from Pad Thai)
21. Plastic wrap (also from that)
22. Lid from container reused many times
23. Bottle of face cream (lasted me almost 2 years!)
24. Inner bag from box of cereal (we don't buy often)
25. Ketchup bag (always lasts for ages)
26. Breton cracker liner
27. 2 Rice cracker trays
28. Miss Vickies chip bag
29. Instant noodles package
30. Mushroom tray (for Greek Pasta & Pad Thai)
31. 12 Caramel wrappers (leftover from Halloween)
32. 7 Pieces dental floss
33. Brown rice crisp bag (New product- had to try! Not as good as these though.)
34. Garbage bag for the weeks trash
35. Spice (cumin) bag (bulk spices aren't available here, but a bag is better than a bottle, right?)
36. Wakame rice pasta bag including 3 inner paper rings (coated with wax or plastic of some kind)
37. Plastic wrap from Kleenex (someone's sniffly this week...)

Yet again this week the majority of my plastic garbage is from processed foods. For someone who makes a TON of what we eat from scratch, you would think that the chip bags stacking up wouldn't be an issue in our house. I am finding that I'm more aware when I'm out shopping though, buying the garlic or peppers in bulk rather than the 3 pack in a plastic bag. And we honestly don't go to dairy queen often. I promise. The winter doldrums are in full swing around here, even though we're starting to get more hours of sunlight finally. Many people eat for emotional reasons, and we're on board that ship for sure.

Here's last weeks submission!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Stork Has Landed...

First of all NO, I'm not pregnant. But I did receive a very exciting bundle of joy this week!

The day finally came, I have a stand mixer.

This is better than Christmas!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinner: Prawn & Green Curry Soup

When we lived in Edmonton, there was a little Thai place that had awesome soup. We went there just for that soup. You know how it is when you find something that you really like & you go back to that place just for that dish. It was eat-me-when-you're-sick-soup. With lots of sriracha to clear out your sinuses. Bring kleenex.

This soup isn't quite the same. In fact, I think it's better. It has a beautiful flavor, but just enough spice that it doesn't need to be squashed with a dousing of hot sauce. You can if you want, but you'll be missing out.

Adapted from this recipe.

1 package fresh rice noodles
1 tbsp coconut oil, or chili oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups button mushrooms, sliced
4 carrots, sliced thin diagonally
2 baby suey choy, sliced (or 4 slices from a large one)
2 heaping tbsp green curry paste
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
2 cups deveined & shelled prawns (omit for vegetarian)
1 tbsp gf soy sauce
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp lime juice


Soak noodles in a bowl large enough to accommodate enough warm water to cover the noodles. Set aside.

In a large pot heat oil. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes (don't leave unattended...). Add carrots & suey choy and cook a few minutes more.

Add green curry paste and stir to dissolve. Add mushrooms, water, vegetable stock & soy sauce and bring to a boil.

Add prawns (if applicable) and cook until the veggies are almost tender.

Grab that bowl of noodles that are soaking & separate them with your hands. You want to break up all the chunks of noodle possible. Think about when spaghetti sticks together in big clumps... break it up good & add the noodles into the soup pot.

Add coconut milk & lime juice and heat through. If you like it hot, you can add Sriracha to taste. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs for Valentines'

I don't know about you, but I'm glad that Valentines' Day has finally passed. I'm tired of seeing chocolate everything & heart shaped everything. I am NOT going to go out and buy a heart shaped cake pan to use once a year. My kitchen doesn't have room for things like that... Instead, my mortar was moonlighting as a gravy boat at the table this Monday.

Instead of succumbing to the mass brainwashing that this Hallmark holiday has become, we made each other gifts & stayed in and cooked an AMAZING meal together.

Organic red wine marinated beef short ribs (adapted from this recipe because you know... I can't actually seem to follow a recipe!) along with a herbed gravy thanks to the luscious drippings served with steamed garlic asparagus & Old Bay boiled new potatoes. Mr.C says this is in the "top 5 best meals ever". We were both paralyzed for a while after dinner. Even dessert took away from the lingering tastes in our mouths.

I was even more thrilled to get to use my new Le Creuset baking dish. Even though the ribs didn't fit into it pre-cooked and were cooked in larger dish, it was perfect for serving. 

If I had a second, smaller one the asparagus would totally have gone in it.

Just looking at these pictures makes me want more- I think this one speaks for itself!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beef Stock

Well, buffalo actually.

While I can get organic beef from the health food store here in PG, they only supply particular cuts of meat. And I'm sure that I could probably order bones through them, why bother when the "Buffalo Guy" at the Saturday farmers market has them?

I have a freezer bag full of veggie scraps that I add celery leaves, onion skins & trimmings of carrots to as I am cooking (I'm talking all the time!). This way when I go to make stock, all I have to do is throw the bag into the pot from the freezer. It's like making "free stock"! Wilted green onions, garlic peelings & mushroom stems- it all goes in.

$5 worth of bones (or $0 if I've cooked a turkey or chicken) and I have 12 cups of stock in the freezer, plus a pot of soup- what more could you ask for?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How-to Eat a Coconut


In the last few months we've brought home three coconuts from the grocery store with the hopes that we could have some fresh coconut! The first two were rotten by the time we cracked into them, but the third time's a charm!

Get yourself a coconut

Using a large nail or screwdriver, pierce through the shell where the three indentations are 
(looks like a bowling ball!) As shown, you may wish to do this on a concrete floor or outside.

Drain the coconut water out (make sure you get it all!)

And now for the part you've been waiting for! Hammer away on that baby!

You may need to give it a couple shots


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Week's Worth of Plastic

Recently, "My Plastic-Free Life" aka "Fake Plastic Fish" has been doing a "Show Us Your Plastic Trash Challenge" on their website. Recently in my Facebook feed, I've been seeing a lot of their posts of people who have collected their plastic for a week. Most of it seems to come from the kitchen, so I decided to take a stab at it to increase my awareness of our consumption. Here's what I accumulated last week:

plastic lined meat wrapping paper (from chicken sausages)
noodle tray & plastic wrapping
spinach tub
2 foam asian pear "life jackets"
numerous stickers off fruit + 1 from seafood (brought home in own container from store) + 1 from the pharmacy (I cringed when I saw her pull it off of the "tape dispenser"...)
plastic wrapping & foam from new pot
the old pot (an untimely demise...) w/plastic handle (sadly it's beyond the point of donating to the salvation army)
7 pieces dental floss
plastic sleeve from breton crackers (clearly not mine!)
plastic seal from ice cream tub
tray & wrap from gf shortbread cookies (total impulse buy, guilty)
wrap band from 3 pack of glass food storage containers (on sale & we do need more)
packaging from wire stripper (we're re-using a light fixture from my moms kitchen)
packaging from plug-in for light fixture project
packaging from nailing straps for light fixture project
packaging from light bulb for light fixture project
plastic nut leftover from reused light fixture
instant noodles package (noodles, soup base & freeze dried veggies packets)
seal from carton of almond milk
unsolicited sticker from the body shop from purchase made in November, found in wallet
unsolicited stickers from Disney "movie order by mail" packet
adhesive strip from mailer packet used to send birthday gift
bag of organic apples (in future we'll be buying bulk)
bag of kiwis (ditto)
starbucks lid
3 chip bags
2 small plastic cups (we were handed samples of tea at the farmers market, then realized the cups were plastic :( )
2 juice box straws & wrappers
corner off of pasta bag
packaging from candy thermometer
cornmeal bag (it's been a LONG time coming)
lid to container of sunflower seeds (reused many times, finally is too cracked to use)
bag of buffalo bones used to make stock
Bob's almond flour bag
tray & plastic wrap from mincemeat tarts- Christmas gift
plastic garbage bag that weeks worth of garbage went out in
post it "tape flags" dispenser (came free w/something else, ages ago- finally used them all up)
meat tray & plastic wrap from steak (for ginger beef; not pictured)
lid from container of macadamia nuts ("in-laws" are in Maui this week, I couldn't help myself!)
expired roadside assistance plan card found in wallet
seal from refillable container of corn starch (possibly plastic; okay, it's more probable than possible)
plastic bag surrounding paper bag of tapioca starch (redundant, yes)

I'm frankly surprised that we accumulated this much in a week! Even in the first day or two I was shocked at how many items were adding up. The worst part is that there is no recycling here aside from paper/cardboard and tin cans. Glass jars and all plastics go in the garbage sadly. As much as I like to avoid tin cans due to the BPA issue, they're recyclable & glass isn't around here... It's a tough call. There were a few (and I mean only a couple) of recyclables that went into the bin that goes to the bottle depot that I didn't include in the tally. I failed to actually read the "rules" on the website and didn't count the (mickey of bacardi that was leftover from Christmas that we polished off celebrating Chinese New Year, and the almond milk carton that also goes to the bottle depot) recyclables. Since they're actually being recycled & none of our other plastics are :(

There's always room for improvement...

I bought a new wallet a few days ago. My old one was long overdue for replacement. The new one (as well as the old one) is from a brand called Matt & Nat. It's a vegan line of handbags, wallets, belts etc. The material they use looks like leather, as you can see, but isn't at all! Not only is there an average of 21 plastic bottles recycled in each handbag (in addition to being a vegan product!), but there is always some sort of recycled element in every product. I'd like to think of it as saving a little bit of plastic despite the pile we seem to have accumulated this week.

No plastic, much to  my surprise!
This past week was the first time I used my own container when purchasing seafood from "our seafood guy". The lady manning the counter was understanding as I explained my plight (even though I had just finished eating walnuts out of the container in question!) and rinsed out my container for me.

No plastic here!
 I am in the process of using up the last of my (presumably) plastic dental floss. I've had my current roll of the stuff for ages now. I have already purchased some silk floss and intend to switch permanently once I've depleted my supply. The silk floss (while not vegan) still came in a plastic "carton", which came in a cardboard surround :(

Plastic? Probably...
When my mom moved in to her now home about ten years ago, there was a light fixture above the kitchen table. A cute, aluminum hangy-downy light fixture. Cute, but she hated it. It immediately was replaced with something else that was later replaced with a ceiling fan. For a few years after I had moved back in with her, it was in my bedroom but she took it out after I moved back out. In the house where we live now, we're in need of a fixture above the kitchen table of all places. When we were home at Christmas, I snatched it up knowing full well that she would be happy to never see it again. We're repurposing the light fixture, but are requiring some items to do it. The electrical department at Home Depot doesn't exactly give you the most eco-friendly packaging options for your marettes or wire. Okay, that's not true... the wire came off of a several hundred foot roll. In bulk you could say. The evils of the plastic contributed to my collection this week surely can be canceled out by the reuse of the light fixture, no?

What do ya think?

I think the only plastic in this picture is on the toaster. Oh, and some of my vitamin bottles (left side) are plastic (not all though!). Mind you, the arborite table top is plastic too... but it's vintage- I'd say 60 some years outlives most plastic products! Oh wait, and there's a teeny little green orange peeler in the bottom of the fruit bowl that my mom gave me as a stocking stuffer a few years back.... sigh.