Saturday, August 20, 2011

Use What You Have, Part 7

It's been awhile since a Use What You Have post and we're due.

The place where my daughter has her music lesson has a box in the lobby for collecting bottle tops. Since many of ours are not recyclable, I was happy to have a place to dispose of them.

"What are they doing with all those bottle tops?" I wondered.

Then we saw this, just in time for their Vacation Bible School.

Clever, huh?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pick me! Pick me!

When the berries insist "Pick me! Pick me!" I obey.

This time they were blue and a blueberry buckle was in order. I love this recipe because it calls for so many berries. Four cups!

The batter is nice and thick.

The berries stay where they are supposed to - all over.

And the top is amazingly crispy.

Buckle, I'll pick you any day!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back-To-School: On Trash-free Lunches

Last year was the first for packing lunches in our household. Music Man has been bringing lunch fixin's for years and preparing a fresh lunch in the kitchen of his workplace. We've been taking snacks all over town forever. But last year we needed to pack an official school lunch. Five times a week!

In addition to the challenge of keeping them interesting, I noticed that these lunches also produced more trash than I was comfortable with. Ziploc bags, granola bar wrappers, cheese stick wrappers, more ziploc bags, juice boxes, paper napkins. All this times 180 school days. That's a lot of trash.

After about a week, I started looking for alternatives. Since my particular first grader was pretty good about bringing home all lunch leftovers, including trash, I knew I could safely send things like cloth napkins and real silverware. I experimented with homemade granola bars. I started sewing reusable Sandwich Wraps and Snack Packs as alternatives to plastic ziplocs.

I got so many compliments on them that I started selling them at the local Farmers' Market under the name The Eventual Farmer.

They are consistently a top seller and shoppers have a fun time guessing what food-grade repurposed plastic is used to line the inside. (Wanna take a guess? Leave it in the comments!)

For our family, homeschooling was a close runner-up to the amazing charter school where my children attend. So knowing that they are making no more trash at school than they would be at home is a relief.

Since it took me several months to come up with and implement these trash-free options, I thought I'd save you all the time by listing some below.

I do have to remind myself: it's a process. We still produce a bit of trash. Not every lunch is trash-free. But we're working on it.

10 Ideas for a Trash-free Lunch

1. Take leftovers in a Tupperware or Pyrex container, instead of in foil or wax paper.

2. Take a cloth napkin and real silverware, instead of a paper napkin and plasticware.

3. Take crackers or cut fruit in The Eventual Farmer’s snack packs, instead of Ziploc.

4. Try to eat food close to its natural state to avoid packaging (example, an apple instead of applesauce).

5. Consider making granola bars instead of store-bought ones. See here for a simple recipe.

6. Take sandwiches in The Eventual Farmer’s sandwich wraps, instead of in a Ziploc.

7. Use a washable drink bottle or jar, instead of a juice box.

8. Bring home food scraps (banana peels, apple cores, etc) for composting or simple burying in the flower beds.

9. Buy big blocks of cheese and take small chunks, instead of individually wrapped string cheese.

10. Take a hard-boiled egg for easy protein. Bring the shells home for composting or burying.

Do you all have more ideas? I'd love to hear them! One facebook friend already recommended Mason Jar Meals. So cute and simple, we may be instituting Mason Jar Mondays around here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Goodbye, Coconut

I was hoping that the final coconut adventure would go out with a blast, but we had to settle for a creamy, buttery sweetness instead.

The little tag that came belted around the grocery store coconut had a recipe for something called Baked Bananas With Coconut Flambe. The whole thing sounded easy enough until I got to the part that read, "be careful, a flame will shoot up above the pan."

I remember that an old college roommate of mine once lit a pan of chicken with cognac on fire, and we all survived.

So how hard could this be, really?

So we got to it.

We melted 1 stick of butter in a large skillet with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

We sliced bananas lengthwise and cooked those in the yummy syrup.

We added the last of the shredded coconut (about 1/4 cup) and let it get good and caramelly.

Then we poured in the 1/4 cup dark rum, and attempted to light the stuff.

Several times.

No flambe.

Oh well. The whole thing was ultra rich. So rich, we wished for the vanilla ice cream that the recipe suggested to serve with it, but we did not have. Nonetheless, we were all warm and happy after this, the last of our coconut adventures.

Have you ever made flambe anything? Do you still have your eyebrows?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hello Coconut

"What's that hairy thing?!" she says.

We were at the grocery store.

"It's a coconut and we're buying it." I say.

This is why I try to do the grocery shopping by myself.

Actually I've been meaning to coordinate the buying of a coconut and a visit from my formerly known as Peace-Corp-Volunteer-stationed-in-Jamaica mother-in-law for awhile now, but I keep on forgetting to buy the coconut. If I know anyone who can crack a coconut, it's this woman.

So the coconut comes home with us. We hold it, shake it, listen to it, smile at it.

One child is beside herself at the possibility of milk coming out of that thing. Later I learn it's actually coconut water that drips from it. The milk is rendered by soaking, then straining, the pureed coconut flesh. Details.

Grandma comes and the coconut experience begins. Girls giggle. A man gets involved.

Tools fly. I mentally flip through recipes.

First we made two holes for the water to drip out.

We tasted it.

We struck the coconut to break it into pieces and scraped out the flesh with a knife.

We pureed the flesh with water, strained it, and voila, it's coconut milk.

I love how the pureed coconut has brown flecks in it, reminding me that it did not come from a bag, thank you.

We used the coconut milk to flavor that night's brown rice and curry lentils. Delicious and tropical.

Some of the pureed coconut appeared in this Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe from Cooking Light, April 2010. Amazing.

The rest of the coconut milk and the pureed flesh appeared in these Coconut Cupcakes from Baking in America. I'm done for.

What about the family? They're a little hard to read.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stop Requested

The girls and I took an adventurous trip this morning.

On a city bus.

Some of you know my affinity for field trips.

A few months ago, our local library was participating in something to the effect of "Public Transit Awareness Week" and we walked out of there with a handful of free, one-time-use bus passes.

With Music Man out of town, and a school supply list burning a hole on my magnetic board in the kitchen, we caught the #6 and had ourselves a taste of public transportation.

Our destination: the local grocery store, which has a mean back-to-school sale going on now.

And a penny pony named Sandy.

And then, the return trip, complete with waiting at the bus stop.

With all that excitement this morning, we may need to spend the afternoon relaxing at the local pool. Yeah, that sounds right.