zero waste

Cook: Stock

My kids are always eating carrots and celery so I keep all of the ends of them in a ziplock bag in the fridge.

If you have any recipes that require vegetable/chicken/beef/fish stock, use that extra celery and carrots to make a stock that can be stored in the freezer until needed. Today, I will be making a vegetable stock.

I’ll chop up some onion and gather the seasonings that I plan on using to make a sachet (you can be creative: I used clove, parsley stems, black pepper, and bay leaves). The appropriate term is sachet d’epices which is French for “spice bag”, often called “sachet” for short. (If you don’t want to make a sachet, you can still cook the sachet items in the pot, just strain it carefully after…).

Once the sachet is made, I’ll tie the string on the lid of the pot, add the vegetables and pour enough water to cover them. I’ll place the sachet in the pot and cover with the lid, then let it simmer for at least 3 to 4hrs on medium heat.

After 4hrs of cooking, turn off the heat and let the stock completely cool off for storing.

Your needs will determine how you decide to store the stock. Whether you pour it in several containers or 1 big container with a proper cover/lid, remember to label it. If you put it in the fridge, it’s good for up to 3 days but if you decide to freeze the stock it will keep for months.

I’ll be making some broccoli cheese soup with this!

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Cook: Winter Greens

January is a great time to buy and cook local winter greens - broccoli, chard, kale, spinach, collards…we hope you sauté, or braise, or steam these beauties at home for your family.

However, if you don’t think you will be able to cook them in time before they go bad, here’s a quick tutorial on how to blanch them and save them for a future date!

Blanching is a culinary term that means, “to cook an item partially and very briefly in boiling water or in hot fat.  Usually a pre-preparation technique, as to loosen peels of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, to partially cook French fries or other foods before service, to prepare for freezing, or to remove undesirable flavors.” [Source: “Professional Cooking”, Wayne Gisslen]

That’s a technical way to say: quickly cook at high temp, then chill immediately.

Here’s what you do:

1.     Chop up the greens. While chopping, put a pot of salted water on the stovetop and bring that water to a rapid boil.

2.     Once water is boiling vigorously, put the greens in and let them cook for 1-3 minutes. It is important to not let them boil for too long, as you will lose more nutrients and texture the longer they cook. Wait for them to turn a bright color and soften slightly…for thicker greens, boil slightly longer – more delicate greens only need 1 minute or so.

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3.     While the greens are boiling, get another bowl and fill it with ice water (this is your “ice bath” for the greens – yes, they’re getting a little spa treatment…)

4.     Drain greens in a colander, and quickly move them to their ice bath. Let them cool to room temperature. Drain them again in the colander.

5.     Put greens in Ziploc freezer bags and label with the date you cooked them. Store them in your freezer.

Blanch away, friends!  Don’t waste those good greens.

Recycle: Leaves

Every year around this time you’ll see them on most curbs – bags of leaves waiting for pick up by the bulk and brush trucks. Instead of sending these leaves to the landfill, you can recycle them at home, and turn them into a valuable soil amendment to put back onto your plants – leaf mold. You heard us right – leaf…mold…(though we prefer some important official organization rebrand it to “leaf gold”).

So, leaf mold is an incredibly valuable type of compost to create and harvest back into your urban yard. Soil that has leaf mold added to it can hold moisture 50% better than those without it (think about how valuable this is in our hot Texas climate). It creates better soil tilth (fancy word for structure), and it helps to attract beneficial microbes (a wonderful cast of characters inside the soil that we can’t see, but they are making magic at a microscopic level).

Leaf mold is created simply by decomposing leaves, aided by fungal activity that is created when water and oxygen are combined with the leaves. Here’s the shorthand formula: leaves + water + oxygen + time = leaf mold.

You can get really creative with how you build your leaf mold bin; here are the supplies we used:

·      14 inch bolt cutters or a combo pliers/snip tool.

·      Roll of galvanized steel garden fencing material with 2x3 inch mesh opening.

·      Leaves. Lots and lots and lots of leaves…

Now, to build your bins,  simply roll out the fencing (we walked on it) until you have your desired length to create the circumference of the bin. Use your tool to cut the piece twice (once, along the vertical; second, along the horizontal edge). This creates a simple hook action that will make this cylindrical marvel.  

Here’s how you fill the bin:

1.     Add leaves. Water that layer of leaves.

2.     Repeat step one until you reach the top of the bin.

3.     Now, wait for nature to do its work.. (If you shredded your leaves, they will break down faster into compost. If you put the leaves in whole, they will take longer.)

Enjoy the step-by-step photos of how our team turned 2000 pounds of leaves from a community leaf drive into leaf mold bins. It sounds like a ton of work, but four ladies built all of this in four hours.

We hope you will try this, too, in your urban space. We’ll keep you updated on the results of our leaf gold process and product as the year progresses.