I may be a picky eater but I love eating out. There are a few places I love up and down the Wasatch Front that I’ll never get tired of. If I wasn’t a picky eater, I’m not sure I could have chosen just a few restaurants to tell you about. But here they are from Cache to Salt Lake County, my favorites!
One thing that is almost as good as the excitement of presents on Christmas morning is BREAKFAST on Christmas morning!!
This is a recipe that I have done that last several years and it is a BIG hit. I found this recipe on www.recipegirl.com. It is a fairly easy recipe and most of the preparation for it can be done the night before.
The holiday season should be a time of family, fun, and celebration. The world’s best well-intentioned treat makers come out of hibernation and every group of people you associate with NEEDS to have a get together to prove how important you are to one another and/or to tell you how much they appreciate everything you do. Sounds like a dream. Who wouldn’t love to get treats and eat meals with family, friends, and coworkers all month long? I’ll tell you who, people with severe food allergies.
Okay so I don’t actually have a severe food allergy. I suffer from a disease called Celiac Disease. It is an autoimmune disorder that acts a lot like a severe food allergy to wheat, barley, and rye (and any other ingredient that may include the gluten protein). I don’t have to carry an epi-pen or worry about dying from anaphylactic shock but I do have to worry about horrible cramps, bloating, and sitting on the toilet for several hours while half-digested food moves through my intestines at an unnaturally fast rate because my body thinks I’m being poisoned. On top of that, if I let it happen too much it may lead to other issues like colon cancer. Two of my three daughters also have the disease. One gets debilitating headaches to the point she goes to bed and sleeps the rest of the night-even if it comes on at 3 PM and the other pukes her guts out.
One of the hardest things for me about this whole time of year is that everyone means the best. Nobody sets out and thinks- I’d love to poison the Winkler family tonight. At least I don’t think people are planning that… Anyway, there are several different categories of well-wishers. The first category is completely oblivious that we even have this problem. They bring their huge plate of cookies and treats and I smile and say thank you. My husband usually eats one, my daughter usually eats several, and me and the other two usually watch in salivating torture but we make it through. If we are invited to a party with this category, we usually just eat before we go and make up an excuse about why we aren’t hungry.
The next category are the people who think they know what it means (in our case to be “gluten free”) but they really don’t have a clue. These are the most dangerous. They buy special ingredients or make the treats, salads, etc. in a way they think will be safe but don’t understand that just because they didn’t add flower does not make it gluten free. These are also the people who get offended if you don’t eat what they prepared because they think they made it special so you could eat it… Frankly, I try to avoid these people at all costs. They give me anxiety to the max and it is not worth going to the gathering if you have to deal with this. Please be kind to people who have food allergies and don’t be offended if they don’t dare eat your food.
The last category are the people who really get it. These people are the best! They bring non-food items as gifts or you know you can trust their treats. They ask questions any time they aren’t sure how to make something that is safe or when they are unsure of an ingredient on the nutrition label. They also understand the cross-contamination issues and scrub pots, pans, bowls, etc. down before they make your food. Even if you decided not to eat what they brought because you may have some question about the safety, they understand and are not offended. These people are worth hanging out with. Thankfully, I have several of these in my life.
Hopefully this little post will help someone out there realize there is no need to be offended when someone with severe food allergies won’t eat your food. We just don’t want to be sick. Also, there are other things besides treats you can do for gifts.
It’s October, which means that we’re officially in the last quarter of the year. As part of one of my new year’s resolutions set all the way back in January, I’ve been putting extra focus on minimizing our food waste for the past couple months, both to save money and to be more conscious of our environmental footprint.
Of all of the challenges I’ve set myself in the kitchen so far in 2016, I’ve by far been the most successful at this one, and I hope that this becomes a permanent part of our lifestyle.
Throughout the summer, I kept a list of all the foods I threw away in order to keep myself accountable. Although I didn’t keep a list before that point, I am confident that using the tricks below helped me to cut our waste AT LEAST in half (if not much more), and we’re overall spending about $100 less a month on groceries, too!
Here are 5 ways we’ve cut our food waste drastically down:
1 – Be mindful of how much food you’re actually throwing away.
Before this year, I threw away tons and tons of food without stopping to think twice about it. After all, our budget wasn’t too tight and we had plenty of food left over after each purge, so I never thought too much about it. Then we went down to one income, and it became an absolute necessity to get as much as possible out of all of the groceries we were buying, so food waste wasn’t so much of an option anymore (or at least, it started to really hurt my soul a bit to realize that we were basically throwing dollar bills into the trash every time we chucked something we’d let go bad).
So if you’re looking for a way to save money and cut down how much food you’re wasting, just start to be conscious of it. You can start a list, like I did (I put mine on the fridge so it was easy to add to). Or you can just mentally note about how many dollars worth of food you just put in the trash (which is kind of nausea-inducing sometimes, to be honest).
2 – Figure out which foods are your biggest offenders when it comes to waste, and make a plan concerning them.
After I started keeping track of our food waste and just becoming more conscious of it overall, I noticed that some foods were frequently ending up in the trash, like brown bananas (the biggest offender), overripe fruit like nectarines and strawberries (the next biggest), lettuce (every single time it was bought), raw chicken (sometimes), and about once or twice a week, leftovers that we never ate before they went bad.
I knew that produce was a huge problem for me to use on time, so I started more consciously working a ton more of it into our meals. Then, because I knew that no matter how great my efforts, I would still end up with some produce that was on the verge, I came up with a plan for those frequent offenders:
- For the bananas, I found a beyond-easy (and delicious, and healthy) muffin recipe that takes less than 30 minutes to make (from start to totally finished and out of the oven). Because it’s so quick and requires only a blender and a muffin tin, I have left myself with no excuses when it comes to using up my brown bananas. (I have tried other banana recipes too when I had more time, but these muffins are the easiest, the tastiest, and they freeze really well). Oh, and a bonus–the muffins are gluten-free, too!
- For the other fruit, I found a few go-to simple cobbler or crisp recipes that I used several times, or I used the fruit in smoothies or on oatmeal if they weren’t too far gone yet.
- For the lettuce, I honestly just stopped buying it. While I actually quite like salad (as does my husband, Matt), I am terrible at preparing it regularly, so what usually happens is that I’ll use the lettuce for one or two meals when it’s really fresh, but then I’ll forget about it and it will be bad the next time I look at it. Because we eat a fair amount of other vegetables and fruits, I figured that cutting out lettuce and spinach wouldn’t be such a travesty.
- The raw chicken was the easiest to take care of. My new rule is that if I haven’t used up the chicken within about three or four days of buying it, I just pop it into the freezer to be brought out again at the end of the month, when our budget for food tends to be lower. Problem solved!
- As for the leftovers, the biggest key was to just not cook a new dinner every night. I used to be making meals about 6 nights out of 7, and it just proved too much for us to handle. Now I cook 4-5 nights a week and we eat the leftovers the other nights, and having those planned leftover nights has drastically cut down on the amount of leftover meals we’ve had to chuck in the garbage.
3 – Keep a few important staples on hand to ensure that you’ll always have enough material to make a meal from.
Several times over the past three months, I’ve had a bit of leftover rice or half of a bunch of herbs or just a few spoonfuls of vegetables that weren’t eaten the night before, and rather than just scrape them into the garbage, I’ve put them back into the fridge and counted on using them in the next night’s dinner (or for breakfast!).
Basically, as long as I had a few staples on hand (like eggs, chicken broth, tortillas, etc.), I knew that I could scare up a meal with almost anything. Leftover cooked vegetables go great in a simple omelette or added to soup of almost any kind; rice can be added to many casseroles or enchilada/taco recipes as well as to most soups; olive oil can be added to the bottoms of dressings to create a subtler dressing that can be mixed with greens or other vegetables or just added on top of a piece of chicken before it’s grilled; herbs (including the stems) can be used to make simple pesto and sauces or put as a final ingredient on top of almost any salad or pasta. In other words, it’s important to always keep some staples on hand so that you’ll have something to mix your remnants with.
4 – Go grocery shopping less often.
I used to go to the grocery store 2 or 3 times a week (or make Matt make an “emergency stop” on his way home from work) if I was short an ingredient for a recipe I really wanted to make.
Now, I try hard to keep my grocery trip to just once a week no matter what, and if I’m out of an ingredient, I either do without it in the recipe, see if I can make a substitution, or make something else. Honestly? 80% of the time, the recipe is fine without it or with a substitution.
Before I started my 100 Hours in the Kitchen project, I wouldn’t have been comfortable making those kinds of substitutions, but now, after having spent the whole year working on making up recipes or modifying existing recipes, I’ve finally come to see that cooking outside of the (recipe) box isn’t so hard after all.
5 – Don’t pack your fridge too full.
One important component of keeping our food waste down was just to purchase less of it, period. Before, our fridge would often be so full that I couldn’t even see what was in the back of it, much less try to get a grasp of what I needed to use up quickly before it went bad.
Now, I only buy around $50 worth of groceries a week (instead of the $75-100 I was doing before), so our fridge is a lot emptier, which makes everything much easier to see and to access. At least a couple of times a week (often when I’m trying to get a handle on what I’ll make for dinner), I’ll do a fridge and freezer sweep to see what needs to be used up soon. (I’ve also set an unofficial goal that for 90% of our meals now, I need to be using up something that’s about to spoil or that needs to be used up quickly for whatever reason.) Because it’s always on my mind, most food doesn’t stand much of a chance of spoiling because I’m constantly looking at it and thinking of how I’ll use it.
Do I still waste some food?
Occasionally, I’ll make a real dud of a dinner while I’ve tried to use up a bunch of stuff, and I just know that we won’t touch the leftovers, so I’ll be forced to cut my losses and just chuck it out. Also, Raven can be really hit or miss when it comes to her appetite or her willingness to try new things, so much of the wasted food comes from her (although if there’s enough of it and it hasn’t been totally mangled from her trying to play with it, I’ll often still save it and try again at a different meal).
BUT WE ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN WE USED TO BE.
In fact–brag moment coming–this whole summer, we only wasted about $20 worth of food, when over that same amount of time before, it probably would have been more like $60-70, at least, especially with all the meat that often went to waste.
What have you been doing lately to cut down on your food waste or keep your grocery budget in check?
Cooking Economically: Cutting Down on Food Waste (consider this post “Part One” and the current post “Part Two”)
Cooking Economically: Making Your Own (Foolproof) Broth (great for using up almost any old vegetables)
4 Ways to Use Zucchini (could also substitute squash)
This trick has saved me so much time! I only recently started doing it, but I wish I would have started doing it sooner.
Are you ready for the trick?!
When making something for dinner, if the meal you are making can be frozen, double your recipe and freeze one. Then you have a meal all ready for another night!
Most of the work of cooking is shopping for the ingredients, prepping, and clean up. By doubling your recipe you only have to do those items once.
Recipes I always double:
-Homemade spaghetti sauce
-Soups that are not potato or cream based such as chili
-Pizza dough (Let it rise, then punch down and put into a ball. Place on waxed paper in freezer. Once frozen place in a gallon baggie. To use just place in fridge the night before, once thawed use as usual.)
Just be sure to label things so you know what that are!