Posts in cooking
make-ahead whole wheat + almond pancake mix

I love breakfast. I would say it’s my favorite meal of the day, but I really like lunch and dinner, too. And snacks.

But there’s something particularly special about that first morning meal when you’re hungry from fasting overnight. Ya know, breaking fast.

Here’s what I don’t love: cooking elaborate breakfasts while my tummy is grumbling and my children are clamoring for food beside me. “Can I just have a little appetizer?” they ask. Usually I throw them a banana.

Enter: pancake mix. Make your own combination with bulk ingredients. Keep it stocked in your pantry and all you have to do in the morning is add eggs and milk and then cook ‘em up.

It works especially well for camping trips. Before our recent trip, I finally found a mix recipe that was a keeper. I combined a few different recipes and the result struck just the right balance of healthy and hearty:

Make-Ahead Whole Wheat + Almond Pancake Mix

one/ Make the mix by combining all the ingredients in a jar:

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/8 cup flax meal (or seeds)
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, apricots…)
1/4 cup baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

two/ When ready to make pancakes, combine 2.5 cups of the mix with 2 eggs and 2 cups of milk of your choice.

three/ Drop approximately 1/4 cup of batter on a hot skillet with melted butter or oil. Flip over once bubbles appear on the top of the batter.

four/ Top with syrup or jam or nut butter and ENJOY.

de-plastic your food storage

I’m always up for talking about all things low waste with anyone who is interested. I know many people who want to decrease the plastic in their lives, particularly in their kitchens, but are unsure how to get rid of it completely. The “final frontier” for many seems to be figuring out how to de-plastic their food storage in the refrigerator.

This has definitely been my journey: I figured out how to buy food without plastic, but then once I was home, I would put my carrots or salad greens in a (reused) plastic bag or plastic container to store them. But in the past 6 months, after reading more about the health concerns of plastic, I’ve been working to de-plasticize my fridge. With some trial and error, I’ve figured out methods that work. There once was a time when we stored food for long periods of time without plastic. It is possible, people!

I also recently discovered the amazing website Save The Food. It’s devoted to ways to minimize food waste, which is a HUGE problem. Their section on storing food is phenomenal; they give lots of plastic-free storage solutions. Search by item! And don’t waste your food.

But to save you some time, here’s a quick rundown of how I’ve been storing produce without plastic (alphabetized by item):

Apples // Leave loose in the crisper.

Broccoli // Cut stalks at the bottom and submerge in water to store in fridge. I use a loaf baking pan.

Brussels Sprouts // Store in the fridge in an open container such as a jar, bowl, or breathable bag.

Carrots // Submerge in water and store in the fridge. I use a baking pan.

Celery // Give stalks a fresh cut and then stand upright in a jar with water in the fridge.

Corn cobs // Wrap in a damp towel and store in fridge for 1-2 days.

Cucumbers // Wrap in a damp cloth and keep away from apples in the fridge.

Green beans // Store in the fridge in an open container such as a jar, bowl, or breathable bag.

Green onions/scallions // Put in a breathable bag or open container.

Kale, lettuce, chard, herbs // Wash leaves and give bottoms a fresh cut. Store upright in a pint glass or jar, as you would flowers in vase. Keep in fridge.

Mushrooms // Store in a breathable bag or open container. Use ASAP.

Radishes // Wash and cut off greens. Put in the fridge in an open jar with just a bit of water in the bottom.

What are your tricks and tips? Please share!

use it all up: candied citrus peels

Food waste is a massive problem in the United States (and in many other countries). A recent study reports that on average, each American wastes a whole pound of food every day. There are so many problems with wasting food, but if it’s not being composted, it’s especially bad.

Landfills are not aerated for organic matter to break down. Therefore any natural waste in a landfill creates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide. According to the (pre-Trump) Environmental Protection Agency, landfills account for 34% of all methane emissions in the U.S., meaning any un-composted organic matter is contributing to climate change. And in case you haven’t heard, the forecast for the earth’s future is a toss-up between bad and terrible.

For a few years now, I’ve been patting myself on the back for composting all our food scraps. But lately I’ve realized, there’s actually more I can do. For centuries, people used up nearly 100% of all food products out of necessity. But today, some of us are lucky enough to enjoy an economic position where we have the luxury to throw away food.

I’ve been trying to find ways to use up more of my food scraps. This winter I’ve gotten really into making candied orange peels. I save the peels in a container in the fridge, and once I have enough I make a batch which lasts for a couple weeks. They’re delicious plain, on yogurt, or even on ice cream! They’re not going to save the world (unfortunately!), but they’re saving me money, and if you don’t have access to compost, this is a great way to reduce your methane footprint!

Candied Citrus Peels

~4 cups of citrus peels (oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, lemons, pomelos…)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/4 fresh lemon juice

one/ Slice the peels to desired size. This might be strips or bite-sized chunks. It’s good if you leave a little of the fruit on the peel, but if you’ve consumed the whole fruit, that’s fine too!

two/ Boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add the peels and boil for 2 minutes. Then drain the peels in a colander and rinse with cold water. Repeat this process twice more (3 times total). It’s important to do this so the peels aren’t too bitter.

three/ Rinse the pot and add the 4 cups of water. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the peels, cover, and reduce the heat so that the syrup simmers very gently for 1.5-2 hours. Stir occasionally during this time.

four/ Once the peels are soft, remove from the heat and let the peel sit in the syrup at room temperature overnight (~10 hours).

five/ The next day, spoon the peels and the syrup into a jar with a tight lid. Store in the fridge.

six / If you want dried candied peels, remove pieces from the syrup and lay them on a rack or plate until they are the desired texture. Store in a jar in the cupboard.

Note: I’ve tried reducing the amount of sugar, and the result is very meh. I recommend using the full 2 cups of sugar!

low-waste snack ideas

One of the main reasons people buy food in packaging is for convenience. Right? That’s why I used to. Individual servings of chips, applesauce, granola bars etc. make it easy to pack lunches for yourself or your kids. Therefore, when you “give up” these individual packaged snack foods (which I would obviously recommend you do!), it can feel a bit daunting to have to come up with other snacks.

As a first step, you can always try just buying the food you like in the larger size…not zero waste but less packaging. But if you want to take it a step further and try to eliminate the packaging altogether, fear not: there are still tons of snacks available!

Easy “finger” foods:

  • Pasta (maybe tossed with some pesto)

  • chopped veggies

  • apple slices

  • chickpeas or lima beans (make your own from bulk or buy in cans)

Foods that come in their own “packaging:”

  • bananas

  • oranges

  • lychees (find at Asian markets)

  • snap peas

  • hard-boiled eggs

Foods that come in bulk*:

  • sesame sticks

  • nuts

  • dried fruits (mango is usually a hit!)

  • peanut butter pretzels

  • granola

  • trail mixes

  • plantain chips

  • popcorn

  • veggie chips

  • dark chocolate pieces or chips

  • chocolate-covered fruit or nuts

  • “real fruit” gummy bears (these are basically fruit snacks)

My favorite recipes for snack foods:
Most of these are freezable either after they’re baked or in their pre-cooked form. Keep a stash of any or all in the freezer for your snacking needs!

Snacks/recipes I want to try:

cauliflower + kale fritatta

A few weeks ago, we had some good friends over for dinner. I was planning to make Yotam Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake (which is divine!) but our friends were avoiding flour. I had some kale I wanted to use up, too, so I started searching the internet for just the right recipe. I never found it. Instead, I just made this. It turned out well! I recommend doubling the recipe in two pans so you have twice the food for the same effort! Nicely uses up a full head of cauliflower and kale too.

Cauliflower + Kale Frittata {GF and dairy free}

½ medium head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds or 3 cups), trimmed and chopped into bite-sized florets
½ bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped - separate stems and leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne, if desired
Freshly ground pepper

one/ Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the cauliflower and boil until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and transfer to a bowl of cold water.

two/ Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion and chopped kale stems. Cook, stirring, until the onion and kale soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, and stir together for about 30 seconds.

three/ Preheat the broiler function on your oven.

four/ Add the cauliflower and kale leaves, and sauté until kale starts to wilt. Sprinkle veggies with spices and mix.

five/ Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add a tablespoon of water and/or milk to increase the volume.

six/ Pour the eggs over the cauliflower and kale mixture. Spread the eggs evenly amongst the vegetables. Cook on low until the bottom starts to set.

seven/ Place pan under broiler until the top of the frittata is fully set and starting to brown.

cookingMelissa Colonno
the simplest slow-cooker overnight yogurt

Learning to make yogurt in the slow cooker has changed my life.

Ok, that might be an overstatement. But not by much. Yogurt was a huge source of our packaging waste. I tried making it a few times on the stove but it was so tedious and it boiled over and I was defeated. Then I learned on one of my FB groups that you can just use the slow cooker. WHAAAAA amazing.

So without further ado, here it is:

The Simplest Slow-Cooker Overnight Yogurt

one/ Pour 1/2 a gallon, give or take, into your slow cooker.

two/ Cook on LOW for 2.5 hours.

three/ Turn off heat (do NOT “Keep Warm”) and let it sit for 3 hours.

four/ Stir in 1/2 cup of “starter” yogurt. The first time you make yogurt, use store bought plain yogurt with lots of active culture listed on or under the ingredients. The next time, you can use some of your previous batch to make the next batch.

five/ Wrap or drape the slow cooker in a blanket and let sit approximately 12 hours. Alternatively, you can put the slow cooker pot in the oven with the light on. You just want the yogurt to stay slightly warm all night so the cultures can do their magic.

six/ The yogurt will be “done” when it is slightly firm on top. At that point you can place a fine mesh colander in a bowl, and pour the yogurt in. This will create a thick “Greek-style” yogurt. I store the thick yogurt and the whey (liquid part) separately. I add some whey back in to smooth out the texture. I also use whey for baking (it’s great in waffles!).

cookingMelissa Colonno