As we enter the holiday season, when each calorie seems to double when you’re not looking, cooking takes center stage. I can only speak for myself, but it seems that, in the fall, I chop, dice, shred, and grate more than usual. Maybe it just seems like that because I’m spending more time indoors.
Nonetheless, with all that chopping and prepping comes the expected food scraps. Which brings me to this week’s topics. 1) Food scraps, or should I say, unwanted food, and 2) Healthy Halloween food. An oxymoron, I know.
First, unwanted food. It’s often classified as garbage. Food other than what appears on your dinner plate.
Food waste is an “elephant in the room” issues in many communities. Why? Because a huge, HUGE amount of food waste is generated in and out of the home by businesses (such as grocery stores and restaurants), and the result of surplus farming.
According to the EPA, the average American throws away 1.5 pounds of food waste every day. That’s about 475 pounds of food waste each year. Added up, food scraps and yard waste (lawn clippings, leaves, and so on), make up about 30 percent of our waste stream.
As for supermarkets and restaurants, up to 90 percent of waste is thrown out. by is food scraps. (I need to check in with Safeway, Cost Savers, the commissary and food centers in town to learn what their current policy for food waste).
Bottom line: Tossing out food is a terrible waste of landfill space, AND it’s a terrible waste of compostable material. More on that in a bit.
So what can you do about food waste? Relax. I’m not going to suggest you download another app. No, this is much more tangible, real life stuff. In the whole scheme of things, know that food scraps are easy to deal with. Here are some guidelines for taking food scraps from the kitchen to the garden.
DIG AND DROP
If you don’t have the option of composting in a bin, there’s a simpler method. All you need is a shovel and a small spot of ground, or garden.
1. Dig a hole, at least 12 inches deep.
2. Drop food scraps into the hole.
3. Replace the soil and you’re done.
Dig and Drop composting is a good solution because you don’t have to worry about turning the pile or harvesting the compost. The organic matter breaks down right in the garden, providing nutrients to nearby plants.
What about bears?
While food scraps are one of the best sources of organic materials for home composting, not all food waste is created equal. Whether you do the Dig and Drop method or compost food scraps in a traditional bin, there are things to avoid. Here is a list of what--and what not to--compost:
• All your vegetable and fruit trimmings even if they are moldy, bruised, and ugly
• Old bread, stale cookies, crackers, pizza crust
• Grains (cooked or uncooked): rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc.
• Coffee grounds, tea bags, coffee filters, and eggshells
• Outdated herbs and spices
• Fish waste — but be BEAR AWARE. Use common sense, folks
Meats and oily products attract rodents and larger animals. Plus, they take too long to decompose.
• Meat or meat waste, such as bones, fat, gristle, skin, etc.
• Dairy products (a little is alright) but normally avoid cheese, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc.
• Vegetables oils, salad dressings and mayonnaise
Now to my other food topic for this week: Halloween
With the chance to dress up in fun costumes and stock up on sweets, Halloween is the highlight of the year for many kids.
On one hand, you want kids to enjoy the holiday. On the other hand, you don’t want to undermine all the work you do the rest of the year maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And finally, you don’t want to confuse kids with mixed messages.
4 STRATEGIES FOR TRICK-OR-TREATING
1. Fill up before trick-or-treating: The theory is that if kids are full before they go trick-or-treating, they will eat fewer pieces of candy later.
2. Hand out low to no-sugar foods: Granola bars, fruit leather, and homegrown carrots are healthy alternatives.
3. Give non-candy alternatives: The options are many: Whole grain crackers, mixed nuts, sugar-free gum and candy, trail mix, small boxes of raisins or Craisins, popcorn, yo-yos, stickers, crayons, temporary tattoos, mini-flashlights, glow sticks, Play-Doh, little bottles of bubbles and small games.
4. Make homemade treats: I realize that some people have a stigma about giving out homemade treats, but I believe there are circumstances where it’s not only appropriate, it’s welcome.
With that, I want to share this great recipe for peanut butter cups.
Peanut Butter Cups (vegan)
(This original recipe is from Dreena Burton (dreenaburton.com).
1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (I like the Enjoy Life brand)
5 TBL coconut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Peanut Butter Topping:
4 TBL coconut butter
2/3 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/2 cup raw sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Line a mini or standard muffin pan with muffin liners.
To make the chocolate base: To a small pan on low heat, add chocolate chips and coconut butter. Stir until melted and well combined. Remove from heat, and spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of chocolate mixture into each liner. When finished, place in fridge to cool completely.
To prepare the peanut butter topping.
In a food processor, puree the peanut butter, raw sugar, salt, and vanilla. Melt the coconut butter on low heat. Add the melted coconut butter to the peanut butter mixture and puree until fully incorporated.
To assemble: Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter mixture on top of each of the chocolate cups. (A small cookie scoop works great). Then 9using a spoon or your fingers) gently smooth out the peanut mixture. Chill the cups until set, about an hour.
GARDEN JOB JAR
[Flower] heads up: Spring bulbs are in at Sutliff’s. Plant them ASAP for a beautiful display next spring and to provide food for bumblebees emerging from their winter dens.