Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food


Shop Plastic-Free at Farmers Market

Going to the farmers market is something I look forward to every weekend. The produce is fresh, locally grown and so delicious. Getting food that’s locally grown and seasonal is better for the environment because it doesn’t have a big carbon footprint. That’s because it doesn’t have to travel overseas to get to you, resulting in fewer emissions. It’s easy to shop plastic free at the farmers market too, because there aren’t any produce stickers on the produce. A lot of the produce also comes completely package free on its own. That said, there’s still disposable plastic bags and plastic produce bags the farmers will offer you. It’s a good idea to avoid these and come prepared with your own items. Here’s how I stay plastic free at the farmers market, and how you can too.

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Shopping plastic free doesn’t need to be hard!

Reusable Produce Bags

Single use produce bags are super wasteful. You can easily avoid these by bringing reusable produce bags with you to the market. There are so many different kinds to choose from.

Personally, I have a mix of cotton and synthetic produce bags. I really love the cotton ones because they have cute patterns on them and they’re compostable at the end of their life. However, the synthetic produce bags hold up just as well and have saved me from using disposables many times in the past. It really just depends on personal preference.

You can fit all kinds of things into these produce bags: apples, pears, broccoli, string beans, lettuce, etc. They hold a surprising amount of stuff, all without ripping! They’re honestly way more reliable than single use produce bags ever were. I recommend taking at least ten with you, if not more.

Reusable Tote Bags

Don’t forget your tote bags! These will be used to hold all the reusable produce bags you fill with fresh veggies as you walk around the market.

Most people are used to bringing their own reusable tote bags by now, but they don’t always realize that’s just one step of the equation! Still, they’re an essential part of a plastic free haul. I recommend using bags made from recycled plastic, or canvas tote bags. I use a mix of the two. I recommend taking at least two big tote bags, if not more.

I also recommend taking at least one bag that has a cardboard bottom. This comes in handy when you want to store berry cartons without having them fall all over the place and get squished. It’s a real-life saver!

Beeswax Wrap for Cheese and Bread

If you’re lucky enough to have access to cheese and bread at the farmers market, I suggest taking some beeswax wrap with you. Cheese needs to be kept sealed to preserve it. Instead of wrapping it in plastic wrap, ask the vendor if they could wrap it in your beeswax wrap instead.

Beeswax wraps are completely compostable at the end of their life, which is awesome. There are some beeswax wraps that are designed specifically with baguette’s in mind, so consider investing in one of those if you have a weakness for baguettes. I recommend taking at least two medium sized beeswax wraps, depending on how much cheese or bread you plan on getting.

You can also but bread into cloth produce bags, if they can fit. When you get home, I recommend eating the bread right away to avoid it getting hard. You can also freeze the bread to help preserve it without plastic. Cheese should always be put in the fridge right away and stored in the beeswax wrap.

Glass Jars for Berries

At the farmers market, lots of berries come packaged in paper cartons. You can return these cartons to the vendors so they can be reused. It helps save the farmers money, and keeps things waste free.

However, if you don’t like the idea of your berries possibly getting crushed inside your tote bag, bring some glass jars with you to market. You can transfer the berries over to the glass jar and hand the cartons back to the farmer before you leave. This way, your berries will stay fresh and un-squished.

Another option is to do what I do: Bring a tote bag with a cardboard bottom. I simply place all the cartons into this bag and it keeps them stable. I don’t put anything else in this bag – just the berries, so they remain in place and don’t get squished.

This is how I keep things zero waste and plastic free at the farmers market. Do you like to shop at the farmers market too? Will you try these tips?

CBD-Infused Lavender Hot Chocolate Recipe

Lavender hot chocolate, dark or light, always brings the best. In addition to offering a unique aroma and experience, lavender hot chocolate combines the benefits of both lavender and chocolate. Now imagine making a hot cup of CBD-infused hot chocolate! Studies show CBD has great promise in various areas that include treating chronic pain, cancer symptoms, mental conditions, skin and cardiovascular conditions, muscle stress, and seizures, among others. It, in addition to the health and nutritional benefits of lavender and chocolate, makes CBD-infused lavender hot chocolate one of the most nutritious, healthy chocolate beverages you can make.

hot chocolate in transparent glass mug
Photo by Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

CBD-Infused Lavender Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • Milk*
  • Dry culinary lavender
  • Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • Maple syrup
  • Vanilla extracts
  • CBD oil

*Note: If you want to keep it plant-based, unsweetened almond and hemp milk are great for a start. You can also use coconut milk, although it comes with its unique, delicious flavor

Method for 1 cup of CBD-infused lavender hot chocolate

  1. Bring 1 cup of milk to boil using a small pot.
  2. Add one tablespoon lavender and cover the pot. Let it infuse for up to 10 minutes.
  3. After infusion (steeping), strain the content into a big mug. You can use a tea strainer or any other fine strainer.
  4. Add two tablespoons cocoa powder.
  5. Blend in the other ingredients (syrup, vanilla extracts).
  6. Add a drop of neutral-flavor CBD oil.
  7. Stir and pour into a cup. You can also add a pinch of sea salt if you wish.

There is no one way to make your CBD-infused hot chocolate. As with most homemade culinary products, you can mix a couple of ingredients that work toward the same effect. The idea is to stick to plant options and ingredients, but you can expand your options to suit your tastes and preferences.

hemp cbd oil in natural setting
Photo by Caleb Simpson on Unsplash

Why CBD-Infused Lavender Hot Chocolate?

According to studies, both CBD and THC can help relieve various kinds of pain. Thanks to the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD oil can target specific reactions that help soothe joint pain, muscle soreness, back pain, and post-surgery pain. Research indicates that CBD oil can help relieve neuropathic pain and post-chemotherapy pain.

Cannabinoids in CBD oil interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors to influence various body functions such as pain reception, mood, appetite, and homeostasis. It is an ideal addition to your diet if you are dealing with body pain, mental stress, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

Additional studies point out that CBD oil can treat psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia patients. Lab rat studies also suggest that it can reduce swelling and inflammation that stems from autoimmune conditions and diseases like cancer. Besides, CBD oil has several other benefits currently under examination.

Some studies link CBD oil with improved cardiovascular health. It improves blood circulation, metabolism, immune function, sleep, and recovery. CBD also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It soothes your muscles and acts as a nerve tonic.

Tips for Making the Best CBD-Infused Hot Chocolate

  • Choose high-quality CBD products. Review the label to ensure your CBD oil meets the best cultivation and production standards.
  • Buy lavender and chocolate products from credible, reputable brands and sources.
  • Pay close attention to the CBD oil formula, potency, dose recommendation and suggested medical benefits.
  • Use correct measurements.
  • Try out different variations and recipes to get the best beverage.

Many studies have suggested that it can help treat various medical and mental health conditions. The discovery of CBD is recent but the use of cannabis, which contains both CBD and THC, is centuries old. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties and therefore, does not give you a "high." Since most CBD oil and products are free of flavor, the natural hemp flavor takes effect. Making a hot beverage is one of the new ways you can take advantage of the medical benefits of CBD without having to taste it.

6 Smoked Recipes for a Greener Grilled Summer

The summer sun brings a chance to enjoy some quality meals in the yard or on the patio. Tradition tells us that the barbecue is the go-to cooking method for backyard eats, and for good reason. However, if you've never tried your hand with a smoker, you're missing out. This flavor-packed cooking method offers a laid-back, slow cooking approach that's perfect for summer days and produces tender meats and savory treats.

Grilling and smoking your food isn't just a great way to enjoy some time outdoors while making delicious meals, though. These cooking methods can help save the planet at the same time. By using a sustainable fuel like all-natural pellets or wood chips in your smoker or grill, you'll be burning naturally occurring fuel that doesn't contribute to pollution and greenhouse emissions.

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Alton Brown's Simple Smoked Salmon

Hearty brisket and cured bacon might be what most of the country thinks of when it comes to smoked dishes, but for West Coast inhabitants, smoked salmon is often the gateway drug to the only good kind of smoking habit. The buttery flavor of fresh salmon takes wonderfully to some smoke and cooks much quicker than red meat.

This simple but effective recipe from Food Network's ubiquitous epicurean expert Alton Brown might look imposing because of its day-long prep time, but it's just a matter of marinating the fish overnight in a sweet and savory mix of brown sugar and salt.

Grilled Veggie Pizza

How would you like to eat delicious pizza made with fresh ingredients for less money than a visit to the local parlor? You can, in your own backyard. All it takes is a pizza stone and a recipe, and we've got you covered for the latter. This veggie pizza is bursting with flavor from fresh mushrooms, onions, peppers and mozzarella cheese. After you experience the wonderfully crispy grilled texture and homemade goodness of fresh grilled pizza, you might not want to go back to restaurant-style.

Smoked Mojo Chicken Legs

Get your mojo going with this easy take on citrus-heat chicken legs. Fresh cilantro, lime juice, orange zest and orange juice combine with jalapeno peppers for a dish that calls for the use of a smoke packet. The combination of applewood smoke and citrus heat is wonderfully creative, and juicy chicken thighs make the perfect vehicle for this zesty take on a summer classic.

Smoked Tomato Salsa

What would summer be without snack food? Chips and salsa are a tried-and-true favorite that you can make on your own by doing a little green grilling. Smoking brings out the lovely flavors in tomatoes, which combine with sweet onion and yellow corn to create a colorful classic chip topper that is simple and flavor-forward. This recipe calls for a digital smoker, but if you've already got something more sustainable, it'll do just fine.

'Ol Hick Baby Back Ribs

Ribs are a summertime staple on the grill, but you can always take things up a notch and think outside the traditional barbecue sauce box. Rub them with a combination of paprika, turbinado sugar, garlic and onion powder, coriander and more. After grilling on a pellet cooker for about two hours, wrap the rack in foil with some butter and brown sugar. When they're done, you'll have deliciously tender meat falling off the bones.

Juicy Lucy Stuffed Burgers

What's more fun than burgers on the grill? How about burgers that ooze melty, cheesy goodness when you bite into them? The name "Juicy Lucy" hails from Minnesota, where taking advantage of a clear summer day is an occasion for stuffed burgers indeed. The trick to getting these right is nailing your burger construction. Make sure that there are no holes or thin spots for stuffing to seep through, as that might lead to burger breakdown on the grill. Cheese is the standard "stuffing" for these burgers, but there's lots of room to experiment and find just the right mix for your taste.

Smoked Duck Pancakes

Yes, you read that right. Summer classics are great, but when the sun is out, you sometimes have to find a little whimsy in your menu. Fans of chicken and waffles will feel right at home with this sweet and savory combination, which pairs moist smoked duck with a blueberry compote and whipped Chevre cheese. Breakfast, lunch, dessert — there are few meals where this dish doesn't fit in. If you're craving something that combines sweet and savory, give these a try.

Grilled Peaches and Mascarpone

Impress your summer sweetheart with this health-conscious dessert that looks outrageous and takes only a couple of minutes to cook. The key to a delectable fruit dessert is good ingredients. The more flavor you can bring out of fresh peaches and cold mascarpone, the better it will be. Just paint some agave onto your halved fruit, throw them on the grill for a few minutes and then top them off. You'll be amazed at how simple it is to make something that looks so gourmet.

This list offers you a selection of sweet, savory, delicious goodness and health-hearty veggies, all of which you can make in an environmentally friendly way using your sustainable grill or smoker.

Easy Shredded Beef Tacos Recipe

When I lived in Oakland, California I liked to go to a restaurant nearby and order a dish called Bus Up Shut. Bus Up Shut! What, might you ask, is that? Well, dear readers, I can tell you! Bus Up Shut is the Caribbean way of saying tattered and torn shirt. Get it? Bus(ted) Up Shirt! It’s the name of a sandwich made with an amazing flat bread and filled with curry meat and vegetables. It is absolutely delicious!

So you can imagine my pleasure when I ran across a local dish made by Mexican housewives called “Ropa Vieja”. I guess the shredded meat in this recipe reminds them of old, torn clothing. Our local version of Bus Up Shut!

This delectable shredded meat can be used any which way but it’s particularly good as a base for soft tacos.

shredded beef
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Here’s how I make Old Clothes, I mean, Ropa Vieja. Ay, chihuahua!

Get a good size chunk of beef brisket or beef chuck roast. Get a piece that will feed the people you’re cooking for. It’s only me and my husband right now so I get a 2-pound chunk and then I have a little leftover for other recipes.

Ingredients

Tacos:

• 3 pounds of beef (feeds 4 people)
• 1 lime
• 1-2/3 cup beef bone broth
• 2 tablespoons avocado oil
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 tablespoons stevia

Sauce:

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 3 tablespoons avocado oil
• Smashed and minced small clove of garlic

For serving:

• Warmed corn tortillas or leaves of butter lettuce
• Finely chopped scallions or white onions
• Sliced avocado
• Sliced radishes
• Minced cilantro
• Salsa cruda or any kind of salsa you like

Instructions

Juice the lime and saved the juiced halves. Put the juice, lime halves, bone broth, oil, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves in your slow cooker. Put your chunk of meat in the broth and turn it so all sides are coated. I do all this just before bed so I can put it on low and while I’m sleeping it’s cooking. (8 hours). Set on low, put a lid on it and have a nice sleep!

In the morning use a slotted spoon to remove the beef and then, being careful because the slow cooker pot will be hot, scoop out the cooking liquid and leave about 2/3 of a cup. Stir in the stevia. Set the cooker on high and let the liquid cook down a bit. If it never boils, don’t worry. Add the beef back in and using 2 forks shred the beef.

When you're ready to eat mix together the sauce ingredients and tear up the lettuce leaves or prepare the tortillas. Then prepare your garnish items.

Spoon the shredded beef into your lettuce cups or tortillas, add a dollop of sauce and sprinkle garnishes to your heart's content. I serve mine with a side of black beans and rice and veggies.

Me gusta!

Edible Hosta Tart Recipe

Hostas are a common shade plant here in the northeast, and they’re known for their lush glossy foliage and stunning flower spikes.  They’re one of the few plants that thrives in full shade, creating a beautiful landscape where most flowers won’t grow.  Now there’s one more reason to plant this shade perennial…hostas are edible!

They were originally a wild foraged spring green in Japan, in the same way that fiddleheads and ramps are enjoyed in the states.  Somehow, when hostas made the trek across the pacific to become a landscape shrub, the fact that they’re a sought after edible plant got lost in translation. 

If you’re curious about the history of this fun plant, and a few promising studies looking at the medicinal properties of hostas, check out this article on how to cook edible hostas.

fresh hosta tart

In the early spring, the shoots taste like a cross between asparagus and leeks, with a mild sweet subtly onion-y green flavor.  They’re particularly good as simple oven roasted bacon wrapped hostas, or in a wild greens stir fry alongside other spring wild foraged edibles.

Later on in the season, full grown hosta leaves can be cooked like collards or kale.  As the flowers start to emerge, you can cook hosta flower buds and then the fully opened blossoms are tasty edible flowers (raw or cooked).

Though they’re edible throughout the season, my favorite time to enjoy hostas is in the early spring when they first emerge from the soil.  At that point, they’re tender and sweet, and I use them in place of asparagus in just about any recipe.  I’m particularly fond of quiche and tarts, since they’re simple to prepare and spring is a busy time of year at my house.

The base is a simple pie crust, and I generally make it with 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, a pinch of salt and a splash of cold water.  Feel free to use your favorite pie crust recipe for a single crust pie, or get a pre-made pie crust from the store.  If you’re feeling adventurous (of course you are, you’re about to cook hostas, right?) then go ahead and try this sourdough pie crust or this old fashioned pie crust with egg and vinegar.

This hosta shoot tart comes together quickly and is beautiful too.

unbaked hosta tart

Hosta Shoot Tart Recipe

Ingredients:

• 6 to 8 young hosta shoots, about 4 to 6 inches
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
• 1 unbaked pie or pastry crust

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Toss the hostas in olive oil and roast them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until they just begin to caramelize.  Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

3. Place the unbaked pie crust in a tart pan.  Top with parmesan cheese.  Gently place the hostas on top of the cheese in the tart shell.

4. Beat eggs, milk and heavy cream together and pour the egg/cream mixture over the hostas in the tart.

5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the egg is cooked through and begins to brown.

6. Serve hot or cold.


Ashley lives in a solar and wind powered home in Vermont with her husband and two young children.  She writes about gardening, foraging, DIY, home brewing and all things off-grid at Practical Self Reliance and shares recipes from her Vermont kitchen on Adamant Kitchen.  You can find pictures of her homestead adventures on Instagram, or follow along on Facebook pages for Practical Self Reliance and Adamant Kitchen.  She’s also on Twitter.

Traveling While Doing Keto

After a lot of contemplation and preparation, I finally committed to trying a keto diet for six weeks. I was hoping to avoid traveling during this time so it would be easier, but it did not work out that way. Since it had taken so long to commit to the six weeks, I was determined to stick with it the best that I could while I was traveling. 

MIL keto travel

I knew there were not any great keto options on the route that I was traveling. It is really important to me that I am sticking with real foods for the most part and making sure to eat my vegetables. My best option for the road was to pack my own stuff. 

One thing that I was concerned about was getting my fat in on the road. I was excited to find Trader Joe’s packets of coconut oil. I ended up adding that to the tea that I had in my hotel room on the trip. I also bought kale chips so that I would have a way to get some vegetables on the road. I bought some organic canned chicken, but in the end, I did not eat it. I still think it is a good travel food though.

Normally when I travel I eat a lot of carbs and load up on soda for my caffeine. I had to make a different plan this time. I was happy to be able to drink Zevia energy drinks in place of the soda. They are sweetened with stevia and no carbs. I also packed some kombucha for the trip. I have to take that from my carb allowance for the day, but it is so worth it for me. I brought  some single serving electrolyte and Natural Calm magnesium packets to add to my water. 

For my travel time to my destination, I ate only what I had packed. For breakfast, I had a low carb keto bar. For lunch, I had a no-carb Chomps beef stick along with the kale chips. I also packed some mixed nuts. I ate some Parmesan cheese crisps. I certainly was hungry by the time I made it to my destination and was ready for a great dinner. I was able to enjoy a nice steak dinner with asparagus and wild mushrooms. The mushrooms were the best that I have had. I felt good with my dinner choices. 

When I was not on the road, omelettes with vegetables were my go to breakfast. I added avocado when it was available. I was able to enjoy a lovely buffet that had some good low carb options. I ate Chipotle for one meal since I knew it had some good low-carb options as well. 

I feel like I did well overall. I did have two fast food options. I had an Arby’s Beef and Cheddar no bun, no red sauce and a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese no bun. I did forget to ask for no ketchup so I scraped it off the burger. They were not my first preferences, but I felt they were manageable. I was out of town for four days and I did not gain any weight so I was happy with that. 

Since I have been home I discovered two more great things for me to carry for fat if I travel or just eat out. I found some olive oil packets and also packs of ghee. I like to be prepared and have good options available for me. I feel good about what I achieved on my keto journey while I was traveling. There certainly was much temptation.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: Invasion of the Brown Fuzz

Dear Readers, I have to post the results of my apple cider vinegar experiment so you will know how it might look when it all goes wrong. Unfortunately, at 4 weeks when I was advised to remove the apple slices and take out the weight holding down the apple parings I must have introduced bad bacteria. Even so, at 5 weeks my ACV looked like it was doing all right. At 5 weeks I checked on it and even noticed slime forming which I interpreted as the Mother or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) forming.  There it is. On the 6th week when the vinegar should be ready to go, I find this.

mold 1   mold 2

I have not been able to confirm with my fermenting friends that this is, indeed, mold but in my long history of making food in many forms and styles my experience tells me that this must be mold and no doubt about it. It’s fuzzy and brown! I am so disappointed! Strangely enough, it doesn’t smell bad. If anything, it smells like what I would describe as sweet vinegar. The liquid beneath the layer of mold is clear and peach colored.

This just shows that you can do everything right or think you did everything right and it still doesn’t work. Once the ball is rolling on this process of fermenting apple cider vinegar, as far as I know, there is nothing a person can do to prevent it. What will be will be.

To quote one of my favorite newscasters from my childhood, Paul Harvey. “And now you know the rest of the story.”







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