Eat Seasonally: Spring

Hello spring! This marks the beginning of peak fruit season (which runs spring through summer) here in Central California. Leafy green vegetables make an appearance, as well as my personal favorite — the almighty artichoke. Check out this quick guide to spring produce, complete with recipes to get you started.

spring flowers

HOW TO EAT SEASONALLY

While most produce is available at grocery stores year-round, that doesn’t mean it’s best to buy it at any time. Produce that’s in season will be more flavorful (think sweeter fruits, more vibrant lettuce) AND you can source it locally. Most produce in major grocery stores is imported from other countries. That means, typically, the produce is picked before peak ripeness and sprayed with chemicals to mechanically ripen it before it lands on grocery shelves.

For the best produce, look locally. This Eat Seasonally guide is specific to the West Coast of the United States, focusing on produce that is in season in California. What’s locally available may be different in your area depending your local climate.

The easiest way to shop seasonally is to visit your local farmers markets, or farm stands. This ensures the produce is locally sourced, and is most likely picked at peak ripeness. Ideally, there will also be a variety of organic options available.

Spring season runs from Saturday, March 20 to Sunday, June 20.

blooming flowers along a path
So many beautiful flowers! So many allergies!

SEASONAL PRODUCE GUIDES

Here are some online resources to see the full list of seasonal spring produce.

Have a Plant – Full list of spring produce, not broken down by region. Read more here.

Southland Farmers Market Association – Specific to the Southern California region. View the list here.

Pick Your Own – Features a full harvest calendar for all of California. View here.

cherry blossoms
Gorgeous cherry blossoms.

SPRING FRUITS

apricots

Apricots

May to August

cherries

Cherries

Mid-May through June

honeydew

Honeydew

June to October

limes

Limes

May to October

lychee

Lychee

Late spring through early fall

mango

Mango

May through September

pineapple

Pineapple

March through July

oranges

Oranges

December to April

strawberries

Strawberries

April to July

blueberries

Blueberries

May 15 to June 30

nectarines

Nectarines

May 20 – September 15

peaches

Peaches

May 20 – September 5

SPRING VEGETABLES

artichokes

Artichokes

March through May

asparagus

Asparagus

March to April

belgian endive

Belgian Endive

September through May

chives in a garden

Chives

March to June

cucumber

Cucumber

May to August

fennel bulbs

Fennel

March to May

vidalia onions

Vidalia Onions

April to early September

spinach

Spinach

Spring

mustard greens

Mustard Greens

April

rhubarb

Rhubarb

April through July

snow peas

Snow Peas

Spring to Early Summer

7 SPRING PRODUCE RECIPES

  1. Easy Steamed Artichokes – Recipe by Edible Ink

Artichokes are hearty, succulent, and bursting with richness. Look for bigger artichokes, with more green leaves than purple. This will ensure they are mature enough to be tender, and will yield a big heart (the best part!).

Serve artichokes as a side dish, or the main event. Pair with a sundried tomato orzo and Mediterranean chickpea salad for a fresh summery plant-based dinner!

Steamed Artichokes Recipe

2. Roasted Fennel with Garlic and Herbs – Recipe by Every Last Bite

Fennel, a perennial bulb of the carrot family, has a light, sweet taste with a hint of licorice. Enjoy thinly sliced in a spring salad with spinach, toasted pine nuts and an orange vinaigrette. Roasted with savory garlic and fresh herbs, it transforms into a delicious side dish.

This recipe caramelizes the fennel, bringing out its natural sweetness to offset the sharpness of the garlic and earthiness of the herbs. Omit the parmesan to keep it dairy-free & vegan!

roasted fennel
Decadent roasted fennel

3. Mustard Greens Salad – Recipe by Farm Fresh to You

If you like spicy and aren’t afraid of a bitter green, this fresh Mustard Green salad is for you. Mustard greens are comparable to the pepperiness of a fresh beet and the bite of fresh baby arugula. Add some fresh in-season spinach, finely chopped chives, and a handful of plump blueberries to offset the bitterness.

Mustard greens are commonly served cooked, as to eliminate the bite. We think this voracious green adds quite an edge to an otherwise simple salad and is greatly enjoyable eaten with a fresh vinaigrette!

mustard greens
Gorgeous mustard greens.

4. Savory Rhubarb Salsa – Recipe by Sabrina Currie

Rhubarb may most commonly be used as a pie filling so this take on rhubarb as a salsa base is fresh and creative. Macerate the diced rhubarb in sugar and vinegar to cancel out bitterness before building layers of flavor with cilantro, jalapeno and onion.

Try this simple Savory Rhubarb Salsa with a pork tenderloin for your next spring dinner.

rhubarb - whole and chopped
Look at that beautiful rhubarb!

5. Berry Stone Fruit Crisp – Recipe by Edible Ink

This easy delicious dessert uses the best fruits of spring – berries and stone fruit! Select any combination of fruit you’d like. Try a blueberry peach crisp or get adventurous with a cherry nectarine crisp. The options are endless.

For best results, utilize the best and ripest seasonal fruits you can find. This crisp is designed to be easily adapted to whatever fruits you have on hand. Snag a variety and enjoy!

6. Decadent Peach Buckle – Recipe by Edible Ink

Fresh peaches, brown sugar, light fluffy cake. This Decadent Peach Buckle has it all! And never fear — this detailed, easy-to-follow recipe walks you through the whole process of skinning the peaches and preparing the batter.

To assemble the buckle, lay down the light cake batter in the pan first, then add your sliced peaches on top. As it bakes, the juices from the peach will soak into the cake and the batter will rise up around the peaches, creating the perfect peachy bite. Yum.

7. Strawberry Cake – Recipe by Edible Ink

Here’s an ultimate cake hack — use Krusteaz Blueberry Muffin Mix to create this delectable strawberry cake! In this simple recipe, use fresh strawberries to make your own easy strawberry milk to bolster the flavor, and moisture, of this easy cake.

Sure it may sound a little nuts, but trust, it WORKS. The muffin mix holds up well to the dozens of diced strawberries, ensuring they are evenly distributed throughout the cake and that they don’t just all sink to the bottom. Serve it up for your next spring gathering!

Where do Pine Nuts come from? | Pine Nut Recipes

We all know pine nuts right? Those small, decadent, outrageously expensive nuts that melt like butter on the tongue and give traditional basil pesto it’s signature flavor. But where do they come from? Today, we’ll find out!

What’s in a Name?

Turns out, the answer is closer than we may think. It’s in the name! Pine nuts, in North America, come from pinyon pine trees.

pinyon pine tree in utah desert
Pinyon Pine tree at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA.

The pinyon pine is well-equipped to live in treacherous desert environments — they are compact, slow-growing, and drought tolerant. Since they’re accustomed to hard desert life, the pinyon pine grows primarily in the southwest, with some as far north as Wyoming.

There are quite a few varieties of pinyon pine trees. Most commonly used for harvesting pine nuts are the Colorado pinyon, single-leaf pinyon and Mexican pinyon.

Now, while pine nuts harvested in North America may come from the pinyon pine, what about European pine nuts? Pesto, a staple of Italian cuisine, is made specifically with pine nuts. And these pine nuts come from a different tree.

Stone Pine Tree at Sunset in Tuscany, Italy

Meet the stone pine, which has been cultivated as a pine nut machine for over 5,000 years in Europe. The stone pine is native to the Mediterranean region and Southern Europe.

Getting to the Good Stuff

Now that we know the basics — that pine nuts do indeed come from pinecones — we can get into the good stuff.

Before harvesting, the pine nuts need time to mature. This can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. Yes three years! Apparently good things do come to those who wait.

baby pine cones
Young pine cones, growing in the summer sun.

Typically, pine cones bud in the spring, grow through the summer, remain dormant in the cold months (fall/winter) and mature again through the following spring/summer. Each varietal of tree may have different maturation times. The trees that take three years go through cycles of growth and dormancy until the finally reach peak harvesting stage.

Turns out, harvesting pine nuts is no small feat, which accounts for their significant price tag at the grocery store. Thankfully, the Huffington Post debunked the myth of pine nuts for us:

“Pine nuts are ready to harvest about 10 days before the green cone begins to open.

The cones are dried in a burlap bag in the sun for 20 days, to speed up the process of drying and opening.

The cones are then smashed (as a way to quickly release the seeds) and the seeds are separated by hand from the cone fragments.

The fact that it takes a lot of time and patience is an understatement — and justifies the high price of pine nuts.”

So with the pine nuts finally mature and released from their cone casing, their all ready to use now right? Not quite. The pine nuts themselves have an external shell, which then has to be removed to reveal the sweet golden raindrop-shaped nut inside.

For the ambitious home gardener, you can learn how to harvest pine nuts at home from your very own pinyon pine tree. Read more at Gardening Know How.

pine nuts and pine cones
Mature pine cones, harvested pine nuts, and the final product – deshelled pine nuts ready to enjoy.

Pine Nut Palooza

Now for the fun part! What to do with all these tasty pine nuts. Here’s three recipes to try.

Pine Nuts may be the most buttery of all the nuts. They are full of delicious oils that come out when they are lightly roasted in the oven, or toasted in a frying pan. Sprinkle them on pastas, salads, anywhere that could use a delicious, light buttery crunch.

1. Traditional Pesto Genovese

jarred pesto
Traditional Pesto

For an authentic use of pine nuts, try this Original Pesto Genovese recipe. This recipe uses a traditional mortar and pestle to create a luscious, smooth pesto bursting with fresh basil, parmigiano reggiano, and pine nuts.

2. Italian Pine Nut Cookies

pine nut cookies
They’re just the best.

For those with a sweet tooth, try out one of my personal favorite Italian cookies. While I can’t share my family’s secret recipe, this Food52 recipe is a good replacement. The sweetness of the almond paste (ground sugar and almonds) balances out the buttery pine nuts on top. It’s the perfect nutty cookie, not too sweet.

3. Pine Nuts on Pasta

pasta and pine nuts
Pine Nuts on a beautiful bowl of pasta

Try some toasted pine nuts sprinkled on this nutrient-packed, extra flavorful Pasta with Kale and Garbanzo Beans. Toasted pine nuts go well with pretty much any pasta dish, so I encourage you to make your favorite and add a sprinkle of pine nuts on top. Or, use the pesto recipe above with your favorite pasta and add an extra pinch of pine nuts just before serving!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pine nuts? Let us know in the comments below!

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Intuitive Eating: A Brief Introduction

Welcome to the world of intuitive eating — aka the anti-diet.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult your health professional if you have specific health concerns.)

What is intuitive eating?

Essentially, intuitive eating is the concept of eating according to what your body needs. It involves tuning in to hunger cues, understanding cravings (for sugars, protein, etc.) and not imposing limitations what is “good” and “bad” to consume.

“Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.”

–Healthline

According to Healthline, “Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.” This is what makes it the anti-diet; instead of restricting consumption, forcing over-consumption of certain foods, or abruptly cutting nutrients like carbs out of your diet completely, intuitive eating focuses on feeding your body what it really needs.

Of course, that concept is inherent in its name. Intuitive eating is all about listening to your intuition, trusting that your body will send you the correct signals for what it lacks, learning to understand those signals and eat accordingly.

For those regimented in the diet mindset of strict control and calorie counting, intuitive eating may seem like a radical, and at times dangerous, concept. There are many initial fears, mostly surrounding binge eating, like “If I want a cookie and I let myself have one, what if I eat the whole bag of cookies?” Those fears are valid, and often perpetuated by past participation in harsh restrictive dieting.

a table full of food and people eating

However, with intuitive eating, sometimes binging on a specific food is part of the initial journey. Once you (and your body) start to get used to the ability to eat what you want, when you want it, the desire to binge large amounts of a certain foods decrease. Instead of being in a constant state of “need more while I can have it,” you ease into a feeling of security and confidence. That when you want a cookie, indeed you can have it, and you’ll know when enough is enough without feeling the urge to consume as many cookies as possible while it’s “allowed”.

The flip side of intuitive eating, not only eating when you want to, is also stopping when you are full. The pressure to “finish your plate” is set aside, and listening to your body becomes paramount. What you don’t eat now, you can always save and eat later. Contrary to popular belief, nothing detrimental will happen if you don’t finish your food in one sitting.

What is intuitive eating like?

In order to tell you best what intuitive eating is really like, we’ll need to get personal. I became an intuitive eater after years of being caught in the restrictive dieting cycle.

At my worst restrictive eating, I consumed about half the daily recommended calorie count for my age and height. I was skinny, but in no way healthy. (Therein lies a crucial difference that often gets lost in a culture where being thin is held as an ideal of beauty. Thin does not always signify health, and having fat on your body does not make you bad, ugly, or unworthy.)

Eventually, I realized that my health was more important, and that choice enabled me to put my physical, mental, and emotional health first. I gave up the dieting and stopped denying my body. I read about intuitive eating and finally resigned to the fact that maybe what my body needed was to be a bit bigger, to have more fat and more muscle.

girl eating mousse

Realizing this was freeing. I started listening to my body. Sometimes that meant I wanted rice and a fried egg for breakfast. Sometimes I wanted a giant plate of roasted vegetables. And yes, many times I indulged in the french fries I craved, or ate half a papaya in one sitting. I also went through a bout with ice cream, until I realized sugar was a migraine trigger for me (more on that another time). And when its time for pasta, I eat as much as I want.

When my car tells me the gas tank is low, I fill it. It’s the same for my body. Food is fuel. It doesn’t matter if I’ve “earned” the food. I’m fortunate enough to be food secure, and so when I’m hungry, I eat.

Maybe intuitive eating is strange, and maybe it seems strange because its different than what we’re lead to believe is “normal”. Either way, it was (and still is) working for me. I weigh more now than I used to, but I’m also the healthiest I’ve been in my adult life. Most importantly, I’m comfortable in my own skin.


As unbelievable as it may be, I started craving “healthy” foods. Vegetables, fruits. My desire for greasy, salty, overtly sugary foods decreased. The more natural foods I eat, the better I feel, and the more I want them. Not because they are “good,” but because my energy is improved, my mind is clear, and I’m actually motivated to get moving (a big feat for me).

This may be the greatest irony of intuitive eating. When given absolute freedom to choose what to consume, it’s natural foods my body wants the most. Of course, I still eat fried foods, and still love my tater tots, but eating “clean” all the time isn’t the goal. It’s the fact that I’m free to choose, and this time I choose natural foods because I know how they effect my body, the positive effects they have on my overall health. It’s not a chore to eat healthy. It’s a privilege.

Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know what will work best for you. I can’t say that intuitive eating is the best path or not. All I can share is my experience. For me, this philosophy of listening to my body has enabled a healing process in my relationship with food, increased my enjoyment of it, and ultimately, freed my mind from thinking that handful of chips I just ate ruined my daily calorie count.

bowl of healthy oatmeal cereal

How do I start my intuitive eating journey?

First, let’s make an important distinction, best articulated by Healthline’s “A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating.”

“To eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to trust your body. To do that, you need to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:

  • Physical hunger. This biological urge tells you to replenish nutrients. It builds gradually and has different signals, such as a growling stomach, fatigue, or irritability. It’s satisfied when you eat any food.
  • Emotional hunger. This is driven by emotional need. Sadness, loneliness, and boredom are some of the feelings that can create cravings for food, often comfort foods. Eating then causes guilt and self-hatred.”

Let’s break this down. First, learning how to trust your body. Dieting essentially consists of us telling ourselves “No.” We train ourselves to ignore our bodies signals, instead force feeding it whatever the diet tells us we’re supposed to eat.

Intuitive eating requires listening to our bodies signals. After years of suppressing them, practice is needed to listen successfully. It will take trial and error. The more you practice, the easier it will become. However, intuitive eating is not something that happens overnight. It’s a journey, but one that is incredibly rewarding.

Second, the distinction between physical and emotional hunger. Emotional eating is what drives us to consume a pint of ice cream when we’re sad, or an entire family size bag of potato chips when we’re stressed. Intuitive eating does not condone emotional eating. Instead, it supports listening to your emotions as intently as you listen to your physical hunger. Acknowledging and honoring emotions, participating in self-affirming activities and prioritizing emotional self-care are all ways to retrain the body from satiating emotions with food to using intentional action to recognize and move through “big feelings.”

Now, we’ve just moved from the realm of physical hunger, dieting, and physical appearance to the much deeper under-layers of emotional well-being and how our emotions affect or reflect our relationship with food. This is a big leap. It’s not one that everyone is comfortable taking. For support in this journey, I’ve included a short list of resources at the end of the post.

Though it may seem like extra work, and it is, the effort is worth it. This may be seen as radical self-care, but in an era of social turmoil and global health crises, I’d argue that being radical in our self-care is exactly what we need. For it is only through taking care of ourselves that we can best take care of others. Extending kindness and understanding inward may be radical, but radical kindness, that is, compassion, is the heart of humanity, and we could all use more of that in our lives.

Intuitive eating resources

Tricia Parido of Turning Leaves Wellness Coaching provides great one-on-one support for your food journey. She’s an expert (literally a Master Coach) whose personal experience with disordered eating makes her an incredible resource on your journey to health and healing with food.

The Healthline article “A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating,” which includes a list of the ten main principles of intuitive eating, and a short reading list to learn more. While diving more into the philosophy behind intuitive eating is important, remember that your journey should be personal. If you encounter a principle that doesn’t sit right with you, adapt it, make it your own and move forward. This is the anti-diet, after all.

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S literally wrote the book on intuitive eating. Visit her website to read her blog, schedule counseling or learn more about professional training. She also has a helpful list of resources available for free.https://www.evelyntribole.com/

What are your thoughts on intuitive eating? Let me know in the comments below!

brown potato

Eat Seasonally: Winter

Winter may be the season of staying indoors, but it’s still rife with delicious fruits and vegetables. Check out this quick guide to winter produce, complete with recipes to get you started.

Why eat seasonally?

Eating seasonally provides quite a few benefits. For one, since the season is optimal for these fruits and vegetables, they’ll likely have better flavor than when out of season. Better quality produce means better flavor, making them even easier to enjoy.

If you have a local farmers market, look for the winter produce listed here. Purchasing locally grown seasonal produce is more eco-friendly. Why? Out of season produce found in supermarkets is often shipped in from other countries, meaning more emissions. Locally grown means it travelled much less, and you’re likely to get more ripe, fresher produce as well.

Winter season runs from December 21 – March 20.

What’s fruits are in season for Winter?

Citrus may be the most popular winter fruit. They’re able to endure the chilling frost of winter better than other fruits. Pineapple may be the most surprising winter fruit. It’s season begins at the tail end of winter (in March) and continues throughout the spring and summer months. Pears are a winter favorite, though their peak season is short. Get them while you can!

sliced avocado fruit on a banana leaf

Avocado – January to March

yellow banana fruits

Banana – Year-round

slice grapefruit

Grapefruit – January to August

sliced kiwi fruits

Kiwifruit – November to January

food healthy nature water

Meyer Lemons – November to March

composition of sliced bright tropical fruits

Orange – Fall to Spring

pexels-photo-175767.jpeg

Pears – August to December

pineapple underwater fruit water

Pineapple – March to July

What vegetables are in season for Winter?

Root vegetables and hearty leafy greens are the most popular winter vegetables. Parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas may not be everyone’s first choice, but with the right recipe they transform to delectable side dishes, luscious soups, or even tasty seasoned fries. Winter squash are heartier than summer squash, with thicker skins and firmer flesh, able to endure the winter frost. Look for Kabocha, Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut or Delicata squash at your local farmer’s market.

food water summer texture

Cabbage – Fall to Spring

Celery – April to December

red flower bud on green leaves

Swiss Chard – December to March

Collard Greens – December to March

food healthy wood leaf

Kale – November to March

Onion – September to March

Parsnip – September to June

potatoes

New Potatoes – Late Winter; Russet Potatoes – Year-Round

Rutabaga – October to March

Turnip – October to March

Winter Squash – Butternut, Acorn, Kabocha, Delicata

Winter Produce Recipes

Here’s five recipes using winter produce to get started.

Kale Chickpea Pasta by Edible Ink

Harness the power of kale and chickpeas in this 30 minute pasta recipe. Great for a nutrient-packed, quick weeknight dinner. This is kale done right; sautéed in a cast iron skillet with garlic and spices.

Cinnamon Maple Roasted Kabocha Squash by Eating Bird Food

Kabocha squash (also called Japanese pumpkin) may be my personal favorite squash. It’s easily roasted, with a great firm texture and only mild sweetness. It can be easily transformed into a soup, curry, or roasted with cinnamon and maple, like in this recipe!

Parsnip Chips

The right combination of spices can turn any vegetable into a tasty masterpiece. Which is exactly what happens in this Parsnip Chips recipe by Chef Aarti Sequeira.

Ultimate Banana Bread by Edible Ink

Banana bread is a tried and true classic. This twist on classic banana bread results in a light cake-like loaf, perfect for a comforting dessert or sweet breakfast.

Orange Espresso Cupcakes

Marbled cupcakes are always sure to impress! This recipe uses winter oranges and a dash of espresso for a fun and refreshing cupcake.


What’s your favorite winter produce recipe? Tried any of the recipes listed in this post? Let us know in the comments below!

Biscotti : A Christmas Tradition

The story of a beloved Christmas tradition, the love of family, and one very special cookie.


The scent always lingers. It permeates the fabric of the pillows on the couch, fills every crevice in the cabinets, clings to the air, sitting heavy on each atom. It’s unmistakable, unforgettable. Sweet, a bit like licorice. And for me, completely and wholly synonymous with Christmastime. It’s not gingerbread, or eggnog. It’s biscotti.

Every year at Christmas my grandfather, Papa, and my grandmother, Nana, dedicated a weekend to baking batches on batches of biscotti for the family. But perhaps, the story doesn’t start there. It starts decades earlier when Papa bought an Italian bakery in Southern California.

There, he learned how to make everything. Cookies, pastries, even wedding cakes. He’d spend hours sitting at the kitchen table practicing his piping techniques to get it just right. And it was there, at Masielo’s Bakery, that Papa learned how to make biscotti.

Eventually, the bakery was sold and new businesses bought — a lodge in Tahoe, a used furniture store. But the biscotti remained. The cookies, traditional, the recipe top secret, became like another member of our family. Paying homage to Nana and Papa’s Sicilian heritage, the product of Papa’s hard work and dedication, to be passed down from generation to generation.

Biscotti could be described as the exact opposite of an American cookie. They are hard, crunchy, packed with whole almonds and the bittersweetness of anise. Traditionally, biscotti are dipped in wine. I learned to dip them in a glass of milk, and eventually, at breakfast with a cup of coffee.

There’s an art to eating biscotti, and the key is the dipping. Biscotti are not a cookie of many ingredients. The biscotti Papa made, the biscotti Nana taught me how to make after he passed, consist mainly of whipped eggs, sugar and flour. Baked twice, they can become as hard and crunchy as a piece of overdone toast. And that’s exactly the way they should be.

See, the dunking is the secret. Once the biscotti hits that glass of milk, that cup of coffee, all those lovely air pockets fill with liquid and the cookie softens on impact. That’s how you must eat them, when they are at their peak.

Perhaps what was always so magical about Papa’s biscotti was that they came around only once a year. The process is involved, it’s time-consuming and made ever the more special as an annual Christmas treat. I’ve never known Christmas without biscotti. So when Papa passed, I knew the tradition must carry on. The prospect of a Christmas without Papa, without his joy and his light, was dim.

And, I suppose, that’s how I came to be the biscotti baker. For as you may have guessed, the biscotti are not just a cookie to us. They’re a symbol of our family, our tradition, and the love that Papa shared with us. Making biscotti is not something you do for fun. It’s something you do out of love.

So with Nana as my director, I learned how to make them. I tried and failed and tried again. I learned how 10 degrees difference in the oven affected the cookies, the temperature of the eggs, the amount of anise. With the chicken-scratch short hand of Papa’s recipes and Nana as my official taste-tester, I learned. I felt under-qualified for the responsibility. But somehow, I felt Papa cheering me on, guiding my hands and I knew I must persist.

Making biscotti is messy business.

Yes, I may have cried over a batch of cookies. Whether it was the fact that the cookies came out wrong, or more that I missed Papa, I can’t say. Grief will do that. I pushed on.

Until I presented a batch of biscotti one day to Nana, who sat down to test it with her omnipresent cup of coffee and she said, with a smile, “This is just like Papa’s.” In that moment, it was all worth it. The tradition of the biscotti would not fade, Papa’s legacy would continue, and I vowed to myself, every year to make these not only for my family, but for him.

We all have our own holiday traditions. And while we enjoy the fruits of our labor (with a glass of wine, milk or cup of coffee) who we really do it for is the people we love. From my family to yours, I wish you Buon Natale, a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

Nana and Papa on their 50th wedding anniversary, celebrating with a cake Papa made and decorated.

Best Netflix Shows about Food

Unlike Food Network cooking shows, Netflix food shows tend toward travel and story-telling. In these shows we learn not only about new foods, but we learn of the culture behind them and the people that make them. Here’s a list of the best shows on Netflix that center around food (in no particular order).

Somebody Feed Phil

Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal travels the world, meeting so many wonderful people along the way. Phil is delightful to watch, his childlike enthusiasm for food, flavor and life always bring joy when watching this show. Many food shows are hosted by Chefs, who know exactly what food is presented to them. Phil has an extremely relatable quality — he’s just a guy who likes to eat, not a professionally trained Chef. While we can’t get out an explore the world, we can watch Phil navigate different countries, cultures and meet new people with unending joy and optimism.

The heart of a city lies with its people, its community. How they connect, gather, communicate. What they value, what traditions have withstood the test of time, of trial and trauma. Somebody Feed Phil dives headfirst into the community, often sharing the missions of local non-profit organizations, connecting with the city’s future generations and allowing us to discover the heart of each place travelled.

Somehow, this show, that focuses on one man traveling the world, trying different foods, restores faith. Through forging connections with the people of each city, their lives, their stories, Somebody Feed Phil reminds us all that no matter how different our lives may seem, we are all people, who, at the end of the day, care about putting forth the best for ourselves, our families and our communities. In his exceedingly lovable way, Phil connects us to places we may never visit and the people who call those places home.

Chef’s Table

This is high class food, served in restaurants that book a year in advance, with Michelin stars and James Beard awards. This is food reinvented. This is the peak of food as art. And though high class technique and fine dining run through the vein of these restaurants, where the show never compromises is in its soul.

Each episode centers around one chef, picking deep into their life, their backstory, what motivates them, their triumphs and their failures.Here we truly are allowed a window into what drives these chefs to be the best of the best, the arduous hours that reaching that height requires. True, some may say this show borders on idolization of these chefs. And perhaps it does. But that quality is what makes this show so fascinating, so captivating. The depth of exploration into each of these chef’s lives, we find incredible stories of perseverance, innovation and even the elusive, teetering on the edge of insanity quality found in inventors and experimenters of a bygone era. Everything about Chef’s Table, the production quality, music, cinematography make this show spell-bounding and enriching. Chef’s Table is not a show you watch, it’s a show you experience.

Subsequent off-shoots of Chef’s Table focus on chefs that are peak in their industries: pastry and BBQ. Both iterations maintain the integrity of the original series, focusing on the best of the best, providing a rare inside look into the minds of the greatest culinary creators of our day.

The Chef Show

LA chef Roy Choi and producer, writer, director Jon Favreau team up to cook a variety of different dishes. Having worked together on the film, Chef, Choi and Favreau take on friendly teacher and student roles, Choi patiently teaching Favreau not only how to make the dishes, but the processes behind how the dish is made. In this show, we all live vicariously through Favreau, whose so eager to learn everything from casual master chef Roy Choi. Plus, they go hang out with Christina Tosi, Wolfgang Puck, etc. It’s fantastic.

Roy Choi can be called the pioneer of the modern food truck. He started his truck Kogi BBQ Taco Truck in downtown LA. He was one of the first to utilize social media (thank you Twitter) to post the food truck’s location around Los Angeles. Hungry followers could see where the truck was at immediately, and would flock to it. He now owns 6 restaurants and has published a fascinating autobiography/cookbook hybrid LA Son. Roy Choi is a true LA original, combining the delicious power of Mexican street food with his Korean heritage. One of my favorite qualities about Roy Choi though, is how patient and humble he is in the kitchen.

Chef Show possesses an inherently playful nature, lacking the formality of fine dining while holding up the standards of making, quite simply, really good food. From oysters to the pinnacle of grilled cheese, Choi and Favreau present a new kind of cooking show. One thats centered around friendship and culinary discovery.

Street Food: Asia & Street Food: Latin America

While they are two separate shows, Street Food: Asia and Street Food: Latin America center around the same central them (you guessed it): street food. Embracing the region’s cultural backbone, this show hones in on street food vendors, many of whom have never been formally trained as chef, but instead are dedicated to carrying on the traditions of their culture by serving traditional street food every day of the year.

This is the food of the people. And the street vendors who survive are the ones who make the food that people most connect to and love mot deeply, enough to come back day after day for the same delicious dish. For the adventurous traveler, seeking out and trying traditional street food is a quintessential part of any journey. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s the product of the organic culinary landscape that surrounds it — no imports, no tricks, just decades upon decades of tradition, handed down through generations. The Street Food shows give us unique insight into how these street foods are made and the hard-working, dedicated, passionate hands that make them.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Based on Samin Nosrat’s book of the same title, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a limited series, only a mere four episodes that explores the building blocks of any good dish. While the show itself is brief, its value is irreplaceable. Nosrat is at once incredibly knowledgable and infinitely teachable, allowing us to learn from her own deep breadth of experience while simultaneously discovering new culinary territory right alongside her.

The premise behind the book, and the theme of the show, is that when you can master these four elements (salt, fat, acid and heat) you can utilize them in a balance to make anything delicious, with or without a recipe. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the culmination of decades of experience, and provides a philosophy on how to approach any dish in the kitchen. Going above and beyond a typical cooking tutorial show, Nosrat sets out to educate us on the role that certain foods play in your cooking, what happens when they interact in the right environments and how food can transform by your method of preparation. Overall, it’s an incredible inside look on how the mind of a chef works, and how to understand food beyond following a cut-and-dry recipe.

I respect why the show was only four episodes–it’s concise, following the structure of her book–but I am left wanting more. Though another Netflix show isn’t in the cards at this time, Nosrat is currently producing a podcast called Home Cooking, set to teach us everyday folk how to cook at home.

Why We Carve Pumpkins and What To Do With Your Extra Pumpkin | Lifestyle

It’s a Halloween Pumpkin Palooza!

Ah yes, the season of ghastly ghouls and wicked haunts. There’s something quite spectacular in kicking off the holiday season with the eerie, the ominous and all things spooky. But where did Halloween traditions begin? Why do we carve pumpkins every year? Today, we will investigate!

Plus, we’ll cover some ideas of what to do with your leftover pumpkin, including those ooey gooey pumpkin guts!

A collection of carved pumpkins
Some pumpkins we’ve carved over the years. It’s my favorite Halloween activity!

Where did Jack O’ Lanterns originate?

The myth of the Jack O’ Lantern has its roots in Irish folklore, with the tale of Stingy Jack. Jack was so stingy and so mischievous he got the Devil himself jealous! In a maniacal duel to prove who was more devious, Jack or the Devil, Jack dug himself in too deep. In attempting to out-trick the Devil, Jack made the Devil promise never to take his soul.

As a result, when Stingy Jack finally passed away, he was cast out from both heaven and refused from hell. The gloating Devil gave Jack a hollowed out turnip with an ember inside to light his way, “marking him a denizen of the netherworld.” All of Jack’s tricks found him destined to haunt the earth for eternity, with only a carved out turnip lamp to guide his trek through infinite darkness.

Yes, I said turnip. Pumpkins were not a common crop in Ireland, and so, as the original story goes, The Devil gave Jack a turnip. When settlers came to America, they found the pumpkin (which is actually a fruit, not a vegetable) a much better vessel to carve and light from within, as a means of keeping the spirit of Stingy Jack away from their homes.

The name Jack O’ Lantern is really a shortened version of “Jack of the Lantern” a reference to Stingy Jack’s dismal fate to wander the earth, undead, illuminated only by a glowing root vegetable.

For the full tale of Stingy Jack, check out this animated folk song!

What To Do with Leftover Pumpkin

This article from The Atlantic takes a deep-dive into exactly what happens to our pumpkins after we’re finished with our Halloween fun. According to the article, “every year, more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin get tossed out and left to rot in America’s landfills.” That’s about the same weight as 5,000 blue whales! That’s a lot of wasted pumpkin, and waste that can be prevented!

Food waste is one of the top contributors of harmful emissions. What we carve on our pumpkin, in the tradition of Stingy Jack, is just as important as what happens to our pumpkin in the end. Here are some ideas to put your Jack O Lantern scraps to good use.

Save and roast your pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack! Simply set aside the seeds as you’re carving pumpkins to roast them later.

Here’s an easy recipe to follow to make your own pumpkin seeds at home from scratch. Eat roasted pumpkin seeds by themselves, on salad or sprinkled over your favorite fall soup!

Make pumpkin puree

Instead of using canned pumpkin to make all your favorite fall recipes (and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving) try making your own pumpkin puree out of your Jack O Lantern guts!

This post shows you how to easily make pumpkin puree, and provides additional ideas on how to efficiently use your Halloween pumpkins.

Plant those pumpkin guts

You know what I’m talking about! When you cut the “lid” off your pumpkin and begin scraping out all the stringy insides, with seeds wrapped precariously throughout. The easiest way to deal with them? Dig a shallow hole in your garden and plant them!

No need to rinse the stringy insides off the seeds, simply scoop and plop right into the ground. The insides of the pumpkin will naturally decompose into the dirt, providing extra nutrients for your seeds to start growing. Cover gently with a layer of dirt and water regularly to start your very own pumpkin patch.

photo of field full of pumpkins
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Compost your pumpkin

If your pumpkin has turned and is no longer fit for consumption, the best solution is compost! It’s a simple, eco-friendly way to turn your waste into nutrient-rich garden dirt. Chop your pumpkin up into smaller pieces to speed up the compost process.

To learn more about composting, check out my article on starting a Zero Waste Kitchen.

photo of a family carving pumpkins
So many pumpkin guts to compost!

What’s your favorite Halloween tradition or folktale? How do you plan on using your pumpkin scraps this year? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Halloween!

A Year in Blogging With Edible Ink | Lifestyle

Edible Ink is officially one year old!

This post is a celebration of Edible Ink’s first year in the blogosphere, an intent for the year to come and general notes on what I’ve learned about blogging over the past year. Including…

And most of all, I have some special surprises in store for you, too! As a thank you to the readers of Edible Ink, I created a Free Resources page, with two immediately available and ready to download. Read on to find out more.


Me in my natural habitat — in colorful socks, covered in flour.

Why start a blog?

As a food enthusiast, I’d often post photos of my home-cooked meals and restaurant adventures on social media. In particular, my posts about meal prep seemed to pique interest. People were interested in how I meal prepped and what I was cooking.

Interest in meal prep is one of the reasons why I created Edible Ink. That’s why I’m sharing a Weekly Meal Prep Planner on the Free Resources Page!

Go to Free Resources…

But of course, there’s more. I didn’t just want to create a blog chock full of recipes. While they are my go-to when I’m searching for something new, strictly developing recipes was not exactly what I aimed to do.

I’m a writer first and foremost and that’s exactly what I wanted to keep at the forefront of Edible Ink’s mission.

I sought a broad range, including reviews of local restaurants and general creative musings on the topic of food. 

Food is an inevitable joy of life. We all eat it, we all (at some point or another) make it. Sometimes we enjoy it, sometimes it leaves us wanting. Sometimes we have a great relationship with it, and other times, we struggle.

The point is, food — making it, eating it, sharing it with others — is a universal human experience.

I found it an incredible canvas on which to begin writing a blog. 

Here’s the thing. Blogging takes time. It’s not easy. And in a competitive world, sometimes you get sucked in to what other people are doing seeing what works for them and thinking, “Hey, I should do that too.”  

Intention in art is everything. Focusing on that intention, and ensuring each step taken aligns with that intention is not easy.

And so there’s a necessary and natural shift happening here at Edible Ink. The recipes aren’t going away, they’ll just be less frequent. But the shift, primarily, is more about honing down exactly what Edible Ink is meant to be. 

First and foremost, it should be an entertaining, informative experience for you, the reader. 

I aim to entertain, to provoke thought, emotion and appreciation for what’s going on with food around us. That’s why you come to Edible Ink. To read about food in a way you haven’t before, to learn something new and to be entertained. 


Baking is hard work, with high rewards!

How can I improve my blog?

Here are top three areas for improving and building Edible Ink in the next year. These three items can be applied to any website or blog.

1. Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Ah, yes SEO. It’s an inescapable technical, unglamorous aspect of having a website of any kind. This year, with an influx of free time, I signed up for an SEO Specialization Certification course through Coursera.

Learn more about SEO in this incredible article courtesy of Moz.

If you’re interested, yes I believe it’s been worth the time and effort! As a result of what I’ve learned, I’ll be going back through the blog and updating posts, including adding recipe PDFs and more value-driven content. Additionally, the content I create moving forward will be crafted with optimization in mind.

2. Engage on social media. 

Personally, I go through push-and-pull struggles with social media. Most of the time, its a valuable tool to share and connect with others. Other times, it’s a black hole of false information and negativity.

But hey, we’re all about finding the bright side here right? That’s why I’ve decided to invest in it as the former — a tool to connect with others, to provide them with valuable content through my blog, and as a means to share content with them directly. 

Additionally, I’ve finally broken down and invested in a social media post scheduler. This helps keep me organized and engaged with social media, without having to spend hours crafting posts every. single. day. More on that to come later.

3. Plan all of the content.

This is KEY. This year, I went through a three-month period where I didn’t post anything. It had to do with current events, yes, but I also felt I didn’t have time to properly craft a post. So I went for an organization and planning method. You can download my post planning spreadsheet template here, on the Free Resources page. This is what I use to organize my posts, and plan ahead. 

Being a valuable asset to your readers is essential to any blog. That’s why I created the Free Resources page! Check out the Post Planning for Bloggers Spreadsheet, available now.

Go to Free Resources...

Past logo designs! Trial and error is a great way to learn.

Is writing a blog worth it?

YES.

It takes time and dedication, but in the end, its worth it.

Like all things, you can experience burnout. When that happens, I’ve learned, it’s a sign to shake things up, take a good look at what I’m doing, the mission behind the blog, it’s content and where find room for improvement.

Striving to be better is an incredible source of motivation. When I feel stagnant or uninspired in my blog, I’ll take a good look at where I can improve, or take a peek at my ongoing idea list and see where I can create something new and exciting. 

I’ve learned so much about crafting content with a purpose, that serves the reader first. As with anything, it’s an ongoing process. Your feedback is extremely valuable!

Most importantly, the blog has provided me an opportunity to connect to my community through writing. Sharing the blog on social media helps to create new community around what I write. 

My main goal with the blog is to use writing to spread joy, knowledge and insight through the love of food. In doing so, I hope to uplift local businesses and create a community around Edible Ink. 

Here’s to another year in the blogosphere!

Thanks for your ongoing support.

A big thank you to you, reader!

Reflections on Cooking in Quarantine | Lifestyle

Prologue: I wrote this post on May 18, 2020. I decided to go ahead and share it, hoping you’ll find some solidarity in its lines.

Cooking in quarantine is a new frontier. My meals mainly consist of what’s in the fridge and needs to be used. Most of the time, without a recipe, on-the-fly and not particularly picture perfect. The results wholly dependent on how mentally present I am, how hungry I am and whether or not what I’m making aligns with what I actually want to eat.

There’s been a few failed meals the past week. Bread that was all but inedible, a testament to cooking without any dedicated bread tools and in an electric oven that lacks a circulating fan. That bread became bread pudding, a recipe I worked and typed up to share, that was so underwhelming I can’t share it with confidence. A broth made from pork bones that contained so much fat it solidified as it cooled in the fridge. And a batch of homemade apple cider vinegar that grew a layer of white mold. Each one something I’ve successfully accomplished in months past, without incident.

A string of unsuccessful cooking ventures is not what you share on Instagram. And yet I feel I must share it.

Why? Because if I am dedicated to anything, its authenticity. I will not pretend everything I make comes out picture perfect. It’s just not true.

Especially now, when so many of us are simply cooking for survival. Trying to find new ways to transform the ingredients we have on hand into something tasty, nutritious and appetizing. To provide our families with economical sustenance that feeds their bodies and their souls.

In this climate, it’s no easy feat.

So sometimes, its okay to have a failed experiment. It’s okay to try something new and not like it. It happens. We are human. This is the core of our authenticity. Yes, we are flawed, but we possess an uncanny ability to proverbially dust ourselves off and try again. This is called resilience. And we are all developing deeper resilience each day we live in a new world, where each day brings new uncertainty and fear spreads as rapid as the sickness itself. What do we do in the face of this? What must we do? Persist. Simply, adapt and persist.

I’m here to be an open book. And this is how I do it. To assure you that no matter what winds up on the table right now, it’s a blessing and it is enough. If you don’t have time to make Instagram-worthy dinners every night, rest assured, neither do I. And that’s okay. Because we’re in it together, and that’s what counts.

Questions? Comments? I’m available on Facebook, Instagram and by email at lauren.hrvy@gmail.com

Zero Waste Kitchen – A Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Waste | Lifestyle

A complete beginner’s guide to zero waste in the kitchen (without having to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of eco-friendly products).

Here, we’ll cover:

Grab a cup of hot tea and let’s get down to business.

A passion flower vine.
A perfect passion flower vine. Natural beauty we want to preserve, cultivate and encourage!

What is zero waste?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), zero waste can be defined as:

“The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Simply put, living zero waste means reducing the waste produced in all levels of a product’s life cycle.

This includes initial production, shipping methods, and where the product and it’s packaging wind up at end-of-life (when the product is all gone and you no longer have use for it.)

Here’s a quick example of zero waste packaging production. These are packing peanuts that dissolve in water. YES. No styrofoam here! A box from Meow Meow Tweet used these innovative dissolving peanuts for packaging.

Why go zero waste?

It’s good for everyone! Take a look at this bright, informative graphic from the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Benefits of Zero Waste infographic
Borrowed from Toronto Environmental Alliance.

If that’s not enough to convince you, read the full article here.

Now it may be surprising, but food waste is actually detrimental to the environment.

Roughly one quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are created by food waste, and if food waste was a country, it would be ranked third after the USA and China in terms of greenhouse gas production. When thrown into landfill, food waste produces a large amount of methane. As food rots and degrades, it emits these harmful gases which are 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. If we look back at those 2015 figures, the environmental benefit of preventing this sort of waste would be like taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

Food Waste, Why It’s Bad. Via Greener Kirkcaldy

So yes: being more conscious of reducing waste in the kitchen does positively impact the environment. That’s great news, right? How we eat, cook and process food in our homes matters.

That’s why a commitment to zero waste in the kitchen matters. Let’s get to work!

First, commit to learning.

Depending on your current lifestyle, zero waste can be a huge change.

Taking one step at a time, making one small change at a time, can make the daunting task seem much easier. It’s a process and that’s okay. The idea of zero waste is that its an ideal you are working towards — not one that you have to achieve.

As you become more aware of producing waste, you’ll also become more aware of the ways in which you can make adjustments to reduce your waste. And, with the help of some great zero waste pioneers, you can have a guide to your new lifestyle.

My top three website guides on zero waste are:

Zero Waste Chef who provides innovative recipes and ideas for living zero waste.

A Zero Waste Life run by a rocket scientist who posts ways to integrate zero waste into everyday life.

Trash is for Tossers provides useful insight into living zero waste. This is the blog of Lauren Singer, founder of Package Free, so you may see some product placement as part of the postings. I still find it an extremely valuable, educational resource for learning more about living waste free.

If you are on Instagram, I’d also recommend giving Waste Free Marie a follow, an advocate for climate and racial justice.

A note on zero waste shopping:

I’m a big fan of Amazon, don’t get me wrong. But as zero waste, sustainable living emerges as a growing market, so do vendors. It can be difficult to navigate the greenwashing on Amazon, as not all information is readily available when making a purchase. For this reason, I recommend shopping companies like Package Free, Blueland (for cleaning products), Cleancult (cleaning products) or The Earthling Co. Sustainably conscious companies like Meow Meow Tweet offer vegan skincare in recyclable packaging and the option to buy in bulk to reduce waste.

Part of living a zero waste lifestyle is buying better quality products, made in sustainable ways, from sustainable sources less frequently. Which means you don’t HAVE to invest hundreds of dollars into eco-friendly products to get started on your Zero Waste journey. In fact, you can get started today!

Zero Waste Kits available on Package Free
Some great zero waste starter kits available on Package Free.

10 ways to a Zero Waste kitchen

In my own journey toward zero waste, I’ve learned some basic swaps that can make a big impact. This list is a compilation of the things I’ve learned, zero waste practices I implement in my kitchen, and general inspiration to get started on your own zero waste journey.

1. Save glass jars

Opt for glass containers when you’re shopping.

Mason jars, jam jars, glass salad dressing bottles, empty olive jars, you name it. If it’s glass, save it!

Glass jars of all shapes and sizes make for great storage vessels in the kitchen. Additionally, you can paint or decorate them to become a candle display, pen container for your at-home office or makeup brush holder on your vanity. The possibilities are limitless here.

Dried lavender in a glass spice jar
Upcycled spice jars are great for storing home dried herbs! This one has dried lavender.

2. Make your own broth

One way to use your unwanted vegetable scraps is to make your own broth! This is a zero waste two-for-one: you give new life to vegetable scraps that would otherwise wind up in the trash and you eliminate the need to purchase pre-made broth at the store.

Start saving scraps in a designated bag or container in the freezer. When it’s full, it’s time to make broth! Herb stems, onion roots, cleaned peels are all great candidates for homemade broth.

Watch the tutorial from my IGTV for a step-by-step guide to making your own vegetable broth.

When you’re done, you can compost the cooked vegetable scraps and voila! You have successfully completed a cycle of zero waste. Keep in mind, if you add meat bones to your broth, you won’t want to compost the scraps. More on this later.

3. Use the whole vegetable

Carrot tops, celery greens, chard stalks — you can eat them all! With a bit of creativity and some inevitable trial and error you can learn to use the whole vegetable, from root to tip, reducing your waste and expanding your palate.

At a quick glance:

  • Carrot tops make a great addition to coleslaw or a green salad.
  • Celery greens do well quickly blanched and added to a pesto or stir-fry.
  • Stalks of leafy greens like chard and kale can be diced and sautéed as a tasty side dish.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower stalks make great soups or soup bases.
  • Radish greens give pesto a flavorful bite.
  • Potato peels cleaned, salted and baked turn into irresistible chips!
  • Citrus peels can be mixed into a batch of simple syrup for a sour spin on a classic sweetner.

Check out this article from Huffington Post with a myriad of recipes on using the whole vegetable.

View my farmer’s market haul video below, guiding you through using the whole vegetable!

4. Shop local

For Central Coast residents, this one should be a given! Buying local, farm fresh fruits and vegetables (even meat) does wonders for reducing the waste created by packaging and transport.

Buying local supports small farmers and provides you with fresh ingredients.

Farmer’s markets are not as regular as they once were, so I encourage you to check locally to see how COVID has affected your local farmer’s markets.

If you are a resident of San Luis Obispo South County, you can buy from just about any farm stand, including picking up fruits and vegetables as you see them.

Two baby artichokes from a local farm.
Gorgeous baby artichokes from a local farm

It’s different for everyone:

Depending on where you live, buying local fresh-from-the-farm goods may or may not be feasible.

I advocate strongly for buying local in San Luis Obispo County, because farms and farmers are plentiful, as are farm stands. It’s accessible and most of the time, fiscally on par with buying produce from a supermarket.

If you are not in an area with a high concentration of farms, this may be a challenge. I encourage you to do local research to see what is available, even if its just a chance of a couple of products that you can access locally.

If there’s REALLY no local produce available, try shopping at small business, independently owned or co-op stores for food items instead.

Living zero waste must be customized to your lifestyle. Otherwise, its not sustainable — and sustainability is the goal!

Shop within your budget:

I’m going to add a caveat here, though it may seem contradictory. Shopping local is great for supporting small farmers and businesses and therefore your local economy.

HOWEVER….

I understand that only buying local products isn’t in everyone’s budget. On a tight budget, there can be an astronomical difference between the $14 locally farmed 4 oz of honey and the $4.99 8 oz bottle mass-produced.

That’s okay.

As earlier stated, zero waste is a goal, and the more moves you make toward zero waste the better. But that shouldn’t mean you have to overdraft your bank account to do so.

(This is also why following real people who are striving towards zero waste is helpful…they provide the perspective of someone with a budget, who knows the value of a dollar.)

5. Buy in bulk

If available, buy products you use frequently in bulk. Not only will it save you money, but you’ll reduce waste by reducing smaller size packaging.

Try shopping the bulk section of your grocery store for items like flour, coffee, sugar, nuts even granola and candy.

To get extra eco-friendly, bring along your own clean containers with the marked tare weight (how much the jar/container weighs by itself) to reduce the use of those pesky plastic bags. Read more about this shopping method here.

6. Opt for loose produce

Plastic-free produce campaigner Anita Horan advocates for supermarkets to sell their produce free from its common plastic packaging (something Trader Joes is notorious for).

When shopping, opt for loose produce that isn’t encased in plastic. This is common with apples, oranges, bananas, even bell peppers. However, they are also typically sold next to plastic free counterparts.

Bring your own produce bags and you’re well on your way to shopping zero waste!

Local strawberry the size of my hand!
Much farm stand produce is available loose, like this giant local strawberry!

7. Buy dry goods and learn how to cook them

This goes hand-in-hand with buying in bulk.

Purchasing canned goods in aluminum or tin certified to be recycled is a good option.

However, if your looking for something that creates even less waste (and allows you to get more bang for your buck), buying dry goods in bulk is the way to go.

Items like beans, lentils, farro, quinoa, couscous and a variety of other grains can all be purchased dry and cooked at home. This is particularly simple if you own an Instant Pot. For an easy step-by-step guide on how to cook beans in an Instant Pot, read this post.

It may seem more convenient to buy the small-sized, precooked package of grains that takes only 10 minutes to cook.

In reality, most grains are straightforward to cook on the stovetop. If you know how to cook rice, you can make farro, quinoa, couscous and the like. I’ve even provided some links below to get you started.

Learn how to cook…

Yellow peas, pinto beans, black beans and red beans in individual glass jars.
Upcycled pickle jars make great dried bean containers! With some elbow grease, the labels can be completely removed for a cleaner look.

8. Use what you have

When it comes to meal planning, shop your pantry, fridge and freezer first! This will help to cut back on food waste in your own home.

Setting up a system of First In, First Out (FIFO) can be extremely helpful in knowing what needs to be used at a glance. FIFO is what retail grocery supply and food service use to efficiently rotate their stock, so nothing will be left to grow moldy shoved in the back of the fridge.

Here’s a short list of ideas to use FIFO in your kitchen:

  • Designate spaces for foods that need to be eaten — This could be a drawer or designated container or shelf in your fridge.
  • Label everything — Labelling items with dates makes keeping track of what’s old and what’s new a breeze.
  • Write it down — Keeping a white board, handwritten list or spreadsheet of what you have on hand makes meal planning faster and more manageable.

See what needs to be used first, and focus on creating meals around those items. If you are stuck for ideas, type a few ingredients into Google followed by “recipe”. You may be surprised what you find!

Here’s an example search. I have copious amounts of kale and green beans in my refrigerator right now. I typed “kale green bean recipe” into Google and immediately got a number of tasty results!

Search results for "kale green bean recipe"

Being flexible with substitutions in recipes can also be beneficial in using what you have. Try using whatever alliums you have when you see “white onion” in a recipe, or any leafy greens when you see “spinach”. This helps reduce what you throw away in your kitchen, and helps flex your cooking skills to boot!

For example, use these substitutions in my Vegan Creamed Spinach recipe. I’ve used kale, chard and beet greens in this recipe and it came out just as delicious as using only spinach.

Vegan creamed spinach recipe

9. Stock your own freezer

This is especially effective if you live by yourself or as a couple.

The pre-made food in the freezer aisle at any grocery market is tempting, and a section I would frequent regularly.

My habits changed as my shopping habits changed. No longer could I slip in and out of Trader Joe’s for a quick haul of pre-made food that made meals a breeze when I didn’t feel like cooking.

Good news! There’s a solution!

I started making food in larger batches, some to eat then and some to package and freeze for later.

This method works great for grains, beans and sauces. Or, if you buy meat in bulk, it can make handling a four pound log of ground beef much more manageable. As you can see, my past attempts were unsuccessful.

Gone are the days of forcefully cutting frozen logs of meat in half

The next time I encountered a four pound log of beef I cooked a variety of items, packaged and froze them for later use. Here’s an example list to give you ideas to get started.

4 lbs of ground beef can become…

  • 1 pound of taco meat — Saute meat in skillet with diced onions, peppers and taco seasoning until brown. Here’s a recipe to get started.
  • 2 pounds of beef bologneseMake a simple bolognese in the crockpot. Saute the beef on the stove first til brown, and rid of excess grease. Add to crockpot with some tomato paste, canned diced tomatoes, fresh herbs, seasonings, salt and pepper. Simmer on high for three hours.
  • 4 quarter pound burger patties — Add your ground meat to a bowl with some breadcrumbs, one egg and seasonings. Form into patties and pan fry. Or, try this recipe.
  • 4 servings of beef and broccoli — One pound of beef and one large head of broccoli makes a great base for beef and broccoli. Add onion, peppers, soy sauce, brown sugar and sriracha for an easy tasty dinner.

And boom! Just like that, you’ve stocked your freezer, prepped dinner for the night and successfully used ALL of the meat you defrosted, without fear it will go bad before you’ve eaten (or cooked) it.

You can use the freezer stocking method for a variety of things like:

  • Mirepoix — peel and dice carrots, onions and celery for a quick soup or sauce base.
  • Onions and peppers — slice and freeze. They’ll be ready to make as a quick side to fajitas or addition to a sausage and potato skillet!
  • Leafy greens — If your leafy greens will go bad before you get to use them, wash, chop and freeze them instead! Toss some in a frittata, stir fry or soup.
  • All the fruit — dice and freeze your fruit. This makes smoothies a breeze.
Mirepoix - diced celery, carrots and onion
Mirepoix prepped and ready for the freezer!

10. Invest in plastic free storage solutions

Yes, I said you don’t have to invest any money to start on your zero waste journey, and now I’m recommending you invest! It’s true, you don’t NEED to buy these plastic-free storage solutions, but depending on your own kitchen situation, they may be worth it for you. Here are some ideas to storing food and leftovers that are not plastic wrap and plastic baggies.

Depending on your local supermarket, you may or may not be allowed to bring in your own reusable bags right now. I’ve noticed many stores bagging groceries at no extra cost in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead of accepting the free bags, however, try this. Ask the cashier to simply put your items back in your cart, without a bag. Take the cart to your car and bag your own groceries using reusable bags. It’s an extra step, but it’s one I take. It also gives me the opportunity to disinfect any item that may have had a lot of hands on it recently, before putting it in my car for transport.

If you’re not into buying reusable, there are many options for making your own. Check out Zero Waste Chef’s tutorial on how to sew your own produce bags. If all else fails, stick to reusing the bags and containers you already have!

An array of plastic free storage solutions
Silicone baking mat, reusable produce bags, silicone storage bags and mason jars.

Compost 101: Frequently Asked Questions

The only reason I didn’t include compost on my list is this: it may or may not be feasible for you to start composting today.

Community compost resources vary from city to city, and in some areas, it’s best to do your compost on your own.

Here’s a quick look into what compost is and how you can start composting.

But first, why compost?

Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Compost saves scraps from landfills, and actually adds rich nutrients back into soil for your garden.

As you can see below, my compost set-up is simple. It may not be the prettiest, but it’s effective! A wooden palette saved from the dumpster made a great platform to give ventilation to the bottom of the compost.

Two compost bins set on top of a wooden pallet.
A functional compost system, made from upcycled containers and a wooden pallet.

What is compost?

Compost is, “organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.” (Source: EPA)

Compost consists of your scrap produce and other green materials left to decompose to a state where it becomes a fertile addition to the garden.

All it takes is some food scraps (“green” matter) and dry leaves/cardboard/paper scraps (“brown” matter) to get started composting.

I started composting about six months ago, and have learned a few things along the way.

For more in-depth reading about compost check out these sources:

How do I start composting?

There are many ways you can go to compost. There is some advanced machinery available (like this rotating one).

Or, you can use a storage bin with some holes drilled out of it for ventilation.

Additionally, you can go with the most organic method, which is to create piles in your backyard and let nature take its course. Zero Waste Chef has a lot of good information about this method, as its something she uses at her home.

I keep this stainless steel container in the kitchen to collect food scraps throughout the day. I take it out to my compost at night, which is located next to our cars in the apartment where we live (not out on the patio for all the neighbors to enjoy).

This makes saving scraps for compost easy. The benefit of the stainless steel is that it’s easy to rinse out, doesn’t hold any smells like plastic would and the lid seals tight so no funky smells escape if I forget to take it out for a few nights.

As for what goes in your compost, here’s some basic info from the EPA:

More ideas for compost friendly materials:

  • Browns – Deconstructed cardboard without ink printing; Compostable napkins or parchment paper, cut into smaller pieces; A handful of dirt
  • Greens – Loose leaf tea, or the insides of a used tea bag; Cooked vegetables used to make broth
  • Water – Truth: I haven’t had to add water to my compost. Since I add the vegetables from the broth, they contain a lot of water. Two for one!

Quick Composting No No’s: What not to add to your compost

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Milk
  • Oil
  • Fat

For a more extensive list on what should and should NOT go in your compost, check out this article at The Spruce.

Isn’t compost stinky?

The number one question you’ll get when you tell someone you compost:

Doesn’t it stink?

Short answer: No.

If the compost has the correct balance of green and brown materials, the compost will give off an earthly odor, much like dirt. The smell will not be “stinky” or rotten or moldy, as this article from Naples Compost confirms.

Full disclosure: As you learn what the correct balance is, you may encounter some funky smells along the way.

Here’s a quick guide on how to tell what your compost needs if it starts smelling a bit foul.

Helpful hint:

Since it consists of decomposing matter, it attracts flies and the like (which is good, you want them there, they help with the decomposition process), so I wouldn’t recommend keeping your compost pile right next to your home. Set it up in an area farthest away from your door.

If you stick to the do’s and do not’s of composting, it should smell like fresh dirt. A wonderful aroma!

How long does it take?

Let’s ask the internet.

How long it takes to compost
Source: Gardners.com

Compost’s maturity can be influenced by:

  1. Temperature – When compost is busy doing it’s thing it will heat up. Warmer days, therefore, can be more helpful in compost’s natural process. The process may take longer to complete in cooler months or generally colder climates.
  2. Moisture – Compost is hindered by too much moisture as much as it is by not enough moisture. It’s consistency should be of a damp sponge, no more, no less.
  3. How often it’s turned – You can help your compost along by manually turning it (meaning, mixing it all up) several times a week.
  4. Size of waste added – Clearly, smaller pieces of food scraps will break down faster than larger ones. A pineapple crown will take much longer to decompose, for example, than potato peels.

Two is better than one:

If you have the commitment, and the room, you can have two composts in rotation.

To illustrate, let’s name the compost piles.

Compost Pile One, aka “Radish” and Compost Pile Two, aka “Okra”.

Radish will be your first compost pile. Add scraps to Radish until it’s full, or your ready to move on and let it do its compost thang. Radish is now in a state where you need to stop adding fresh scraps, it will be turned and tended to until its garden-ready compost dirt.

Now, you move on to Okra. Add scraps to Okra while actively tending to Radish, turning every so often and monitoring its process.

Ideally, once Radish is ready to be added to the garden, Okra will be full.

Empty Radish into the garden, clearing out all the dirt-like compost.

You can now stop adding to Okra and let it do its dance of decomposition.

Start the process again with Radish.

In this way, you’ll always have a compost to add to and a compost thats on it’s way to becoming nutrient-rich dirt.

Compost on it's way to becoming dirt.
A close-up of my older compost — well on it’s way to becoming nutrient rich dirt for the garden!
In Conclusion: You can do it!

Whew! You made it!

I hope this article has brought you knowledge and encouragement for your zero waste journey. (And maybe a laugh or two, if I’m lucky.)

As awareness for the benefits of zero waste grows, so do the resources and the supportive community.

It’s a journey, and we’re all in it together.

How are you going to start on your zero waste lifestyle?

Questions and comments welcome! Leave a note below, follow me on Instagram, or send me an email.

Til next time!