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

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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 Thanksgiving Meal Plans for Everyone – Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free

Making a holiday feast that satisfies everyone’s dietary needs can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be! We’ve searched the internet for the best Thanksgiving Meal Plans for everyone, including plans for Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free and Dairy-Free.

Don’t forget dessert! We’ve also included our favorite picks for Sugar-Free and Vegan desserts to make the holiday meal complete.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored in any way and based on personal opinion. Here at Edible Ink, we want to help make your holidays as best (and simple) as they can be, with no strings attached!

Skip to a specific menu:

Vegan Thanksgiving Menus

Mel at A Virtual Vegan goes above and beyond with her Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, including a shopping list to make preparations for the big day a breeze! Plus a timeline to make cooking a full feast manageable. Dishes include:

Get the full printable Thanksgiving Dinner Menu with Timeline and Shopping List at A Virtual Vegan.

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

No doubt, large gatherings have been a rare occurrence this year. If your holidays are less grand feasts and more intimate dinners for two, the Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner for 2 may be your ideal menu. Set up as a “choose your own adventure’ of a menu complete with cooking tips, this meal plan is great for small gatherings, or just you and your significant other. Dishes include:

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu

Packed full of gluten-free Thanksgiving options, this Easy, Gluten-free Thanksgiving Menu satisfies every celiac’s holiday food cravings! Here, turkey is still on the menu, with modifications to cornbread, biscuits and gravy. Dishes include:

alcoholic beverages close up cuisine cutlery
Photo by Flo Dahm on Pexels.com

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

Vegetarian food blogger Cookie and Kate provides a list of 33 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes to make your own meat-less feast. No need for Tofurkey with delicious, whole food dishes like:

food grapes delicious snacks
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Dairy Free Thanksgiving Menu

Nothing makes a lactose intolerant person happier than a big bowl of dairy free mashed potatoes! This list from Cook Nourish Bliss includes a slew of dairy free classic Thanksgiving sides, as well as a few dairy free Thanksgiving desserts. Dishes include:

For more dairy-free Thanksgiving side dishes, check out 19 Dairy Free Thanksgiving Side dishes from the Nosher:

Easy Thanksgiving Menu

How about a super simple Thanksgiving Menu this year? Instead of roasting the whole turkey, try a juicy Turkey Breast from A Head of Thyme. More recipes include:

person holding a roasted turkey
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

Sugar Free Thanksgiving Desserts

For the ultimate list of sugar-free desserts, check out this compilation from Diabetic Gourmet. Recipes include:

Vegan & Gluten Free Thanksgiving Desserts

Easy, vegan, and for some, gluten free! This list of 28 Easy Vegan Thanksgiving Desserts is sure to have something for everyone. So go ahead, make two! Recipes include:

What are your Thanksgiving plans this year? Are you using any of the meal plans listed here to craft your ultimate Thanksgiving feast? Let us know in the comments below! Like, share and subscribe and don’t forget to tag Edible Ink!

Happy Feasting!

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!

Top 8 Essential Baking Utensils | Lifestyle

Baking is an exact science… most of the time. While I do much improvisation in the kitchen (it is difficult to follow a recipe without adding my own spin), baking is a delicate balance, and requires precision. And so I present to you, my eight top baking utensils. These tools are a must-have to make at-home baking more accurate, more enjoyable and more tasty!

The 8 Essentials are:

  1. Scale
  2. Oven Thermometer
  3. Zester/Microplane
  4. Pastry Bag & Tips Set
  5. Fine Mesh Strainer
  6. Hand Mixer
  7. Glass Jars
  8. Spatulas

Let’s get into it!

1. SCALE

When making my grandfather’s cookie recipes, I always use a scale. Weighing ingredients provides for a much higher level of accuracy and consistency, particularly if you are making smaller or larger batches than the original.

Here’s a solid starter scale on Amazon. As you get more comfortable measuring by scale, it may be worthwhile to invest in a scale that provides two decimals when measuring in grams (1.25 g for example).

Using a scale is my preference for baking. Besides the obvious accuracy of measuring with a scale vs. attempting to perfectly level 3 cups of flour, it makes clean up much faster!

2. OVEN THERMOMETER

Again, baking is an exact science. Sure, you can ~set~ your oven to 350 degrees, but how do you know it actually ~is~ 350 degrees? Enter the oven thermometer.

Oftentimes, ovens run a little hot, or a little cold. Recently, I’ve noticed the oven in our apartment running hot. Thankfully, I can check my oven thermometer before putting anything in the oven. By checking the thermometer and adjusting the oven temp, I can get an accurate temperature every time I bake.

Buy one here on Amazon.

3. ZESTER — MICROPLANE

I’ll admit, zest is one of my most favorite baking ingredients. I love dessert, but am NOT a fan of anything overly sweet. Citrus zest is a relatively foolproof way to balance out the sweetness of your favorite dessert with a fresh burst of acidity.

Have a good zester on hand to lighten up any dish, sweet or savory!

Try adding:

  • Orange Zest to Chocolate.
  • Lemon Zest to Vanilla.
  • Lime or Grapefruit Zest to Berries & Fruit.

Get yours here on Amazon.

4. PASTRY BAGS & TIPS SET

Most commonly, I use my pastry bags and tips for decorating cakes. However, there are some cookies I make that utilize the pastry bags to form the cookies.

Pastry bags and tips can also be used in savory cooking. In general, they are beneficial to have on hand when you feel like dressing things up a bit!

This is the exact first pastry bag & tip set I purchased. The tips are small, which is ideal for learning how to pipe. It’s easier to manage the frosting in small amounts, just make sure your buttercream/frosting is well mixed so nothing gets stuck.

I prefer the plastic pastry bags to the stretchy silicone type included in the set. The silicone bags have a tendency to stretch more when you are trying to pipe, making it harder to control.

Find some plastic piping bags here. If you are concerned about the throw-away plastic, I’d recommend a canvas piping bag instead. They are durable, will last you literally decades if properly cared for, and don’t oddly stretch and give as the silicone bags tend to do. Find some canvas piping bags here.

5. FINE MESH STRAINER

I have a small version of this strainer and I love it. It use it for many things. The feet on the bottom make it easy to sit over the edge of a bowl and measure directly into. It’s ideal for sifting ingredients. The smaller size is convenient for all recipes, or even just dusting a cake with powdered sugar. Buy it on Amazon here.

6. HAND MIXER

Having a hand mixer ~on hand~ is simply essential. They are small in size, affordable and versatile. The hand mixer I use is this one, from Hamilton Beach. I break it out when I want to whip up a batch of 5 minute homemade whipped cream, semi-homemade buttercream frosting, or when I’m saving time by using a boxed baking mix.

My stand mixer, (this one here), is quite literally, a monster. My kitchen can barely accommodate Esther (yes, SHE has a name) so bringing her down from her home in that awkward cabinet above the refrigerator requires a very good reason. For everything else, I use my hand mixer.

A tip: Be sure to use the single whip when making whipped cream. The beater attachments are not sufficient for incorporating air into the cream and will instead deflate it. Use the beater attachments for baking mixes.

7. GLASS JARS

These are what I use to store my open bags of flour and sugar. Sealing the flour in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid keeps the flour fresh, and prevents pest infestation. Similarly, sealing your open bags of sugar in glass jars deters ants that would otherwise consider the scent of brown sugar wafting from your baking cabinet an open invitation to a downright stampede. Needless to say, if you plan on baking regularly, or even just cooking regularly, invest in (or start collecting) quality sealing glass jars. Plastic is OK, but glass is always preferred.

8. SPATULAS

You MUST have a good set of spatulas to bake. Out of all the essential tools listed here, this one may be the MOST essential. How else can you scrape every bit of cookie dough goodness from the bowl? Accurately measure rapidly melting butter? Imagine tackling a recipe that calls for molasses without a quality spatula… impossible! To scrape down the sides of your mixer when combining wet and dry ingredients?

I digress. Here’s a set of spatulas from Amazon. I like them because they are sturdy, can hold up to being used to scrape glutinous dough, and flexible, meaning they’ll bend to the shape of the bowl, or other container. They come in a variety of sizes and fun colors. I wash mine in the utensil section of the dishwasher and haven’t had any problems.

Additionally, I recommend a set of adorable mini spatulas. These are prime for scraping small jars.

* * * * * *

With these eight indispensable baking tools in tow, you are ready to tackle any baking project the holiday may throw your way! Happy Holidays. Enjoy!

How to Create a Menu for Meal Prep | Lifestyle

There are seemingly infinite meal prep resources available today. From meal kit services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, to specialty services like Sun Basket, and meal prep delivery like Catered Fit, the options seem endless. Additionally, a multitude of social media gurus offer services that provide you with a fully outlined menu to follow, like Workweek Lunch, including specialized meal prep recipes.

For residents of the Central Coast, check out a great local meal prep resource: Clean Machine Meals. Created by a local chef who worked at restaurants like Thomas Hill Organics, these are fully prepared meals delivered directly to you. Worth it!

If, however, you’re looking to experiment on your own, and perhaps hone your meal prep and planning skills, the remainder of this article is for you!

I’ve included the top four questions I consider when creating my own meal prep menus. By shaping your meal prep utilizing the following four parameters, you are more likely to create and stick to a plan that works for you. The answers you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Of course, it is always important to keep the purpose of your meal prep in mind. Be it saving money, having more free time with family, eating healthy or simply trying something new. After all, this meal prep is for YOU and it should be whatever you need it to be. Decide first what need meal prep fulfills in your life. From there, answer the questions below and let your meal prep “preparation” grow!

If you feel stuck or lacking inspiration, I recommend following some meal prep accounts on your social media, like Instagram or Pinterest. You never know what may serve to inspire!

This article series aims to make meal prep & planning more accessible, less daunting and maybe provide the inspiration and courage you need to try it for yourself. Let’s get to it!

Bonus: This article was featured on the Feed Feed!

Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

When planning a menu, consider these four questions.

1. What do you want to eat?

2. What’s in the pantry you can create a meal around?

3. How much time do you have to assemble the meal?

4. How much time do you want to spend prepping?

Photo by Iamngakan eka on Pexels.com

Below, we’ll get into detail about the reasoning behind each of these questions and some examples of how you may answer them to fit your lifestyle. But generally, these are the four things in the front of my mind when I plan out my meal prep for the week. Now, I’m sure you’ve thought of what it may be like to plan a menu for the week — but let’s take it a step further real quick. I also have a tendency to plan my “execution” of the menu, aka I plan out how I’m going to cook my meal prep. This keeps things running as smoothly as possible, which means less time spent on prep and more time spent on life! More on that another time.

Let’s break down the first task of meal prep — creating a menu.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

Question 1: What do you want to eat?

There’s nothing less motivating in meal prep than cooking meals you have no interest in consuming. No matter how “healthy” or diet-friendly the meal may be, if you don’t want to eat it, sitting down for lunch will be excruciating, not exciting! ~Not to mention you’ll be less likely to stick to it if you dread every meal~

So first, we consider the most basic question. What sounds good to you? Start by brainstorming from some of your favorite cuisines (like Mexican or Italian) or by your favorite dishes (let’s say Chicken Alfredo, for example). Once you have an idea of what type of food you’d like to eat, you can search for recipes similar to it, and create your meal prep around it.

Be sure to include dietary restrictions (voluntary or otherwise) in this first step. I’m lactose intolerant so it would be a very BAD idea for me to pursue a classic Chicken Alfredo meal prep. Instead, I’d use some dairy-free alternatives, or even look to vegan recipes. If, for example, you love Chicken Alfredo but are on a keto diet, you could look to do a pasta replacement (I really like Banza) for a low-carb version of Chicken Alfredo and it would work great for you!

It may be equally helpful for you to create a short list of things you do not like and have no interest in eating. For example, cilantro may be the most divisive, controversial herb of all time. If making a big batch to share with others throughout the week, leave the controversial ingredients on the side.

If your goal for meal prep is to get healthy and/or pursue fat loss, that’s great! Construct your meal prep around low-fat recipes, or whichever specified parameters are dictated by your diet. On the other hand, if you are meal prepping because you don’t want to cook every night, that’s great too! Meal prep doesn’t have to be about eating healthy or losing weight. Only if you want it to be.

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Question 2: What’s in the pantry you can create a meal around?

After deciding what type of food you want to prepare, check your own grocery store first! Not the Aldi down the street, I mean open up your cupboard, root around the pantry, dig in the freezer and see what you have on hand first. Maybe there’s a box of Mediterranean Lentil Mix that you’ve had for six months. Maybe it’s time to use all those cans of kidney beans.

Chili’s, soups and “bowl” meals are super ways to use frozen produce and canned items that have, perhaps, overstayed their welcome in your kitchen.

Not to mention, most chili’s and soups can be easily executed in large batches in a Crock Pot or Instant Pot, saving you that much more time in prep!

Personally, I receive the Talley Farms Fresh Harvest Box each week. It’s packed full of fresh produce, either grown on Talley Farms or procured from other local farmers. I build my weekly meal prep around the box! Check your local farms to see if they do something similar, and if you are slocal, check out the Harvest Box.

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Question 3: How much time will you have to heat up / assemble the meal?

You know what you want to eat, and maybe even have some of the ingredients in your pantry already. Great! What’s next? Consider this: how much time do you actually want to spend reheating and/or assembling at each meal?

Let’s take two extremes, both meal preps I have done: Salad Vs. Tacos.

Salad: Requires NO heat, simply dress and serve. Takes less than five minutes to plate and serve. No reheating time. Easy to assemble quickly, and its great to have on hand when you’ve only got thirty minutes between coming home from work and leaving for nightly activities.

Tacos: You can prep the taco meat, and precut all of the toppings. However, tortillas need to be heated (for soft tacos) or fried (for crunchy). The taco meat needs to be heated, and all of the toppings need to be set out/made available for personal taco dressing. One option to cut back on assembly time is to use store-bought crunchy taco shells. Either way, taco assembly still takes more time than dressing a salad. But it can be a very fun and interactive way to dinner.

Both are great meals, are extremely versatile in what type of ingredients go in them, and can be used for lunch or dinner. However, the big difference is how long it takes to get dinner on the table. If you have some time after work, the tacos are worth it. First of all, because who doesn’t want tacos for dinner every night? And second, having the tacos assembled fresh makes it feel less like meal prep, and more like you just made dinner in half the time! It all depends on what works best for you.

Keep it personal. Look to others for inspiration, but ultimately, don’t be afraid to modify based on your own needs!

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Question 4: How much time do you have to spend/want to spend prepping?

One pot or sheet pan meals can be super useful, not to mention time-saving, especially when you are just beginning to develop a meal prep habit! Break out the slow cooker to whip up a batch of pulled pork and roast some veggies in the oven, or take to the internet for a slew of sheet pan, one pot, instant pot and/or crock pot meal recipes.

REMINDER:

You don’t *have* to make everything from scratch

in order to “successfully” meal prep.

Making meal prep semi-homemade by starting with a base of rotisserie chicken, or prediced vegetables, even steam-in-a bag microwave rice can give you just enough extra time to make meal prep worth your while! Once it becomes a habit, the time flies by and it’s really just another part of life, like laundry, but more fun because of course, you have to taste test everything.

To start slow, commit to ONE meal-prepped meal per week. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, commit to making it meal-prep and feel it out. Making that one meal ahead of time can be the difference between waking up early to make breakfast, or taking a morning walk instead. You may find that meal prep affords you so much extra time during that week that the few hours you spend on it during the weekend is completely worth it!

Whatever your goal for meal prep, make it your own.

Feel free to experiment, and as always, contact me with any questions! I’d love to hear your feedback and any more questions you’d like to see covered in next month’s Meal Prep article.

Til then, Enjoy!