Food

Food Waste Feast’s 2 Favorite Recipes to Make with Beans

Plus tips from a chef on how to cook with dried beans and ditch the cans

We all know having a can of beans on hand means whipping up dinner can happen pretty quickly. While we love a quick and easy dinner, we aren't as thrilled by a meal that might introduce us to some unnecessary chemicals. Why would whipping up some rice and beans do that? The quick answer is that cans are often lined with BPA, a substance often used to line aluminum cans to keep the food inside from reacting with the metal. So, we talked to a chef Mei Li, co-founder of restaurant Mei Mei in Boston, MA, forthcoming cookbook author, and co-founder of Food Waste Feast, to figure out what's up with dried beans.

Guess what we learned - dried beans aren't that scary.


And, they can be just as easy to use and maybe even more versatile than canned beans because you can make whatever amount you need. You can even prep them in a way that removes some of the enzyme that causes gas. The only difference is you have to do a little bit of prep. But, with an afternoon of prep, you can have the equivalent of a couple of cans of beans in your freezer ready to go - just like cans in your pantry. Bonus, if you buy them in the bulk area and bring your own bags/jars they are completely zero waste, and pretty cheap.

"Dried beans are more flavorful than canned, and are great to have in your fridge or freezer to add bulk and protein to a meal. Plus, the cooking liquid can make a delicious base for a soup or stew, especially if you add herbs or aromatics like garlic or onions as you cook your beans," said Chef Li, about why she loves using dried beans.

So, from our friend Mei, here are a couple of ways to prep dried beans. After you've properly hydrated and prepared your beans, we have a couple of suggestions for storing them. One of our favorite ways is to store them in repurposed glass jars. The beans can go with some of the cooking liquid into the glass jars and into the fridge if you will use them in the next couple of days. If you won't use them soon, they can go like that into the freezer too (after they have reached room temp), just microwave them for a bit to get them out of the jar. Or, you can drain them, spread them out on a plate or cookie sheet, freeze them, then once they are frozen, measure out about a cup and a half (which is the same as a standard can of beans) into glass jars or silicone bags and keep them in the freezer. They last for about 8 months in the freezer.

Tips from Mei:

If you don't cook dried beans or peas often, here are a few helpful things to know:

  • Rinse your beans before cooking, as they're not always cleaned before packaging
  • Soaking dried beans will make them cook more evenly, plus can help remove the enzyme that causes gas. If you don't soak your beans, they'll take longer to cook. If you do soak them, you can just pop them into a large bowl with a pinch of salt, cover them with a few inches of water and leave them for 12-24 hours (so you can do them before you go to bed and cook them the next night for dinner), then drain and rinse.
  • If you only have a few hours, you can do a fast soak by boiling the beans with a pinch of salt over high heat and letting them sit an hour, then draining and rinsing.

Read more about how to cook your beans on Food Waste Feast's website.

Once you've cooked your beans, here are two of Mei's favorite (and delicious!) recipes to whip up that use things you probably already have in your fridge and pantry.

Mei Li, Food Waste Feast

Leafy Greens Salad with Little Fish and Spiced Chickpeas

This feeds roughly 4 people, but you can easily increase or decrease amounts to feed more or less. Leave out the fish if you're cooking for vegetarians, and this dish is gluten-free (although if you do eat gluten, crunchy breadcrumbs or croutons are always welcome).

Here's what you need:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas or beans of your choice, laid out on a tea towel or paper towel to dry for a few minutes if pulled from liquid so they'll get crispier
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • a few shakes each of the spices of your choice - I used paprika, cumin and turmeric
  • 6 to 8 cups leafy greens of your choice, from light lettuce leaves to heartier greens like the kale used above
  • A small tin of anchovies or sardines or tuna (optional)
  • 1 avocado, sliced (or any other veggies you want)
  • Optional toppings: breadcrumbs or croutons, nuts such as sliced almonds or pine nuts, shaved Parmesan or another cheese
  • Lemon juice or vinegar of your choice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 eggs, cooked to your liking

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooled slightly, toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of the spices of your choice. Set aside while you make the rest of the salad.

Place your greens in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, more olive oil, and kosher salt. I usually just do this by feel, but you're aiming for about 1 part acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to 2 or 3 parts olive oil. If your greens are heartier, like kale or chard, massage the dressing in to wilt the leaves a bit. Top with the tinned fish of your choice and other veggies and other items you're using. Add your eggs and enjoy!

Mei Li, Food Waste Feast

And, Kale Stem Pesto Pasta with Chickpeas or Beans

This vegetarian dish can be made vegan by leaving the cheese out of the pasta and pesto. Use gluten-free noodles or leave out the nuts to accommodate for those dietary restrictions. If you already have the chickpeas cooked, the dish can be done in less than half an hour, especially if you multitask and make the pesto while the pasta is cooking.

Here's what you'll need:

For the pesto

  • A food processor or blender
  • 3 cups kale and arugula with stems, or other leafy greens or herbs from chard to basil (use all stems here, set aside the leaves for tomorrow's salad
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
  • ¼ cup nuts of your choice, like walnuts or pine nuts (optional - I toss them in if I have them in the kitchen)
  • About ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the pasta

To make the pesto, wash and clean your greens, roughly chop them, and set aside some leaves for tomorrow's salad. Ideally, put the greens in the fridge in a loose bag with a paper towel or clean cloth inside to soak up any extra moisture. You'll want about 3 cups of leaves and stems for the pesto - I used all the stems from a bunch of kale and they blended up easily.

Add the greens to your food processor or blender along with the garlic, cheese, and nuts. Pour in about half the olive oil and pulse to combine everything into a paste. Slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil until the pesto reaches a loose saucy consistency. Add a generous pinch of salt and then season to taste.

To make the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl, then stir in your cooked chickpeas. Toss with ample pesto and season to taste. If you'd like to add some leafy greens and grated cheese or anything else you like on your pasta, go for it.

Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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Life

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Tips to reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Because they can be reused, families tend to save money by choosing artificial trees over a real one. A study from the The American Christmas Tree Association (yes that is a real and reputable organization!) performed a life cycle analysis and found that one artificial tree that's reused for eight or more Christmases is more environmentally friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (1). The study also found that Christmas trees, both real and fake, accounted for a tiny part (< 0.1%) of a person's annual carbon footprint.

But are artificial Christmas trees as good for your health as they are for your wallet? The majority of artificial trees are made using a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and lead, which is used to stabilize PVC (2). The lead in the trees break down over time and forms lead dust. These particles are released into the air and can cause health issues, especially in young children. Most people do not realize that artificial trees contain lead, and only California requires a lead warning label (2). It is estimated that there are 50 million households in the United States that own artificial trees with lead in them (3).

Don't panic! If you are an owner of an artificial Christmas tree made out of PVC, there are precautions you can take to reduce your family's exposure to lead.

  1. PVC releases more gases when it is first exposed to air. They also release gases as they degrade. A good way to reduce the amount of lead in your household is to take the tree out of the box and air it outside when you first purchase it (4).
  2. If you have used your artificial tree for many Christmases, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. PVC tends to weaken and degrade after nine years (4). Newer artificial trees do not leach as much lead as older ones.
  3. Light cords that come with your artifical tree are prone to have levels of lead that exceed the limit set by the EPA (4). It is recommended that you wash your hands immediately after touching light cords. And definitely don't let young children handle cords.

If you're currently tree-less and in the market for an artificial one, consider purchasing a tree made out of polyethylene. This plastic is safer than PVC and does not leach lead. Additionally, trees made out of polyethylene tend to be more durable than PVC trees.

While artificial PVC Christmas trees don't pose a high health risk overall to the general population, it's very possible for young children to have severe negative health effects (3). It's important to be aware of the health risks that go along with trees made out of PVC, and the ways to avoid lead exposure for yourself and your family this holiday season.


References

  1. https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/real-artificial-christmas-tree-environment/
  2. https://rtkenvironmental.com/lead/warning-hidden-health-hazard-artificial-christmas-trees/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15628192
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19548208/do-christmas-trees-make-you-sick/
Sometimes it may feel like everywhere you turn, there's some sort of junk food being advertised—whether that's cupcakes or fries or deep fried things on a stick. And more than sometimes, you have a child begging you for a sweet treat or sugary drink. It can feel like a daunting task at times to encourage and foster healthy eating. While we know there are many factors that influence a child's food choices, here's one that you may not have thought of.
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Life

Avoid These Stressful Ingredients the Next Time You Relax with a Bath Bomb

We don't need these chemicals messing with our #selfcare

December means it's time to start thinking about those stocking stuffers or Chanukah gifts for your loved ones. What's better than a bath bomb to relax and take in those sudsy, therapeutic fragrances? Bath bombs can also get your kids to bathe without putting up a fight. They're basically magic! But, have you stopped to think what else they are putting in those bombs to make those suds glisten and fizz?

What's in a Bath Bomb?

It turns out, there can be a whole range of questionable chemicals packed neatly into those appealing little bombs. It's hard to tell exactly what's in each bath bomb because the ingredients vary widely among manufacturers, but fragrances, artificial colors, boric acid, and glitter are some common ingredients.

Fragrance is never a welcome sight on the ingredient list. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients used to make fragrances in products like bath bombs in order to protect company "trade secrets (1)." Many synthetic and natural fragrances also include such hormone-disrupting chemicals as phthalates, which can be absorbed through the skin and have been found to pose specific risks for pregnant women and children (2). Studies have also linked health effects of phthalates to miscarriage, gestational diabetes, reduced IQ, and ADHD with increased exposure to phthalates.

As for dyes, the evidence is limited when it comes to FDA approved dyes readily being absorbed through the skin. However, one study found that certain dyes may be absorbed after shaving (3). Also, young children often swallow water while bathing and ingestion of some of these chemicals for young children is definitely not recommended!

Boric acid also has some side effects that you may not want to risk. It can be absorbed through the mucous membranes and has been linked to hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity (4). And then there is glitter, which is just more plastic that can end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Alternatives and DIY Recipes

While there may be harmful ingredients in some bath bombs, you don't have to give them up! It's easy to avoid these ingredients with just a little extra effort. You can choose to purchase "fragrance-free" or "phthalate-free" bath bombs, but making your own bath bomb is super easy. Here are also some DIY recipes to try at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond oil (or apricot oil)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon beet root powder
  • wild orange essential oil
  • rose essential oil

Directions

  • Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Blend wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Place in mold of choice or just form a ball about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Allow the bath bombs to dry for approximately 1-2 days.
  • To use, place bath bomb in the bath.
  • To store, place in airtight container. Storing in a refrigerator can allow the bath bombs to keep for about 3 weeks (5).


References

1.https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics

2.https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp73-c1.pdf
3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
4.https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boric-acid#section=Health-Hazardhttps://draxe.com/health/are-bath-bombs-safe/
5.https://draxe.com/beauty/diy-bath-bomb-recipe/
6. https://homemadeforelle.com/bath-bombs-for-kids/#Ingredients
Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Newborns

healthy, safe toys for 0-1 years old

Updated for 2019!

Even before they can talk, babies know how to play. Sure, they will play with whatever is in front of them, but having their own toys is way more fun, and saves things like your watch from being covered in slobber. Here are some of the highest rated, healthiest toys out there, but be sure to check out our roundup of toy brands, too. If you're looking for something for someone a bit older, here are our picks for best non-toxic toys for toddlers.

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