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.

If you've read our pantry packaging materials article, you'll know that all packaging is not created equally. Traditional food packaging like plastic and cans can contain harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, or PFAS. That's why we recommend glass containers, cartons (like Tetra Paks), or paper whenever possible. And it's easier than you think to find pantry staples packaged in these materials!

Take beans, for example. Up until recently, you could basically only find beans in cans with BPA lining. Now they come in a wide variety of packaging, including Tetra Paks and glass jars! Our roundup features brands that are widely available; you'll have no problems finding these products in your local supermarket! And most of these brands carry many different kinds of beans! Jovial., for example, has organic chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and borlotti beans in jars. Your pantry is about to get a major upgrade!

a) 365 Organic/Whole Foods

b) Jack's Quality

c) Inspired Organics

d) Randall

e) MaiaOrganic

f) Jovial


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Roundups

Non-Toxic Body Lotion Roundup

Stay moisturized without feeling sticky, slippery, or like you're covered in chemicals with these natural lotion options

Colder weather is coming, which means so is dry skin. Ugh! Usually we'd just grab whatever is on sale at the drugstore, but all body lotion is not created equal. In fact, traditional body lotions can contains some harmful chemicals that could be absorbed through your skin. Many lotions also contain petroleum products, which is something we also like to steer clear of. That's why we did the research and found you the best non-toxic body moisturizers and lotions that are well reviewed and readily available.

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Life

Your Summer Guide to Water Safety

How to Promote Fun and Prevent Drowning

Summer has arrived! Cue the backyard BBQs, ice cream sandwiches (or DIY popsicles), and Will Smith jams. During long, hot days, water activities are basically a necessity for creating fun memories and staying cool. Unfortunately, water-related accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for young children (4). So to keep things fun this summer, let's talk about drowning prevention.

Drowning happens in seconds and often quietly (1,3). Permanent disability can result even when drowning isn't fatal (3), since any prolonged oxygen disruption injures our brains. Though it can happen to anyone, drowning is the second most common cause of death for 1-4 year olds (3). Almost 90% of these incidents occur in home pools and hot tubs5,6 (and anything that collects water, even buckets, poses a risk) (3). To keep the children in your life safe and cool, here are 5 water safety tips as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, National Safety Council, Pool Safely, and Red Cross.

1. Kids' water activities require close supervision at all times

Most drowning incidents occur unsupervised when adults briefly step away or become distracted (4). For this reason, children need vigilant supervision by a designated adult whenever they're around water (4). We can appreciate a relaxing poolside novel or margarita, but the responsible adult/Water Watcher (7) needs to be completely free of alcohol impairment and any distractions (not even Insta). Consider water supervision to be like your greatest Netflix binge – your attention is totally focused, and you don't want to miss a thing. For young children the guiding principle is "touch supervision"– being within arm's reach at all times (3). 5-9 year olds are more likely to drown at public pools (4), so designate a supervising adult even when lifeguards are present (3).

2. Modest safety measures make a massive difference

Physical safety measures are imperative, especially when delightfully curious and unintentionally stealthy toddlers attempt to swim without you! Installing the right type of fence can reduce drowning risk by over 80% – 4-sided pool fences (completely isolating the pool) are far more effective than 3-sided property line fences (3). The safest fences measure at least 4 feet high, prevent climbing, and have self-latching, self-closing gates (3,7). Door alarms and rigid pool covers are also preventive, though their effectiveness is less studied (1). Always check that the pool you use has intact anti-entrapment drain covers (mandated by federal law) to prevent suction-related accidents (7). For portable pools, check out this specific safety guidance.

3. Life jackets are way better than floaties

Sadly those super cute floaty wings aren't designed for safety, according to the CDC, and should not replace life jackets (3) (on the upside, this means less flimsy plastic!). Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketwhenever near water (1,9). And, regardless of swimming ability, all children need USCG-approved life jackets if playing around lakes or the ocean (2). Life jackets are only effective if they fit well, so check the weight and size limits before using (9). Remember that nothing replaces close supervision! (To help start your life jacket search, we tracked down a more eco-friendly option.)

4. Teach children swimming and water safety

Learning to swim is crucial for water safety. We all benefit from learning how to swim, and swimming lessons can prevent drowning in 1-4 year olds (3). It's never too early (or too late!) to learn – YMCA and community centers often provide affordable lessons for all ages. (We get that communal activities are probably not your jam with the current Covid-19 situation, but, at some point, formal swim lessons could be a fun family activity.) Knowing how to swim does not make us "drown proof" though, so we still need to exercise caution with kids of any swimming ability (1). Teaching children not to climb over pool fences, swim without an adult, or play near pool drains is also crucial for preventing drowning incidents (7).

5. Assess surroundings and swimming ability

Being aware of location-specific water dangers and knowing a swimmer's ability can help discern which activities are safe. Every water activity presents an assortment of fun and risk. Case in point: sprinklers are a simple joy but also an understated toe hazard (been there…). Oceans, rivers, and lakes offer wilder adventure yet can even prove dangerous for expert swimmers – rip currents are an infamous threat in oceans, and lakes and rivers can have undertows (6). Older children and adolescents are more likely to drown in these natural bodies of water (3). Since alcohol can impair your ability to assess surroundings and react appropriately, avoid drinking while swimming or supervising others (7).

Prevention first, but CPR can still save lives

We hope you'll never ever need to use CPR...ever. Prevention with the above measures can massively reduce drowning risk for everyone, but CPR is invaluable during a drowning incident and can improve the likelihood of the drowning victim's survival (3). The American Heart Association provides in-person Family and Friends CPR courses, as well as socially distanced, at-home instruction with Family and Friends CPR DVD or Adult/Child CPR training kits (includes a training manikin and DVD – fun for the whole family!).

With safe water play, we know your summer days will be full of adventure and excitement. Have fun!


References

1. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/15/drowning031519

2. https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/drowning/

3. https://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

4. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2020-Submersion-Report-4-29-20.pdf

5. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/blk_media_SafetyBarrierGuidelinesResPools.pdf

6. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/drowning

7. https://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/safety-tips/

8.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/drowning-prevention-and-facts.html

9.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html

Roundups

Non-Toxic Infant and Convertible Car Seats

Keep your little one safe and secure in flame retardant free and PFAS free car seats

Updated for 2020!

If there's only one thing you absolutely need before your baby is born, it's a car seat. Everything else on your registry (except maybe diapers) can come later! Car seats are an absolute necessity for keeping your little one safe while you're on the road, from the first car ride home and on. Most kiddos actually end up spending a lot more time in car seat other than just for rides. Many kids end up napping and snacking in them. Unfortunately, most car seats contain flame retardants and forever chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.) The good news is that car seat makers can meet the required flammability safety standards without using chemical flame retardants and car seat covers can be removable and washable for when messes happen. There are great flame retardant free and PFAS free infant car seats and convertible car seats. We outline all the options and why they are important for you.

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Family

Non-Toxic Bassinets and Cosleepers

All well-reviewed and safe for your newborn to sleep in all night (or day) long

Updated for 2020!

*whispers* The baby's asleep! *silent celebrating* And, while the baby is snoozing away, you can actually eat some food and shower. While getting the baby to sleep can be a bit of a headache, figuring out where you will be gently laying them down in the first few months once they are asleep shouldn't be. So, we did all of the hair pulling research to narrow it down to a selection of 8 non-toxic bassinets and cosleepers that parents and experts agree are great options. Without further ado, here are the top picks.

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Non-Toxic Baby Shampoo

Safe, gentle, and perfect for bath time

Updated for 2020!

Bath time is different in every household, but one this is the same - you gotta wash all that delicate baby hair without them throwing a fit or crying. It has to be gentle, but still strong enough to get any wild strained peas and mashed sweet potatoes out. Look no further. We reviewed all the databases and reviews to find the best baby shampoo options that are widely available, loved by parents and babies alike, and do their job without any harsh chemicals or exorbitant prices.

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Food

What's the Healthiest Sparkling Water?

We're hooked on flavored sparkling water.... But what are we really drinking?

Let's be real: sometimes we reach for sparkling water to make everyday life feel just a little bit swankier. We also do it for our health. For those of us who struggle with drinking enough water, it's refreshing bubbles and flavors are an enjoyable incentive to hydrate. And since sweetened beverages, like traditional sodas, contribute to chronic conditions like diabetes (1), sparkling water offers a satisfying CDC-recommended substitute for sugary drinks (2). Sparkling water is basically H2O with jazz hands, so there's no way it can be bad, right? As it turns out, there are a few things to watch out for. We're diving deep with sparkling water to help support your health and environment (and your bubble habit).

Let's Talk About Natural and Artificial Flavors...

You've probably seen common ingredients like fruit juice, natural flavors, or artificial flavors in your favorite fizzy water brands. Fruit juice is pretty self-explanatory, but what do we know about the rest?

Natural flavors. According to the FDA, a natural flavor must come from non-synthetic source, such as spices, fruits or vegetables (3). However, the rest of the solution carrying the flavor may still contain synthetic additives as preservatives or solvents (which just means substances used to dissolve other things). These additives like propylene glycol are considered "Generally Recognized as Safe" by the FDA, and some like ethyl formate form naturally in plants (5). But safety studies are ongoing for some of these approved chemicals. For example, recent research has shown methyl paraben acts as an endocrine disruptor in mice and contributes to obesity (6). Organic products have higher standards for natural flavors – the National Organic Program only allows natural flavors if "not produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservatives" (7). Organic flavors must be used in organic products if commercially available (7) and comply with USDA organic regulations – including that 95% of the flavor must be certified organic (8).

Artificial flavors. Yep, you guessed it – unlike natural flavors, artificial flavors need not derive directly from natural sources like those listed above (3). Instead they are chemically synthesized. This doesn't actually mean that the main flavor's chemical structure differs from that of the natural flavor. As University of Minnesota food science professor Gary Reineccius explains, "there is little substantive difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings…the distinction in flavorings comes from the source of these identical chemicals" (9). But the kicker again comes from the additional synthetic chemicals allowed to accompany the flavor. Some of these originally occur in nature (such as butyl phenylacetate, found in fruits), while others are totally synthetic and potentially problematic (like phenylethyl benzoate, which is "toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.")

Bonus round: what is "naturally essenced"? This is its own category used in particular by LaCroix products. Its true meaning is still unknown, as LaCroix has not disclosed this information publicly. What we do know, according to their website, is that "all LaCroix flavors are derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit...there are no sugars or artificial ingredients." Furthermore, Business Insider clarifies that "essence is created by heating items such as fruit and vegetable skins, rinds, and remnants at high temperatures, producing vapors. These vapors are condensed and then sold by the barrel."

Bottom line: though natural and artificial flavors are chemically similar, they both come with long lists of potential additives that may be detrimental to our health and environment . When in doubt, stick with what you know is good – like real fruit juice – or opt for brands with organic ingredients and flavors.

How to Sparkle from the Inside Out

Sparkling water containers matter just as much for our health and environment as the inside ingredients. The lining of aluminium cans contain BPA and similar chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors with the potential to cause hormonal and reproductive harm. While these chemicals are less likely to leach into beverages like sparkling water than more acidic beverages, we don't like to make a habit of drinking from cans. Sparkling water beverages also often come in plastic. Microplastics can also end up with your bubbles – a study in 2018 showed that microplastics contaminated 93% of plastic water bottles (10). The research world is still seeking to understand the health implications of microplastics, but given what we already know, we say it's better to play it safe and avoid plastic bottles as much as possible in the meantime. Reducing plastic use is even more important for environmental health now that international governments have stopped buying recycling products from the US (cities in the US are throwing away formerly recyclable types of plastic because they can't afford to recycle, as reported by The Atlantic). Your choice of carbonated beverage is that much better for our health and environment when it doesn't come with plastic!

Simple Solutions for Keeping Your Sparkle Alive

1) Choose glass over plastic containers if buying carbonated beverages from the store

2) Check out the ingredients of your current brands and *gasp* consider trying a new one (we know you're dying for a new pandemic adventure). Try brands with fruit juice flavoring (Iike Spindrift) or organic natural flavors to be extra safe in avoiding sneaky synthetic additives.

3) Consider DIY! You can easily make your own sparkling water at home and have total control over what goes in it, including water quality and flavor choice. SodaStream's Aqua Fizz water carbonating machine uses glass bottles. Or if you're on a budget, consider a more basic model and transfer your newly carbonated water over to glass carafes for storage, or just quickly consume it (not a problem for us!). They also have organic flavoring options and a carbon dioxide cylinder exchange program to reduce waste. You could also experiment with adding your own fruit juice flavor concoctions – the possibilities are endless.

Stay fizzy, my friends.


Resources:

(1)https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html

(2)https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

(3)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=20a79c9179f3c43d5b514f5f13c06d7b&mc=true&node=se21.2.101_122&rgn=div8

(4)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=c3057692e430edc601fcb3e3352fed1c&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title21/21cfr184_main_02.tpl

(5)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e5c407d421f852bcf58b25fd5c700a4d&mc=true&node=se21.3.184_11295&rgn=div8

(6) https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s13679-017-0240-4.pdf

(7)https://ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/OrganicFlavorsPracticalGuidance_OrganicTradeAssociation.pdf

(8)https://www.qai-inc.com/media/docs/qai_guide_for_natural_flavors_in_organic_products.pdf

(9) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-difference-be-2002-07-29/

(10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141690/

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