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.

Roundups

14 Essentials for Packing a Plastic Free Lunch

our favorite reusable items for packing lunch for the kids (and yourself!)

As many of us are headed back to the office, it's time to get ready to start getting creative when it comes to packing lunches. Getting takeout for lunch every now and then is great, but it's expensive and there's just so much trash generated! Packing lunch is great for your wallet and for the planet, especially if you invest in some plastic free lunch packing essentials. While plastic sandwich bags and plastic containers may be convenient, they aren't the healthiest and are only adding to the plastic problem in our oceans. Instead, stock up on some of these reusable lunchbox essentials made from stainless steel, glass, wax, silicone, and cotton. Whether you're packing leftovers, a simple sandwich, or a salad, we've got you covered. Our plastic free lunch packing essentials are reusable, washable, and healthier than a bag full of plastic containers. We also have a roundup of general food storage containers you might want to check out.

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Roundups

Healthier Food Storage Containers

Plastic free jars, boxes, and wraps!

Updated for 2022!

We scoured the internet finding an assortment of safer and healthier ways to keep your leftovers and meal prep ingredients fresh. All of these options are sustainable, have many glowing reviews, and are easily available. We also have a roundup more specifically for packing lunch you might also want to check out too!

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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

Plastic-Free (and Melamine-Free!) Outdoor Tableware

They won't break, look great, and are sure to be perfect for you outdoor gatherings

Updated for Summer 2022!

Getting ready for some outdoor parties and dining this summer? We sure are! If you're looking to spruce up your outdoor dining scene, you'll quickly see that most options are made of melamine. Even though melamine dishware doesn't look like plastic, melamine can leach into food after dishes are repeatedly microwaved or used to hold both hot and acidic foods (read this to learn why you might want to skip the melamine). So if melamine is out, and easy to break options like ceramic just don't work for you (children being children, slippery surfaces, clumsy grownups!), check out these stainless steel, enamelware, wood, and tempered glass options. Although we always recommend reusable, we included one disposable option too (without PFAS chemicals). These are our top picks for plastic-free outdoor dishware, serving bowls and platters, tumblers, and more. They are all light weight, hard to break, and will make your outdoor entertaining photos look on point. So pick up some of these plastic-free and melamine-free outdoor dishes and enjoy dining al fresco!

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Food

4 Recipes for Batch Summer Drinks that You Can Spike AND that are Kid-Friendly

Ditch single use plastic and canned drinks at your next party

Summer is basically one big outdoor party. Anyone else wishing it will never end? With all of the heat, it's important to have icy beverages that everyone can enjoy. While it's easy to just load up with flats of canned cocktails or plastic bottles of flavored sparkling water, making a big batch of easy, tasty drinks is more budget friendly and planet friendly! Here are 4 of our favorite drink recipes meant for big containers, so you can quickly prepare them in advance and just set up a glass beverage dispenser as people start to arrive. Kids will love these fruity drinks and so will adults, especially if you add a splash of alcohol into your cup (we won't tell!). Plus you'll be skipping out on single use plastic bottles and BPA-lined aluminum cans. Try out one of these recipes at your next summer BBQ or event!


Spiked Lemonade

-1 gallon of water

-3 cups lemon juice

-3.5 cups white sugar

-Fruit like peach, blueberries, blackberries, mint, etc

-4 cups vodka or 1 shot per glass if adding vodka after pouring

Instructions

  1. Stir the sugar into the water until it's completely dissolved.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice, fruit, and optional vodka. Serve over ice.

Fruit Punch

-8 cups ginger ale

-4 cups orange juice

-4 cups pineapple juice

-sliced fruit like orange

-Optional: 2 cups rum

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients and serve over ice

Watermelon Refresher

-8 cups seedless watermelon, cubed

-2 cups water

-2 cups ginger ale

-2 cups lime juice

-4 cups gin or vodka or 1 shot per glass if adding after pouring

Instructions

  1. Blend watermelon in a blender until pulverized. If you want a completely smooth consistency without pulp, strain the blended watermelon through a sieve.
  2. Combine all ingredients, including pulverized watermelon, and serve over ice.

Hibiscus Watermelon Cooler

8 cups water

8 hibiscus tea bags

8 cups watermelon juice (puree watermelon in blender)

½ cup honey

1 cup lime juice

4 cups tequila or 1 shot per glass if adding after pouring

Instructions

  1. Add the teabags to the water and let steep for 5-10 minutes
  2. Remove the teabags and add the rest of the ingredients
  3. Serve over ice

As much as we'd like to be the type of person who wakes up early, grabs some buckets and a sponge at home, and spends a few hours giving their car a DIY wash, we often find ourselves pulling into a car wash business instead. It's easy to feel guilty about taking the "convenient" route but in this case you don't have to! It's actually better for the environment to get a professional car wash rather than DIY! We break down the benefits of an automatic car wash below.

Whether you have a brand new car or your car has been with you for a decade and a few hundred thousand miles, chances are you want to take care of it. In addition to regular oil changes and tune ups, you need to give it a good cleaning. Washing your car isn't just for looks. Over time your car accumulates dirt, oil, salt, and other grime. As well as being an eyesore, this debris can damage the performance of your car. Since we want to drive our car for as long as possible, washing it should be part of your normal car maintenance routine! But before you run to grab your hose and bucket- you might want to consider heading to your local car wash.

It's common to think that going to the car wash is worse for the environment and too water intensive, when actually, the opposite is true. Car wash businesses use high powered nozzles to use as little water as efficiently as possible, and many businesses also have a system in place to catch and reuse old water (1). When you wash your car yourself, you probably just use a bucket filled with water and a hose. While your water usage may not seem that bad while you're washing, it adds up fast. Individuals can use between 80 to 140 gallons of water to wash their car, but a car wash business only uses about 30 to 45 gallons of water (2)! Many car washes also recycle the water used, so the water can be used many times. Some states even require car washes to use recycled water; in California, car washes must use at least 60% recycled water (4). During one particularly tough drought season, a city in California went so far as to ban using potable water for at-home car washes and required car owners to go to a car wash to clean their car (5). If you are concerned about wasting water, ask your local car wash if they recycle water and try to go to one that does!

Another reason to consider using a professional car wash business is wastewater. When we wash our cars at home, we're usually in a concrete driveway or on the side of the road and let the water run down to the sidewalk drains. But that water contains dirt, oil, heavy metals, and other harmful chemicals that accumulate during normal driving, and those sidewalk drains don't go to a water treatment plant. Instead, that runoff is usually diverted directly into our watershed, which might to a lake, stream, or ocean and negatively impact aquatic wildlife and water quality (3). Professional car wash businesses are required by the Environmental Protection Agency to capture all wastewater and divert it into a sewage system. That means the water is safely processed through a water treatment facility and can be used for future car washes!

If you really want to wash your car at home, there are more eco-friendly options.

1. Look for cleaners that are biodegradable and phosphate-free, to minimize the potential for water contamination (3).

2. Make sure to dispose of any dirty water leftover in the buckets by dumping it down your sink, toilet, or bathtub instead of pouring it down your driveway.

3. Washing your car on an overcast, mild day can help save water, since it won't evaporate as quickly.

4. Use reusable cloths to wash and dry your car.


References

  1. https://www.treehugger.com/eco-friendly-car-wash-4863509
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/top-10-water-wasters/
  3. https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/KSMO_CarWashing.pdf
  4. https://www.carwash.com/law-requiring-carwashes-to-recycle-water-passed-in-ca/
  5. https://www.marketplace.org/2015/06/09/one-california-drought-winner-local-car-wash/

Now that you've invested in some glass and stainless steel food storage containers, maybe you're wondering if you should Marie Kondo all the plastic ones you used to use? Instead adding them to the landfill, what if we told you that all those plastic containers can help you achieve a new level of organization zen? While we don't recommend storing food in them anymore (for those of you who haven't heard: these plastic food storage containers often have BPA or phthalates in them, which can leach into your food over time and cause all sorts of health problems), we also don't think you have to throw them away.

So, what can you do? We have 6 great suggestions for you to repurpose those containers throughout your home.



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