A cuppa & some thoughts about food waste

Macleans magazine had an article earlier this month about tea bag food waste in Britain. Having recently developed a tea habit on that fair island, and being generally concerned with food and waste and composting, I’ve got a vested interest in this.

Britain’s 62 million residents drink 165 million cups of tea per day. (Fun fact! That’s 2 ⅔ cups per person.) This is a lot of tea, and it produces a lot of waste: tea bags add 370 000 tonnes of waste to landfills per year. Wrap, a government-funded organisation that works to reduce waste, encourage recycling, and to create a market for recycled products, estimates that tea bags are now the single largest food waste contributor in the UK. Now, tea-drinkers are being encouraged to compost their used tea bags instead of throwing them out.

Amy wondered if there is some kind of Canadian equivalent. While my admittedly cursory search did not turn up any one food item equivalent, a 2011 article in the Toronto Star about food waste caught my attention, and is an interesting complement to Amy’s post regarding the locavore/locally-sourced food movement. According to a study entitled Food Waste in Canada by the Value Chain Management CentreCanadians manage to waste $27 billion worth of food per year. This food goes to landfill and, yes, some goes to compost … but it’s still going to waste. In fact, the green bin compost-collection programs in some cities may be acting as a psychological ameliorative: people feel ok wasting food because they are composting it.

What is interesting is that food miles (how many miles food travels — and therefore how much fuel burned and greenhouse gases produced — to get to consumers) are seen as a kind of environmental big bad. In particular, food miles are what locavores/people who eat only/mostly local food aim to do away with. However, food miles are responsible for only 3 percent of food waste, compared to the 51% contributed by consumers who throw out food at home. (I’m unsurprised to find that Desrochers & Shimizu, authors of the new book Amy has mentioned previously, ‘The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of a 10,000-Mile Diet‘ are referenced in the report.)

I’m interested the idea that eating local isn’t the be-all-end-all, perfect solution for food sustainability that some folks might like it to be. This doesn’t mean I’m about to give up on shopping at the lovely Kamloops farmers’ market, or start buying mangoes or avocados as anything other than occasional treats, but it is definitely food for thought. More evidence that there is not necessarily a simple, one-size-fits-all solution for sustainable lifestyles and diets, and all the more reason to keep on experimenting with and learning about food, and strive for zero food waste.



How’s this for point/counterpoint: Amy is making wonderful-looking no-knead bread while I am thinking about:

Things ‘gluten-free’

(Disclaimer: my information comes from talking to people with opinions, reading food labels, and doing some random internet searching. Therefore, please read with grain of salt in hand.)

Lately there is a lot of fuss about gluten-free food and gluten-free diets. As with any (food) trend, there are a couple of vocal camps; in this case, the ‘gluten is bad for you! live a healthier life by going gluten-free!’ camp, and the ‘those crazy people on their gluten-free diets have no idea what they’re talking about and the whole thing is a load of BS’ camp.

Then there’s this other camp of folks who are forgotten in all the buzz: those who actually really can’t eat gluten or else bad things happen to their bodies, i.e. folks with Celiac disease. The bodies of people with Celiac disease cannot process gluten. It jams up intestines and prevents absorption of other nutrients, which is very, very not good, and which can (and does) make folks feel very, very, very ill. For a person with Celiac, not eating gluten is a good way to fix this and restore digestive health.

Ok, wait: what is gluten? Basically gluten is a thing found in wheat and barley and rye. It is in flour, in bread, in pasta, in beer, and shows up in a lot of processed foods as a filler and additive. Gluten is NOT in things like rice, (wheat-free) oats, potato flour, quinoa, and polenta (cornmeal). Things gluten free (e.g. bread, tortilla wraps, &c.) are becoming easier and easier to find in mainstream Canadian grocery stores. The Canadian Celiac Association outlines a gluten free diet.

I don’t know enough about the reasons for and against opt-in gluten-free diets (as opposed to necessary-to-digestive-health gluten-free diets), so will not weigh in on that particular food trend debate. What I do know is that some people think that eczema can be worsened by gluten. Because I sometimes have to deal with eczema, I experimented for several months with cutting gluten. I learned that, for me, stress is a greater irritant than gluten, so cutting gluten didn’t directly help in my case. However, I liked a lot of the food I was making, and, unsurprisingly, eating a lot of bread and pasta, and drinking a lot of beer make me feel not very nice, so I continue to pursue alternatives, like…

Gluten-free Tabbouleh!

(I checked with my friend Emily: at least by white people in Canada, tabbouleh is pronounced ‘ta-BOO-lee’.)

This recipe is adapted from Julie Van Rosendaal (see this post) and the recipe on the back of my bag of chia seeds.

½ cup quinoa (brought to a boil in 1 cup of water, then reduced to simmer for 15 minutes; it’s cooked when the little white coils around the quinoa start to come off)

½ can chickpeas (optional, though a delicious addition)

¼ cup chia seeds (optional)

2 tomatoes, chopped finely

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

a few green onions (or a small red onion, chopped finely)

⅓ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Cook the quinoa. Chop things. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil in a little bowl. (In the last minute or two of cook time for the quinoa, I like to throw in the chickpeas to soften them a bit.) When the quinoa is done, stir everything together in a bowl and pop it in the fridge for a bit so all the flavours blend. Eat!


This was so delicious! So quick to make, meets tricky dietary requirements (it is gluten-free AND vegan), and is such a lovely, light, hot weather food. I divided it up into Ziploc containers took them to work for lunch (leaving these in the fridge for another day or two had the added bonus of making it even more flavourful).

Kate’s parsley plant: parsley is one of the main ingredients in tabbouleh

Squash and Bean Stew!

Like many recent university graduates, I live at home with my parents. Please don’t ask how “recent.” I use the word loosely.

I mention this because I prepare most of my meals with my mom. In February my mom suggested we start eating vegetarian. This was something I did at school (for economic and environmental reasons), but we definitely needed a few new recipes. Let’s face it, fried tofu and a sleeve of soda crackers is not an appropriate dinner for nonstudent adults. We have slowly been increasing our menu repertoire which now includes a few favourites. When we find something we really like, however, we get into a groove (I prefer this word to “rut”). Right now we are in a squash stew groove!

This recipe is really simple and makes enough that two people can have it for dinner and enjoy leftovers for lunch…for several days. What I particularly enjoy is that the vegetables stay slightly crisp and distinct from each other even after reheating.

Tools you need:

–          Cutting board

–          Knife

–          Big pot (I love that you only use one pot!)


–          1 tablespoon olive oil

–          1 large onion, chopped

–          2 garlic cloves, minced

–          1 tablespoon chili powder

–          1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

–          1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

–          2 pounds butternut squash cut into 1-inch pieces

–          4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

–          1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

–          1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeño pepper

–          1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Unless I am baking, I generally use recipe measurements as guidelines and ingredients as suggestions. So if you want to substitute different veggies depending on availability, go for it! If you don’t like heat, omit the jalapeño. Hate cilantro? Try parsley instead. But I find a fresh herb is needed to brighten it up a bit. Add whatever herb just before serving.


  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and golden.
  2.  Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and stir until garlic is soft. This will take about a minute.
  3. Add tomatoes with juices; bring to boil.
  4.  Stir in squash and green beans. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until vegetables are almost tender. You can prick them with a fork to check. If you like really crisp green beans, add them a few minutes after the squash.
  5. Stir in black beans and jalapeño. Cover and simmer for a few more minutes (5 or so).
  6. Stir in cilantro.
  7. Eat it! (Remember to share).

Recipe originally from epicurious.

No-Need-to-Knead Bread

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard.

So I finally baked the no-knead bread!

It turned out well…the second time. The first time that I made the dough I added too much water. The dough was really wet and glue-like rather than slightly sticky to touch and shaggy looking. It is really humid where I live, especially this time of year. So my flour may contain quite a bit of moisture already. Trying it a second time, I found that I did not need the full 1 and 5/8th cups of water. I think I likely used somewhere between 1 and ½ cups to 1 and 2/3 cups. Once I figured this out, manipulating the dough was super easy.

Another challenge I had was finding the right time to make the dough so that it would have long enough to rise and be ready at a time that was convenient for me to bake ( not the middle of the night or while I am at work). I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible – at least the first time – to test my success. I followed the directions for a 12 – 18 hour rise and a 2 hour proof strictly. I decided before hand that a weekend would be best for this. I made the dough shortly after getting home from work on Friday night. This is how everything went down:

Time Bread Schedule My Schedule
6 pm – 6:05 pm Friday Dough creation. Ditto
6 pm Friday to 9 am Saturday (16 hours) Bed time: Rested in a bowl on top of the microwave covered with cling film. Had dinner, painted my nails, watched a movie, and then slept.Other things that can (hypothetically) be done while the dough rises: drive-in movie viewing, essay writing, pub crawling, ball room dancing, hiking through the woods, speed dating, sky diving, debate club…ing, browsing Pinterest for hours, etc.
9 – 9:15 am Massage: Folding. Folded dough over 3 times, and then left it to rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
9:15 – 11:15 am Knap time: Resting and leavening on counter. Shaped dough into a ball, sprinkled it with wheat bran and wrapped it in a tea-towel.Then I went for a nice jog, showered, made tea.
11:30 am – 12:30 pm Sauna: baked in a steamy pot in the oven.At the 30 minute mark I took the lid off of the pot to find that the bread was already golden brown. I left the lid off and turned the oven off to let the residual heat finish the baking. Drank tea, ate breakfast, browsed Pinterest, showered and dressed.
12:30 pm Met untimely demise. Ate lots of bread!

Bottom right: the heavy, green enamel pot I found for $35 at a discount kitchen supply store. It worked very well!

Recipe (from the New York Times)

By Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan, New York.

–          3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

–          ¼ teaspoon instant yeast

–          1¼ teaspoons salt

–          Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 and 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover with cling film. Let dough rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature (22 degrees C).

2. After resting 12 to 18 hours, the dough surface will be dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton tea towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Now that I know that the dough comes together very quickly and that the bread bakes in less than an hour, I might try making the dough before I leave for work (around 7 am) and then proofing after 12 hours. If all goes to plan the bread can go into the oven at 9 pm and be out by 10 pm. I may even see what happens if I make the dough one evening and bake it another. I don’t know if 24 hours (as opposed to 18) is really going to make or break (punny!) this bread.

I would also like to try the bread with whole wheat flour next time and then possibly with rye or whole grains. I have read that the grain in the whole wheat can shred the gluten molecules, making the bread tougher. But there are plenty of recipes and blog posts with advice on how to mitigate this. I anticipate that whole grains would be even trickier. I think the whole wheat will be a great, manageable next step.

Steamy Kitchen has a great photo step-by-step that I found helpful and provides proof that four-year old can make this bread!


A lot of people might think that being a vegan, or cooking vegan meals, or baking vegan treats could be really intimidating. Like it might possibly involve a lot of strange and exotic ingredients, and kitchen acrobatics.

What is a vegan? What is a vegan meal?

A vegan is a human who chooses not to consume any animal products or by-products such as meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, butter, gelatin (sometimes in yogurt, licorise allsorts), fast food french fries (can be deep fried in animal fats), honey (made by bees), &c. It might also involve wearing clothes and shoes made only from plant-derived or synthetic materials (no leather or wool). Folks do this for political, ethical, dietary, religious, and/or health reasons. (This list, I recognise, fails to do justice to the myriad reasons which inspire and motivate people to become vegans, but which must suffice for the sake of brevity. If you know things about being a vegan/eating vegan, please share your thoughts! Teach me things!)

There are varying degrees of veganism. For example, some vegans may go so far as to avoid refined sugar, because sometimes animal charcoal is used in the refining process. A cool lady I knew, Steph, was a vegan for dietary and health reasons (for her, the ethical implications were an awesome bonus), and she owned and wore a kickass pair of leather boots. To each her own.

In short, vegan meals are meals that do not include any meat or animal byproducts. Making a vegan meal might sound challenging. ‘But what would you even put in a vegan meal?!’ one might ask.

the answer

The Vegan Stoner is here to prove that you can make delicious, nutritious, über-cheap, easy-peasy vegan meals with 6 readily-available ingredients in 6 steps! It is even illustrated!! Look:

I’m a big fan of these recipes because they are so basic, they don’t require that you have expensive kitchen tools or know fancy cooking techniques, and while some recipes call for an obscure vegan substitute, they are not all heavily soy dependent. (Soapbox aside: I tend to think an over-dependence on soy products is not terribly good for your body, or the earth. Maybe I’ll write about this another day.)

Since I am not vegan myself, I am ok with substituting cow’s milk yogurt for soy yogurt, and I am ok with using honey instead of agave syrup. (Though if you are looking for something a bit easier to come by than agave syrup, which is a cactus-plant-derived sweetener, you can opt for maple syrup, a tree-sap-derived sweetener.)

Have a go! I think you’ll like it: The Vegan Stoner.

Is Local Really Better?

I am currently in the midst of reading Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James E. McWilliams.

My copy of Just Food with my thoughts on sticky tabs.

It is incredibly intriguing read. McWilliams is painstakingly fair in his systematic criticism of the local and the organic food movements. What the title does not give away is that he is no proponent of the results of Green Revolution or the industrialization of food production either. Although I am super anxious to post about what I have been reading, I am not yet ready.

I did think I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention that there is a new book (published just last week) making a similar assertion. That is, in terms of the ability to save the environment, locavore/farm-to-fork movements are well-meaning but gravely misguided. The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet is by University of Toronto associate geography professor, Pierre Desrochers, and policy analyst, Hiroko Shimizu.

An interview with Prof. Desrochers can be found here.

Much more on this topic to follow!

If you have an opinion (on locavores/local food movement, globalization/industrialization of food, agriculture and the environment, the books specifically), please share!

Another kind of cake

So, where is the follow-up to the red velvet cake recipe?

To be honest, I got a little ahead of myself with that one. Instead of looking forward to making a red velvet cake, I began to stress out about it: I don’t know enough people in town yet with whom to share a cake, and I was getting a bit worried about (a) most of the cake going to waste for lack of eaters, or, in order to guarantee more eaters, (b) trying to transport a cake on my bicycle to my workplace to share it with my co-workers. (Nothing doing.)

Stressing out about cake doesn’t really seem in keeping with the spirit of this blog, so I intend to leave red velvet cake aside until a proper cake-eating occasion arises.

In the meantime, I was deciding what to have for dinner this evening: I’ve done a lot of the savoury, veggie-&-greens meals this week and Sunday night seems to call for something different, some comfort food, something more indulgent. What better thing is there for such a desire than pancakes?!

I love making pancakes: they are easy, they are versatile, they are substantial enough to eat for any meal, you can make fun shapes out of them (my father introduced me to the wonders of making hearts and first initials out of pancake batter)…

heart-shaped pancakes for valentine’s day

…they are an incredibly social food (many of my friends can attest to at least one occasion where I insisted they come over for a pancake dinner), but also are an easy thing to whip up for one. It is hard to find a more basic kind of cake than a pan-cake.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the genius behind my favourite cookbook: Starting Out.

Kate thinks Julie Van Rosendaal’s ‘Starting Out’ is the best cookbook anywhere.

While the title suggests this cookbook is appropriate for folks just starting out cooking on their own (indeed, I bought it seven years ago when I was moving out to attend university and had little experience in the kitchen), I continue to use and love it. This plain paper, simple, glossy-photo-free cookbook features basic recipes, shows you how to alter them, subtract, substitute, or add ingredients to suit your taste, and ultimately helped me to develop confidence and competence in the kitchen.

But I digress.

Forget the pancake mix. Making pancakes from scratch is simple and quick, plus from-scratch pancakes taste so much better than those made from pancake mix! The best part is that you might already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen, or maybe you’ve got the dregs of a carton of buttermilk or some spare eggs that you’re wondering what to do with.



from Julie Van Rosendaal’s Starting Out


2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk or 2 cups (250 mL) milk plus 1 Tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice or vinegar

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour (or hald whole-wheat, half all-purpose)

2 Tbsp (30 mL) sugar

2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) baking soda

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 large egg

2 tbsp (30 mL) melted butter or oil

Any additions you like: fresh or frozen (unthawed) berries, sliced banana, chopped or ground nuts

[I’m a big fan of banana pancakes with chocolate chips.]


(1) If you are using regular milk, pour it into a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar; set the mixture aside for a few minutes.

(2) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the egg and melted butter or oil into the buttermilk or milk mixture with a fork or a whisk.

(3) Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture; stir just until the two are combined. Don’t worry about getting all the lumps out– overmixing may result in tough pancakes.

(4) Set a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the skillet it hot (test it by flicking some drops of water on it – they should bounce) spray it with non-stick spray or drizzle it with oil and swirl to coat it. Ladle the batter onto the skillet, making the pancakes any size [or shape!] you like. If you want to add berries, slices of banana, or anything else, scatter them directly onto the pancakes as they cook.

(5) Turn the heat down and cook the pancakes for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden and bubbles begin to appear in the surface. When the surface appears almost dry with lots of bubbles breaking through, use a thin, flat spatula to flip the pancakes over and cook them for another minute, until they’re golden on the other side.

(6) Repeat with the remaining batter. If you need to keep the finished pancakes warm, keem them uncovered on a plate in a 200˚F (110˚C) oven. [Or, a more energy friendly alternative: just stack them on a plate in the microwave. You don’t need to run the microwave: just popping them in and closing the door is enough insulation.] If you don’t want to cook them all at once, the beftover batter can be covered and kept in the fridge for several days.

(7) Serve the pancakes with maple syrup [or Saskatoon berry syrup], or thaw a package of frozen berries in syrup to top them with.


One batch is enough for three hungry ladies. This recipe splits in half easily (I half everything, but still use one egg). A half-batch is enough for one hungry lady with leftovers for a couple breakfasts/snacks/lunches/dinners.

pancakes with saskatoon berry syrup

Happy eating!


More Jule Van Rosendaal

Julie talks about Blueberry/Saskatoon Berry Perogies on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener and she writes wonderful articles like this one about delicious, healthy alternative foods for Swerve Magazine on a fairly regular basis. She’s also on Twitter, and she writes about ‘real meals’ on her ‘reality cookbook’ website, Dinner with Julie.