Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 122: Quick Zucchini "Pasta" with Chunky Vegetable Sauce and Meatballs

This recipe has 3 parts: the zucchini strips, the meatballs (optional), and the chunky sauce.

For the zucchini strips, use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini on all sides, making long peels. When you get to the center core piece with the seeds in it, stop peeling, and reserve that for the sauce. One zucchini will make enough strips for 2 entree-sized portions.

Zucchini strips

For the sauce, you are going to chop whatever delicious veggies you have on hand and combine those with storebought pasta sauce. I used diced onion, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms.

chopped eggplant, green and yellow peppers, and zucchini
Onions, eggplant, and peppers take longer so I added those first.

yellow tomatoes and sliced portabellas
I added my mushrooms and tomatoes last.

Combine your diced onion, 2T olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper in a large chef's pan or very large skillet. Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat, careful not to let your garlic turn brown. When the onions start to soften, add the rest of the veggies. Saute these for several minutes. Don't let them stick to the bottom of the pan. If they do, just add a tablespoon of water to the pan to loosen them up.

When the veggies are starting to get very soft and fragrant, add your pasta sauce and simmer.

Optional: meatballs! I used one pound of local, pastured ground beef, oats, 1 egg, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Form into 16 round balls (approx 1 ounce each) and cook at 350 for 20 minutes. Drop into the pasta sauce and simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, bring 2cups of water to a boil in a saucepan or microwave the water for 2 minutes until very hot. Drop the zucchini strips into the water to cook them. Let them stay in the hot water for 30-seconds to one minute. Arrange them on a plate and top with a large scoop of the sauce.

zucchini "pasta" with chunky vegetable sauce and a meatball

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 121: Single-Use Disposables

Seattle has taken a huge step towards zero-waste by banning wasteful single-use packaging from landfills. I'd love to see this sort of thing adopted in more places.

Here are some ideas for reducing your trash when you go out, if you live in the rest of the country where there are no rules and everything seems to go into the trash:
  • Bring home your compostables to your own compost bin.

  • Bring home your recyclables (#1 and #2 plastic bottles, #5 plastic yogurt tubs, cardboard, paperboard, glass bottles) and recycle them yourself.

  • Keep a cloth napkin or bandanna in your car or purse to use instead of a napkin. (I cannot tell you how handy this has been over these many months!)

  • When faced with two options and one has less packaging or trash than the other, choose the low-packaging alternative.

  • Communicate with the person serving you - ask for the item on a plate or in a cup rather than in disposables. Sometimes they will tell you they can't give it to you like that, and you might learn something about local rules or restaurant standards. You can put this information to use later. (Example: Starbucks in NYC refused to give us a muffin "to go" that was NOT in a paper bag. The bag was required. In order to get the item without a bag, we had to say "for here" and then leave the plate! Which then had to be washed... frustrating.)

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop. Bring your own utensils (I am very forgetful of this one). Yes, we all forget. But the 5 times you remember will make you feel a lot better about "splurging" on a disposable mug the one time you forget.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 120: Orzo Salad and Grilled Eggplant with Peanut Sauce

Here are two super-quick recipes perfect for summer.


Orzo Salad
This recipe has three small parts: chopped fresh veggies and crumbled feta cheese, orzo (small rice-shaped pasta), and a dressing/sauce. I'll tell you how to make each part and you just mix them together in a big bowl, chill, and serve.

Ingredients & Method
1 cup of orzo pasta - bring water to boil, reduce heat and cook pasta for 8 minutes

Chopped seasonal veggies (I used one small zucchini, half a cucumber, two very small peppers, one tomato, and some kalamata olives, fresh basil leaves, all chopped), Feta cheese (4 ounces or a half-block, crumbled)

After the orzo cooks, drain completely and rinse in cold water. Add to bowl with veggies and feta.

For the dressing, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2T red wine vinegar, 1 t. dried chopped thyme (or fresh if you have it), 1 t. dried chopped dill (or fresh if you have it), salt and pepper.

Toss orzo and veggies in dressing. At this point if you like a bit of a creamier texture, you could add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise or ranch dressing, that would be nice. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature.

Grilled Eggplant and Peanut Sauce
This recipe could not be any easier. You're going to grill some lightly-oiled eggplant on either an indoor or outdoor grill, and top it with some peanut-soy sauce.

Ingredients & Method
Cut 2 medium eggplants into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Baste each side with olive oil and set on grill to cook. Cook until tender but not mushy.


For the peanut sauce, you're going to mix 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 t. sesame oil over low heat in a saucepan. Add 2 T. soy sauce, 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, 1 t. sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a pan over medium-low heat until creamy. If you need to add more water, add it 1 tablespoon at a time. You want a nice creamy sauce, not too chunky and not too watery.

Top each eggplant round with a dollop of sauce.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 119: Miracle Vinegar

I've put off doing a "use vinegar to clean your counters" posting because it seems like it's right up there with "change your lightbulbs". Yawn.

But hey, it's summer, and I'm running low on ideas. Today we finally ran out of regular cleaner for the counters so I broke down and mixed 1 part white vinegar with one part water, and put it in the spray bottle that had formerly held the "real" cleaner. Voila, cheapest cleanser ever.

Seemed to work fine except now I crave salad every time I go in the kitchen. One blog suggested adding oil of lemon eucalyptus or oil of lavender to curb the smell a bit. Yeah, let me just whip that out of my pantry. I don't know about you, but I don't just have $20 bottles of oil of lavender lying around. I'll make do with the salad dressing smell.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 118: Reduce

Yesterday I was shopping at the consignment furniture store, I noticed 2 really cute decorative signs with the words "reuse" and "recycle". All set to buy them for the kitchen, but I could not find the 3rd sign for "reduce". Appreciated the irony, and decided to not buy anything.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 117: Shut retail doors "accidentally" left open

You know the doors I'm talking about... the retail store doors "accidentally" left open on 100-degree days, spewing air conditioning out into the walkway so that you'll want to go into the store and cool off?

Well, it makes me sick to see it, so I just quietly shut the doors when I see them like that. (The Ann Taylor Loft at Alamance Crossing is the biggest offender locally.)

Now 9 stores in New York City have been fined for leaving their doors open during times of peak energy need.

Instead of waiting for the police to show up (don't they have better things to do?) why not just shut the door, or better yet, engage the manager in a little kindhearted banter about why they leave the doors open and waste so much money. Maybe the goods wouldn't need to cost so much if they were better stewards of our money.