Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Compost Friendly Meals

My imaginary readers know that I write a zero waste baby steps blog that talks about how to manage a lifestyle that produces no garbage. Technically I produce waste, but the kind of waste that can be fed into a new life-cycle (everyone remembers technical and biological nutrients, right?). The main form of waste I produce is biological material. I go to the bathroom, I use water, I trim my hair and nails, but most of all, I eat.

When we think about it, cooking makes a lot of garbage. There are cans, bags, wrappers, ties, leftover food, and all the inedible bits that come off of unprocessed food like stems, pits, hulls, peels, and cores. However, garbage from unprocessed food can be composted, while packaged and processed food create waste that at best can be recycled, but at worst ends up entombed for eternity in a landfill. That last statement maybe was a little exaggerated, but really, processed, packaged food isn't good for the planet or you.

At first cooking with plants and whole food can seem complicated and unappetizing, but really it's a simple process that can often be a nice way to unwind after a long day. For example, last night I made my family lentils and rice, Colombian style. Look how yummers it was:

I know it doesn't look its best right now, but I ate it all before I remembered to photograph it, so here you see some of the lovely, package free tomatoes I used to make it, the leftover lentils (I always make twice as much as I need because I love having lentil leftovers), and the broth I spooned off the top which I will use tomorrow to make tomato--carrot soup.

To make it I cooked lentils, while caramelizing onions in a little olive oil. Then I shredded a couple of pounds of tomatoes into the onions, added my secret blend of herbs and spices (and by secret I mean I can't remember what I added because I wing it every time), then mixed the tomatoes and lentils together and let everything cook for a bit together while I spooned broth off the top (not normally part of the process, but I added too much water to the lentils and decided to make the best out of it). I cooked rice while this whole process was going on, then put the lentils on a bed of rice to serve.

Since I was able to buy the lentils and rice in bulk, this meant that aside from the glass jars the olive oil and spices came in, the meal was zero waste, except for the bits that were collected to be composted:

And there you have it, a healthy, zero waste meal that fed my family and my compost bin. I'm building a little collection of these types of recipes, and I promise to keep you updated on all the delicious news.

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