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Revisting Our R's
Apr 28th, 2011 by Chris
Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/because three/is a magic number.”

Jack Johnson’s “Schoolhouse Rock” mash-up underlines an important point about the New Age “R’s”—there are three!  While tremendous strides are being made in the areas of recycling AND reusing, not enough people are making a concentrated effort to reduce the amount of waste they create.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, the recovery rate for solid municipal waste (SMW = trash) through recycling (and composting) was up to 32% in 2005, a significant increase over the less than 10% recycled in 1980.  However, the creation of SMW has risen 60% since 1980.

The EPA estimates that each American still makes about 4.5 pounds of waste each day (most in the world), and that’s just not getting the job done.  No matter how much we recycle (or reuse), if we don’t reduce the amount of trash we’re producing, we’re going to rubbish our green Earth.

It’s true that we live in an age of increased environmental awareness, and more and more people are “going Green,” but these changes continue to occur primarily within our “comfort zone.”  It’s easier than ever before to recycle, and buzz-words like “vintage,” “antique” and “eBay” have given rise to an entire thrifting culture, but it takes a real effort and some humility to learn to make do with less.

Consider these facts:

  • Every year Americans use about one billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste (Clean Air Council).
  • In 2008, paper and cardboard accounted for 31% of municipal waste; plastics were 12% (EPA).
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day an extra million tons of waste is generated each week (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, 2009).
  • Somewhere between 827,000 and 1.3 million PET water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil; and nearly 77% of them ended up in landfills (U.S. Accountability Office).
  • 30,900 tons of food scraps were discarded in 2008, or 18.6% of all materials going to landfills or incinerators (EPA).

In spite of our idiosyncrasies, we generally move in large groups over the smoothest path, and collectively share the suffering or the success of the passage.  I’m one to think that conditioning plays a larger role than nature in determining how we act, and we’re not born with some fundamental need to wreak havoc on Earth’s ecosystems.  On the contrary, our “survival instinct” should preclude irreparably trashing the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.  It’s obsolete consumerism that has conditioned us into irresponsible behavior patterns.  We continue to celebrate excess in the United States like it was 1955, and we still aspire to have more.

It has been standard corporate policy in our country to sell more stuff, therefore making more stuff and consequently convincing us to buy even more stuff.  We simply need to change our thinking.  We have to shift from “wanting more” to “needing less.”  We must favor products and industries designed to reduce waste.  And, we should demand responsibility from the companies we support.

Any change in our national psychology has to start with the adults, but must really take hold with our kids.  Education is always money in the bank, so we should rightfully start with the 3 R’s and reiterate the order of preference—“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!”

Most kids already have the hang of the recycling bit, and my own boys frequently trade toys with neighbors and even recently conducted a used toy sale (which netted an amazing $125).  They also make good use of second-hand clothes.  BUT, they still want the latest and greatest (evil commercials) a lot of the time, and as loving parents we frequently try to give it to them, caving in to “everyone else has one” pleas.

It’s important to remember “Reduce” comes first for a reason.  Admittedly, it takes a decided change in attitude to shrink our super-sized appetites, and it’s not easy to get by with less, but it is possible.

Lunchsense is committed to reducing food and packaging waste by providing an Earth-friendly, reusable lunch kit that puts the “R’s” in their proper place.  Recycling can’t do the job alone.  Reduce and reuse first, “because three is a magic number.”

Foodie Tuesday: what to do with all the hardboiled eggs
Apr 26th, 2011 by Nancy

egg salad samI’ve got a fridge full of them,’you?

Today’s Foodie Tuesday entry offers up a quick and simple, kind, easy twist on the soggy mush of bad-egg-salad-on-soggy-white-bread: a sliced hard boiled egg with provolone, a tomato slice, sprouts, and herbed mayo on a lightly toasted English muffin. It’s brought to you by kokomama and inspired by a breakfast she noshed when working at a cafe in college.

Substitution ideas abound: no provolone in the fridge? Try havarti; tomatoes are all gone? Soak and mince sundried tomatoes, or use the marinated-in-a-jar kind. No sprouts? Any greens would probably work well, and I think I might make use of the dandelion greens in my back yard.

Note to all you Lunchsense users: this shows off several features of your lunchbox, one obvious and one not so much.  The obvious one is that the ice pack will keep this egg and mayo-laden treat fresh and cool for hours; the lesser-known (but no less valuable) feature is that since the food containers hold a sandwich in the same orientation as when it’s sitting on a plate, the sandwich guts don’t slide out from between the bread slices on your way to work.  Lunch looks just as good when you open up the containers as when you made the lunch.

Next up: a healthy, refreshing sandwich that makes use of all the leftover jelly beans.
Ha, I wish.
Foodie Tuesday: Marinated Flank steak
Apr 19th, 2011 by Nancy
Flank steak. Yum.

Flank steak. Yum.

We bought half a cow last week.

If you haven’t looked into buying a part of or a whole farm animal, I’d like to endorse the practice.  We started by buying half a hog from a co-worker of my husband’s about 15 years ago, and have repeated the process several times in the last decade.

I’ll save the particulars of bulk meat buying for another day, but I wanted to mention it because of my favorite cut, the flank steak.  It’s not the tenderest cut by far, but I have an old family recipe that sends me back to my childhood every time we serve it up.  Besides, flank makes a yummy dinner one day and an even better steak sandwich, in your lunchbox, the next day.

By the way, if you’ve ever bought “London broil” at the grocery store, you probably got flank steak or top round.  London broil is a cooking method to make the best of a tasty-but-tough cut, and that’s exactly what this recipe does.

Note that the recipe probably came into my life in the late 60’s and some of the ingredients (ketchup, vegetable oil) reflect it.  I’m sure, in its day, it bordered on exotic: garlic! soy sauce! no salt (soy sauce notwithstanding)! More than an 1/8th teaspoon pepper! An actual spice!  That said, it works exceedingly well, is simplicity itself, and never fails to wow family and guests alike.

Here’s the recipe.  Simple, accessible, delicious:

Marinated Flank

Combine:

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 C soy sauce (or tamari, per your preference)

2 T ketchup (any brand will do)

2 T vegetable oil

1 t ground pepper

1 t dried oregano

Pour over a two to three lb. flank steak, refrigerate and let marinate 4-12 hours. Grill over or broil under high heat to your liking (though this less-than-tender cut does best if grilled no more than medium rare – 140 degrees), then remove the steak and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Slice thinly across the grain and serve.

Hoard the leftovers (if any), and serve on a hoagie roll for lunch the next day.

Foodie Tuesday: Hummus
Apr 12th, 2011 by Nancy

hummusSuch a simple thing, hummus.  Fun to say, fun to type, too: hummushummushummus

Every time I have hummus I have a minor-league epiphany:

Oh! This is great! I love hummus! I should have this more often!

Then I forget about it for another 6 months, only to have the insight all over again when it crosses my path.

I found this recipe and thought it offered everything I could hope for: a great basic recipe with lovely, creative adornments and embellishments, and it’s all packable for a tasty lunch.

Brought to you by Jacqueline Pham at Pham Fatale, the basic recipe is made from easily accessible ingredients: chickpeas, cumin, garlic (though she suggested pickled shallots, which sound great), lemon juice & zest, and toasted sesame seeds (though I suspect premade tahini would substitute reasonably well).

The magic begins when she whips heavy cream, adds toasted sesame oil, and folds it into the hummus just before serving. Zowie.

Thanks to Jacqueline’s fine teaching and presentation skills, you can learn how to roast the red bell peppers that pair so nicely with hummus, discover what “verrines” are, consider alternatives to the standard issue pita for the hummus-delivery-system, and know what to do if you’re out of sesame seeds.  Check it out.

Foodie Tuesday: Dulce de Leche Brownies
Apr 5th, 2011 by Nancy

Dulce-Brownies-300x275Oh, there’s so much to share, and Tuesday comes but once a week!

Chocolate. Butter. Sugar. Nuts, or no nuts. Finger food, and two-bite sized.  Honest, sublime, homey, decadent, simple, sophisticated: brownies may be the all-time perfect treat.

Besides, Foodie Tuesday was due for a sugar fix.

Here’s an offering for Foodie Tuesday that may actually improve upon perfection: chocolate brownies with a sweet gooey layer of dulce de leche in the middle.  This brownie recipe is a time-honored classic that I’ve made dozens of times (even in gluten-free flour; all I add is a little xanthan gum to keep them from falling apart in my hands), and thanks to David Lebovitz and brought to my attention at babble.com, the addition of dulce de leche is simple and effective. Best of all, for those of you in the lunch-carrying corps, these are eminently packable and sure to draw longing stares from your coworkers.

dulce brownies 2

If you like that kind of thing.  It’s your call.

Unfamiliar with dulce de leche?  Here’s another link from David with the recipe.  Easy as can be: one ingredient, a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Enjoy!

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