The race to eat the soybeans

One of the great things about dried beans is that they have a long shelf life … and they’re certainly not something we worry about wasting.


But, it looks like we’ll be making an international move later this year — and that means trying to use up pantry items that won’t make the move, and that we aren’t likely to be able to donate or give away. Like the soybeans … which we buy 25 pounds at a time.

Soy beans

So many to eat, so little time

So, for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to figure out new ways to use the beans (aside from tofu and soy milk), with varying degrees of success. These are some of the recent attempts.

Soy noodle #FAIL

Usually we make our noodles the old-fashioned way: with eggs and flour. When the dough was a little too dry a few weeks ago, I tried adding a bit of okara, and that worked well. So, I figured I’d try a batch with just flour and okara. The resulting noodles were nasty and gooey when cooked. #FAIL

Soybean casserole

I’ve never cooked with just plain soybeans, and so went hunting for recipes online, and found this recipe for a soybean casserole, which I adapted with the veg we had on hand. This was a definite win, and the roux added a nice depth.

Banana-soy smoothie pancake

Instead of using milk in the batter for this pancake, I used a banana-soy smoothie (1 cup soy milk & 1 banana) which I soured with a tablespoon of vinegar — and instead of egg, I used a heaping tablespoon of okara. Along with that were the usual suspects (1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon melted butter). ‘Twas nice and fluffy.

Chinois’ make good tofu

Purchase decisions work in mysterious ways.

A few weeks back, the weather started to cool (ever so mildly, this being LA), which gave Bonnie Lee an urge to make steamed bread (she being from MA). Of course, steamed bread doesn’t feel quite right without baked beans, and in order to make baked beans, you need a little ketchup. 

So Bonnie Lee made ketchup. Then beans. Then steamed bread.

They all rocked. That being said, the ketchup was a bit of a pain to make, because our strainer was not well suited to the task.

About a week later, we stumbled across a chinois (a cone-shaped sieve with a closely woven mesh) at Sur la Table — something which would have been ideal, we figured, for the ketchup making. It was heavy and sturdy, and its mesh was finer than your average strainer, but coarser than cheesecloth. It seemed like just the thing for making soy milk, which can be a bit slow and messy using muslin. There was no price on it, but it was the last one, so we tossed in in our basket, figuring it wouldn’t cost that much. 

When we went to the cash, we learned that this little puppy would set us back $140. We had second thoughts, but figured it would be worth it if it sped up the soy milk & tofu-making process — and any lingering buyer’s regret went straight out the window when we made our first batch of soy milk the next day. Instead of coaxing and squeezing the milk through through the muslin, we just poured our soy slurry into the chinois and the milk came out the other side just as fast, leaving behind a nice, dry little cone of okara. We popped that into a container, and had a clean, rinsed chinois seconds later.

Since that first batch, we’ve also used the chinois to strain a batch of ginger beer, with similarly happy results. How I lived without a chinois for all these years, I will never know.

Identity crisis

Future ketchup?

Bonnie Lee’s ketchup (about ½ cup — suggest you at least double this)


  • 3 tomatoes chopped
  • ¼ onion chopped
  • 50 ml brown sugar
  • one cinnamon stick
  • five cloves
  • ¾ inch ginger, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • one crushed bay leaf
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • salt, to taste


  • Put the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and bay leaf in a cheesecloth sachet.
  • Put the sachet and the rest of the ingredients in pot, and simmer for 40 minutes
  • Purée the mixture, strain it (using a chinois, if you have one), and simmer strained liquid for 30 minutes
  • Let cool.

Better than Heinz, and a nice way to opt out of the waste stream associated with ketchup and ketchup bottle manufacture.


When life gives you lemons, make marmalade

We’ve been quiet on the blog front for a while, but a lot has been happening on the personal front. The biggest change for me has been with work: as of September, I am no longer spending half my life in Asia — and my carbon footprint has shot down to human proportions.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to our ratty neighbours and compost challenges, Bonnie Lee has gone on a quest to create a local composting solution for multifamily dwellings, which has led to two things: she is working with LA Compost to bring a solution to Palms, and has become a member of the Palms Neighborhood Council Green Committee.

We’re also both members of the Technology Innovation Council which the USDA asked the folks at Food Cowboy to set up.

With all that going on, maybe we can be excused for having allowed two lemons to start looking a little dry — two lemons for which we had no immediate plans. We also had a big, sweet navel orange sitting around, so decided to try our hand at marmalade.

Home made marmalade

‘Twas lovely with breakfast

Orange and lemon marmalade (about 3 cups)


  • 3 small lemons (two of which were looking a bit, but not overly, dry)
  • 1 large Valencia orange
  • 3 cups water
  • 2.5 cups sugar

Directions (in pictures)

Future marmalade

1. Cut each piece of fruit into 8 wedges. Remove the seeds and drop wedges in a pot. (Tip: hold each wedge up to the light to make sure you got all the seeds.)

What the bells of Saint Clemens said

2. Cover with water, and boil for five minutes.
3. Turn off heat, and let sit covered overnight (for at least 12 hours)

Boiling away

4. Remove wedges from liquid (and leave the liquid in the pot — you will need it).
5. Cut each wedge crosswise into thin slices, and return to the pot.
6. Boil for one hour.


7. Add sugar to boiled fruit mixture. Basically, you should be adding the same volume of sugar as you have fruit mixture, but we used a little less. We had 3 cups of mixture at this point, and used 2.5 cups sugar.
8. Continue to boil, occasionally spooning some of the mixture onto a plate, letting it cool to room temperature, and running a spoon through it. When you get something with the consistency shown in the picture above, you’re done.


I know its been a long while, but I’ve not been myself lately. Firstly, I am now more involved with the community–attending my Neighbourhood Council’s Green Committee, signing up to become a member of Ocean View Farm, and seeing what other local steps we can take to help stop food waste from an individual consumer’s perspective. I stepped away from the computer and, more alarmingly, out of my home.

I was also mulling on a new problem: how to create a zero-waste kitchen when all signs point to a serious rat problem in our new neighbourhood. No, I am not being paranoid. We saw them.

First, on moving day, Pyx (one of our cats) and I were enjoying our new view when two brown/grey rats started frolicking in the patio below. I texted Jean-Francois and asked him to keep the compost bin in the garage, until I learn more.

This is the garden view from our balcony. Several birds, butterflies, squirrels, and rats call this space home.

This is the garden view from our balcony. Several birds, butterflies, squirrels, and rats call this space home.

Two nights later, Pyx is going nuts, asking to be let out and staring intently into the darkened air. Her fur ruffled, and tail fully puffed. Our Japanese Bob Tail was clearly excited.

Three weeks later, Jean-Francois and I saw nine rats playing in the garden below. NINE. Nine, happy, fat, playing rats. Some brown, but most were grey. Clearly, pets and vermin had formed a colony. And the colony was thriving.

This is our view of the garden below. The corner that the rats enjoy. Note the lovely garden on the other side of the fence. That is the home of the squirrel-whisperer.

This is our view of the garden below. The corner that the rats enjoy. Note the lovely garden on the other side of the fence. That is the home of the squirrel-whisperer.

It turns out, one of the other tenants feeds the squirrels. The rats benefit by eating what’s left. And we lose our composting option. Lest anyone suggests keeping the bin in the garage, it is not in the lease. I also suspect we might offend neighbours if we bring food scraps to a bin before our car as part of a nightly ritual performed by greenie-types who have gone off the deep-end.

Before we resort to scaring our new neighbours, we need to control the rats and find a better way of saving our scraps from the bin.

Hence I became civically active and started making friends with local groups. Santa Monica used take food scraps in bins, but they had to stop because of contamination. Apparently apartment dwellers are BIG liabilities–we are temporary residents with a weak connection to common goals. Elected officials work with the easy, visible winning programmes and blame tenants for failures. We are not invested enough, it seems.

Yet, there are options. Inconvenient ones, but solutions that do show commitment. You see, it turns out, that people in downtown Los Angeles have chickens and gardens and want food scraps to keep both happy and healthy. I learnt this at the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market. And, my mind raced. There are possible solutions that will require keeping our kitchen compositor, only, we will need to find a new home for our beloved (now dormant) worms.

The lesson I learnt about being more sustainably pro-active: Answers come when you step out of your door and start talking to your neighbours.

The moral of my story: Be annoying and persistent. It works.

Radio Programme: Food and “The World”

Starting today, PRI’s The World is looking at food production and consumption around the world. Those interested in finding sustainable solutions for food production as our global population soars, check out “What’s for Lunch?”. This news feature should run all summer, with different regions getting time in the spotlight.

The first episode looked at technology that will help Singapore break its dependence on Malaysia and other nations. They are working to produce more food locally, indoors, and on the vertical. According the report, these high-tech A-frame gardens are 10 times more productive and use fewer natural resources than regular farming. Next time I am in Singapore, I will try to get a closer look.

The hassle of microwave popcorn?

Continental breakfast?

Americans are off microwave popcorn. At least that is the gist of a story in the Los Angeles Times yesterday that left me shaking my head. No, we are not embracing simpler, healthier  ways of popping corn. We are buying already popped and bagged corn. It seems microwaves, air poppers and stove top approaches to popping our kernels are fraught with risks.

The few comments on the story are insightful.

wdwpixie writes: “How about the fact that there’s been health issues associated with the microwave popcorn?  Every time I make a bag here at work I have to hear about it from a pharmacy associate….it’s not a lazy factor, it’s a possible health risk, plus the pre-popped can be put in a lunch bag or taken on the road as a snack.”

And, Xalm1983 says she’d “rather buy ready-made popcorn because it just tastes better and doesn’t stink up the apartment if burned.”

justdoit1 seems to prefer the limitless bounty of flavours that manufacturers add to pre-popped corn.  S/he argues that “The already made comes in various flavors, which is hard to do at home without opening up 10 different packages.  most (sic) people buy it because it’s cheaper in bulk than buying 10 different flavored popcorns.”

The thought that popping corn is easy and very inexpensive seems not too have occurred to these commenters. And I think I understand way. They’d rather pay for the convenience (and the waste that comes with it) than take that extra step in their own homes. I mean, is it really easier to buy pre-popped corn with additives to preserve freshness and flavour than air pop some kernels and top them with salt, olive oil and grated cheese?

We consume rather than create. And this focus on consumption that “saves us time” is helping us avoid the larger issues surrounding food waste, hunger, and obesity. And it couldn’t be more disappointing.

On 20 May, Jean-Francois and I “Got Wasted” with a remarkable group of people (both in the audience and on the Panel) and talked about the problem of food waste and hunger in Los Angeles. It was a motivating event that generated a lot of talk on Twitter. You can link to the audio recording of that discussion and Twitter feed below:

(BTW, we’ve moved, unpacked, found computers and plugs, and calmed our cats. And, I have finally found my rhythm in the new place…so I hope to post more regularly.)

Leftover Butternut Squash Smoothies

Last night I roasted a whole butternut squash that has been in the fridge for nearly a month. It was a smallish squash, less than two pounds, but I still had two cups of leftover squash at the end of dinner.

As I stared at the remaining, flesh and the two bananas on the counter, I dreamt about breakfast. (Yes, I know, a full tummy and I can still daydream about my next meal.) Would a squash and banana smoothie be tasty?

Turns out yes, and I am not the first to pair the two. I googled and found two recipes that piqued my interest:

  • On the food blog, Perks of Being a Foodie, I found recipe that spiced up the smoothie so the author could get her pumpkin fix. And,
  • And VideoJug shows how to combine juice, bananas, and squash into a smoothie that kids will drink up.

Since I find the squash and banana sufficiently sweet, I omitted the honey and simply combined a banana, a cup of butternut squash, and some almond milk with ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. I suspect you can add any combination of spices. Any takes on a madras banana and squash smoothie?

Spicy squash & banana smoothie

Spicy squash & banana smoothie

In my research, I found a few other creative ideas that involve butternut squash. I did not want a pie or soup or gnocchi treat. Two recipes in that search have me thinking of new sauces and veggie ideas that go way beyond the squash.

Oh, and if you are wondering about our zero waste goal: I will eat the whole squash. Seeds can be roasted and the skin is edible. Simply roast your squash whole in the oven with a bit of oil and salt on the skin and you will have a tasty nosh that is 100% edible. I like it almost as much as baked potato skins.

One way to reduce food waste: Campus Style

UC Davis Dining Commons Demonstration of what college kids waste for Love Food, Hate Waste in January 2013.

Two days ago, I saw a headline in my news feed that I nearly passed over. It read: “Elimination of trays decreases food waste in dining halls.” All I could think about were the opportunities to trip classmates struggling to carry their milk and dinner plates to a table. And then I decided to read on, and learned that in just two years Manchester University has saved:

  • 15,000 pounds of food from becoming waste, and
  • 200,000 gallons of water.

How? They removed trays from the dining halls. They removed convenience, and judging from the article it wasn’t a popular solution. But its makes a lot of sense.

If you drive to the supermarket, grab a big shopping cart, and have a lift to carry your groceries from car to home, then it is very easy to just pile unnecessary food into your life. If you have to think about how you are going to carry it all to the car and into your home, you probably make different choices.

I like that one simple decision has changed how an entire community consumes. It would be interesting to see if that same choice also helped students maintain weight. I mean, if not using a tray helps that freshman not gain infamous 15 pounds that many do gain in the first term, wouldn’t they willingly embrace the idea?

If the same could be said about using smaller shopping carts to lose weight, would people be more willing to embrace a small change?

Weekend food waste roundup – 28 April 2013


What happens when a politician attempts to tackle food waste? Well, if you are a politician in Great Britain, you get rotten tomatoes tossed your way.

In fact, when Environment minister Richard Benyon claimed that Britons were wasting about £50 GBP (or about $77 USD) a week, he kicked up quite the storm.

For a  while I felt like I was reading celebrity gossip and not news about ways to approach the complex issue of solving our food waste issues. And then The Guardian publishes “Should it brie in the bin?” which attempts to look at the numbers and explain how food waste is a problem in a nation facing severe austerity.

Here in the United States, Liz Neumark summarized what she learned at the National Food  Policy Conference in Washington DC. She shares some new numbers on food waste in the  nation:

  • 1 in 4 Americans need government food or nutrition assistance program.
  • 68% of food-insecure families have at least one adult working full-time.
  • About 30-40 percent of what travels from farm on the way to the fork becomes food waste. That is over 65 billion pounds of food a year according to the EPA.

And finally, there were two articles with nice tips and strategies for helping individuals reduce the amount of food they waste. First, “Having a meal plan— and sticking to it — can cut waste and your waist” in the Calgary Herald makes the case for more discipline in shopping and cooking. Second, recommends a FIFO (First In, First Out) approach to food in your fridge.

Eggless, Yeastless Yummy “Stone Soup” Bread

Vegan bread with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and sage.

Vegan bread with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and sage.

In our new apartment, I want to have a “Zero Waste Kitchen”, but that means I have to use up as much as possible in the current apartment before we move. The idea is to start with a clean slate. To do that we need to make sure we do not bring bad habits with us. Today, I made bread, and in the process used up the last of our sun dried tomatoes, blue corn flour, extra jar of white four, and baking powder – as well as some almond milk. What I got, had the texture of a nice country loaf.

And it was 100% vegan.

Why Stone Soup Bread? Because, like Jean-Francois’s idea for stone soup, this recipe is so flexible that practically anything can go into it, and it complements salad or soup, and makes a nice sandwich. You could even use stone soup broth in the mixture. Best of all, I doubt I will ever miss traditional breads ever again.

I cannot take credit for the idea. I found the source recipes on the internet when searching for ways to use flour without eggs and yeast. I have Tish’s recipe at, Veggie Bon Vivant’s adaptation of Mark Bittman’s (How to Cook Everything), and a half day of looking at nearly empty jars and wondering what would work together.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Preheat over to 400F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of a variety of flours (blue corn, unbleached, corn meal, and whole wheat) with 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Chop 4 withering green onions and about 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (in oil) and add them to the flour mixture. NOTE: I chopped the tomatoes on a wooden chopping board and left the oil on the board to use later when shaping the bread dough.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons dried sage to the flour mixture. Any herb would work, be creative.
  5. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup olive oil and 1-1/2 cups almond milk.
  6. Add liquids to flour mixture and mix until flour is moist but not very sticky.
  7. Turn dough on to wooden board (the one with the tomato oil). Flip a few times to shape into a ball.
  8. Drop ball onto baking sheet.
  9. Cook for 45 minutes.
Just out of the oven, not the blue colour from the blue corn flour.

Just out of the oven, note the blue colour from the blue corn flour.

And voila, two veggies saved from compost, three jars empty and ready to be packed, and a nice hearty snack to get me through the afternoon. I suspect this bread will toast up nicely and make heavenly croutons, too.