Is it still edible?

Found a nice resource from Eat By Date that answers that question for many of the foods we buy.

In our house, “Best Before” and “Eat by” dates are taken with a grain of salt. For foods we are less familiar with, they provide guidelines, but they are not hard and fast rules. But, we rarely base on judgements on anything scientific, preferring to tempt fate by relying on our senses of smell and taste.

Others live by these dates, thinking that science has already answered that question for them. The end result: a lot of good food ends up in the bin. This online resource attempts to save Jean-Francois and me from ourselves and a great deal of food from the bin at the same time.

Eat By Date’s mission is to answer one question: How long does food really last. And with what they have learnt, they have created a useful resource that goes beyond the date. Along the way, they give us more insight into common foods and help us be smarter consumers.

Take their entry on Lettuce, for example. Not only do they provide a table showing the leafy veg’s shelf life in the fridge, but they also share tips for longer storage (like rinsing and drying lettuce before it even goes in the refrigerator) and give insight on how lettuce fairs in a prepared dish (like that take-away Chinese you ordered three days ago).

Screenshot from website showing shelf life of lettuce

Screenshot from website showing shelf life of lettuce

The site is clean, easy to use, and informative. If more people refer to this resource or others, I am sure less food would make it into the bin.

How Long Does Food Last? Shelf Life & Expiration Date Guide.

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Lessons from the animal kingdom

There’s a lot we can learn about better ways to interact with the environment from our fellow creatures. Edo and Pyx, much to our amusement and edification, make it their daily challenge to find new ways to reuse old things.

Caught hiding in their new fort

Our tireless feline upcyclers

As imaginative and dedicated as they as they are, they can’t hold a candle to Norman.

Past and future tofu

I fell in love with the neighbourhood my first night there. I was in the new apartment, which was empty except for the blanket I was sitting on and a small lamp. It was early evening; I had settled down with a good book.

Bonnie Lee was still in our old place in Fukuoka, and I expected to have a quiet evening at home … but then the music started. It was traditional Japanese music, played on wood instruments, and drums, and it was coming from somewhere nearby.

Kosugi shrine

Kosugi shrine

And so I left the apartment, and followed the sound to our local shrine, which was teeming with people and activity. Food stalls lined the edges of the main open area, and in its centre, women clad in summer kimono danced the bon odori around a wooden scaffolding. As I worked my way through the crowd, I felt like I’d been dropped into the middle of a Bond film, minus the two guys chasing me.

Bon odori

Bon odori

It was a good place … and one that we would stay in for 10 years, the longest either of us has lived anywhere. The apartment was next to a park, which itself was next to a river. The city museum was a short walk away, as was the little centre around Shinmaruko station, with its restaurants and shops. It wasn’t long before we discovered the local tofu shop, which made fresh batches of all it’s products every morning, and only stayed open until the day’s stock was sold out. Everything they made was fresh and rich and somehow decadent … and all that soy-based goodness spoiled us for lesser goods.

Like the stuff we get in LA.

So, after more than a year of eating stale, somewhat bean-y tofu and soy milk, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and get ourselves a soy milk maker and some soy beans. I doubt that we’ll ever make anything that comes close to what we got at our little shop in Shinmaruko, but it is bound to be fresher than what we can get locally – and there are other reasons why this makes sense. One critical one is very dear to my heart: it will lead to less waste. We can make what we need when we need it – and the soy products we make will not need to be packaged in plastic or transported.

The day after I got back from my most recent trip, Bonnie Lee showed me how to make soy milk – nothing could be easier. You just need to soak the beans overnight, pop them in the soy milk maker with some water, push a button, wait while the machine heats the water and grinds and seeps the beans, then filter the product through cheese cloth. You can drink the milk as is, or add a coagulant and make tofu with it. And there’s a free bonus in every batch: the pulp that you filter out with the cheese cloth (called okara) is edible and versatile.

The soy milk we’ve been making is much lighter and more refreshing than the store-bought variety (which is thicker and often sweetened). It’s been very nice over our  home-made granola, and makes a great smoothie. As for the tofu and okara – I’ll save talking about what we’ve been doing with those for other posts.

In the meantime, if you’re curious you check out some of my shots of the old neighbourhood on flickr.

Save Something from Landfill Day

As one commenter pointed out, today is 2/22 (thanks, Mami), which cries to be a special day on this tiny sliver of the web. Maybe when the 222 million tons Facebook “likes” swell to numbers well beyond the current 11, I’ll have the clout to lobby for February 22 to become International Save Something from Landfill Day. Until then, I’ll just have to try making a small dent in the problem by sharing observations like this one: beet leaves and stems are tasty.

Beet green linguine

They’re often overlooked for the same reason that watermelon rind is; they live next to a real attention grabber – in this case beets. But beet leaves are tender and flavorful, and their stems are red, crisp, and have just a hint of beet flavor. Unlike beets, they don’t overwhelm, but they do add color and character to salads and other dishes.

Our most recent experiment with beets greens was a linguine with beet greens, which was good enough to share here.

Linguine with beet greens (serves 1)

Ingredients

Linguine with beet greens

  • 2 oz linguine
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic
  • ¼ onion
  • 5 button or crimini mushrooms
  • 5 sun dried tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)
  • 1 tsp oil from sun dried tomatoes
  • 10 oz beet leaves with stems
  • 1 pinch salt, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp dried chili flakes, or to taste
  • ½ oz crumbled goat cheese

Directions

  • Fill a pot with water, and bring it to a boil.
  • You’ll be lightly sautéing the vegetables for this dish, and don’t want things to over cook while you’re busy practicing your knife skills or hunting for spices, so it’s best to do all the slicing and dicing up front. So, as the water comes to a boil:
    • Crush the garlic.
    • Slice the onion.
    • Clean and quarter the mushrooms.
    • Slice the sun dried tomatoes into strips.
    • Wash the beet leaves, remove their stems, and chop them into one- or two-inch lengths.
    • Slice the beet leaves crosswise into ¼ inch strips.
    • Crumble the goat cheese.
    • Get your spices ready.
  • By now the water should be boiling, so prepare the linguine according to the package directions. While that is cooking, you can cook the vegetables.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onions and garlic for two or three minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  • Add in the mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and sun dried tomato oil, and sauté for two minutes.
  • Add in the beet leaves, and sauté until they start to wilt.
  • Throw in the stems, and sauté until they have imparted their color to the mushrooms and onions. Be careful not to over cook them, though, or they will become brownish and lose their crunch.
  • Remove from heat, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • By now your linguine should be ready. Plate it, and top it with the sautéed vegetables.
  • Sprinkle with chili pepper flakes and goat cheese (I did that after I took the pictures).
Fun facts
Reduction in food waste per serving 10 ounces
Reduction in food waste if every person in the developed world saves just 10 ounces of beet greens from landfill About 312,500 short tons
Weight of pig iron structure of the Eiffel Tower About 8,000 short tons