RECIPES & STORIES
"It's the Simple things in Life"
In a recent Time Magazines article titled “World When the Taps Run Dry - What it’s like to live through an urban water crisis” writer Aryn Baker vividly recounts what it’s like to live in Cape Town on a water ration. This gorgeous, world class city with a thriving tourism scene lived in denial that they were facing a crisis until it was too late. And now locals must go through great measures to access, stock up on and save water, and thoughtfully use the 16 gallons ration of water they get daily.
Baker reveals how Capetonians have learnt that simple things like grilling food and showering over a plastic tub and then using the water to wash clothing saves water. These little acts of preservation add up and allow them to get by day by day.
While Cape Town is far from California, where our family resides, the possibility of living on a water ration is not that crazy. Someday it might happen to us and isn’t it better to be ready? We can learn a lot from what is happening in Cape Town.
I started asking myself the question, beyond recycling and being smart with the water use, where else can I make a difference in terms to helping out the environment? I realized that one of the most important jobs I have and truly enjoy as a mother is cooking and feeding my loved ones. I’m responsible for choosing the menu and most of the grocery shopping in our family. When I go to the store all I see are isle after isle, shelf after shelf of packaged food. In order to cook anything I have to buy it in it’s package and the package ends up in the garbage. It’s a vicious cycle that I decided I need to get out of in order to make a difference.
I have been working at it and here are 3 things that (no joke) help me save a lot of money and time. These simple things also help me practice environmentally friendly shopping and cooking habits and allow me to quickly and easily prepare healthy, wholesome meals.
These 3 things are:
1.The Instant Pot
2. Purchasing grains, nuts, beans, legumes, fruits and veggies by weight in bulk and bringing them home in these reusable mesh bags and
3. These containers for storing food
A combination of using these 3 things have tremendously decreased our family’s carbon footprint.
1. The instant pot. You may have heard of it. You might already have it. It’s a sensational piece of kitchen equipment that has reached a tipping point in popularity. On my street alone 3 of us bought one during the Black Friday “week”. Instant Pot recipe books are everywhere and new bloggers arriving on the scene daily sharing their latest recipes with the world. I have enthusiastically been taking all our families favorite dishes and “Instapotizing” them.
I first heard about The Instant Pot from a mom of a boy my daughter attends school with. She is a full time Italian teacher who not only finds time to work, raise an amazing kid, but also cook everything from scratch; bread, pasta, yogurt, Kambucha and the most incredible Italian desserts. Oh and did I mention she is vegetarian while the rest of her family eats meat? That means double the work in the kitchen when preparing a meal.
When she told me she can make a delicious meal out of frozen chicken for her husband and child in under 30 minutes flat I was intrigued and impressed. So I got myself one. And I adore it. As I continue to discover all it’s amazing potential here are a few things that tickle me:
Which brings me to my next point. Buying in bulk and eating a vegetarian diet. A lot has been said about how much the meat industry contributes to global warming via greenhouse gas emission. So avoid eating too much meat is one sure way to help out mother nature. What’s even more important is how darn good beans and legumes are for us. And lucky for us a lot of recipes that our body craves and welcomes call for satiating beans, peas and legumes wrapped in a blanket of warm spices like cumin, ginger, turmeric and garlic. All these can be purchased in bulk and by weight for way less then it costs to buy a packaged brand item.
So I have been purchasing in bulk things like rice, oatmeal, chickpeas, split peas, cashews and lentils and bringing them home in these Purifyou Premium Reusable Mesh Produce Bags. Along with avoiding using a plastic bag during the purchase this process has been saving me money because it’s way cheaper to buy by weight in bulk. I store my bulk items in big glass jars, freeing up the mesh bags (which conveniently come in three sizes, from small to large) to be used again and again in purchasing not only bulk items, but also fruits and veggies at the farmers market.
All the bulk items can be used to cook with easily and quickly, except black beans and chickpeas, which usually take a long time to soak and a long time to cook. Well this is where my instant pot has been coming in very handy. You see you don’t have to presoak the beans for long (or at all) if you don’t want to when using the Instant Pot.
4 pounds of garbanzo beans for about $5
I rinse the garbanzo beans well, soak them for 30 minutes, drain the water, transfer the beans to the Instant Pot, cover them with water, close the lid and set the timer for 20 minutes of pressure cooking.
About 45 minute later you can open the lid to the Instant Pot and check out the beans. But you don’t have to rush back to them in 45 minutes you can come back whenever you want. Upon opening the Instant Pot you fill find all the water that you covered the garbanzo beans with has been soaked up by the beans. Compare that to soaking for a few hours or over nigh and then cooking for 45 minutes on stove top in 4 quarts of water. You have saved water and time.
After allowing the garbanzo beans (or black beans) to cool I transfer them to them into Ziplock Twist n' Loc containers with screw lids. Each container holds 2 cups of cooked beans.
The 4 pounds of uncooked garbanzo beans, which cost about $5, will end up being 22 cups of cooked chickpeas or 11 - 2 cup containers. Rounding up the cost of all those chickpeas is about 45 cents per container. The containers themselves cost about $1 each, but you get to reuse them over and over again as they are really easy to clean. Over time that cost will work out to be nothing. I used to use glass jars for storing cooked food, but they are harder to stack, clean and the metal tops end up rusting. That’s why I’m such a big fan of this new design, even though they are plastic.
You might be wondering what I’m going to do with all of these garbanzo beans.
I keep all my containers of garbanzo beans and black beans in the freezer and use them when I want to make bean dips, salads and bean soups. I don’t even defrost the beans in order to make freshly made Hummus, which takes me under 5 minutes. My kids love to dip carrots and cucumber in this dip and it’s wonderful to be able to bring a freshly made batch to a gathering. The action of blending the frozen garbanzo beans into hummus warms them up so you don’t have to wait for them to defrost.
And I also add a container of chickpeas straight from freezer into the Instant Pot when making my Curry Lentil Soup and Indian Cauliflower Soup. Both soups take me literally 15 minutes of prep before closing the lid, turing the machine on and walking away. These two soups are a huge hit with the kids. The soups are vegan, warming, hearty and immune boosting. You might have an occasional can (coconut milk) or glass jar (tomato pure) leftover to recycle or reuse when cooking these recipes. Other than that you are being good to the planet, while cooking really healthy meals, saving money and making space and time in your life to play a board game as a family before a meal is ready for you all to share. What can be better than that?
I know these ideas may seem small and insignificant acts compared to everything that is going on in the world, but all small, simple things add up. One little step at at time, one meal at a time, one smart, conscious purchase at a time we will tip the scale the other way and make taking care and preserving nature an absolute not a maybe.
*Note: If you are handy and have time you can easily saw your own reusable bags.