Homegrown Food

I used to lead an education program for New York City kids on water. One of the first questions i’d ask to them was “does anybody know where our water comes from”? Some of the more spunky kids would raise their hands, waving them around, getting up on their knees in their chairs, making weird shapes with their faces, practically busting at the seams to answer, and i’d call on one of them. “Where?”, i’d say. “THE SINK!” they’d belch out proudly. The sink everytime.

It is adorable and so innocent but my job was to let them know that our daily conveniences are not so convenient. No. Water does not come from the sink. It comes through the sink, but it takes a long time and a lot of work to get there. Water is a product of rain. Just like food does not come from the grocery store. It too is a product of very hard work and a lot of travel.

This lesson is why I am so proud to have a father who is captivated by the art of growing his own food and why I, as a daughter of a very picky eater, am happy to see him consume the bounties of his labor. Moreover, I am excited that my two younger sisters have an image to put in their minds when they think of the origins of food: our little, but fruitful garden. Here it is:

 

 

Fresh, Organic strawberries, garlic, and garlic scapes!

My take-home bag to NYC. This bag has been used for more birthday gifts than I can count!

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Unclogging Your Drain Naturally

It is never fun to have your drains clogged with hair in the shower or food in the kitchen. I put off cleaning out my drain because I thought it would be difficult and take forever. Luckily my boyfriend showed me this easy and effective method to help remove the buildup from clogged drains! It was actually kind of fun and reminiscent of elementary school volcanoes!

DIY Natural Drain Cleaner

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 gallon of boiling or extremely hot water
  • bathtub stopper or thick washcloth

Steps:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into your drain. Be sure that it all goes down. You can use your fingers or a long tool such as a chopstick to help.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar into the drain and cover immediately with a stopper or a rag in order to keep bubbles in the drain instead of them releasing into your sink or tub
  3. Wait 2 minutes
  4. Pour the second 1/2 cup of white vinegar down the drain and, like in step 2, cover
  5. Once covered, wait 15-30 minutes
  6. Uncover and dump one gallon of boiling or very hot water down the drain

Note: Depending on how clogged your drain is you might have to repeat.

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Zero Waste Takeout

Sometimes you just want to sit on your couch and eat your favorite Thai food while watching Arrested Development. Unfortunately, a delivery of Thai would include many plastic containers, plastic forks, napkins, menus, a brown paper bag, a plastic bag over that, and a printed receipt.

It is important to remember that many cities, including New York City, do not actually recycle to-go containers contrary to what many think. So with a little bit of effort  including a phone call, three mason jars, and a little walking, I had my Thai food sans waste and guilt!

The Steps to Zero Waste Take-out:

  1. Pick your restaurant
  2. Call ahead… “I want to come in and get food for pickup, is it okay if I bring my own containers?” If yes…
  3. Thank them profusely
  4. Plan what you are going to order. In my case it was two soups and some sticky rice
  5. Gather the necessary containers (3 ball jars for me)
  6. Head to the restaurant, order, and give them your containers
  7. Get your food, thank them for being so great and letting you bring containers, walk home, sit on couch, eat, laugh, ahhhhhhh

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Water On The Go

It is nearly summer and the heat means more sweat, more time outdoors, and more thirsty moments! But I refuse bottled water as it is wasteful, packaged in plastic, and unnecessarily expensive, so when I am on the go and thirsty it is great to have NYC Water-On-The-Go available at some really convenient locations.

What is it?
Water-On-The-Go is a portable water fountain launched by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection that offers six faucets and a reusable water bottle (or mason jar) filling spout.

What’s the problem with bottled water? 
Plastic water bottles that are produced for the U.S. use 1.5 million barrels of oil per year. That is enough oil to power 250,000 homes or 100,000 cars all year. Additionally, you need over 3 liters of water to produce one bottled liter of water! Finally, it is very expensive! NYC tap water is approximately one penny per gallon, which is approximately 1000 times less than bottled water.

What can I use instead of a plastic water bottle? 
I recommend using a mason jar as it is a multi-use item. Also, I love stainless steel water bottles like this one which has no paint or plastic!

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Composting in a City

I have been composting for over one year now. This seems to shock people when I tell them because I live in New York City in an apartment without a backyard. My secret? The freezer! It is the perfect way to compost in an urban environment because it prevents smell, gives you protection from any insects or mold, and is extremely simple to do! I take mine to the Union Square Greenmarket, but there are plenty of drop-off locations throughout NYC as well as many other cities across the country!

What is compost?
Compost is a nutrient-rich, dark, crumbly material that helps improve soil health and provides nutrients to plants. It is created by the natural decomposition of organic material (like food scraps) that turns the nutrients from once-living materials into humus, the rich, organic component of soil.

How do I compost?
I compost by using a leftover paper bag, which you can recycle at the drop-off location, or an upcycled soil bag (I still haven’t been able to find loose organic soil) and I keep it in my freezer until I am ready to drop it off at the market.

What is compostable? 
Each city has certain things that you can and can not compost, but the NYC list can be found here.

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Cold Brew Coffee

I took a trip to San Francisco in April and made a stop in Oakland to visit my boyfriend’s sister Giuliana at her new home. As we were looking at her backyard that was full of prehistoric-sized agave plants and other west coast flora that I had never seen, she offered me a glass of her home-brewed iced coffee. I took a sip and it was some of the greatest iced coffee I ever had and I had to have the recipe. My boyfriend and I have been making it ever since! Here it is, folks, Giuliana’s Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee:

Step 1: Go get yourself some coffee. We use fair-trade organic coffee. I recommend Equal Exchange.
Note: Make sure your coffee is coarsely ground for a french press
Step 2: Measure out your coffee
Note: for every 1 cup of coffee, add four cups of cold filtered water
Step 3: Pour your coffee in a large top sealing jar
Step 4: Add your cold, filtered water
Step 5: Stir with a wooden spoon
Step 6: Put in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours stirring in-between if you would like
Step 7: For filtering you can use a french press to get the grounds separated from the liquid. You could also use organic and washable cheese cloth or a reusable cone filter.
Step 8: Pour and enjoy!

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Cleaning Cast Iron

Cast Iron. The best cookware, period. It is the safest, best investment, and most durable cookware around. That being said, it definitely needs some TLC.

If you don’t have a lot of time but you need to do a quick clean the easiest thing to do is hand wash your cast iron with just a plain eco-sponge or scrubber and some warm water. YOU DO NOT NEED SOAP! Why? Cast iron gets extremely hot, think 400 degrees in 4 minutes on medium heat hot! Surfaces become sterile at 212 degrees which is why the soap is not necessary. Once it is clean, towel dry and then rub with a light coating of oil to season it. Seasoning essentially means baking the vegetable oil into the pan. It creates a natural non-stick property that only gets better over time. (I use my Organic Fair-Trade olive oil from Equal Exchange) and it will be in perfect cooking condition, ready for your next big meal! See the bottom of your post for how to re-season your cookware thanks to Lodge!

While maintaining the seasoning should keep your Cast Iron and Carbon Steel in good condition, at some point you may need to re-season your cookware. If food sticks to the surface, or you notice a dull, gray color, repeat the seasoning process:

* Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).

* Rinse and dry completely.

* Apply a very thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish.

* Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven (not directly on bottom) to catch any drips.

* Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.

* Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.

* Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.

* Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.

* Repeat as necessary.

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