Green Living : Replace Packaged Foods with Real Foods

I think that how we cook and consider food is an important component of green apartment living. On paper, we’re doing it right: I live in a LEED-certified building. We recycle, and use the recycling containers that our building provides on our floors. Being LEED-certified means our apartment is so efficient that we haven’t once run the heater and have heard from neighbors that we might use our A/C once. We don’t own cars, so we take public transportation, bike or walk everywhere. I’ve greatly reduced the amount of packaged products I buy in general, including soaps and shampoos that are bars (and unpackaged) or are packaged in materials that are recyclable (paper) or sustainable (bamboo).

But a way more fun to “go green” and be conscious about decisions that impact the environment, is to consider how your food choices and cooking habits can positively impact your community and environment.

Eat Food

We recently wiped out all of the packaged “food-like substances” from our cabinets in favor of replacing those things with their real food counterparts. No more Hellman’s – we’re making our own mayo now. No more Ragu — the pasta sauce happens on our stove top. I thought peanut butter was going to be tough to give up and/or replicate – but it turns out, we can make that from scratch too. There are a couple of exceptions, but even those are consciously chosen. For instance, bread. We aren’t making our own bread yet, but we’re opting for choices like Dave’s Killer Bread. DKB is a local bread-making company that promises (and their labels support this) only natural ingredients.

We’re buying locally when we can, and are reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house, eliminating trash/waste. It’s been a delicious change and adventure!

Want to know how we did this? Here are the quick recipes I use for Homemade Mayonnaise, Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch, and Natural Nut Butter.

Whole Egg Mayonnaise

I’d heard a lot of things about how difficult mayo is to make from scratch – there’s whisking and whisking until your arm falls off, waiting for that perfect moment when “stiff peaks” form in the egg whites. Since I don’t even know what a “stiff peak” is, I had to find something that was simple. And foolproof.

That’s when I found this recipe for Whole Egg Mayonnaise. It is amazingly simple, and only requires a blender (no whisking!).

What You Need

  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (I’ve also used champagne vinegar, and would imagine that you can play with all kinds of flavors here)
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (or olive oil)

What You Do With That

Crack the egg in the blender, and add the mustard powder and salt. Blend it until smooth. Remove that thing in the middle of the blender top so that you can stream in the oil. Turn the blender on and slowly stream the oil into the blender to mix with the egg. I’ve found that the more slowly you stream in the oil, the thicker the mayo gets.

It lasts for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Wanna spice it up? Add cayenne. Add herbs. Add paprika. Sky’s the limit!

Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch

Next up, I had to figure out a way to honor my carbilicious cravings without grabbing a box of pasta and a jar of sauce. Enter: handmade pasta. I found this at our local Zupan’s, and I know a guy at the Farmer’s Market that sells fresh-made pasta also (which is where I’ll get it next). As for the sauce, while truthfully you can find some good, natural, organic sauces out there, but I prefer to know how to do it myself.

Now, I read somewhere that a traditional Italian spaghetti sauce is thin, saucy, and chunky. Sorry, but I like mine blended and thick, so that’s how I make it.

One of the things I love about making spaghetti sauce from scratch is that it’s SO versatile. You can add herbs and spices in exactly the right combo for your taste buds. Here’s the right combo for mine:

What You Need

  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes (if you can find Pomi, use that. It’s JUST tomatoes. No citric acid, no additives. JUST tomatoes)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (or Roma tomatoes), chopped
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp parsely
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Optional: (cooked) ground chicken or ground turkey

What You Do With That

Heat the olive oil in a pan. When heated, add in the mushrooms and garlic and saute a couple of minutes until they’re soft and translucent. Add in mushrooms and red wine. Simmer until the mushrooms are cooked, about 5-6 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and herbs. Stir.

This is where I got in there with my immersion blender and thickened/blended up the sauce. You don’t have to if you like chunky bites of vegetables in your sauce. I don’t mind it, but I prefer it blended, so that’s what I do.

Simmer.

Now, here’s where we can be a bit flexible. I made this for dinner earlier this week and let it all simmer for about 15 minutes while we boiled the noodles. However, I’ve also made it and let it summer for a couple of hours. Both are awesome, and you can tailor this based on the amount of time you need/have on hand.

Homemade Nut Butter

I LOVE peanut butter. Like, eat-it-by-the-spoonful-love peanut butter. But, packaged and processed peanut butter has a lot of crap in it I don’t love, so I knew this would be something I had to learn how to replace from-scratch. I found this recipe for White Chocolate Peanut Butter, but since Oregon is the Hazelnut State, found some hazelnuts from local growers here at the farmer’s market and tried that out instead. The awesome thing about this recipe is that you can sub in different nut varieties: peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, whatever. And with this recipe, you can add twists of flavor like Jessica did with the White Chocolate.

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups nuts (I used hazelnuts. You use peanuts, almonds, whatever)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar (optional, and to taste)

What You Do With That

[From HowSweetEats.com, with my notes in italics]

Add peanuts to a food processor and blend until a thick nut butter forms. Stream in oil and vanilla with the processor on, continuing to run it until the mixture is smooth – this took me about 3-4 minutes. (She’s right. This does take a few minutes, but the mixture will go from crumbly to oily. You’ll see it.) You can add more oil if needed, just do it in small increments. Turn off processor, add melted chocolate, and turn processor back on. (This is where I skipped the white chocolate – I don’t like it that much – and added brown sugar instead.) Blend until smooth.

Next on my list: jellies and jams, and thanks to Ashley for sending me some great information on that! I also want to do ketchup and BBQ sauce from scratch, so if you have a recipe for those, please share!

Also, don’t forget that today is Street Food Friday! Check out Jess’s blog for a Chicago street food experience.

doniree

Doniree is based in Portland, Oregon, where she is pretty damn thrilled about the Pacific Northwest's focus on local and seasonal food and great wine. When she's not at home, she's on the hunt for the best brunch, the best happy hour, and the best whiskey bar a city has to offer.

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  1. LaceyBean Reply

    I love making my own sauces and soups! I make a mean vodka sauce recipe that I got from a blogger, just made pesto for the first time last week, and made an insanely good roasted tomato basil soup this past weekend – that Dave FREAKED over. It feels so good to reach into the freezer for some stockpiled ingredients instead of heading to the supermarket!

  2. natashahollerup Reply

    I would love to make my own spaghetti sauce. A lot of my reasoning as to why I haven’t just turns out to be straight laziness, but these things do really make a difference. As for Feng Shui. I would probably concentrate on my relationship and wealth corners, but I would also like to work on a corner that would bring me inner peace and calm. This was a really great post. I learned a lot.

  3. smchanson Reply

    I always love your thoughts- so much so that I have nominated you for the versatile blogger award!

  4. @natashahollerup Thanks! I promise the spaghetti sauce is really easy! :)