5 Cookbooks to Help You Toss Less Food

Have you, or has someone you know, made a New Years resolution to cut down on food waste? In addition to perusing our blog, which has shared tons of tips to show how easy it is to prevent waste in general, be sure to check out these anti-waste cookbooks. They are full of delicious recipes that make use of leftovers and oft-discarded ingredients as well as teach readers how to respect food.

1. The Use-It-Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook by Catherine Kitcho

Sample recipes: Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate, Cheese Rind Soup, Cilantro Stem Green Sauce, Potato Peel Croutons, and Pumpkin Seed Mole

2. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food by Dana Gunders

Sample recipes: Banana Sorbet, Buried Chocolate Avocado Mousse, Chilaquiles, and Sour Milk Pancakes

cooking-chop3. The CSA Cookbook: No-Waste Recipes for Cooking Your Way Through a Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmers’ Market, or Backyard Bounty by Linda Ly

Sample recipes: Chard Stalk Hummus, Fennel Frond and Ginger Pesto, Pea Shoot Salad with Radish and Carrot, Skillet Greens and Bacon Bits with Pomegranate Gastrique, and Watermelon Rind and Jalapeño Pickles

4. The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavish.

Sample recipes: Chicken Breasts with Apple and Rosemary, Rosemary Lemonade, Salmon with Sweet and Spicy Chinese Cabbage, and Wild Mushroom and Potato Bisque

5. Love Your Leftovers: Through Savvy Meal Planning Turn Classic Main Dishes Into More Than 100 Delicious Recipes by Nick Evans

Sample recipes:Fire and Smoke Pizza, Jalapeño Popper Potato Skins, Shredded Chicken Hash, Spicy Beef Wontons, and Tomato Poached Cod


Wishing you a happy 2017 full of delicious food,



How the Psychology of Eating Behavior Can Help Explain Food Waste

A blog-keeping note: the national spotlight series is by no means over! I am just going to intersperse other posts, like this one, when inspiration strikes.

Recently, I read a study by Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology that made me reflect more on how our eating behavior leads to waste. The experiment, published in 1982, tested how variety in the color, texture, and flavor of food in a meal influenced a person’s consumption and enjoyment. Only one of the sensory properties was changed in each round of the experiment while the other two were held constant. For instance, Smarties (a candy similar to M&M’s) were used to test the influence of color because they are uniform in texture and chocolate flavor.

I won’t recap the entire process and detailed findings of the experiment, but the general conclusion was that humans eat more when offered food in varying textures, colors, or flavors. So, if given a plate of only green Smarties, we will eat fewer than if we were given a plate of mixed-color Smarties. This indicates that there is a sensory-specific satiety effect: we stop eating sooner when eating a ‘plain’ meal than when our senses are variously stimulated by a meal, even if there is no difference in the nutrition of the food to influence our actual fullness.

Another conclusion of the experiment was that “the degree of pleasantness of a food may affect whether a food will be selected for ingestion, but the amount actually ingested will then depend to a considerable extent on the satiating power of that particular food.” In other words, knowing that we like a food makes us more likely to choose to eat it but does not necessarily mean that we will eat more of it, especially if it is something filling. This is the part of the report that got me thinking about waste:

Put this effect in the context of a buffet, dining hall, or any other smorgasbord scenario where we are presented with an abundance of options. Many people erroneously start filling their plates or trays before having seen all of the available foods. When they then come across a favorite food of theirs, they add a large portion of that to their meal because they know they are going to enjoy it. They don’t generally think about how much other food they already have; they prioritize the favorite and end up with an extra large portion.

buffetAssuming they recognize their satiety (which is often difficult to do, leading to overeating), the eaters will not finish all of the food that they have taken. Whether the diners scarfed down their favorite food first or tried to save the best for last, some remnants of the superportion will be left. Of course, leftovers can be given to a friend or taken home in a doggy-bag, yet the sad truth of the matter is that many people leave the food to be thrown out. I don’t have any statistics to back it up, but I believe that people are more likely to bring home leftovers from a meal paid for a la carte than in a buffet-type setting because they feel more motivated to get their money’s worth. In restaurants, you think, “I spent $12 on that pizza, so those last three slices are $4!” When you pay a flat rate for a self-serve meal, though, you pay for ‘all you can eat,’ which is achieved once you are full.

It’s no surprise that presenting people with an abundance of food, especially food they know they like, can easily lead to waste. Nor is it shocking to read that our eating behavior is influenced by psychological at least as much as by physiological and nutritional factors. Still, the study makes an interesting read to explain the extent of this influence and reflect on its role in issues like food waste or obesity.


Stop Neglecting Your Garnishes!

Basil sitting on a pile of spaghetti. Parsley topping a mound of mashed potatoes. Rosemary twigs interspersed among roasted chicken and vegetables. These are all delectable herbs that I have repeatedly seen eaters deliberately push to the edges of their plates, writing them off as ‘garnishes’ as though that implied they were not meant eaten.

crab cakesCulinary news flash: herbs are flavoring! Yes, the garnish adds to the appetizing presentation of any dish, but chefs don’t throw green leaves on their plates willy-nilly. The reason that your gnocchi is served with sage and not cilantro is that the herb complements the entrée’s hearty flavors. As a home cook and self-proclaimed gastronomist, I get extremely frustrated every time I see someone instinctively remove garnishes like a child picking out vegetables. Only slightly less annoying is the diner who tastes the garnish by itself and then proclaims he/she doesn’t like it. Herbs are usually too intense for most people to enjoy eating them straight-up – that’s the whole reason they’re served in small quantities with other food.

I urge, nay, challenge you to try your garnish with a forkful of your main meal the next time you get the chance. Not only does laying it by the wayside waste a perfectly delicious plant, but it deprives you of a chance to marvelously enhance your meal. Do yourself a favor and allow yourself to experience all that these little plants have to offer.


Spice Up Your…Dreams?

As someone who almost never remembers the last night’s dreams, I have always been interested in what influences the kinds of dreams we have and how we recall them. One popular belief, which my parents swear by, is that spicy food induces strange, if not frightening, dreams. I’d taken it as common knowledge until I mentioned it to Ingrid and Hokuma while preparing a Mid-Week Delicacy involving peppers, jalapeños, and hot sauce (come back Wednesday for the recipe!) – they were surprised, having never heard of such a thing. I became curious about the legitimacy of the claim, so, as per usual, I took to Google for a bit of research.

Given that spicy food can have some pretty extreme impact on the digestive system, it seems logical to me that it could also have intense effects on the brain. After all, spicy food includes a wide array of side effects, such as making you hot, teary-eyed, and thirsty. Why wouldn’t there be some subconscious mental effects as well?

spicyWell, in 1992, the University of Tasmania tested how having Tabasco and/or mustard as part of dinner affected the sleeping patterns of healthy young men. The participants didn’t achieve deep sleep for as long as the control counterparts did, which the study implies is likely due to the changes in body temperature caused by capsaicin. Capsaicin, a compound found in most peppers, stimulates a nerve cell protein that typically only gets triggered by physical heat – hence, describing something spicy as being ‘hot.’ Since the compound raises your internal temperature, it becomes more difficult for your body to cool itself to a lower, sleeping temperature, so your brain is more active as it performs thermoregulation. As your body has more difficulty achieving REM sleep, the sleep stage in which dreams occur, your brain experiences REM pressure, which Dr. Gary Wenk of Ohio State University describes as “an onslaught of powerful dreaming that we denied ourselves earlier in the evening.” It’s the same reason that so-called fever dreams are known to be bizarre and sometimes scary.

dinner chicken indianHowever, a lot of other research has shown that dream patterns are less likely to be affected by what you eat than by when you eat. In other words, a late-night meal or snack will likely cause you to dream more intensely if you go to bed soon thereafter. This is because any food, no matter how mild, will stimulate the brain as it raises your body’s metabolism and temperature, prompting more mental activity. The larger, fattier, greasier, and/or spicier your last meal is, the more effort your body has to exert to break it down and lower your temperature, and the more likely you are to have wacky dreams or nightmares. To try to prevent these, just allow at least two hours to pass between dinnertime (or late-night-snack-time) and bedtime. Fiery food doesn’t seem to have as much of an effect as some people think, but, for good measure, you can wait an extra hour before going to bed and drink some cold milk if you had a lot of peppers or hot sauce.

Another key thing is not to worry that you might have a bad dream after a big or spicy meal – the anxiety might be what ends up negatively influencing your sleeping brain! Just enjoy what you eat.


How to Enjoy the Holidays: Don’t Overeat

saynotofoodwaste.food.overeat.holidays.sustainable.helathy.1Thanksgiving was last week, and most Americans gorged themselves on delectable dinners of turkey, various rich vegetable sides, and sugary pies. While holidays like Thanksgiving are wonderful occasions to bond with families and friends over delicious meals, many people quickly find themselves regretting how much they indulged on food. Even though one day of gluttony is not enough to pose serious concerns to a generally healthy person, the ‘food coma’ feeling of being stuffed to the point of extreme tiredness and intense stomach discomfort is something everyone would like to avoid.

Overeating on the holidays is largely psychological: when you see huge amounts of food before you and are surrounded by people eating, it can be hard to tell yourself to stop. You don’t realize how full your stomach is getting until it’s too late, at which point you feel terrible. Although the past can’t be changed, these are some suggestions for making sure your next holiday festivities don’t end in painful regret:

  • Don’t starve yourself beforehand! The growling in your stomach will only cause you to lose all self-control once the food is served. It’s especially important to eat breakfast to stimulate your metabolism, so that your body burns calories leading up to the meal.
  • Remember leftovers: the food isn’t going to disappear if you don’t immediately eat it. If there are really enough people partaking in your meal that leftovers aren’t guaranteed, then remember a) that this is not a fight for survival, you don’t have to take all you can get, b) that it’s an annual holiday, there’s always next year to enjoy basically the same food, and c) to be courteous of everyone else – don’t take it all for yourself!
  • Consider all of your options: if everything looks delicious, take small portions of everything, rather than loading up on one or two things with the intent of adding more later on. In fact, you’ll get more pleasure from a diverse plate of flavors than from a huge portion of one food.
  • Drink water, rather than calorie-laden beverages. This will also help your digestion.
  • Not all vegetables are light. Casseroles, for instance, are typically packed with fats and starches that will feel like lead in your stomach. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat them, just that you shouldn’t trick yourself into thinking that these can be enjoyed in larger portions because they’re vegetables. Guiltless options would be leafy greens with minimal dressing.
  • Watch your condiments. Sauces can be packed with sugar, salt, and fat, so prioritize getting full on real food over filling yourself with add-ons.
  • Don’t eat quickly. Savor the flavor of every bite, drink, talk to the people around you, and, most importantly, give your body time to notice that it’s getting full.
  • Pause before taking seconds! Your brain can take up to half an hour to register the stomach’s fullness, so don’t assume that you can keep piling it in.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Even if it isn’t on the table immediately, or no one is eating it yet, dessert is coming, and chances are you’re going to want some. Don’t get full on dinner if you have a sweet tooth. That being said, don’t let yourself go and undo all of your hard work once dessert starts, either.

In case you still end up in the dreaded ‘food coma’:

  • saynotofoodwaste.food.overeat.holidays.sustainable.helathy.2Drink water or herbal tea to calm your stomach and flush your system.
  • Go for a walk, rather than sitting down and letting all of the food settle at the bottom of your stomach. Light stretches, like raising your arms above your head and leaning side to side, will also help your stomach feel less weighed-down.
  • If you really feel unwell, lie down and apply heat to your stomach to relieve bloating. A warm towel or heating pad across your abdomen feels incredibly soothing on an aching stomach.

With all this in mind, be grateful that you had the opportunity to eat all of that delicious food. These tips should help you to enjoy your meal and foster fond holiday memories (rather than binge-remorse).