Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trying new things

So, there are a whole bunch of things that I still have yet to try making at home, even though online tutorials swear, "It's easy!" I've just always told myself that they take up too much time, or I have too many other projects to work on. But really, I'm being ridiculous when the hands-on time for each of these projects is about ten minutes.

Ricotta: We mostly only use ricotta in lasagna. I think that when we do have it, Shane will sometimes sprinkle stuff in it (maybe sugar and spices?) and eat the leftovers (there are always leftovers). Otherwise, it just goes bad in the fridge. (For some reason, it's one of the few things we always forget we can feed to the dog if it's in danger of going bad.) However, if we can make it ourselves then it will be cheaper (the only ingredients are milk and white vinegar) and less wasteful--both in terms of packaging and how much food gets thrown out because we can simply make as little as we need.

Cream cheese: This is a biggie for us. It's not that we eat so much cream cheese (although, we would if I'd actually get on the ball and start making bagels again) but we do have a few favorite recipes which call for cream cheese. (I'll post one of the recipes soon.) We have two packs in the fridge, and I've decided that they're the last ones I'll buy. Cream cheese is essentially yogurt that's been drained of most of the liquid. (Greek yogurt is too, the difference is just how much of the liquid you drip out.) This can easily be turned into a zero food waste recipe by using the whey (the liquid that's dripped out) for bread. And since I make yogurt anyway, it's stupid of me not to make this once in a while.
It's especially important now because Shane's birthday is this coming weekend. He's not a fan of cake (it's too sweet) so instead he's requested that I make a recipe his mom calls Blueberry Delight. It calls for cream cheese, Cool Whip, and a graham cracker base. It can easily be made into a zero waste recipe by making my own whipped cream, cream cheese, and graham crackers, and using my own wild blueberries. (I don't have enough left, though, so I'll have to buy some. Yet another reason to want to pick more next year!)

Graham crackers: There are lots of tutorials online for making crackers of all sorts, but my friend Hannah introduced me to the blog Plastic Free Chef and her graham cracker recipe looks easy enough. This is the only recipe for which we don't keep the ingredients on hand. Rice syrup and wheat germ aren't usually found in our house, but they are ingredients which will keep for a while and I can make many batches of crackers if I choose. We really only eat them in this recipe, but since store-bought graham crackers always come wrapped in plastic I think it'll be worth it to start making my own.

Sour cream: Just as with cream cheese and ricotta, this is sort of a variation on yogurt. Instead of using a yogurt culture, however, you add either a little bit of sour cream as a starter, a little buttermilk, or some vinegar. We have a favorite recipe (moose stroganoff) which requires sour cream, and it's often the missing ingredient in our house. Now that I know I can make it so easily on my own, no more trips to the store for that forgotten tub of sour cream and a lot less plastic waste.

All of these things are not only easy, they also utilize ingredients we already have on hand (except the graham crackers) and don't take much time. I feel a little silly for not making them before, and for shelling out so much money to buy them pre-made at the store. It might seem silly and counter-intuitive, but making them at home really will make my life easier, not to mention more frugal.

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