Changes with a side of radish salad

by Amy Kim on March 21, 2012 · 18 comments

I’m trying to make changes in our household. Small changes. My goal is to cook and eat more healthily, and waste less food. Ever since I read Kat Flinn’s Kitchen Counter Cooking School, I’ve been “thinking” more about food. Not just fantasizing about restaurants and the hottest trends, but just being more thoughtful in what I feed my family and how I buy groceries.

One statistic that stood out for me from Flinn’s book is that the average American throws out about 40% of their groceries. FORTY PERCENT! We’ve all been there, right? You buy bags and bags of groceries and by the end of the week, you’re throwing out half of what you bought. I let greens go in the crisper until they turn into black goo or sometimes I throw out root vegetables that are a teensy bit wilted (otherwise perfect for stock) or I throw out the last few slices of sandwich bread because it’s a little stale (otherwise perfect for breadcrumbs) or…the list goes on.

While I really have no real rigid strategy or spreadsheets with price comparisons as to how I’m going to tackle my changes, I just kept in mind “good food and less waste”. Not much of a mantra, but it works for me. And instead of tackling a hundred to-do items and setting myself up for failure, I’m taking it one step at a time and starting with a few changes.  Below are five changes that I’ve been trying to incorporate in our household.

Change No. 1

I stopped buying bread and have been baking bread for the past several months. The “artisan bread in 5 minutes” changed my life. Baking bread has been a weekly ritual. The bread is tastier, fresher, and much more preferred by the kids over regular sliced bread. I used to throw out half eaten limp toast every morning! I love the fact that we have fresh baked bread every week. I now spend about $4 for a bag of organic all-purpose flour that’ll give me about 6-7 loaves of bread. I used to spend that much (or more) on ONE loaf!

Change No. 2

Since we are a pasta and red sauce lovin’ family, I’ve been trying to make my own tomato sauce. We used to buy the good stuff at about $8 for a 32-ounce jar. I threw out so much because I’d use half a jar and let the half-filled jar sit in the fridge for weeks until fuzzy little islands appeared on the surface. Two 28-ounce cans of organic whole tomatoes are about $4 or $5 total and yields about 2 quarts of flavorful sauce. I use Mario Batali’s recipe for basic tomato sauce. Making my own sauce also enables me to freeze in smaller portions so there’s less waste.

Change No. 3

I buy two whole chickens about every couple of weeks. I roast one and quarter the other. The last time I quartered a chicken was back in the late 90′s when Will Smith was “gettin’ jiggy wit it”. Yes, I’ve been out of practice! I’ve quartered about 3-4 chickens since the beginning of the year. It’s getting a little easier each time I hack at a bird, but nothing like Hung in the mise-en-place relay challenge on Season 3 of Top Chef. Remember that? Anyway, not only do I save money with an organic whole chicken priced at about $2.99/pound versus a package of skinless, boneless chicken thighs at about $3.99/pound (at WFM), I’m using the whole bird which brings me to…

Change No. 4

So with the chicken carcass (from both the butchered and roasted chicken), I make some simple stock. If I can’t make the stock right away, I throw the carcasses in a Ziploc and freeze it until I’m ready. I’ve also made an Asian-style broth with 2 chicken carcasses, garlic cloves, a chunk of ginger, green onions, and 5 quarts of water and let it simmer for about 4 hours. Yum. Sometimes I make a more traditional stock using a recipe similar to Kat Flinn’s recipe. And as I did with the tomato sauce, I freeze the stock in smaller portions.

Change No. 5

And this is the hardest task…meal planning. Last year, I attempted to plan my meals every week and the motivation died down after 3 weeks and was never revived. I’m trying a different approach this time around and am planning lunch and dinners for Monday through Wednesday. For some reason, it’s just too much for me to look beyond Wednesday and by Thursday I am ready to crash and throw back a few. Wednesday night I revisit my meal plans and it usually involves leftovers and definitely something quick.

This is just a start…one step at a time. One thing that I learned and accepted is that all this takes time and effort. Smart and healthy cooking and eating is a big investment and you can’t get around that. (Committing to a exercise regimen is another story…)

Believe me, there are days where I really struggle with what to put on the table and some weeks are better than others. Every once in a while we order in pizza or I sneak in a bowl of hyperprocessed instant noodles for lunch or I break down and buy a jar of my favorite marinara sauce. Hey, I’m only human! BUT it has been getting easier with each passing week. and these changes are slowly transforming into routines.

So I couldn’t leave you without a delicious (and healthy) recipe.  This is a recipe for one of my favorite banchan, moo saeng chae or seasoned radish salad. It’s typically made with Korean radish or moo, but daikon is more readily available for me at my nearby grocery store. Unless you have super knife skills and can julienne like a master chef, I would recommend dragging out your mandoline if you own one! Also, you can include kochugaru for a little kick, but just so you know, the radish will take on a little tinge of red.

Moo Saeng Chae

2 -3 medium daikon (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), julienne
1 carrot, julienne
2 stalks green onions, sliced thin on a diagonal
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 – 3/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
About 1 Tablespoon kochugaru (optional)
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds for garnish

1 – Place the radish and carrot in a large bowl and set aside.

2 – In a small mixing bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds. Taste and adjust seasonings. I tend to like my salad a little more tangy than sweet, but if you like it a little more sweet, you can always add a bit more sugar. If you like more tang, add the full 3/4 cup vinegar.

3 – Pour the vinegar mixture over the radish and mix thoroughly.

4 – Cover the bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving. Tastes even better the next day!

5 – Garnish with sesame seeds before serving.

 

 

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  • http://lemonsandanchovies.com Jean

    I keep telling myself that I’ll be less wasteful, too. I’m so guilty of all of the above. Your #1 was a passing fad in my home but I’ve been wanting to bring it back. Fresh homemade bread is so much better. #2 When I’m not home hubs will open a jar of pasta sauce I keep as backup. Most of it goes to waste for the said fuzzy islands. #3 and #4, I’ve been a bit better about this. #5, that’s a huge goal and one that I’d have a hard time putting into practice. I remember my grandmother doing this and it seemed to work well for her household. Maybe one day. Love the radish salad. :)

    • AMY

      Yeah, I feel like meal planning will be a lifelong work-in-progress. I don’t know how my mom did it.

      One step at a time, Jean, one step at a time! You can do it!

  • http://www.everydaymaven.com Alyssa (Everyday Maven)

    Both Kat Flinn’s book and the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes are on my wish list. I am now thinking I need to get them sooner than later. Great post!

    • AMY

      Thank you for visiting! Kat Flinn’s book is so inspiring! I highly recommend it. Her book includes a bread recipe adapted from Artisan Bread in 5.

  • http://www.thegtguide.com Kirsty @GoodTasteGuide

    Amy your post has really inspired me! I’m incredibly impressed that you have instituted one of those things, let alone ALL of them! You go girl!

    • AMY

      Thanks! Some weeks are more difficult than others!

  • http://bebeloveokazu.wordpress.com Judy | BebeLoveOkazu

    Hi Amy, #5 hit home. Weekly lunch and dinner planning is so much work, and I struggle with it. Fortunately, I dedicate one night a week to what I call, “bad buffet night” where each family member eats something different – no complaints allowed. I need to do a better job of less waste, saving money, and eating healthier. Thanks for the inspiration – I’m going to try baking bread and find a long lost recipe for marinara sauce (haven’t made it in years). I’m horrible at breaking down chicken… maybe this is something I could get my husband to do?!? :)

    • AMY

      Meal planning is super hard. I thought there was some sort of science behind it, but I’ve learned that all that it involves is sitting down and thinking! But, you know, some days even thinking is too hard. ;-) In fact, after this, I need to do some serious meal planning this week!

  • http://www.withaglass.com Sissi

    Amy, good luck with your Spring resolutions! I cross my fingers.
    I am already buying whole chicken (I do this for several years now, since I started to eat free-range chicken only and realised how much money I saved, not to mention the delicious stock ;-) ).
    The artisan bread in 5 minutes sounds extraordinary! I absolutely must test this recipe. The one on your photo looks like a loaf from a good baker. I have excellent and very cheap bread from a very good baker, so it wouldn’t save me much money, but I would feel so proud to make my own (edible) bread and it might be useful in case I don’t feel like going to my baker’s (it’s quite far).
    Your nr 5 decision makes me think how messy and disorganized I am with meals… I often buy lots of meat only to freeze most of it because I didn’t have any precise projects… I never plan meals more than two days ahead and usually I plan only one meal per day (if I plan anything). I must change it! Now! Thank you for the motivation and inspiration and good luck once more!

    • AMY

      Thanks Sissi! My meal planning is a work in progress! But I have to say that everyone’s comments are very encouraging!

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  • http://www.youfedababychili.com brhau

    Love that last photo, Amy.

    • kimchi_mom

      Thanks Ben!

  • C

    Hello. How long is this good for? I’m worried I’ll end up wasting it alone…

    • kimchi_mom

      HI – it’ll keep for about 3-4 days or you can also halve the recipe.

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  • Julless

    how many does this serve?

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