Mission possible: Keeping ingredients fresh at home
Hello, my name is Kate Valdovinos, and this is the second edition of Gainesville Greens, my contribution to the Gainesville Lunch out Blog. I am looking forward to sharing the green side of lunch opportunities with you! When I discussed the idea for writing this column with the GLOB Master, his focus was for me to cover the lunchtime salad scene in Gainesville. In fact, his idea was to call this column "Gainesville's Salad Lady." That was a good idea, and I do love salads, but I think there is going to be more to Gainesville Greens than arugula and croutons. Don't be surprised to find different kinds of interesting, green subject matter wrapped around your GLOB salad fork.
One of the biggest obstacles to eating salads at home is keeping on-hand ingredients fresh. Even going to the grocery store or farmer's market every week can lead to leafy, green, crunchy salad foods 'refridged', displaced, and forgotten. Here are a few tips to help prevent spoiling or wilting of salad ingredients kept at home.
Plan out your meals each week - Having a plan for the foods you purchase ensures their expiration date is based on your tummy, not Mother Nature. Just having the names of the main courses, sides, and desserts that you want to eat in between shopping dates is good enough (an example from my planner notebook at right). If you pack lunches, remember to either make meals with enough leftovers or plan additional lunchtime meals. This ensures every item on your shopping list is part of a meal and will get eaten.
One of my favorite pastimes is hopping on the Pinterest websitethe night before I go grocery shopping. I have a special board for food--I call mine 'Foodstime'--that I pin good-tasting meals to for future reference. Then I add the ingredients to my grocery shopping list and voila! Meals are planned for the week, helping me remember to use all the ingredients that I purchase.
Organize your refrigerator - This is one of the biggest reasons for "forgetting" to eat those veggies and fruits you planned to eat. Refrigerators are designed to store things, but sometimes things in the refrigerator can hide from you. Having designated spots for specific foods, such as meat, veggies, fruits, cheeses, and condiments, and labeling the refrigerator shelf accordingly can help prevent forgetting them.
If you're thinking, "My refrigerator is just too darn messy to even think about reorganizing!" then maybe it's time to clean it out completely and get rid of everything you can't imagine using again. If you do that, one way to help it stay organized for longer is to label shelves or containers with a dry erase marker (right, from peachstatemomsblog.com – operation organization).
Keep things on-hand that don't go bad - This is an easy one. Some ingredients that keep well and go great in salads are dill pickles, nuts, canned beans, dried fruit, peppers, onions, and salad dressing. Can you think of any others?
Here is a homemade salad that my roommate made that had a lot of fresh ingredients, but the almonds, dill pickles, peppers and dressing – all ingredients that keep well in the refrigerator – were a big part of the flavor.
Let foods stay in their natural state for as long as possible - Remember to buy the freshest ingredients that you can and don't cut anything up until you're ready to eat it. Once cut from the vine or stem, a vegetable begins to die. Some herbs or vegetables can stay fresh for a long time if stored properly, but once you start cutting them in to bits they will spoil more quickly. Also, remove any dead or dying pieces of the food to prevent other pieces from decomposing--the saying, "one bad apple spoils the bunch" is literal and applies to more than apples.
Use plastic cutting utensils. I haven't tried this out on my own, but I read that using a plastic cutting utensil for lettuce or other vegetables prevents wilting as much as a regular kitchen knife would.
If going to the farmer's market every week or keeping your veggies in the ground isn't possible, there are many ways to freeze or store different vegetables, herbs or fruits. I froze basil in water a few months ago and recently used the "basil cube" and it tasted as fresh as the day I froze it. I've heard other ways of storing herbs, but asking farmers market vendors selling the herbs would be a great place to get other ideas.
Have any more tips on storage and keeping salad ingredients fresh? These are just a few tips that I've picked up along the way. Post a comment to share other ways to keep ingredients fresh!
Gainesville Greens February Salad Of The Month
Tempo Bistro To Go's Ellis Salad is perhaps one of the best salads I have ever eaten! The Ellis is a perfect salad for a cool or warm day. Bacon, avocados, tomatoes and tempeh all come together beautifully in this seasonal salad -- and be generous with the Tempo salad dressing.
Kate Valdovinos is the Editor of Kate's Gainesville Salad Blog and will be discussing with GLOBers all things leafy, green, and healthy with a large dollop of yummy.
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Tonya Wednesday, 30 January 2013 10:50 Comment Link
Thanks for the Pinterest website idea about planning meals. Great idea!
Just as an FYI, A comparison of plastic and steel knives for cutting lettuce was conducted in the test kitchens of Cooks Illustrated, known for determining which cooking methods are best by exacting tests. Both steel and plastic were used to cut lettuce, the lettuce did not brown on the edges for 2 weeks; with steel the edges browned slightly right at 2 weeks and with plastic the next day:
This is probably what statisticians would call an insignificant difference, but because plastic is an oil-based product, steel wins in my view. Why not cut lettuce and use something that requires less toxic manufacturing??? Speaking of which, Grist’s Ask Umbra did a video on plastics:
http://grist.org/article/umbra-bottles2/. BTW,grist.org is a great website that mixes environmental news with a twist of humor.
Great Column Salad Lady!