I blinked and it’s no longer summer!  In fact, we’re almost halfway through November, which means I am one month away from finishing semester five (of six) on my journey to becoming a registered dietitian.  It’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel of a demanding semester!

On to leftovers!  A recent article in the Washington Post explored reasons for shifting attitudes toward leftovers:

The food historian Helen Veit has observed that regard for leftovers plummeted in the 1960s, when refrigeration and cheap food became plentiful. Although saving food had been patriotic during the World Wars, and economically necessary in the century before them, rising incomes and agricultural productivity pushed thrift out of favor.

I know my cooking and eating habits are not reflective of those of a majority of Americans, but leftovers have been a staple in our house for years.  We primarily use leftovers for weekday lunches; most mornings I pack dinner leftovers in glass containers for microwave reheating (Matthew and me) and in an insulated stainless steel jar (Gabriel).

Benefits of eating leftovers include reduced food waste, monetary savings, and, perhaps, healthier eating.  I’ll explore each of these more in future posts.

I often share pictures of my lunches on Instagram and Twitter.  After reading the article, I decided it’s time to show those lunches some extra love, so I’m starting a “Love Your Leftovers” campaign.  Whether it’s lunch at work, an easy dinner, or a savory breakfast, please join me in sharing your leftover-based meals with the hashtag #loveyourleftovers!

The couch conundrum

That title sounds like the name of a Big Bang Theory episode, but unlike Sheldon in the t.v. show, neither Matthew nor I have a favorite spot on our couch, because it has become decidedly uncomfortable.

To review, this is the estate sale couch that we bought in late 2010 and had re-stuffed in the fall of 2011.  What seemed like a good purchase now seems much more questionable — we have gotten five years of use our of it, but I’m afraid it’s time has come.


The Issues

  • Too narrow: While we loved the length of the couch from the beginning, it quickly became clear that this couch was not the best for lounging around or cuddling.
  • Not ergonomic: For over a year now, we’ve noticed that we get head, neck, and/or backaches when sitting on it for any extended period of time (by which I mean more than five minutes).  It used to be comfortable for sleeping, but I’ve noticed that that is no longer the case.
  • The upholstery: The light color, while great for brightening a room, is quite the dirt magnet. It looks pretty grungy in general. We now keep a sheet over the cushions to hide the oily stains from the hydrocortisone ointment we put on the back of G’s knees for eczema.  If not for the other issues, I would consider having it cleaned and/or getting a slipcover, but at this point, it’s not worth it.

All-in-all, it’s time for this couch to go.  The question is, what next???

The problem with couches

  • Used couches: In the end, this couch was a bit of a lemon.  I’m not sure how we’d avoid that again if buying used.  Plus, a couch feels more personal than, say, a chest of drawers — I’d be pretty particular in the used realm.  Our current couch came from the formal sitting room of the previous owner and was all but wrapped in plastic — “like new” despite being 40+ years old — not sure what the odds are of finding something similar again.  Also, bed bugs.
  • New couches: Our standards would be pretty high, at least for our ideal — ergonomically sound (which may be an oxymoron for a couch), and built to last, with sustainability in mind.  At this point, we’re talking a LOT of money.
  • Moving: Then, there’s the fact that at some point, we’ll be moving. Hopefully only one more time, but maybe more. Couches are a beast to move, and you risk damage with every move. Not a huge deal for a <$200 Craigslist couch, but a big problem for more of an investment. And that’s if the couch even fits in the new space.

With all of that in mind, we’ve been considering some other options.

Couch alternatives

  • Japanese inspired: Tatami mat plus pillows
  • Yoga/meditation inspired: yoga mat base with jumbo zabutons plus bolsters and pillows
  • Twin-sized wooden platform bed frame (i.e., doesn’t require a box spring or foundation) plus mattress (or plus tatami mat)
  • Daybed
  • Recliners

Any of these set-ups, done nicely, would be a noticeable investment, but much, much more affordable than the fabled ergo-eco-couch.

The first two options are floor-based, which would be a little tricky due to the large baseboard air-return along the wall where we currently have our couch.  We’re also not certain we’d like the floor-based option for sitting.  We would ideally try out a tatami mat before going this route, and I’m not sure that’s possible, locally.

The bed or daybed options would be plenty comfortable for prone positions, but again, maybe not so much for sitting.  The recliner is probably the best sitting option, but not so great for cuddling.

Is there something that is decent for reading and watching t.v. in both sitting and prone positions?  Maybe combining two or more of the above ideas?  Whatever we get, I want both a color that hides dirt and has some kind of removable cover for easy, regular cleaning.

Have any of you experimented with couch alternatives?  What is/was the set-up, and how did it work for you?


Wonderful whole-grain waffles (without the sticking)

Along with pancakes, whole-grain waffles are part of our normal breakfast rotation around here. Our waffle iron was one of the few items on our very small wedding registry (this makes it easy to remember its origin) and is a gift from my parents.

From the beginning, getting the waffles to release nicely was a tricky proposition.  I don’t know if the issue is our waffle iron, our recipe, or some of both, but until we discovered our secret weapon, the first waffle of the batch always stuck.  I don’t mean it was a little tricky to remove; I mean we were scraping chunks of what should have been a beautiful waffle out of a hot waffle iron, cursing the thing while trying not to burn our fingers and swearing that we’d never make waffles again.

This happened with the first waffle (and sometimes the second and third, to a lesser degree) regardless of how much oil we used.  In addition to the environmental issues with disposable aerosol bottles, commercial non-stick spray is not recommended for waffle irons (or anything with a nonstick coating, really), because the propellant gunks up the surface, so we used a pastry brush to apply either canola oil or melted coconut oil in between every waffle.

Subsequent waffles usually released better (except for this one time when I swear every. single. waffle. in the batch was a hot mess, as was I by the end of it), and by the end of the waffle making session, our frustration would have faded a bit, eased by the fact that we were eating delicious waffles.  But the effort required made me eschew waffles in favor of pancakes on more than one occasion.

Enter the secret weapon.

On the way back from a camping trip two years ago, we stopped to do a little shopping.  I believe we were at T.J. Maxx, and, not unusually, I was much more interested in looking at their kitchen wares than at clothing.  They had a Misto oil sprayer, which I’d contemplated before, but never purchased due to concerns about how well it would actually work.  Matthew was interested in having something like that for applying oil to the top of rising bread dough, and we decided that for ten dollars, it was worth a try.

Back home, it sat in the box for a couple of months before I actually cleaned it (to remove any residual chemicals from manufacturing) and filled it with oil.  It then took another few months for us to think to use it to apply oil to the waffle iron, but once we did, holy moly, what a difference!  Consistently beautiful, easy-release waffles were ours!


There have been a few hiccups along the way.  Every so often, the Misto clogs and needs to be cleaned (if you have one and it is refusing to spray anything but a sad stream of oil, this is likely your problem).  You need to wait for it to air-dry before refilling and using again, so if it just happens to clog in the middle of a batch of waffles, you’re s.o.l. (yes, I learned this the hard way).  I have not done so, but I’m somewhat tempted to buy a back-up so I have a clean, dry Misto waiting in the wings for just such occasions.


Recipe adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles

Quantities here are for a double recipe — enough to feed a crowd or freeze a bunch. Cut in half if you want less.

3 c. whole wheat pastry flour*
1 c. other flours (I use a mix of almond and/or cashew meal, coconut flour, and corn meal)
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. baking powder
2 2/3 c. milk
2/3 c. oil
4 eggs, separated
2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. rolled (NOT quick) oats, optional

In a large mixing bowl (big enough to hold wet and dry ingredients), sift together flours, sugar, and baking powder.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (do this first while the beaters are still clean).  Then, use the mixer to combine the milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir gently until just combined, folding in the egg whites toward the end.

Apply oil to the hot waffle iron, ideally with a Misto.  I spray the bottom first, add the batter (I use about 1 cup of batter per waffle; this doesn’t totally fill our waffle iron, but that’s my preference) and then spray the top just before closing.  In our waffle maker, on a “medium” setting, these cook in about 3 minutes.  If you still see steam coming out of the waffle iron, it is probably too soon!

If it does stick a bit, use something wooden to help it release (metal will scratch the iron’s cooking surface).  Place on cooling rack.

*You can play with the ratios of different types of flour a bit, but I would not go much below 2.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.


We make big batches and freeze them to enjoy over a few weeks.  To freeze, place thoroughly cooled waffles in freezer bags.


In the morning (or at snack time), let thaw at room temperature for a bit and reheat in the toaster for an almost-as-good as fresh waffle!

These waffles are fairly sweet on their own.  I usually top with butter and just the tiniest bit of real maple syrup or homemade fruit sauce; chocolate chips and cherry sauce are the topping of choice when I’m feeling decadent (and nostalgic, as that was my go-to combo when using the Belgian waffle maker in the Notre Dame dining hall).

Black-eyed pea potato salad for a picnic

Last summer we made is to less then one Wednesday night Whitaker Music Festival (I didn’t say “zero” because we picnicked with G and some friends one night, but left before music started in order to get someone home to bed).*  We’re set to remedy that abysmal count this summer, with standing Wednesday night childcare (by which I mean grandma).

Whitaker nights mean picnics and picnic food.  Last week I whipped up a pasta salad full of veggies, including scapes, kale, and fennel from the garden, plus sides of pickled beets and artichokes.


On Sunday, I cooked the very last of our garden potatoes.  We ate some for lunch, and I turned the rest into this potato salad.  While I usually cook in large batches, the remaining potatoes dictated the size of this recipe.  You could, of course, scale it up.


Recipe by Melissa
Serves 2-3

5-6 egg-sized potatoes
2 T finely diced onion
2 T finely diced garlic scapes (or 1-2 t minced garlic)
1/3 c. chopped bell pepper (I used frozen)
1/8 c. finely diced celery
2/3 c. cooked, drained black-eyed peas
1-2 T olive oil
1 T mayonnaise
1 t dijon mustard
2 T plain yogurt
1 t white wine vinegar
S&P to taste
Fresh herbs**



Clean the potatoes.  Then place whole, skin-on potatoes in salted water.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 10-12 minutes until tender, but not over-cooked.  Cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Prep your veggies.  Toss potatoes, beans, veggies and all of the other ingredients in a bowl to mix.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

**Fresh dill would be great here, but our fresh dill is at the garden, which is miles away.  So.


I’m rounding out tonight’s meal with some leftover kale-quinoa quiche (which is great at room temp).  Artichokes will also make another appearance — they’re somewhat time-consuming to eat, which makes them not-so-great for meals with little ones, but perfect for relaxed, open-air dining.

Here’s a quick peek at our standard picnic gear.


Clockwise from top left: Mason jar wine glass, water bottle, s&p, cloth napkins, cloth utensil holder, and our fancy “plates.”  Not pictured — an insulated bag to keep everything cool in the 90-degree heat!

Our go-to picnic plates consist of the top and bottom of a large take-out container.  This option is perfect for picnics (or potlucks) — one person uses the container and the other uses the lid.  This system requires no on-site clean-up; when the meal is over, just put the lid on for no-mess transportation.  (I saw some people washing dishes in the restrooms last week, and, while I appreciated their attempts to avoid disposable options, the remaining bits of food and oils were clogging the sinks.)

Sadly, after years picnic and potluck use, our plastic container-plate is getting more than a little worn.  I’d like to find something similar, but made out of stainless steel, as a replacement.

I’ve been wanting to make a “chicken” salad (using chickpeas), and I’m having fun thinking of other picnic food ideas.  What’s your go-to food for a picnic?

**Check out the Garden’s “Hit a Green Note” challenge/pledge for sustainable picnicking 🙂

Earth Day, every day

What kind of “green” blogger doesn’t post on Earth Day?  This one, apparently (though that has not been true every year: 2011, 2012, 2013).

While “Earth Day, every day” sounds cliché, it really is something that we need all people, corporations, governments, etc. to embrace, rather than simply creating hype for one day and then returning to familiar unsustainable practices.

For me, this year’s business-as-usual Earth Day involved biking to the library (sharing books instead of buying) and a yoga class, lunching on our potatoes and asparagus (plus some non-local beans and broccoli), and biking to a school tour (the school is now near the bottom of my list due to the pick-up time madness that results when every child is transported in a separate motor vehicle).

That said, Earth Day can be a good time to check-in and look for areas of improvement, whether that’s catching little lapses that have become habits, or looking for new ways to further lighten our footprints on this planet.

With the severe drought in California, it’s a good time to visit water conservation ideas.  One of our small, but regular, practices is capturing the water that runs while waiting for hot water.  In our second story apartment, we usually capture a gallon of [cold] water while waiting for the pipes to warm (a bit more in the winter) in the shower or in the kitchen for washing dishes.  We reuse plastic 1-gallon milk and apple cider jugs (of which we don’t generate a lot) for this purpose.

After sitting to dechlorinate, this captured water, which would otherwise just go down the drain, is perfect for our potted plants.  In the summer, when the plants are using a lot of water, we sometimes go through more than we can capture.

If you don’t have plants to water, you could use this captured water when doing laundry –just add it to the machine as it’s filling — or perhaps to wash the floors or some such.

While I’m not planning on participating in the local Earth Day festival activities (on Sunday 4/26 here in StL), I do want to make it to the recycling extravaganza.  Over the past couple of years, we’ve accumulated a broken toaster oven (we let G use it as a toy for a bit, but I’m ready to get it out of here), electric mixer, humidifier, grow light fixture, and a few dead AA and AAA batteries.  While I wish these items (particularly the humidifier and grow light) had had longer lifespans, at least we can keep some of this out of the landfill.  Being able to get all of this to the right place for recycling at one convenient drop-off point sounds pretty good!

So, let’s share inspiration — what’s one “Earth Day, every day” tip that you have, that others could adopt?