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  1. Wednesday, January 6, 2016

    2016 New Year’s Resolution: Compost and Reduce Food Waste

    2016 New Year's Resolution: Compost and Waste Less Food @janemaynard

    Each year when it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution, I choose one that supports my overarching goal to “Eat Well. Heal the Planet.” So much of what we eat and how we eat it impacts the environment, which means there are lots of little things we can each do to make positive change. This year our family’s resolution is to reduce food waste and to begin composting in our home.

    I am super excited about this year’s goal. And I am excited to share today’s blog post with you. I tried my best to be as concise as possible…there’s just so much to share!

    I’ve been wanting to compost for years. In Menlo Park, you could put anything compostable into the green bins for trash pick up, which made composting easy to do. But, alas, San Diego (like most places) does not have that option, so if you want to compost you have to do it on your own. Bottom line: I moved to San Diego and I didn’t know how to compost on my own and I didn’t take the time to figure it out. Until now!

    Just Eat It Documentary: Credit Peg Leg Films“Just Eat It” Director and film subject Grant Baldwin is shocked to find a swimming pool sized dumpster filled with discarded hummus. Credit: Peg Leg Films – Scene from Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

    In recent months I’ve been reading a lot about food waste and the numbers, quite frankly, are staggering. In the U.S., 40% of food raised and grown is wasted each year (one-third globally), and 95% of food waste in the U.S. ends up in landfills. The problem with food going to the landfill is that, unlike normal decomposition, the anaerobic conditions that breaks down food buried in the dump causes a release of methane gas, which contributes to greenhouse gases. So, we’re wasting energy up front producing food that isn’t used, we’re not turning that wasted food back into energy, and the wasted food is increasing CO2 emissions. In addition, the amount of water it takes to produce the food we throw away each year could meet the household water needs for 500 million people. (Information in this paragraph is taken from the documentary Just Eat It, which I will get to in a moment, as well as other sources, including the National Resources Defense Council and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.)

    Waste occurs at all stages of the food production and consumption process, so it will take a combination of individual, collective and regulatory efforts to turn the tide. While looking at the problem on the whole may feel overwhelming, food waste is actually something each and every one of us can work on and contribute to every day. We can make a change and we can make it right now!

    Just Eat It Documentary: Credit Peg Leg Films and Pure Souls MediaCredit: Just Eat It Poster – Peg Leg Films; Grant & Jen – Pure Souls Media

    My 11-year-old Cate and I watched the new documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. If you haven’t seen it, WATCH IT! (You can rent the movie on iTunes for just 99 cents, and you can stream it for free in Canada.) The movie follows the experience of Grant and Jen, a couple who committed to eating only discarded food for 6 months. It’s fun to watch how their 6 months go, but the film also provides ample information about food waste, from farming to labeling to consumption and more. Cate told me afterward that she is grateful they made the movie, which I thought was pretty darn cute. Also, the whole time she was watching the documentary she kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe this!” (I told you the levels of food waste are astonishing!)

    Full Circle Compost Collector at @janemaynardMy compost collector from Full Circle (link below)

    Okay, so back to this year’s resolution! Here’s what we’re going to be doing in the Maynard household starting now!

    • Get a compost bin and use it! Your compost can be as simple as a pile in the backyard, but I’m choosing to use a tumbler, both to help keep critters at bay and to speed the composting process. My friend Elise Bauer loves this compost tumbler. I bought the dual-batch tumbler, so I can have one batch “cooking” while we’re adding compost to the other batch. As for collecting the food in the kitchen to compost, I am using this compost collector from Full Circle, which is ventilated to help reduce odor and flies. Full Circle sells compostable baggies, but you can also get similar bags at stores like Costco. Elise uses this super cute compost collector from World Market and loves it, if you want something with a little more style.
    • Be more thoughtful about using leftovers and food. For whatever reason, whenever it’s time to clean out the fridge, we always have tons of food that has gone bad. I’m going to work hard to be more conscious of using the food we have so it doesn’t end up in the trash or compost bin.
    • Be less picky at the grocery store when selecting produce and meat. Just because something isn’t perfectly pretty doesn’t mean it’s not good! Getting into this mindset is key to changing how much food is wasted. If consumers stop demanding perfect food and start demanding less food waste, then food producers will be able to sell food good food even if it is not beautiful.

    If you’re new to composting like me, here are some resources to get you started:

    When my compost tumbler arrives and we get started composting, I will check back in and let you know how it’s going! Until then, here are some to-dos for you:

    • Consider making food waste a priority in your home, too! Whether that means you’re going to start composting or are simply going to be more mindful of what you throw away, it’s all going to help.
    • Watch Just Eat It.
    • If you are a composting veteran, share your tips with us newbies in the comments!

    Oh, and if you’re a fan of John Oliver’s smarts, wit and salty language, his piece on food waste is also worth a watch.

    Happy New Year! And Happy Composting!


  2. Friday, January 16, 2015

    Friday Show and Tell

    Happy Friday! I have just two quick things to share today!

    First, I just heard about Food Forward on PBS. Has anyone seen it? I can’t wait to watch!

    delicious and easy baked yogurt chicken from @janemaynard

    Second, my Babble post for the week! I shared a basic, easy recipe for Baked Yogurt Chicken and provided a roundup of 6 other savory yogurt recipes. Lots of yumminess to be had, my friends.

    As usual, please share something! Whether it’s a link to your own blog, a link to something you’ve discovered or just a quick peek into your life, it’s all welcome!

    Have a great weekend!


  3. Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Inside the McDonald’s Machine

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    This post is sponsored by McDonald’s. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    In May, McDonald’s flew me to Chicago to visit their headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. I sat down for 60 minutes of discussion with some of their leadership team, including the senior directors of marketing and management. McDonald’s understands that they have a polarizing brand and they are making efforts to reach out to people who have neutral or negative opinions about the company (people like me!) to engage in a dialogue. When they first approached me about potentially doing a sponsored post on my blog involving an interview with members of the leadership team, in all honesty my initial reaction was “no way.” But I thought about it a lot and decided that this could be an excellent opportunity to talk with decision-makers at the company, ask them direct questions and hear what they had to say (as well as maybe get a chance to share my thoughts around their business).

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    I feel strongly that what we do in the kitchen has a strong impact on Mother Earth. My New Year’s resolutions always involve an environmental goal that’s directly related to how our family eats. I also try to cook at home as much as I can to feed my family a nutritious and balanced diet. But guess what? We also go to McDonald’s. Not all the time, but we go. Cate doesn’t like McDonald’s and normally doesn’t order anything (she’s well-versed in the concept of monoculture farming but also does not enjoy the food). Anna and Owen, however, love McDonald’s, and it’s a special treat for them when we go. That said, on the occasions that I visit McDonald’s, questions and concerns about sustainability and our food system are constantly swirling in my head.

    *

    When my girls found out that I was going to interview people at McDonald’s, I asked if they had any specific things they wanted me to talk about. They both said they wanted me to ask McDonald’s to please put baby carrots in the Happy Meals. I shared our family’s wish with Chef Jessica, so I’ve done my duty. Even though McDonald’s does not accept unsolicited advice – “Jane Maynard’s Requests” was not on the “How a Product Is Developed” infographic they shared with me – if baby carrots ever do appear in the Happy Meal, the girls and I are totally taking credit!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    On to the interviews! Here are the folks that I had the chance to talk with, both in person and over the phone:

    • Justin Ransom, PhD, Senior Director, Quality Systems, Supply Chain Management
    • Erik Gonring, Manager, Global Government Relations & Public Affairs
    • Chef Jessica Foust, RDN, Director of Culinary Innovation
    • Cindy Goody, PhD, MBA, RDN, LDN, Senior Director of Nutrition
    • Darci Forrest, Senior Director Marketing, Menu Innovation Team

    In my discussion with Justin and Erik, we talked about food sustainability and supply issues, which have always been my biggest concerns with McDonald’s and other big food brands. I learned from talking with Justin and Erik that when McDonald’s looks at sourcing, there’s a triple bottom line that’s defined by three Es: ethics, environment and economics. Those three factors drive how the company sources their food. One interesting takeaway that I learned – and something that I honestly hadn’t thought about before – is that McDonald’s wants to get their food from sustainable sources, because they need those supplies to not disappear.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Erik gave the example of the Filet-O-Fish, an iconic McDonald’s item. At one point, the company learned that they were contributing to the depletion of the cod supply off the Atlantic coast. This problem had ethical, environmental and economic implications. McDonald’s knew they had to make a change, especially since they needed a long-term fish supply in order to continue serving the beloved sandwich. After years of work, McDonald’s USA has reached a point where all of the whitefish they use is sustainably harvested, and McDonald’s was the first national chain to serve whitefish sourced from a Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fishery.

    I also inquired about organic and local sourcing. Justin said that 14,000 restaurants using local and/or organic ingredients is a challenge. Taking into account their high standards for quality, safety and consistency, McDonald’s has to minimize risk in their supply chain, which makes organic and locally sourced foods difficult to implement. I understand this on a logical level, but it’s still a concern for me. I asked Justin if he was at all optimistic that, in the future, we could source foods in more sustainable ways at this scale. Justin said he is. Honestly, I don’t know that I am, but I’m glad someone is.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    We also discussed waste. On the customer side, I asked about recycling and compost bins in restaurants. Erik said that when there is infrastructure to support recycling and composting, typically they get on board: restaurants in cities including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Austin have recycling bins, and many of those markets also compost organic waste behind the counter. But he also stressed that customer behavior is the biggest challenge when implementing these systems. On the supply side, I learned that the bulk of the waste at a restaurant happens behind the counter. McDonald’s recycles their corrugate and cooking oil in many restaurants, which makes up to 40% of that behind-the-scenes waste. The company is also taking actions like phasing out polystyrene coffee cups and joining the How2Recycle label program to make it easier for customers to recycle away from the restaurant.

    The biggest takeaway from my discussion with Erik and Justin is that McDonald’s won’t compromise on their final product. The McDonald’s fry is a good example of this. Justin said that the taste of McDonald’s fries must remain consistent around the world. This means that McDonald’s only uses a handful of potato varieties from specific regions of the world. I was told that identifying new varieties is a long and arduous process and McDonald’s would never allow customers to notice a change in their fries. For me, this is a perfect example of how our demand for one specific product leads to problematic farming practices. If there were more room for variation, we wouldn’t need to farm such limited varieties of potatoes. When there is such a high demand for just a few crops, those plants are susceptible to pests, which in turn necessitates the use of either GMOs – which McDonald’s made clear that they do not use – or pesticides. Industrialized monoculture farming, where you grow un-diversified crops, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our demand – what we will or will not buy – directly impacts how food is grown.

    *

    In my discussion with chef Jessica, nutritionist Cindy and marketer Darci, we talked at length about the menu, how it’s developed and efforts around nutrition. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion:

    • When a new product is rolled out, it takes anywhere from nine months to four years to develop, from conceptualization to finally being sold in restaurants.
    • McDonald’s has reformulated a long list of their ingredients, from the Big Mac bun to nuggets, to contain less sodium.
    • McDonald’s is working on a set of initiatives for their top nine and top 20 markets to be fulfilled by 2020 that include, among other things, increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are served, as well as offering more salads and produce as options with meals.
    • Taste is key. McDonald’s won’t sacrifice when it comes to taste and is completely focused on serving customers what they want and will buy.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    The Arches, a full-service McDonald’s restaurant in the corporate office building.

    A lot of the issues that I have with McDonald’s and our food system in general map back to the consumer. For instance, I asked Darci why McDonald’s peels the apples in their Happy Meals. (I really wish that the apples were not peeled so that my kids would at least have the option of eating better.) Darci explained that McDonald’s serves apples that way because it was the best balance they could find of serving a product that parents would feel good about giving their kids but also one that the kids would eat, based on testing prior to the product launch. Corporations as large as McDonald’s have a social responsibility and should take a leadership role, but purchasing power is also incredibly important when it comes to effecting change.

    *

    So did I learn anything new through this process? Yes. Did I get some answers that weren’t completely satisfactory? Yes. Did I get some positive answers I wasn’t expecting? Yes. Could I have asked questions all day long? You bet. And do I still believe that we, the consumers, are at the root of the food system and that we can make a difference? Yes!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Let me know in the comments section below: if you could ask the McDonald’s team one question, what would it be?

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  4. Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars & Weelicious Lunches

    When you have a lot of food blogger friends, you end up with a lot of friends writing and publishing really cool cookbooks! I have another one of those cookbooks to share with you this week from my friend Catherine McCord of Weelicious.

    homemade chocolate chip granola bars from weelicious | thisweekfordinner.com

    Catherine is every bit as cute and sweet as her recipes. She is gracious and kind and generous and I am so grateful to know her!

    Her second book Weelicious Lunches just came out and it’s great! The photography is beautiful, there are SO many recipes to choose from, and my kids were excited to read through the book to get ideas for their lunches (something I always need help with). This book is great inspiration if you’re looking for wholesome and delicious lunch inspiration for your kids (or even yourself!).

    weelicious lunches cookbook | thisweekfordinner.com

    I have been wanting to make my own granola bars for some time now. I’m on Year Two of trying to use less plastic and one of the specific goals I set for myself this year was to replace some or all  of the store-bought snacks that we regularly include in packed lunches, including granola bars. I haven’t really found a recipe that caught my eye until my review copy of Catherine’s book arrived last week. She has a simple granola bar recipe in the book that looked like just what I needed!

    weelicious lunches cookbook | thisweekfordinner.com

    The granola bars are wonderful (recipe below!). They are a little bit crispy, a little bit chewy, with just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of salt. I’ve already eaten a few and they’ve only been out of the oven for an hour! Cate and Owen are equally as addicted. The best part was the bars were so easy to prepare and the ingredients are accessible and inexpensive, making this a much more affordable option than buying granola bars. Plus, we’re using less packaging, contributing to our family’s environmental goals. Yay for homemade granola bars!

    homemade chocolate chip granola bars from weelicious | thisweekfordinner.com

    The giveaway is now closed. Thank you! And, of course, we are giving away Catherine’s book! Two of you lucky commenters will each receive a copy of Weelicious Lunches. Please leave a comment on this post by Midnight PT on Wednesday, September 18.

    You can also buy Catherine’s book on Amazon!

    Good luck to you all with the giveaway! And happy granola bar cooking!

    Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
     
    From Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    • ¼ cup whole-wheat flour
    • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or other dried fruit) Jane note: I used mini chocolate chips
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ cup canola oil
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • ½ cup honey
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Combine the oats, flour, coconut, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and salt in a large bowl.
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, vanilla and honey.
    4. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine. (Jane note: stir and stir and stir!)
    5. Spread the granola mixture on the baking sheet and shape it into a large rectangle about 1 inch thick.
    6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and dry to the touch. (Jane note: mine cooked for 35 minutes.)
    7. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut into 3 x 1 inch bars using a serrated knife. These bars will remain fresh for several weeks if wrapped individually in parchment or wax paper. (Jane note: I am planning to store in an airtight container.)
    Notes
    Jane’s adaptations: I had a box of brown crisped rice cereal and I love it when granola bars have crispies in them, so I modified things a bit. Since I was adding dry ingredients, I upped the amounts for some of the other ingredients. Here are my modifications:
    - Add 1 cup brown crisped rice cereal to the dry ingredients
    - Increase to ⅓ cup whole-wheat flour
    - Make the ⅓ cup packed brown sugar heaping
    - Used ⅝ cup of canola oil
    - Used ⅝ cup honey

    homemade chocolate chip granola bars from weelicious | thisweekfordinner.com