August 25, 2008

Slow Encillada

One of the goals I presented in my Transformation post was eating better. I think I need to clarify some things here: Although The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired this objective, I am a long way from eating locally and cooking amazing meals every night.

One of my main problems is eating at all. I seldom eat breakfast, I could skip lunch, and I have often realized that it is five pm before I have eaten anything. So before I start to eat in a sustainable manner, I first need to get into a good eating routine.

However, this will not stop me from making observations on how much damage my food intake is doing to the planet, and how I could be working toward more responsible eating habits. Ultimately, I want to move away from quick easy processed food ingredients to more flavorful, nutritious, fun to cook, and healthy whole foods. I don’t feel I can jump to that stage until I start spending some time in the kitchen reconnecting with the act of cooking and eating in general, but that will not stop me from viewing how my easy meals could just as easily be transformed into slower foods. Let’s start with tonight’s meal- enchiladas. Sounds simple enough, but after I was done making dinner, I realized how much waste and unnecessary processed ingredients I had used in a simple meal like this.

Below is a picture of how much waste was generated from just one meal for my family of three.

One box, two cans, and two plastic bags. Sure it only took me about ten minutes and minimal effort to make this meal, but how could I have reduced the waste and increased the taste. In addition to the waste, I was dismayed by how much money I was giving to General Mills the food processing company that I learned to despise.

Let’s break the meal down. The rice was easy. There is no reason to buy processed rice. Cooking a batch of plain brown rice is easy enough, and the grains don’t come in a tiny plastic satchel, with another satchel of “cheesy” sauce and then the box. The freeze-dried “vegetables” in the rice could just have easily been oven roasted potatoes and zucchini.

The beans from Amy's organic, may be harder to make from scratch, but once one batch of beans are made they should last for several meals. Again a bag of beans bought from the store will save the tin can at least.


3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4-6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or lard
about 1 1/4 cups warm water

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add vegetable shortening or lard. Or use a combination of half lard, half shortening.
Use a fork or a pastry cutter to cut in the shortening or just do it the old fashioned
way and use your hands.

Next add warm water a little at a time until your dough is soft and not sticky. You do
not need very hot water.

Knead the dough for a few minutes.

Now you will pull off pieces of dough to form about 12 small dough balls. Let them
rest for at least 10 minutes, longer if you like.

That sounds like it would take about ten minutes. No bag, much cheaper and I bet much tastier.

Enchilada Sauce, while this is still Old El Paso, I have to take baby steps in my transformation. I suppose one could make their own sauce, but that will have to wait for round two. The can of sauce does support two meals and so can be justified, but I can’t imagine making a chili and tomatoe sauce to be too hard, besides one could make a large batch and freeze some for a few meals.

The cheese came pre-shredded in a bag. It was some kind of lactose-free non-cheese, I don’t know enough about this product, so I will leave that be as well, although I think block cheese is a better bet. I don’t need to pay Kraft to grate my cheese.

So what does all of this mean? Yes, my meal was quick and easy, but how else did I pay for it? I paid for it in extra costs of imported products, products I could make myself. Next time, I will definitely make my own rice and tortillas, perhaps the next time I will look into making the beans as well and eventually the sauce.

It will be difficult for me to jump straight from the Old El Paso meal, but eventually I hope to make all of this waste go away.

1 comment:

  1. ooh- not to mention the sodium and whatnot. no good. you don't have to make a sauce per se bz- you could make a salsa instead. just tomatoes and peppers if you like- as diced or pureed as you like. you could certainly google a quick salsa recipe- add whatever spices you have on hand. i know it's tough- i am assuming that your host country imports most of its food? do they have local cuisine? anything fresh to be able to purchase? figs are high in fiber and very good- anyway, the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step- and you are taking it :) good for you.