5 Tips on How to Go Green in the Kitchen

When we’re in need of some recipe inspiration, we turn to Michelle DeHaven, author of The Pig and The Fig. For our Green & Local Living Guide, Michelle shares some insights – and some recipes – to help make your kitchen more ‘green!’ – PrincetonScoop

“Contrary to what our friend Kermit says, it’s totally easy to be green.  Especially in your  kitchen.  In addition to going easy on Mother Earth, you’ll save a little cash and be a little healthier, to boot.  And that always feels good.  Happy Earth Day!

1.  Waste not, want not
Yup.  I’m big on that.  I grew up in a house where we would re-use tea bags.  That’s not what we are going for.  I think the most serious kitchen crime that we are ALL guilty of from time to time in throwing out food because we’ve bought more that we can eat.  That would be called a sin in my house.  It really is wasteful on so many levels and there is no excuse.  The fastest, easiest way around it, is to meal plan.  If you can’t go there for whatever reason, try shopping a few times a week rather than once huge shop where the tendency is to over buy.  Know what is in your fridge and pantry BEFORE you go to the market, make a list and stick to it.   Smartly stock your pantry and fridge to you’ll always have the makings of a meal close at hand.

  • Wash and dry your produce (or at least your apples, pears, berries, grapes…so they will be easy to grab and go during the week)
  • Rinse your herbs and roll them loosely in slight damp paper towels. They will keep at least twice as long.  This will also save you from gooey parsely carnage at the bottom of your veggie drawer.
  • Speaking of smoothies,  keep a large ziplock bag in your freezer on rotation to be used for whatever fruit is getting tired in your fridge or those brown bananas on the counter.  I do a « sweep » every few days of my produce drawer for possible suspects.  Frozen bananas are like gold in my house for whipping up healthy shakes in 2 minutes flat.

2. Compost
Whether your town has a program, and I know Princeton does, or not, composting is simple and reduces waste (AKA  stuff we cart off to the LANDFILL to near zero.  They are many options from high-end to low, so do your research and pick the one that’s best for you.


3. Choose natural cleaners

Chemicals and metals are everywhere.  In our food supply, our water, in our makeup, lotions….the last thing you need to do is spray some around your kitchen where you can inhale and ingest them.  No thanks.

While there are an abundance of great product lines on the market, you don’t really need more than some lemons, vinegar and some baking soda (for scrubbing, removing stains, disinfecting cutting boards, etc).  I’m not about to morph into Heloise here, but this is my basic recipe for a sweet smelling (I’m a sucker for arometherapy) naturally clean kitchen:

All-purpose Cleaner Recipe
A spray bottle
24 oz water
1 oz distilled vinegar
a few drops of your favorite essential oil* (totally optional)

*I use a blend I found from AuraCacia called Chill Pill (lavender + roman chamomile)

 4. Grow your own food.
NEWS FLASH :  they don’t call it the GARDEN STATE for NOTHIN’
Yes, even people with zero access to dirt have options these days. You can go as high-tech as this hydoponic system or as low-tech as a few herbs on a sunny window sill.  You’ll never be sorry.

Don’t want to go all in on an organic veggie garden?  Start with some lettuce in a container.  Use one that sits high enough off the ground and close enough to the house that the bunnies and deer don’t think you’ve opened a salad bar.  I went with wild arugula and a field greens blend.

At the very minimum, grow some herbs in a pot in a sunny place close to your kithcen.  Check out your local garden centers early in the season for the best selection of interesting varietals.

I scored some mojito mint (cocktails & ice teas), chocolate mint (homemade ice cream !),Thai coriander (marinades, feta + watermelon salad), Mexican oregano (roasted potatoes, grilled chicken) gorgeous purple basil…you get the picture!

 5. Shop locally and eat in season
Yes, you save gas, you support the community.  If you are eating in season, there is a pretty good chance that things will be in abundance on sale,.  Better yet, the food will be fresher and healthier for you. WIN WIN WIN WIN and WIN.

Oh, and go to your local farmer’s market and say hi.  Chances are, you’ll learn something or, at the very least, make a fun new friend.

6. Re-use and Re-purpose
DON’T recyle those glass jars.  Clean them and USE them for everything from chili oil to quinoa to spices to half-open bags of nuts.

Homemade Chili Oil Recipe
½ c crushed red pepper*
1 ½ c extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz together in a food processor to all of the chili flakes are mostly incorporated.  Using a fine-mesh strainer, drain the oil into a glass jar.  Use on pizza, pasta to dip bread or anything that would benefit from a drizzle of oil and spice.

*ps.  It’s a great way to use up that crushed red pepper that may have been in your spice cabinet past it’s prime.  For more tips on keeping spices, read on.”

 The Pig and The Fig is all about modern comfort food. We break it down, photo by photo and throw in some tips and tricks along the way.  Healthful, nutritious dishes have a place here as do indulgent, decadent creations.  Omnivores will feel most at home but recipes for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-frees and rawists are often featured.  Two rules: it has to be real food and it must be delicious.

Michelle attended the La Technique program at the French Culinary Institute, founded a cooking school and has worked as a private chef. She is forever trying to strike a balance in the kitchen between naughty and nice.