My whirlwind of a Spring Break was so busy and filled with garbage-free or otherwise green projects, I’ll need to devote several posts just to catch myself up. I mentioned last week an interest in learning to bake traditionally “garbage-full” products like granola bars, chips, crackers, etc, which is what tonight’s post will be about. I’ll try to add more posts throughout the week (sometimes it’s hard to keep a date with this blog more than once a week, but keep checking). You can also friend Green Garbage Project on Facebook,and you’ll get all my new posts added to your news feed. Anyway, over the next days (or week) I’ll be posting about my adventures (or misadventures) with raw milk, putting in a kitchen garden, and some upcycling craft forays.
So, I’ve always been pretty handy around the kitchen, thanks in large part to my mom, who is a great cook. I typically make many of my bread products from scratch (bagels, pies, cinnamon rolls, and so on), and one of my favorite hobbies is finding a new recipe and testing it out. There are many, many products, though, that we buy pre-made. Prior to our garbage-free life, these included prepackaged products like: chips, granola bars, toaster pastries, instant oatmeal pouches, frozen foods, etc. We’re big on eating healthy, locally, and naturally, so these types of products were mostly reserved for when I pack school lunches for myself. After starting our project, we simply abandoned most of these products, making do without them.
Many of our readers have pointed out that there’s no reason we can’t make a lot of these food items, which is very true. I just needed to find the time to try out some new recipes, and Spring Break afforded me the perfect opportunity. That said, here are the recipes Mom and I tried, with pictures to prove that we did this.
Potato Chips: Ah, the ubiquitous potato chip – elusive to a garbage-free aficionado like myself. Why not make my own? The process is simple enough: bring cooking oil to temperature in a deep pot (or use a deep fat fryer – I don’t have one of these). Different recipes call for different types of oil, so it seems like any of the following will work: vegetable, olive, or peanut. We used basic canola oil. It needs to be heated to a temp of about 175 degrees Farenheit, but you’ll want to adjust this up or down 5-10 degrees based on a little trial and error. Please, if you try this yourself, take proper precautions necessary when heating cooking oil – heat slowly, use a deep pot, have an accurate thermometer, and keep a damp cloth nearby to suffocate smoke or fire, should one threaten to break out.
Wash and peel potatoes, and cut as thin as possible. This took forever, since I don’t have a handy-dandy kitchen tool known as a mandolin. Thinner cuts are practically required for this recipe – we cut both paper-thin and thicker slices of potatoes, and the thinner slices definitely worked the best.
The end result? The chips were really tasty, especially hot off the stove. They tasted like chips that come from a bag, nice and crunchy/greasy. But, they didn’t hold up very long (probably a lack of the preservatives stuffed into store-bought varieties). Even in a Tupperware container, the chips were soft and fold-able within 24 hours.
Tortilla Chips: While we were at it, we also tried frying some tortilla chips. These were much simpler. The setup was the same. To make chips, cut corn tortillas into quarters and fry. These were excellent, really fast, and I still have some in a container in my pantry. They’ve lasted for several days without going stale or losing flavor. We’ll definitely make these again.
Crackers: We’ve been wanting Saltine crackers for awhile now, for crackers and peanut butter or to eat in chili. We can sometimes find crackers in bulk, but not always. So, I looked up a recipe online and gave it a shot. All my research shows that cracker-baking should be exceptionally easy. Even Joy of Cooking doesn’t bother to give recipes, it’s so simple – just pick a dough, roll it out really thin, and bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven (425 degrees-ish). Ha. My crackers turned out okay, but the recipe I found certainly isn’t something I’ll use again. The dough was too salty, and the crackers turned stale really quickly. If anyone out there has a cracker recipe you’d like to share, I’d love to try this again.
Donuts: As if chips weren’t treat enough, we decided to make some fried donuts, too. The dough is a basic white yeast bread, shaped into wheels and donut holes. These are then dropped into hot oil until they puff up and turn into delicious donuts. These were excellent – and if there’s any way to make these fresh for company (like for a brunch or the like), I’d highly recommend it. We filled some of the donuts with strawberry jam, which was a messy process, but the end result was tasty. They were just as good rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
One final note, should you wish to try this at home: Since we don’t buy paper towels anymore, I used cloth kitchen towels to drain excess oil off the chips and donuts. If you go this garbage-free route, don’t just wash your oil-soaked towels in a normal load and throw them into a dryer. You need to get all the oil out before washing these in a regular cycle. For me, this process involved soaking the towels in boiling water/dish soap, rinsing with cold water/vinegar, then washing in the machine with a normal load.
Mom and I figure that, as Michael Pollan says in “In Defense of Food,” if you want to eat junk food, you should make your own. This is a great philosophy because it gets you back into the process of making food, instead of just consuming it. I’d be willing to bet that, while still not technically “healthy,” our homemade chips and donuts are healthier than their store-bought counterparts. Making these made eating them much more gratifying.
If anyone has other recipes or suggestions for typically store-bought items I should attempt to cook, let me know. Check back soon for more updates!