Weekly Recipe: White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin PLUS daily food log

Once upon a time, there was a young guy, let’s call him “R,” who was courting a beautiful lass we’ll call “B.” She invited him to her house for dinner and cooked him frozen broccoli smothered in Cheeze Whiz. It was love at first bite. They got married and had 5 kids, the oldest of whom believed for many years that veggies came from the freezer and that everything tastes better with cheese. She’s learning that veggies come from the ground and that she won’t die without cheese. But it’s a process and she’s still taking baby steps in the slow food department.

Why did I start with that story? Because a few weeks ago, The Biscuit Queen, who is also blogging about her quest to live plastic-free, asked to see a list of everything I eat for a week because she’s having trouble finding the types of plastic-free bulk foods that I have access to here in the Bay Area. And my first thought was, “Oh, great. Now everyone will know what a poor eater I still am.” I don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables. If Michael didn’t make veggies for us every night, I’d rarely eat them. And I have a huge sweet tooth and caffeine addiction, indulging in way too many chocolate treats and coffee drinks.

But the purpose of this blog is not for me to seem like I’m perfect, but simply to document the journey of an ordinary person who is trying very hard to live plastic-free and environmentally responsibly and who struggles with the same temptations and weaknesses that everyone else does. So, here goes. My food for one week (Sunday, Feb 24 through Saturday, March 1) with a new recipe. Please keep in mind that I don’t have kids and that Michael and I often eat separately, so my eating situation may be different from yours.

Sunday, 2/24:
Sunday we attended the annual Oscars-watching potluck party at our friends’ house. I was tired and couldn’t get it together to make a dish from scratch, so instead I ordered a whole mess of butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce from Pasta Pomodoro and brought my own Pyrex dish for the restaurant to serve it in. (If I hadn’t, they would have used a plastic throw-away container.) It wasn’t the healthiest food at the party, but it disappeared mighty fast. Everyone loves butter, right? There’s a photo of the cook after filling up my dish.

And here’s a close-up of the dish itself. Mmmmmmmm…. At the party, I ate anything I wanted. I maintain a kind of “Don’t ask; don’t tell” plastic policy at parties. If I don’t see any plastic, I assume the best and enjoy myself. Here’s the rest of what I ate that day:

  • Water from the tap
  • Gen Maicha green tea (loose from Whole Foods bulk jar)
  • 1 navel orange
  • Leftover squash/tomato dish from last night’s dinner
  • Handful of tamari almonds (purchased from Berkeley Bowl bulk bin in my own container)
  • Mocha in my stainless steel travel mug at Pasta Pomodoro while I was waiting (caffeine and chocolate addiction, remember?)

Monday, 2/25:
Monday, I created a White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin. The recipe is at the bottom of this post. Here’s a photo of how it turned out. I thought it was delicious. It was a bit too soft and carb-loaded for Michael’s taste, so I ended up making 4 meals for myself out of it. I don’t need to eat something different every day.

I also baked a cake. Just a simple yellow cake based on this recipe from Food Musingswith plastic-free ingredients that I already had. It was basically something to hold Hershey’s chocolate syrup that I wanted to use up. (You’ll see the container in this week’s plastic tally.) Yep. Addict here. So, here’s the day’s list:

  • Water from the tap
  • Gen Maicha green tea
  • 1 navel orange
  • Handful of tamari almonds
  • White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin (pictured above)
  • Soy chai latte from Starbucks in my own stainless steel travel mug
  • Steamed broccoli and yellow bell pepper with homemade hummus (made from dry bulk garbanzo beans, lemon juice, lots of spices)
  • Cake with chocolate syrup (see above)
  • Almond tea from tea bag. Once it’s gone, I’ll replace with loose tea from bulk bin.

Tuesday, 2/26:

  • Water from the tap
  • Earl Grey tea (loose from Whole Foods bulk jar)
  • 1 banana
  • Handful of tamari almonds
  • White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin
  • Raw carrots with homemade hummus
  • 2 Pieces of cake w/ chocolate syrup (morning and night)
  • Almond tea from tea bag
  • Too many mini Reeses peanut butter cups from dish at work. They are wrapped in foil, not plastic. It’s no excuse. They’re still wasteful. It’s cheap chocolate. Nothing redeeming about them at all. And when they’re around, I can’t resist.

Wed 2/27:

  • Water from the tap
  • Mocha in stainless steel travel mug at Hudson Bay Cafe (after vet visit)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 navel orange
  • White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin
  • Steamed broccoli with homemade hummus
  • Mini Reeses cups
  • 1 finger of Power’s Irish whiskey & water because desperate times call for desperate measures

Thur 2/28:

Fri 2/29:

  • Water from the tap
  • Gen Maicha green tea
  • 1 banana
  • Handful of tamari almonds
  • 1/2 spicy bread stick & butter
  • Swiss chard sauteed with garlic, oil, and Trader Joe’s Bolognese spaghetti sauce from a glass jar (Is that better than Cheese Whiz?)
  • 1 navel orange
  • Cake & chocolate syrup
  • Whiskey & water

Sat 3/1:

  • Water from tap
  • Waffle from the Waffle Man at Grandlake Farmer’s Market
  • Dinner w/ Michael and two friends at Cafe Colucci Ethiopian restaurant before seeing a movie. We shared two vegetarian combo platters and one meat platter. I brought containers for carrying home leftovers, but there weren’t any. We scarfed up everything.
  • Ice cream sundaes and coffee with these same friends at Fenton’s Creamery after movie, where we sat down to have our ice cream instead of carrying it out. The only possible plastic were individual packets of half and half, which we returned to the server, opting instead to put whipped cream from our sundaes into our coffee!

So, there you have it. I am not an example for how one should eat. I could add many more fruits and vegetables to my diet (which come naturally plastic-free) and eliminate quite a bit of chocolate and coffee. And of course, I do realize that the soy chai latte I bought from Starbucks contained soy milk from a carton with a plastic spout. I confess I haven’t made my own soy milk in a while and should get back to doing it again.

Now for the recipe:

White Bean, Tomato, & Olive Bread Gratin

  • Cooked white beans, 3 cups (from 1 cup dry)
  • Cooking liquid from the beans
  • 4 ripe tomatoes & their juice
  • 1/2 loaf of Acme olive bread cut into 1″ cubes (of course, you could use any flavorful bread that is starting to go stale.) I buy Acme bread directly from the bakery at the SF Ferry Building and have it put in my own bag. Otherwise, it comes in a paper bag.
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Thyme, dried, 1/8 teaspoon
  • Bay leaf
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make a spicy broth by placing bean liquid, tomatoes with juice, thyme, bay leaf, Better Than Bouillon and olive oil in the sauté pan. Simmer 20 minutes or longer to develop flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix up the beans, bread cubes, egg, and tomato broth thoroughly. Then place in a baking dish.

Bake about 1 hour. The top will be nice and brown and the inside consistency will be like a savory bread pudding, creamy and delicious.

Plastic in this recipe: plastic coating inside lids of Better Than Bouillon jar (which I’m still using up) and olive oil. Plastic thyme bottle, which will be replaced with bulk spice after it’s used up. Zero plastic waste for last week.

27 comments
Synaptic Spazism
Synaptic Spazism

While reading this blog has a very positive vibe to it, just trying to not buy plastics is not going to stop waste. Considering plastics are everywhere, in the computer you use to type this. Plastics are use to prepare the foods you purchase, even if they dont have plastic on them when you by them. A more productive method we as a people should be pushing is to see more recycling. Considering plastics are made from petroluem, they can be reused nearly infinitly and should be considered more valueable with the price of oil going up, plastics will not be far behind.

Kat
Kat

I'm very excited to have come across your blog. I'm not as environmentally conscious as I should be, so I hope to gain a few tips from you. What made you decide to want to focus on reducing your plastic waste?

taxitalk
taxitalk

wow lot of comment rules, that s cooli just want to ask you if you really think the people of planet earth will really change, most people enjoy watching the world end, I am becoming more and more pessimistic about that, you heard about alberta canada, it's a province that does not care about the environment, fort macmurry is an oil sand city and it very bad for the future of our children, but my government does not care, I am going to try to use less plastic for my son but the future still looks bleak, our world is filled with humans and our race is a parasite on this world, I and starting to believe that there is no hope how do you feel

Meg
Meg

Does this mean you're a vegetarian? It seems like you can't get meat anywhere without it being wrapped in plastic unless you get it from a butcher or shoot it yourself.

blog4reel
blog4reel

Great blog! What a contribution! You should join the blog4reel.com competition.

Clif
Clif

Cheez Whiz!? When that popped up on arrival at your site I screamed NOOOOOOO! I reached to tear out my hair (and I can't afford to lose any). I raced through your post to be greatly relieved that you were not recommending eating plastic. I think I'm calm now but be careful what pictures you post!

klasieprof
klasieprof

Hey...just wanted to let you know I have been reading.Will try to incorporate a couple ideas.We have started reusing shampoo bottles ...and like the bulk health food store shampoo better than Suave anyway. (to tell you how remote we are, the health food store is 26 miles away).I will start using mason jars again. Did it all the time as a kid. Donna In Mid Michigan--5 degrees when we got up this morning.

Blue Rains and Daisy Chains
Blue Rains and Daisy Chains

Now I'm feeling hungry. Your week sounds much healthier than mine. Much, much healthier.I'm from the UK so veggies here are usually individually wrapped in plastic, and so expensive it's only slightly cheaper for me the be vegetarian than if I ate burgers everyday.Oh, and I was also one of those people who only found out that most veg doesn't come from the freezer when she was in her teens. But then again, my mum likes to boil her veg until its very very dead, so i've also only found out in the past few years that veg is chewable, not just drinkable.much love, i am eating chocolate in celebration of you...that is my excuse and i am sticking to it

kenni
kenni

your crusade is worthy of note. i do try to limit my use of plastics but most grocery bags here in our country is made of plastic. we do reuse the plastic for wrapping and carrying stuff. well, we use it also to throw our garbage and the garbage man is the one who segregates them and their contents. we are still far from keeping our homes plastic free.good luck to you and congratulations on your blog for being recognized as a blog of note.

grellgrün
grellgrün

Beth, your blog is deeply inspiring! You are actually living up to what so many people are talking about these days... amazing. I spent my summer in the US (I am from Austria) and was appalled to see how you get heaps of plastic whenever you buy something to eat - be it bottles, cups, plates or trays made of pvc that go straight into the waste after having finished eating! The most shocking thing was to see how all my American friends did not even think about what they were doing when throwing whole trays away.

The Biscuit Queen
The Biscuit Queen

OMG Beth, you eat like a bird! I would starve on that little food!I eat every two hours, from 6am until 6 pm, and sometimes popcorn in the evening. I can't stop eating because I am too skinny as it is, and well, I like eating. Yeah I know, to hell with me, biotch. Thank you so much for listing your menu for the week. I was just thinking about hummus, my son and I ate an entire cassarole dish of fresh cut veggies in one sitting the other day and I thought it would have been good with hummus. I can see I need to find a source of bulk foods. There are none around that I know of, but you have such a huge selection there. It may be I need to drive a few hours and stock up on everything all at once. I can't drive across the country, but there has to be places in NY that have that selection of bulk foods. Oh, I would be horking down the Reeses too-don't feel too bad, you are not alone.

Gracie
Gracie

lifelovemiddleschool.blogspot.comcoolest blog ever. Except maybe yours!!! Go Green!

She-Ra
She-Ra

I like that you mentioned bringing your own containers for leftovers. That is something I would like to start doing but unfortunately the thought never occurs to me until it's too late - I'm already at the restaurant with no containers! I've started bringing my own containers to get the deli meat and the donut that my dd wants everytime we go to the grocery store. I get a few weird looks but it gets easier and easier each time. Just this week I approached the dry cleaner and asked them to put dh's shirts in the suit bag I brought in instead of plastic bags. I was so nervous about it beforehand but it went okay. We'll see how it really went when i go back to pick up the shirts next week!And now that I have written all of this about how i'm trying to change, I have also exposed all of the ways that I still need improve. For example - don't use the dry cleaners and don't buy deli meat! But, it's a journey of many small steps and I just keep plugging along, hoping that i'm getting closer every day. I take comfort in the fact that now I remember to bring my reuseable bags to the store 9 times out of 10 rather than forgetting them 9 times out of 10 like I did at the beginning!

Sunny
Sunny

Nener nener nener. I saw it. You ate smores! Okay I'm done. My husband would approve of the all smores dinner though!

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Arduous, I'm sure that no one reads the comments on this blog, so your secret is safe with me.:-)Beth

arduous
arduous

Oh boy, I could NEVER EVER tell people what I ate for a week because well, I'd be embaraseed that I subsist so much on almond butter (glass jar) and jelly (glass jar) with bread (plastic bag.)At least it's marginally healthier than that time, I want to say in college but actually it was about 6 years after college, where I went through a phase of eating smores for dinner.What? I had marshmallows to use up. I was watching my food waste!! ;)

organicneedle
organicneedle

Perfect timing. I am def. going to try that recipe. In my attempts to wean my family off of store bread and their bags, I spent the day baking what can only be described as the indestructible loaf. This may, I hope, keep it from the bin.

Miss Robot
Miss Robot

Your blog is really amazing to me- I'm giving up meat, but as a Dow Chemical employee (I'm a college student and they pay well, don't hate me!), I couldn't do anything near what you do. I did knit up some reusable grocery bags that I use all the time instead of using the bad plastic ones though!

Sunny
Sunny

Beth,Great post. I think we all wish we ate better at times. I've been doing WW so I track what I eat and sometimes it's a real eye opener. I too am a chocolate addict and learning to plan ahead. I went out for Cal. Rolls with a friend and my husband wanted me to bring some back so I brought my own container. The cook was concerned about one person eating three rolls but I didn't bother telling them I had brought my own container. Then, yesterday I went for coffee with others at work and forgot my cup. Guess we win some and we lose some. Thanks for keeping it in our minds though.

Rosa
Rosa

Beth, I was raised in a frozen-broccoli and velveeta household, and I definitely appreciate the recipes you've been posting. This is another one that sounds exactly like something I (and more importantly, my toddler) would like to eat. Thank you!

Artwork by KD
Artwork by KD

It must be hard to avoid foods with plastic. I can relate though, I try to reuse our household plastic waste (or whatever materisals I can) for my earrings. I'm sure you would appreciate them:)

Barb in FL
Barb in FL

Beth, I've been reading your blog off and on for about two months, and it has helped me think about the use of plastic in my household. I live in FL, and we don't seem to have the recycling capabilities that you have in your area of CA. I'm becoming more conscious of what I buy and of what impact it is going to have on the environment. I guess that you could say that I'm a newbie at green living, though I've been slowly trying to do this for about 16 years! One question, what do you get your loose tea put in at the market? Our local health food store had plastic bags for the loose tea to be placed in for purchase.

Jenn
Jenn

I love that you take your own container for take out...something I've been struggling with. I'd really like some soup from Pannera but they sell it in a styrofoam bowl.Do the restaurants act like you're crazy or are they cool about it?I'm afraid KC might not be as progressive...I guess it's up to me to start the change.

Deb G
Deb G

Thanks for posting your food log for the week. I recently had a discussion with a friend about if we had to give up chocolate or cheese, which one would go. As much as we both love chocolate, it was cheese that we couldn't give up! :)

Tracey
Tracey

I don't think your eating habits are all that bad!Chocolate is good for you - good chocolate that is. So you can substitute fairly traded and organic chocolate for the crap the big chocolate manufacturers make and get nutritional and social consciousness benefits.It's also good to eat raw foods every day. Think bananas and raw nuts like cashews dipped in fairly traded chocolate fondue if you must! I am fruit-avoidant, so this is my solution. And dried fruit - not the screaming coloured sulphored stuff, but plain organically grown raisins, apricots, dates, figs and apples. Having children gives one an excuse to carry these around as snacks and before you know it, you're hooked.Once again you've inspired me - this time to de-plasticize my eating. I spoke with the manager of my food coop and we are phasing out plastic bagging our more sensitive bulk goods. Sounds like I'm not the only member concerned about plastic consumption. I'll be writing an article about it all for the coop newsletter.Happy chocolate!Tracey

Niceperson
Niceperson

Fresh frozen veggies are generally considered more nutritious than fresh veggies – unless you have a green grocer and you know your veggies are farm fresh that very morning.When veggies are harvested, the larger farms sometimes have the processing machinery right out in the field if at all possible – or at least I have seen them that way in the Pacific Northwest. And the veggies are generally always frozen as quickly as possible even if trucked to the warehouse for processing.If your veggies are super-market variety, you have no way of knowing how long it has taken them to even get to the market, much less how long they have been in the display case. Where processing warehouses are always very closely located where the crops are harvested.-- from the internet