Monthly Archives

June 2016

Live Waste Free

Easy Peasy Bean Prep

Living a Zero Waste lifestyle does not mean you need to spend all of your free time working on food. At the beginning of this journey, I was always in the kitchen. I didn’t complain too much, since I genuinely enjoyed it, however, now I have other projects to work on and I want to spend the minimum amount of time in the kitchen. Along the way, I’ve learned and even developed a few tricks to help cut down the time needed to live a Zero Waste lifestyle.

Today, we work on dried goods. Re-hydrating beans (and chickpeas) and storing them so they’re as easy to use as the canned variety in less than 13 minutes of hands on work.red beans

First, rinse off the dry beans in a colander and add to the pot. Avoid the idea of measuring your beans; since it’s not a recipe, you don’t need to worry about exact numbers. Also, the more you make in the moment, the more time you’ll save! The more beans you add, the more water you’ll need. Leave at least 2-3 inches of water above the beans. They WILL bloat and soak up all of that water. Add a pinch of salt and cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the beans come to a rolling boil, drop the heat to a minimum. I leave it on 2 for close to 2 hours. Test the beans once every 30 minutes or so, just to make sure they do not overcook. Let them just do their thing and go on about your day.

Total HANDS ON time: 5 minutes including checking for the texture

Once they’re fully cooked, remove from heat. Strain and rinse the beans in a colander. Let them sit in the strainer until all the excess water drips off. While they’re dripping, line a baking tray (or 2 depending on how many beans you’ve made) with parchment paper. I use a compostable one, so after I’ve used it to it’s fullest, I can add it to the compost bin. After they’ve full dripped, lay them in a single layer on the baking sheets and let them cool fully. Leave them out of the way so you can go on with your day.

Total HANDS ON time: 3 minutesblack beans

When they’ve cooled down to a room temperature (should take about an hour or less), pop them in the freezer as is and let them freeze fully overnight.

Total HANDS ON time: maximum 2 minutes if you include checking their temperature

The next day, break up the beans with your hands and add them to jars. Put them back into the freezer.

Total HANDS ON time: 3 minutes

That’s it! You’re finished! Although it was overnight, you only spent about 13minutes of actual work on them. Now that they’re completely hydrated and ready, you can use them for last minute meals whenever you want. Also, it removes any guesswork for measuring dry beans and attempting to figure out the conversion to the measurement of plumped beans. I always struggled with that; but since I’ve started this process, I never have to guess anymore! Also, since they’re prepped and on hand in the freezer, it’s just like having canned beans at hand. Except without the plastic lined tin and questionable preservatives. Now go on, bring your jars and buy the dried beans for a fraction of the cost and work it out so they’re better than canned! Enjoy!

 

 

Live Waste Free

Zero Waste Shepherd’s Pie

 

It’s that time again! FOOD!

In our house, I try to make a few large meals a week to help with meal prep. I love the concept; it makes bringing lunches to work/school super easy and gives us more free time during the week. One of the large options I made this week was a vegan shepherd’s pie! Growing up, it was a staple in our house. My mom didn’t care much for cooking, but when she made us shepherd’s pie, it was on! She nailed it every time and until I became vegetarian, I followed her way of cooking it, always. Over the last few years, I’ve changed the recipe over and over to adapt to my new lifestyle, and the newest adaptation would be to make it Zero Waste of course! Oh and dare I say that my recipe now competes with hers on the delicious scale! Legit!

I must say before you get started, this recipe, if you don’t take the time saving options (which still requires prep) can become a long process. That being said, it is STILL worth it! You’ll find the time saving options throughout the recipe in asterisks.

Ingredients per layer:

TOP:

2 cups of sweet potato (approximately 1 large one and 2 small-that’s what we used)

¼ cup veggie broth

salt to taste

pepper to taste

MIDDLE:

6 ears of corn (approximately 1 ½ cups of corn)

1 tsp. sea salt

BOTTOM:

2 cups of re-hydrated red kidney beans

1 large sweet onion

¾ cup Veggie Broth

¾ cup roasted sunflower seeds

Olive oil (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons

1 tablespoon of white all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons of herbes de provence

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon of sea salt (+pinch

 

Directions per layer:

 

*Rehydrate beans (approximately 2 hours of boiling) or keep a jar of pre-hydrated beans. I tend to batch cook a lot and this saves me time! I cook all the beans I have in advance, freeze then on a sheet pan in the freezer and store in a jar. I’ll freeze them on a baking sheet so that they separate easier. You’ll be able to take out the quantity you need, thaw them and use them like canned beans.

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Bottom layer

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in large pan. Dice sweet onion, add to heated oil add a pinch of sea salt. Cook covered on low for approximately 15 minutes. Try to avoid stirring as much as you can fight it. I find the slight caramellization is better when it’s just left alone.

Once the onions are translucent and slightly browned, push them to one side of the pan. Using 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of white all-purpose flour, make a rue in the same pan as the onions.  Let the rue cook for about 3 minutes and mix with onions. Add in beans, ¾ cup of veggie broth, 1.5 teaspoons of herbes de provence, ½ teaspoon dried basil, ½ teaspoon dried thyme and ½ teaspoon of sea salt.  Let the mixture cook on medium low heat until the veggie broth is absorbed enough. It should look like s bit of gravy is still left in the pan. This will keep the mixture moist while baking the entire dish together.

 

Middle layer

*To save time, again, batch cook corn with the following instructions and freeze on a baking sheet. To freeze, follow the earlier instructions for the rehydrated beans. This way you’ll have frozen corn that didn’t touch plastic or a can and it will be easy for everyday meals.

Boil corn in salted water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, let cook for 15 minutes. Once the corncobs are fork tender (can insert and remove the fork easily without friction) they are ready. Remove cobs and let cool. Once fully cooled, cut off the corn. Leave nude (no seasoning-they’re sweet enough).

 

Top layer

In same water that you boiled the corn, add the peeled and cubed sweet potatoes. This saves water and adds an extra flavour to the potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from water and set aside in a bowl. Mash them immediately with ¼ cup veggie broth, pinch of salt and pepper to taste. No butter, oil or milk needed I promise! These are going to be just as fluffy.

 

Layer these in order, from bottom to top in a 9X9 baking dish. Smooth out each layer before adding the next. Put the dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Your food is already cooked, it’s really just to let the layers marry together and to make sure the corn is heated properly. Finish off with a quick 5 minute broil and you’re done! This shepherd’s pie should feed 6-8 people and is so delicious!

*Using the time savers really helps take this meal above and beyond. The first time I made it without them, it was about 2 hours. That’s way too long in my opinion to be cooking hands on.

This meal is hearty, delicious and full of nutrients. The best part about this meal is knowing that there is no negative output headed to the landfill because of it. Everything was bought in bulk with my own jars or as a loose veggie. No plastic, no cans, just real food the way it was intended to be. I hope you enjoy!

Live Waste Free

The Presence of Presents

Presents. Gifts. Cadeaux. No matter the word you use, they’re everywhere! It seems that no matter the occasion, we have an unwritten social obligation of bringing a gift. I understand that this concept genuinely makes people happy. For myself, I was always that kid who was more excited to see other people open my gifts, instead of opening my own. I still today feel a bit like this. It makes me happy to see others open a gift that I spent time on and put effort into.

However, a few things have changed. I’ve become aware of the effects of constantly giving needless ‘stuff’. It may be my minimalist side or perhaps my Zero Waste beliefs, but taking a step back and really examining all the things we give is intense. Holidays and most life events are no longer just about the occasion. Think about it, each holiday now has a huge marketing plan behind it from companies who can profit from us.

Check, the next list is only of a few holidays and what we’re told we need to buy for them (and can be confirmed with a quick Google search):

  • Valentine’s Day: chocolates, flowers and diamonds
  • Easter: so much chocolate and candy
  • Mother’s Day: cards, flowers, and jewelry
  • Father’s Day: cards, shaving kits, and electronic gadgets
  • Christmas: There’s no such thing as the perfect holiday gift, pretty much everything works, toys, clothing, gadgets, tools. ANYTHING!

By the way, this list does not include other events such as birthdays, religious events, weddings and achievement related gifts (graduation, new jobs, housewarming, new babies).

 

If you take the idea that we’re supposed to buy 1 gift (minimum) for each event, multiply it by the number of holidays and then by the number of people in your life, that’s a whole lot of ‘stuff’ that will most likely end up in a landfill. Then think of how you’re presenting the gift. It’s usually wrapped up in super cute paper, or perhaps a gift bag with a whole bunch of tissue paper? Oh, and don’t forget that you attach a card to the gift, so the receiver knows who the gift is from.

Now, all this being said, you are not evil because you want to give gifts. Not in the slightest! There are ways around the norm that you can practice. You can absolutely continue to be generous and live a Zero Waste life. We just need to readjust the things we think we need and what we’re actually giving.

Take into consideration the following ideas for your next event that you’re planning on bringing a gift to!

Make your own. Home made gifts have always been my favorite to give as well as receive. For about 5 Christmases in a row, I made everyone close to me a basket of goodies. Cakes, huge cookies and banana breads! My family got so addicted to the treats that when I decided to stop and switch up my gift ideas, they fought back hard! I still make them treats from time to time; I just now do it at random times of the year, and definitely don’t use the plastic cling wrap!

Buy items that have been previously loved. Buying things online, from thrift stores or even garage sales has a major impact. Buying things brand new encourages more packaging and more products to be produced in its place. When you buy second hand, you keep things that you want and that other people don’t anymore, out of recycling bins and landfills.

Skip the cards. Now this is a rant I’ve been using for awhile. Why do we need them? So few people actually write profound things in them that actually make it worthwhile to keep.  Most just sign their names, a generic phrase and the date. Personally, I don’t think those are worth keeping stacked in a box in my closet. So just avoid buying them all together.

Give EXPERIENCES not stuff. I love this idea; memories of a fun time out outlive any gift I’ve ever received! For kids in the family, I’ll often get a movie night out or a day at the museum. I was even given the idea to pay for their swim lessons, which I think is incredible! They’re literally learning a skill. At a recent bridal shower, I gave the beautiful bride-to-be a Groupon for an hour-long massage. It took me awhile to figure out the perfect gift for her, but once it hit me, it hit me HARD! And guess what? She loved it! It didn’t matter that I gave it in a blank envelope and just printed it from my computer that day, she loved the gesture and I’m sure she’s going to enjoy the hour of relaxation! Besides, what person who’s planning a huge event like their wedding wouldn’t love alone time in a spa!

Change the way you see gift-wrapping. I used to be the biggest gift-wrapping nerd! I think I still have a bin of different wrapping paper and another bin full of plastic bows to make any gift gorgeous! True Story! But becoming ZW, I’ve discovered reusable bags that are not only functional, but super cute! They’re just regular tie up bags made of fabric that you can either give along with the gift, so the next person can use it, or ask for it back. This weekend I brought my niece and nephew their birthday gifts (which were a bunch of puzzles we found at a garage sale) in a reusable bag and their parents were so happy! No more stuff going into the recycling or garbage!

So there you have it, 5 super easy ways you can lower your impact for those important times in people’s lives. Take these different perspectives into consideration the next time you’re heading to an event and want to bring along a special something for that special someone!