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Live Waste Free

Urban Gardening – How a Zero Waster grew a few beans -Pt. 1-

Happy Summer everyone! I want to take a minute to talk about a new passion project of mine: Urban Gardening. I live in Montreal, in a busy borough on the second floor of a duplex. I do not have a front or back yard or even access to an outdoor space larger than 100 square feet. This has been problematic in the search of new hobbies to do from home. A friend of mine lives on a farmette (not quite big enough to call a farm, but larger than the typical yard of a house) and her and her husband have this AMAZING garden that I love to visit. I always thought I’d do a good job with one. So I figured, why not. I should try it! I set out in search for ideas to make a garden happen, even if I don’t have the typical amount of space or any experience (like, none at all!).

First thing I did was choose the veggies I wanted to grow. My challenge was to find an organic variety of seeds with no packaging. Unfortunately, only one of those two requirements worked. I was not able to find anything without a package, but the way I’m seeing it, at the end of the growing season, I’ll attempt to learn how to save some seeds and reuse them the following year. So the minimal packaging that was bought for the first batch this year will be unnecessary for the next several to come. I call that a win!

Sprouting the seeds of the different plants was so neat. It may sound naive, but I never realized how different each seed can look. Some were so teeny and others were massive and had different colors. It was an interesting part of the gardening process for sure! To start the sprouts, I had repurposed a couple of old egg cartons to hold the seedlings. Keeping in mind that I’ve never done this before, you can imagine how excited I was when they first started growing. Then, we had some unfortunate weather and I wasn’t able to put the sprouted veggies outside with a fear of the frost cutting their growth. I was quickly overwhelmed with the now indoor jungle that was growing. I had not anticipated how quickly and how much space was actually needed. It felt like it had taken over my kitchen in the matter of weeks. It was a good thing that the weather eventually warmed up and I was able to move on to the next part of the plan.

With my sprouts well underway, I was now in search of pots to transfer them into. Not wanting to buy new plastic pots for this project, or wanting to hunt down and pay the price for ceramic planting pots, I needed to figure out what I would use. Through one of the Zero Waste Groups on Facebook, someone had posted photos of their plants/veggies in repurposed buckets and I thought it was an amazing solution! I sent requests out to local restaurants and requested family and friends to check through their stuff for any old buckets that they weren’t using. My aunt messaged me back saying that she had a ‘few buckets’ for me that were on her property, not doing anything. By ‘a few buckets’ I mean, there was now a plethora of buckets at my disposal! SWEET! Thanks to my aunt’s one small gesture of gifting me her old buckets, I was able to make an entire garden on my balcony!

The 2 stacks of buckets were older and caked in mud and moss. I think they were outside for a long while, but I legit didn’t care since I was able to now start! So I cleaned the buckets and I took a drill to add drainage holes to the bottom. I was really worried I’d kill the plants right off the bat and I obviously didn’t want that to happen the first time I watered them. Once all the holes were drilled, I brought the operation outside and started adding the dirt to the buckets. Imagine, I was covered in dirt, the kitchen was a mess with buckets, towels and power tools and I had the biggest goofy smile plastered across my face. I was so incredibly giddy when I was able to start planting my baby plants (that by this point were at least adolescents)!

I had lined all my new pots along the edge of my balcony and hoped for the best. I had wished it would be easy and that it wouldn’t take too much of my spare time. I had hoped that the harvests would be bountiful and that I’d have enough to share with friends and family. None of that has happened yet. I know, I know, I need to be patient… but I’m not that patient a person and this is killing me. So far, we’ve had so many beans. Delicious and sweet green beans – the best I’ve ever eaten really. And I’ve found a few things to turn my urban garden into a lazy gardener’s paradise without killing those suckers, but it has in no way been easy or effortless. I think growing my own food has given me a new appreciation for all the farmers out there who feed the masses. So much effort goes into it that they really need to be acknowledged more. THANK YOU FARMERS for feeding me these past 28 years. You are all wonderful and I appreciate your effort and will still continue to support your business!

So that’s it for now on the state of my urban garden and my journey as a newbie gardener. I have not yet lost hope that the bounty will be large enough to share and honestly, I’ve kind of began loving it. I’m sitting here now in the dark, on my gallery with my computer on my lap and my garden to my left. It’s something I never thought I’d have nor enjoy. Yet here we are.

Be sure to pop in to read part 2 of this blog post in what will most likely be an ongoing throughout the summer.  See how the garden is doing and I’ll be outlining all of my challenges thus far. And trust me, there’s been plenty!

For more tips and tricks, head over and like my page on Facebook Live Waste Free. Where you’ll get daily ideas to keep you going on the Zero-Waste path.

Or follow me on Instagram @livewastefree for random pics and funnies!

 

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!