Zero-Waste Popcorn

Popcorn!

This recipe is just too simple and too good not to share again! The original idea/recipe comes to you from my friend Brittany, who made this delicious popcorn for one of our girls-night-happy-hour-chillouts. This easy to make, waste-free popcorn recipe is now my go-to afternoon writing snack.

So ditch that terrible/wasteful pre-bagged microwave popcorn and enjoy! Don’t forget to compost your additional kernels!

What you need:

  1. Large cooking pot with lid
  2. Organic coconut oil (about a tbsp.)
  3. Popcorn kernels (I buy mine in bulk at Sprouts or Whole Foods)
  4. Sea salt (optional)

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Directions:

  1. Heat oil and 1-2 test kernels over high heat.
  2. Once kernels pop, pour in enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover and shake kernels around to warm up (about 30 seconds).
  3. Return the pot to the burner and then watch and wait for the magic.
  4. After about 2-3 minutes the kernels should be popped and ready to enjoy.

Easy!

 

Click here for Zero Waste week

Ugly Mangos

If you’ve been following the growing movement against food waste you’ve probably heard of the new efforts to salvage food deemed “too ugly” to sell. If you haven’t heard of these recent efforts to buy, salvage, and ban food thrown out for their aesthetic appeal check out a few of these interesting websites and articles here:

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Before “ugly food” became a trendy thing, I started purchasing less than perfect produce, as well as fruits and veggies at the end of their shelf life in order to save money. A lot of grocery stores have a bin or a special shelf in each section marked down up to 75% simply because the food is either not aesthetically pleasing or is nearing its shelf life. Take for example these wrinkly mangoes I found on one such shelf for a whopping 25 cents for the pair of them. Let me say that again, I purchased these two delicious wrinkly mangos for a QUARTER! To add a little perspective, each mango in their prime would have gone for $1.00-1.50.

Originally, I was going to make some yummy pudding with the wrinkly squishy mangos, but I started cutting and I made the mistake of tasting a piece. One bite led to another and BOTH mangoes were devoured, seriously, some of the best mangoes I have ever eaten. So instead of a nifty little recipe for “ugly mango pudding,” you get a gorgeous picture of what was left over. Mango waste. Food waste. Which brings me to the second half of this post. In observance of Zero Waste Week, I have committed to producing ZERO food waste for the week of this challenge. Thus, pretty bowl of mango seeds and skins.

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If you already have a compost, all you have to do is chuck the mango skins and seeds in your bin or worm cycler! Easy! Done! You have successfully completed today’s challenge. If you don’t have one, check out these past posts for ideas for starting your own composting center no matter what your living situation is:

If you don’t have a compost and are not interested in starting one just yet, BUT still don’t want to throw these skins and seeds in the trash because, Zero Waste Week, then go outside and find a nice shrub, or area with soft soil, mulch, etc. Dig a shallow hole (6-12 inches) and place your food scraps in the hole. Cover with dirt and feel good about the rich nutrients you have just gifted back to the earth.

You can repeat these steps for composting/regifting food back to the soil so long as it does not have any animal fats, oils, or animal bi-products. Stick to fruits and veggie scraps, paper, and organic waste material so not to attract unwanted guests digging around your yard.

 

Good luck and stay tuned for more Zero Waste Week ideas!

 

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Twists Out!

TAKE ME

Hello my lovely people! I’ve been on the road to New Orleans and then to the mountains (Big Bear, CA), so I have been less attached to my computer the last few weeks. This has been both incredible and incredibly stressful. The dissertation looms large folks…

Alas, I’m back and back to work, so a few new posts are coming in the next few days. Starting with these  “after” images to my first waste-conscious hair post on coconut oil twists. Check it out HERE.

After wearing my twists for 5 days, I untwisted each strand to find another wearable option: twists out! Admittedly, I could have probably worn my twists for several more days (maybe even washed them?), however, after riding on a hot day my helmet had my scalp sweaty and gross. I confess that once I untwisted the hair and found that I had another cute, manageable/wearable style, I spritz some cold water in my scalp and some body spray and stood in front of the fan tossing my hair until it was dry and a bit refreshed. Some folks might have dry shampoo, but I didn’t so this was the next best/waste-conscious thing for me. Voila! Another couple days without much fuss.

twists out

 

Easy + Waste-Free Quinoa Milk

Corey and I have been cutting back on our dairy, but have not given up on milk entirely. When we purchase milk, we try to buy it in the reusable glass jugs or in a recyclable option. A few days ago a friend of mine passed along this simple two ingredient quinoa milk recipe, so I gave it a try.

Here is what you need:

  1. 3 Cups of Water
  2. 1 Cup Cooked Quinoa
  3. 2-3 Dates to Sweeten (optional; I didn’t use)
  4. 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon (optional)

Here is what I did:

  • Cook Quinoa according to package instructions. Usually it is 2 Cups of Water to 1 Cup of quinoa simmered for 15 minutes

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  • Add the Cup of cooked quinoa and the water to your blender (along with any flavor additions). Blend until smooth/blended.
  • Use a strainer (or cheesecloth) to remove the quinoa pulp. You may not need to if you have a good blender. Viola! Done!

20150526_182534Admittedly, my pictures aren’t that great because I did this in a hurry. The entire thing took about 5 minutes after the quinoa was fully cooked. The milk is pretty thin and not very creamy, but it is delicious! It will go well with granola and smoothies in the mornings!

NOTE: Don’t waste the strained pulp, it is AMAZING! I ate half of mine with a spoon and saved the rest for my smoothie tomorrow morning. You can probably bake with it or add it to other dishes for a boost of protein.

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Enjoy!

Vermicasting: A Wormy Situation

This must be the week for vermicasting/wormcycling! Check out this other blog I found– it looks like they are using something that might be easy enough to make at home!

ka mea pono

Recently, I’ve been disgusted at the amount of food scraps that end up in my trash. Since I try to cook almost every night, the remainder of my scraps that don’t end up in my dishes, end up in the trash. Finally, after bothering and bugging my significant other for a vermicast bin, he agreed and gave in. Vermicasting is a great way to combat unnecessary waste. In simple terms: vermicasting is composting your waste with worms which then turns into fresh, healthy soil. This way of composting actually helps eliminate some of those yucky odors. I did some digging around and fortunately I found Kokua Worms. (Feel free to peruse their website: http://kokuaworms.com/) I was fortunate to find them! They are a locally based company, here in Hawaiʻi, that sells pre-made worm bins.

I was going to attempt to make my own bin, but I definitely didn’t have the…

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Low-Key Recyclables: Things I Never Knew You Could Recycle

The more I get into this waste-conscious lifestyle the more I realize how frustrating, and frankly, problematic recycling can be. For example, I read/heard somewhere that only about 10% of what gets put into recycle bins in the U.S., and perhaps, specifically, in California actually gets recycled. UGH! Also, certain kinds of recyclable items can only be done so at special sites or by the companies who produced these products in the first place. UGH!

Alas, recycling IS a HUGE step in the SLOW process towards waste-free living, so I am dedicating this post to “low-key recyclable items.” Those sneaking little plastic stuffs that actually CAN (in theory) be recycled.  These items may be common knowledge to most who are already walking softly on the earth, but I have a feeling that some of my closest family members and friends may also be missing these items like I was.

Here are some of them:

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Some Bread Bags

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Some Produce Packaging (like grapes)

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Some Amazon Shipping Packaging

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Some Frozen Veggies Packaging

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Other Breads/Bagel Packaging

The good news is that we are starting to move away from some of these item (albeit, very slowly). For example, I’m not planning on purchasing anymore frozen veggies or fruit prepackaged anymore. In the past these items were an economical and easy way for Corey and I to get our fruits and veggies on the fly and without worries about meal planning or spoiled produce. However, I am finding that when I shop for things in season and on sale, like strawberries and green beans right now, I can buy extra and then just take the extra few minutes to wash and freeze (and in some cases blanch) and/or store/freeze on my own without the extra plastic packaging.

But if this is not where you are at right now, I encourage you to at least recycle these low-key items, and to please share other sneaky items that people may not know are recyclable.

Graduate Stipend + Waste-Consciousness = Manager’s Specials

 

20150420_100001-1Many have asked how Corey and I manage to eat (very well, I might add) on only $100 a week for two people, in LOS ANGELES, CA. Aside from intentionally shopping produce that is in season and on sale, I also am a HUGE advocate of “Manager’s Special” shopping. For those of you who may not be aware of the special magic of the Manager’s Special section, let me explain. Usually grocery stores reserve sections of their meat, dairy, and sometimes bread sections for daily “manager’s specials.” I have also seen entire bins and shelves set up in the back of the store with packaged and shelved items on special as well. What this usually means is that these items have reached their shelf life, or will in a few days. What it can also mean is that even if items have not reached their shelf life, they need to be moved through to make room for other items. Another scenario is seasonal items/holiday items. Like this week, I picked up two boxes of Matzah for $2.50 (Regularly $8.38 for the two). The Matzah is good for the rest of the year, but because the holiday is over, stores are trying to clear it out.

A lot of people are turned off by these sections because they think items are not fresh or that products have gone bad. Rest assured, stores cannot sell products that are not safe for consumption, and most of the time, companies and grocers will date products earlier than they actually expire. For example, the different between a “Sell By” date, and a “Use or Freeze By” date. More often than not, when I purchase meat specifically, I usually have 1-3 days before the “sell by” or “use by” date is even reached. And when I do purchased meat with a sell by date which is that same day, I will bring it home and freeze it right away or cook it that evening. Shopping like this also forces me to be creative, think outside of our usual meals, and try new recipes and new cuts of meat.

This weekend, Corey and I saved a total of $25.48 on our grocery bill by purchasing manager’s special items.  Put another way: we saved over 40% of our total bill!!!!!!

We went shopping on 4/18/15. Check out some of the things we bought:

1. 80% Lean Ground Beef Patties (4) for the price of $3.00 (original price: $6.00)

Use/Freeze by: 4/21/15

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2. Peppered Turkey Lunch Meat (2 packages!) for the price of $1.90 each (original price: $7.58 each)

Sell by:  4/19/15

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3. Chicken Breast (fajita sliced) for the price of $1.84 (original price: $3.68)

Use/Freeze by: 4/19/15 (FROZE)

4. Chicken Breasts for the price of $1.77 (original price $3.55)

Use/Freeze by: 4/19/15 (FROZE)

What does the manager’s special section have to do with waste-consciousness?

When food items are NOT purchased from the manager’s specials sections they get thrown in the dumpsters behind the stores. Plain and simple. Wasted food. Unrecycled packaging. You get the picture. Some stores will even bypass the manager’s special process if people are not taking advantage of sales. Along the same lines, stores will try to sell everything at manager’s special  pricing (rather than throwing it out) if they have a consumer base that is regularly purchasing these items.

Give it a try! Have some fun with it! Save some money!

Corey and I have eaten all kinds of things (mostly meat, though) from manager’s specials and we have not gotten sick, we are healthy, have not died, etc…so there’s that too…

Waste-Free Pasta Sauce

Level of difficulty: WAY EASY!

In fact, I made this pasta sauce in 35 minutes while on a conference call with colleagues. I was able to whip up this yummy sauce AND listen in on the call– so clearly, it is not too difficult. The “recipe” below may frustrate most people. When I cook, I just kind of throw things together. Sometimes I might start with a recipe to get an idea, but I am constantly adapting and improvising. Be easy. Be flexible, and give waste-free pasta sauce a try! Create your own recipe! I’d imagine tomato sauce is pretty hard to mess up (since I didn’t). 🙂

Here is what I used:

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  • Some tomatoes (ha! I just piled some in a bag at the store. I think it was about 8-12 Romas)
  • 2 smaller-ish yellow onions (chopped)
  • Some sprouted garlic (chopped)
  • Teaspoon Salt
  • Tablespoon sugar
  • Handful of fresh basil from patio (chopped)
  • Some dried Rosemary, and Parsley
  • Some pepper
  • Olive oil

Here is what I did:

  1. saute garlic and onions in some olive oil
  2. add roughly chopped tomatoes + everything else
  3. brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes, stirring absent-mindedly

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4. blended stewy tomatoes in small batches until sauce was smooth

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5. poured over some penne and then topped with some left over cheese we hand on hand

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6. enjoy with red wine and follow with sleep (I climbed in bed directly after around 7:40PM). Because grad school is hard and you just made F*CKING pasta sauce from scratch. Because the environment! And you deserve it!

 

7. Don’t forget to put the leftovers in a jar. Because…jars!

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Improvements:

  • Simmer 1-2 hours total, instead of 20 minutes.
  • Try different herbs and different varieties of tomatoes.

I used what was on sale– Roma Tomatoes @ $0.69/lb

  • Try adding roasted peppers, when on hand and with extra time