Don’t waste food: 3 of my favourite ways to love leftovers

Yellow Bell Pepper Between 2 Red Bell Pepper
Picture courtesy of https://www.pexels.com

‘Leftovers’: Their mention is often unwelcome in the home, not least for the unlucky cook who has to tackle those bits and pieces before they finally expire in the fridge. Having said that, I really try to avoid throwing food out, whether leftovers from a meal, or food that was left uneaten in the fridge till no longer edible. In fact it’s not difficult to turn leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing. Huffpost ran an article a few years back titled “Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers” and then there is this 2016 article from National Geographic titled “5 Cool Ways Food is getting Upcycled“. I currently do most of the cooking at home for myself and my husband, and truly, very little food goes to waste in our house, especially if you consider that we keep a compost heap in our garden which happily takes care of anything too yucky to eat.

 

 

In fact I realise I must have a bit of a Thing for leftovers because scrolling through my previous posts, I find that I have included the term in 7, yes seven of my  previous posts. You can link to all of them Here. And see below for some suggestions for leftover Chili con Carne (well… Chili non Carne in our home; as I don’t eat meat so I replace the minced meat with lentils or soy mince). Here are 3 of my favourites:

Stuffed Peppers:

(adapted from www.crumbblog.com)

  • Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring a large pot of water to boil, and throw some ice cubes into a bowl of cold water.
  • Prepare your peppers (green, red or yellow): slice the top off each pepper and remove any seeds or ribs left inside. Make sure that the peppers can stand up straight.
  • Cook the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and transfer them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a baking dish, and set aside.
  • Next, add the filling. Take spoonfuls of your leftover Chili (I use about two-thirds cooked chili-non-carne to one-third cooked rice) and scoop into the peppers, making sure not to pack too tightly.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and continue baking for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve right away

 

‘Mexican Style’ Cottage Pie:

  • Boil, steam or bake some potatoes for mash. I like to mix it up here: I often include sweet potatoes and butternut with the potatoes, depending on what I happen to have at home.
  • Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • Mash your potatoes as you normally would, including milk and butter if desired, till light and fluffy.
  • Place your leftover Chili into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mash, and bake for 25-30 minutes till done.
  • If desired, sprinkle to the top with a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven for another 5 minutes or so.

 

Make a ‘Meal Jar’:

  • Fill a glass honey jar about two-thirds with leftover Chili. Top up till almost full (always leave a slight gap) with any cooked grain, such as rice or couscous. This is sufficient for one light meal portion. You can even leave the grains out before freezing, and add that later when you are ready to eat.
  • Place in the  freezer till ready to use. You can either take it out the night before, or else pop it into your lunch box from the freezer, ready to take to work, and heat up later. Note: place contents in a microwaveable or ovenproof dish before heating.
  • This is a great way to eat healthy and affordable while at work (have you seen the price of takeaways these days??… convenient yes, but often way more than I am willing to pay, and definitely not always quality food)

 

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Frozen Meal Jar: Chili non carne and rice

To finish off, read this: https://food52.com/blog/12973-how-we-and-dan-barber-cook-with-trash

…..Then eat it 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcycled glass bottles: how to cut and create at home

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Some of my recent bottlecraft efforts. Rough edges still to be sanded down….

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…and some simple ways to reuse/ display. I planted a small succulent in the one on the far left.

 

 

As far back as the 1990’s I used to admire those goblet style wine glasses when they first became popular, made as they were from empty beer and wine bottles, often with the original branding kept in place, a definitive nod to the move towards recycling and re-purposing. I always wondered how they cut the bottles whilst keeping them in tact and then turning them into desirable and useful items. Re-purposing, or upcycling, may require a bit of creativity and technical skill and sometimes it’s just more convenient to leave such adventures to the experts, as per my previous post Here. If like me, you have a bit of ‘crafty inclination’ (I was a fine arts student and I also taught nursery school for many years, making fascinating things out of egg boxes and toilet roll inners), you might be tempted to try some of these things yourself. 

 

Fast forward to more recent years and I started noticing a lot of information online about ‘quick, easy and foolproof’ ways to cut bottles at home with no special equipment. May I say at this point that trying to cut a glass bottle in half with twine, acetone and a box of matches is not advisable. Unless you have very good health and household insurance perhaps. I followed up my failed attempts with a bit of online research and I discovered this product and I haven’t looked back. It allows me to cut glass bottles with relative ease, (ok, you will need some patience and perseverance before you really get the hang of it) and also to glue sections together depending on what I am making. I haven’t gotten to the gluing stage yet: I am keeping it simple 😉

 

Here are the contents of the basic kit (2 pics):

 

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Instruction booklet and CD, and tube of adhesive for joining cut glass pieces

 

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Adjustable bottlecraft cutter including blade, tube of lubricating oil, and 2 grades of sanding paper. The spanners, safety goggles, funnel (for adding water), and toothbrush (for keeping the blade clean) are my own.

 

 

What I love about Bottlecraft SA is that they are a truly South African business with a big heart.  They operate from Grabouw near Cape Town within the Overberg Region in the Western Cape, South Africa. They have worked on projects in Rawsonville, Khayalitsha, Gugulethu, Port Elizabeth, Durban , Botswana, QwaQwa (Drakensburg), Namibia and Grabouw, where they focus on poverty alleviation, job creation and community upliftment. I ordered their Basic Kit online; it arrived in the post, and I was able to get going in no time. Read more on their About page.

 

If the thought of bottlecrafting doesn’t turn you on, (I was telling a friend about it on the phone, and she sighed and said that it sounds like a lot of work) here are a few links that might lead you to find your Thing:

http://treasuresfromtheheartgifts.blogspot.com/2012/07/rust-and-patina-how-to.html

Wine Cork Wine Glass Charms

https://www.hometalk.com/5828087/tips-for-decoupaging-paper-napkins-onto-furniture

http://www.goodshomedesign.com/rose-orange-peel-diy-orange-rose

https://www.hometalk.com/16019709/an-old-door-upcycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 quick, easy & wholesome vegetarian meals (for when you’re too busy or tired to cook)

 

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In my garden: tomatoes on the move

 

In the song “Beautiful Boy ” John Lennon sings the line “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” This is annoyingly so when you suddenly hear Life calling you to the kitchen to cook a meal just as you are getting busy with something far more interesting, or are about to start on something that you have had parked on your to-do list for weeks. We all need to eat, and this generally involves some degree of preparation and cooking of food before one can sit down for a meal with yourself/ your spouse/ your children or whoever it is that you share your space with. 

 

I share my home with my husband and our cat (who I don’t cook for) and I don’t eat or cook red meat or poultry (my husband cooks those for himself when needs a break from my vegetarian and vegan offerings). Pulses such as beans and lentils are my main sources of protein, as well as some fish and free range eggs on occasion. I also try to stay as close to Zero Waste as possible, focusing on fresh and unpackaged raw ingredients, avoiding single use plastic packaging in particular. I wouldn’t call myself a passionate foodie (I don’t get excited about latest food and flavour trends or looking out for complex new recipes to try), but what I am passionate about is eating healthy wholesome foods, and staying away from unhealthy additives such as artificial flavourants and many preservatives. That, …and keeping it simple and convenient, which brings me to the whole point of this post: that there are plenty of other things I would rather be doing than cooking!

 

Simply put, life is busy enough without hours of my precious time spent in front of the stove, and I would rather reserve my time for the things I really enjoy doing (including crafting, vegetable gardening and blogging :)) and for the things I absolutely can’t avoid, like grocery shopping and Tax. I also happen to make most of my home cleaning and personal bath & body products, which saves me money and keeps our home (and bodies) almost chemical free. So for me, cooking needs to be quick, healthy and tasty, and if I want to try something more elaborate, or decide to try a vegan option for one of my homemade staples such as mayonnaise, I can choose to do so.

 

And here are three of my favourite quick and delicious, easy options for days when long cooking is just not on the menu:

 

1.CHICKPEA & LEEK SOUP….

From Jamie Oliver’s book The Naked Chef . This soup is really simple and delicious and can convert to vegan if you omit the parmesan, replacing it with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or a vegan cheese option:

 

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2.GARLICKY BUTTER BEAN DIP…..

  1. Use a stick or standing blender to whisk together 800 grams presoaked and precooked butter beans (or for convenience use canned butter beans which have been drained and well rinsed)
  2. Mix in 250 grams mayonnaise (vegan or egg based), 250 grams plain yoghurt, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and some finely chopped parsley or chives.
  3. Season with salt, ground black pepper and a sprinkle of ground cumin and paprika (optional)

 

  • Serve with crudites such as sliced carrot and celery, and your favourite breads: plain or toasted.
  • For a warming lunch or light supper, serve with a homemade soup (or shop bought for convenience) such as cream of tomato or minestrone.

 

3.LEMONY EGG IN A SPINACH-CHICKPEA NEST….

From Kitchen Treaty,  a delicious eggs, chickpeas and fresh spinach dish perfect for a weekend breakfast, or a light lunch or supper. Can be doubled up for two helpings.

 

Enjoy! ♥

 

 

 

 

 

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15 Green Gifting Tips for the holiday season.

With December fast approaching, the holiday season is just around the corner! And suddenly you have a long list of family/ friends to buy for, and you find that you are short on ideas (and funds!) on what to buy. I have listed below some suggestions, with links, for easy handmade gifts plus ideas for eco-friendly packaging, wrapping and tagging. All can be presented in reusable glass jars such as mason jars and simple utility jars with screw-on metal lids, and are easy to ‘dress up’ for gifting.

 

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Even staples such as cereal, vinegar, salt and dried herbs can be lovely to behold!

 

 

1. Recipe plus ingredients in a jar: The ingredients are presented in visible layers: simply mix and make.

 

2. Moisturizing Scrub And Shave: Scented with sweet vanilla. A lovely leg shave and/ or skin softening exfoliate. Contains vegetable oils, Epsom salt and vanilla extract.

 

3. Recipe for Multipurpose Bee Balm by Bea Johnson. I carry a small glass jar in my handbag/ purse for shiny, moisturised  lips and nails and to highlight and moisturise cheekbones and brows. See also her application suggestions below for wood and leather….

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4Bath salts/ shower exfoliate: (use fine sea salt, NOT coarse, if you are intending to use it as a skin scrub)…and if you want to colour your salts with all natural ingredients, see Here…..

 

5.Vanilla extract, looks cute (and smells delicious) in a small glass bottle with screw top. Add a handwritten for a simple recipe (Here’s a suggestion: add a few drops to to tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soya milk etc)  …How to make vanilla extract

 

6. Homemade muesli in a jar presented with a recipe for homemade yoghurt 

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Even Greener: 10 more tips and tricks

 

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In my garden: Indigenous BULBINELLA (BULBINELLA FRUTESCENS OR BURN JELLY PLANT)

 

1.Loaves of bread are a staple in most households and it’s not just for sandwiches! Bread which is less than fresh can be used to make a delicious, cost saving, sweet or savoury Bread pudding. For other suggestions on waste free ways to use ends of bread see point 10 here:

 

2.Couscous is a very quick and versatile grain that can be used like rice. It requires only soaking to prepare: In a small pot, boil one cup of water (or boil one and a half cups of water if you prefer a softer grain). Add one 1 cup of couscous, stir briefly and remove from the heat, keeping the lid on. Taste for readiness after about 5 minutes; leave for longer if preferred. Enjoy as is, or add seasoning such as salt, butter, oil, herbs, spices and lemon zest. Use as you would rice as part of a main meal, or allow to cool and include in salads.

Couscous is easy to find in cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic, which is another reason to buy it! I have yet to find it in bulk buy bins, which would be even better, of course. See point 9 here for suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:

 

3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasher detergent powder, if you find you have run out of your usual: In your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, place 1 teaspoon of your usual liquid dishsoap (whichever brand you normally use for hand washing your dishes) On top of the dishsoap, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Close the detergent compartment. Then fill the rinse compartment with white spirit vinegar, and close the compartment. Wash a full load of dishes as normal. Even better is my chemical-free recipe here , which is the one I have been using regularly for over a year now, with good results.

 

4. Make your own cooling peppermint spray with water and essential oils. I carry a 100ml spray bottle with me at all times (it lives in my handbag :)), especially in hot weather. Use 100 ml of water, preferably distilled, or at least pre-boiled and cooled. Add 6 drops of peppermint essential oil and stir to combine. You can also add a large pinch of epsom salt to soften the water and assist blending of the oils with the water. (Scroll down to the foot of this page for suppliers of oils, salts and containers).

 

5. Use Tea as Self-Tan. I use normal black tea (Five Roses is a well known brand) or else the Khoisan black tea (such as their Earl Grey) which is produced in South Africa. If you are a well established Zero Waster, you will no-doubt favour loose teas, as opposed to teabags. At the moment I use both options. The teabags are the most convenient option for my Self-Tan recipe as follows: place a teabag in a cup and add a little boiling water, just enough to thoroughly moisten the teabag. Leave for at least 5 minutes for the water to draw the natural dyes from the tea leaves. Then use the teabag like a sponge to ‘paint’ the dye onto the legs. I find this is the perfect way to add a little pop of colour to winter white legs. Be sure not to add cremes, lotions or oils to the skin just before self-tanning, so that the colour can be applied smoothly.

 

6. Make use of Wiki-How! Here is one of my recent searches on using leftovers…. Continue reading

Make yoghurt in a thermos flask (two ingredients)

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In my garden: Kumquat fruit and blossom

 

Natural yoghurt is a probiotic rich food invaluable in assisting normal gut health. It also offers skincare benefits when used topically and can be used straight out of the jar as a facial wash or treatment. And yoghurt is not just for breakfast: It is delicious in cooking, baking, marinades, salad dressings and can even be used as a healthy replacement for oils and butters. 

 

I have been making my own yoghurt on and off for years, and have recently done so with a new enthusiasm since the call to action to reduce plastic and make use of reusables instead of single use plastic containers which are the common packaging for supermarket yoghurt. And as it’s homemade by me, I know exactly what’s in there and can be assured of its wonderful healthy benefits and delicious taste. I try to make eco-wise choices when purchasing the milk that will eventually become my homemade yoghurt. Fresh milk from the Farmers Market is first prize, but this is not always possible. I often buy my milk in large 3 Litre (.793 gallon) containers from PicknPay or Woolworths, which translates into less plastic in the long run. I then dispense the milk into smaller glass bottles which I freeze until needed. (See my post here for more about freezing in glass).

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Frozen milk in bottles

 

 

My Homemade Yoghurt Recipe is adapted from this book on South African cookery which was my cooking bible when I first lived on my own in my early twenties:

Ingredients and Instructions: Heat 250 ml full cream milk to boiling, and remove from the heat when the froth starts to rise. Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk into the flask and stir for a few seconds to reduce the heat slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of shop bought or homemade yoghurt to the flask and stir in with the milk. This is now your yoghurt starter. Allow the remaining milk to cool to the correct temperature in one of two ways:

  1. A food thermometer to test to 45°C, OR..
  2. The ‘fingertip test’ as follows: by inserting the little finger for a count of 10, by which time the heat from the milk will ‘sting’ the finger. In my experience it takes at least 6 minutes for the milk to cool, depending on the surrounding temperature.

Now you are ready to add the milk to the yoghurt starter. First remove the skin that might have formed over the milk, pour the milk into the flask and stir it just a few times to blend with the starter. Screw the lid onto the thermos and leave the yoghurt to ‘brew’ for 7-9 hours, or till set. Once set, scoop your yoghurt into a glass jar and refrigerate.

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Delicious, creamy, homemade yoghurt

 

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Simple, Natural: DIY dishwasher detergent

I’ve been using this formula for about a year now in my Bosch Automatic dishwasher, which is by now around seven years old.  For me it’s been the best alternative (I tried a few recipes along the way) to my previous commercial brand.  It’s quick and easy to make with four basic ingredients, it saves me money and is a healthier option compared to the chemically based powder I was using previously.  I also use use less: One tablespoon is sufficient for a load, whereas my previous brand took about three tablespoons.  I have also replaced my previous rinse-aid with good old white vinegar, so a greener, healthier option and a money saver there too 🙂

 

 

Notes on Ingredients and Suppliers:

  • See ‘Suppliers and Outlets’ at the foot of this page to source your ingredients.
  • Remember to consider the issue of packaging: ask your suppliers if they will accept returns on reusables, before resorting to the recycling bins.
  • Don’t overlook the supermarket brands: for instance Robertsons and Moirs use cardboard and paper packaging for their Bicarbonate of Soda and some other salts, as opposed to plastic.

 

Baking soda/ Bicarbonate of Soda: one and the same

 

 

Ingredients and Instructions

Mix and store in an airtight container:

  1. 1 cup washing soda
  2. 1 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda in ZA)
  3. 1 cup citric acid
  4. A half cup of table salt.

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Multipurpose: Silky Smooth Salt Scrub

 

Late August in Johannesburg: the tail end of winter and everything has dried out: the air, the vegetation, the skin and the hair! I crave that bit of extra moisture at this time of the year: Coconut oil in my breakfast oats, grapeseed oil on the face (real virgin grapeseed oil is beautifully light and easily absorbed) and whatever cooking oil I have in the kitchen  as a body moisturiser (I typically throw together some olive, sunflower and canola, and store it in a glass jar in the bathroom), pure shea butter in a small jar next to my bed (for me this is the best rich hand creme, and I like to rub some into my hands before turning out the lights)

 

*And then this moisturising scrub and shave….. perfect for silky smooth legs or as a body exfoliant in the bath or shower*…………………

Simply mix and store in a jar-

  • 450 grams (about 2 cups) epsom salts: (the Robertsons brand is sold at supermarkets in cardboard packaging, or see SUPPLIERS AND OUTLETS below)
  • 180 ml (three/quarters cup) light oil such as canola, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, sweet almond (cooking oil is fine)
  • And that’s it! This makes a great shaving oil and/ or exfoliating body scrub. Just use in the bath or shower as you would any commercial brand. 

(Here’s the link to the original recipe)

 

To make this recipe a little more special and interesting (as I did as a birthday gift for my cousin), try adding the following……………

 

  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract (natural is best, but the synthetic ‘baking ingredients’ essence is fine)
  • A sprinkling of rooibos tea leaves (just open a tea bag if you cant source the loose tea leaves)

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