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 hapless cook who has find a way 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leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing.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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy in bulk, Re-use your packaging, Reduce waste

Spices, ground and whole
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nude Foods in Zonnebloem, Cape Town is a bulk wholefoods store, offering a plastic-free shopping experience. They sell high quality wholefoods, fresh organic produce, home and body products, minus any wasteful packaging . In their own words: “Our bulk wholefoods, health foods, and earth-friendly products are all non-GMO, plastic-free and sold by weight. Our goal is to make plastic-free shopping easy and accessible to the everyday shopper, whilst supporting local suppliers and other waste reducing initiatives”. The process is simple: scoop out from their bulk bins into your reusable container, weigh, and pay. As well as the self-service bin section, they have pantry items, household products and choose-your-own organic veg. In the war on waste that is gaining traction here and elsewhere in the world, shopping experiences like this one comes not a moment too soon.

 

 

In Johannesburg I frequently shop at Food Lover’s Market (FLM) for bulk buy fresh produce, olive oil, and some of my dry goods such as seeds, nuts and dried and spices, ground and whole. In the words of FLM Stoneridge: “Shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the things you buy. Food Lover’s Market have taken this principle to heart, re-creating the ambience of an old-fashioned marketplace in a modern theatre-of-food setting. Visiting the stores truly is an experience like no other.’
 While both Nude Foods and FLM offer unpackaged ware in self-serve bulk bins, there are some clear differences between the two. Nude Foods is very specifically a plastic-free grocery store, offering non-GMO, healthy and affordable wholefoods and earth-friendly body and home products, all sold by weight. They are also relatively new:their Facebook page was created on 5 September 2017. May they go from strength to strength! By contrast, FLM is a franchised, well established retail outlet with many branches, and it offers a huge variety of mainstream, conventionally packaged foods including the ‘big brands’ that one sees in all the well known stores. Also, importantly, they do not actively supply reusable packaging, other than the refillable glass bottles at the bulk buy area which supplies olive oil. Many people shop at FLM no doubt not particularly to avoid wasteful packaging, but simply because it’s convenient for them and they can find their familiar big brand items there. (I’m referring to the FLM outlets which I frequent here in Johannesburg… I would love to know what other people experience elsewhere in the country)
 I frequently find myself in the minority when I shop at FLM, with my reusable cloth drawstring bags and my containers which I wash out after use and reuse each time I shop from their deli section or fish counter. I’m not bothered by this though. Rather, I’m grateful that these options are open to me, even if it requires the effort of constant rinsing and reusing and of course having to carry various bits of packaging around with me when I shop. And if I fall short sometimes, or don’t find what I need in unpackaged, then packaged it is. I have realised that driving my car up and down looking for perfect Zero Waste solutions is a waste of my valuable time, not to mention the carbon waste emissions thanks to all the added driving. I’ve given up feeling guilty about the compromises, knowing that I will continue to do my bit as far as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Reuse: the beauty of upcycling

 

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In my garden: winter annual Pansies

 

“There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

 

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. (wikipedia)

 

RECREATE is an interior design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa, where they specialise in turning “trash into treasure”. By salvaging worn out or otherwise unwanted items from various sources including homes, warehouses and rubbish tips, they source discarded pieces which are then upcycled into beautiful new creations with a brand new purpose. Nothing goes to waste, and even their packaging materials, labels and business cards are reused, recycled and repurposed.

 

 

 

Read here for more on Recreate’s commitment to their craft and feast your eyes on some of their gorgeous creations.

 

In 2018 the market is abundant with beautiful and innovative designs, excellent craftsmanship and the reuse of  unusual and unexpected items such as fridges, bicycles, and kitchen sinks. And with a few tools at home and an inclination towards DIY you may even surprise yourself! Here and here are some fun and inspired ideas on creative upcycling at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eco options: start with what you already know

 

In my garden: Apple Blossoms

Don’t get complicated.

I imagine that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.

 

Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.

Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.

I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”

And that’s just at the supermarket!

At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Green thing to do. This link tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.

 

So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading

How to be Green: 10 More Tips and Tricks.

 

Simple and Do-able 🙂

 

1. Recycle your worn out kitchen rubber gloves. (I always have a pair of these in case of hard-on-the-hands jobs). Simply cut across the wrist area or fingers to create elastic  bands.

 

2. Print out a laundry stain removal chart …and keep within easy reach so that you can attend to stains and spills ASAP. Here’s the one I use.

3. Keep a spice jar filled with baking soda (Bicarb) at your kitchen sink. Use it to sprinkle and scrub hard to clean areas such as greasy roasting pans. Also great for wiping away coffee and tea stains left behind in cups and mugs.

4. Keep ends of lemons at your kitchen sink …(next to the baking soda!) I use them with a sprinkle of  baking soda or table salt, to clean up wooden cutting boards after use. (Use soap after cutting meat, chicken or fish) Some further suggestions for lemons here

5. Reuse soap ends ( this idea from Jane’s Delicious Garden). Tie them into a piece of fabric or a mesh bag and tie onto your outside tap for use after gardening and other outdoor jobs.

 

6. Keep a thermos flask topped up with hot water next to your kettle. Instead of boiling fresh water from cold each time, you will have a supply of hot water always close at hand.

7. As for those silica gel packs that we find in jars of vitamins and tablet medication and sometimes even in shoe boxes! …. Here are some ideas. I place them into sneakers and other closed shoes where necessary. Continue reading

Plastic Free July, and beyond.

 

Why is plastic getting a bad press, and should we consider reducing our plastic consumption and even cut it out of our lives where possible? Personally I have been trying to do just that over the past few months, starting with my signing of this petition along with millions of others who signed the pledge to reduce their plastic usage.

The pledge reads: “I pledge to avoid single-use plastic, to reuse or recycle the plastic that I do use, to educate others about plastic waste, and to take Citizen Muscle actions to make plastic a thing of the past. ”

Over a number of years I have become more aware of the problems that plastics create for our environment, and when I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I became particularly alarmed. The facts are sobering and depressing and leave no doubt that environmentally, and in terms of  its effects on human health, plastic is a growing disaster. As stated in Life Without Plastic

“Most plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques that destroy fragile ecosystems. The manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.”

 

In choosing to take a pragmatic approach to managing my own plastic consumption, I have compiled a simple list of ten points:

  1. Carry a few reusable bags with you and say No to the supermarket’s plastic carrier bags. This is one of the easiest ways to get started and to motivate yourself to do more.
  2. If you REALLY NEED to purchase a juice/soda/water refreshment while you’re out on your travels, buy the tinned version, not the plastic bottle or cup. And forego the plastic straw!
  3. Buy wine in glass bottles with real cork stoppers or metal caps, rather than the plastic sack version. Some brands are available in 1.5L bottles, from Johannesburg’s Makro and other outlets.
  4. Buy from farmers markets whenever possible. Here you have the best chance of buying fresh produce without stickers on the fruit and veg, and of being able to make use of your own packaging.
  5. Return plastic packaging wherever possible, for instance return yoghurt tubs and egg trays to vendors at farmers markets if you have bought from them previously.
  6. Buy from roadside vendors. In Johannesburg there are a lot of people selling good quality fruit and veg at the roadside. I buy from those who carry unpackaged stock or who use cardboard/paper packaging only.
  7. Stop buying the branded plastic-packaged, ready sliced loaves of bread from the supermarket. Rather buy an unpackaged loaf from the bakery section, ask the assistant for a paper bag or use you own, and cut the loaf into slices when you get home. This saves plastic and money…far cheaper.
  8. Buy cheese from the cheese counter/deli section at the supermarket. Ask them to cut, weigh and price a piece for you, and wrap it in brown paper or your own packaging.
  9. Buy from bulk bins wherever possible, preferably using reusable packaging or your previously used plastic packaging from home.
  10. Buy Big. For instance, I use large amounts of white vinegar in the home (more about that in a later post). I have started buying it in 5L plastic containers rather than in the 750ml containers that I used to buy.  This saves plastic, because far less plastic goes into making one 5L container as opposed to several small containers. And saves money, cos it’s just cheaper that way.

 

Here is my week’s shop from Food Lover’s Market in Parkmeadows last week. 100% my own reused packaging from home. NO supermarket’s plastic at all, including the cheese and frozen fish.

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And here is their stock of bulk spices and dried herbs, where you can dispense what you need and  they will weigh and price for you. They also have large vats of  plain and flavoured olive oils where you can refill your own container.

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So, how are you managing to cut back on your use of plastic this July? I would love to hear your suggestions, success stories, even your failures and frustrations, especially if you’re a South African going Greener ♥

It’s worth remembering that:

the best way to reduce plastic in our lives is to refuse it in the first place