talking trash

A month ago I started keeping all of our trash instead of throwing it out, as a visual reminder + a way to stay accountable for our waste.  It’s also a way to document our journey and hopefully be able to recycle some of these items some day (teracycle is doing some interesting work here).  I wanted to share it to hopefully inspire you guys to reduce your waste and also to show you that we are not perfectly zero waste BUT IT’S OK, we are doing our best day after day and you can, too!

*As a side note, we are an average family of four, living on essentially a single income, and we live in California.  I’m a busy mom and I work 2 days a week in addition to volunteer work.  My husband works full time.  My point is, I’m not a magical unicorn with tons of time and money at my disposal.  I’ve just learned over time to make small changes to lessen our waste.  

What’s inside?

  • Produce stickers- I try to buy most produce from the farmers market but I do buy bananas and sometimes avocados from my co-op and sometimes they have stickers.
  • plastic cocktail pick- this was from a weekend trip, we went to a bar and I requested “no straw” which they obliged, however, this pick made its way into my drink unfortunately.
  • Plastic safety seals- these were a) from a glass jar of coconut oil and I’ve since found a source to purchase it in my own container and b) from a B12 supplement which I thought wouldn’t have one because it was already sealed in a cardboard box.  Ugh.
  • safety seal sticker from a glass jar of coco yogurt- I’ve been making my own now.
  • price stickers from a few glass jars I bought.
  • plastic tags from clothing- we shop pretty exclusively at thrift stores, but sometimes they still have these plastic tags.

We used to make a huge amount of waste compared to this, just even a year ago.  Here’s some of the big ways in which we’ve cut out waste:

  • stopped shopping at Costco and Trader Joe’s // switched to shopping exclusively at my local co-op and farmer’s market, which both offer a multitude of plastic free, bulk, foods that are seasonal and local.
  • stopped buying essentially all processed and packaged foods // bought whole foods instead for snacks, like apples and almond butter, nuts, chocolate, carrots, dates, popcorn, and olives.
  • started making my own cleaning products // switched from many different bottles of specific cleaners to just one cleaner: white vinegar cut 3:1 with water + some essential oils for smell and anti-bacterial properties
  • simplified our beauty routines // in our shower, we just use bar soap (Dr. Bronner’s which comes in paper) and refill old kombucha bottles with natural + organic shampoo and conditioner from a local store.  I’ve heard Lush makes a great shampoo bar too.  For the ultimate option, the lovely Paris To Go only uses water on her hair and it’s perfect.
  • ditched our expensive and wasteful plastic razors // bought this bad boy here + these blades
  • stopped buying toothpaste // made our own : 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon stevia, 2 tablespoons bentonite clay, 40 drops peppermint essential oil or gum blend oil.  We also use compostable floss .
  • stopped using plastic bags // I use these cotton bags when I shop for produce, this mesh tote for hauling them, and these bags to keep greens and veggies fresh in the fridge.
  • stopped using tampons // switched to a menstrual cup this is the one I’ve used for years
  • stopped buying plastic water bottles // bought a reusable water bottle I love this one

I want to point out that all these changes took place over a year or so.  It took a WHILE to get into a routine that works for us.  It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re first starting out, because everything seems so unmanageable and so many things to remember.  Truly, though, it becomes second nature when you practice it.  Just like veganism, once I knew the TRUTH about plastic pollution, there was no way for me to NOT change.  With the knowledge came responsibility and I had to make changes, no matter how small.  They snowballed over time and here I am today, producing hardly any trash and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and peace from living my values.

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another week of fall meals

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Here’s what we are cooking and eating this week- vegan, gluten free, seasonal, local, and waste free.

MONDAY: chickpeas with olives, chard, and lemon + herby pistachio quinoa.  this recipe (subbing chickpeas for the fish) + this recipe .

TUESDAY: butternut- shiitake ragout (recipe here) + this recipe (sub millet for GF) + a simple green salad.

WEDNESDAY: Yogurt tofu with ginger chutney: this recipe, subbing tofu for the chicken + coco yogurt for the dairy.  Sides: black rice with apricots and almonds (recipe here) + french carrot salad- iconic recipe here .

THURSDAY: soba noodle bowls with sautéed tofu, ginger and garlic sautéed bok choy, sautéed oyster mushrooms, cilantro, green onion, tamari and sesame oil.

FRIDAY: White bean chili with winter veggies +beet, orange, and arugula salad

SATURDAY: baked tofu with coconut kale: recipe here + kabocha squash puree (steam chunks then puree with a splash of coco milk, garlic, and ginger)

Other basics: almond milk, coconut yogurt, hummus.

Have a lovely weekend!  xx

use your noodle.

IMG_1856.JPGPeanut noodles are a crowd pleasing, easy meal to have up your sleeve.  Plus, they look so pretty and impressive.  You can really make this with any noodles you fancy: udon, soba, julienned/spiralized carrot, cucumber or zucchini, even spaghetti.  I made this with bucatini I found in bulk at Rainbow Grocery and it was great!  Feel free to adjust as needed- sub almond butter, add tofu to make it more substantial, add crushed peanuts, lime, thinly sliced jalapeños, cabbage etc.  Make it your own!

peanut noodz (loosely based on this recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup creamy PB

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/2 inch or bigger chunk of ginger, finely chopped

1/4 cup sesame oil (can sub water or use 2T mirin +2T water for oil free)

 

8 oz noodles, I used bucatini

5 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

2 teaspoons korean chili flakes (or sliced fresh chiles, sriracha, other spicy thing)

METHOD:

Start a pot of water boiling for your noodles.

Meanwhile, add the PB, tamari, vinegar, agave, garlic, and ginger to a food processor.  Blend till smooth, then with machine running, drizzle in the oil to emulsify it.

Boil your noodles according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water.  Toss sauce with noodles and then add in all your other ingredients.

Done!  This recipe holds up well in the fridge for a lunch the next day too, or make a double batch of sauce and keep the extra in the fridge for a quick dressing, dip, or drizzle.

 

 

 

lentil bolognese

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This lentil bolognese turned out so flavorful!  I had some lentils lounging in the fridge that needed to be used, so as usual, I planned my meal around them.  I always like to cook a legume on the weekend to have in the fridge to build meals easily- lentils go so well in grain salads, green salads, soups and more.  They are perfect little gems: gorgeous, easy to digest and packed with protein and iron.  Plus they have a nice hearty texture and can hold their own in this sauce.  Crimini mushrooms and tamari add a little umami, and plenty of aromatics make everything pop.  YUMMM let’s get to it.

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lentil bolognese (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

olive oil for sautéing

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion

1/4 cup minced carrot

1/4 cup minced celery

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

4 cloves chopped garlic

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

3 cups tomatoes- you can use chopped fresh or canned

1 tablespoon tamari

1.5 cups cooked lentils- I used French green; you can use any EXCEPT red lentils which will turn to mush

1/4 cup chopped basil or parsley + more for garnishing

METHOD:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven.  Add in the shallot, celery, carrot, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened- about 7 minutes.  Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and chili flakes and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add in tomatoes and tamari, stir, and simmer 20 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened.  At this point I pureed half of it before returning it to the pot; my kids prefer a smoother sauce.  You can do that too or leave as is; up to you!  Add in the lentils and basil and let cook minute or two to heat through.  Toss with pasta or zoodles or spaghetti squash, plate, and sprinkle with more chopped herbs and a generous sprinkle of my crumbly vegan parm .  Yum!  Keeps well in the fridge too.  Hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did!  If you make it, I’d love to see!  Tag me on instagram @mamaeatsplants .  Have a lovely weekend friends! xx A.

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package free: everything bagel spice

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Everything bagel seasoning: savory confetti bursting with toasty flavors.  It’s perfect on avocado toast, popcorn, sauteed greens, rice, basically just, well, everything.  I’ve been seeing this all around the internet since Trader Joe’s came out with their “Everything but the Bagel” blend.  I thought I’d try my hand at making my own sans packaging.  It turned out really delicious and I was able to get all the ingredients I needed in bulk.  Quick and easy to make!  Try to make sure the ingredients you buy are roughly the same size so you get an equal dispersion with each shake.

everything bagel blend

3 tablespoons dried minced/flaked garlic

3 tablespoons dried minced/flaked onion

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

3 tablespoons white sesame seeds

3 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1-2 tablespoon coarse salt- like Maldon, kosher etc.  do NOT use granulated salt, it will all settle to the bottom. If you use a larger salt like Maldon, use the 2 tablespoons.  Kosher salt, use 1 tablespoon.

method

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread all ingredients on a baking sheet and bake 3-5 minutes.  Alternatively, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-high heat and toast, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Take care to watch it closely as it can burn easily and turn bitter.  Allow to cool and store in a sealed container.

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squash your dinner plans.

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Tonight I checked the fridge and saw that one of my cilantro bunches was on its last legs. So I decided to make a dinner around it to use it all up, so it wouldn’t go to waste.  I decided on a cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto I used to make years ago with salmon.  Original recipe here .  Immediately I thought of roasting squash to complement it- the sweetness contrasts the herby brightness of the pesto.  So I made it, threw some chickpeas in the oven at the same time as the squash, and had a mostly hands off, easy dinner perfect for fall.  Here are the recipes:

Roasted squash with cilantro pesto and crispy chickpeas (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

2 small acorn squash

1 delicata squash

2 small sweet potatoes

oil for roasting if desired

——

3 cups or so chickpeas (I’d guess 2 cans worth if you’re using canned)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

——-

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, both leaves and stems

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 clove garlic, peeled

optional: avocado and sliced chile to serve

Preheat the oven to 425.  Slice up your squash into wedges about 1/2 inch thick and toss with oil if using, salt, and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven.  Place chickpeas on a clean dish towel and pat dry.  Dump them onto a separate baking sheet and toss with oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  Pop those into the oven as well.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until crispy, then pull the chickpeas out of the oven (keep the squash in).  Meanwhile, pull out your food processor and put in: cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and coriander seeds.  Pulse until it looks like pesto texture.  Taste and adjust for seasoning as necessary.  By this time your squash should be done- tender and browned.

Plate the squash first, then chickpeas, then drizzle the pesto on top.  Garnish with avocado and chiles.  Coconut yogurt would make a nice addition here too!  Enjoy xx

crumbly vegan parm

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Sometimes you just need a hit of salty, umami flavor to finish a dish.  This crumbly, nutty vegan parmesan is just that + it’s made from healthy ingredients.  It’s super easy to whip up and lasts indefinitely in the fridge.  The perfect garnish for pizza, pasta, soups, roasted veggies and more.  Mix it into vegan burgers/meatballs, sprinkle it over avocado toast, garnish a simple arugula salad with it.  Pull out your food processor and let’s go!

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds or pine nuts

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon kosher salt**

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion flakes or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

optional: 1/4 teaspoon of porcini or shiitake mushroom powder (adds umami but perfect without it too)

** this makes it pretty salty- just like a real parmesan is very salty. This is meant as a garnish and not eaten on its own.  You can start with less salt and add more as you see fit if you are sensitive to sodium.

METHOD:

Place all ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture looks fine but still crumbly, as shown in the below photo.  DON’T over-process or leave the processor running because the nuts will turn into butter if you do.  That’s it!  Store in a jar in the fridge.

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package free: hummus

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I thought it would be fun to start a series sharing recipes for products generally sold in packages.  I made this beet hummus recently and packed it in one of my daughter’s snacks.  She came home and told me that a teacher had seen her eating it and asked for the recipe.  Apparently she used to love Trader Joe’s beet hummus, but they have discontinued it.  Google told me that this product enjoyed a sort of cult following, and was packed in a small plastic tub.  So I sent the teacher some of mine in a mason jar, along with the recipe, which she really enjoyed.  It got me thinking about packaged foods.  Sometimes we buy them out of convenience, and sometimes we buy them because they taste amazing, or because it seems difficult to make.

Unfortunately, packaged foods create literal tons of waste.  Sometimes packaging is recyclable, but less than 14% of packaging actually IS recycled.  Most of it goes straight into landfill or is littered, eventually ending up in the ocean.  Single use plastic packaging is responsible for am estimated 269,000 TONS of plastic pollution currently floating around in our beautiful oceans.  Even if it does get recycled, plastic can (usually) only be recycled once before it’s waste.  Glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely.  With this in mind, I’d like to offer some alternatives to popular packaged foods in this series.  First up, hummus.

Hummus is super easy and cheap to make.  It’s full of fiber and protein and goes great on sandwiches, salads, veggies, and more.  Many years ago, I would buy it at the grocery store in a small plastic tub.  I started making my own with canned chickpeas after reading about it in a book and I couldn’t believe how much better it tasted!  A few years later, I became obsessed with Yoham Ottolenghi and his beautiful vegetable centric dishes.  I tried his recipe for hummus, which uses chickpeas cooked from scratch, and I almost died.  Fluffy, creamy, pillowy clouds of garlicky, lemony hummus.  I’ve never looked back since then.  It does take some more work than opening a can, so if you’re strapped for time, you can definitely sub canned.  But I highly reccomend that you set aside some time to try this recipe at least once so your wildest hummus dreams can be realized.

basic hummus (recipe adapted slightly from this recipe)

1.25 cups dried chickpeas (or sub 2 cans and skip the cooking with baking soda step)

1 teaspoon baking soda

6.5 cups water

.75 cup light roast tahini- use a runny one that isn’t super dark or bitter

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6.5 tablespoons cold ice water

1.5 teaspoons salt

optional toppings: olive oil, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, minced parsley or cilantro, chili flakes, flaky sea salt, smokes paprika, za’atar spice or harissa, really whatever you like

METHOD:

The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy. Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups now.  Reserve a few tablespoons of whole chickpeas for garnishing.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about five minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. To serve, top with a layer of good quality olive oil, toasted pine nuts, herbs, and reserved chickpeas.  Sprinkle some flaky sea salt to  finish. This hummus will keep in the refrigerator for four days.

beet variation shown above:

Right after you add the ice water, add in a few chunks of steamed beet to the processor while it runs.  Add in as much or as little as you like to get a lighter or deeper color and flavor.  In the picture, I’ve used about 1/2 a smaller beet.  I’ve heard that TJ’s used beet juice in addition to steamed beet in order to obtain a very beety taste/color- so if that’s what you are after, you could try that.  You could also try icing the beet water leftover from steaming in place of the ice water.

I’ve served it here with garlic flatbread (I omitted the rosemary and subbed some cardamom) that I cut into slices, brushed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with s+p.  Bake in 400 degree oven till crisp, about 15 minutes or more.

I hope you enjoy!  If there’s a product you’d like me to attempt to re-create package free, let me know in the comments or on my Instagram @mamaeatsplants !

loaded carrot soup

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The other night I came home from work starving and exhausted.  I guess this is where normal people order takeout, but I don’t think I’ve done that in years.  Too much work, plastic, money, and I can cook something way better at home.  Not to put down anyone who does get takeout, it’s just not my style.  Cooking things myself is self-love, a way I give love to my family, and a creative outlet.

Surveying the fridge, I saw a jar of carrot soup that I’d pulled out from the freezer that morning, and decided to make my meal around that.  The result was so easy and delicious that I made it for dinner the next night, too.  Here’s the recipe.

loaded carrot soup (serves two very hungry people)

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups of roasted carrot soup – this recipe is so simple and tastes amazing.  I double or triple cook it and then freeze in mason jars.

1 cup of quinoa

2 small or 1 large zucchini (other green veggies would work well here, too- like brussels or broccoli)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons seeds- like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower or a mix

1 avocado, pitted and sliced

any other toppings you’d like- fresh herbs, chili flakes, green onions, flaky sea salt, cherry tomatoes, dollop of coco yogurt, the options are endless.

METHOD

Place quinoa in a small pot with 1.5 cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour the soup into a small pot to heat.

Chop up zucchini and heat oil in a skillet.  Add in zucchini and a sprinkle of salt and let sear without stirring for a minute or two on high.  Stir and let cook another minute or two until tender.  With broccoli or brussels, cover the pan at this time to let it steam a bit.  Pull off the heat, add in the garlic, and stir quickly to incorporate, taking care not to burn the garlic.

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until popping and toasty, about 2 minutes over med-high.

Divide soup between bowls and dollop the quinoa (you may not use it all) in a pile towards the side so it doesn’t disperse all the way into the soup.  Add the zucchini.  Add the avocado, seeds, and any other toppings and serve!

*also, the first picture is from when I made it the second night and wasn’t rushing.  This picture below is from the first night and arguably is even prettier.  REAL fast food.

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a fall meal prep: basics edition

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If you can squeeze in a little time on the weekend, do this: head to the market and pick up fresh, seasonal fruits, veggies and greens.  Wash them and store them so that they are ready to use.  Then make a few basics- these will vary depending on your preferences.  For us, I like to make: a vinaigrette, a pot of beans, a pot of grains, hummus, baked tofu, and almond milk.  Maybe a baked good or snack too, if I’m feeling ambitious.  Having these things on hand and ready to go makes eating healthy really easy.  Here’s our basics for this week.

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vinaigrette:

1/2 cup ACV

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup minced shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons honey, agave or maple syrup

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

salt and pepper

whisk all ingredients together and store in a mason jar in the fridge.

pot of beans: chickpeas this week, a double batch (one for hummus and one for eating whole).  3 cups chickpeas soaked overnight, drained, and cooked until tender with salt.

pot of grains: barley this week, 2 cups of the pearled variety, simmered in a pot of boiling, salted water (like pasta) for 40 minutes or until tender.  good for grain salad, morning porridge, as a side, in soup.

hummus: beet hummus this week.  I toasted some pine nuts, too, to serve on top.  a great healthy snack and delicious dolloped on a salad.

baked tofu: super simple, just slice a block or two of super firm up and bake plain or rubbed with olive oil at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes on parchment/silicone mat.  Menawhile, mix up 2 tablespoons of tamari with a teaspoon of maple syrup and a large minced garlic clove.  Remove from oven and drizzle with the tamari mixture while still hot.  Let cool and pack in a glass container to store, making sure to pour in any tamari left in the pan.

almond milk: I’m not sure if anyone even needs a recipe, but it’s 1 cup of almonds soaked overnight.  Drain in the morning and add to a high speed blender with 1 medjool date, pinch of salt, and 4 cups of water.  You can add vanilla too if you like.  Blend on high until smooth and pour through a straining bag- I simply use my organic cotton produce bags to strain and it works great.  You can use cashews, too, without soaking or straining since they are a softer nut.  Same with hemp seeds.

chocolate bark: what’s life without chocolate?  Having this satisfying crunchy little bite in the fridge is a life saver.  Just melt 8 oz. of dark (70% +) chocolate in a bowl set over a small pot of boiling water.  Turn off the heat and mix in whatever flavorings you like- chipotle, orange zest, vanilla, cinnamon, mint extract, almond extract- or keep it plain.  Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and spread in an even layer as thinly or thickly as you like.  Sprinkle over toasted nuts, seeds, or anything else you want- freeze dried fruit, goji berries, hemp seeds, pepitas, hazelnuts, flaky sea salt, chopped crystallized ginger, cacao nibs- and place int the fridge until set, about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from fridge and break up into 1 oz or so pieces.  I store it in a glass snaplock container in the fridge so it stays snappy.

wash/prep veggies: wash and cut up carrots for snacks.  Wash, dry and store kale, lettuce, spinach, and chard.  Wash, dry, and cut up cauliflower or broccoli or brussels.  This way, everything is ready to use and eat.

Spending a bit of time prepping is a great investment in the week ahead.  When you have things made in the fridge, it’s so much easier to stay on track with healthy eating and stress less when things (inevitably) get crazy during the week.  Even if you only have time to wash your greens and make a batch of dressing, it’s worth it!  Hope you enjoy and be sure to tag me in your meal prep on Instagram @mamaeatsplants !