Sunday, November 24, 2013

Aged Eggnog Recipe

Last year I made eggnog from scratch for the first time, it came out well but was thinking the flavors could meld better. I remembered yesterday of a few years ago around this time of year when my husband and I ran into friends at the local grocery store. They were buying ingredients for their traditional aged for a month eggnog. Up until yesterday it had been on my list of mental to do's. Today I decided to go for it, here's what I did.

I found this recipe online then went shopping for the following ingredients:
12 eggs (brought to our home via FFTY)
1 cup heavy cream (Straus, in a bottle to turn back for deposit)
1 qt whole milk (Straus, in a bottle to turn back for deposit)
2 cups sugar (bought in bulk in a reusable cloth bag)
1 liter Bourbon (bought in a glass recyclable bottle)
1/2 cup dark rum (bought in a glass recyclable bottle)
3/4 cup brandy (bought in a glass recyclable bottle)
1 pinch salt (bought in bulk in a reusable cloth bag)
1 pinch mace (bought in bulk in a reusable cloth bag)

{Nearly 3 liters of eggnog ready to age for a month in the refrigerator}

Separate egg whites from yolks, place yolks in a large bowl and save egg whites in an airtight container for another use. Cream together egg yolks and sugar with whisk until creamy. Then add and stir in cream, milk, bourbon, rum, brandy salt and mace. Mix with spoon and store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks to a year. I made ours tonight so it will be consumed exactly a month from now.

Serve over ice and garnish with sweetened fresh whipped cream and a shaving of nutmeg. 

UPDATE: 1/17/2014
We had a holiday party and served the aged eggnog along with spiced cider and mulled wine. The eggnog was the star, everyone loved it. I ended up cutting it with about 1/4 parts milk because it was super strong. Aging it made it super smooth and creamy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Homemade Jalapeño Hot Sauce

One thing that has been seriously lacking in our house is hot sauce. Friends gave us a bottle of the kind from the store and when we ran out we didn't buy more. We have been using a sprinkle of cayenne and/or red pepper flakes to add heat but its just not the same so I decided to make some myself. 

I was inspired by this recipe from Bobby Flay but made some adjustments to simplify and it turned out great.

{The finished product: homemade jalapeño hot sauce}

3 tsp EVOO
5 jalapeño peppers
1/4 large white onion
1 garlic clove
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbs honey

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of EVOO in a sauce pan on medium. Add in coarsely chopped onion and jalapeño then cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for about a minute more then add vinegar and water and cook a few more minutes. Take off heat and stir in remaining EVOO, salt and honey. Using a hand blender, blend mixture until smooth. Using a funnel, pour into a bottle and store in the refrigerator. 

Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often while making this, these peppers are hot and can really burn your eyes if you aren't careful!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Easy Swaps Towards a Sustainable Household

So I gave up Facebook but have been going full steam ahead on Instagram. Recently I posted the photo of our 2 month trash tally in a 16oz mason jar and the comments were all really encouraging. One of my friends said 'teach me your ways' which inspired this post. I've come up with a list of easy swaps, all of which are simple and will help not only save the environment but also save you money. 

My husband and I have been striving towards a more simplified household focusing on reducing our garbage and carbon footprint for about 18 months. We still have a long way to go. Living with these changes every day it feels like we haven't made much progress at all, it's been a slow gradual change through every step but reading this list makes me see how far we've come. These are the swaps we've made.

Kitchen Swaps
Swap paper towels for dishcloths 
Swap plastic and paper grocery bags for reusable tote bags
Swap paper napkins for cloth napkins 
Swap plastic kitchen tools for bamboo and stainless steel
Swap plastic Tupperware for glass hermetic jars
Swap plastic produce and bulk bags for reusable mesh and cloth bags
Swap plastic baggies for jars and reusable snack bags like lunchskins (also if you are storing food in the refrigerator a deep bowl with a saucer on top works great too!)
Swap nonstick cookware for stainless steel or cast iron
Swap nonstick cookie sheets for metal (stop relying on tinfoil and just clean them =) 
Swap beer bottles and cans for refillable growlers
Swap wine bottles for pop top lemonade bottles to be refilled at a winery
Swap plastic cling wrap and wax paper for abeego
Swap plastic cutting boards for a wood fiber cutting board
Swap disposable plastic water bottles for a reusable stainless steel ones
Swap disposable coffee cups for a stainless steel thermos
Swap disposable skewers and toothpicks for stainless steel reusable ones
Swap to go plastic utensils for bamboo utensils 
Swap plastic straws for stainless steel ones
Swap disposable cups for reusable stainless steel tumblers
Swap cooking oil spray for a Silpat or just a bit of oil
Swap coffee maker for a stovetop espresso maker
In general swap plastics for ceramic, glass and stainless steel options
Additional ideas: Get rid of multiples in the kitchen (ie: mixing bowls, cheese knives, bottle stoppers, the list goes on and on!), try to eat your food before it goes bad, learn to love leftovers, keep your fridge stocked (I put a few glass bottles filled with water in there at all times, it saves energy), replace incandescent bulbs with LED’s

Bathroom Swaps
Swap plastic wrapped toilet paper for individually wrapped recycled toilet paper
Swap disposable razors or cartridges for a safety razor
Swap store bought toothpaste and deodorant for homemade versions
Swap shampoo, body wash, body lotion and conditioner in a plastic bottle from the store for bulk shampoo in a glass pump bottle that can be refilled
Swap lip gloss and lip balm for homemade lip balm
Swap store bought facial toner for apple cider vinegar
Swap body lotion for body oil available in bulk, I like using almond oil for the scent
Swap your toothbrush for a bamboo or recycled from yogurt container one
Swap facial tissue for toilet paper or better yet a reusable handkerchief
Swap disposable menstrual products with reusables (do your research, they are out there =)
Additional ideas: Collect toilet paper rolls for another use (I use them to stuff dryer lint in to use as campfire starter), if it’s yellow let it mellow (gross I know!), turn off the water when you brush your teeth, take shorter showers, place a full water bottle or brick in your toilet tank to save on water, install an aerator in your faucets, choose energy efficient appliances like Energy Star

Cleaning Swaps
Swap Windex for a microfiber rag
Swap Ajax and Soft Scrub for tea tree oil and baking soda
Swap all purpose cleaner for vinegar and water in a spray bottle
Swap store bought toxic laundry detergent for homemade or nontoxic in cardboard box
Swap store bought toxic dishwasher detergent for non toxic in a cardboard box
Swap dish soap for liquid castile soap or bulk all purpose soap
Swap kitchen sponge for compostable natural fiber scrubber and steel wool 
Swap air fresheners with incense or small bowl of vinegar (my husband hates the vinegar but it really works!)
Swap mothballs for sachets of dried lavender
Swap Swiffer disposable pads for cloth rags
Swap sticker lables for reused paper and rubber bands
Additional ideas: Compost vacuum cleaner dust, reuse dryer lint as campfire starter or just compost it, soak orange peels in white vinegar to make orange scented all-purpose cleaner, reuse ‘grey’ water for watering plants, compost hair from brushes, stop using dryer sheets, wash full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine, hang dry your laundry, add fresh air to your home by opening some windows and having house plants

Transportation Swaps
Swap driving everywhere for carpooling, riding the bus or ferry, riding your bike or walking
Additional ideas: Start a ride share program at your work

{View from my commute home on the ferry to Sausalito, sure beats traffic}

Entertainment Swaps
Swap cable and dvd’s for an Apple TV or Roku with Netflix and Hulu+
Swap dvd’s and cd’s for downloadable digital versions
Swap paper books and magazines for digital versions for your tablet
Swap hard copies for digital versions by going 'paperless' 
Swap printed hard copy boarding pass, event and movie tickets for smartphone digital version for iPhone use Passbook
Swap regular batteries for rechargeable ones
Additional ideas: Spend more time at the library they have tons of books, free wifi and movies

Swaps we still want to make
Swap our collection of pens and pencils for refillable versions
Swap disposable lighter with refillable one
Swap disposable plate with reusable version (at my work)

We started by evaluating what things we actually use, then analyzed what objects can do double or triple duty. By purging what we do is evaluate the item to see what condition it is in. If it’s still full of life we first try to think of a friend who might want it, once we’ve asked around and no one is interested we’ll donate it to Goodwill. This goes for clothing too, for example we went on our honeymoon to Europe for two weeks and each only brought a regular backpack worth of clothing but we never felt like we needed more. When we got back purging clothing and shoes from our wardrobe came easy. But I'm convinced that purging, evaluating and organizing is a lifelong process.

Take action
Start collecting compostable kitchen waste, buy a compost keeper (we got ours at Ross for next to nothing)
Request a green waste compost bin from your local refuse
Start composting at home with a tumbling composter
Refuse plastic and paper bags at grocery store
Refuse plastic packaging at the grocery store
Refuse produce and bulk bags at the grocery store
Start upcycling - start to think of things you’d typically discard in a new way and put it to good use!

My Facebook Hiatus Explained

A few weeks ago I found myself at home refreshing Facebook again and again for no good reason. This was after clocking a full eight hours at work, most of which is time spent in front of the computer not to mention the list of household todo's I was procrastinating on. That night I decided to deactivate my Facebook temporarily and start being more productive during my downtime. 

It's been about five weeks since that night and I still don't want to go back on Facebook. I find it refreshing to be off of it and not only have I been more productive but I also get the opportunity to really connect with friends and family by spending time with them or calling to chat. I finally have time for the projects I've been meaning to get to. For once news is still news and not something I read online and pretend to act like I haven't! At first I felt disconnected but now I realize that Facebook stressed me out without really connecting me to the people I'm truly invested in. Now I'm not convinced that this hiatus is temporary, it might have sticking power but time will tell.

If you need more reasons to deactivate your account here are 15 compelling reasons I found yesterday:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Trash Tally: 8/3 - 10/3

Since getting rid of our trash can after the last trash tally posts we have been collecting the little garbage we produce in this 16oz mason jar.

{2 Months worth of household trash}

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bottle and Cork Wine Events

For the past year and a half we've been attending bottle and cork wine events at La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay. It's a great event to stock up on good wine for a great deal. 

How it works: 
Each year during harvest time wineries predict how many barrels of wine they will produce. There's almost always surplus which is then sold to other wineries at a lower cost. Those wineries in turn can sell it directly to the public by bottling it themselves or allowing costumers to bring in their own bottles to refill with wine. The one catch is the wineries cannot disclose the vintner of the wine but they may share the vintage, varietal and appellation. 

{La Nebbia Winery, inside the barrel room}

Everyone benefits from this, its a win win win! The original winery gets to make an additional profit on the surplus, the 3rd party winery draws costumers and makes a profit with just one day of bottling and staffing for the event and the costumer benefits from the high quality wine at a low price plus if they're concerned about their environmental impact they get to benefit from reusing perfectly good bottles again and again.

Before our first wine event we collected pop-top 750 ml bottles which came from a combination of sparkling french lemonade and organic vodka. When we were done drinking the lemonade and vodka, I rinsed out the bottles with hot water and used a bottle brush for the inside then filled up the shallow basin of the sink with hot water and a touch of castile soap to let the bottles soak and soften the adhesive on the labels. It usually the just slid off after about a 20 minute soak and these labels are recyclable. Then rinsed the inside of the bottles once again with hot water a bit of soap and scrubbed the outside of the bottles clean. After rinsing put bottle upside down to dry completely so mold doesn't form. In some cases if I felt it was necessary I ran the bottles through the dishwasher which cleans the outsides beautifully but the insides not as well. I got wine bottle cleaning tip for the La Nebbia winery website section about the bottle and cork event. We transport our bottles using reusable wine bags that hold six bottles each that you can find these at most grocery stores. Once we had about 30 (or 2 1/2 cases worth) we were ready to refill them with wine. 

{Our pop-top bottles being filled with 2011 Amador County Sangiovese}

These bottle and cork events happen about eight times a year mostly in the fall, winter and spring with one in the summer. Three times a year they offer white wine and the rest are red. A lot of the costs put on to the customer is bottling and transportation both area eliminated with this sustainable style of buying wine. We keep coming back to these events for a few reasons. 
1) We already have collected all the bottles we need so might as well reuse them. 
2) They offer good quality wine at a great price. 
3) It dramatically cuts down on our recycling. 
4) We always have on hand a nice inexpensive bottle of wine to bring as a gift or contribution to a dinner party plus it gives us an opportunity to share about our lifestyle when we do so. 
5) We enjoy having a supply of wine for drinking and cooking plus if a natural disaster occurs we have what we need to survive (I'm joking…kinda). 

At these events if you bring in traditional wine bottles they will label and cork them for you but we always opt out of both. I've also seen people bring in their own custom labels which would be absolutely perfect for a wedding, party or custom Christmas gifts! At just $5 a bottle you can't go wrong, 30 bottles of red wine will last us about 3 months, longer if we cut back on entertaining :). 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Preserving the Summer

Last year I started the tradition of canning tomatoes to use over the winter because a peak season locally grown September tomato tastes a whole lot better than an imported crate ripened one in January. Last year I canned about 20lbs and figured we could use more this year so I purchased about 35lbs, a combination of heirloom and early girl tomatoes. Last year I tried a few different styles of canning, pealed, cored and whole, crushed and diced with skin on. The diced with skin on tomatoes ended up being my favorite because they're only cooked once inside the canning process instead of being blanched first so they seemed much more fresh plus much easier to make so I decided to do all diced tomatoes this year. 

{Ripe organic early girl tomatoes from the Larkspur Farmers Market}

I followed the directions Bea Johnson gives on her Zero Waste Home site with a few of my own variations, I didn't peal or crush mine just cored and diced. First you sterilize the jars by dunking them in boiling water, take them out carefully with tongs and set upside-down to dry on a clean kitchen towel. Then dunk gaskets in to the boiling water for about a half a minute and layout to dry. Fill up 1/2 quart sterilized jars with diced tomatoes to fill line, wipe jar rim clean, place gasket on and close latch. 

Then place closed filled jars in the boiling water for 45 minutes to create seal and weigh down jars with a large rock so they don't knock around. Once the 45 minutes are up turn off the stove, let the water cool a bit and carefully remove the jars with tongs. Set them on a towel to dry and cool down. When the jars were cool I open the latch to make sure the gasket sealed. Store in a cool dark place, I just placed mine in a bottom cupboard to enjoy all winter long! I love using hermetic jars because they're so versatile, pretty and BPA free.

{Diced organic heirloom tomatoes in 1/2 quart le parfait hermetic jar}

I ended up filling 14 1/2 quart jars with diced tomatoes and 3 smaller containers which I froze and still had about 10 lbs of super ripe early girl tomatoes left over. I didn't want them to go to waste so I decided to make another staple we miss because of our less waste lifestyle: tomato paste. We don't buy it because a) it comes in a can which we don't buy because it's wasteful and b) that can is lined with BPA. I scoured the internet looking for recipes and decided to give it a try. 

I roughly chopped the tomatoes and tossed them all in the slow cooker along with about 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 teaspoons of sea salt, using a hand blender I blended all of the tomatoes until it looked like gazpacho. Then with the lid off of the slow cooker I cooked the tomatoes down on low for 8 hours stirring every once in a while. After 8 hours it reduced by about 1/3 but still wasn't anywhere near the consistency or color I was looking for. One of the recipes I read instructed to use a baking sheet and slowly roast the sauce to reduce in to paste. I pushed the reduced tomatoes through a sieve little by little to separate the seeds then poured the tomatoes splitting between two baking sheets. In a 325 degree oven I roasted to tomatoes stirring every 30 minutes in to paste which took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I then filled up 3 small 7 oz hermetic jars with the paste and canned in a water bath just like I did for the diced tomatoes. 

{Reduced tomato paste}

It was pretty amazing to watch 10 lbs of ripe tomatoes transform in to 3 small jars of paste. I know the concentrated summer tomatoes will add so much flavor to our home cooking all winter long. If I ever find myself with that many extra tomatoes on my hands I will definitely make it again!

{10lbs organic early girl tomatoes reduced to just 3 small jars of tomato paste}

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fruits and Veggies

Years ago I first read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on a trip to Maui. This sparked my interest and I wanted to learn more about our food system. I began doing research and talking to friends. My sister recommended I look into Michael Pollan books. I read In Defense of Food then Omnivore's Dilemma. With each book I read my knowledge of our corrupt food system broadened. I learned that processed foods lacked nutrition and are ladened with harmful chemicals and preservatives (yuck!). At this time I ate a lot of vegetarian lean cuisine dinners, microwaved in plastic, chock-filled with dozens of unpronounceable ingredients, not to mention the excessive packaging each disposable individually wrapped meal came with. I bought those for the convince, taste and false notion that I was eating 'healthy.' 

I made a decision to be honest with myself and my food choices. After my self education I could no longer be ok with supporting such a corrupt system. Around the same time my coworker told me about this organic vegetable and fruit delivery service called Farm Fresh To You, I signed up online for a weekly box. That was four and a half years ago and we still love the service. Its always exciting to open the box to see what’s inside, its never the same and always a pleasant surprise. In fact I was talking about the produce delivery box with my husband the other day, we realized signing up for that service sparked all of our overall life changes for the better. It took an adjustment period at first, finding time to cook, figuring out what to make with these mysterious new fruits and vegetables and getting in the habit of not wasting this wonderful produce (i.e. letting it go bad in the fridge.) 

We made a deal with each other that we would cancel the box if we wasted any of the produce and it worked! We force ourselves to cook a few times a week and it has benefitted our lives in so many ways. We have become much better cooks, we know how to cook the most obscure veggies available. Out of necessity we've learned about many fruits and veggies that we would have never bought on our own. We eat seasonally, locally and organically while supporting our local farmers. Eating seasonally has also made us more in-tune with our surroundings, we get so much excitement when it's finally heirloom tomato season for example or how the first shipment of bing cherries always signifies the beginning of summer for us. These are life's simple pleasures, eating seasonally helps you appreciate what you have when you have it.

{this is what they sent us last week plus a bunch of parsley}

A few things we love about Farm Fresh To You is the fact they deliver right to your doorstep weekly. They also pick up and reuse the boxes that the produce is delivered in. Since those first shipments our lives have changed a bit, we now get the ‘Capay box’ all the produce in that box is from one farm in Capay Valley. We request no plastic in our box because by default they have a plastic liner. We also get farm fresh organic cage free eggs from the farm in Capay, we place the empty egg carton in the empty cardboard box to be collected for reuse as well. The biggest negatives about our FFTY are the excessive use of twist ties. I used to throw them in the trash which made up most of our trash in the kitchen but now I save them in a jar I’m either going to use them again or return them back to the farm in the mail. I still haven’t decided. Also, on occasion they’ll mess up and send us some plastic, every time they do I call and threaten to cancel. I think they’ve gotten the message =) When that does happen I save the plastic and reuse it.  I still think going to the Farmers Market is the best way to get fresh, local seasonal produce but unfortunately it doesn't fit in to our weekly schedules so this veggie delivery service is the next best thing.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trash Count: Day 29

Here's what's in our home trash count after 29 days:
- 1 bandaid
- 1 deflated blister pack
- 1 empty bottle of aftershave
- 1 Mi Pueblo shopping bag (we brought home from camping to transport a dirty pan because we forgot our pot scrubber)
- 1 broken flashlight
- 1 flower preserver packet (with a beautiful bouquet for flowers from a friend wrapped in paper with a rafia bow)
- 1 plastic sleeve liner from incense (I thought it was just wrapped in recycled paper)
- 1 gum pack wrapper (a favor a party)
- 1 lollypop wrapper (on a gift from a friend)
- 2 quarters sleeves from the bank (we have coin laundry)
- 2 hot sause packets (we needed breakfast burritos ;)
- 1 plastic ring from either yogurt or some other jarred food

I see a theme here, yes plastic! We both try not to throw anything away all of the time, but we're not crazy strict either. We reuse and recycle as much as possible too.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Trash Count: Day 19

Like the previous weekend, I went on a trip and produced some trash. This time it was camping but my husband and I did our best effort to shop zero waste for that trip, use reusables as much as we could and reuse disposables. We also went to a pool party where we shared a paper plate, drank to beer in glass bottles and used a plastic cup a few times for beverages. For the most part I feel ok about the waste we produced this past weekend. 
Here's what's in our home trash count:
- 1 bandaid
- 1 deflated blister pack
- 1 empty bottle of aftershave
- 1 Mi Pueblo shopping bag (we brought home from camping to transport a dirty pan because we forgot our pot scrubber)
- 1 broken flashlight
- 1 flower preserver packet (with a beautiful bouquet for flowers from a friend wrapped in paper with a rafia bow)
- 1 plastic sleeve liner from incense (I thought it was just wrapped in recycled paper)
- 1 gum pack wrapper (a favor from a party)
- 1 lollypop wrapper (on a gift from a friend)
- 2 quarters sleeves from the bank (we have coin laundry)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Trash Count: Day 14

In our trash after 14 days of we have 3 items. 2 of which I'm still not convinced are trash. 

- 1 bandaid
- 1 deflated blister pack 
- 1 empty bottle of aftershave

They came from...
- bandaid, we are using all the bandaids we have already bought. We'll move to cotton gauze and paper tape when we're out.
- blister pack, I compulsively bought a new one piece bathing suit on sale online. It came in a plastic shipping envelope inside another plastic bag next to a plastic blisterpack. Such wasteful and excessive packaging for a bathing suit and it's not even flattering! (note to self: don't do that again!) I am reusing the two bags that's why they aren't part of this count.
- aftershave, that's my husbands. He used up this last bottle and decided he doesn't need aftershave anymore. Score!

I want to add that this is our trash from our home only. I did go out of town over the weekend with a group of friends and produced some trash. I used my own jars and bags for everything I brought but was not in control of what others brought and used. I did my part to be zero waste but was in a house that ended up throwing a way a few bags of trash. It was a good learning experience to see how 'normal' it is to be wasteful and to know it could have been largely avoided was hard.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Lip Balm

This recipe is a combination of a few that I found on the internet and tweaked to what worked for me. I've made it a few times and love it. You can use it on your lips and on dry skin. Just don't slather it on at the beach because your lips will burn, I learned my lesson the hard way.

I purchased a one pound block of local beeswax unpackaged from the Beekind stand in the Ferry Building. I use a cheese grater to make shavings because it's easier to melt. Almond oil was purchased in bulk from Rainbow Grocery. I bought the tin new at the Container Store but next time I think I'll try reusing a mint tin. 


- 2 tbsp beeswax shavings
- 4 tbsp almond oil

Directions: Heat beeswax shavings and oil together in a glass jar inside a pot with an inch of water until melted then pour into a tin to set up. 

You can also try adding a bit of lipstick or mineral pigment for a tinted balm. I've tried this recipe with coconut oil as well and the ratio wasn't working, you have to use a lot more beeswax to oil so I just stick with almond oil.

{Homemade lip balm in a tin}

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Trash Count: Day 9

At this point we don't produce much trash at all. Part of moving towards a zero waste lifestyle is examining what you do end up throwing away and ultimately sending to a landfill. 

As an experiment I'm going to keep tabs on the trash we collect in our home. My husband usually halls down our giant trash can to the curb about once every 4 months. Lately I think it's been less then that, so this is an experiment to watch our trash a bit more closely. 

After 9 days the only piece of trash we've produced in our home is a piece of plastic packing tape that I received from a USPS box in the mail for my Mother's Day gifts.
{Used packing tape}

I was pretty positive that this indeed was trash and not recyclable but as part of my ongoing research I scoured the internet trying to find answers. Turns out that the tape is recyclable after all(sort of, recycling includes incinerating plastic and adhesive residue which is a recycling byproduct, not ideal!). This reduces our 9 day trash count to 0, that magical number. I'll keep you posted on what actually does end up in the bin headed to landfill.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Non-toxic Alternative: White Vinegar

White vinegar is a staple in our household. We buy it in either 1/2 gallon plastic jugs or 1 liter glass bottles because we have not been able to find it sold in bulk. We use it to clean pretty much everything on a day to day basis in our natural 'all-purpose cleaner' and I keep discovering new uses for it. Here's how we are currently using organic white vinegar.

{All-purpose cleaner in a stainless steal spray bottle}

- All purpose cleaner (for all household surfaces and spills)
- Natural soft scrub (tile, toilet, sink and shower cleaner)
- Room deodorizer (fill half a ramekin and leave where there's odor)
- Microwave cleaner (fill half a ramekin, microwave for a minute, wipe clean)
- Dishwasher rinse (pour in rinse receptacle)
- Fabric softener (add to rinse receptacle)
- Sink sparkler (fill sink with water and a cup of vinegar, soak, wipe down)
- Goo gone alternative (use straight on sticky spills on carpet and on sticker adhesive)

- Poached eggs (a splash in the water helps whites stay together)

How do you use white vinegar?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recipe: Almond Milk

Making almond milk is much easier then most people think. It's fresh, better tasting and much less expensive then store bought. It can be enjoyed with cereal, tea, coffee and in baking recipe's as a substitute for milk. How do you use your almond milk?

- 1 cup unsalted organic almonds (bought in bulk)
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbs local honey (or 1 date, bought in bulk)

1. Soak almonds in at least an inch of water in the refrigerator overnight. 

2. Strain, then rince soaked almonds with water.

3. Place soaked and strained almonds into blender with 4 fresh cups of water and honey.

4. Place chinoise over a bowl (you can use a cheese cloth or nut milk bag too), pour blended almond mixture into strainer. Press pulp with a spoon until most of the milk is in the bowl (squeeze, if its cheesecloth). Set aside the almond pulp to use later for an exfoliating scrub or freeze to add to cookies. 

5. Using a funnel, pour strained almond milk into an airtight container. Shake before using, refrigerate and enjoy for up to a week

{Almond milk in a pop-top reusable glass bottle}

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zero Waste: Grocery Shopping

There are several easy ways to reduce your waste. I realized quickly that much of our waste originates in the kitchen and eliminating waste before it enters the home through zero waste grocery shopping could make a sizable impact. I researched online for tips on waste free shopping, many of which I learned from the Zero Waste Home blog. Bringing our own containers, bulk and produce bags seemed like a big step. Gearing up for that first shopping trip took a mentality shift but was so intriguing that I knew I had to give it a try! 

This is how I prepped for that trip: I had two plastic Tupperware containers, a few mesh produce bags (had been using for a while) and a reusable canvas tote. I also did a ton of research to pepare but still had so many 'what ifs' whirling in my mind. 

What if - they flat out said no?
What if - everyone looked at me like I was insane?
What if - I lose the nerve at the last second?

I silenced the chatter in my head and went for it. Then, as I first asked for chicken thighs in my own container I got a burst of adrenaline. I felt like I could do anything. After checkout I walked out of the grocery store feeling proud and I couldn't wait until my husband got home from work to tell him about it. 

It's been about a year and a half since that first shopping trip and we haven't looked back. My husband and I usually do our grocery shopping together and we don't think about how we 'used' to shop anymore. We just understand that if we're not prepared to shop then we shouldn't be inside a store. This mentality has made us much more organized. We come prepared with a shopping list and we stick to it which saves us time and money. We bring the containers and bags just for what we need and leave the rest at home. 

Here is how we do our less waste grocery shopping:

1. Make a list. We talk to each other and figure out what we are out of and what we need (usually with specific recipes in mind).

2. Gather supplies. Our usual shopping supplies look a little something like this:
  • 2 - 3 Reusable tote bags for carrying everything
  • A few glass jars for wet items such as meat, cheese, peanut butter and olives. We use various sizes of Le Parfet jars, they're durable, clear and not plastic. If buying wet items in bulk (not behind meat counter for instance) then you'll have to weigh your jar to get the tare so the weight of the jar gets subtracted at check out. They can weigh jars at customer service, bring a water soluble crayon to write weight on the lid.
  • A few produce bags. We use green mesh bags by Blue Avocado.
  • A few bulk drawstring bags. I made mine out of flour sack towels because I love to sew but I have also seen them in the bulk section for sale at Whole Foods.
  • Water soluble crayon to write tare weight on jars and bulk bin numbers on my bulk bags 
  • Deposit items, such as clean Straus milk bottles, Revive kombucha bottles and St. Benoit yogurt jars. These products charge a deposit when purchased that is then refunded to you once you bring it back. 
3. Head to the store with your supplies for shopping.

4. Stick to the list. It's easy to get side tracked just know you aren't going to buy anything that has packaging.

5. At checkout refuse the receipt, it probably has BPA on it anyway.

{Produce and meat purchased with our reusables}

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Organically Dyed Easter Eggs

About a month ago while browsing PopSugar SmartLiving I stumbled upon a posting about all natural alternatives to traditional Easter egg dyeing.
After reading the article my wheels started to turn, thinking about what else I could use to dye eggs. I planned on sharing this activity with our 20 month old niece (this was the first Easter she was able to hunt for eggs) it was important for these eggs to be bright, colorful and non-toxic for her to enjoy. 

I had a rough list of ingredients in my head as I headed to the local farmers market in hunt for items that could serve double duty: package-free edibles that could be both conusumed and used for dye. The farmers market in Larkspur had an Easter theme that day which included a kids craft for (you guessed it =) natural egg dyeing with items available at the farmers market! I got so excited when I saw their display that I began asking the ladies running the craft tons of questions. They were sweet, informative and I could tell they were really happy to talk to someone over the age of six. =) The gist of what they told me is just to boil the ingredient of choice with two cups of water for less then an hour. Once the mixture is cool add a splash of white vinegar to set the color. Also, these dyes are weaker then their unsafe counterparts so for brighter colors the eggs should stay in the dye for longer. Farmers market purchases in tow, I headed to the store for a few more 'zero waste' ingredients then home to experiment. 

{Farmers Market Kids Craft}

At home I had fun concocting the dyes and testing out the colors. I hard boiled six eggs and blew out the insides of the remaining so that my sister wasn't stuck with a dozen hard boiled eggs! To add interest through negative designs I tied rubber bands around some and zigzag strips of sticker labels on others. Here are the dyes I tried:
  • Red Wine
  • Yellow Onion Skins
  • Turmeric 
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Turmeric + Purple Cabbage
The experiments results surprised me a bit. Red Wine, thinking it would make a red or purple egg made an interesting grey marbled egg resembling stone. Yellow onion skins produced a rich golden orange hue. Turmeric made bright yellow. Purple cabbage turned the eggs a beautiful cyan color then the turmeric and cabbage dye made a green.

{The finished product on my sisters spring time table-scape}

On Easter, my husband hid the eggs for our niece to find. It was a precious sight watching her roam around the yard, even though she found just one egg ;)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Zero Waste Impromptu BBQ

A few weeks ago my husband and I planned a day hike with some friends up to the Tourist Club. Afterword we decided to have everyone over for an impromptu BBQ. We needed food and beer so I knew I better act fast to avoid all the waste that usually comes with a party, especially an unplanned last minute one! I volunteered to go on a food and beer run with my friend Reny, she was happy to help out!

I quickly grabbed a few jars, produce bags, shopping bag and our two beer growlers. We hopped in the car and were on our way. We swung by Mill Valley Market, first stop was the meat counter. I asked the butcher to fill up my large jar with chicken thighs and a smaller jar with ground chuck, he happily obliged. Next we needed buns for the burgers, I filled my bread sack with rolls available in bulk. Then over to produce, I filled my produce bag with fresh corn and picked up a watermelon for dessert. Once we got to the check out line I showed Reny my jars-o-meat (she was Instagraming while we were racing around so I knew she didn't notice me asking the butcher to place the goods in my jars) she looked at it and said "Woah, that's awesome! Did they give you a discount, because they should?!" I said "No, no discount but that would be nice, haha." 

We checked out then headed down the street to Mill Valley Beerworks. We filled both growlers that we brought with our favorite, 'Sweetwater Kolsch.' The entire trip took a total of 20 minutes door-to-door. Our friends couldn't believe how fast we were and I was happy that we were able to do a full on Zero Waste shopping trip on the fly! 

The party was a success. We drank beer, wine,(refilled bottles of course!) grilled and even played charades. A good time was had by all! =)

{Reny and I enjoying the Tourist Club}

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Non-toxic Alternative: Baking Soda

After reading "Slow Death By Rubber Duck" I was on a mission to eliminate harmful chemicals from our home. The toxic cleaning products we had been using had to go. I did my research and found great homemade alternatives often using baking soda that are chemical free, super inexpensive and easy to make. I bought a good amount of baking soda in bulk on our last trip to Rainbow Grocery. Baking soda is extremely versatile, here are all the ways I'm currently using it.

- Lemon Dishwashing Detergent
- Sprinkle straight on tile and scrub

- Toothpaste
- Deodorant


Lemon Dishwashing Detergent:
¾ cup baking soda
½ cup salt
2 - 3 tsp dr. bronners soap
1 lemon worth of zest and juice
Mix all dry ingredients eliminating lumps then add the lemon zest, juice and soap. Mix well and use, 1 heaping tbsp per dishload. Make sure there is white vinegar in the rince liquid receptacle.
This actually can also be used as a garbage disposal refresher. I got the recipe from SavvySugar tried it and they never set up. I was thinking it would make a great dishwasher detergent, tried it and was blown away with how well it worked!

Toothpaste (updated 9/13):
1 Part Baking Soda
1 Part Coconut Oil

1/4 tsp Stevia Powder
15 - 20 drops of food safe peppermint essential oil
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until it forms a paste then transfer in to a jar.

Homemade Deodorant:
¼ cup baking soda
¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot
10 drops tea tree oil
1 - 2 tsp coconut oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, press in to an empty clean deodorant dispenser.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homemade Hummus Recipe

One of life's simple pleasures is a warm piece of fresh bread served with a smear of something fresh and delicious. My sister first gave me 'Amber's Famous Hummus' recipe a few years ago in a recipe binder. I loved it then and over time have moulded it in to what works best for us. We enjoy this spread on bread for a sandwich or to serve it with carrot sticks as dip. It's so versatile, tasty, healthy and easy to make.  

(adapted from ‘Amber’s Famous Hummus Recipe’)

Soak 1 cup dried garbanzo beans in a bowl of water on the counter for 12 - 24 hours, change water once if needed. Strain beans then boil in fresh water for an hour to an hour and a half, strain and use immediately or store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator covered with cooking liquid for up to three days.

{garbanzo beans}
3 ½ tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice or light colored vinegar
½ tsp salt
2 - 3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp olive oil
¾ tsp cumin
¾ tsp paprika

Place all ingredients into a bowl, blend smooth with a hand blender. If mixture is looking dry, add more cooking water.

Store in an airtight jar for up to 10 days in the refrigerator, it usually doesn't last that long in our house =)