Simple saucy salad
for the sauce:
Assemble + enjoy!
One of the things I quickly discovered while making zero-waste meals is that a good sauce can make all the difference. As zero-wasters, we're working with the most delicious + nutritious ingredients: fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts + seeds to name a few. Sometimes salt, pepper flakes + a bit of olive oil is all that is needed to make these into a tasty meal. Sometimes a simple sauce bumps the whole enterprise up a notch.
This meal was simple + delicious...and zero-waste. This salad can obviously be made with a variety of ingredients. I do especially like this dressing/sauce with chickpeas + cucumbers + tomatoes.
Simple saucy salad
for the sauce:
Assemble + enjoy!
A meal like this can be a quick meal with a little foresight + regular preparation. Regularly cooking up a large batch of chickpeas all at once, always having yogurt on hand + storing my greens effectively help so much when it comes time to make meals...even at the end of a long day. (I've linked a few of the ways I keep these ingredients zero-waste, fresh + ready for use above.) When I cook rice, I always cook more than I need, so that I can have some already cooked rice on hand for meals like this. This salad can be eaten cold or warm. It could be batch made ahead for lunches too. Nourishing, quick, easy + tasty...just how I like my meals!
I've shared before how we buy + store bread in a zero-waste way. We did it that way for years, + it worked well. The only issue we had was that when the humidity was high, the bread became difficult to break off of the frozen loaf in one piece. Another issue with this storage option could be that some might prefer to eat bread rather than toast...or to pack a sandwich for later.
So...here is the way we've been doing zero-waste bread for the last year + a bit. An unpackaged loaf of bread is sliced at the store + put into a cloth bag from home. (I made my bags with the dimensions of a bag from the store as a guide. I like the bag to be big enough to slide over the loaf, but small enough to hold the sliced loaf together.) At home, I put the bread (cloth bag + all) into a plastic bread bag that we use over + over (I would imagine that a nylon baggu bag would work just as well). I just twist the bag closed, and it will keep in the fridge for a week. If I have part of a loaf still in the fridge when I bring home a new loaf, I'll put the new one into the freezer. When someone uses up the last of the refrigerated bread, they move the frozen loaf into the fridge.
If I was shopping for one or two people (instead of a family), I may split the loaf in half...storing half in the freezer + half in the fridge. This would keep the bread fresh + ready to eat as bread or toast. Hope all of that makes sense! :)
Going zero-waste can effect the ease of figuring out what's for dinner. I've found that having a few go-to categories (rather than meals themselves) allows for simpler grocery list making, seasonal vegetable enjoyment + a bit of variety. We've touched on five of those categories over the past few weeks, and now we have arrived at the sixth category :: pasta.
When we first started seriously shopping the bulk bins, we could purchase bulk pasta there. At the moment I can't locate bulk pasta, but can buy orzo + couscous in bulk. Now that we avoid gluten, we don't choose those either. The first year we ate gluten-free, I skipped pasta altogether. Now we choose a gluten-free pasta in a recyclable cardboard box. (Anyway, there are a few different zero-waste options for pasta.)
Pasta is a familiar meal choice for most of us, so I probably don't need to elaborate too much...but I will just a bit. :) Pesto pasta can be made by blending a couple of handfuls of tasty greens (basil, most commonly), a small handful of bulk nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, pecans), a clove or two of garlic (if you like), a glug of olive oil, salt, + pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or grated parmesan, if desired. Mix this pesto with seasonal vegetables, chickpeas + pasta for a tasty meal like the one above.
One of my girls loves anything cheesy, and macaroni + cheese is a favorite. Our zero-waste mac + cheese is better than any I made before. I melt a small block of butter over medium heat, stir in a spoonful or two of flour (gluten-free works too) + add some milk. Whisk, whisk, whisk until this mixture thickens into a bubbly, gravy consistency. Remove from the heat + stir in some grated cheese (we love pepper jack). Poured over pasta + some steamed broccoli = decadently delicious.
My favorite way to eat spaghetti type pasta is to make a sauce of chopped fresh tomatoes (or some of my sauce) added to a skillet already sautéing red onion (add some red pepper too, if desired) + to cook it all down a bit. Stir in some salt + pepper flakes for a tasty sauce.
A hearty vegetable + legume + noodle soup is another tasty way to eat pasta.
Parts 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 of building a zero-waste meal plan. :) We eat vegetarian at home, but any of the meal choices offered here can easily incorporate meat, if desired.
It's been raining for weeks, but today the sun was shining when we woke up. I couldn't help but smile. There's nothing like a garden to make us realize just how dependent on the weather we really are. Too much rain can wreak as much havoc as too little. My tiny stakes don't begin to compare to a farmer's, but they do open my eyes to the enormous effects of climate change on our food supply.
Growing our own food is one of the most zero-waste things we can do. From a little paper packet of seeds come whole bunches of the freshest + tastiest food. There is no packaging + no transport emissions. There wasn't even a trip to the farmers' market. Not all of us have a patch of dirt to cultivate, but we might be able to grow a pot of peppers on a balcony, basil in a windowsill or onions from the core of a used onion.
Eating food fresh from the garden is pretty amazing! Never are the radishes so spicy or the chives so pungent as when they've been harvested minutes before that first bite.
Planting + watering + caring for + harvesting + tasting our own food just must be one of the best ways to share a connection with our planet...with our children. I felt it imperative to be able to let my girls pull a carrot out of the soil...pick strawberries off the vine...dig potatoes out of the ground. I'd done it as a child + there was just no way to explain the pure magic of it to them. Before having our own garden, we made sure to find pick-your-own apple orchards and strawberry + blueberry fields. We ate things straight away, and we made jam + apple sauce too. Establishing connections between the land + weather + farmers + our bodies is crucial. These connections form our thoughts + attitudes + actions...and the connection is there whether we acknowledge it or not.
When it comes to healthy eating, I find it helpful to have some ground rules. Michael Pollen's food rules are just about right:
-Eat food. (Not processed food-stuff.)
-Not too much.
I would like to add zero-waste to the list (which is quite compatible with the above rules).
In a quest to make my weekly menu planning + grocery list making easier, we have a weekly menu which consists of six meal categories. These categories have some flexibility for seasonal produce, prep time + preferences built in.
This time, we're taking a closer look at the grain bowl. A grain bowl around here consists of a whole grain + vegetables + protein source + flavor.
Obviously this is a very flexible directive which could begin with any type of grain...quinoa, brown rice, wild rice + polenta are some of our favorites. I don't keep all of them stocked, but rotate as desired. Same with the protein source. Our most likely choices are chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, seeds + eggs. Seasonal vegetables can steer the direction of the entire enterprise. And the flavor can come from a variety of sources...spices, herbs, citrus, yogurt + cheese often feature. The possibilities are truly endless here, but to name a few:
Tikka Massala (shown above)
brown rice (1 cup bulk dry)
2 cans chickpeas
1/2 can coconut milk (full fat)
1/2 lime, squeezed
spices: (about 1 tsp. each) cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin, cayenne
Cook rice + steam broccoli.
-A spring bowl might consist of quinoa, roasted asparagus, chickpeas, feta, chives, salt, pepper flakes + a squeeze of lemon.
-A summery bowl could include polenta, sun gold tomatoes, onion, cucumber, avocado, spiced pinto beans, cilantro + a squeeze of lime.
-In the fall wild rice, sweet potato, kale, black beans + a drizzle of yogurt, honey, cayenne + cinnamon sauce would be warming + flavorful.
-A bowl of potatoes, carrots + spinach stirred into a sauce of tomato sauce, coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, lime + pepper flakes on a bed of brown rice would be most welcome in the winter months.
This one meal category is so versatile that it really could be what I eat for dinner every night. Since I cook for more than myself, however, I switch it up. I fing that it's really nice to have some sort of system to utilize when I'm making my grocery list. One more category to come!
I like to keep actual breakfast at our house pretty simple, so hearty breakfast foods make a special appearance at dinner time. I like this meal, not only because it is tasty, but also because it is relatively inexpensive. A frittata (or quiche) can make use of the end of week vegetables + cheese. Greens mixed with a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt + pepper dressing is a nice partner. A big omelet stuffed with vegetables and maybe a side of potatoes...all topped with salsa is always welcomed.
Pre-gluten-free days, we liked eggy bread made from a fluffy loaf of french bread (which can be frozen to save an extra trip to the store + cut while still frozen) or sourdough. My favorite topping is a bit of jam...or make it a croque madame or monsieur. Pancakes are a meal that can often be made from what is on hand. When it comes to zero-waste toppings, we can put maple syrup from the bulk section into our own container from home...or...my favorite option is to make a syrup out of seasonal fruit like strawberries, mangos or apples. Add some sliced fruit to a bit of butter in a pot or skillet along with a little sugar, cinnamon + corn or potato starch to thicken. (The strawberries above were from our garden.) :)
Breakfast for dinner...it's a good thing.
Next up on the zero-waste meal plan list: root vegetables. Basing a meal around sweet potatoes or potatoes offers an anchor, but still leaves a lot of room for creativity. A big pan of roast vegetables is one of my favorite meals to eat. Chop up in-season vegetables like carrots, turnips, onions, leeks, radishes, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers...and the list goes on...along with the potatoes. Toss them with some olive oil + sprinkle on some salt. Once they are in the oven (425F), there are about 45 minutes to do something else. Add a hard boiled or sunny-side-up egg, and it's a meal.
I often add a bunch of chopped kale to the pan during the last 15-20 minutes of roasting time as well. A sprinkling of salt + pepper flakes + nutritional yeast is all the extra flavor we need.
As with all of these categories, there is a lot of room for variation. A breakfast burrito bowl (or regular burrito bowl) could use roasted peppers, onions + potatoes (or sweet potatoes) along with scrambled eggs (+/or beans), salsa, cheese +/or avocado. Baked potatoes offer a different canvas to work with. Mashed potatoes or fries (just either type of potato cut into strips + roasted) are good bases as well. Top fries or a baked potato with some leftover chili + a dollop of yogurt. Yum.
Some extra roasted vegetables can be kept in the fridge + added to salads or rice for quick meals later in the week. Bake an extra potato to toss in with some scrambled eggs. I always thank my past self for the foresight. :)
Numbers one + two on the zero-waste meal plan.
Pizza is another category in my list of zero-waste weekly meals. These six categories of meals really simplify my meal planning + grocery list making. I'm going through them one by one here in order to go into a little more depth about each one.
When we found that we needed to make the switch to gluten-free foods, it took me a while to figure out how to get pizza back in the rotation. Gluten-free flours are much more expensive + less available in bulk than wheat flours, so it took me a while to get comfortable with adding the gluten-free version to my shopping list. We spent more than a year mostly avoiding gluten-free flour, but we've recently started adding it back in occasionally. I mention this especially in regards to pizza, because I find that this gluten-free pizza not only tastes great...I've found it to be simpler, quicker + less messy to make than regular pizza crust. There is no rising time involved + the dough doesn't gunk things up so much in the cleaning process.
I've gone back + forth about making my own gluten-free flour mixtures from the flours available in the bulk bins (our usual grocery store closed + the new one doesn't offer as many options...and some packaged flours + add-ins are still necessary when mixing our own). At the moment my favorite pizza crust is made with gluten-free 1-1 flour (I can buy the biggest bag of Bob's Red Mill possible...which is paper). We can whip this up + spread it out in about ten minutes. We add the toppings + it cooks in 20 minutes. It's a pretty quick meal.
Best Gluten-free Pizza Crust
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups 1-1 gluten-free flour
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 425F. Mix yeast, sugar + water. Let sit 5 minutes. Mix in other ingredients. Spread onto compostable parchment covered pan. (Can let stand for 10-15 minutes for a thicker crust.) Add toppings. Cook 15-20 minutes. (this recipe slightly tweaked)
The pizza pictured just above is topped with olive oil, sliced potatoes (purposely left over from earlier in the week), pepper jack cheese, feta (put into our own container at the salad bar), salt + cracked pepper. Top it with a big pile of greens tossed with lemon juice + a little olive oil- yum! (some fresh chives from the garden sprinkled on top would have been great as well) The pizza up top is a taco pizza topped with salsa, beans + cheese...with greens, cilantro, avocado, cayenne + salt added after removing from the oven. So good.
Let seasonal vegetables or ethnic flavors steer the direction. Pizza is extremely versatile + quite nutritious when piled with protein + vegetables (go easy on the cheese). :) Top it with some nutritional yeast (found in the bulk bins) +/or fresh herbs for a little more goodness.
When I decided to try this zero-waste thing, food was my biggest concern. In most of our homes, the biggest trash can is located in the kitchen...because that's where the majority of our trash is made. I'd read about how the only person out there at the time doing zero-waste bought her groceries...and decided to drive past four grocery stores to the one that had bulk bins. I skipped the middle aisles + gathered my (mostly) package free foods. At the time, I felt a bit cut-off from our usual staple meals. There was a bit of a learning curve...an adjustment to making do with what was now available to me...but I could see that eating zero-waste was possible + in so many ways...preferable.
A list of flexible recipe categories is very helpful to me today. Each week, I use these six categories to guide my meal planning + grocery list making. On the seventh day of the week, we might order pizza (+ recycle the box), go out to eat (somewhere with real plates) or eat leftovers. Food almost never goes to waste this way.
So...the first category we'll dive into is soup or salad. In the summer, we are more likely to eat salad...in the winter, it is almost always soup. We like hearty soups + salads that really count as meals...so I make sure there are in-season vegetables, protein + grains involved. Soups + salads are very simple + forgiving, so this can be a great fridge-clean-out meal to eat just before grocery day.
When I first started cooking, I wasn't exactly sure how to get soup to taste like soup rather than stuff floating around in water. Here's what works for me now:
-heat some olive oil over medium heat + add some chopped onion (I use about 1/6 of a big red onion) + cook until translucent
-add water, vegetables, protein, spices, grain + a spoonful of bouillon (I like this brand) + bring to a boil
-reduce heat + simmer until vegetables are tender + grain is cooked
-adding a squeeze of lime, small glug of vinegar, coconut milk or cream after removing from heat often adds a great hit of flavor or creaminess
The soup above was the one we ate last week. It started with the olive oil + onion, had a broth of bouillon, water + tomato sauce (a chopped tomato works well too), and also included carrots, broccoli, chickpeas (cooked + frozen), rice (extra cooked earlier in the week), salt, cayenne + cilantro. It might sound like there are lots of ingredients to gather, but one of the reasons that we ended up with this combination is that I already had rice in a jar and tomato sauce + chickpeas in the freezer when I made my grocery list. We already had onion + bouillon + spices. I wanted broccoli + cilantro for different meals this week, so used what I knew would be leftover in this meal. The only thing that went on the grocery list for this soup was carrots. I want my meals to fit together like puzzle pieces. That way we save money + eat everything we buy.
Zero-waste salads are simple enough to put together with seasonal ingredients. Homegrown herbs, nuts, seeds + cheeses are tasty additions. My favorite dressings are simple combinations of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, salt + pepper. I also like a mixture of yogurt + salsa as a dressing.
Soup + salad are easily adjustable for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free or other dietary needs or preferences. Since I cook for a family of four, we usually eat all of what I make. If I were cooking for one or two, I would put some into jars for dinners or lunches later in the week.
More soup + salad inspiration here. :)
Nothing new here...just popcorn. But this particular popcorn is local + came from our CSA box. :) Normally, we buy our popcorn kernels in bulk. Our minimalist kitchen doesn't contain a popcorn popper, so I just use my trusty lidded pot + about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat to pop it. A handful or two of kernels can fill the entire pot!
A few of the ways we like to eat popcorn include:
-sprinkled with salt + a melted butter
-sprinkled with salt, melted butter + nutritional yeast (available in bulk where we live)
-a spoonful (or two) of sugar thrown in with the kernels (just shake the pot periodically during popping to avoid burning) + salt + melted butter (if desired)
-a little cayenne or cinnamon sprinkled in with salt + butter
All of these make a great, light snack...in the middle of the afternoon or after dinner. What are your favorite popcorn "toppings"?
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time