Reducing Our Impact

I don’t usually make resolutions for the new year. More often than not, positive change happens on its own, with a nudge or two on my behalf (but not for the sake of a “fresh” start).

Years ago, Tim and I started using canvas bags for groceries, library books, special projects, and picnic goodies. From there, we stopped buying paper towels, napkins, and kleenex, opting for cloth napkins and umm… hankies (hankies might sound icky, but they aren’t so bad, I promise!). We bought recycled garbage bags because we had no way to compost in our small apartment (and no yard to make a compost heap). We even tried using the biodegradable garbage bags, but by the time the bag was full, it had already started breaking apart (suggestions?). We stopped buying plastic wrap and ziplock-type baggies, opting to rinse and reuse any packaging our food came in (cereal box inserts, zipper-top sugar pouches, bread bags, and produce bags). See? Happy changes for us and the Earth (smooch, smooch!)!

Our greatest dilemma was the plastic produce bags at grocery stores. We would bring bags from home that we had saved and use them time and time again. It eventually got to the point where we didn’t have any more, and using new ones made us feel guilty. I was browsing Etsy awhile back and came across a woman who makes her own bulk food/produce bags out of ripstop nylon. So, the sewing machine came out of our closet and Tim set to work creating a few bags similar to the ones I had seen. And you know what?! They are totally awesome! We used them for the first time today. They weigh the same as a plastic bag, and they can be reused again and again and again (rinsed out and easily dried too!). We only have three right now, but a bike ride up to the fabric store this weekend will result in many more. The best part is that we can make all sorts of sizes and colors! This is a huge step forward in reducing our impact, and also in silently showing others by example. I am hoping to sew up a few too; my hands are less steady, but it all works out in the end!

bags-and-beans1

See how cute those beans look nestled in their homemade bulk bag?

Along with switching to reusable nylon produce bags, we are focused on phasing out plastics as much as possible. My pantry (I mean cupboards) is full of plastic tupperware holding bulk beans, grains, sugars, and legumes. It would be great to replace them all with glass jars that line up neatly in rows with pretty labels and such. It’s my goal to start/finish this project in the next few months.

Maybe hidden in all these jumbled words, our resolution is to waste less? I’m not sure, but I know that we can all do our part to reduce our impact on the Earth.

I heard that pudding helps reduce our impact:

chocolate-peppermint-pudding

Chocolate Peppermint Pudding - a test recipe (and a tasty one at that)

One Crazy April

Well, the weather here in Portland, OR has been a blend of four seasons over the last few days. This seems to be a worldwide trend, and I kinda like it…I know, I know, who likes hail, snow, rain, sun, wind, and cold all in one day? I do. I grew up less than a mile away from Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, and this is a welcoming memory of childhood…Anyway, weather that is as temperamental as my mood leads to lots of fun in the kitchen! So that’s good…

First up, I made a huge batch of granola. The recipe is adapted from The Big Book of Vegetarian, which happens to have a ton of yummy vegan recipes (and veganizable vegetarian recipes). This is the Spiced Vanilla Granola, made with considerably less sugar than the recipe calls for. This is a very versatile granola, you can add any combination of nuts and dried fruit, and it still turns out perfect every time!

After the granola, I made pita dough (again). I think I’ve become a pita fanatic. Pita is awesome because one batch makes enough dough for at least 16 pitas, and you can freeze the unbaked dough balls for later! This pita dough is for tomorrow night’s dinner: FALAFEL!!!! My favorite part of making any yeast dough is watching the yeast get all foamy! As I have mentioned in a previous post, talk to your yeast! Say things like “Hey lil’ yeasties, it’s time to go for a swim!”…

Once the pitas were finished baking, I was hungry. So, I made a snack with a chickpea spread from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (my very first vegan cookbook!), and cut a pita into triangles. This is one of the most addictive spreads around, and my pita was psyched to not be naked anymore.

Once I finished my snack, I went on to making more jam, with the last of my berries in the freezer (picked…2 summers ago!!!!). Lemon juice is essential to jam-making.

A Strawberry-Raspberry Jam:

Next up: Tuscan White Bean Soup, also from The Big Book of Vegetarian. This is a hearty, healthy, delicious soup (especially on a day when the weather keeps you indoors).

Maybe you are wondering, where’s the dessert?! Well, I can’t go a day without some sort of tasty treat, so today (and many days) I made Chocolate Pudding, courtesy of Fat Free Vegan (my oh my, this is sooooo gooood!!!!).

And lastly, on Wednesday I received a little package in the mail from Hannah (aka Bittersweet). I was lucky enough to be one of the winners in her bunny contest. So, you don’t have to guess who was hiding in the envelope! That’s right! A sweet little pink bunny, who I have named Krames (after a sneaky spider who lived in the hallway of my building, until he ran off with another spider named Willis, who lived in my apartment…). Thank you Hannah! As it turns out, Krames loves vegan cupcakes (go figure!). On Friday night, my boyfriend and I were desperate for a treat, but I had no sugar anywhere! I did have some soy sweetened condensed milk. I ended up making vanilla cupcakes without a recipe (a little of this and a little of that), and topping them with some homemade hot cocoa mix I had in the cupboard. They actually turned out very well, not too sweet, with a lovely texture and crumb. But the “recipe” only made three cupcakes. One for me, one for Tim (my boyfriend), and one for Krames. Perfect!