2013-12-06

String cheese


Why am I posting a picture of string cheese? Because, ladies and gentlemen, a dream of mine came true recently. I was able to find a bag of string cheese that does not involve individually wrapping each piece! I know this doesn't sound like much, but I had always questioned why it couldn't be done. So, when I discovered this, it made my day. You can find this at Natural Grocers. I like string cheese, and (confession) I had some during pregnancy despite the waste because I needed healthy protein snacks and string cheese called to me. But, now that I'm no longer pregnant, I just couldn't justify the waste that is involved with string cheese. So I went back to not eating it again. Until I found this beauty. Now I can occasionally indulge without having an excessive amount of plastic waste. Yes, there is some plastic here, but I think it's so cool I could find someone who doesn't individually wrap them at least. It's the small victories.

2013-12-02

Zero waste, non-GMO, all organic, homemade Thanksgiving!

My sister Lacey hosts our family's Thanksgiving, and she always goes the extra mile with homemade everything. This year, she went above and beyond with a zero waste, non-GMO, all organic, homemade feast. The pumpkin pie was made from an actual pumpkin, not canned pumpkin, and she makes her own stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cream corn, etc. So, like I said, all homemade. I'm surprised she didn't raise the turkey herself! Needless to say, she generally gets more done before breakfast than I get done in a whole day and I'll admit that I often envy her productivity level. Did I mention she's pregnant, and has a 3 year old?
This picture shows the butter wrappers and tiny paper envelopes for compost, some plastic and a bit of cardboard for recycling, and that little bitty pile in the upper right is the only trash (minus the bird plastic). Amazing.
The following is in Lacey's own writing (with very minor editing). She will be our guest blogger today:
I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving for years. It makes me feel old to think how long I have been cooking it and even more old to know I have been with Matt for all that time! I have cooked it in school, out of school with a big kid job, with an infant strapped in a wrap, with a toddler strapped to my back, and now with a baby growing in my tummy! And Matt, being a super awesome helper always volunteers to clean up afterwards so I can rest. Our Thanksgiving is always traditional with the same dishes every year. Peeps might loose their mind if it wasn't! This year though, we tired to bring more of our personal beliefs into the sourcing of the food which makes Thanksgiving all the more fun! It is a holiday I super love. Here are the dishes we made this year, sourcing information, and packaging info. 
Turkey: 
We ordered and picked up the heritage turkey from a local Vesecky Family Farm at the recommendation of our Urban Homestead group (UHOT). This contributed to our biggest piece of waste because I couldn't think a way around it. It was much less packaging than a store bought turkey. It had just a single plastic bag around it. The legs were tucked using the skin from the turkey instead of the plastic most conventional turkeys come with. 
To prepare the turkey with no added waste we used a different recipe than we normally do. First, this bird would be tougher to cook without drying out than a conventional self-basting bird so we cut slits in the skin and stuffed homemade herb butter all along the breast and legs. The butter came in cardboard (recyclable) and paper wrap (compostable). To get the fresh herbs we had a plastic shell container that we recycled. I could not find the right herbs fresh in bulk and I’m not really a green thumb with growing anything. We then covered the bird in thick cut bacon that I purchased straight from the butcher so I could get it put directly in my glass storage container. Of course we also oiled it in cold press olive oil from a glass bottle we already had on hand and stuffed with fresh crushed garlic, lemons, bay leaves (I got these dried in the bulk section at the MERC and stored in my own mason jar I brought to the store, fresh parsley (that I could find fresh without packaging), and onions. The bacon covering meant we did not need to use foil to cover during any of the cooking. 
Sweet Potato Casserole
One part for the purpose of zero-waste and one part due to my hatred of HFCS we made marshmallows for the casserole. For this we used sugar from the bulk section of the MERC that I stored in my own mason jars, vanilla from a glass bottle already on hand, sea salt we had in bulk already, and gelatin that came in compostable paper envelopes (I used 2; they were about 2″x2″). We also used brown sugar. We could not find this in bulk so we had to settle for a recyclable plastic container that will not be empty for some time because there is a good sized amount left to use. I put the seal of this container in the “waste” pile in the picture Jess took. The main ingredient was, of course, the sweet potatoes which we just bought fresh and composted the peels. To mash it we used some heavy cream from a local dairy in glass. The seal was plastic, but at least it was recyclable. 
Green Bean Casserole
Believe it or not this is the most labor intensive of the dishes. First, you need to fry the onions for the top so you don’t waste on packaging. I used onions, composted the peels, milk from glass again, and flour that I bought in massive bulk…like I have a dog food size bag of whole grain flour I bought direct from Azure because I bake that much. It came in a thick brown paper bag so it will eventually be recycled or composted. Then, you have to make the cream of mushroom soup. This took mushrooms (fresh bulk using reusable produce bag), fresh garlic, butter, chicken stock (I used a concentrate that is an alternative to bouillon cubes. It comes in a glass bottle, but it lasts forever so it will be awhile before it is re-purposed or recycled), cream (reusable glass bottle), and some spices I already had and will not use up for some time (when I do all bottles are recyclable). Then, precook the fresh green beans after snapping and such (stored in a reusable produce bag). Finally, put all together and bake.
 Stuffing
This is pretty up there on labor time too because it requires bread. That means making loaves of bread ahead of time and drying them out. I made the loaves Wednesday using my standard recipe. It calls for flour (that I bought in bulk as you know), yeast (that I also buy in massive bulk. I actually had to open a new bulk bag of the yeast which is one of those little strips of waste. The way it is lined I don’t think it can be recycled or composted.), honey from Eskridge (in a reusable, exchangeable bottle), milk (glass exchangeable). It also took some onions (compost peels), butter (compost wrapper), broth (from concentrate in glass jar), fresh parsley (no waste), and some seasoning I had on hand.
 Pumpkin Pie
I used our super traditional crust recipe and just subbed my whole grain flour for all purpose and butter for shortening. I baked a pumpkin for the filling which gave us the waste of the sticker that was on the pumpkin for labeling. We composted the pumpkin scraps. Other ingredients were: cream (glass exchangeable), brown sugar, sugar (from bulk), sea salt, egg (local farmers take the cartons back), lemon zest (sticker for label was waste), and some seasonings. 
Apple Pie
This contributed to a lot of our waste as we needed 12 apples. I think 4 of them had stickers. All stickers would be waste. Same crust as before, same sugar source, some butter, a lemon (sticker), and seasonings. 
Dinner Rolls 
These no-waste rolls were easy with just some of that bulk flour, bulk yeast, bulk sugar, bulk sea salt, milk in glass, butter in compostable wrapper, and eggs in returnable carton. 
Mashed Potatoes 
Easy on this one too. We composted the peels, used butter with compostable wrapper, milk from glass, sea salt and pepper from our grinder. 
Creamed Corn
With no fresh corn in season and me not planning ahead enough to buy and freeze earlier in the year I had to buy frozen. Luckily, it was very easy to find a compostable bag of frozen corn that I then creamed with milk (in the glass bottle) and bulk flour. 
Gravy
For gravy I used the drippings from the turkey, the bacon from the turkey, leftover fresh parsley, bulk flour, and milk in glass. 
Cranberry Relish
I found carton cranberries this year so I recycled the cartons, yay! Add sugar from bulk, an orange (1 sticker), walnuts from bulk (in a mason jar) and bam, done. 
Our total waste = Produce stickers from lemons, apples, orange, and pumpkin. The wrapped seal from two spices I had to buy fresh because I was out, the top of the brown sugar, the single bag from the turkey, and the top of the new giant bag of yeast. 
Recycled = two small clam shells from cranberries, even smaller one from herbs, three seals from milk and cream, and two boxes from butter. 
Composted = potato peels, sweet potato peels, apple peels, pumpkin scraps, green bean ends, two gelatin paper packs, paper from butter, and bag from corn. 
We brought all our glass storage with us to box up any leftovers. Buying zero-waste and local when possible made organic and non-GMO even easier because we never made it to a conventional grocery store for supplies. :)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!