Friday, February 22, 2013

Gluten-free, Vegan Scones

Preparing for my transition to becoming vegan I have been gradually eating through all my dairy, and the eggs are all gone.  So, now learning to bake without eggs or butter is the difficulty I face.  Here is my first experiment, and I think it worked out rather well.

Lingon Berry Chocolate Chip Scones
yield: 12 scones

2 Cups GF bread flour (see my recipe)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Tbsp. Baking powder
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup Almond Milk (warmed)
1/4 cup Lingon Berry Preserves
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Chocolate chips (both gluten free and dairy free)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Make a well.

Quickly pour olive oil and vanilla into dry ingredients mix with a fork quickly until ingredients form small clumps.

Gently mix all other ingredients until they come together to form a dough.  Do not over mix.

Using a spoon scoop 6 evenly-spaced, large mounds of dough onto an un-greased baking scone or baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eating out... Gluten-free Pizza pt.1

Great news for my gluten-free audience.  If you, like myself, just have a gluten intolerance, but are not highly allergic or celiac.  Prepared GF pizza just became more accessible.  In the past you had to search for a very specific pizzeria that would also make GF pizzas, now one of the largest pizza chains in the U.S. has created a GF option.

Dominos Pizzerias all over the world are offering a GF pizza crust at the 10" size, and the best things about this offer is that it's not insanely expensive.  Whereas GF pizzas can cost at times up to $20 for a personal size, the 10" small GF cheese pizza from Dominos is just about $10.

Here's a link to find out more:

I will be reviewing this pizza for taste and quality in the near future, I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tetra Pak... amended

So, upon a little more research prompted by the side of two almond milk cartons that specifically stated they are recyclable in certain areas.  I decided to look into recycling cartons again. I apologize that I have given information that was only partially true.  Tetra Paks are actually recyclable in part.

Here are the facts:
Tetra Pak makes their cartons on average from 70%-80% of paper.  Metals and plastics are combined with the paper to make the cartons aseptic.  You can see a diagram here. The recycling of these cartons removes the non-paper products then recycles the paper into tissue products.

While these packages are still recyclable it does seem that there is some waste.  It is seen in the two ways.  First, the Tetra Paks themselves do not use recycled paper, so any paper going into the production of these cartons does come from freshly processed trees in order to make a clean food-safe product.   Second, the non-paper products (that is 20%-30% of the packaging) get siphoned off, and don't seem to get recycled from what I can tell from the carton recycling process.

In fairness, while the production of these cartons is not completely waste free, Tetra Pak does work to reduce waste as much as possible, through forestry guidelines, reduction of carbon footprint at the factories, and recycling programs that turn their product into new paper products that don't need to be food ready.

There are other rumors about tetra paks that I feel need to be addressed.  I have heard and read that these cartons are neglected by most city/county recycling programs.  This could not be further from the truth.  As I looked into it more, I found that not only are these packages recyclable, but recycling programs that include them are more readily available than one would think.  In fact, there is even more information out there for recycling cartons and/or making cartons recyclable in your community than most people even have time to read.

So, in conclusion I would like to apologize for my lack of investigative journalism on this matter and provide you with some resources.

First, I would encourage you to check out these three websites for general information about recycling:

All these websites above provide some helpful information so you can make informed choices about what kinds of packaging you purchase your food in, to reduce waste.  For example, though I will now with ease of conscience purchase Tetra Pak cartons knowing that I have facilities available to me that do recycle them, I also found out that glass is the only recycled product that is 100% reused, in other words it is not wasted at all. So, I will still try to purchase as much as I can in glass.

Second, if you are still concerned about Tetra Paks and want to know more about the packaging that is so prevalent at your local supermarkets, then I recommend going to their website:

The Green Room
Our Commitment
Forestry Guidelines

I found these pages on their site to be extremely helpful and informative.

Finally, and possibly most important, find out if you can recycle tetra paks in your community by visiting:

If your city or county does not currently recycle cartons check out this tool kit:

You can use this information to petition to get your city recycling program to include cartons.  The best way to do this is to get 100 or more signatures of citizens in your town who want this recycling program in their community.  Then get on the agenda for an upcoming city council meeting (which is usually not difficult), then take a friend or two and present the petition to the city council.  The thing about politics is that changing processes take both time and money, so if nothing comes of this right away you just have to keep strong and continue to bug your city aldermen and your mayor, until they do something about it.

Anyhow, I hope that this clears the record for Tetra Pak cartons and I hope that you have found this blog post informative and helpful to your own sustainably culinary life style.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Going green... and the Tetra Pak

As you know, I am trying to change my lifestyle to become more green this year.  As a result, I have been looking into buying only humanely raised meats and eggs.  Yes, not only can this be expensive but it can even be difficult to find.  That said, on a daily basis I have been eating a lot more plant-based proteins.  In fact, this has become so normal to me that I have recently been considering going mostly vegan.

I started by picking out one daily thing that I consume and changing it to a vegan alternative.  Lately, I had been using cow's milk much more than I even used to, so I am starting there.  I am heartily against consciously adding any soy into my diet because soy is in just about everything, and since I already drink almond milk on a semi-regular basis I chose almond milk as my main milk alternative.

The only problem is the more closely I looked at what I was purchasing this week, I realized that I am now purchasing my milk exclusively in tetra paks, and when I was buying locally sourced milk it came in returnable glass jugs.  Now, I wouldn't be completely against making this switch permanent if tetra paks were recyclable.  Problem is though many people are under the assumption that this kind of packaging is made from paper therefore mistakenly throwing these containers in their recycle bins every day, they ultimately are a hybrid of paper, plastic, and in some cases even metal and are currently not able to be recycled.

So, I started to try to solve the wasteful packaging issue by possibly making almond milk myself. As I researched how to make almond milk from scratch I saw that it requires a high-quality food processor or blender and that it only lasts for about 3 days, unlike the store purchased almond milk which allows me 7-10 days to use it. Being a single gal that honestly doesn't always use a lot of milk shelf-stable almond milk has become a kind staple for me. Until now.

So, here I am at my first sustainable-living impasse of the year.  Do I continue to purchase cow's milk though it is sometimes expensive and ultimately I don't actually know if the cow's from that local farm are pasture-raised, or do I keep throwing tetra paks into the landfills?  Obviously, that is hyperbole, my intention is to do neither but that is why I need your help.

Today, I am not posing solutions or recipes as much as I am asking for your input.  I am still thinking about how to transition myself into a mostly vegan lifestyle (i.e. I may still eat eggs occasionally since I can buy those directly from the farmer, and I will on occasion eat meat that I know has been humanely raised, and I am never strict about what I eat when at another person's house).  But, I can't continue to use almond milk in good conscience knowing the packaging is simply going to the bottom of a landfill, and frankly I just don't have the high quality blender I would need nor do I have time every three days to make fresh almond milk. So, I need your help figuring out a solution.  Here are my questions for you, is there a way to can homemade almond milk in mason jars?  Do you know of any inexpensive sources for pasture-raised cow's milk?  Or are there uses for empty tetra paks, so that I can reuse them on my own?  I am open to any and all suggestions. Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Getting produce home plastic free

Now that I am trying to buy produce and dry goods more locally, I am purchasing a lot more products that are not pre-packaged.  Therefore getting these items home without spilling all over can pose a bit of a challenge. Sure there are plenty of plastic bags at the grocery store, but if I am buying products that don't have packaging then taking them home in plastic feels slightly self-defeating. I first toyed with the idea of taking my mason jars to the store with me, but that can be rather cumbersome. So, I purchased some produce bags online from chico to get me started.

When I received these bags in the mail I realized that they couldn't have been too difficult to make.  And even though they are nice bags and come in an adorable little easy-to-cary apple pouch,  honestly, for the price I wouldn't buy them again.  In my research this past week about ways to go green, I found countless DIY bag projects that recycle old t-shirts into cloth market bags.  Finally, I realized that I could likely do the same to make more produce/bulk bags.  I found a few DIY produce bag projects online, but many of them required a great deal of sewing.  So, since I'm not the best seamstress and I currently do not have a sewing machine (both facts that I hope to remedy this year), I decided to try amending these projects.

As a result, I created my own DIY produce bag project.  This is a much easier project, and I was able to complete it by hand (taking pictures included) in less than an hour.  Anyway, here it is.

And, seriously if I can do this, then truly anyone can!

DIY Recycled Produce Bag (aka Cotton Cinch Bag)

For this project you need only a few things and you probably have them all lying around.  First, you'll need an old undershirt, men's or women's doesn't matter.  The only qualification is that it must have a hem at the bottom.  Certainly if you don't mind the extra work of sewing a hem yourself you can use anything you want, but I purposely chose the hemmed undershirt for this project to avoid extemporaneous sewing.  Another reason I chose undershirts for this project is that almost all of these shirts are 100% cotton, the benefits of which include:

  • they are washable making them versatile in the variety of products they can hold
  • they are stretchy allowing you a lot of room 
  • they are absorbent allowing you to carry veggies that are frequently watered
  • they are a completely renewable resource

Here's a list of everything else you'll need:
  • Needle and Thread (or sewing machine if preferred)
  • Scissors
  • 1 safety pin
  • String of some kind-I used 100% natural cooking twine (A shoelace would also work nicely if you have some old shoes you're getting rid of.)

Step 1. Turn the shirt inside-out then fold in half.

Step 2. Cut off the top of shirt to make a curved bag shape. (this will become the bottom of the bag)

Step 3. Sew the bottom of the bag together along the curved line (be sure that you still have the fabric turned inside out or you will have an ugly seam on the outside of your bag.

After, completing the sewing. Turn right side out.  You should now have a loose bag 

Step 4. Cut a small slit in the hem of the shirt but do not go below the seam. (This will be the top of the bag)

 Step 5. Take the twine/string and tie a knot at one end. Insert the safety pin through the knot. (do not shorten or cut the other side yet.

Step 6. Feed the twine through the hem of the shirt until it comes out the other opening.

 Step 7. Cut the string/twine so that it is long enough to hang out fully extended.  Tie the two ends together to form a cohesive round string.

 Step 8: Test it!  Pull the cinch tight to see if it works.  There you have it you're very own 100% recycled all natural reusable produce bag.

Step 9: Remember to take it with you to the market!

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's not easy being green

As many of you I am sure did, I too set new goals for myself in 2013.  One of my main goals has been to rid my life of the unnecessary waste so common to the American consumer.  In a word I'm trying to live... GREEN!  It is a hot issue in our society right now, but to be honest it is simply for me that I have realized, holding to the theology I hold to (I will say more on these issues as we go), my life should reflect it in large ways and small ways.  Thus, I was convicted to make some changes and learn to live a sustainable lifestyle.

This new mentality has been changing the way I shop, clean, and most importantly eat.  Eating green on a budget can be very difficult, but I am learning what is important and what things I can live without.  And, more importantly I am taking each step one at a time.

I am finding that when you take your time, plan well, and to be frank just don't eat a lot of meat, it is quite manageable.  There are plenty of ways to get all the proper nutrition you need, support local farmers, and live in a sustainable way.  This new adventure has already begun to transform my attitude toward food and life.   Not to mention that after some initial investing, I am starting to now save money.

I know that I usually post recipes and in the last year this blog has been very piecemeal, but I hope that this new focus in my life will offer a new focus for my blog.  I truly look forward to sharing this journey with you and hope to offer some great tips and recipes that I discover while I gradually change my habits and attitude.  In the meantime, please just allow me to encourage you to go green in some small way... here is a website I have found helpful:

Even though I must admit that I am making rapid major changes to my lifestyle, you don't have to do the same.  I have the luxury of living in a town that is very environmentally conscious and I am also single (in other words it's only my habits that need to be changed not the habits of my entire family).  And, you can start your journey to sustainable living today.  Just pick one small task on the Practically Green website that you don't already do and challenge yourself to make that one small change.  The site is even set up for you to be able to make baby steps or take leaps, you're choice.  If you set one new goal for yourself a month, I think you'll be amazed at how much your lifestyle has changed in a year.