Inspiring DIY projects, beauty recipes and advice to green your daily routine.

Posts by Nicole

How To Make Yogurt

Posted by on Apr 25, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 6 comments

How To Make Yogurt

For years I’ve thought about making yogurt but never tried because I was intimidated. I had read so many blogs where people experienced failure after failure for months before being successful. Then, when other bloggers found success, the techniques did not seem like something I could duplicate. I’ll write more about that in a bit. When I finally decided to give it a go, my first attempt was a massive failure. Luckily, when you really screw up making yogurt you end up with ricotta, so it wasn’t a waste. I made manicotti. My next attempt was successful, and I’ve been refining my process ever since because I wanted to develop a technique anyone could duplicate. Why Should You Make Yogurt? In recent posts, Kim and I have talked about how we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of packaging we buy. Ultimately, that’s why I finally decided to make yogurt. I had stopped buying single serve plastic yogurt cups a long time ago because those are incredibly wasteful, but even the large plastic tubs were getting on my nerves. With the added benefit of experience, here are my top 6 reasons you should make your own yogurt too. Almost zero waste. The plastic ring that seals the top on the milk jug is the only waste. Cost. I make greek yogurt from local, organic milk for 50¢ a cup. Compare that to $2.69 for 3/4 cup at the store. Quality. It’s the most delicious yogurt you’ve ever had. Health. No preservatives, no added sugar, no contact with plastics. Customization. Get the exact taste and thickness you want. Status. By making your own yogurt you solidify your homesteading rockstar status. Bask in glory of this accomplishment and awe your family, friends, and colleagues. What You Need To Know Making yogurt is all about temperature control. First, the milk is slowly heated to 185°. This kills bacteria and mold spores that may be in in the milk and helps guarantee a yogurt similar to your starter. Heating also denatures the whey proteins, resulting in a firmer, thicker yogurt. Be careful though, go too high and you end up with ricotta cheese. Next, let the yogurt cool to 112° and try to keep it at that temperature. 112° is the ideal temperature for live yogurt cultures. Yogurt cultures are dormant below 90°, active from 90-120°, and start to die at higher temperatures. Heating the milk and maintaining the incubation temperature are crucial. Before perfecting my process I ended up with equal amounts of yogurt and whey. Now I get about 6 six cups of yogurt and only 1/4 cup of whey. Better temperature control results in more productive cultures. Buying Milk Regular, pasteurized milk is fine but don’t buy ultra-pasteurized milk. Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 275° during processing so it won’t make good yogurt. I also recommend buying whole milk because it’s going to taste the best. Choosing A Yogurt Starter This is easy. Pick out you favorite plain yogurt and read the...

Read More

Homemade Hummus Recipe

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Homemade Hummus Recipe

Last week, Sabra voluntarily recalled their hummus due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. In light of this recall and Kim’s post last week about buying in bulk, I thought you all would enjoy an easy recipe for homemade hummus.  By using dried chickpeas and making your own tahini from sesame seeds, it’s possible to avoid all packaging and I give you props for that! But, if you go the easy route with canned chickpeas and store bought tahini you’ll end up with an aluminum can and glass jar which can be legitimately recycled, not just downcycled like the plastic containers used to package hummus. This recipe is for a basic, traditional hummus but I encourage you to get creative by using different beans or adding ingredients. Below are a few of my favorite combinations. roasted red pepper roasted garlic sun-dried tomatoes and basil chipotle and lime Sriracha black bean and basil A Simple, Basic Hummus 2015-04-11 13:08:04 A traditional hummus for dipping chips and veggies or spreading on wraps, sandwiches, and burgers. Spice it up with add-ins like roasted garlic or sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Write a review Save Recipe Print Total Time 10 min Total Time 10 min Ingredients 2 cups chickpeas (drained and washed) 1/3 cup tahini 1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon) 4 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon water or liquid drained from chickpeas Instructions Mince the garlic. Process all ingredients, including add-in, with a food processor until you get the texture you want. A Green Routine http://agreenroutine.com/ If you’ve recently purchased Sabra hummus, please take a minute to review the recall information on the FDA’s website for details. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

Read More

Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Green Clean, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Goodbye Snow. Hello Litter.

The last of the snow finally melted in Pittsburgh, just in time for the first day of spring. Sadly, the melting revealed discarded soda cans, candy wrappers, dryer sheets, cigarette butts and other miscellaneous items. It was disgusting. So this weekend I took a couple of bags and walked my small block to pick up the trash. Then, on Monday I carried a bag with me on my walk to work to pick up trash on that half-mile route. While it’s easy to dismiss litter as an eyesore and ignore it, there are environmental consequences to turning a blind eye. The Darker Side of April Showers Yes, April showers bring May flowers. The story that goes untold is that April showers also flush litter to the sea. Rainwater carries trash from the street to the storm drain where it moves through the sewer system only to get dumped into your local waterways. Once there, the bellies of fish and birds  are filled with disposable lighters, bottle caps and colorful bits of plastic because they can’t discern the plastic from their prey. Elk and deer die when they eat plastic bags caught in brush or trees. Cigarette butts pollute the ground and water with carcinogens, toxins and highly flammable chemicals. Not only does litter have an environment toll, it comes at a high cost that is often paid with tax dollars. Municipalities have to filter pollutants from drinking water, clear litter from clogged storm drains, and remove litter for beautification.  In Pennsylvania alone, more than $10 million is spent every year to pick up roadside litter.   Show Us Your Trash! The good news is that people caused the litter problem and people can fix it. Since life’s not fair, it’s unlikely the litterers will suddenly gain a conscience and clean up after themselves. But, you are awesome so I know you’ll do it! Arm yourself with a pair of work gloves, a trash bag and a recycling bag. Then, hit the streets in your ‘hood. When your done, take a picture and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook. Tell us about how much you collected or an interesting thing you found. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

Read More

Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in For Your Home | 1 comment

Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

In the past year I’ve had to repair or replace many broken appliances and fixtures around my house. The bigger items include the dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine. Every time something breaks I try to take the most environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible approach to solving the problem. In the process I’ve made some mistakes, learned a lot, and come up with some pretty smart solutions that I’d like to share with you so next time an appliance you own has a problem you might approach the situation a little differently and with a little more knowledge than you had before. A Mistake: Repairing The Dishwasher My first major appliance to have an issue since I bought the house 8 years ago was the dishwasher. The dishwasher was older and within the first year of owning it both door springs broke, so I had to lower the door carefully and use the lock to keep it in the upright position. A minor inconvenience. Six years later the gasket around the door started leaking so I had to decide whether to repair or replace it. At first I wanted to get a new dishwasher with a sterilize cycle for canning, one that would match the refrigerator too. However, I looked online and saw a gasket and 2 springs would cost less than $40. There was also an instructional manual to show me how to do the repairs. The repairs were fairly easy and cost efficient, but in the end it wasn’t worth it. The dishwasher itself had slowly degraded over the years, and after another 6 months it was barely washing the dishes so I stopped using it. I was so focused on what was broken, and keeping the dishwasher out of the landfill, I failed to realize the whole unit was reaching the end of it’s useful life. The door works great, but that’s about it. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to replace an appliance, be sure to you recycle the old one. Most companies that deliver new appliances will recycle your old one for free. Some cities, including Pittsburgh, offer free curb-side recycling for appliances too. If these aren’t options for you, consider giving it away on Freecycle or Craigslist. Post an ad clearly stating it’s for parts or scrap. Lessons Learned: Tips & Tricks For Undertaking A Repair Buying Parts Shopping local has been a challenge. The parts stores in Pittsburgh are usually only open during normal business hours on weekdays, which is also when I’m working. I could leave work early one day and make a special trip, but none have their inventory online and my voicemails or emails inquiring about what they stock are never answered. These stores are mostly wholesalers and my search for a $15 part is not that important to them, so I opt to shop online instead. My favorite website is PartSelect.com. It’s easy to find what you are looking for, the selection is huge, prices are fair, and they have a lot of useful information and videos to help with the repair. It’s also a good idea to check the...

Read More

A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Green Valentine’s Day: Food, Wine & Chocolate

Greening a holiday usually takes a little extra planning, so let me help you out this Valentine’s Day! Last weekend my boyfriend, George, and our friends, Adam and Allison, tried green versions of Valentine’s Day staples: food, chocolate, and wine. Low Impact Dinner: Pad Thai From Thug Kitchen We started the evening off with pad thai, straight from the Thug Kitchen cookbook. The cookbook is vegan, although the Thug Kitchen blog, which I’ve been a fan of for years, is not strictly vegetarian or vegan. Neither my friends or I restrict our diets, but using a recipe with no or few animal products is a good idea if you are trying to make a meal with a low environmental impact. Just make sure you buy organic tofu for the pad thai because soybeans are one of the most common genetically modified (GMO) foods. GMO foods are usually sprayed heavily with pesticides and that negates the low impact advantage of a vegan/vegetarian meal. We ate our pad thai with reusable chopsticks, cloth napkins and a glass of organic 2012 Pacific Rim Riesling, $14.99 at Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores (only $2 more than the non-organic version.) Neither me or any of my friends are professional wine tasters but we’re going to share our tasting notes with you. Take ’em for what they’re worth! For your viewing pleasure, below is a photo of Allison’s pictorial tasting notes.  We all enjoyed the Pacific Rim Riesling. Adam and Allison thought the wine smelled like cinnamon or a freshly baked apple pie. George and I smelled minerals, like a mountain spring. We all agreed the wine first tastes bright, tart and citrusy and follows with a sweet, clean finish. This wine paired perfectly with the pad thai and I would definitely buy it again. Taza Chocolate: An Ethical, Organic Chocolate There are several labels chocolate companies use to inform you of their practices. For me, the most egregious companies buy cocoa from plantations who use child slaves, and in an effort to figure out how to purchase ethical chocolate I researched labels and companies. See my post from last year for more information on labeling. A package of Taza chocolate got my attention a few weeks ago when I was browsing the food isles in Marshall’s. I had never heard of Taza chocolate, but it caught my eye because the package carried the USDA Organic, Direct Trade, and Non-GMO Project labels, and it’s handmade in Somerville, MA. I bought the Chocolate Mexicano Sampler with 8 flavors for $14.99, but it normally retails for $21.00. Taza chocolate is ground using authentic Oaxacan stone mills called molinos, which leave tiny bits of the cocoa beans and organic cane sugar in the chocolate. This gives the chocolate a bold flavor and texture I didn’t expect, having never even heard of stone ground chocolate before. The sampler contained a wide variety of flavors from sweet to spicy to bitter. We were all a little surprised by the flavor profiles of the chocolate, and I have to admit that I didn’t think I would enjoy all the flavors as much as I did. You may notice there are only...

Read More

How to Unplug at Home

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Lifestyle | 0 comments

How to Unplug at Home

The following is a guest post by Tali Wee of Zillow. In this fast-paced world driven by technology, individuals find it challenging to personally communicate in-person with family and friends. Moreover, the abundance of household gadgets keeps families engaged in a digital space, separating them from the natural environment. Revive and refresh digitally-dependent households by completing a technology detox. This includes removing or restricting the overload of abundant technology and adopting environmentally-friendly home improvements. Green updates create a relaxing ambiance while reducing the family’s carbon footprint. Moreover, a home with eco-friendly features is appealing to Pittsburgh homebuyers when it comes time to sell. Here are three ways to unplug at home. 1. Install Solar Panels Solar panels convert light from the sun into usable electricity for the household. This clean energy source is environmentally friendly and reduces electricity expenses for homeowners. Solar panels are available from local home improvement retailers. They come in different styles and sizes for roof or backyard installation. Install using a do-it-yourself method or through a contractor. Be sure to check permits with the local community zoning board before installation. 2. Update the Décor Remove multiple TVs throughout the house, leaving one communal TV in the living room. Add shelving to cleared spaces and fill with books and board games to encourage your family to read and play games together. Avoid technological dependence at meal times by adding a decorative bowl to hold phones, iPads and cords in the kitchen or entryway. Finish off the décor update by introducing natural elements into the home such as wood, glass and plant life. Freshen up the kitchen with a fresh vase of flowers and give the living room a chic look by adding new plants and decorative wooden ornaments. 3. Plan Screen Time in Advance Avoid the mindless reach for the phone or TV remote after dinner by planning screen time in advance. Be intentional about family time shared engaging in digital entertainment. At the start of the week, choose programming the family enjoys watching together. Monitor the amount of internet and social media usage by choosing an internet router with timing controls. Shut off access throughout late afternoon and evening to ensure your family engages on a personal level while awake and gets quality sleep at night. Avoid technology dependence and become more environmentally-conscious by considering these three suggestions to unplug at home. Other tips to detox from technology and implement green changes at home include: replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs, avoiding the garbage disposal by creating a backyard compost heap, saving water by installing low-flow showerheads and reducing particle pollution by replacing wood-burning fireplaces with gas or energy-efficient alternatives. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

Read More

CSA Adventures: Wash Last Season Veggies Immediately

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Lifestyle | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Wash Last Season Veggies Immediately

The cool crisp weather is a welcome sign of fall, but it also encourages the growth of bacteria and mold in the fields. At this time of year your farmers are probably starting to loose some of their crops to disease and blight, while the fruit and veggies being picked are more likely to have bacteria an mold spores on them. Earlier this year my farmers warned their CSA members that the produce would be minimally cleaned because the time needed to throughly clean all the veggies directly affected their bottom line. As a small farm with just a few employees, they needed  as much time in the fields as they could have to grow and pick the produce and tend the chickens. To ensure your farm fresh produce doesn’t rot prematurely wash and dry it as soon you bring it home from the farmer’s market. A spray of vegetable wash, vinegar or lemon juice will help cleanse the produce more thoroughly. If you are looking for specific tips check out our recent articles on washing your leafy greens and cleaning your squash for storage. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

Read More

CSA Adventures: Eat Your (Leafy) Greens

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Eat Your (Leafy) Greens

Leafy greens are the bookends of every CSA. They are cold weather crops, available from early spring through the beginning of summer and from the end of summer well into the fall. I love my greens but they are also one of the vegetables I’m most likely to waste because washing and drying them is time consuming. However, I’ve found a few tools and a method that’s been working well for me this year. The day I bring my CSA home I immediately prep the greens. If it’s a head of lettuce I grab a lettuce knife and cut off the stump. Using a lettuce knife is key, it prevents the oxidation and browning caused by metal knives with sharp blades. Next, I separate the leaves, spray them with a vegetable wash and put them in the outer bowl of the salad spinner. I fill the bowl with cold water and gently agitate and swirl the leaves to remove dirt and occasionally a bug that’s hitchhiked to the city. Then, I strain the leaves by pouring the contents of the bowl into the salad spinner basket. If the leaves are still dirty I will repeat the step above, otherwise I rinse them under cold water.   Then, I put the basket in the outer bowl and spin until the leaves are fairly dry. To store the greens, I pour the water out of the bowl and place the whole salad spinner in the refrigerator. The leaves will continue to to drip dry, leaving a small pool of water in the bowl. The moisture will help keep them fresh and they will be ready for you to use when it’s time to make a meal. Keeping them in the salad spinner also allows air to circulate, which has advantage over a bag which tends to crush wet leaves together and encourage rot. Since I no longer have to tediously dry each leaf before a meal, I’m more likely to eat my greens. But when I can’t finish them all myself, Sugar’s there anxiously waiting for the leftovers. And she wants to encourage all of you who don’t have a furry vegetarian companion to donate extra greens to your local animal rescue for the bunnies, guinea pigs and hamsters waiting on their furever homes! Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

Read More

Pin It on Pinterest