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

Food & Recipes

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...

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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...

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Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 3 comments

Bulk Shopping Facts And Fiction

Next time you’re putting your groceries away, pay attention to how many items have a plastic component to the packaging. On a recent trip to the grocery store I bought about 35 items and only a handful were completely plastic-free. My cereal was double-packaged in a plastic bag resting inside a cardboard box. My rice, nuts and hummus were all packaged in plastic too.   Plastic Is Downcycled, Not Recycled I never thought this was a big problem until I stumbled across an article that changed the way I think about plastic recycling. It said that recycling plastic is better than throwing it away but only “barely.” That’s because plastic can only be reused a finite number of times and the process of recycling it is relatively inefficient.   So I started thinking about ways to consume less plastic and packaging at the grocery store. First, I went for the low hanging fruit like buying orange juice in a cardboard container and choosing glass jars when the cost difference is reasonable. I also decided to do more of my shopping in the bulk bin section. If I brought my own bags, this shopping would be zero waste. It doesn’t get any better than that! Bulk Shopping Mythbusters I’ve long been reading about the advantages of bulk shopping, I wondered if the claims were all they were cracked up to be. Through the last month, I’ve been putting some of the myths to the test.  It’ll save you money.  This is the big one. Who doesn’t want to save money? But if bulk bins are so much cheaper why do so few people shop them?  I did some bulk bin comparison shopping and here are my field notes from my local stores: Yes, some items can cost significantly less. Pecans cost $7.99/lb in bulk and $9.99/lb prepackaged, a savings of $2 per pound. Organic is the only option for some items which can drive the price up. For example, I typically buy conventionally grown peanuts for $3.49/lb in a plastic jar but the bulk bin only has organic peanuts for $5.99/lb. Grains and rices seem to be fairly priced. For example, basmati rice costs $1.99/lb in bulk and $2.30/lb prepackaged.  Spices can be a good deal. I bought herbs de provence for a specific recipe at $1.99/ounce in bulk. The amount I needed cost me less than $0.50. The same spice pre-packaged in a spice jar would have cost $4.69 for less than one ounce. Even when the item costs more, the ability to buy only what you need can make a big difference, especially if you’re making something for a special occasion or trying a recipe for the first time. This myth is PLAUSIBLE but you need to know what you’re buying. TIP: Compare one or two new items each week so you can become familiar with the price differences.  The food is fresher. While I don’t know how long the food sits in the bulk bin, it seems likely that the bulk food would be fresher than the stuff on the shelf. More importantly, you can buy just what you need which means that you...

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Green Your Coffee Routine

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

Green Your Coffee Routine

A few years ago, I realized how my massive coffee consumption increased my environmental footprint because it used lots of water and energy, and created lots of food and paper waste. To green my coffee routine, I decided to evaluate where I could be more efficient and less wasteful. Easy, First Steps To A Green Coffee Routine The odds are good that you’re like me and over 100 million other Americans who need to kick-start our mornings with a cup or two (or ten?) of coffee. For those of us who get our fix at a local coffee shop or at the office, the java is likely to come in a single use cup. It’s estimated Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam and 23 billion paper cups every year. That’s 23 pounds of trash, per person. Trips to the local coffee shop are a dangerously easy way to create a ton of waste. At the time I was assessing my routine, I was working from home a lot. Sometimes, to get out of the house, I went to work at a local coffee shop. By default, the baristas assumed I was getting my coffee to go and would put it in a paper cup, with a plastic lid, and a paper insulated sleeve. Since I planned on being there for several hours and drinking several cups of coffee, I started to ask them for a ceramic mug. For days when I was going into the office, I had a reusable coffee mug that the barista would fill. It’s pretty common for coffee shops to give you a discount when you use a ceramic mug or bring your own to-go container, and my local shop is no different. So, as an added bonus, I was saving money. Make An Eco-friendly Cup Of Coffee At Home For times when I did stay at home, I needed to change how I made coffee. Keurig machines have become all the rage and, I’ll be honest, it was very tempting to get one. Even though the coffee is only good, not great, they are extremely easy to use, really fast, don’t require any clean-up, and K-cups come in a variety of roasts and flavors. However, the waste is just too much. Most K-Cup pods are not recyclable or compostable, and refillable pods are only available for first generation machines. The negative environmental impact of the K-cup even has John Sylan, the Keurig machine’s inventor, regretting his invention. Coffee connoisseurs favor the French press for making the best tasting coffee, and so do I. This method takes a little more time and effort than a using a drip coffee maker, but here is what I love about the French press from a sustainability perspective: It doesn’t require any paper filters, reducing my paper product consumption and the packaging it comes in. You measure precisely the amount of water and coffee grounds you need, so there is no waste. Unlike automatic drip coffee makers, there is...

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A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Food & Recipes, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Plastic-Free Lunch That’s Kid-Friendly

When I was snowshoeing with two athletic and environmentally-minded friends we got into a conversation about plastic. They had both seen reports that BPA-free plastic may be just as bad as plastic with BPA. BPS, the chemical that replaced BPA in plastic, was thought to be a good alternative because it was less likely to leech into food or water, according to Scientific American. But it does leech and it’s showing up in our bodies. The article cites studies done on zebra fish and rats as evidence that the chemical is dangerous. At the same time, other articles that say more research needs to be done to determine if BPA and BPS are safe or not. Regardless of where you stand on the science and the debate, my friends were concerned about the safety of the containers they and their families use for their food and drink. While it’s fairly easy for an adult to give up plastic and use glass containers, you can’t send kids to school with glass, which can be heavy and breakable. So on our snowshoe hike, we discussed what it would take to pack a lunch without plastic food containers for my friend’s kid. That means: no glass reasonable prices in case the container(s) accidentally get lost a format that supports variety (I was informed that kids like options.) What a challenge! We didn’t have all the answers right away, so I went home to do some online research. Here’s what I found:   LunchBots has reasonably priced stainless steel bento boxes and ECOlunchbox has containers with stackable layers.     Silicon is considered safe and comes in the form of collapsible lunchboxes – a great space-saving solution!     Small stainless steel containers from Kids Konserve can be an alternative to plastic containers.      Cloth sandwich bags are a thing.     Sending kids to school (or yourself to work) with a plastic-free lunch can be done. But if you’re not ready to give up your reusable plastic containers right now, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential for plastic to leech into your food. Recommendations from Earth 911 are: Make sure plastic food containers are #2, #4 or #5 Don’t use scratched, worn or cloudy containers because they’re more likely to leech Keep the containers away from heat, so don’t put them in the microwave or dishwasher Do you have any experiences with packing plastic-free lunches? Please share in the comments below. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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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...

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CSA Adventures: Storing Winter Squash

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Food & Recipes | 0 comments

CSA Adventures: Storing Winter Squash

The growing season’s coming to an end in many parts of the country but with the right techniques you can store some of your squash and enjoy it for weeks and months to come. Check the squash to make sure there are no bruises or blemishes and the stem is at least two inches long. Wash the squash to remove dirt and the blossom if it’s still attached. Then, let the squash dry completely. Put the squash in a place with good circulation and where the temperature be 75°-80° F for 10 days. If you’re going to store acorn squash, you can skip this step as it does not cure. Store the squash in a cool place (about 50° F) with good circulation and low humidity. Most winter squash will last 3 to 6 months. Acorn and spaghetti squash will only last about 4 weeks. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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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...

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