I haven’t blogged about my garden in a while, and there is no time like the present as here in the global South we move steadily into Summer with temperatures in Johannesburg heading into the upper 20’s, and the first of our wonderful seasonal thunderstorms making an appearance. For me there is nothing that shouts Summer like those lovely soothing Highveld rains, bringing moisture and nourishment to our thirsty gardens, and that unmistakable fresh earthy tang to the air. One of the tasks that I set myself as we go into our summertime here, is to try not to let anything go to waste, although our home grown compost heaps take care of any surplus anyway. Nevertheless, I like to make full use of all that we grow, so that it ends up on our plates as far as possible, and not on the compost heap. I grow a lot of Asian Greens here in our garden in the winter time. They grow beautifully here, in the relatively protected area under the branches of the almond and the apple trees, safe from the harshest of the cold and the threat of overnight winter frost. But come the first weeks of the warmer weather, typically from late August and beyond, the greens will rapidly go to seed, with little yellow flowers appearing on long stems which suddenly ‘bolt’ almost overnight in the warm, dry weather before the rains come.Continue reading →
‘Leftovers’: Their mention is often unwelcome in the home, not least for the unlucky cook who has to tackle those bits and pieces before they finally expire in the fridge. Having said that, I really try to avoid throwing food out, whether leftovers from a meal, or food that was left uneaten in the fridge till no longer edible. In fact it’s not difficult to turn leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing. Huffpost ran an article a few years back titled “Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers” and then there is this 2016 article from National Geographic titled “5 Cool Ways Food is getting Upcycled“. I currently do most of the cooking at home for myself and my husband, and truly, very little food goes to waste in our house, especially if you consider that we keep a compost heap in our garden which happily takes care of anything too yucky to eat.
In fact I realise I must have a bit of a Thing for leftovers because scrolling through my previous posts, I find that I have included the term in 7, yes seven of my previous posts. You can link to all of them Here. And see below for some suggestions for leftover Chili con Carne (well… Chili non Carne in our home; as I don’t eat meat so I replace the minced meat with lentils or soy mince). Here are 3 of my favourites:
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring a large pot of water to boil, and throw some ice cubes into a bowl of cold water.
Prepare your peppers (green, red or yellow): slice the top off each pepper and remove any seeds or ribs left inside. Make sure that the peppers can stand up straight.
Cook the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and transfer them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a baking dish, and set aside.
Next, add the filling. Take spoonfuls of your leftover Chili (I use about two-thirds cooked chili-non-carne to one-third cooked rice) and scoop into the peppers, making sure not to pack too tightly.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and continue baking for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve right away
‘Mexican Style’ Cottage Pie:
Boil, steam or bake some potatoes for mash. I like to mix it up here: I often include sweet potatoes and butternut with the potatoes, depending on what I happen to have at home.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
Mash your potatoes as you normally would, including milk and butter if desired, till light and fluffy.
Place your leftover Chili into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mash, and bake for 25-30 minutes till done.
If desired, sprinkle to the top with a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven for another 5 minutes or so.
Make a ‘Meal Jar’:
Fill a glass honey jar about two-thirds with leftover Chili. Top up till almost full (always leave a slight gap) with any cooked grain, such as rice or couscous. This is sufficient for one light meal portion. You can even leave the grains out before freezing, and add that later when you are ready to eat.
Place in the freezer till ready to use. You can either take it out the night before, or else pop it into your lunch box from the freezer, ready to take to work, and heat up later. Note: place contents in a microwaveable or ovenproof dish before heating.
This is a great way to eat healthy and affordable while at work (have you seen the price of takeaways these days??… convenient yes, but often way more than I am willing to pay, and definitely not always quality food)
As far back as the 1990’s I used to admire those goblet style wine glasses when they first became popular, made as they were from empty beer and wine bottles, often with the original branding kept in place, a definitive nod to the move towards recycling and re-purposing. I always wondered how they cut the bottles whilst keeping them in tact and then turning them into desirable and useful items. Re-purposing, or upcycling, may require a bit of creativity and technical skill and sometimes it’s just more convenient to leave such adventures to the experts, as per my previous post Here. If like me, you have a bit of ‘crafty inclination’ (I was a fine arts student and I also taught nursery school for many years, making fascinating things out of egg boxes and toilet roll inners), you might be tempted to try some of these things yourself.
Fast forward to more recent years and I started noticing a lot of information online about ‘quick, easy and foolproof’ ways to cut bottles at home with no special equipment. May I say at this point that trying to cut a glass bottle in half with twine, acetone and a box of matches is not advisable. Unless you have very good health and household insurance perhaps. I followed up my failed attempts with a bit of online research and I discoveredthis product and I haven’t looked back. It allows me to cut glass bottles with relative ease, (ok, you will need some patience and perseverance before you really get the hang of it) and also to glue sections together depending on what I am making. I haven’t gotten to the gluing stage yet: I am keeping it simple 😉
Here are the contents of the basic kit (2 pics):
What I love about Bottlecraft SA is that they are a truly South African business with a big heart. They operate from Grabouw near Cape Town within the Overberg Region in the Western Cape, South Africa. They have worked on projects in Rawsonville, Khayalitsha, Gugulethu, Port Elizabeth, Durban , Botswana, QwaQwa (Drakensburg), Namibia and Grabouw, where they focus on poverty alleviation, job creation and community upliftment. I ordered their Basic Kit online; it arrived in the post, and I was able to get going in no time. Read more on their About page.
If the thought of bottlecrafting doesn’t turn you on, (I was telling a friend about it on the phone, and she sighed and said that it sounds like a lot of work) here are a few links that might lead you to find your Thing:
Nude Foods in Zonnebloem, Cape Town is a bulk wholefoods store, offering a plastic-free shopping experience. They sell high quality wholefoods, fresh organic produce, home and body products, minus any wasteful packaging . In their own words: “Our bulk wholefoods, health foods, and earth-friendly products are all non-GMO, plastic-free and sold by weight. Our goal is to make plastic-free shopping easy and accessible to the everyday shopper, whilst supporting local suppliers and other waste reducing initiatives”. The process is simple: scoop out from their bulk bins into your reusable container, weigh, and pay. As well as the self-service bin section, they have pantry items, household products and choose-your-own organic veg. In the war on waste that is gaining traction here and elsewhere in the world, shopping experiences like this one comes not a moment too soon.
In Johannesburg I frequently shop at Food Lover’s Market (FLM) for bulk buy fresh produce, olive oil, and some of my dry goods such as seeds, nuts and dried and spices, ground and whole. In the words of FLM Stoneridge: “Shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the things you buy. Food Lover’s Market have taken this principle to heart, re-creating the ambience of an old-fashioned marketplace in amodern theatre-of-food setting. Visiting the stores truly is an experience like no other.’
While both Nude Foods and FLM offer unpackaged ware in self-serve bulk bins, there are some clear differences between the two. Nude Foods is very specifically a plastic-free grocery store, offering non-GMO, healthy and affordable wholefoods and earth-friendly body and home products, all sold by weight. They are also relatively new:their Facebookpage was created on 5 September 2017. May they go from strength to strength! By contrast, FLM is a franchised, well established retail outlet with many branches, and it offers a huge variety of mainstream, conventionally packaged foods including the ‘big brands’ that one sees in all the well known stores. Also, importantly, they do not actively supply reusable packaging, other than the refillable glass bottles at the bulk buy area which supplies olive oil. Many people shop at FLM no doubt not particularly to avoid wasteful packaging, but simply because it’s convenient for them and they can find their familiar big brand items there. (I’m referring to the FLM outlets which I frequent here in Johannesburg… I would love to know what other people experience elsewhere in the country)
I frequently find myself in the minority when I shop at FLM, with my reusable cloth drawstring bags and my containers which I wash out after use and reuse each time I shop from their deli section or fish counter. I’m not bothered by this though. Rather, I’m grateful that these options are open to me, even if it requires the effort of constant rinsing and reusing and of course having to carry various bits of packaging around with me when I shop. And if I fall short sometimes, or don’t find what I need in unpackaged, then packaged it is. I have realised that driving my car up and down looking for perfect Zero Waste solutions is a waste of my valuable time, not to mention the carbon waste emissions thanks to all the added driving. I’ve given up feeling guilty about the compromises, knowing that I will continue to do my bit as far as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t experience summer 24/7 here in South Africa! Some parts of the country such as Durban, a coastal city facing the Indian Ocean, is pretty warm year round, but here in Johannesburg, being inland and high lying, not so much. Just ask the thousands of visitors who arrived here without coats or jackets in June 2010 to experience the opening of the Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg! We are currently in the late stages of our Winter 2018 now. A touch of warmth in the afternoon breeze, the days becoming longer, and in the garden the winter loving Chinese Greens are beginning to flower and bolt in response to the warmer weather.
But not yet the time to pack away the winter woolies that I was folding up this morning as I started on an early Spring Clean. I have always loved knitwear, specifically in natural fabrics such as wool and cotton: cardigans and pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe, including for the summer when temperatures can drop quite a bit some evenings. For me there is nothing nicer than the soft warmth of a cosy pullover on a chilly day, or a light cardigan when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough to go all out with scarves and coats.
I buy a lot of my clothing second hand (aka: pre-worn, pre-loved) and this is purely my preference from an eco-friendly standpoint and not because I can’t afford to buy new 😉 All the above (see pic) were purchased second hand within the last 3 or 4 years, from one of two Hospice shops which I frequent here in Johannesburg. All very affordable: from 5 ZAR up to about 60 ZAR. (On the Woolworths online website a new knit top for women can cost you several hundred ZAR, and even more for wool rich items.
Details of my Wooly Babies as pictured above, left to right (NOTE: some labels incomplete or missing):
Woolworths, made in SA, : lambswool, nylon, angora
News, made in SA, : polyester, nylon
Woolworths, made in SA, : wool, viscose, polyamide
100% Shetland wool
No details (no label)
Made in Cambodia, : cotton, acrylic
Smith & McGregor, : lambswool
Marks & Spencer, : made in China, : 100% wool
Lucy Siegle at theguardian.com explains it as follows: “Rewearing old clothes also displaces the need to make new virgin fibres – manufactured with oil-based petroleum or using cotton – both with hulking environmental impacts (also add in dyeing, finishing and the use of factories with dubious ethics). Buying pre-worn saves clothes from landfill and gives us an ethical way of satisfying a lust for new clothes without embracing fast-fashion culture”.
Environmental concerns aside, I also find that the quality of many second hand knitwear items is just of better quality, more unique and authentic (those one of a kind lucky finds are still out there), more likely to be natural rather than synthetic, and definitely less costly than buying new. And if I can apply just one or two of those points as a reason to buy, then purchasing second hand over new wins every time.
“There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff
Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. (wikipedia)
RECREATE is an interior design studio based in Cape Town, South Africa, where they specialise in turning “trash into treasure”. By salvaging worn out or otherwise unwanted items from various sources including homes, warehouses and rubbish tips, they source discarded pieces which are then upcycled into beautiful new creations with a brand new purpose. Nothing goes to waste, and even their packaging materials, labels and business cards are reused, recycled and repurposed.
Read here for more on Recreate’s commitment to their craft and feast your eyes on some of their gorgeous creations.
In 2018 the market is abundant with beautiful and innovative designs, excellent craftsmanship and the reuse of unusual and unexpected items such as fridges, bicycles, and kitchen sinks. And with a few tools at home and an inclination towards DIY you may even surprise yourself! Hereandhere are some fun and inspired ideas on creative upcycling at home.
In the song “Beautiful Boy ” John Lennon sings the line “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” This is annoyingly so when you suddenly hear Life calling you to the kitchen to cook a meal just as you are getting busy with something far more interesting, or are about to start on something that you have had parked on your to-do list for weeks. We all need to eat, and this generally involves some degree of preparation and cooking of food before one can sit down for a meal with yourself/ your spouse/ your children or whoever it is that you share your space with.
I share my home with my husband and our cat (who I don’t cook for) and I don’t eat or cook red meat or poultry (my husband cooks those for himself when needs a break from my vegetarian and vegan offerings). Pulses such as beans and lentils are my main sources of protein, as well as some fish and free range eggs on occasion. I also try to stay as close toZero Waste as possible, focusing on fresh and unpackaged raw ingredients, avoiding single use plastic packaging in particular. I wouldn’t call myself a passionate foodie (I don’t get excited about latest food and flavour trends or looking out for complex new recipes to try), but what I am passionate about is eating healthy wholesome foods, and staying away from unhealthy additives such as artificial flavourants and many preservatives. That, …and keeping it simple and convenient, which brings me to the whole point of this post: that there are plenty of other things I would rather be doing than cooking!
Simply put, life is busy enough without hours of my precious time spent in front of the stove, and I would rather reserve my time for the things I really enjoy doing (including crafting, vegetable gardening and blogging :)) and for the things I absolutely can’t avoid, like grocery shopping and Tax. I also happen to make most of my home cleaning and personal bath & body products, which saves me money and keeps our home (and bodies) almost chemical free. So for me, cooking needs to be quick, healthy and tasty, and if I want to try something more elaborate, or decide to try a vegan option for one of my homemade staples such as mayonnaise, I can choose to do so.
And here are three of my favourite quick and delicious, easy options for days when long cooking is just not on the menu:
1.CHICKPEA & LEEK SOUP….
From Jamie Oliver’s book The Naked Chef. This soup is really simple and delicious and can convert to vegan if you omit the parmesan, replacing it with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or a vegan cheese option:
2.GARLICKY BUTTER BEAN DIP…..
Use a stick or standing blender to whisk together 800 grams presoaked and precooked butter beans (or for convenience use canned butter beans which have been drained and well rinsed)
Mix in 250 grams mayonnaise (veganor egg based), 250 grams plain yoghurt, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and some finely chopped parsley or chives.
Season with salt, ground black pepper and a sprinkle of ground cumin and paprika (optional)
Serve with crudites such as sliced carrot and celery, and your favourite breads: plain or toasted.
For a warming lunch or light supper, serve with a homemade soup (or shop bought for convenience) such as cream of tomato or minestrone.
3.LEMONY EGG IN A SPINACH-CHICKPEA NEST….
From Kitchen Treaty, a delicious eggs, chickpeas and fresh spinach dish perfect for a weekend breakfast, or a light lunch or supper. Can be doubled up for two helpings.
I like popcorn. Its quick and easy to prepare and makes healthier eating than commercial shop bought chips and other salted snacks. Once your popcorn is popped, it just needs a shake of sea salt, or else a bit of garlic or onion salt to make it Truly Delicious. A few days I very sadly had to abandon a freshly made batch when I had to rush out at short notice. When I arrived back home later, my popcorn was cold and unwelcoming, and also slightly soggy from the condensation that had formed on the inside of the lid of the pot. Also, I wasn’t really hungry now, as I had eaten a packet of Lays Salted Chips (delicious, but not exactly healthy or Zero Waste) in the car while driving back from my appointment.
But I wasn’t done with the popcorn yet: my Zero Waste conscience got me thinking about ways to Reuse or Recycle my sad batch. My other option was to Rot it on our compost heap (that’s three of the 5R’s), but I wanted to see if there were more creative options out there. So I went online and found some scrumptious ideas Here. Also Herefor some non edible tips such as making a festive garland, making packing material, and feeding your garden Birdies.
Before you popcorn can become leftovers, you will first need to make some. Here’s how I make it at home: Continue reading →
With December fast approaching, the holiday season is just around the corner! And suddenly you have a long list of family/ friends to buy for, and you find that you are short on ideas (and funds!) on what to buy. I have listed below some suggestions, with links, for easy handmade gifts plus ideas for eco-friendly packaging, wrapping and tagging. All can be presented in reusable glass jars such as mason jars and simple utility jars with screw-on metal lids, and are easy to ‘dress up’ for gifting.
2. Moisturizing Scrub And Shave:Scented with sweet vanilla. A lovely leg shave and/ or skin softening exfoliate. Contains vegetable oils, Epsom salt and vanilla extract.
3. Recipe for Multipurpose Bee Balm by Bea Johnson. I carry a small glass jar in my handbag/ purse for shiny, moisturised lips and nails and to highlight and moisturise cheekbones and brows. See also her application suggestions below for wood and leather….
4. Bath salts/ shower exfoliate: (use fine sea salt, NOT coarse, if you are intending to use it as a skin scrub)…and if you want to colour your salts with all natural ingredients, see Here…..
5.Vanilla extract, looks cute (and smells delicious) in a small glass bottle with screw top. Add a handwritten for a simple recipe (Here’s a suggestion: add a few drops to to tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soya milk etc) …How to make vanilla extract
1.Loaves of bread are a staple in most households and it’s not just for sandwiches! Bread which is less than fresh can be used to make a delicious, cost saving, sweet or savoury Bread pudding. For other suggestions on waste free ways to use ends of bread see point 10 here:
2.Couscous is a very quick and versatile grain that can be used like rice. It requires only soaking to prepare: In a small pot, boil one cup of water (or boil one and a half cups of water if you prefer a softer grain). Add one 1 cup of couscous, stir briefly and remove from the heat, keeping the lid on. Taste for readiness after about 5 minutes; leave for longer if preferred. Enjoy as is, or add seasoning such as salt, butter, oil, herbs, spices and lemon zest. Use as you would rice as part of a main meal, or allow to cool and include in salads.
Couscous is easy to find in cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic, which is another reason to buy it! I have yet to find it in bulk buy bins, which would be even better, of course. See point 9herefor suggestions of brands that are packaged in cardboard/ paper rather than in plastic:
3. Here is a good ‘standby’ for dishwasherdetergent powder, if you find you have run out of your usual: In your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, place 1 teaspoon of your usual liquid dishsoap (whichever brand you normally use for hand washing your dishes) On top of the dishsoap, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Close the detergent compartment. Then fill the rinse compartment with white spirit vinegar, and close the compartment. Wash a full load of dishes as normal. Even better is my chemical-free recipehere , which is the one I have been using regularly for over a year now, with good results.
4. Make your own cooling peppermint spray with water and essential oils. I carry a 100ml spray bottle with me at all times (it lives in my handbag :)), especially in hot weather. Use 100 ml of water, preferably distilled, or at least pre-boiled and cooled. Add 6 drops of peppermint essential oil and stir to combine. You can also add a large pinch of epsom salt to soften the water and assist blending of the oils with the water. (Scroll down to the foot of this page for suppliers of oils, salts and containers).
5. Use Tea as Self-Tan. I use normal black tea (Five Roses is a well known brand) or else the Khoisan black tea (such as their Earl Grey) which is produced in South Africa. If you are a well established Zero Waster, you will no-doubt favour loose teas, as opposed to teabags. At the moment I use both options. The teabags are the most convenient option for my Self-Tan recipe as follows: place a teabag in a cup and add a little boiling water, just enough to thoroughly moisten the teabag. Leave for at least 5 minutes for the water to draw the natural dyes from the tea leaves. Then use the teabag like a sponge to ‘paint’ the dye onto the legs. I find this is the perfect way to add a little pop of colour to winter white legs. Be sure not to add cremes, lotions or oils to the skin just before self-tanning, so that the colour can be applied smoothly.