Showing posts with label simple living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label simple living. Show all posts

Plastic Free July {observation}


I want to participate in Plastic Free July and make it a wholly plastic free month sometime. They encourage disuse of single use plastics - most of which I avoid anyway (shopping bags, straws, plastic water bottles, coffee cups/lids) - for the month. But I'd like to go all the way.


But as of right now my plastic usage, mostly in the form of food packaging, would be too overwhelming to try to just stop cold turkey. My tired mama brain might implode.

Maybe next year. But, for now, it's one bite at a time. So, when Slow Your Home (awesome podcast!) suggested participating in it, I took one week in July to observe the plastic use in my life and then the next week I kept track of every plastic thing I threw away - trying to keep it as authentic as possible. In doing this, I hoped to find a few things I could cut out while I worked on a longer term solution for the more overwhelming things ... like all the food packaging!

Zero waste is a highly respected lifestyle in my book, but there have to be small steps to get there. (Besides plastic, the next biggest thing we throw in the garbage is food scraps - which kills me, especially since I've researched composting! I just need to find the right system for our small place and pull the trigger. More on that to come.)

My week of observation found that we trashed:

16 plastic food wrappers
12 plastic container lids (not recyclable in our area)
1 styrofoam meat tray and plastic wrap
7 dental flossers
9 disposable diapers
8 misc items (mailer plastic, gift wrappers, etc.)

Yes, I kept track. Yes, I know I'm a nerd. :-)

It may not seem like a ton (even with the diapers, it probably would only fill a small bag) but it's a lot considering that it is possible to find and purchase meat and produce without plastic. It just takes some doing.

The one single use thing I'd like to do away with is the dental flossers. I hate using the regular stuff that you wrap around your fingers and end up in a spitty, gross mess - the flossers are way more motivating. BUT is there something I could use that doesn't require throwing out plastic? (Plastic that, btw, that once made will never disappear from the earth.) Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home suggests using a gum stimulator. Ever seen the rubber thing on the end of a toothbrush? I never really knew what they were for, but I'm considering getting one, watching a YouTube tutorial, and seeing if by my next dental appointment it helps or hurts my teeth! Whatcha think?

Also, I'll be rid of the disposable diapers (nighttime use) once my son decides that sleeping through the night is a desirable thing to do, but until then I'm allowing myself that convenience for nighttime sanity. You win some, you lose some.

What do you think? Is reducing plastic consumption even something you think about? Would you ever experiment with a plastic free July?

(Next year! Next year!)

What do you do with leftover pumpkins?


What do you do with the pumpkins that have graced your home for October and November? 

First, you drag them to the Thanksgiving table for a pretty {natural} centerpiece.

Then, you cook them, of course!!

This may sound silly, but I hate tossing our hard earned pumpkins in the dumpster when it's time to decorate for Christmas. Did you know that any pumpkin (provided it's not gone bad or molded from being carved) is edible? Some taste better than others, like pie pumpkins, etc. but from what I've read, you can cook up any gourd.

So, we did.

My mom helped me cook and puree these babies into 10 cups of homecooked goodness. That's the equivalent of 5 cans of pumpkin. Sweet! I popped them into my freezer when I got home where they now patiently await to be used in delicious recipes.

Pumpkin baking instructions: halve pumpkins with sharp knife, scoop out seeds and pulp, place them cut side down on baking sheets and cook at 350 degrees fahrenheit until very soft and can be easily poked with a fork or knife (an hour or more for larger pumpkins). Cool, then scoop pumpkin from skin and puree. A tiny amount of water can be added if your blender isn't cooperating. 

The seeds can also be baked into a yummy snack! 

CSA Week 22: Final post!


Last CSA post! Are you relieved? I am slightly. But, more on that in a minute.

This week...

... a bunch of turnips, red mustard greens, 5 pears, microgreens, large head of Chinese (Napa) cabbage, bag of lettuce and a head of garlic.

I'm not super excited about much this week except the pears! I have a pear galette on the brain for some reason. If they would only ripen quickly and at the same time!!

Anyway, week 1 held a huge Napa cabbage for us and I suppose what goes around comes around. Here in week 22 is another! I was not impressed with the taste (VERY bitter) at all. I'm slightly tired of trying to use up the root veggies and we're not big salad people. Hmm.

Not to complain. I've really enjoyed this experience and thanks for letting me document it on my blog! I wanted to keep a detailed version so when we decide in the future whether or not to do it again, I can go back and look.

Upsides of a CSA: fresh, local, organic produce. Supporting a local farmer was a very big motivator, not to mention feeding my family produce without pesticides! Getting to know the farmer by name and having to be creative in my cooking, and eating things we wouldn't normally buy!

Downsides of a CSA: the drive every Tuesday night was getting old. But the biggies were that it was pricey (cut into my food budget quite a bit after while!) and the produce we don't like going bad in the fridge ... then me feeling guilty for paying for it and then wasting it.

Like I said, overall it was good, but everything has downsides.

Tell me, if you read these posts, what did you learn about CSAs? Or buying local? I'm curious. :-)

CSA Week 21


This week...

2 heads bok choy, a bag of arugula, slicing tomatoes, several sweet potatoes, sunchokes, and turnips. (sorry for the poor picture - I threw it up on the table and snapped after a VERY eventful day.)

Successful salads: a mix of lettuce, salad greens and arugula topped with dried cranberries, sugared almonds, mandarin oranges and poppy seed dressing.

and another of arugula, sliced pears, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

One more week to go, kids!

CSA Week 20


This week...

... 1-2 lb baby golden potatoes, 3 sweet peppers, bunch of turnips, a lb of tomatoes, 8 spicy peppers, a bag of arugula and 2 lbs of flour!

Trying some salads this week to get the lettuce (from last week) and arugula from this week eaten up. Yum yum yum!

:-) I'm not a really big salad person. Any "recipes" or additions that you put in salads to make them super yummy and filling?

CSA Week 19 - with a couple recipes


This week...

... a bag of lettuce, a bag of salad greens, several Asian eggplants, a lb of green beans, half dozen eggs, a pound of Roma tomatoes, and 2 large white/yellow peppers and a tiny red one.

I have to admit that with the Market frenzy in my head, I've had much less time to meal plan and think about how to use our produce. But, I'm still trying. :-)

I did have a new recipe success and thought I'd share.

Arugula-Cilantro Pesto
(*source is a CSA website I can't find at the moment...)

1 C arugula (or so)
1 C cilantro (or so)
2 lg garlic cloves
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C grated parmesan
2 tbsp. pine nuts (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

Whirl it all in the food processor - and yummy! Freeze any extra in small portions for a quick meal.

** I fried some chicken pieces and we had chicken-pesto pasta. Then a couple days later, I made a pizza with the pesto as the sauce, chicken, green/red peppers and sliced grape tomatoes with mozzarella on top. Also quite good!

White Bean Soup with Winter Greens 
(*adapted from vegetarian version in From Our House to Yours cookbook with Italian sausage)

2 cans navy beans, drained (you can use lb of dried beans, but the process is so much longer!)
(1/2-1 lb Italian sausage, cooked and drained) 
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 lg onion
2 carrots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock/broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb winter greens like kale, chard, dandelion, collard or turnip greens
freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Heat EVOO in lg pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic, parsley and bay leaves. Saute until veggies are slightly softened, about 10 min.

Add beans, stock, water (and sausage). Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover. Cook 20-30 minutes. If you choose, remove some of the beans and puree to make soup thicker (I skipped this part).

Wash greens, remove any thick stems or ribs. Stack the leaves a few at a time and roll into a log. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch ribbons. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add greens and boil about 2-5 minutes until tender. Drain. Stir into soup. Simmer a few minutes more.

Enjoy with freshly grated Parm (if you have any).

Probably the best soup I've ever made!! Wonderful the next day too.

CSA Week 18


Last month of CSA! (And if you are sick of the CSA posts, be happy ... only a few more to go.)

a bunch of radishes, 3-4 small heads bok choy, bag of arugula, 1-2 lbs green beans, bag of salad mix, 1 lg and 4 tiny sweet peppers, 1 medium butternut squash (and 4 small pears from the week half of ours were bad!) 

The first of the autumn/winter squashes. Oooo! What should I make?

CSA Week 17


This week in the CSA world we got...

... a half dozen brown eggs, a bunch of turnips, a bunch of braising greens (4 different kinds of greens), several cups of salad mix, several small sweet peppers, a pint of cherry tomatoes, and a lb of wax beans.

Anyone know about wax beans? Are they the same as green beans? I'm excited to find out and try these!

And, a few recipes as promised.

Fresh Salsa (small batch)

1/2 small white onion
1 garlic clove
1 small jalapeno pepper
1-1/2 lb plum/grape/cherry tomatoes
1-2 T lime juice
2 T cilantro
3/4 t salt

Pulse together in a food processor just until combined.

Applesauce Spice Cake (8" or 9" square cake)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 5 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

    Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.
So yummy! A dense, moist cake.

Apple Butter (from Valerie, but adapted crock pot version)

5-6 lbs apples reduced to applesauce

1-1/2 c sugar (more or less depending on sweetness of apples)
3 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg

Combine ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low 8-10 hours removing lid for last 1-2 hours until desired spreading consistency is achieved.

I froze mine in bags because I don't have canning supplies. :-( Hopefully it'll be just fine. We'll see how that works out!

CSA Week 16


This week brought us... (sorry sorry sorry! these pictures are so yellow awful!)

... 4 crisp apples, a bunch of radishes, a lb of grape tomatoes, 1-2 lbs sunchokes  (Jerusalem artichokes), a bunch of arugula, 4 sweet peppers, and a huge bunch of basil!

The pick for this week is the Jerusalem artichokes because I haven't had these or seen these before. I actually thought it was ginger before she said something because of the knobbiness, but these are a veggie that tastes like a cross between potato and artichoke. You can eat them raw but cooked they taste a lot like potato - starchy etc. I'll let you know how they roast up!

Also, I inquired about my bad pears and she said she'd replace them next week. Gotta be assertive!

Finally, I didn't snap a pic because it looked strange and slightly disgusting, but after peeling almost an entire laundry basket full of organic apples (thanks to Val and her parents!) and making loads of applesauce -- frozen not canned -- I ventured into the apple butter realm and oh did my kitchen smell amazing yesterday!

I used Valerie's recipe but let it simmer in the crockpot for 8 hours instead of on the stove. Yum, yum yum. Applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves ... oh so delicious. Could that combination be anything but pleasure!?

My apples are finally gone, but not in the way of enjoying them!  I'll be baking with the applesauce for quite some time. (I did save out a few apples for Ladybug to eat. She gets a little cup and I slice the apples in it - sans skin because she'll only chew it up and throw it on the carpet - and she goes to town giggling when Jackson gets a bite.) Apple  Butter and Applesauce Spice Cake recipes coming next week!

I love fall!! Are you ready for fall?

CSA Week 15


This week's CSA...

... included a bag of salad greens, several good sized Roma tomatoes, a bunch of radishes, more okra!, 4 pears, a small watermelon and 3-1/2 sweet peppers.

 My pick is pears this week. We haven't had their pears yet (last week it was a choice between microgreens and pears) and I am excited! Unfortunately, when I got them home and took them out of the bag, two were very bruised - and the rest of the pear is still unripe. I'm not sure they will be salvageable.

I'm more hesitant to say something with the CSA but figure there is no reason to be. I am paying more than normal grocery prices for this produce and I wouldn't hesitate to take a bad piece back to the grocery store for a refund, so why hesitate with the CSA? (I also heard someone talk about their slicer tomatoes molding after a day and she said she'd make up for it the next week so that boosted my confidence a little more.) :-) I'll update you next week on what they say.

*Sorry about the yellow pictures. It's getting darker earlier and by the time we get back the kitchen is too dark to get any good shots. Heaven forbid I use the flash(!)...

CSA Weeks 13 & 14


Last week's CSA pick-up included...

... a huge bunch of fresh basil, a pound of okra, 2-1/2 cups mixed salad greens, a pound of red cherry tomatoes, 10 hot peppers, a watermelon and ...

Wheat flour!! I ran out a few weeks ago and have been needing some flour. Well, here we are. "Heirloom Turkey Red Wheat Flour" -- our CSA newsletter gave some details. 

"German Mennonites from Russia brought this wheat to Kansas in the 1870’s. Standing at almost 5 feet tall, it was the variety of wheat that gave Kansas the nick name of the “Wheat State," and it's the basis for the song line, “amber waves of grain."  It is now on Slow Food America’s list of foods that are in danger of going extinct. It has been replaced with more modern high yielding varieties.

One unique characteristic about this flour is that it has about 1/5 the amount of gluten stands found in modern conventional wheat. We have had several gluten-intolerant people tell us that they can actually eat our flour. This flour is good for bread making (both in a machine or by hand), cakes, pancakes, muffins, cookies, waffles, and even pasta."

Can't wait to show off my wheat flour!


 Yesterday's pick-up was sorely needed after a couple weeks of no meal-planning. I promised Jeremy there would be supper on the table and I'd get meal planning going.

We received two glove eggplants, a half dozen brown eggs, 1 large and 4 tiny sweet peppers, 4 small cucumbers, a lb of okra, several cups of salad greens, and microgreens.

Have you heard of microgreens?! I hadn't but I guess they were introduced in the spring before we signed on and they brought them back for the fall. I'm excited to try them! They are at the stage between sprouts and salad greens ... and great on burgers, tacos, sandwiches, etc.

Oh what to make! 

CSA Week 12


I'm a week behind, but the computer is gone again all week, so forgive me. I'll play catch up next week.

Last week's pick up included...

... 1/2 dozen brown eggs, 1 lb okra, 1 lb potatoes, several sweet peppers, one fat cucumber, 2 white globe eggplant (baba ganosh?), four slicing tomatoes and a head of garlic. 

My pick of the week is garlic. Ever since we lived in Haiti, we got so spoiled using fresh garlic - among other things! A garlic press was a must on my wedding registry and we go through quite a bit in a year.

Growing it yourself is so easy! Split a head apart and stick the cloves (each one will be one head in the spring) in the ground in October (in Kansas at least) and let it sprout. It'll winter over, start growing again the next spring and by July you can pick it, dry it and it will last until it's gone.


CSA Week 11


Only 2-1/2 more months of our CSA left! I can't believe that school is starting this week and fall is coming. The weather is so much nicer - almost reminiscent of fall. (And have I mentioned how much I love fall?)

Last night's pick-up included several small yellow potatoes, 4 green apples, 3 large slicer tomatoes, one watermelon, three eggplant, several small sweet peppers and three mini cucumbers. YUM! 

Jeremy is dreading the eggplant, although I think I'm going to try to pull of an edible eggplant parmesan ...

But before I do, can I tell you how excited I am to have apples this week? Jill said it was the first time they've had apples in 4 YEARS - and how I love baked apple goods(!). Even eating an apple is so yummy but I've been avoiding them because apples are number ONE on the Dirty List. Growing apples organically makes them slightly less than perfect looking, but I can feel SO good about feeding them to my family because they are pesticide free!

Who knew I'd get so excited about apples?! 

CSA Week 9


This week's pickup included...

... 4 cucumbers, a pint of cherry tomatoes, 8 small peaches, a watermelon (yum!), a pound of okra and 2 cups of basil.

And the pick of the week is ... CUCUMBERS! Added the four to my stash and I have quite a few. (Too many.)

Any cucumber recipes you're dying to share?! I could use some!

CSA week 8


This week's CSA pick-up included...

1 lb okra, 2 lbs white onions, 1-2 lbs asian green beans, pint of cherry tomatoes, 4 slicing tomatoes, two small cucumbers and two ears of sweet corn. Oh, and a crazy toddler. :-)

... and the pick of the week is... OKRA! I grew up with a family recipe of okra, and (Dad) I am proud to say that I snatched up this okra over beets (any day) and I'm gonna make our fried okra recipe. Excited!

But do check out these Asian green beans. Have you ever tried these? They are like 4 times the length of regular beans!?! Insane.  Not sure how to prepare them, so more research is in order.

I ventured into the fennel realm last week and came out kicking. It smelled very strongly of anise (black licorice - which I despise) so I was slightly skeptical, but I kept my reservations on hold until I tasted it especially after reading that someone who also hates anise liked this and a friend confirmed.

But, no siree! Not me, fennel is on my black list, friends. It tasted so much like anise to me that I almost gagged. Seriously, I'm not a picky eater at all, but I just couldn't do it.

And beets are not my favorite (much too earthy for my taste) but I did enjoy a "slaw" of carrots, apples, a small beet, raisins and walnuts tossed in lemon juice last week.

CSA week 7


CSA pick up seemed pretty sparse this week...

a pint of cherry tomatoes, 1 squash, 2 small cucumbers, 4 slicing tomatoes, a bag of shallots, 2 garlic cloves and a half dozen brown eggs.

Here's the CSA pick of the week! (Except ... I don't know what kind of squash it is or how to cook it...)

Update: It's a scallop squash, a.k.a. patty pan squash.

So my corn is completely dead after I pulled it all up. I peeled back part of a really sad looking corn husk and indeed, it was drying up. Boo! The drought is only going to get worse ... and I wonder what it will do to the CSA farms?

But for now, we're enjoying a bountiful harvest of multicolored tomatoes and I put them all together. Pretty huh?

(Here's to hoping little fingers stay out of them ...)


And, here's a few pictures of recipes I made last week with CSA ingredients. We are really enjoying all of the fresh goodness. (Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a food photographer, so if my photos gross you out, my apologies.) 

First up, Margherita Pizza with whole wheat crust, garlic/olive oil herb sauce, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.

Feta, cucumber and tomato salad with salt, pepper, balsamic and oil dressing.

Purple potatoes = lavender mashed potatoes. Kind weird, but tasted the same.

And, finally, a European specialty ... tomato slice topped with a piece of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf then drizzled with olive oil. YUM!

Until next time, friends!

CSA - week 6


Our CSA pick-up this week provided a very large head of fennel, three small - med kholrabi, one large yellow squash, a pint of yellow and red cherry tomatoes, a bunch of basil (yum!), 1-1/2 lbs yellow onions and 1-1/2 lbs purple potatoes.

And the CSA pick-of-the-week is ... purple potatoes! Actually she called them "blue" but they look pretty purple to me. I cut the tiniest one in half so you (and I) could have a peek.

I need to get back to meal planning (vacation threw that off a little bit) - my poor dear husband. He needs some sustenance after working all day! Haha. So, I'm going to look up fennel recipes - unless any of you have good ones! - and braise the kholrabi as a side.

As for my garden, it's several tomatoes ...

... and some sad lookin' corn vs. the heat.

Pretty sure it's not gonna make it. But, we'll see.

And, finally, the recipe I promised you last week for cabbage:

Japanese Ramen Noodle Salad

1-2 whole seasoned grilled chicken breasts (slivered)
2 T. sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2-1 head cabbage, finely shredded
2 green onions, chopped
1 pkg oriental-flavored Ramen noodles


1 T. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 pkg seasoning from Ramen
1/2 t. pepper (or to taste)
3 T vinegar

Toast sesame seeds and almonds in a 300 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Combine chicken, sesame seeds, almonds, cabbage, onions. Mix dressing ingredients. Toss cabbage mixture with dressing and noodles right before serving.


CSA - Weeks 4 & 5


happy 4th to all those Stateside. (I'm sure there will be more on our laid-back festivities tomorrow, but for now...)

CSA pick-up last week wasn't happening without a kind friend to kick it on over to the farm and pick-up for us.

She said there was ... 2 small cabbages, a small bunch of broccoli, leeks, basil, peaches, and eggs.

This week (week 5!) there was:

2 mini cabbages, celery, beets, eggs, cherry tomatoes, green beans and red potatoes

Wahoo! The celery is more leaves than stems, so I'll probably try to use those and I'm not sure about the green cherry tomatoes. Does anyone know? Will they ripen if they're picked green? Or do we need to find a green tomato recipe?

And ... my CSA pick-of-the-week is these beauties.

Farm fresh eggs are such a treat to those on a low food budget - and it's not like we live in Amish country to just pick up a few on the side of the road (ahem, in-laws).  The taste is great, the yolk is a lovely orange and I don't think I'd need to refrigerate them if I didn't have to. I love it!

We've also gathered in a little from our garden (which is slowly withering away from the intense heat ...).

Some garlic.

And my cherry tomatoes have started to turn red!! There are so many on the two bushes I have yet to ripen, but I am excited (and I'm willing to water them so they live too)!

I've gotten so much cabbage - I'll share a cabbage recipe next week with you that is easy, delicious and we love!

Until then... sayonara!

Living Simply: a conclusion


"'Enough' is having our survival needs met (food, clothing, shelter), having possessions that bring joy and comfort and even having those few special luxuries that add to the quality of our life." *


Simply... living simply for me is one step at a time. Realistically, my family can't live like the Zero Waste family. We just don't have the resources to do that.

And do we want to? I don't really think so. I think many of the ideas are great but as a whole, I'd like to fall somewhere in between Zero Waste family and Crazy Consumers.

Balance, friends, it's all about it.

But just recently, it struck me. Simplicity looks different for each person.

So, some will live on one end of the spectrum, but most float somewhere in the middle, finding their way in our crazy world.

One friend sees it much like I do, living life really well without having to buy new, buy expensive, buy lots.

Another just tries to max out her family's fun time with the least amount of money as possible.

And still another considers carving out distraction-free time to spend with her husband.


Simplicity can be as easy or as complicated as we make it, but I'm pretty convinced that the philosophy of living simply doesn't equate with definition of the word "simple". It isn't easy, especially since life in the US doesn't always lend itself to this somewhat counter-cultural way of living. It takes work.

But it is rich. Full of life and wonder.

And I choose it. Just one little step at a time.

More resources on living simply:
Simple Living Manifesto
Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster

Do you have any resources on living simply?  More importantly, what is simplicity to you?

*a philosophy I want to live by