Sunday, August 20, 2017

Grandma's Pasta Sauce


So who's ready for this eclipse? It's been quite the anticipated event here in St. Joseph MO considering we are on the line of complete totality for over a minute. I'm kind of excited. But not too excited about the expected crowds they are projecting. Last I heard they think we will go from a population of 80,000 to 500,000 in just a day. I hope they are wrong. Either way, I'm going to enjoy the spectacle in the comfort of my own yard with a bowl of pasta. Ok - I was just trying to tie my eclipse rambling to this recipe but I probably will have pasta tomorrow because it's Monday and that's typically what we eat on Mondays. 

Tomatoes are bountiful right now. We've had a generous amount of rain this last month making the tomato crop big, juicy, and oh so sweet. Farmer's markets are overflowing with every size, shape, and color of tomato you can imagine. When we got our CSA box this week I was excited to see the giant Big Boys that were screaming to be turned into my Grandmother's Pasta Sauce. 


My Great Grandmother didn't have a large catalog of recipes. She stuck to a handful that she circulated every week and spaghetti was on the list. She would have Grandpa bring in tomatoes and other produce from the garden that she'd use in the sauce and let it simmer for a long time. She'd then always serve it with sautéed spinach only because I was obsessed with Popeye the Sailor Man.

I've been making her recipe for years. I now even make it in very large batches so I can preserve it for later in the year.  I can't even tell you how amazing it is to open up a jar of pasta sauce in the middle of winter from summer produce. Who says you have to deprive yourself in order to be a little more environmentally friendly?


ZERO WASTE TALK | How is this recipe zero waste? All produce can be purchased in season and package free. Use home grown herbs, or purchase spices in bulk with your own containers to eliminate any unnecessary packaging.

Grandma's Pasta Sauce

Author: Megean Weldon
Prep and Cook Time: 60 minutes
Serving Size: Feeds 6

Ingredients:

  • 5 large tomatoes 
  • 1 red bell pepper - sometimes I use a few cherry peppers instead
  • 5 cloves of garlic - I mean, can you have too much garlic?
  • 1/2 cup of celery
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste - or homemade
  • 3 TB of fresh chopped parsley or 2 TB of dried parsley 
  • 2 TB of Italian seasoning
  • 2 TB of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flake
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt or season to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Chop tomatoes and pepper and put onto a cookie sheet with the garlic. Drizzle olive oil over everything and lightly sprinkle with salt. 
  2. Roast the tomatoes - including skins, pepper, and garlic in a 400 degree F oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly wilted.
  3. In a stock pot, sauté celery and onions with a little bit of olive oil until translucent.
  4. Add tomatoes, pepper, and garlic to the stock pot along with the tomato paste, parsley, Italian seasoning, basil, red pepper flake, sugar, salt, and pepper. 
  5. Simmer until all flavors have had time to build - about 30 minutes.
  6. Use an emersion blender to blend into a smooth sauce. 
  7. Serve immediately or can for later.
Enjoy!


Monday, August 14, 2017

Toddler Friendly Breakfast Cookies


Why does summer have to be nearing its end? Waaaahhhhhh! That's me throwing an adult tantrum. I don't even know why. It's not like I go to school in the fall even though I still get that beginning-of-semester anxiety. Anyone else still experience that? Maybe it's because I've been playing around with the idea of going back to school to get my Master's degree. I might be a little insane. I just like piling it on.

One thing I will always make time for, though, is ensuring my little guy has wholesome, healthy, home made meals and snacks. I've said this many times before - meal prepping on Sundays is a must to making that happen. I've also been pretty fortunate to have a child who will pretty much eat anything. Fruit, veg, mushrooms, spicy, sour - you name it, he'll consume it. At his day care, as a fun opportunity to get some hilarious photos of the babies, the teachers gave them limes to taste. All of the littles made the most hilarious, scrunched up faces except my child. He sat there and happily ate his ENTIRE lime. His teachers told me that they've never seen that happen before. Sometimes I question whether or not that kid has taste buds. Of course, he's just like his father whom I've seen eat burnt cake out of the trash. Like father - like son, I guess.

However, you don't need a child who eats everything to eat these breakfast cookies. Shoot, you don't even need to be a child to eat and enjoy these. They are deliciously simple, easy to make ahead of time, and good for you. Oh and just 4 ingredients. These cookies are perfect for busy mornings. I always grab a couple on my way out of the door when I've forgotten to eat along with the rest of the family. 


These cookies are also very versatile as you can add and swap things out making them perfect for your munchkin. Peanut allergy? Use another nut butter like almond or cashew. Doesn't like raisins? Use some dried cranberries or chocolate chips.

ZERO WASTE TALK | How are these cookies "zero waste"? All ingredients can be purchased in the bulk bins with your own containers or can be found in the produce section. You could even make your own peanut butter like my SIMPLE recipe Here! If you don't have bulk, look for food packaged in something other than plastic like paper, glass, or metal.




Enjoy! For more plant based recipes check out my recipe page HERE!






Saturday, July 22, 2017

Zero Waste Sun Protection



Summertime is the best! It's time for picnics, pool time, vacations, watermelon, lightening bugs, camping, popsicles, and being outside in the sun way more than usual. I burn very easily so when it comes to summer sun protection, I have to slather on sunscreen. Of course, now that I have all of this new knowledge of what goes into these products and the packaging they come in, I've had to rethink how I protect myself from those harsh summer rays.

But first, let me make myself very clear. Your health and protection from skin cancer is way more important than if you avoid one single plastic tube of sunscreen but you should consider a better brand. Be concerned about ingredients first, then the packaging. I urge all of you to look at mineral based sunscreens rather than the cheaper brands that contain Homosalate, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, and Octinoxate. Like chemicals found in plastic, these have been known to cause some serious health issues.

And let's not forget how those chemicals in sunscreen are affecting the environment. According to a study conducted by a team of international scientists, the chemicals in sunscreen pose an alarming risk to coral reefs. We've lost a significant amount of our coral reefs in the Caribbean, already. A lot due to the bleaching phenomena that has started occurring. The study found that Oxybenzone does in fact leach coral of its nutrients and bleach it white and with over 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions winding up in coral reefs around the world each year, it's no wonder sunscreen has been deemed a threat to the level of other environmental issues such as pollution and over fishing.

But what can you do?

Cover Up


Instead of excessively covering yourself in sunscreen, try covering up instead. Wear a hat, shirt, or a cover up while in the sun and stay under an umbrella or in the shade when not covered.

Eat more foods that naturally help prevent sunburns


Up your intake of foods that help your body protect itself from burning. There many nutrients, like Vitamin C, found in some fruits and vegetables that work to protect our skin.
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Guava
  • Green Tea
  • Oatmeal
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumbers
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Carrots
  • Pomegranate
  • Red Wine
  • Sweet Potato
  • Olive Oil 
  • Avocado
  • and the list goes on...


Opt for a true mineral sunscreen


At the very least, swap out those chemically laden bottles of name brand sunscreen and switch to a mineral sunscreen. **See detrimental affects those have above**

Sadly, because the "natural" product trend is getting ever so popular, we are bombarded with green-washing and natural product impostors. We have to be very careful when selecting products these days.

Below, I've comprised a list of natural and sustainable sunscreens, that also come in plastic free packaging that I highly recommend.

Avasol

A post shared by Avasol.com (@loveavasol) on

Raw Elements



Laguna Herbals



Solistick (Vegan)


A post shared by SOLISTICK (@solistick) on

Balm Baby (Vegan)




Make Your Own Sunscreen

There are several recipes out there that teach you how to make your own sunscreen. Please do lots of research, though. You want to make complete sure that the recipe is affective. Just Google DIY sunscreen. 

All in all, just be smart when you are exposing yourself to heavy amounts of sun. Even with the best sunscreens, we are all still susceptible to harsh UV exposure.

What is your go to method for sustainable sun protection?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Meal Plan and Grocery Haul #5: Nachos and Sesame Cauliflower

Being a one person IT team for a mid sized company is very demanding and overwhelming. I'm always curious as to how many calories I burn in a day - maybe I should buy me one of those fit bits (secondhand, of course). Once, I'm off of work, I hurriedly get to Oliver's daycare to pick him up before 5:30 since they start charging extra after that, then quickly get home where I have to do chores, tend the garden/flowers, take care of the animals, cook dinner, and handle a very agitated one year old who's screaming "NANA NANA NANA" (banana) at the top of his lungs until I give him a snack. Life is crazy right now. I seriously wish I could say it was slow and relaxing and I had no worries what so ever. But that's just not my reality right now. What makes these nights a little easier, is having a meal plan with easy, put together meals that are also low to no waste and plant based. It also makes life a lot more manageable to get as much prep done as possible with our nightly dinners. So like chopping, roasting, making rice in advance, muffins, bread, etc.


Sundays are usually our day to stock up on produce from the farmer's markets, dried goods from Sprouts, and meal prep as much as possible. It's actually our favorite day of the week considering we treat it as a family day. We always get canolis in our own container on our way out of the market and always try to sneak in a trip to the park.


 After we meal prep, we just relax. We sit outside and watch Ollie as he plays with his trucks and eat dirt (I try to stop him but I figure he'll eventually realize it doesn't taste that great). We let that kid get as dirty as he possibly can on Sunday afternoons. We let him help pick weeds in the garden - while sneaking some strawberries of course, we let him wrestle with the dogs outside, and sometimes he finds his way to mud. It's perfect - it's our perfect. It's a much needed recharge before the craziness ensues again on Monday morning.


So what's planned for this week?


Monday: Pasta with a Lentil Bolognese, Roasted Garlic Bread, and Kale/Carrot Top Pesto (I use my   homemade, canned pasta sauce. You can also use jarred. Just add 1/2 cup to a cup of lentils and simmer until cooked through) Very easy, ya'll!

Tuesday: Sesame Cauliflower over Rice

Wednesday: Nachos with Black Beans, Lettuce, Salsa, Green Pepper,  Radishes, Avocado, and                                 Cilantro

Thursday: Homemade Pizzas with Pesto, Broccoli, Yellow Squash, and a Balsamic Glaze (Make a     simple pizza dough then add whatever toppings you desire. Pesto makes a great sauce!)

Friday: We go out (Usually for....FAJITA FRIDAYS!)

Saturday: We eat with friends or family (Being social is good for the soul!)

Sunday: We clean out the fridge and pantry to use up any older food. (Kitchen Sink meals...right?)

Breakfasts: Granola over Almond Milk, Banana Muffins, and Fruit. Oh - and Pancakes on the Weekends!

Lunches: Leftovers from dinners the night before

Baby Meals: I steamed some broccoli and carrots, heated up some black beans and mixed it with seasoned rice for daycare. We also send him with fruit. For dinners, he eats what we have.


There are some food items not pictured for the following reasons:

  • Pasta sauce comes from my canned stash. I make up a several quart jars worth in the late summer when our tomatoes are ripe.
  • We make the pizza dough from scratch the night before and let it set in the fridge until the next day. You could also check your local pizzerias to purchase dough or you could get premade dough kits in cardboard.
  • The yellow squash is coming from my garden along with the peppers.
  • Almond milk we made last week. It's seriously just almonds soaked in water, blended once soft, and strained. We add dates to ours for sweetness. Recipe soon, I promise!
  • The nacho chips we get from our local Mexican restaurant. They are so, SO good. I bring in a larger cloth produce bag and they fill it up for me. We get them right before we make dinner so they are fresh. It's on my way home from work. If you are looking for a waste free way to get chips, you should try out this method!
  • Blueberries from the market - Ollie was eating them.

At that's it! All for around $50! Can you believe that?!

Have you saved my Pantry List? This list will help you only stock items that can be made into multiple, versatile meals.



You can find all of my previous meal plans here.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dish Brush Giveaway!

I think it's time for a giveaway, my lovelies! I want to share some plastic free goodies to get you one step closer to zero waste!

Have you tried compostable dish brushes, yet? If not, here's your chance to win a set!


I'm giving away one compostable dish brush and one compostable veggie brush (this brush's versatility goes way beyond scrubbing produce!). The brushes are 100% vegan and 100% plastic free!

To enter, simply comment below with what zero waste means to you. Contest ends next Thursday! Good Luck!

You can also find these brushes and more in my shop at www.shopzerowastenerd.com!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tips for a Zero Waste Kid's Birthday Party

So I can barely believe Oliver is a year old. I know people say that time flies but holy cow - what just happened?! Well, here we are. This past year has been nothing short of amazing. He has truly filled a void in our lives that we never knew existed. He's funny, gentle, sweet, and quirky. His personality is so unique and wonderful. We are so, so lucky.

Zero Waste Party


I knew far back that his party was going to be very simple. Sometimes less is more and to keep not only the waste in check, but the stress in check, simple was the only way to go.

The key in planning a waste free party without driving yourself crazy is to first think of all of the stuff that generally makes having parties so wasteful. And seriously, this couldn't get any simpler - just replace all of the waste causing items with reusables. Whoa - did I just blow your mind. We've traditionally gotten accustomed to throwing these elaborate, expensive parties with gobs of balloons, streamers, themed disposable plates, napkins, cutlery, plastic party favors, mountains of gifts, and more. But let me assure you, parties don't have to be that way and in my honest opinion...shouldn't be that way. I can't think of a million other ways to show your  child they are cared for on their birthdays.

So to break this down, here are my tips to making your parties trash free, hassle free, and full of fun!

Skip the Disposables


Zero Waste Party

I'm talking about the plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc. Don't waste your money on things that go into the trash. Instead, use real plates, real glasses, real cutlery, real napkins. It looks way more put together and it's completely waste free.

Now before you start with...."I don't have that many glasses, plates, etc. I don't have the money to go buy new things and that just takes of up space...." I know this and I'm not suggesting that. My husband and I only have 4 plates, 8 glasses, and about 6 forks. So how on earth did we manage to feed 25 people? Simple....

Have you seen this amazing graphic by Sarah Lazarovic. I use this as a guide to ensure I make my events as less impacting at possible.

I used all of the plates, cups, and silverware I had, even used my pint mason jars first. I then asked some family members to help with additional silverware and my mother in law loaned me her crystal party plates. Perfect - and didn't cost me a penny!

Provide Plant-based Food

Zero Waste Salad


As you already know, my husband and I eat a primarily plant-based diet. We made potato salad, spinach and walnut salad, grilled veggies with spinach pesto, and I made two pies. We didn't make a cake for the party since Ollie had already consumed two cakes this week. Ok not the entire cakes but still enough that my heart rate increased watching him eat it. I figured he is 1, he will not care or remember if he got a third cake during his party. He's way more concerned with climbing onto everything he can.

Zero Waste Pie


Why plant-based? Plant based food has less of an environmental impact and is easily found without packaging. Simple as that.

Now, I do realize that everyone doesn't make the same dietary choices as we do - and that's perfectly fine - so I mentioned on the invitations to bring a side dish. That also helped save us quite a bit of money as we weren't entirely feeding 25 people out of our own pockets.

Try BYOG (Bring Your Own Gear)

As I was finishing the final touches before guests started arriving, my mother mentioned to me that my party reminded her of church luncheons when she was little. Disposables were never used at those functions so you were always expected to bring your own plates, cups, and cutlery. We used to do it this way people!

Have a Compost Bin

I had our big outdoor garbage bin hidden during the party so people wouldn't instinctively scrape their food in the garbage. I instead put a labeled compost bin next to the buffet tables with a spatula making it simple for guests to scrape off their uneaten food. 

A few of the dishes that were brought contained meat so I had a separate bin for that which we buried later.

Set up a Dirty Dish Drop-off Location

Yes, this is the most inconvenient part of throwing a party with no disposables but I have to say it went very smooth. A couple of family members volunteered on their own to collect people's plates and did all of the dishes before I even realized people were finished eating. My grandmothers, aunt, and Mother in Law had them all finished in 5 minutes. 

If you don't have a group of family members fighting over doing the dishes, set up a few bins with soapy water for guests to place their used dishes. This will help make it easier and quicker to thoroughly clean them all later.

Keep the Decorations Minimal


Zero Waste Party

Do the decorations really matter? Are you trying to impress your child or the parents attending the party? I'm simply asking these questions because I asked myself the same ones to which I realized the decorations were more about impressing the adults.

Skip the balloons (I know the golden number balloons are trendy but ugh...), the plastic table coverings, plastic party favors, and streamers altogether. They are not necessary.

I kept Ollie's decorations very simple! I made a couple banners with scrap fabric and decorated our chalkboard wall. When I look back on my childhood birthdays I can assure you, I never remember the decorations, just the moments with family and friends who chose to spend my special day with me. THAT's the important part. NOT the stuff!

Divert the Importance Away from Gifts

I don't want Oliver to only associate birthdays with presents. Instead, I want him to think of the people who care about him the most who will be spending time with him. I want him to remember His grandfathers playing with him in the dirt or his uncle trying to teach him how to dance - I can say that was funny to watch!

This year, we very explicitly stated that we did not want any gifts for Oliver, instead, we chose to put together a time capsule to be opened on his 18th birthday. We asked family members to write him a heart felt note so that he could read it when he's getting ready to start his path to adulthood.

You could also start a college fund or have money donated to a charity in your child's name. There are many alternatives to the traditional gifts. I'll have to write another post about those in the future



The party went wonderfully! People had a good time eating great food, playing washers in the back yard, and spending time with the little man of the hour. 

"Collect moments, not things," continues to be the quote by which I live my life. Not just for the planet but for my soul as well. We need to appreciate the true important parts of life and ignore the disposable. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

DIY Tea Herb Garden



Mother's day is approaching and like many of you, I've began thinking how on Earth I'm going to show the many mothers in my life just how much they mean to me. And of course, this Mother's Day is extra special considering it has a completely new meaning for me. But it's not about me....it's about the mothers in my life who have always been there and have always supported every endeavor I've ventured towards. This is about them. And I truly wanted to make them something special, this year - and of course, zero waste.

All of the moms in my life LOVE tea. I don't think I have ever seen my mother-in-law without some sort of tea cup or thermos in her hand, so what better gift than a mini tea herb garden! It saves money since they'll be growing their own tea and sit beautifully on their patio or kitchen table for them to be reminded of their favorite child.



So what will you need?


  • Container big enough for all of the plants
  • Stones - enough for a layer across the bottom of the container
  • Dirt to fill the container
  • Herbs perfect for tea
Now, your local greenhouses pay have different varieties of herbs that could be a good addition to this tea garden. Some possible choices include:
  • Lemon Balm 
  • Peppermint
  • Stevia
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Rose
  • Calendula
  • Basil
  • Lemon Verbena
  • and the list goes on!

Instructions

  1. Add the stones to the bottom of the container - this is to ensure adequate drainage.
  2. Take the plants out of the plastic containers and organize them inside the container (take containers back to the greenhouse for reuse or to Lowe's where they get recycled and reused.)
  3. Fill empty spots with dirt
  4. Water
  5. Enjoy!

How to make tea with your new Mini Tea Herb Garden

  1. Pick a few of each leaf or whatever combination you'd like and steep in a reusable tea bag or tea ball
  2. Or dry your leaves in the sun or in a dehydrator, crush up and steep in a reusable tea bag or tea ball




Zero Waste Nerd