For the next three days, I will have a guest blogger, CalamityWilde, who also happens to be my vegan, earth-loving, awesome, and beautiful sister-in-law. She will be gracing us with her tips on living simply and sustainably no matter where you live. She is currently studying holistic medicine aka- all-natural living coolness- and has an awesome blog, Call Me Vegan so be sure to check that out too! Welcome CalamityWilde!
Her tips for today revolve around the kitchen in some form or fashion.
Check it out:
Buy in bulk whenever possible. It will not only save you money, but it will save the environment and precious energy used in packaging, etc. (I love the dry foods bins at our local health stores- I stock up on oats, cornmeal, beans, etc.)
Don't throw out veggies that are on the out and out. As long as they are not rotting, you can use them to make your own vegetable stock. Then, you'll never have to buy it. Stock is a necessity in our house, for soups, to cook beans in, to add to almost anything for that delicious flavor. I even add herbs like burdock and echinacea for extra medicinal benefit.
How I make the stock: I use things like the ends of broccoli stalks, the stems of swiss chard and collard green leaves, the hard top parts of tomatoes, the ends of green beans, and any veggies that are old. I cut everything into about 2 inch pieces. I add 1/4 onion, a carrot, some garlic, and perhaps any other veggies I have laying around. I chop those up too, throw it all in a stock pot, add filtered water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to simmer. After about 30 minutes of simmering I add sea salt and black pepper. After simmering again for 30 minutes, I add herbs. I add the conventional cooking herbs like sage, thyme, basil, fennel, and some cayenne pepper. But I also add echinacea, burdock root, calendula flowers, and anything else I might be in the season for (thyme and fenugreek are great for allergy season, licorice root for sore throats, etc, etc.). The herbs definitely affect the taste of the stock, so don't use any that you don't enjoy the taste of. Burdock is my favorite as far as flavor. (Burdock is actually a Japanese vegetable called Gobo root. They put it in all sorts of dishes, so it makes me think of delicious Japanese cuisine.) So after adding the herbs (I never measure, I just add, but to give you an idea herbal teas use 1 tsp herb to 1 cup water), I let it simmer for 20 more minutes before straining out the liquid into a glass jar. Keep it refrigerated if you're going to use it within the week, and freeze it if it'll be longer. Make sure to leave some room at the top of the jar before putting it in the freezer, to give the liquid room to expand. Use the stock to cook your beans in- it'll give them wicked good flavor. Use it to make soups of all sorts. Use it to make gravy. Add it to any dish for a savory flavor and a medicinal kick. You know what Hippocrates said, "Let thy food be thy medicine."
Compost!! Even though we can't do it as much as we'd like, due to living in an apartment, you can do it to an extent no matter where you live. As for the composting, we keep a tub (one of those kinds that you use for storage) on our porch, but you can use a trash can with a lid as well. We start out with some dirt, and add a layer of dry plant matter (leaves that have fallen off our plants), and then throw in food scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds, hair from our hairbrushes, etc. We don't actually keep a lid on it, instead we cover it with a trash bag (a biodegradable one, of course), because it needs a little air. You can also punch holes in the sides to keep the air flowing through. We stir it every couple of days, and keep adding more soil, or newspaper shreds to the food scraps. After the bin gets full (but not too full to be thoroughly stirred), we stop adding to it. Ideally, this is when you should start a second one. The first one will slowly turn to finished compost (times vary depending on conditions and what you have put in it). So you can have the second one filling up while the first finishes. If it gets too smelly, add more soil, and keep covered. Ours never gets incredibly smelly, but that might be because we don't use meat, so there were no meat scraps. Remember that what you put in your compost is what you'll be putting on your plants when you use it on them. That being said, I feel great about completing the cycle of our chemical free attempt at life. Our fertilizer is organic because the scraps of our food are all organic. Thus we can grow more organic food! Here's a link that may come in handy: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/apartment-compost-guide.html.
There are also some great books we reference a lot in our efforts to grow organic food in our apartment: Rodale's Encycolpedia of Indoor Gardening Edited by Anne M. Haplin, and Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Resource for Every Gardener Edited by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W. Ellis. This will help you out with the next tip.
Grow your own food. Even if you only have one windowsill, herbs like basil and parsley are so easy to grow, and so delicious to add to any dish. Also try radishes and green onions for super ease. Grow as much as you can (organically of course) and nourish all your plants with your own compost. Oh, and grow sprouts! They are so easy, and so incredibly nutritious (and you can use the water you used to rinse the sprouts, to water your other plants).
When using the stove and/or oven, try to maximize use. For example, if you're baking bread and the oven is already hot, then don' t turn it off and then 2 hours later turn it back on for something else. Go ahead and throw some veggies in there so they'll be ready for dinner. You can also do things like soaking dry beans overnight instead of letting come to a boil and then sitting for an hour. Also, to make oatmeal, soak your oats overnight, and no stove is necessary for oatmeal! It'll be waiting for you in the morning. I personally think it tastes better this way, too.
If you eat honey, get it local, raw, and unheated!! It has incredible nutritional benefits. Make sure you support holistic beekeepers who do not use chemicals or sugarfeed the bees. Let's protect the bees, and support them, they are the reason we have most of the food we have. If they didn't pollinate it, it wouldn't be around.
Stop buying packaged and processed food. 1) It's full of crap- i.e. chemicals, pesticides, GMO foods, artificial colors and flavors, and sweeteners that are toxic 2) It makes our society lazy. It really doesn't take that much effort to make yourself a PB and J instead of buying frozen ones. 3) If you get in touch with the food you eat, you'll be more in touch with your body (and thus your health) and this beautiful earth that gives us life. 4) It's actually easy to make your own everything (salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, cereals, snacks, jam, hummus, salsa, etc.).
Buy organic. As much as you possibly can. Although much research has suggested the toxicity of pesticide laden food on our health, no one will actually admit this. But come on, since when is poison good for you? More than that, stop supporting giant agrobusinesses, and evil companies like Monsanto. These companies are affecting the lives of the small farmers who are trying to grow organically and preserve the integrity of our land and our food chain. Also, the chemicals are leaking into ground water, air, rain, etc.. contaminating everything. Also with this, buy non-GMO.
Thanks again for sharing Calamity Wilde!
Everyone be sure to check in Thursday and Friday for more awesomeness from this awesome chick!