Herbal Wreath

I make an herbal wreath every year with garden clippings. It’s useful as well as decorative. Bonus: it’s zero waste and free!

If you don’t grow your own herbs, maybe someone you know does and they might need a trim before winter.

I started with long lavender stems that were arranged into somewhat of a circle shape.

Then I used some kitchen string to secure those branches together.

The remainder of herbs consisted of thyme, sage, and a tiny bit of rosemary.

Charming! My sister got me a gift wrapped with ribbon for my birthday so I reused that ribbon. I wouldn’t normally have ribbon on hand but I like it both with and without ribbon. I’ll keep the ribbon for reuse.

If I need any herbs, I can pull some from here. At the end of the season I can put the dry herbs into spice jars, and compost any remaining pieces.

Do you have any zero waste decorating tips for the holidays?

I’m planning on making sugar cookies and naturally-dyed frosting to take to my students.

Peace and love,

Kristan

December Groceries

I’m trying harder to be mindful of seasonal eating. Bananas are a delicious treat, but I live in Idaho. Bananas are never in season here.

There was a sale on chocolate, so I stocked up on my favorite kinds + a baking chocolate from Dagoba. It’s in a package, but from what I’ve read is recyclable.

The cloth bags contain: fair-trade coffee, local yellow lentils (a switch from my usual green lentil variety), and rye flour to make bread.

The glass jar has chocolate peanut butter because winter is headed this way. 🙂

I bought 2 savory scones and ate the other one. This one is for my husband. It’s also in the store’s bag because I thought I had run out of bags. Turns out, I hadn’t. #zerowastefail

Then the produce is a few pears, tiny and large, oranges, zucchini, cilantro, cabbage, and a couple watermelon radishes from a local organic farm.

What I’m planning on making: lentil curry, roasted garlic cabbage, rye caraway bread, and tomato-free sauce for pasta because I refuse to buy tomatoes when they aren’t in season and I sadly did not make tomato sauce this year.

Not pictured for no reason other than a forgetful mind: honey from the bulk dispensary. I ran out after starting fermented cranberries! More on that when they are finished.

Peace and love,

Kristan

Zero Waste: beverage edition

This post is all about beverages! I’ve posted about zero waste wine as well as homemade ginger beer, which are also zero waste, but I will not write about either of those again here.

I’ll start where our days might typically start: coffee and tea!

I was super into this coffee maker from France that I found on Etsy because it includes all parts that you’d need to make coffee and it’s kind of fancy. 😉

The ceramic parts are just like a typical coffee / tea pot. The stainless steel parts nest inside the pot and have tiny holes on the bottom as well as a press. I had a picture of that detail, but it has vanished.

I am showcasing this amazing Moomin mug I found at a thrift store because I love Moomin and graphic stories in general. Moomin Mama is reaching for some delicious coffee here.

All I need to make coffee is fair trade coffee that I buy in bulk and grind at the store, half & half from a local dairy in a returnable glass bottle, Salam coffee pot, hot water, and a mug.

Now onto tea time, because I don’t discriminate when it comes to hot beverages of choice.

This teapot has been with me a while. It was thrifted, and I realize it’s not necessary to have a coffee and a teapot, but I do.

This day I was enjoying earl grey that was bought in bulk, and then scooped into a tea ball. It’s a mesh sphere that closes upon itself and I don’t remember from where it came, but I have it nonetheless.

I like herbal tea without milk, but I really enjoy having milk (dairy or nut) in my earl grey cuppa. I also like honey, hence that giant coconut oil jar featured in the background that is filled with local honey.

This tea time was extra special because I drank my hot tea out of a mug that I made in pottery class and stirred it with a spoon my brother-in-law made, and, of course, it was all trash-free.

Next up: work beer, aka lunch champagne, aka kombucha.

The same place I get bulk tea also has kombucha on tap, and they allow me to fill whatever size I like, which allows me flexibility with the container I choose. My sister gave me this apple juice bottle and it works really well for kombucha because it still makes a tight seal. It’s perfect!

Last but not least is real beer!

This klean kanteen growler jug is great for beer! It keeps beer cold as well as holds the carbonation in. The beer does get less carbonated towards the bottom, but knowing it created no trash keeps me happy. Both of these beer photos crack me up! One is like a fall modeling shot and the other has a frantic kitten running through the frame.

She’s Hummingbird the Queen of the Cute Universe and the Very Best One.

Anyway, back to the golden ale…

There’s a place nearby that has a vast amount of beer on tap and it’s not uncommon to get beer in a growler nowadays. It is not cheaper to get beer in a growler, however, but I do find beer that I would never find in a store, so I suppose it’s a toss up.

Happy imbibing!

Peace and love,

Kristan

Sweet Potato with Lentil Topping

This dinner was divine! It could be made vegan so easily, just leave off the mayonnaise, or substitute vegenaise. I personally love vegenaise, but I prefer to make my own mayonnaise, and it’s package-free.

  • Bake sweet potatoes at 375 F for as long as they need to be fork tender. Perhaps an hour for large, thick potatoes.
  • Cook about 2 cups of lentils in water and drain when done.
  • Sauté a couple shallots or half an onion in oil, then add a few cloves of garlic, and a bell pepper.
  • Add spices of your choosing here: chili powder, paprika, cumin.
  • Add some tomatoes – I used up my last can of diced, fire roasted tomatoes. I think anything tomato would work here as long as it has some liquid.
  • Toss in cooked lentils and simmer for a few minutes.

Mash up the cooked sweet potato and top with the cooked lentil mix. Add avocado and mayonnaise if you please!

Peace and love,

Kristan

Pumpkin Pie Sans Packaging

I’m not huge into making pies, but I really wanted to try to make a real pumpkin pie and avoid all packaging – a Thanksgiving challenge for myself!

I got my hands on some pie pumpkins, which is easy to do, and I really only needed one. Chopped in half, and gutted, they went cut side down into the oven to roast until super tender.

It’s very easy to peel afterwards.

First, I mashed it with a potato masher and this is what it looked like.

Then I gave it the immersion blender treatment.

Much more of a purée now!

It was super thick so I decided I didn’t need to strain it at all.

Obviously I needed to make pie crust. I’ve never figured out what the big deal is with pie crust. I just follow directions and it turns out every time.

This one couldn’t be simpler:

  • 6 ounces butter, cold, diced
  • 2 cups flour, I used white whole wheat
  • 1/3 cup + maybe more of ice water (mine needed more)

Mix flour and butter first, then add ice water and if needed add more 1 tablespoon at a time.

I wrapped mine in homemade beeswax wrap and stuck it in the freezer, then realized I should have put it in the fridge. I had to wait a while to roll it out.

For the pie filling:

  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Salt

Whisk together.

I wanted my shell a bit pre-baked so it was in the oven, then I poured the filling into the shell.

Cook at 350 F for about 55 – 60 minutes.

The pie smells amazing, but a little warning here; I was using the oven for sweet potatoes and slid this pie onto a rack that was only 1 away from the one I was using. The pie pan fit perfectly, but then the filling rose a bit and off came some of the top! So, it’s not pretty now and I never make nice pie shell crusts. I’m sharing it anyway to be as real as possible and show the not-so-pretty side of not wasting perfectly good food.

Peace and love,

Kristan

Plastic-free & Zero Waste Thanksgiving Groceries

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the abundance around us. We have many holidays here in the States that have become buried deep under consumerism and we have very little connection to the original day of celebration. Thanksgiving was created here, and it holds up pretty well with its original intent.

Groceries from small, local stores: Pie pumpkins, heavy cream, kombucha, cranberries, oats, wild rice, winter squash, eggs, pumpkin cookies, persimmons, olive oil, canola oil, romanesco cauliflower, pecans.

I am grateful to be able to buy locally sourced, plastic and package-free produce and dairy, and am more than willing to drive a further distance to vote with my dollars. I don’t see the connection between supporting a corporation and feeding your family whipped topping out of a can with ingredients that do more harm than good, and then giving thanks for the food that has been provided by poor wages and wasteful business practices.

On the menu: pumpkin pie + apple pie, wild rice + squash casserole, eggnog (my family requests the eggnog every year). I haven’t figured out exactly what to do with the cranberries yet, but I’m sure I’ll find something delicious.

What I wish for this Thanksgiving is nourishing food provided from the garden, or as local as possible. I wish for health and happiness for my family as well as yours. I wish to seek common ground with others; especially families who don’t see eye to eye because who else can understand you better than your own flesh and blood?

Peace and love,

Kristan

DIY Vinegar

My love of DIY knows no bounds. I feel I must try everything once, and if it calls to me, I keep it in my rotations.

Apple picking is a yearly tradition for me and sometimes my family. The main thing I make is applesauce. I’ve been reading so many blogs and fermentation books, and have come across homemade vinegar from apple scraps. Clearly, I had plenty of apple scraps so I stuck them in a clean glass jar.

I filled the jar with filtered water and mixed in approximately 2 – 3 Tablespoons of sugar. I placed this little diy linen hat I made for my sourdough or my ginger bug (not sure of its original intention) and have found plenty of other uses for since then.

I stirred the mixture every time I remembered, which was only about twice daily and saw it become a bit foamy and bubbly. I waited until it was no longer bubbly. Then I strained the mixture, which took a surprising amount of time, then bottled the liquid into my old apple cider vinegar bottle. How appropriate!

I still think I need to strain it again because there is quite a bit of debris in there. However, it does smell like vinegar so I think it worked! I’ll dilute it for my hair rinse in the shower.

Peace and love,

Kristan

Vegan Zero Waste Breakfast

Overnight oats is a life changing breakfast option. Is that too dramatic? I don’t think so, because whenever I make them, I am grateful to have a simple, healthy breakfast option waiting for me in the refrigerator.

The thing that makes me even more grateful for this option is that it’s so easily made zero waste. Perhaps that wording isn’t quite right. This dish doesn’t need to be “made” zero waste – it just is.

Here’s what I used today:

  • Rolled oats – bulk
  • Cashew / almond milk – ingredients bought in bulk, then homemade
  • Sesame seeds – bulk
  • Blueberries – frozen from a flat of berries bought fresh and plastic free (thank you summertime Kristan)
  • Raspberries – ditto blueberries
  • Maple syrup – bulk dispensary

When I make these the night before, I only put oats and milk together, then in the morning I add what I want. Frozen berries just need a small amount of time to unthaw while in the oats.

If I need to take this with me to school, I simply put the rubber gasket and metal clips on the lid and go. I dig Weck jars. Fortunately, today is Sunday and I’m slowly enjoying this simple treat.

What’s your favorite breakfast? How can it be made zero waste?

Peace and love,

Kristan

Herbal Tea Blends How-To

Buying tea is fun: exploring new flavors and brands that may help ease symptoms or simply taste good. What’s more fun is making one’s own tea blends!

My garden has mint, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, parsley, rosemary, calendula, and many other cooking herbs. These are the ones usually being made into tea.

Most of my arsenal is pictured here. I have a serious love of vintage tiny crocks and they are perfect for storing dried herbs.

Choosing which vessel to drink from and deciding where to place the herbs is the hardest part of the process! I have a lovely tea strainer that sits atop a mug, and I also have a muslin cloth bag that is nice for a whole pot of tea. Obviously, I chose the stainless steel tea strainer + my favorite poppy mug.

My favorite blend is mint, lemon balm, and a bit of lavender.

Sometimes I enjoy just mint, I think that’s my second favorite.

Chamomile by itself is amazing, but I like it with mint. Also with lemon balm.

Calendula + mint; lavender + calendula; parsley + mint; basically anything mixed with mint is delicious and soothing.

I have “modeled” some blends based on purchased teas I enjoyed but didn’t care for the price tag. Those usually include licorice root because of its natural sweetness. They require more effort, so I’ll usually mix a larger batch to enjoy over a longer period.

Rosemary is best when fresh and is super strong. I enjoy it mixed with honey and chamomile!

In fact, I like most herbal teas with a bit of honey. I think their flavors come out more fully with some added sweetness.

All herbs either came from my garden, or were bought in bulk at my local herb supplier.

The honey in the coconut jar was purchased in bulk also!

As far as how much to add to each cup, it’s a personal preference, and can also be based on how fresh the herbs are + how finely cut they are. I generally use about one tablespoon because I like a good flavor. Definitely use less if you are using a true tea like earl grey or black.

What are some of your favorite tea blends?

Peace and love,

Kristan

Thanksgiving at School

Today and tomorrow are the days we are celebrating Thanksgiving in my Kindergarten classroom. Historical accuracy is important to me, so I try my best to teach the students the history of the holiday. I also did some research on what foods would have or could have been present at the first or second Thanksgiving. Beans, corn, and squash were on my menu, as well as chestnuts. I cooked up mayacoba beans and roasted and laboriously peeled chestnuts.

To keep this fun day trash free, all ingredients were package free, and I brought plates from home for the students to eat from. I always have a small set of silverware at school. They ate in turns, like rotating stations, and I simply washed the plates and forks in between rotations.


To cook chestnuts: score an X on the flat side, through the shells and slightly into the meat. Bake at 425 Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then peel. My fingernails are still suffering from the process, but I had never even tried a chestnut before yesterday, and I have to say it was worth the pain. They are delicious! Nutty and sweet, and softer than expected.

The students made butter from cream by shaking it in a baby food jar; even though that part is not historically accurate, it’s too much fun not to include in the day’s activities. They chopped bell peppers, zucchini, potatoes, and green onions. The night before, I prepared a butternut squash from my garden and took it with me to add to our vegetable medley. I don’t eat meat and so I would never buy it for my students. I wouldn’t know where to purchase venison anyway.

I keep a plug in skillet at school for such occasions. It was given to us by a family member and it’s not something I would use at home.

Thanksgiving feast menu:

Potatoes, zucchini, winter squash, green onion, bell peppers – all package free

Sage – garden

Mayacoba beans – cooked from scratch + bought in bulk

Cream for butter – returnable glass bottle

Candy corn – reusable bulk bag

Chestnuts – reusable bulk bag

I have control over what kind of festivities happen in my classroom, and I expect them to align with my values. I composted scraps and am feeding any leftovers to my hens.

Basically a trash free classroom party! Produce stickers and napkins were tossed. I get a stack of napkins each time the vegetable grant comes to my room, so I feel that I should use those.

How would you implement zero waste into the classroom?

Peace and love,

Kristan