15 Minute Pasta Recipe

I usually eat my meals alone so there is no incentive for me to slave all day in the kitchen unless I want to try out a particular recipe or if I am craving for something specific. This recipe takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. The sauce cooks the same time it takes to boil the pasta.

10 Minute Pasta Recipe

Recipe

  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic (As much as you like. I used 4 large cloves because I love things garlicky)
  • Tomatoes (As much as you like. I used about half a bowl of cherry tomatoes)
  • Dried Chilli Flakes (Optional)
  • Basil (Sliced or torn)
  • Pasta
  • Salt
  • Cheese (Optional. Parmigiano Regiano, Pecorino and Mozzarella are safe options)
  1. Put the pasta in boiling water and set the timer to 1 minute prior to when the pasta will be done. If it takes 11 minutes for the pasta to be done, boil it for 10 minutes. Remember to add salt to the boiling water. Make it taste like the ocean.
  2. Slice or dice the garlic and put it in a pan with cold oil. Add dried chili flakes if you like a bit of heat in your pasta.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into halves or quarters (bigger tomatoes) and add it to the pan when the garlic starts to brown. Add some pasta water to stop the garlic from burning.
  4. Add some salt to the tomatoes and let the tomatoes liquify in low heat. If the sauce starts getting too thick, add pasta water to thin out the sauce.
  5. Feel free to mash the tomatoes with the back of your cooking utensil.
  6. When the timer goes off, add the basil and pasta to the sauce and let the pasta cook in the sauce for 1 minute. If the pasta feels a little tight when you try to move it in the pan, add some pasta water to loosen the sauce. Feel free to finish it off with a bit of olive oil.
  7. Also optional, grate some cheese over the pasta but I recommend adding the cheese to your bowl instead of in the pan. I like mine without cheese.

As always, if there are leftovers, I usually pack them in glass containers and it tastes great the next day. You can eat it warm or cold and it’s delicious.

Zero Waste Corporate Gift Ideas

Every business should find some way to market themselves in order to get more customers or keep their existing customers. I like to send something to my clients especially during the holidays either to thank them or to remind them of me. The struggle lies in living the zero waste life and giving customers junk that ends up in the landfill.

Experience is usually the go to zero waste gift but it may not necessarily be appropriate or it can be cost prohibitive. Unless you are gifting a specific person in mind, it’s always a good idea to find something neutral. Here are some zero waste corporate gift ideas.

Zero Waste Gifts that Fit in an Envelope

With Standard Postage

  • Plantable Cards – Cards that you can plant in soil and grow wildflowers.
  • Gift Cards / Gift Certificates – Online stores are the best option or some place you know that they frequent. You don’t necessarily have to buy the card. You can always buy it online and print out the code.
  • Movie Tickets – Think about where your customers are. Pick a movie theatre close to their home / business.
  • Postcard Size Calendar
  • Recipes
  • Tea Bags

Most of these are paper products that can be recycled or composted.

Everything Else

  • Wine
  • Soaps (not the ones wrapped in plastic)
  • Kitchen / Tea Towels
  • Collapsible Cups
  • Box of Baked Goodies
  • Cotton Tote Bag / Foldable Tote Bags – Great for printing your company logo.
  • Potted Plants
  • Scented Candles
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottles / Coffee Mug – Great for printing your company logo. I try to avoid plastic where possible.
  • Hand Towels – Great for embroidering your company logo.
  • Stainless Steel / Glass Containers – Great for engraving your company logo but I suggest filling the container with some goodies.
  • Bamboo Toothbrush – Especially great if you are a dentist.
  • Glass Straws – I think a lot of people will find it novel. If it’s glass, it is easier to see if the straw is cleaned properly. Don’t forget the pipe cleaner for the straw too.

Others Ideas that Didn’t Make the List

There is no point in giving gifts that a customer would not appreciate. Zero waste gifts may still end up in the landfill or become a dust collector at home. Here are some gift ideas that I think non-zero wasters would not appreciate.

  • Reusable produce bags – I’m not sure if a lot of people remember to bring their own bags to the grocery store let alone produce bags.
  • Fruit Basket – Maybe a small amount of fruit because do people seriously eat that much of fruit before it goes bad? It seems like most of the fruit will go to waste.
  • Homemade Beauty Products – Too personal because everyone has their preferences unless you are in the business of selling beauty products but soap is the exception.
  • Magazine Subscription – Not sure how that will remind people of your business.
  • Sandwich / Snack Bags – I don’t know a lot of people who pack their own lunch to work or pack sandwiches.
  • Mugs – There are just way too many mugs that end up in thrift stores.
  • Coasters – There are zero friendly options but chances are, everyone who use coasters have them already.
  • Cotton Napkins – Do people really use napkins at home?
  • Travel Chopsticks – It depends on your customer base. Surprisingly, a lot of people struggle with chopsticks.

It goes without saying that if you are looking for zero waste ideas, make sure that you keep that in mind when wrapping your gifts. Recycled / paper envelopes and cardboard boxes are easily available. Skip the plastic ribbons, shiny confetti and use twine instead.

Pros and Cons to Zero Waste

Pros

  1. It’s good for the environment.
  2. Unpackaged goods should be cheaper because you are not paying for packaging.
  3. There is more time for the more important things when you stop shopping.
  4. It forces you to make healthier choices. It is easier to buy fresh fruits and vegetables without packaging over processed food.
  5. You tend to save money because you buy less stuff, buy second hand stuff, make use of what you have or do without completely.
  6. It forces you to become more resourceful. You will pick up new skills and learn new tricks.
  7. No longer have to worry about taking the trash out because it takes awhile to fill up the trash cans. Also, trash cans don’t smell anymore.
  8. During the time of the month, I never have to worry about not having sufficient supplies.

Cons

  1. It is difficult to shop zero waste. Not all places sell in bulk or telling people that you want the item in your container can be tiresome.
  2. In an effort to go zero waste, we had to give up snacks, packaged food and certain convenience.
  3. Sometimes it is more expensive to buy things without packaging.
  4. You need to plan ahead all the time. It’s difficult to make impromptu trips to the store or restaurants if you are not prepared. My handbag is more than double the size of my previous handbag because I need space for water bottle, container, reusable bags etc.
  5. Your water bill goes up because there is a lot more washing when you avoid disposables. You run the dishwasher and the washing machine more regularly.
  6. Saying no to freebies, free samples and gifts.
  7. Being disappointed when people close to you insist on using single use disposables.

 

Save the Soap

What do you do with small slivers of soap? It’s too small to really do anything. It keeps falling from your hands and it is a pain to pick it up when it falls to the floor.

Here is how I save my soap slivers. When I shower, I would use a new bar soap and when I’m done using the new bar of soap, I put the small slivers of soap on top of the new bar soap.

The next time you shower, the bar soap would have hardened and the slivers of soap will be part of the new bar soap. Tada… no waste.

Soap
Small white soap became part of the current black soap. This is after a few days of using the soap.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Bought too many tomatoes for a recipe and it was starting to get mushy. So, I turned it into basic tomato sauce.

Recipe

  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Sliced Garlic (however much you like)
  • Herbs / Seasoning (whatever you like)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  1. Slice the garlic thinly and put it in the pan with some olive oil. Turn on the stove and let the garlic infuse into the olive oil. Do it until the garlic starts to brown.
  2. When the garlic starts to brown, add in the diced tomatoes. I chopped up the tomatoes with the skin to eliminate food waste.
  3. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and reduce to simmer.
  4. Add in salt, herbs and whatever seasoning you like. Sometimes it’s just salt. Sometimes I like it spicy so I add red pepper flakes. Sometimes I add dried oregano because that’s what I have. Add whatever you like. It is your tomato sauce.
  5. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes and taste it. If it is too tangy, add a little bit of sugar until it is to your satisfaction.
  6. If you like your tomato sauce smooth, feel free to blend it in a food processor or with a stick blender. I’m too lazy so I leave it chunky sometimes.
  7. After 15 minutes, the sauce would have thickened a little and all the tomatoes would have liquified. Pour into glass jars and let it cool.

What now?

Tomato SauceTomato sauce is not just for pasta. You can use it to make so many things such as:

  • chicken cacciatore
  • steamed / baked fish with tomato sauce
  • shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce)
  • tomato rice
  • meat sauce or ragu
  • omelette topped in tomato sauce
  • dipping sauce
  • lentil curry
  • chicken / fish curry
  • baked / steamed shellfish with tomato sauce

 

 

 

Shopping For Clothes

The general rule for shopping for clothes zero waste is to buy second hand and ideally organic. Lately, the weather has been super hot and I decided that I needed to get some short sleeved tops especially when meeting clients. I cannot remember when was the last time I bought new clothes.

Previously, I worked in the comforts of an air-conditioned office so I would wear long sleeve shirts and jackets but not anymore. I also take the view that it is unprofessional for me to meet my clients with sleeveless tops and shoes that shows your toes.

I am fascinated at how people can find amazing stuff at thrift stores because I tried and I cannot find anything. Maybe it’s just the particular store near my home. I considered buying brand new clothes and then I remembered ThredUp.

ThredUp organizes the inventory based on type, brands, price, condition etc. I found some branded tops which were in excellent condition. There was a 40% discount for first time buyers. I know I was shopping for short sleeve blouse but I couldn’t ignore the green silk top from Diane von Furstenberg for $11. Looks like this will be what I’m wearing this summer and probably next summer.

ThredUp

Homemade Apricot Jam

A friend gave me a bag of apricots. Since it was getting too ripe, I decided to make apricot jam with it. All you need is apricot, sugar and some lemon / lime juice. The ratio of apricot to sugar is a minimum of 3:2. This means for every 3 portions of apricot, you need 2 portions of sugar. I read somewhere there it does not qualify as jam unless 50% or more of it consist of sugar.

Method

Apricot Jam

  1. Cut the apricots into small chucks and remove the seed.
  2. Put the apricot and white granulated sugar in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Once it is boiling, reduce it to a simmer on medium to low heat. If you see foam, remove the foam.
  4. Let is simmer for about 30 minutes and make sure that you stir occasionally to avoid it from burning at the bottom.
  5. Take a spoonful of the liquid jam and set aside to cool. When it cools, test if the consistency is to your satisfaction. If so, the jam is done.
  6. Turn off the heat and add about 1 tablespoon of lemon and mix it into the liquid jam. Pour into glass jars and let it cool.

Tips

  1. There is no need to add water to the apricot and sugar because the apricot will liquify.
  2. If the apricot is bruised, it is important to remove the bruised portions so you can maintain the color of the final product.
  3. Taste the liquid from time to time to make sure it is the sweetness is to your satisfaction.
  4. It is important to let the concoction simmer for at least 30 minutes so that it thickens into jam consistency when it cools down. I tried being lazy and let it simmer for a few minutes and when the concoction cooled down, it had a runny consistency. When that happens, transfer it to the pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. If the liquid gets burnt at the bottom, don’t scrape the bottom. Instead, transfer it to a new pot and continue the process.

 

Bone Broth in Slow Cooker

What do you do with the roasted chicken carcass when dinner is done? What about the chicken wings that nobody wants? I usually save all the bones and freeze them until I have a container full of bones. Sometimes I freeze carrot, celery and mushroom bits too. I don’t eat as much meat as I used to so it usually takes a few months for me fill up the container with bones.

Bone Broth 1
You can see some from frozen bones and celery sticks in the slow cooker.

Recipe

  1. Dump all the bones and frozen vegetables in a slow cooker and cover it with water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
  2. Add seasoning such as salt, bay leaves, peppercorn, garlic, herbs and whatever you like.
  3. Let it cook on low for about 24 hours.
  4. Sieve the contents and store them in different sized glass jars.

Bone Broth 3

Tips

  • If you use raw bones, blanche the bones first before roasting the bones. Blanching the bones will remove impurities and make the broth clearer. Roasting the bones before adding it to the slow cooker will give it better flavor.
  • I accept all bones. I don’t discriminate.
  • I prefer to cook my bone broth in a slow cooker so I don’t have to watch the fire over the stove.
  • Adding a tablespoon of vinegar (any type) is suppose to help breakdown the bones to extract more flavor from the bones.
  • You don’t need as much vegetables as you typically would use when making a stock. The broth is more concentrated than a stock.
  • Use the largest stockpot or slow cooker that you possibly have because the bones takes up a lot volume. You will be surprised with how little bone broth you will get from such a large stockpot but then again, the flavor is much concentrated.
  • When the bone broth becomes gelatinous at room temperature, you know you did it right.
  • It’s good to store the bone broth in different size jars because some recipes requires less or more bone broth.
  • When you are done, bury the discarded bones so it becomes compost.

How to Use Bone Broth

  • Drink it as is.
  • Use it when cooking quinoa, grains and rice.
  • Use it as the soup base for noodles and congee.
  • Use it in place of stock.

 

Poor Man’s Recipe

I call this the poor man’s recipe because all you need is rice, egg and soy sauce. This recipe is made from basic items that I usually have in my kitchen.

Egg and Rice.jpg

Recipe

  1. Cook rice according to instructions. For this recipe, I prefer starchier rice but I suggest you work with what you have.
  2. Cook an egg sunny side up. I was starving so I cooked 2 eggs. It’s important for the yolk to remain runny because the yolk is the sauce.
  3. Season with soy sauce. Use as much as you like.
  4. Optional: Sprinkle furikake over the top. Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning. There are many flavors out there. I bought the Nori Komi Furikake because it was sold in glass jars.

Alternatives

There is a Japanese version of this but it’s slightly different. Raw egg is mixed into a bowl of steaming rice with soy sauce. As much as I love runny yolk, I am not a fan of raw eggs and that is why I cook my eggs sunny side up.

***

This recipe has saved me so many time when I was starving and there was barely anything in the fridge. Maybe one of these days, this recipe will save you too.

Vermicompost

I give up! I bought a worm bin. I was trying to save money by making my own worm bin but eventually the plastic cracked and I found it difficult to separate the compost from the worms. I’m lazy and it got too stressful so after a year of experimenting, I bought a worm bin.

Attempt #1
Compost Bin

When I started composting about a year ago, I started with this. I found this bin lying around so I cleaned it, drilled holes and filled it with dried leaves, twigs, dirt and food waste. It didn’t take long to fill up the bin especially in the fall. I even watered it every once in a while but I was not seeing any results.

Turning the stuff around in the bin was a bit problematic. After a few months I decided to find another way to compost because this was taking too long. I now use this bin to store leaves collected in the fall. It’s my storage bin for brown stuff. When you start composting, you will know that it is important to have a balance of green and brown stuff.

Attempt #2

Worm Bin 1

My second attempt was to use a different type of plastic bin. When decluttering, I found two opaque plastic bins and I decided to make this one instead. Eventually the bottom bin collapsed when the plastic became brittle and it could not handle the weight of the top bin.

Problems:

  • The plastic bin is relatively deep so there is a tendency to overfill the bin which may be a problem for the worms.
  • I find it difficult to separate the compost from the bin.
    • One method is to transfer everything into piles and slowly remove the top of the pile as the worms move to the bottom of the pile. It takes a while for the worms to move to the bottom of the pile and it can get pretty messy.
    • Another method is divide the bin into two sides. Bury the food waste on one side of the bin. Leave it for a few weeks so the worms migrate to the other side and you can harvest the compost from the opposite side. It’s not as simple as that because some of the worms in the opposite side were still not done eating food waste from several months ago.
    • Another method is to sieve the compost from the worms and the eggs. That’s too much equipment and I’m too lazy to bother with this.
  • Forget about installing a spigot. I don’t have the equipment, skill or energy to do it.

Introducing, my latest attempt.

Worm Bin 2

I wish I bought this sooner. This is the Worm Factory 360. I bought this because it was the largest capacity and it gives me the ability to expand up to eight trays.

The tray is of the right height so it is unlikely for you to overfill the tray. The design of the trays makes it easier for me to sift the compost from the worms. It comes with a thermometer to gauge whether the worm bin is too wet or dry.

I’ve since transferred the contents of my previous worm bin into this worm bin and I’m looking forward to harvesting compost without any fuss.

If you live in Los Angeles County, you can buy cheaper worm bins at their Smart Gardening Workshop. I decided on this model because it was easier to buy extra trays or parts if I ever need it. Also, I scored an Amazon gift card which helped me purchase this.