Kale Chips

I love kale chips. I like anything crispy and I think it tastes like potato chips. However, I realize that there are people who do not like kale chips or even potato chips made from real potatoes. Oh well, you can’t always win, can you?

Anyway, here is how I make mine:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Wash kale thoroughly and dry it. You can use a salad spinner but since I don’t have a salad spinner, I dry it using tea towels / dish cloth.
  3. It’s important for the kale leaves to be dry so it can be crispy and not steamed.
  4. Tear the kale leaves away from the stalk and tear it into small pieces. This recipe does not require use of knife. It’s tempting to keep the leaves big but when it’s done, it gets crumbly and messy. The smaller the leaves, the less messy when you eat it. However, you may want to keep it large as food garnish if you are fancy schmancy that way.
  5. Next, coat the kale leaves with olive oil and some seasoning. Plain salt is perfectly fine. I used Lawry’s Seasoned Salt because it’s been in my pantry forever and I’m on a mission to get rid of it. I usually take this opportunity to massage the leaves with the palm of my hands since my hands would be coated with oil and seasoning. Massaging the leaves ensures that the oil and seasoning coats every surface area of the leaves since kale leaves can be curly.
  6. Next, lay the seasoned leaves on a baking sheet and make sure it does not overlap. If the leaves overlap, it creates steam which prevents it from going crispy. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes and it should be done. I tried 10 minutes but 15 minutes is ideal for me. I had to repeat this a few times because I only have 1 baking sheet. Repeat until your pile of seasoned kale leaves have turned into kale chips.
  7. Transfer the kale chips into a container for storage. I have no idea how long the kale chips will last in storage because it’s usually gone within 24 hours.

I hope you like this.

Kale Chips
Here is a batch of kale chips I made earlier today.
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Stocking Up on Black Friday

I’m a firm believer in writing lists. If I want something, I usually write it in a list. That way, it gives me an opportunity to think about whether I really should get it or find alternatives for it. I have on occasions put something on the list only to delete it later on.

Just because you don’t sign up to the materialistic lifestyle and your goal is to lead a simpler life, you can still take advantage of Black Friday and stock up on your zero waste supplies. This year, I stocked up on bamboo toothbrushes and cloth pads because both items were discounted. I would have stocked up on soap and shampoo bars but I recently purchased enough to last me a few months.

The Package Free Shop is having a “25% off in store all day” in conjunction with Black Friday. Who says you cannot shop without appearing materialistic? The key is to shop responsibly.

 

 

 

Broccoli Soup

I may have bought a little too much broccoli and had to use before it went bad. I made this broccoli soup using Gordon Ramsay’s recipe and it was amazing. I can’t believe the brightness of the color and the creamy texture from just broccoli, water and salt. I stored the extra soup in mason jars and the color stayed vibrant the next day.

I have to admit, the first time I made it, I did not follow his instructions very well and it was a fail but I tried it again and it turned out great. Just a couple of tips:

  • Water must be a rolling boil so the broccoli cooks quickly without losing its color.
  • Salt the water and taste again after blending to see if it requires more salt.
  • Cover the pot to trap the heat and let the broccoli cook for about 4 minutes before checking on it.
  • Cook the broccoli until you can easily cut it through with a knife.
  • Just cook the florets and remove the stem.
  • When blending, do not add too much water if you prefer thicker texture.

Broccoli Soup.jpg

I figured that this would also be an excellent recipe (minus the salt) for babies to be introduced to the world of vegetables.

 

 

Organizing Paper (not entirely zero waste)

What do you do when you come across letters that are blank on one side? What about papers which you printed but no longer need? Remember to print on both sides whenever possible but mistakes do happen. I usually save these papers (“rough paper”) and use it to write notes or lists before it goes into the recycle / compost bin. Clearly the zero waste option is to do everything digitally but sometimes it works better when you write it down.

I use to  pile the rough paper using a clipboard that I had lying around but the paper would constantly roll up and it would get messy when I tried to pull one sheet from the pile. The clipboard was not ideal to keep track of invites, bills, appointments etc. Subsequently, I compiled my paper using a binder but that didn’t work for me because the binder was bulky, takes up a lot of space and did not work well with smaller sized paper. I then tried making my own notebook using cardboard and binder rings that I found around the house but it was flimsy, the pages did not flip over well and started falling apart in no time.

After several years of trying to organize all the paper that comes through the door, I finally found a system that I love. The dilemma was finding a zero waste option and setting up a system that makes me happy which subsequently motivates me to keep using the system. I tried the zero waste options and it didn’t work so I moved to the new system.

Now, I organize rough paper using the arc system by Staples. Instead of buying the entire notebook which includes paper that I do not need, I bought the arc puncher, arc rings and a set of hardcover. The rings and hardcover had plastic in the packaging so it was not a zero waste option and I wasn’t able to find these items second hand. I avoided buying the hardcover and made my own using cardboard but the cardboard was not thick enough to handle the weight of all the paper and something about the color turquoise makes me happy.

I’ve been using this system for months now and it’s the best system for me. Each time I get a letter, junk mail, receipts or whatever paper that comes my way, I scan the important papers and then punch holes and add it to the notebook. If it is a reminder about an event or an appointment, I would punch it and file it by month so when the month arrives, I’m reminded of the event or appointment. This system works on all sizes of papers and it helps me keep track of coupons, bills, appointments and various reminders. It’s also easy to flip from page to page and it’s easy for me to reorganize things.

Instead of having stacks of paper sitting in piles or hiding these piles in boxes, I now organize my paper into 2 piles. One as a notebook and another as a reminder. When the reminder is done, I move it to the notebook. Once I’m done with the note, it goes into the recycle / compost bin. It’s not an entirely zero waste option but this option prolongs the life of papers with blank sides before it goes into the recycle / compost bin.

Fixing My Sunglasses

I find it helpful to have sunglasses especially in sunny California. I’ve had this pair of sunglasses for more than 8 years and it is still going strong save for the fact that the tint from the original lenses is starting to peel off.

Instead of buying a new pair of sunglasses which can be time consuming and expensive, I decided to fix mine by replacing the lenses. It turns out that the replacement lenses cost a fraction of what I paid for my sunglasses. Depending on the brand of sunglasses that you have, you will be amazed at the options available out there. The replacement lenses are not exactly the same as the original lenses but I had the option of picking polarized lenses and I think the new lenses work for my purpose.

Sunglasses

 

Utensil Roll

Lately, I have been forgetting to bring my utensils. I would put them in my pouch and when it gets dirty, I would put the dirty utensils in the dishwasher and forget to put it back in my pouch. There are times when I forget my chopsticks or my straw. Also, I have lost a few utensils because it was accidentally removed from the table when I was not paying attention.

Today, I decided to make my own utensil roll. Hopefully, this will help me keep track of my utensils. Since I’m rubbish at sewing, I made my utensil holder from a napkin which I already have. This means that I didn’t have to worry about the edges of the fabric which is the hardest part and I only have to sew a couple of straight lines. I did not even bother to iron the napkin because I was lazy.

I designed the utensil roll in such a way that it becomes a placemat when it is unrolled. I arranged the utensils so that the fork and straw is on the left and everything else is on the right. When I need to put this away, I fold the top part of the napkin downwards (see top right photo) and I roll the utensils from both ends into the centre. I couldn’t find a ribbon at home so I used a hair tie instead.

I’m going to see how this goes. If it works out well, I might make a few and leave one in the car for those unplanned trips to the restaurant. It’s also a good idea to have extra for when this utensil roll is in the laundry basket.

 

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.