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.

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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.

Repairing a Suitcase

If you travel a lot, it is important to invest in a good suitcase. A good suitcase, especially one that comes with a lifetime guarantee, can last you a long time.

Buying cheap suitcases that need to be replaced every few years may end up costing the same if not more than a good suitcase. It’s not just to the cost but the general frustration of buying suitcases. I understand that a good suitcase can cost several hundred dollars and not everyone has that kind of money. In that case, my suggestion is to buy the best you can afford. I am not sure how easy it is to buy used suitcases but if you can find a used suitcase from a decent brand, all the more better.

I’ve had this suitcase at least seven years now and it is still going strong. The zips needed to be fixed. I was reluctant to spend the money initially and I tried to fix it myself with paper clips. But after years of struggling with the paper clip, I gave in and got it fixed. Now, the suitcase looks brand new and ready for its next trip.

Cindy’s Eagle Rock

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and find it impossible to go zero waste. You get seated and there is a paper placemat and paper napkin starring right at you. You can tell the server to reuse it but chances is, once it’s on the table, they will dispose it even though you did not touch it.

As such, I will be highlighting places where it is easier to dine zero waste. My first write up goes to Cindy’s Eagle Rock at 1500 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90041. What I love about this place is the fact that every table has a section pictured below.

Cindy's Eagle RockEven though they do serve single use disposables, you have the option to not use it. If you want sugar in your coffee, you can choose between the sugar dispenser or individual sachets. They also make their own jam and it is served in small reusable stainless steel containers. They serve water with straws on the side so you can choose not to use the straws.

The food at Cindy’s Eagle Rock is also good. I like the fact that at 11am, you have the option of having either breakfast or lunch. The house potatoes were good and flavorful. The fried chicken was also good.

The ambiance is also very cute. It seems inspired by The Jetsons. The restaurant is not very big. It can get crowded pretty fast and service can be slow. If you are not in a rush, this is a great place to eat and have conversations. They also have their own parking lot which comes in handy.

Zero Waste Alternatives to Aluminum Foil

Curbside recycling services rarely accept aluminum foil (or aluminium in other countries) for recycling because it is usually contaminated. Here are some uses for aluminum foil and the zero waste alternatives.

1. Food Cover

Aluminum Option: I’ve seen people use aluminum foil to cover plates and bowls.

ZeCover Bowlro Waste Option 1: I use a container or even another plate or bowl to cover the bowl.

Zero Waste Option 2: Use beeswax wrap to wrap leftovers. I don’t use beeswax wrap because it has a life span and will need to be replaced at some point. I’ve managed to survive without beeswax wrap for now and hope to stay that way.

2. Lining Cookie Sheets to Reduce Mess

Aluminum Option: Cleaning up a cookie sheet can be a pain especially when it is covered with fats, oil or burnt residue. It’s common to line cookie sheets with aluminum foil to make the clean up easier.

Zero Waste Option 1: If I know that the cookie sheet is going to get messed up when I roast my vegetables or chicken, I use Pyrex baking dish. When you are done, soak the baking dish in some water and dish soap and the grime will come right off.

The downside to Pyrex is that it cannot be recycled because its composition is different from regular glass. However, it is indestructible and it lasts forever. Pyrex baking dish is easily available at thrift stores. I inherited all my Pyrex baking dish from my friends when they left the country. The benefit of using a Pyrex baking dish is that it can go from oven to table. You can also get a lid if you need to transport the item elsewhere.

Zero Waste Option 2: Another alternative is to use a silicone baking mat. Silicone is not really a zero waste option but at least it has a longer life span than aluminum foil.

3. Covering a Roasted Turkey

Aluminum Option: It’s common to use aluminum foil when roasting turkey or any bird for that matter to avoid it from getting dry or burnt.

Zero Waste Option: Here is the recipe that I use when roasting turkey for Thanksgiving. No aluminum required and the turkey was still moist and delicious thanks to tons of butter and bacon.

4. Roasting Beets

Aluminum Option: In order to roast beets, season and wrap beets (without the greens) in aluminum foil and stick it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 400F until it is soft.

Zero Waste Option: Put the seasoned beets in an ovenproof container with an ovenproof lid and stick it in the oven and follow the same instructions as above. A covered casserole would work too.

5. Baking / Steaming Fish

Aluminum Option: I use to bake / steam fish with aluminum. I would wrap the fish with herbs and condiments in aluminum foil and leave it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350F until the fish is done.

Zero Waste Option 1: Now, I lay out the fish and the condiments in a Pyrex baking dish and bake as normal. Make sure there is sufficient liquid so that the fish does not dry out.

Zero Waste Option 2: You can also wrap the fish and condiments with banana leaf and the banana leaf will infuse added flavor to the dish.

Zero Waste Option 3: Steam your dish over the stove. Put a bowl in the stock pot with the bottom of the bowl facing up. Fill the stock pot with an inch of water. Put your dish over the bottom of the bowl and cover the stock pot. Water should not be touching the dish. Turn the stove on medium / low. When the water boils, it will release steam which will in turn steam the dish. The lid will trap the stream so it does not escape. The water should be boiling gently and not a rolling boil because water will then get into the dish.

6. Soften Brown Sugar

Aluminum Option: Wrap hardened brown sugar in foil and stick it in the oven at 300F for 5 to 10 minutes.

Zero Waste Option: Put a piece of bread or a slice of apple in the container with brown sugar and leave it overnight.

7. Prevent Edges of Pie from Burning

Aluminum Option: Wrap the sides of a pie to prevent it from burning.

Zero Waste Option: Use a metal pie crust shield. You can also get a silicone pie crust shield but silicone is not entirely a zero waste option because it cannot be recycled but at least it has a longer lifespan.

8. Sharpen Scissors

Aluminum Option: Use a dull pair of scissors and cut through 6 to 8 layers of aluminum.

Zero Waste Option: The aluminum option doesn’t make the scissors sharp so just take it to someone who sharpens knives and scissors. It’s not that expensive and your scissors will actually stay sharp for a while.

9. Clean the Barbecue Grill

Aluminum Option: Ball up some foil and use it to remove gunk from the barbecue.

Zero Waste Option: Get a barbecue grill brush. This one is made from wood and stainless steel.

10. Scrub Dishes

Aluminum Option: Ball up some foil and use it to clean cast iron pans.

Zero Waste Option: Check out the video below and use salt. Instead of using a kitchen towel, I would use a rag.

11. Makeshift Bowl

Aluminum Option: Pour the bacon fat into a make shift bowl made from aluminum. When the bacon fat hardens, wrap the bacon fat for disposal. You can also use the make shift bowl to grill vegetables on the barbecue.

Zero Waste Option 1: Do not throw away bacon fat. Save bacon fat and pour it into a glass container. Add a tablespoon of bacon fat when you cook and it takes your dish to the next level.

Zero Waste Option 2: Use a stainless steel barbecue grill tray to grill vegetables and meat. There is less risk that the tray will collapse because of the weight of the ingredients.

12. Gas Stove Protector

Aluminum Option: Cover the gas stove top with aluminum and replace it once in a while. It keeps the gas stove top clean but it can look tacky.

Zero Waste Option 1: Get a stainless steel drip pan. Buy the right size for your stove.

Zero Waste Option 2: Wipe down the gas stove every time you are done cooking and you don’t have to deal with a dirty gunky stove top at the end of the month.

13. Polish Silver

Aluminum Option: Leave foil at the bottom of the bowl. Add 2 teaspoon of salt and baking soda with hot water. Dip the silver in the bowl and leave it for 5 minutes before removing it from the bowl.

Zero Waste Option: Here are 13 ways to polish silver without aluminum foil. Use whatever you have. It could be vinegar and baking soda, ketchup and maybe even toothpaste.

***

Aluminum foil can get pretty expensive especially if you get the good quality ones. Imagine how much money you can save if you eliminate it from your home. It would also mean less aluminum foils headed to the landfill.

If you still have aluminum foil at home, you may want to save it for when you absolutely need it and reuse the aluminum foil as much as possible before disposing it. If you are lucky, your curbside recycling service may accept it for recycling because mine don’t.

 

Buddha Bowl Recipe

This is the ultimate recipe for someone who can’t cook unless they are following a recipe. This is the perfect recipe to clean out your fridge or pantry and it can be served cold or warm. There is no real measurements, it’s whatever you like. If you like more vegetables, add more vegetables. If you like more meat, add more meat. It’s your recipe to personalize so just give it a go.

Quinoa Bowl
Quinoa, brown rice, raw lettuce leaves, chopped tomatoes, roasted beets, roasted chicken and caramelized onions.

Recipe

  • Grains (quinoa, brown rice, white rice, lentils etc)
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Optional Ingredients
  • Salad Dressing
  1. Choose a grain and cook according to instructions. 1 cup is usually enough for 2 portions.
  2. Chop the vegetables into bite size portions. Leave it raw or cook your vegetables. You can steam, stir fry, grill or roast your vegetables depending on what you like.
  3. Cook the meat or use whatever leftover meat you have. If you don’t have any meat, top the bowl with an egg. I like my egg poached, over easy or sunny side up. If you are vegan, skip this step completely.
  4. If you have nuts that you want to get rid off, you can add it to the buddha bowl. I recommend toasting the nuts first. Add cheese if that’s what you like. I like small mozzarella balls.
  5. Make a simple salad dressing or use whatever dressing you have on hand. See basic salad dressing below.
  6. Mix everything evenly in a big bowl and serve.

Buddha Bowl

Basic Salad Dressing

This is the simple dressing that I use frequently.

  1. Add 3 parts olive oil into a small jar / jam jar.
  2. Add 1 part acid (lime juice, lemon juice, any type of vinegar (white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, plain vinegar)) into the jar.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Close the jar and shake it until the concoction is emulsified.

Optional steps:

  • If you like a bit of spiciness, add a teaspoon of mustard.
  • You if have fresh herbs, chop the herbs finely and add to the concoction.

The good thing about making the salad dressing in a jar is that you don’t have to use all of it at once. Just use what you need and save the rest for another time.

***

If you can’t figure out what to make for lunch or dinner, check your fridge and pantry. Consider making a buddha bowl and you might just be surprised. Challenge yourself and make a meal out of what you already have.

DIY Deodorant

Commercial deodorant is bad for you. It’s full of chemicals blah blah breast cancer blah blah Alzheimer’s blah blah. I usually take the position that I should use up whatever item I have before moving to the zero waste option but deodorant is the exception.

Detoxify Your Armpits First

Before starting with natural deodorant, it may be a good idea to detoxify your armpits first. Here is a simple recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of bentonite clay
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon of water

Mix all ingredients until it is of smear consistency. Apply on your pits and wait for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off.

Detox Tips

  1. Mix it is a glass jar. It’s enough for at least 2 applications.
  2. Do not use metal or stainless steel when dealing with bentonite clay. Use plastic or wooden spoon instead.
  3. It’s easier to wash off in the shower.
  4. You can stop doing this when you no longer get irritations when using natural deodorant.

Recipe

DeodorantHere is the recipe I use for my deodorant. I copied it from Kathryn K of Going Zero Waste. I like her formula because it’s simple and I’m lazy. Once I hear double boiler, it’s game over for me. However, if you are willing to go the extra mile, please check out Lauren Singer’s deodorant recipe.

  • 2 oz of boiled water
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of himalayan pink salt

Mix everything before pouring it into your vessel. I saved the spray nozzle from a lense cleaner and it fits this glass bottle perfectly.

Tips

  1. I recommend mixing the mixture in a measuring cup. It makes it easier to pour it into the bottle.
  2. Shake the glass bottle before spraying it.
  3. Feel free to add a few drops of essential oil.

1 Ingredient Recipe

If you don’t have sensitive skin, you may wish to consider brushing baking soda or arrowroot powder directly to your pits. I’ve tried it before but I find it a little too messy for my liking. There are dust particles around the sink and my clothes and I’m not a fan of white pits.

Where to buy?

If you’d rather purchase deodorant. Here are some options to consider:

  • Schmidt’s
  • Primal Pit Paste
  • Erbaviva
  • Organic Essence
  • Meow Meow Tweet – Available in jar or tube
  • Crystal Deodorant – Most crystal deodorant comes packaged in plastic and I have not been able to find one without plastic packaging.
  • Etsy – There are tons of options available. Search pit paste and buy from someone local.

Other Things to Consider

If you still have some concerns about your body odor, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Change your diet because what you eat does affect the way you smell. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut out caffeine and alcohol.
  2. Drink more water. It helps remove toxins from your system.
  3. Wear natural fibers.

Minimizing Food Waste When Going Out

Here are some tips on how I minimize my food waste when I go out to eat.

Tip 1: Order Less

The first step to minimizing your food waste is to order less or only order what you can eat. When I enter the restaurant, I will look around and check out the portion size. If I know that the food portions are large, I will try to order something that Husband and I can share. We usually share an entree and probably 1 or 2 appetizers. We rarely order dessert. When you order less, the bill is generally cheaper.

Tip 2: Plan and Be Prepared

There are times when I specifically choose to go to a particular restaurant because I know the portion size is large. The Leftoversidea is to eat half now and save the balance for the next day. It’s like 2 meals for the price of 1. I will then bring my own container and utensils depending on the restaurant. Husband (who is not a zero waster) loves it when I do that. He argues that (1) it makes it easier to heat up his leftover, (2) the garbage does not stink, (3) it’s easier for him to chuck the container in his lunch bag without having to worry about leakage.

Tip 3: Bring Your Own Container

You will notice that most zero wasters tend to have their own containers handy. I tend to have stainless steel containers in my handbag because its lighter than glass. This is handy for when you decide to dine out unexpectedly. Sometimes I forget to bring my own containers because (1) I left the house in a hurry, (2) the container is in the dishwasher or the fridge or (3) I was not planning to eat out so I revert to Tip 1.

Tip 4: Bones and Garnish

Food waste also includes bones and garnish. The other day, I ordered buffalo wings and it came with celery and carrot sticks. I’m not a fan of celery and carrot sticks so I packed all the bones, celery and carrot sticks in my container and brought it home. The contents went into the freezer where I hoard bones and root vegetables to make bone broth.

There are also times when I go to a Japanese restaurant and they would serve a dish over a bed of shredded cabbage. I brought home the garnish and used it in my recipe the next day. Shredded cabbage works great in fried rice and soup.

Donating Glasses / Eyewear / Spectacles

If you wear prescription eyewear, you probably have to update your prescription every year or so. For the longest time, I have had a massive collection of prescription eyewear which I have accumulated in my life. Sometimes I cringe at the frames I have picked previously. Rainbow frames? What was I thinking?

I did not throw away my old prescription eyewear thinking that I will always need a spare set in case something happens to my current eyewear. There goes the “in case” argument again and I’m guilty of it.

Spectacles

Where to Donate?

During the recent elections, I went to the polling station which turned out to be a retirement home and that is where I found a box accepting donated eyewear. In an effort to remove clutter from my home, I filled a paper bag with old prescription eyewear and dropped it off at the retirement home.

Check if your optometrist accepts old prescription eyewear for recycling. If you are not aware of any drop off locations to donate your eyewear, check out the following:

  • Lions International
    • Lions International is probably the leader in dealing with recycled eyewear. A lot of organizations work closely with Lions International in managing donated eyewear.
  • New Eyes – Glasses for those in need
    • They accept eyeglasses, sunglasses, hearing aids, watches, jewelry, silverware and giftware.
  • VSP Global
    • This is more for businesses. They can order a free donation box and when the box is full, they can ship the box using a prepaid shipping label. Apparently, VSP Global works closely with Lions International to clean, refurbish and label donated eyewear for VSP network doctors and schools.
  • Saving Sight
    • They also work with Lions International and they are based in Columbia, Missouri.

Is Donating Eyewear a Waste of Resources?

Here is a 2012 article arguing that donating eyewear is a waste of money because it cost more than buying new prescription eyewear. Here are some general comments in response to the 2012 article.

Personally, I believe that prescription eyewear is more expensive than it should be. That’s because there is a monopoly when it comes to the eyewear industry.

Even if donating eyewear is expensive, it’s still better than having it end up in the landfill. For someone who is not able to afford prescription eyewear, getting prescription eyewear which works even though it is not the ideal prescription is still better than not being able to see at all.

Sustainable Eyewear

I wish I knew about these sustainable options sooner. I’m currently wearing my sunglasses that I’ve owned for more than 8 years. It still looks brand new and there is no reason for me to get a new one. I may have had the lenses replaced once.

However, if I ever need a new pair of eyewear, I’ll definitely consider sustainable options in the future. There are frames made from bamboo and recycled plastic. Check out the following links:

  • GROWN – sustainable wooden eyewear
    • For every item purchased, GROWN will fund sight-restoring eye surgery for 1 person, or diagnostic eye exams for 12 children
  • Guide to eco-friendly sustainable sunglasses
  • I want proof
    • Eye wear made from wood, aluminum and skate boards. How cool is that?
  • Dick Moby
    • Made from bio-based and recycled plastic
    • Handmade in Italy – I try to support businesses close to me so this is not my first option.
  • Panda
    • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Kynd – Sustainable Counterculture
    • More bamboo sunglasses
    • According to their website: If your pair of bamboo sunglasses has been messed up or broken by some random act of nature, or if you just want to try something different, then send your old pair back to us.  Not only will we give you 50% off your next pair, we’ll do our best to put the old pair to good use.

Don’t forget Contact Lenses

I have not forgotten about contact lenses, if you use Bausch and Lomb, you can participate in the Terracycle Recycle program.

Here is Lauren Singer’s take on recycling contact lenses.

Now, go locate your old prescription eyewear lying around your home collecting dust and give it to someone else in need.

Garbanzo Curry

I made this for lunch today. It’s my kind of comfort food.

Garbanzo Curry

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • oil
  • 1 whole onion (diced) – I used spring onions because that’s what I have.
  • 8 cloves of garlic (diced)
  • 1 tomato (diced) – I used roma but any tomato should work.
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of tumeric
  • 1 tsp of ginger powder – If you have real ginger (about 1 inch), slice it thinly and add it with the garlic.
  • 2 tsp of curry powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed. I rinse it because the water has sodium and I’m trying to cut down on that. Looking into using dried beans next time.
  • 1 cup of water / stock – another reason to add another layer of flavor. You can add more or less depending how thick / watery you want your curry to be.
  • yogurt / coconut milk
  • a bunch of soft leafy vegetable (chopped). I used arugula because that’s what I have but it would be great with spinach and coriander too.

Method:

  1. Heat up wok (any bowl like cooking instrument will work including a medium sized pot) and add oil. When oil is heated, add onions, a pinch of salt and let it soften. Subsequently, add garlic and all the dry spices to toast. Add more oil if you think the mixture is going to burn.
  2. When you can smell the spices, add tomato and salt. Stir for a few minutes and let it dry out.
  3. Add garbanzo beans and water / stock and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. If you use canned garbanzo beans, it’s already cooked so it is a matter of heating it up.
  4. If the curry is too watery to your liking, let it simmer until desired amount of liquid. Taste and decide if you need more salt.
  5. Add yogurt / coconut milk at this stage and mix well. I prefer coconut milk because it makes the curry creamy and it improves the color of the dish. Since I did not have any, I used yogurt. If you use yogurt, the liquid has a spotty look.
  6. Add green vegetables and let it wilt.

Ta da! It took me about 20 minutes to make this dish from prep to cleaning up. It goes great with rice and I hope you will give it a try.