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

 

 

 

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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.

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.