Christmas can be a magical time of year, but for many of us it has become a frenzy of shopping, unnecessary consumption and stress. Replacing shop-bought with home-made is not only more environmentally-friendly, but it also gives us more of a chance to relish the scents and smells of the festive season. It also gives us a wonderful opportunity to spend precious time together with our loved ones.
Here are some suggestions for things you can make and do with your family and friends:
Make your own wreath
Make your own wreath using natural ingredients from your garden or the surrounding countryside. Follow this link for instructions. By using natural ingredients, you can strip it down after the holidays and put the waste into the compost. Alternatively, you can hang the wreath outside and leave it for the birds to pick apart - they can take moss, sticks and feathers for their nests.
After the weekend, we often have lots of leftovers. I usually spend Monday making a stock from the bones of a Sunday roast, fill lunchboxes with leftover veg and grains and plan an easy weekday dinner using cold meat. Tuesday night will be lamb wraps made from the remaining lamb from Sunday lunch.
But here's a new idea that I picked up from the Thermomix Coffee Talk I hosted last week. We learnt all sorts of ways to make our kitchen more sustainable and this was my favourite;
Savoury Vegetable Breadcrumbs
Keep all your potato and vegetable peelings (you'll need about 300g, which could take a couple of days)
Wash them, dry them and lay them on a baking tray.
Pop in the oven at 100 degrees C for 2 hours
Put them in the Thermomix or a powerful blender and chop for 30 secs at high speed.
Put them in a clean jar and use to add a savoury crust to a cheesy bake or to add extra flavour to a soup or stew.
The more we hear about it in the news, the more concerned we get about the type of world we are bringing our children up into. There’s that feeling of helplessness that creeps in. What could I possibly do that would make a difference?
But there’s a huge amount we can do. We don’t have to turn our lives upside down but we can make some simple, positive adjustments to our day to day lives. If we all did a little bit imagine the difference we could make! And a lot of the time it is healthier for us too!
Here’s a few ideas of the changes you can make this Autumn:
Reduce single-use plastic
Invest in some reuseable food wraps like honey wraps and ditch the cling film once and for all!
Use reusable shopping bags
Use solid soaps instead of liquid
Invest in a soda stream for carbonated drinks such as water
Take a reusable water bottle wherever you go (make sure it’s empty before you go through security at an airport!)
It is hard to reconcile being green with the need to get away from it all. Most of us have got used to the concept of jumping on a plane to get a bit of sunshine (especially if you live in the UK). Somehow we think that going far away brings some kind of relief. Whether it be a different environment, culture or just some heat it brings a refreshing change. It hasn’t always been that way.
Many of us grew up with much more simple holidays. Ours was going to Jersey every summer. It was very simple, involved no flying and we enjoyed the simple pleasures that family and the seaside could bring. Even in the pouring rain. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that we started to go further afield. With more and more cheap flights it became the norm to travel to more exotic places. Now with the added pressure of social media, people are seeking the more impressive exotic destination to record on their pages. But, it must be time that we start looking at greener ways to...
When trying to be green, did you know there are some mistakes that we make that actually cause more harm than good?
Here are a few that I’ve discovered followed by some solutions:
Throwing food into landfill thinking it’s ok because it will bio degrade. This is wrong because food is trapped in landfill. Deprived of air, it produces methane which is 20 x as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
Compost all fruit and veg peelings and scraps. Give cooked food to chickens. They love cooked spaghetti apparently!
Recycling plastic bags. Apparently the bags get stuck in the machinery at the recycling plant causing a break down in the system. It's therefore better not to put them in the recycling.
Refuse plastic bags but reuse the ones you have.
Using paper bags instead of plastic. Of course paper is better than plastic as it is natural. However it is still using up a natural resource and to recycle them it takes a lot of energy...
My friends may have heard me talk about it one too many times so I think I need to explain just why I love my Thermomix so much. Basically it has revolutionised my cooking as well as helped me manage my kitchen and larder in a much more sustainable way.
So, healthy recipes….
It makes light work of recipes that I used to avoid because they were too complicated. Cauliflower rice and curry dishes for example. With the Thermomix, you can whiz the cauliflower into rice, pop it into a steamer basket and suspend it within the Thermomix while the curry or casserole cooks in the bowl below. In fact, you can steam all sorts of vegetables or protein in the steamer tray or basket while cooking something underneath.
One of my family favourites is Lentil Moussaka – while the lentil sauce is cooking, the aubergine slices are gently steaming and infusing with flavour above. And the best thing is you can make the white sauce in the Thermomix bowl without even having to clean the bowl...
This is my favourite Thermomix recipe so far. It can obviously also all be done the conventional way by following the method but replacing the Thermomix with a stove top, a grater and a steamer where necessary.
200 g red split lentils
500 g water
120 g Parmesan cheese, cut into pieces
400 g aubergines
50 g olive oil
200 g onions, cut into halves
3 garlic cloves
1 pepper, green or red, cut into pieces (approx 150 g)
400g tomatoes, canned, including liquid
120g red wine
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
40 g Butter, plus extra for greasing
500 g mil
40 g flour
Casserole dish (20 cm X 30 cm X 6 cm)
Place red split lentils and 500 g water into a bowl and soak for 1 hour.
Place Parmesan cheese into mixing bowl and grate 10 sec/speed 10. Transfer into a bowl and set aside.
Cut aubergines into slices (1 cm thick) and place into Varoma dish....
I threw this one together quickly one day and it worked. I almost like it better than the traditional version. It's definitely much less time-consuming and you can add more or less of the ingredients as you prefer.
2 Medium Courgettes, cut into chunks (@ 1 inch)
1 Aubergine, cut into chunks (@ 1 inch)
2 tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 red onion, cut into eighths
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Large handful of mixed herbs - oregano, basil, thyme, finely chopped
Large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all of the vegetables into an oven-proof dish and pour the olive oil and vinegar on top. Sprinkle with the herbs and salt and pepper. Give it all a good mix and pop into the oven for 30 - 40 mins. Halfway through cooking, mix the ingredients again.
There is a corner of one of my kitchen draw that harbours a hangover from the past. Plastic straws!! It goes without saying that I will never use them again but they have sat there reminding me of their existence for years. But what can I do with them? So I did a little investigation and found out that there is a solution for straws and the other bits of plastic that still linger around the house.
With straws the problem is they are too small for machines to recycle them properly. For this reason, many recycling centres do not accept plastic straws so they end up in landfill or sitting in people’s drawers like mine.
But there is a solution! Put the straws inside another container made from the same plastic (polypropylene) aka plastic number 5 so that they will be recycled properly without clogging the recycling machinery.
Here are some more ideas for what to do with your plastic that’s already made it into your home: