#PlasticFreeJuly – Day 1

On this first day of Plastic Free July, I’m going to talk about the four biggest offenders in the land of disposable plastics that many people use on a daily basis. But before we dive in to all of that, let’s talk about why I’m going plastic free this month, and why you should too.

SOUP & SALAD

Most of the plastic that we use gets disposed of within minutes. Plastic bags, bottles, containers – they’re all made for the short term and yet they are made out of a material that lasts the long term, the way long term, as in forever. Plastic doesn’t break down, it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces becoming permanent pollution. So where does it go if it’s not breaking down? A lot of it ends up in waterways. Scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more tons of plastic than tons of fish in our waterways and oceans (plasticfreejuly.org). That’s a problem.

One of your big takeaways from this month should be that it’s not all about recycling anymore. Only 33% of recyclable materials actually get recycled (National Geographic), and when they do fossil fuels are used to pick them up and make it happen. The zero waste movement and initiatives like the Plastic Free July campaign are recognizing that when plastic is recycled – if it actually makes it to a recycling facility – it’s just turned into a low grade product (this is called downcycling). Recycling is a great alternative to the landfill – absolutely – but it’s not the answer to our waste problems.

Whew, I’m glad you’re still with me. All of that is kind of a downer. But don’t worry, we’re here to have fun. All of the plastic free alternatives are super cool, you’re going to love this!

Ok, remember how we were going to talk about the big four plastic things that we can give up this month, easy peasy? Right, these four things are: single use plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws, plastic disposable coffee cup lids, and single use plastic water bottles. If you can avoid these four things, you can make a huge difference in the amount of plastic waste that is created on a daily basis. Over the next few weeks I’ll be going into a lot of detail about some of these things, but for today – let’s just get the basics down.

IMG_4142Single use plastic shopping bags. If you’re not bringing your own bags to the grocery store, you’re behind the times! Even big ole Walmart sells and encourages the use of reusable shopping bags! I just got some smaller reusable bags that I love taking to the store. They don’t get as full and heavy as the set I was using. Whatever kind you’re into, go for it! I’ll admit, most of mine are made of some kind of plastic-y material, so they aren’t totally plastic free – but at least they are reusable! (I’m going to talk more about this on Wednesday – my grocery shopping day!)

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Plastic drinking straws. This is one that a lot of people are getting behind right now. It’s no longer totally weird to add “no straw please” to your drink order at a bar or restaurant. Many restaurants are even switching to a policy where customers may ask for a straw, but aren’t automatically provided one. If you aren’t sure if your drink is going to come with a straw, I recommend preemptively turning the straw down. There are lots of reusable straw options out there for those who just can’t live without one. I have stainless steel and glass, and love both! If you’re still not on board, just watch this.

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Plastic disposable coffee cups with lids. If you are someone who drinks to-go coffee, you probably do it once a day. Just think about how much plastic waste that is creating over the course of your coffee drinking life! I encourage you all to seek out a reusable coffee cup that you like enough to use daily. Some really excellent options are the cuppow mason jar lid and the yeti rambler (this is great if serious insulation is your thing). Most coffee shops will provide your coffee in your to go cup with a discount, and some forward thinking places don’t even offer single use cups any more. You guys, it’s the future bring your own cup!

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Single use plastic water bottles. Get yourself a cool reusable water bottle, there’s so many kinds and I already talked about the cuppow and yeti so I’m not going to bother linking anything here. I think that the disposable water bottle must appeal to folks who are anti-tap-water. I get it, the water in my city is pretty funky smelling when the lake turns and that’s super gross. Our fridge has a built in filter, so we use that to refill our reusable water bottles. Some other options are: brita filters (or something similar) or buying big containers of water for a water dispenser. Make your water bottle something that’s as glued to you as your cell phone and you’ll be a more hydrated zero waste water drinker who is never without a reusable cup.

Ok, so I feel like I need to address the fact that a lot of my alternative suggestions are still made out of plastic or have plastic components to them. I think that it’s great if you find and use plastic free alternatives to these big four. But, just making the changes listed here keeps a lot of plastic out of landfills (and recycling centers).

As the month goes on we’re going to get more in depth. I’ll dive into every plastic thing I use throughout July and you can learn right along with me. Stay tuned on instagram (@paigelorrabeth) and here on the blog. I can’t wait! Are you ready?

 

four snacks that are grain-free and sugar-free

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I recently gave up sugar and am avoiding carbs in my snacks. So I’m here today with four of the snacks that have been keeping me going over these past few weeks without grains or sugar.

First for a substantial snack, I’ve been reaching for hummus and bell pepper. Instead of chips/crackers, I have been chopping red bell pepper and stashing it in the fridge (convenience is an important part of healthy snacking, having some pre-chopped is key). Then, I dip them in the excellent hummus that I found at our natural foods store (way better than sabra, though that would do) and enjoy.

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Next, a replacement of a usual go-to for a rushed morning at work, individual yogurt cups. Instead of the sugar-laden yogurts that we used to keep our fridge stocked with, I have been mixing frozen fruit, plain yogurt, and a little shredded coconut (optional) in small mason jars at the beginning of the week. You could also add a little honey for extra sweetness, but I’m being especially careful about my sugar intake and find that the fruit offers enough sweetness for me.

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Third, something that helps me with my sweet-tooth / sugar cravings. Frozen berries, shredded coconut, and whole milk. It’s like ice cream because the berries freeze the milk. There’s a lot of sweetness in all three of the ingredients (if you can’t taste that, your tastebuds are still numb from refined sugar). This one’s kind of weird, but I really like it.

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Finally, a snack for those times when there’s snacks out somewhere and you can’t eat any of them because those things are all full of sugar: mixed raw nuts. I have been keeping a small jar of nuts in my purse at all times. At work there are often sweet treats for all of the staff, and when I’m at a party there’s rarely anything with substance that I can eat. So these are a helpful backup.

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Any other snack recommendations? I’m still exploring, and will keep you updated with what works!

no gluten, no sugar, no snack time carbs.

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Feb. 1st marked my 3 year anniversary of eating a gluten free diet. I do not have celiac disease, so not eating gluten is a choice for me. I do however, have a thyroid disorder called Hashimoto’s. Strangely, eating gluten makes my arms break out in weird little dry patches. Three years ago, I read that there may be a link between that skin allergy, Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, and gluten intolerance. So that’s where going gluten free started for me – I thought, “why not try and see if the arm thing goes away.” It worked, and here I am three years later, still avoiding gluten – for the most part.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have celiac disease, and can eat gluten when I really want to or feel like it’s worth it. For instance, at the Indian place down the street, they serve the most amazing naan with garlic on it that I always have at least a bite of. Or when I’m out somewhere and get caught at a meal time with no gluten free options, I can eat what’s available to me. And, as a result, my arms will break out a day or two later with a weird little dry sore or two. If I’m really heavy on the gluten, my stomach gets upset – but I suppose that’s just from not having eaten it and not being acclimated to it anymore. Does kind of make you think though, maybe we’re not meant to eat something if we have to acclimate to it? That’s a whole rabbit hole school of thought that I try to avoid though.

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Now I’m trying something new. I am pregnant, and so I had a routine test for gestational diabetes that I did not pass. When I got the call with those results, I was extremely upset. I felt like I had let my baby, and his father down. I wasn’t the epitome of health that I was supposed to be. I read a little bit about gestational diabetes from some reliable sources, and learned a lot. It’s something that usually goes away when your baby is born, and can be treated with a careful diet and exercise regimen. So I read about what that diet looks like, and decided to make some changes. The next day I gave up refined sugar, and decided to avoid carbs as snacks. I had two weeks before I went in for the follow up test to ensure that I did indeed have gestational diabetes, but I didn’t feel like with just months left in the pregnancy, I could spare two weeks risking my baby’s and my health. The follow up test is a more fail-safe test that involves fasting and getting your blood tested four times over the course of three hours. Luckily, I passed that test. Am I sticking with the new diet anyway? Absolutely.

Until this time I had never really confronted my sugar intake, and it was high. I was eating a bowl of sugary cereal (usually Lucky Charms – damn that gluten free seal on the box) at least once a day. And I tended to have a consume all of the chips in the bag or no chips at all problem. Hence the new, no carbs for snacks rule. I have a family with a history of diabetes, and have just watched my mom make some major changes in her diet (she eats no grains and no refined sugar) for preventative reasons over the past 6+ months. So, I feel good about sticking with these choices for the long run.

The crazy big takeaway that I have from these new dietary changes though? It’s that sugar is absolutely, without question, a drug. And that I was addicted to it. Giving up gluten was hard, but as it became trendier, more alternative options appeared and now I can eat pretty much anywhere with all of the gluten free options that are available in not just grocery stores but also in restaurants. Giving up sugar was completely different. I absolutely felt like an addict coming off of some kind of hard drug. I craved lucky charms, and sugary treats in a way that I had never craved food before. I went through withdrawals that made me a crazy person for at least two or three days. One night I couldn’t sleep because I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. (Just ask my boyfriend who got to have a screaming fight with me in public because of it. He’ll tell you, it was bad.) I would attribute the craziness to having reached the notoriously hormonal third trimester of my pregnancy, except that it leveled out after about five days and I feel totally better now. I wholly believe that it was the sugar, or lack thereof.

If you’re still with me, either you’re oddly curious about my personal diet – or you are relating in some way. If the later’s the case, stay tuned tomorrow for some excellent tips on gluten free, sugar free snacks that I’ve been enjoying over the past several weeks.

I don’t really get on the everyone should avoid gluten bandwagon, it works for me but I think that’s because of some really specific stuff about my makeup. Sugar though? I believe it’s poison. You should stop eating it. Just try giving it up for a week. See how that makes you feel, I think you’ll be shocked to find that you were addicted. Then stick with it because you’ll be better for it. And really, if you make it through the withdrawals, you might as well stick with it!

Quick Guide to Eating Gluten Free in Fayetteville

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A friend recently asked where she could take a gluten free friend out to eat and have more options than a salad. I realized that I have learned a lot through trial and error that I should probably share with the world! I stick to a pretty strict gluten free diet, but I do not have Celiac disease – so many of these restaurants may not be suitable for someone who needs gluten free foods cooked in a dedicated gluten free environment. You decide what works for you, and here’s a list to get you started!

  1. Deluxe Burger has gluten free buns for their burgers. They’ll charge you a bit more for the substitute, but it’s so worth it to be able to go out and eat a delicious burger with the bun (like a “normal” person). General gluten free burger eating tips: If you are elsewhere and want a burger, it’s usually pretty easy to order one without a bun. They’ll usually serve it on a piece of lettuce or two and you can munch away with fork and knife. The greasier/cheaper the place, the harder it is to extricate the burger from the bun – so beware.
  2. The Arsaga’s on Church & Center that serves toast has a house made gluten free bread that’s phenomenal and can be subbed in on any of their amazing toast options for just .50 more!
  3. Arsaga’s at the Depot has a gluten free crepe that you can sub in to wrap up any of their delicious options (even their sweet crepe offerings). It’s their buckwheat crepe, which despite it’s name is actually wheat and gluten free.
  4. Eureka Pizza actually makes my favorite gluten free pizza. Their crust has honey in it to act as a binder and it’s just perfect. Plus, it’s pretty cheap – as far as a gluten free pizza goes!
  5. Woodstone Craft Pizza has a gluten free crust as well, and is a good option if you’re looking for something a little more upscale and unique. The crust is usually both rubbery and burned at the same time – but the toppings are so good that it’s worth trying anyway.
  6. Apple Blossom Brewing Co. has two excellent naturally gluten free options: cheese fries (of a few varieties) and a polenta dish with roasted vegetables.
  7. Khana Indian Grill‘s basmati plates are naturally gluten free. I have tried each one and love them all. The dish is served with naan, so you might ask to leave that out – or give it to someone else at your table (I might have tasted it once and discovered that it’s really, really good).
  8. Hammontree’s sometimes has gluten free bread available to sub in on any of their sandwiches. It isn’t on the menu, just ask.

I want to know what you know about eating gluten free in Fayetteville. I’m not eating out this month, but I’ll take all of your suggestions and seek them out in September!

be my accountabilibuddy

Help! I have three big health goals for August and I need your help holding me accountable. Well, you don’t really have to DO anything. I just believe that sharing your goals keeps you more accountable. I’ll check back in here at the end of August to let you all know how my goals were through the month, and that ought to be enough.

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Each of my goals are pretty health related, though not eating out is also a financial goal. I aim to do these things for the month of August in hopes that the actions will help me build better habits and be able to use moderation more in the coming months.

What kinds of goals do you have for yourself? Comment here with them and check back in at the end of the month. I can be your accountabilibuddy too, see?

Zero Waste To Go Kit

I’ve been making baby steps toward a more “zero waste” lifestyle. I am not keeping my trash in a mason jar, and honestly don’t plan on it. But I did buy a smaller trash can and bigger recycling bins recently. All of that is pretty straight forward. I compost and recycle what I can, but what’s tricky is what happens outside of my home. I’ve been trying to shop more consciously, and choose items that come in bulk or in minimal packaging – and that takes planning and thought, but it’s also not the hardest part. What’s hardest is going about my day outside of my home – eating out, using public restrooms, and being in a world filled with disposables for the sake of convenience. And damn it those straws and paper towels are convenient! My answer? Carry my own everything. My purse houses the following zero wast essentials:

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  1. A water bottle. I carry one everywhere. In colder months when I might get coffee somewhere it’s usually something that can hold hot stuff like a mason jar with a cuppow or my new yeti rambler.
  2. Sporks! Yeah, multiple sporks! Mostly because often times I’m with my boyfriend and he’ll put one to use too. I started with the little bamboo one which is a great thing for someone starting out and unwilling to carry a bigger purse in the name of zero waste supplies.
  3. Stainless steel straw. This is one I haven’t been brave enough to use yet. I just put it in my purse like, today, because yesterday I ate out for lunch and used the plastic straw that came to the table and felt guilty.
  4. Handkerchief. When it’s cold out this is more important. As soon as I get off of my bicycle in cold weather I’m totally snot faced. But keeping a smaller one in my purse is good for any little sniffles I may have.
  5. Microfiber towel. This one’s been hard for me to put to use. I put it in my bag to dry my hands after I wash them, but by the time I get my hands washed it’s been deep in my bag and I go for the paper. Why oh why can’t every bathroom have that cool dyson hand dryer?
  6. Cloth napkin. I use this constantly. This is a must.
  7. Lunch bag. I often carry a meal with me, but I also carry much of these in this bag to keep my purse less cluttered.
  8. Not pictured – a shopping bag that folds into itself and is tiny and amazing. I am forever buying things and forgetting to bring a reusable bag. Another must.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment!

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week 7

The September 29th NWARK Local Harvest CSA included:

  • Lettuce Mix
  • Turnips (Radishes??? – more on this crisis below)
  • Green Beans
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Zucchini

My boyfriend made the little video to send me while I was out of town for the night when this came, so in lieu of my usual plain old picture, we’re all media-ed up! I kind of like it, maybe I’ll start taking more video! Ok, on to what happened to all of this goodness:

Jar SaladI’ve been carefully jarring up all of our lettuce into salads so that none of it goes bad. I’ve stayed pretty consistent at a week behind on eating it, so when each delivery comes I’m working on last week’s stockpile. But, at that rate none goes bad because it comes to me so fresh, so it’s all ok.

Last week my boyfriend took me to the meat market (my new favorite place to buy meat) and we got a whole chicken. With all of the little leftover bits, I made salads with chicken in them. Much more substantial.

Ok. So the turnips… some of them were not turnips. Instead, some of them were bitter aka: radishes! Which was fine, because I like radishes sliced thinly with a mandolin atop my salads. However, we went to mash our turnips again, because they are so good like that, and lo and behold our mashed turnips had a bit of ever so bitter radish in them. Not terrible, but definitely a surprise. After a bit of googling we learned that the size of the root indicates which you’re looking at. A thin root (I know the whole thing is a root, but I mean the stringy bit at the base) is a turnip and a thick root is a radish. Generally speaking.

Green beans have been pretty easy to work through. I usually just make them as a side dish. One night, I just ate leftover mashed turnip/radish and green beans, because, well I don’t know. What’s crazy cool about the CSA green beans is that they’re all beautiful (no bruises or slime) and they last for ages because they are so fresh. I like to imagine the farmers carrying my brown paper CSA bag around the farm and taking things right off the plant just before they drive it over to me. I guess that’s basically what happens, though the bagging happens slightly differently, anyway.., it’s amazing.

The sweet pepper hauls have been dwindling in size lately, which is okay – but I’ll be sad when they’re totally gone because the weather just gets too cold. I chop those guys up and stick them in salad jars. That uses most of them. Tonight I’ll make a pizza with some on it.

Still just sautéing and grilling the zucchini. I have to say, it’s the one thing I’m kind of sick of. Maybe I just need to get more creative with my zucchini cooking techniques. Suggestions?

That’s all for week 7. Stay tuned for more weekly-ish updates on what comes in my CSA and what I do with it all! And let me know in the comments, do you or would you sign up for a CSA membership? Why or why not?

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week 6

NWARK Local Harvest CSA - Week 6

September 22nd’s CSA delivery included:

  • 1/2 pound Lettuce Mix
  • 1/2 pound 4-Kale Mix (Red, Siberian, Dwarf Blue and Primer)
  • 1 Bunch Japanese Turnips
  • 2 pounds Red Delicious Apples
  • 1.5  pounds Green and Gold Zucchini
  • 2 pounds Sweet Potatoes

This was a tricky week because I was out of town for the majority of the week celebrating my mom’s birthday, and my boyfriend had clients in town so the fact that this picture got taken is amazing. So, here’s what happened to it all:

The lettuce was used in salads. I’ve been pretty diligent about making 4-6 salads in mason jars each week for my boyfriend and I to take to lunch. For some reason I’m incapable of making a salad for lunch, but I’ll totally grab a pre-made one out of the fridge.

This was our first encounter with kale and it didn’t go well. The whole bag ended up in the compost because we were afraid of it. But don’t worry, we’ve since figured out a way to eat all of our kale and even get sad when we run out. Stay tuned for that excitement!

We actually mashed the turnips with some potatoes and had them as a side. They were delicious.

Ate the apples all on their lonesome, though it must be a bit early in the season because they were a little mealy.

The gold zucchini is so good! It has a much milder/sweeter flavor than the green kind. We’ve been slicing and sautéing most of the zucchini. It is good on pizza and pasta.

Sweet Potato BreadWe held on to the sweet potatoes for a couple of weeks and ended up making sweet potato bread out of them. It’s super easy to make, you just bake the potatoes until they’re soft and mash them into a simple sweet bread recipe. I added some nuts and chocolate chips. My boyfriend and I had a party a week or so ago and served the bread at it, it was a hit.

NWARK Local Harvest CSA – Week Five

CSA Week Five

Last week’s CSA included:

  • 1/2 pound Salad Mix
  • 1 pound Sweet Peppers
  • 1 pound Ancho Peppers
  • 1/4 pound Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1 pound Cucumbers
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1/4 pound Cilantro

Here’s what happened to it all:

Ate ALL of that salad mix. But, a funny thing happened. I traveled to Eureka Springs for several days to visit my parents for my mom’s birthday. Since I knew that my boyfriend would be too busy during the week to cook at home and eat any of it, I brought it with me! We had lots of salads at home, and I made some salads in mason jars to leave with my mom. So, a bit of sharing happened. The cucumbers went atop all of those salads.

There are still a lot of sweet peppers and ancho peppers in the fridge. I cooked some into my spaghetti sauce last night, but plenty remain. I think that if I were to chop them up when they come on Tuesday night, I would be more apt to throw them into something I’m eating. Planning for prep work next week!

jalapeno poppersWe used all of the jalapeños last Saturday to make jalapeño poppers. My boyfriend brought me to the meat market to get bacon which was pretty much the best thing ever. He showed me how to mix up some cheeses, scoop them in, wrap in bacon, and bake. Oh, and eat!

roasted potatoesThere are some potatoes remaining, but the majority got roasted for breakfast one day. If you microwave them in a saran wrap covered bowl with some oil, salt, and pepper for 5+ minutes before putting them in the pan they cook a lot faster.

Put a bit of the cilantro on chicken tacos. But, there’s a lot left.

Stay tuned for next week’s update! Thanks for all of your comments with recipe suggestions and support in my endeavor to consume all of these veggies!