Easy, Waste Free, Wholemeal Dried Pasta

Who knew that pasta was so simple to make?

I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him.  But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities  (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window).  Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 cup hot water

Method:

Making the dough:

  • If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
  • Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on.  It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface.
  • If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together  either with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
  • Press the dough down into a flat round.  Divide into 4 quarters  (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
  • Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
  • You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.

Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:

  • Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
  • Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time.   I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest.  I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier.    For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below.  To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.

Drying your pasta:

  • If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage.  As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
  •  The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C.  The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours.  The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
  • Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins.    If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.

Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients –  as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising.  I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to opt-out of junk mail

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Are you suffocating under a mountain of unwanted junk mail?  Did you know you can opt out of much of it?

Once again this morning I had to chase the postman down the road to hand him back a bundle of unaddressed marketing leaflets.  Fortunately I don’t have to do this too often as we have opted out of such leaflets with Royal Mail but sometimes he forgets.  The “no junk mail” sign on the door is of little assistance to him as almost everyone has one. Did you know that even if you put a “no junk mail”  sign on your door, Royal Mail is still obliged to deliver it to you unless you have specifically registered with them to opt out?

To reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive requires several different approaches but it is relatively simple to reduce it significantly by filling in a few forms.

  1. Opt out with Royal Mail  How do I opt-out?.  They will send you a form to complete which you need to return by post.  It will take a few weeks to come into effect, but should soon make a noticeable difference.
  2. Register with the Direct Marketing Association’s Your Choice Scheme.  Again you will need to complete a form.   Telephone: 020 7291 3300 or email for details: yourchoice@dma.org.uk
  3. Register online with the Mail Preference Service

The above opt-out schemes deal primarily with unaddressed mail. So there are a number of further things you may wish to do.

4. Contact your local electoral registration office to  opt out of the open electoral register

5. Remove yourself from mailing lists.  It’s easy to end up on a mailing list these days when you buy something – particularly if there is a loyalty card involved.  We tend to still get the occasional catalogue from places we have shopped at once and are not likely to visit again.  It’s worth taking the time to phone them up or have a look at their website to remove yourself from these lists because as it is addressed to you, it will still be delivered.

6.  When you sign up for something, look for the box you have to tick or untick relating to marketing and other information – this should minimise you getting on other unwanted email lists.

7.  Letterbox sticker – this is still useful to discourage the leaflets that are delivered directly by local tradespeople and businesses or anyone else not covered by the measures above. You can buy ready made stickers or make your own, but unless your door is sheltered you’ll need to ensure it is weather resistant – the ink kept washing off my first DIY effort so I bought a notice in a local hardware store, but even that has since been moved to inside the glass.

8.  If you still receive unsolicited mail try to either return it or contact the sender to ask that they don’t send it again. If we all did this they might start to get the message.

Simple steps but ones that might save you from a mountain of takeaway menus.  And if you do actually need the menu you can generally find it online.

7 top tips to reduce your household waste

Is your bin full of packaging waste? Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week?  Then you might like these tips for reducing your household waste:

  1. Buy food and other items unpackaged: take your own bags and containers when you shop and avoid prepacked items. Write a list to buy only what you need. You can read more here about my favourite places to by unpackaged in Leighton Buzzard. The market and independent shops are great for this.16807726_10210907726622487_2055995162207271710_n
  2. If you can’t find it unpackaged, choose glass, paper or card over plastics, or investigate refills:  as well as being made from non-recyclable fossil fuels, plastic is harder to recycle and can often only be “downcycled”.  It therefore likely to end up in landfill sooner, and takes centuries to biodegrade.  Glass and paper however can be endlessly recycled and paper can be home composted.  Easy swaps from plastic include switching from plastic tubs to butter in paper (Waitrose), from tea bags (which often actually contain plastic as well as coming in plastic wrap)  to loose tea in card (PG Tips is widely available), oils in plastic to oils in glass bottles (you can also get refills of flavoured oils at Dobbies in Bletchley),  bar soap (bought loose or in card), refills of laundry and washing up liquid (in Leighton Buzzard these are available at Nature’s Harvest), laundry powder in card (Aldi), dishwasher powder and salt in card (Waitrose or Sainsbury), milk in glass bottles (Pecks Farm deliver in the Leighton Buzzard area). You can find out more about plastic in tea bags in this article from Treading My Own Path and a list of easy swaps in this article from Happier, Sustainable, Less Skint.
  3. If you can only find products in plastic buy the largest size available for less packaging pro rata as long as the product stores well and you will actually use it all.  For example we buy 5kg bags of basmati and long grain rice from the world food section of the supermarket – if you live close to an Asian supermarket you may have more options and be able to find rice in paper.
  4. Use reusables: take your own coffee cup or water bottle out, use cloth handkerchiefs, cleaning cloths, washable feminine hygiene products such as cloth pads or a menstrual cup, instead of disposables.  Take your lunch to work in a reusable lunch box ( I have a lovely stainless steel one from Save Some Green but we also continue to use a lot of plastic ones we had already as well as using containers such as ice cream tubs). Extend the reuse of products by buying second-hand and donating things you no longer need – as well as the charity shops there are numerous local sharing groups for giving away or requesting items, often for free – you may be surprised what things people can make use of when you no longer need them, and how often someone else no longer needs something you do.   You can find links to some of them at the end of this post -a search for local similar groups on Facebook is always worthwhile as I have only mentioned a couple I use in the list.  Repair things rather than replacing if you can.   Many areas (although sadly I’ve not found one near me yet) have repair cafes where you can get help to fix your broken items.  If you don’t have one near you can often find information about repairing things online (local people offered me plenty of advice on recent problems with my washing machine via local discussion group Nextdoor – in the list of links at the end).
  5. Have a go at making your own: If you have time bread, cakes and pasta can easily be made from ingredients largely sold in paper bags. White vinegar is great for cleaning and can be bought in glass bottles. You can make your own deodorant and apparently toothpaste from coconut oil (glass from Aldi) and bicarbonate of soda (in card from Selections or Wilco) with a few drops of essential oils. I have saved links to lots of useful recipes on my boards on Pinterest.
  6. Reduce your food waste: meal plan to avoid overbuying and use your freezer to save leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of tips. Washed peelings can be saved up to make stock, and fruit scraps can be used to make scrap vinegar or tepache.

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    Home made apple scrap vinegar
  7. Compost as much as you can – pretty much anything organic can go in. Like many councils Central Bedfordshire offers discounted compost bins and information.

 

If you want to know more and are on Facebook, the friendly groups Zero Waste Heroes and Journey to Zero Waste UK are great places for sharing ideas or asking questions about reducing your waste.

Local sharing groups and other useful links:

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This post is being shared on A Green and Rosie Life’s Going Green Linky for March 2017 and Skip The Bag’s Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop

 

 

My favourite places for shopping without packaging in Leighton Buzzard

Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week? Is your bin full of packaging waste?

We are fortunate that Central Bedfordshire accepts a large variety of food packaging for recycling but plastics tend to be hard to recycle, can mainly only be downcycled, and can only be recycled a few times before ending up in landfill ( or in the oceans).  Plastics then hang around pretty much forever ( How long does it take a plastic bottle to biodegrade?).  They are also made of non renewable oil and potentially leach toxins into your food.  We have therefore been trying to reduce not only our landfill waste, but our recyclables too, particularly trying to avoid single use plastics.  This has been a journey, changing our buying habits a little at a time, but over the last 18 months we have managed to reduce our landfill waste by over 80% and our recycling by about 50%.  This post is about just one of the ways of avoiding packaging waste, by trying to avoid acquiring it in the first place, and focusses on the places that, after a change in my shopping habits, I now find this easy to do for grocery and household items in my home town of Leighton Buzzard.  If you know of other local shops that should be included please do let me know.

I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible.  This tends to be easier done when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets do tend to have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers – meal planning and a shopping list will help you have a good idea of how many bags/containers to bring along.  Some of my personal favourites for buying unpackaged items are:

Leighton Buzzard Market : Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Happy to sell you fruit and veg directly into your own bags.

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Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall – Leighton Buzzard Market

Other market traders are also often happy to sell into your own containers – just ask nicely at the start of your purchase.  It feels strange at first but you soon get used to it, and so do the traders.  I have done this several times at the olive stall at the top of the High Street and at the Delisha samosa stall, a cake stall and at the other fruit and veg stall.  The fish van indicated he would be happy to do this too.  The farmers market and craft markets are also a good place to ask – Bucks Star Brewery visits the farmers each month and take their glass eco -growlers back and give you a full one at a discount, whilst the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company sells refillable growlers which you can refill at the brewery on Grovebury Road. The honey seller at the craft market asks you to return your empty jar for a discount off the next one.

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Refillable eco growler from the farmers’ market

House of Coffee – Peacock Mews.  They roast coffee in the small shop and are happy to grind it as required into your own container.  I began by taking in a plastic lunch box but having since acquired lots of empty large Douwe Egberts coffee jars from a local sharing site I use one of those, carefully wrapped in a tea towel to protect it in transit.  We then store the jar in the freezer to keep the coffee fresh. Fair trade options are usually available.

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House of Coffee – Peacock Mews

Selections – High Street A variety of hardware items from replacement broom heads to individual screws. They also sell replacement gas canisters for SodaStream (as does Argos) which has replaced the plastic bottles of fizzy water we used to buy every week, and saved us money.

Natures Harvest – North Street  Sells unpackaged soap and refills for Ecover laundry and washing up liquid. Also stocks bamboo toothbrushes, Ecoleaf toilet roll in compostable packaging and lots of other eco friendly products  (although many are still in plastic).

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Oliver Adams Bakers- Market Square  Bread, cakes etc either in paper bags or into your own bag/container. The Co-Op – Waterdell off Brooklands Drive has a daily delivery of Italian bread which can be bought loose.

Strattons Butchers – Market Square .  If you eat meat ask Strattons to sell it you without any single use plastic.  I ask them to weigh it on the waxed paper sheets they use and then transfer in to my own container, which they are happy to do.

Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( just out of town past the garden centre) this is a great place to buy free range eggs.  We return the boxes for reuse when we next visit.

Pecks Farm – Towards Hockliffe – we have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles by Pecks Farm.  It does cost more so is one of our more recent changes, but we have offset the additional cost by savings made elsewhere in our waste reduction journey.  The farm also sells local produce and loose fruit and veg.

You can still find some unpackaged options in the supermarket – it does vary but locally I find Tesco tends to have the most unpackaged fruit and veg.  Morrisons and Waitrose also sells loose rolls, croissants and cakes – I use my own bag or container where these are self service but have not been able to do this at the counter.

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Mmm, which potatoes will I choose?

 

Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally – please let me know? This will be useful to update my chapter of  The Zero Waste Travel Companion  which is updated from time to time.

More posts to follow on other local places to shop with reduced or plastic free packaging, and on the local circular economy, where you can often get things you need cheaply or for free, as well as passing on things you no longer need rather than throwing them away.

Now, do you still need to put that bin out?

If you would like to read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste, these blog posts are a good start:

You can now follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share some of our daily waste saving in more regular short posts.

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Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

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Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

When it comes to Christmas and New Year entertaining, easy is good.  Well, let’s be realistic, easy is good anytime.

Last week I made Banoffee Pie, to take to family for a Boxing Day tea. Since they started selling ready tinned caramel so you don’t have to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours Banoffee Pie has been my go to easy dessert.  But this dessert, inspired by Millionaire’s Shortbread, is even easier.  Yes really.

Ingredients:

  • 250g biscuits ( I used digestives as I had half a pack left from the banoffee pie but I bet something oaty like Hob Nobs would work really well)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tin caramel (I used Carnation)
  • 200g block of milk chocolate ( I used Choceur from Aldi which comes in easily recyclable card packaging and is free from palm oil)
  • Optional decoration ( I used Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray but  as I subsequently noticed this contains palm oil  I would omit or seek an alternative in future)

( I have mentioned which products I used for convenience only – this post contains no affiliate links)

Method:

  • Grease a flan dish or baking tray well.
  • Crush the biscuits either using a food processor or by wrapping them carefully in a clean tea towel or (ideally cloth) bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
  • Melt the butter – I did this in the microwave, setting the timer to 30 secs and checking and stirring every 10 secs or so until completely melted, but melt in a pan if you prefer.
  • Stir the butter into the crushed biscuits until well combined.
  • Tip the mixture carefully into your flan dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Chill for approx 1 hour until firm.
  • Spread the caramel carefully over the biscuit base and chill again until you are ready to top with the chocolate.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bain marie or in a jug in the microwave.  I prefer the microwave as it is quicker but as with the butter check and stir it frequently until just melted.
  • Pour the melted chocolate onto the caramel carefully, gently spreading with a spatula until the top is covered.
  • Decorate as required and chill again until the chocolate has set.

To serve cut carefully with a sharp knife and have your plate or bowl at the ready – it will crumble!  And enjoy. Remember, easy is good.

Meat Free January

I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, and I suppose this isn’t really one anyway as I’m not proposing it for the whole year.

We were out for lunch yesterday, combined with a trip to see the new Star Wars film – I’d just eaten a burger, in a restaurant full of people eating loads of meat a few days after Christmas (perhaps like us they’d just run out sufficient Christmas leftovers to make a decent meal and couldn’t face the supermarket again) when I decided I had probably eaten enough meat over the past few days to last me for a month (I don’t generally eat meat every day).

So I decided that I am going to have a meat free January.  I mentioned my idea to my husband when we got home and said that the rest of the family didn’t have to join in and he came up with a whole range of meat free meals that we could both enjoy (most of which we have from time to time anyway) .  Hurrah!  I’m not sure this means he is officially joining in but that at least I can do meat free main meals for us. There are only a few meat free things I will get son to eat – quorn chilli (as he hasn’t yet realised it’s not meat) and pasta with pesto ( which he would probably eat every day if he could), so we’ll still do some meat dishes for him but that shouldn’t be a problem – we often cook separately for him anyway as he’s such a fussy eater, and we’re not often both home by the time he needs to eat.

I’m sharing this publicly at the start as it will help me achieve it.  The one exception I’m going to allow is to use the turkey stock I made on Christmas Day – as long as it is in an otherwise meat free dish, because I don’t want it to go to waste.

When I lived alone I didn’t eat meat that often, maybe once a week so I’m hoping it wont be too hard, and I have plenty of meat free recipes in my repetoire.  I’m off to soak some chick peas and kidney beans now ready for some chilli and curries.

Wish me luck.  I’ll be sharing how I get on over on Instagram

 

 

 

Christmas and New Year party clothes.

How do you decide what to wear for those Christmas and New Year parties?

Do you have to have the latest fashion? Do you buy something new, or do you start with a rummage through the wardrobe to see what you have already?  Perhaps you already have an outfit that could be refreshed with different accessories?

Last Christmas I was on a mission to not buy any new clothes, including any that were just new to me, from July until after Christmas – you can read more about that here:  No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more.  So when I decided to attend my work’s Christmas presentation evening for the first time, I had to come up with something suitable without buying anything. There was a black and silver dress code for the evening. I already had a gorgeous fitted black satin skirt from Coast, bought in a charity shop a few years earlier, which I had never yet worn as it really didn’t go with any of my shoes.  As I wasn’t buying anything I asked a friend with the same sized feet if she had a pair of smart shoes I could borrow.   She came up trumps with a perfect pair of black court shoes, which she had herself bought from a charity shop and only wore occasionally for parties.  My auntie lent me a black lacey blouse and a silver scarf and I was good to go.  I really liked this outfit although I sadly don’t seem to have taken any photos.

Over the year I have been keeping my eye on the local charity shops for a suitable new (to me) top to go with the same black skirt without any luck.  But, whilst in looking instead for items to go in the Christmas crackers I was making, I happened to spot a lovely Monsoon tunic dress. Sometimes the best finds are when you’re not actually looking.  So here was my outfit – an evening dress for £5.99.  And I was able to borrow the same pair of shoes from my friend.  I wore jewellery I had already (a previous Christmas gift from my husband) and accessorised with  a Planet handbag, also from a charity shop a few years earlier.  My coat and scarf are also charity shop sourced – though only the scarf is new to me this year.

 

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So, why buy preowned?

There are plenty of advantages to buying preowned.  I’ve always bought some of my clothes this way because:

  •  It’s cheap
  • It’s fun – you never know what you will find, and there is something different to look at every time
  • You don’t have to follow the crowd
  • You can often get much better quality items than you might afford  or want to spend on otherwise

But recently I have been trying to source most of my clothing this way with other reasons also in mind:

  • It saves the use of new resources, in terms of the material and the energy and shipping that goes into the production of new clothes
  • I’m not supporting “fast fashion” often made by workers in poor conditions to make it cheap and disposable
  • I like the fact that my money is supporting a charity rather than a multinational clothes shop
  • Because I live in a small town, I can also find the things I want locally and on foot more easily this way

Have you got any favourite ways of shopping or favourite finds?

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Our journey towards zero waste – a year on

We have been a relatively waste aware family for some time.  At least I thought so.  Back in September last year our wheelie bin was only ever half full on the fortnightly collection day and with 2 compost bins in the garden, our garden waste bin was only occasionally used. Our recycling bin was however usually filled to the top. Still, not too bad for a family of 3? Cloth nappies and some other reusables had already been a no brainer, and I thought I already avoided excessive packaging.

I was looking online for a clip about zero waste week from a few years back that I wanted to share with a friend who was struggling with overfull bins.  It turned out to be zero waste week again right then and through that, with the help of Rachelle Strauss, I found my way to the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group. Thanks to the amazing and friendly support from the group (and other groups I’ve joined along the way) I soon realised we could reduce our waste by so much more! With this support we have considerably reduced the amount of waste we produce over the past year and a bit. This has involved a change in shopping habits,  a few changes to our diet, and a bit more of making things from scratch, but  I am really pleased that we have been able to make a noticeable reduction without any drastic lifestyle changes.

We started out by asking our local council to swap our landfill and garden waste bins for smaller ones. This could already accommodate our fortnightly waste.  By gradually making a few more swaps for reuseables and being more aware of waste when shopping we now only put our smaller landfill bin out for collection, usually less than half full, every 6 to 8 weeks. The garden waste bin is still used occasionally.  We don’t have a food waste collection but have pretty much eliminated food waste to landfill by composting more and getting more out of things that would normally be wasted such as making stock from vegetable peelings and vinegar from fruit peelings (my first batch is on the go now).

The recycling has been harder to make significant inroads into but finally, after more than a year of trying to avoid packaging and reducing the amount of junk mail through the door we are at the point where we can ask the council for a smaller recycling bin too.  We have  just about reached the point where it is regularly only half full each fortnight.

So, we are still on a journey of waste reduction, but we are making progress.  I really wanted to write this post to say thank you for the support of the fantastic online community of fellow waste reducers , on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and fellow bloggers. We would not have got anywhere near this point without you all, and I look forward to continuing the journey.

I am sharing this post on Waste Less Wednesday with Skip the Bag

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Seasonal Eating – Beetroot Recipe round-up

Not much is growing in our back garden at this time of year, but my dad is still harvesting and sharing beetroot from his allotment. He gave us such a lot that I ate beetroot every single day for more than a week, and twice on some days so was in need of a selection of different recipes for a bit of variety!  Some of my favourite recipes are shared below, and  thanks go to Rosie at A Green and Rosie Life and Erin at The Rogue Ginger for allowing me to include links to their beetroot recipes. The post is also being shared on Rosie’s Going Green Linky.

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Beetroot and Halloumi

Our favourite way of eating beetroot is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella’s Kitchen for beetroot pureed with lime juice and a little olive oil.  Nigella uses vacuum packed beetroot but if you are using fresh you need to trim the leaves (leaving a little of the stalk still attached) and boil  with the skin on until tender.  This year I have been saving energy by cooking the beetroot in my Wonderbag – I gently wash the beetroot and place it a lidded casserole dish and cover with water (it works best if the casserole is pretty full), bring to the boil for about 5 minutes and then pop it into the Wonderbag (the Wonderbag is an insulated bag which retains the heat so the food conitnues to cook without needing additional energy) for a few hours until we are ready to eat.  Once cooked, allow to cool a little and the skin can be easily peeled off by hand.  You will also have a casserole full of gloriously red beetroot water  which you can save to use in stock, soup or risotto.

Once peeled blend the beetroot with the juice of a lime and a little olive oil. Season with pepper.

Slice up a block of halloumi into about 10 slices and dry fry in a frying pan until browned.

Serve the halloumi over a bed of salad leaves (earlier in the year than now we would use rocket and land cress from the garden, along with marigold and nasturtium flowers but you can use whatever salad leaves you like).  Then drizzle the beetroot puree on top.

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Beetroot, Potato and Chorizo Hash

Another easy recipe is this one which originally came from an Asda magazine. You can substitute other root vegetables depending what you have available, and could use leftover roast veg.

Preheat the oven to 190c.

Cut approx 300g of potatoes (you can peel them but I prefer to leave the skin on), 300g of beetroot (peeled) and one sweet potato (peeled) into cubes and boil for 5-10 mins.  Drain well.

Place the drained vegetables into a roasting tray with 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges, and 225g of diced or sliced chorizo.

Mix together 1tbsp sunflower oil, 2tsp wholegrain mustard and 2tbsp Worcestershire Sauce.  Pour the mixture into the roasting tray and stir to coat the meat and veg.

Bake for approx 40 mins, stirring after 20 mins.

Top each serving with a fried egg and season with black pepper.

 

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I love risotto – I could pretty much eat it every day ( and before I had a husband and son to cater for I pretty much did, adding whatever other ingredients I happened to have).  So here is a link to my  Easy Beetroot Risotto  recipe, on the blog a few years ago.

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My Beetroot and Fennel Soup recipe was from the really early days of my blog, so there is a link to the recipe but sadly no pictures as I hadn’t yet worked out how to add them!

I also made a Beetroot Cake which my son loved, mainly because he thought it was made with raspberries!  I much prefer this to the popular beetroot/chocolate cake combination. Beetroot Cake

Heat the oven to 180C.

Grease an 8 inch cake tin.

Mix together 250g self raising flour, 2tsp baking powder and 150 of soft brown sugar.

Then add 100g of sultanas and 250g of peeled, grated beetroot.

In a separate bowl beat together 150ml of sunflower oil and 2 medium eggs, then add into the dry ingredients and mix together.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours.

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Fellow bloggers Rosie and Erin kindly shared these great beetroot recipes from their respective blogs. Follow the links to view the full recipes on the host blog.   A reminder that you can use the whole beetroot – don’t throw away those leaves.  I often freeze them to use as a spinach substitute if I don’t want to use them straight away.

What’s your favourite way to eat beetroot?

Grated Beetroot Salad:

Rosie at blog A Green and Rosie Life kindly shared her deliciously simple recipe. for Grated Beetroot Salad

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Beetroot Leaves:

Erin at The Rogue Ginger shares her recipe for How to Cook Beetroot Leaves

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Why I won’t be donating to the “Phil the Bag” recycling scheme for schools

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Clothes Swap Event

If you have kids at school, you’ll know the drill.  A letter from school asking that you donate something or other to help the school raise funds, or to use for a project. Or that you go and buy something to donate for the school fete, or that they need to go in fancy dress, usually with about half a day’s notice.

These things always make me anxious.  I’m no good at sewing (I was always bottom of the class and ditched it for woodwork as soon as I could – not that I’m any good at that either) and if I am going to buy something I want it to be secondhand, or free of packaging – and the short notice always makes this difficult. I like to plan things ahead. But I also don’t want to feel guilty for being the mum that doesn’t join in with the idea.

My son has just started at a new school.  I was hoping things might be slightly different. He told me they had been asking for nominations for  “Eco Warriors” or “Eco Council”.  Although he didn’t want to stand he did want to suggest they had more recycling bins, particularly in the dining area and told me that he had been telling his class all about “Plastic Free July”.  Proud mum moment (of course I really wanted him to volunteer as well – but he thought it would be more boring than football!).

Then came the first letter asking for something.  Donations to an “innovative fundraising programme” called Phil the Bag (and there are many other similar schemes operating in schools around the UK).  On the face of it this looks a good idea.  You take in your unwanted, but still useable, clothes and other textiles.  The school receives money based on the  quantity of textiles they collect.  At the same time this, and I quote the school’s letter “not only develops the children’s sense of enterprise but also teaches them about the importance of recycling and how we can protect the environment.”  Sounds great doesn’t it?

Being the curious sort of person I am I contacted the school to see if they knew more about what actually happens to the donated textiles.  I then searched online myself and easily found the website for the scheme.  And the educational aspect of it looks great – and I can see it would be very attractive to schools.  They are even helping the environment by no longer providing plastic bags for you to fill but asking you to provide your own (surely this couldn’t be a cost cutting exercise?).

So, what happens to your donations? 

The first thing I noticed is that Phil the Bag is not a charity.  This is clearly stated if you look at their website.  They are a business, buying good quality clothes at a knockdown price to sell on for a profit.

The donated textiles are sold on to a wholesaler in Africa who then sells them on to local markets.  It has been suggested that this kind of trade undermines the local economy as the market is flooded with cheap clothes from the West. This puts local people out of work. A friend tells me there was an investigative programme on this on TV (Dispatches or Unreported World or similar).  The volume of donations (you only need to imagine the number of schools and community groups participating in such schemes as a way of fundraising to see this is going to be vast) means that at least some of it is likely to end up in landfill sites in Africa rather than ever being sold.  Are we simply shifting our problems of overconsumption overseas rather than facing up to them at home? A number of African countries have actually banned imported clothing to start addressing this issue, which also affects the countries’ balance of trade surplus/deficit.

And we are teaching the children that this is good “recycling”.  Actually it is not “recycling” but “re-use” but perhaps I’m a pedant.  Perhaps there are more Rs we should be telling them about as well, starting with Refuse and Reduce.  There is no denying that it is “enterprising”, but on the part of the company making all the profit, rather than the school.

Such schemes are also potentially diverting goods from genuine charities or relief projects.

Is there a better alternative?

I would love the children to learn about re-use in the context of a Circular Economy operating at a much more local level.  Why send our clothes all the way to Africa if they can be found a good new home in the same town?

Of course the school needs to raise funds (the letter says the scheme will raise money for “vital resources” – trying to make me feel guilty if I don’t take part?), but perhaps a Swishing event (clothes swap) or even a table top sale could raise an amount closer to the real value of the donated goods.  This may not have the “ready made” educational resource that comes with schemes like the Phil the Bag, but the benefits might really be much greater.

And if you do want to donate to people in Africa, do so through a genuine charity – if the intention is to clothe people in Africa, it might be better to donate money to be spent on locally made clothes rather than to swamp them with our unwanted items. And if you want to donate your unwanted clothes, do a bit of research into where they will end up, as some charities, and a lot of those organisations posting bags through your letterbox, also send clothes to overseas wholesalers as reported in this BBC article  Where do Your Old Clothes Go?

Phil the Bag – this is one innovative fund raising programme in which I won’t be taking part. And I won’t be feeling guilty.

Now I just have to explain that to my 9 year old.

 

UPDATE

After writing I noticed that Phil the Bag claim to be an official partner to Eco Schools, an initiative run by Keep Britain Tidy.  I contacted Keep Britain Tiday in the hope they could allay my concerns.  I have now received a response and it turns out that Phil the Bag have not actually worked with Eco Schools for many years.  Keep Britain Tidy say they entirely agree that we should be teaching our kids about the circular economy at a local rather than global level and suggest The Salvation Army as a better partner to worth with on clothing donation schemes.