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Plastic-Free Picnics

Now that the summer weather has officially arrived and restrictions are easing, we’ve started thinking about going out more, or you know, going out at all! (I think my son was surprised that there are more than 5 people in the world!) After over a year in shielding we had to have a good think what we would need to go out and about now we have two small people in tow, if we wanted to go to the beach or for a picnic.

So here’s our tips & ideas for a sustainable summer, including my Top 10 Sustainable Swaps & Product Recommendations.

Tips & Ideas for Plastic Free Picnicking

  • Make your own dips & salads, rather than buying pre-prepared ones in plastic packaging from the supermarket. A great homemade hummus recipe is this one from The Pesky Vegan. You could even have a go at making your own crackers or pittas to dip in your homemade sides.
  • If you’re having soft drinks, choose options from cans or glass bottles, rather than plastic bottles, we love cordials as you can stretch them so much further by diluting with water. If you want to you could give making your own cordial a go (extra hippie points if you forage your own elderflowers 😉 – seriously though foraging is great fun, but only forage for small amounts from areas with plentiful supply and only if you are 100% certain of what the item is and that it’s edible. Here’s two great articles on foraging for beginners from National Geographic and BBC Good Food.)
  • You can get some great snacks for on the go from your local zero waste shop or refill store, popping kernels for making your own popcorn, or choose from a selection of nuts and snacks like spiced chickpeas, banana chips, etc. You could also use their assortments of nuts and dried fruits to make your own custom trail mix.
  • Avoid ice in bags from the supermarket, by making your own at home in silicone ice cube trays (we have tons of these from making and freezing portions of baby food for when our daughter was weaning), or freeze bottles of water use a coolers in your picnic bag, they’ll keep your picnic nice and chilled and your drink will have melted en route and be lovely and cool. You could also try frozen grapes which will cool drinks and make a great snack when you’ve finished.

Top 10 Sustainable Summer Ready Swaps

1.Reusable Straws:

Plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however several alternatives:

Stainless Steel Straws are washable, and much more durable. They are BPA free and unlike plastic will not interact with and leak chemicals into the drink you are consuming.

Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals.

Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, these ones are made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving!

2. Travel Cutlery Set:

Avoid the traditional plastic cutlery of picnics past and invest in a reusable travel cutlery set, made from bamboo or metal which you can carry on you for takeaways, work lunches, food on the go etc. They’re stylish as well as sustainable and it stops all that waste of single use plastic going to landfill.

bamboo travel cutlery

3. Reusable Water Bottle:

Instead of endless plastic bottles, opt for a reusable stainless steel or glass bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so you can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water – look out for councils or shops that are part of the refill scheme.

Our Reusable Glass Bottles are made from BPA free and fully recyclable materials and provide a clean and pure drinking experience.

4. Lunch boxes

Picnics and packed lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.

Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry. Many lunchboxes have sections, so you can do away with the individual tupperware and snack packs and put your own products in loose. If you do want Tupperware you can opt for glass or glass/bamboo combo versions. Or why not store snacks in reused jars, we have snacks in old curry sauce jars that we’ve cleaned and relabelled.

5. Wax Wraps

Similarly you can avoid the clingfilm and plastic packaging by choosing wax wraps for your sandwiches and other homemade goodies.

food wrap

6. Takeaway Cup

Whether you want a hot drink or an iced coffee, a fruity tea or just juice, taking a reusable travel cup with you let’s you ditch the disposable and many have the benefits of being insulated or double walled to keep your drink at the right temperature for longer.

7. Travel Wash Set

A great choice for the holidays we are now allowed on, whether you’re desperate to jet off or you’re choosing a Great British Staycation, maybe even just for long awaited visits to far away friends and family – a travel set is a great option for you to be low waste and avoid all those plastic travel miniatures, without having to take your full bars from home in individual tins.

safety razor

8. Sun Cream in Tins/Refills

Yes this is now an option, some zero waste shops are now able to offer sun cream refills and the majority will likely have aluminium tins of sun cream available. I find the tins are easier to get the sun cream out of rather than faffing with the spray bottles that don’t work unless they’re completely upright.

9. Toothbrush Case

Great for when you’re away from home, bamboo toothbrush cases keep your brush clean and hygienic. We have both adults and children’s toothbrush travel cases in the shop.

10. Reusable Bag

Keep your picnic out of plastic and opt for reusable bags to carry your stuff on trips out or for shopping. Fold up, cotton or net bags are brilliant for stashing on you so you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you do any impromptu shopping.

This organic cotton bag is a great choice as it folds up small but is spacious and stylish.

Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your zero waste needs.

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Simplest Ever Pancake Recipe (oh and they’re vegan!)

image

Pancakes are made of just a couple of ingredients and are essentially circles of fried batter (yum!). Yet they are considered a treat, despite the recipe being so simple and them being so quick and easy to make!

You would have thought that because the traditional ingredients are flour, cows milk and eggs, that therefore swapping out two-thirds of the ingredients from such a simple recipe may completely ruin it. This is why people assume that vegan pancakes are tricky to pull off.

However, that is not the case. Now, while there’s lots of recipes and you can have wholemeal flour, use egg replacer, make a ‘flax egg’, etc, we’ve found that flour, oat milk and oil, as it turns out, have exactly the same result when mixed together as the traditional mostly non-vegan ingredients.

This recipe is for a crepe style pancake which we prefer to the ‘American’ fluffy kind. The quantity of milk is variable, as with all pancake recipes, but you’re aiming for a slightly looser mixture, which will be easier to handle.

Ingredients

220g of plain flour
680ml of oat milk, maybe more to loosen
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp of vegetable oil, (or other neutral-flavoured oil) plus extra to cook the pancakes

Method

1. Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually pour in the oat milk, whisking as you go until you get a smooth batter.

2. Add the oil and whisk until smooth and combined.

3. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add a fine coating of the batter to the bottom and tilt the pan so it spreads out into a nice circle (aiming for full pan coverage)

4. Wait for a few minutes while the batter firms up – when all the wobbly softness has gone, you can use a spatula under an edge to loosen it from the pan and see how its coming along underneath. Once golden on the underside, flip it!

You can use the traditional flamboyant ‘out of the pan and in to the air’ pan flip if you’re brave enough, or if you’re like me and that usually leads to pancakes on the hob, ceiling, floor, dogs head, etc, then a ‘spatula assisted turn over’ flip may be a better option.

5. Continue cooking until the underside is also golden.

6. Move onto a plate to keep warm while you cook the rest. (Or snaffle them quick so your plate is empty before the next one is ready – a la The Godwin House style). Enjoy!

To serve: dust with icing sugar, sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice, spread with jam, drizzle with vegan chocolate spread, add whipped cream and fresh berries, whatever takes your fancy!

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’tis the season to eat vegan chocolate truffles!

chocolate

These decadent and rich truffles have a chocolate ganache centre, perfect for an indulgent treat at Christmas. Making them is also great fun if you want a Christmassy activity to do with the children. You can choose your toppings based on what you like, we love coconut so we made coconut covered ones and plain cocoa powder rolled ones, but you could use chopped hazelnuts, or sprinkles or dip them in melted chocolate for a truffle with a hard shell and a soft centre.

It’s a super easy recipe with only two ingredients, the actual baking time is very little,most of the time is just allowing them to set.

Ingredients

  • 300g Vegan Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • 240ml Vegan Cream (We use Elmlea Plant, but you could use coconut cream or soya cream if you prefer)

Topping Ideas:

  • Chocolate Shavings
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
  • Desiccated Coconut
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Dipped in Melted Chocolate

Method

  1. Break up the chocolate for the chocolate ganache and place into a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the cream to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate pieces
  3. Leave to sit for around a minute to melt, then mix it into a chocolate sauce.
  4. Place into the fridge to set. This will take a few hours (2-3 hours, you’ll know it’s set when you stick a knife into it and it’s solid all the way down).
  5. When set, use a spoon to scoop out even amounts of the ganache and drop it into your chosen topping, then roll it into a ball with your hands. Place the truffles onto a parchment lined baking tray or a silicone sheet.
  6. Return to the fridge for the chocolate to set and enjoy!

These will last a week if you keep them in the fridge (well not in our house they won’t, but maybe in your house chocolate lasts a week)

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Christmas Cookie Bars

These cookie bars are a Christmas staple in our house and have been for years. The cinnamon makes the house smell all festive and you know it’s not long until the big day!

My mum and I would make them but instead of cutting the tray bake in to bars we would use biscuits cutters to cut out Christmas shapes to make them even more festive and so we could give them as gifts (it was totally not so we could sit on the sofa watching Christmas TV and scoffing a bowl of all the offcuts of cookie left behind by cutting out shapes)

This year I’ve made them with my toddler and we’ve adapted the recipe to be vegan and it’s also soya and nut free. Her opinion on them was that they were “yum yum”.

So here’s what you need:

Ingredients

  • 270g vegan baking spread
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 160g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp egg replacer and 4tbsp water ( you could make 2 flax ‘eggs’ if you prefer
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 380g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 110g rolled oats
  • 220g raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  2. Put the butter and both sugars in a bowl and cream together.
  3. Add the egg replacer mix, mixing well.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and oats to a separate bowl, and mix well.
  6. Then combine the dry mix with the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.
  7. Stir in the raisins until evenly distributed.
  8. Put the mix in a traybake tin, if it’s too thick and sticky thin with a little milk first (we use oat) .
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. It will depend on the size of tin you used as to how thick your bake is, so check regularly to make sure it’s not burning.
  10. Once they are cooled you can take them out the tin as they are easier to cut in to bars when cool. (Or you can cut in to Christmas shapes to give them as gifts and then so you don’t waste anything eat the leftover bits like we did!)

Notes: You can do steps 2-6 altogether if using a food mixer as the ‘all in one method’ just don’t use a mixer for the raisins as we want to keep them whole so you get large juicy raisins in the bars.