Things my blogging partner Mandy says.... (Hint: they're always good!)

Oh Alabama....A spent grain cracker courtesy of Continental Bakery and Good People Brewing Co.

Oh Alabama....A spent grain cracker courtesy of Continental Bakery and Good People Brewing Co.

My blogging partner contributed a post to my blog, referring to her as my blogging partner is such an honor. Mandy has been writing for quite some time and is very advanced, I’ve learned/am learning an enormous amount from her so I was flattered when she offered to post. During our weekly sessions we cover a gamut of topics in addition to blogging, I highly recommend partnering with another to advance your learning with any topic. So, as we’ve been volleying around our business ideas, aspirations, and next steps of course we’ve talked about what moves us.

One of the desired results of my message is to achieve sustainability in my world and help others do the same.

I aim to encourage people to look at it as a viable option, even though it may feel daunting at first. Mandy noticed early on I would scoop up our recyclable food containers and take them home with me to rinse out and drop into my bin. I couldn’t bear knowing they would go into the trash then travel straight to the landfill, with that small effort I kept those containers from adding to a bigger problem. Since Mandy lived in an apartment recycling was not available to her at the time.

Our conversation eventually shifted toward food and the waste in that industry, so much of what is going to the landfill is potentially avoidable if we take steps to use as much of the produce as possible.

When I say “Saving the World One Stalk at a Time” I live and breathe it as much as possible, and surprisingly it’s really not that hard.

 

Here is Mandy’s contribution, thanks Mandy!

Before I met Mindy, the idea of a sustainable life seemed overwhelming and infeasible. I thought this even before I'd tried it. I'd see women on social media post pictures sipping their green smoothies---so many green smoothies that I started to wonder if they ate anything else---and think to myself, "That's great for them, but that's not me." 

 

Mindy made me see things differently. She showed me that creating a healthy, sustainable life isn't about giving up all the foods you love, going cold turkey on your current lifestyle, or being a green smoothie goddess on social media. It's about taking small steps, being mindful of your consumption, and creating habits one day at a time. 

 

Mindy first inspired me to take a closer look at the waste I was creating in my daily life. While listening to Mindy discuss sustainability one day, she mentioned using the entire piece of kale---leaves, stalk, and all.

Before that, it had never occurred to me to do anything with the kale stalk beyond tossing it in the trash.

I'd use the leaves for salad, then toss out the stalk since I live in an apartment and don't have a composter or a garden. 

Mindy encouraged me to use the unwanted parts of the vegetable to make vegetable stock. She suggested I put the veggie waste into a freezer bag to keep everything fresh, then when the bag was full, make my stock. I was surprised at how quickly the bag filled up! Over the course of a week and a half, I filled the bag with carrot greens, garlic nubs, beet stalks, collard greens, cabbage, asparagus butts, and onion ends in addition to the kale stalk. 

 When the bag was full, I emptied it into the Crock-Pot, filled it with water and let it steam on low overnight. Because the carrot greens and collards have naturally occurring sodium, I was able to add low-sodium spices that actually add flavor instead of just salt. The next day I strained the veggie parts out and used the stock to make soup.

The stock was so much more savory and robust than any of the watered down store-bought stuff I'd tried before. Mindy had officially made me a veggie stock convert!

 

Not only did the vegetable stock taste exceptionally good, it saved me money because I wasn't buying veggie stock at the grocery store. And it wasn't difficult! The only thing I had to do was remember to put veggie scraps in my freezer bag---easy. 

 

This epiphany made me consider other ways I might be more mindful about waste. My boyfriend is a home brew hobbyist, so he brews batches of beer every couple of weeks. Remembering that beer is essentially liquid bread, I Googled ways that I might be able to re-purpose the spent grains. As it happens, spent grains (especially those used in making darker beers like porters and stouts) make excellent bread. And we happened to have an electric bread maker. 

With a little flour, a little milk, a little honey, a little yeast, the spent grains, and a handful of other low cost ingredients, our bread maker set about making us fresh bread. The homely smell of baking bread filled the apartment and made us salivate in anticipation. The final product did not disappoint---this was some of the most wholesome bread we'd ever tasted, and it came right from our own kitchen. And with minimal effort thanks to the handy dandy break maker. 

 

Being the practical man he is, my partner calculated that the total cost of all the ingredients (taking into account the volume used of each) to make that loaf of bread was about 77 cents. And the loaf lasts us about a week.

 

We've since started keeping a bag of spent grains in the freezer---right beside the bag of veggie parts---so we have grains on hand to make bread whenever we like.  

Though these are relatively small changes to our lifestyle, they've greatly added to the quality of our meals. We can feel good because they taste good, we know exactly what ingredients are in them, we're making the best use of materials we already have, they're healthier than things we'd be buying at the supermarket, we're keeping perfectly usable things out of a landfill, and it's easy. What's not to love? 

Living a sustainable life is a journey, not something that can be achieved overnight.

 

Like any positive lifestyle change, it requires thinking about things a little differently than you have before.

 

But when the payoff is so great and there's nothing to lose, it seems illogical not to try. I haven't suddenly become a green smoothie goddess, but I've made changes that my partner and I feel good about; changes that have enriched our lives a little more, especially in the kitchen. And who knows. Maybe one day I'll even start putting kale in my smoothies. 

 

Next Steps

Ahhh, my beloved salt! I can't and won't live without it.