Earth Day 2018

We don’t typically go all out for Earth Day -- Every day is Earth Day, ya dig? However, since we’re retuning the blog and putting ourselves back out there, we thought we’d share a list of the top items and services we employ to keep us aligned with the earth. One huge part of sustainability is usability (like, are we going to have the energy to keep up that practice long term?), so we’re always down for services that make being more ecologically sustainable easy in the long run. (These things are listed in no particular order and the list is by no means exhaustive - there are a LOT of ways to be sustainable!)

So, let's dig in! First off, seven things we love that are available nationally (and internationally, in some cases):

 Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

1. Who Gives a Crap: Sorry, not sorry, to start this in the toilet, but toilet paper is a huge drain on resources, especially when folks use first use paper to wipe their bums. Who Gives a Crap’s recycled paper is BPA free and all their packaging is plastic free. 50% of all their profits go to build toilets for folks that don’t have them. The TP is decently soft and they are looking at developing a tube free option. (If you use that link, you'll get $10 off your first order!)

2. Spaghetti Scrubs: We just wrote a sweet review of these babies. They now use 100% cotton backing, so if you compost, you can send them back into the soil when they’re spent. (Apparently these are currently sold out pretty much everywhere, but will be available again around mid-May.)

3. Bike Sharing: There’ve been so many times that we’ve said we’d bike somewhere if only our bikes were fixed. Excuses are hard to come up with when there are dozens of bikes on every street corner. Bike sharing has come to many cities recently, and in Durham we have three different dock-less bike rental companies competing for the market: Ofo, Spin and LimeBike. Rachel has used Ofo so far to bike to work and loves it. (We do have our own bikes, but they’re both badly in-need of tune-ups. We’re planning to head to the local bike co-op soon so we can learn how to fix them up ourselves!)

4. Shopping at the Farmers’ Market/Co-op: This isn’t a specific service or product, but choosing to shop locally and put our food dollars back into the local economy is something we do intentionally every week. We know how hard it is to be a farmer (Rachel does especially, from first-hand experience) and so we want to make sure as much of that money as possible goes directly into their hands. Also, the closer to harvest you get the veggies, the better they taste. Being a member of a co-op means you are a decision maker and eligible for member discounts, and at some co-ops you might even get a dividend.

5. Kootsacs: We have been working hard to reduce our plastic usage because plastics are not too kind to the Earth, from start to finish. Kootsacs are made out of ripstop nylon or silk and used for getting bulk food from grocery stores. We have three of the silk variety and they last forever and are completely washable. We have put everything in them from sugar to nuts to lentils to spices. They recover completely in the wash and are ready for another trip to the store. Kristl always has at least one in her bag in case she finds herself at the store unexpectedly!

 Aren't those whales so cute?!

Aren't those whales so cute?!

6. Use your own reusable utensils and straws: More than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils and move than 500 million plastic straws are thrown away in America EVERY DAY. One of the easiest ways to help the planet is to refuse single use cutlery and plastic straws - and if you want to go even greener, bring your own! We use this cutlery holder from Don’t Waste Durham (available for sale at that link or at a variety of events around Durham, if you’re local) - it comes with bamboo cutlery, a stainless steel straw + straw cleaner, and a cloth napkin, all in one easy-to-transport cloth roll. They sell them on their website (and at local events, as well). Prior to using the cutlery holder, Kristl kept two metal forks in her bag at all times, but the cutlery holder is much more useful (and Kristl’s way less likely to stab herself on tines when she reaches into her bag now).

7. Reusable menstrual products: We promised a post on these years ago and haven’t yet delivered, but it’s coming! We both use Lunapads and Kristl also uses a menstrual cup (GladRags is also a well-known reusable pad company). While reusable menstrual products can cost more than disposables up front, they are significantly cheaper in the long run. Our Lunapads have been going strong for well over 5 years (probably even longer) and a few of them are just now starting to show signs of wear. Most recently Kristl used the Lunette menstrual cup and loved it, but the silicone showed some cracks after 3 years of use, so she decided to try out the Stem Cup from Tulip Cup this time around. The Diva Cup is the most well-known cup around, but there are a ton of different cups out there - and a number of guides on how to find the best cup for you. We like this recent one from Wirecutter.


Now on to five things we love here in Durham, NC:

 Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

1. GreenToGo: In Durham, a local non-profit called Don’t Waste Durham sponsors a reusable take out container program called GreenToGo. If you follow us on instagram (@SustainablyQ) you will have seen a couple of pictures of us with the telltale hard plastic green clamshells (like the one on the right). We just learned yesterday that GreenToGo is expanding into pizza boxes, soup containers, and more. The yearly membership is $25 for one box (they also have multi-box plans) and they just keep adding restaurants. No more styrofoam! If you live in Durham and ever get take out, please get GreenToGo!

2. CompostNow: Just this week we got our first bucket from CompostNow in Durham and we couldn’t be more excited. CompostNow is a door-to-door compost pick up service with weekly or biweekly service. We eat a lot of veggies and eggs, plus this service accepts meat scraps and bones and soiled cardboard (e.g. dirty pizza boxes). We’ll be able to divert a huge amount of waste out of our garbage and our recycling. Compost NOW and forever. (P.S. You bank the compost you produce and can use it for your own personal garden or choose to donate it to community growers, isn’t that amazing?)

3. The Scrap Exchange: “The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.” The essential awesomeness of The Scrap Exchange is how they accept and sort and sell an amazing collection of almost anything you could imagine and everything you couldn’t. They’ve got scrap wood, fabric, paper, test tubes, bottle tops, CD’s, sewing machine cases, tubes, picture frames - and that’s barely scraping the surface. It’s the epitome of one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. You really have to experience it to understand it. If you have any clutter whatsoever in your home, the patrons of The Scrap Exchange will find a way repurpose most of it. They also recently opened a thrift store as well, for more “traditional” second-hand goods.

 We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

4. UrbaneTerrain and The Zen Succulent: We are still settling into our apartment in Durham, and being plant loving people, we have gradually been adding living things to the space. The Zen Succulent and Urbane Terrain are two separate local plant shops that are owned and run by people who are not cis white men and we're always looking for ways we can support local businesses run by marginalized folks (we haven't asked specifically how they each identify, though, so aren't including that information here). We are so excited to add beautiful plants to our home from each of these businesses and we hope they (the plants and the businesses) continue to thrive.

5. Fillaree - A zero-waste business that makes refillable, sustainable soap and cleaning products! Small batch, handmade, organic, vegan, synthetic-free - it doesn’t get much better than that. They also make body butters and bath soaks. There are refill stations available at a number of places in Durham and they also recently opened a storefront. More exciting, they’ve just launched a mail order subscription service, so you can use their refillable products anywhere you live!

There you have it! A roundup of 12 products and services we love that help us live more sustainably. What are your top tips for sustainable living? Let us know in the comments. :)

Skincare FAQ

Hi friends! I got a lot of questions about my skincare routine, so here's a quick FAQ about the products and techniques I use. I have answered the questions to the best of my knowledge and ability. Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist or scientist. I cannot and guarantee any specific results if you switch to this skincare routine.

Baking Soda, Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree, Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild, Mountain Rose Herbs Certified Organic Jojoba Oil
Baking Soda, Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree, Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild, Mountain Rose Herbs Certified Organic Jojoba Oil

SOAP

Q: What is Dr. Bronner's?

A: Dr. Bronner's is a castille soap, which means it has a vegetable oil base. The soaps are made of water, saponified vegetable oils, tocopherol (vitamin E), citric acid (I believe this is to adjust the pH of the soap), and essential oils. The soaps are Fair Trade Certified, use certified organic ingredients, and don't test on animals. They don't use synthetic ingredients and the packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recycled material. All-in-all, it's an easily available soap that I feel totally comfortable purchasing.

Q: What type of Dr. Bronner's do you use?

A: I started using the Tea Tree Castille Soap because tea tree is antibacterial and incredibly helpful at controlling the bad bacteria that can perpetuate breakouts. I used a 1:1 dilution when I was having severe breakouts, but as my skin has regulated I've sometimes found it to be drying (especially in the winter). Now I dilute it 1:2 or 1:3 and find it less drying. If you don't have severe acne, I really like the Lavender Castille Soap as well. Lavender is great at calming and soothing the skin. I find that when I'm having a lot of redness the lavender helps to reduce it. When I finish up my current bottle of Tea Tree, I will be switching to their Baby Mild Castille Soap. We bought a gallon of Baby Mild to use in a variety of ways around the house and it just makes sense to streamline. Plus, because Baby Mild is unscented, I can add Tea Tree or Lavender essential oil on my own and mix up little batches depending on what my skin needs.

I recommend starting with the 2 oz. bottle of whichever soap you want to try. The small bottle has a very small hole in the lid, small enough to only use one drop at a time. One drop is more than enough to wash your whole face. If you like it, then you can buy a larger bottle and dilute it. Plus, you'll have the small bottle to take with you when you travel!

Q: Where can I buy Dr. Bronner's?

A: As far as national stores go, the products are available at Target and Whole Foods. Health/Natural Food stores tend to stock them as well. You can also buy the products through their online store or find a store near you with their store locator. And, of course, they're available on Amazon, which I've used in the links above.

Q: Why do you use the liquid instead of the bar soap?

A: I've never actually tried the bar soap on my face. I started with the liquid because I liked the customizability of it. I've been able to use it as strong or diluted as I needed and therefore never saw the need to try the bar soap.

OIL

Q: Why jojoba oil?

A: Jojoba oil (pronounced "ho-ho-ba") isn't actually an oil, it is a wax ester. It's structure is very similar to that of skin sebum, so it integrates easily. When you use it as a moisturizer it actually absorbs into the skin, it doesn't sit on top of the skin like other oils do. It not only moisturizes, but also lets the skin breathe. It even helps break down clogged sebum that can contribute to acne! It also helps with skin elasticity and in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also is very shelf stable and unlikely to cause skin irritation. 

Q: Where can I buy jojoba oil?

I really like the Certified Organic Jojoba Oil from Mountain Rose Herbs. As a company they strive to offer sustainable, organic products and I feel really good about supporting them. That being said, I realize that buying organic and sustainable is just not in the cards for some people and that's totally okay. I've also used the 100% Pure Jojoba Oil from Trader Joe's, which is more affordable. You can also find it at Whole Foods, GNC, Walgreens, or Amazon.

Q: What about _______ oil?

A lot of you have asked about using other oils on your skin. Now, I haven't tried all of the other oil options on my skin, but the ones I have tried I haven't liked nearly as much as jojoba. I'm assuming this is because jojoba is not actually an oil (as mentioned above) and so it interacts differently with your skin.

When I tried coconut oil (organic, virgin, unrefined) I found it to be drying. In my research I've found a number of people complaining of similar issues, but not good reason for it other than as an oil it sits on top of the skin instead of actually providing moisture, so if your skin is already dry it will trap that dryness. I know some people swear by coconut oil for their skin, so I think it just depends on the person. If you love coconut oil, but are confused about what kind to buy, this post at Food Renegade breaks it down pretty well.

I tried castor oil for a while as well and found that it absolutely did not agree with my skin. My pores were clogged, my skin was excessively oily, and I broke out terribly. Castor oil is an extremely thick oil and I didn't find that it absorbed into my skin well at all.

I've used olive oil in a pinch and also found it to be a little greasy. That being said, if I'm somewhere and I've forgotten my skin oil and the only options are a packaged skin cream or olive oil (or coconut oil or some other more natural oil - not canola or vegetable), I'll absolutely choose the oil 100% of the time.

If you already use an oil on your skin and like the results and want to stick with it, please do. I actually now use a homemade blend of oils on my skin (a jojoba base with additional oils mixed in), which I'll get to in detail in a future post.

TONER & EXFOLIANT

Q: What is a toner?

A: According to Wikipedia, a toner is a skincare item used to "cleanse the skin and shrink the appearance of pores." People with oily skin are frequently told to use an astringent toner to help dry up the oil. I've found this to actually be worse for my skin. The more you dry up the oil, the more oil your skin produces, the more oil there is to clog up the pores, so on and so forth. I used a toner diligently for years and finally phased out of it a few years back. I haven't missed it a bit and am happy to have one less packaged item to purchase for my skin care routine.

Q: What is witch hazel?

Witch hazel is an astringent and antioxidant, which means it can be helpful with acne. When I do use a toner/astringent, I use alcohol-free witch hazel. You have to be very careful reading labels, as a number of witch hazel products have alcohol, which is incredibly drying. I use Thayer's Lavender Witch Hazel because for a long time it was either that or Rose Petal as far as easily-available alcohol-free toners went, and I strongly dislike the smell of roses. Now it appears that Thayer's makes a Fragrance-Free Unscented Witch Hazel, which would be my choice should I need to purchase it again.

Q: Where can I buy Thayer's Witch Hazel?

A: I used to purchase it at Walgreens, but the Thayer's Store Locator isn't showing that as an option anymore. I think Target, Whole Foods, GNC, and other stores like that should carry it. You can also order it from their website or from Amazon.

Q: Why should I exfoliate?

A: This is another thing that skincare companies tell you is absolutely necessary for healthy skin. They want you to think that you should either manually or chemically exfoliate the dead skin cells from your face on a regular basis. Do I think exfoliation is helpful? Yes, in certain circumstances. When my pores were really clogged, exfoliation helped with that. I wouldn't recommend exfoliating if you have active, open breakouts. Exfoliating in that situation can be incredibly irritating to the skin. I exfoliate probably once every 4-6 weeks, unless I feel my skin is unusually clogged. I tend to exfoliate more if I've been wearing makeup or sunscreen, as I feel that those things tend to cause build-up and clogged pores. So, depending on what you put on your face on a daily basis, you may need more regular exfoliation.

Q: Baking soda? Really?

A: Really. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is naturally-occurring and the powder is very fine, but hard. This makes it a great physical exfoliant. It's better than, say, an apric ot scrub because apricot pieces can have sharp edges that cause microscopic tears in the skin. Those tears can aid the spread of bacteria and breakouts. To exfoliate with baking soda, I usually just pour a little in my hand after washing my face, add a little water, rub it on my face, and then rinse it off. You can also use it anywhere else you may need exfoliating!

MAKEUP

Q: When you do wear makeup, what kind do you use? 

A: This is tough. I try to use as few chemicals on my skin as possible, but I also try to limit purchasing things I don't need or won't use all that often. That being said, I was a makeup collector back in the day. I have a traincase full of stuff from MAC and Sephora. Because I rarely (less than 10 times a year) wear makeup, I personally can't justify buying new, eco-friendly, sustainable, chemical-free makeup. When I wear makeup, I use a powdered mineral foundation that is free of bismuth oxychloride. If you wear or are looking into switching to a mineral foundation, watch out for bismuth oxychloride. It wrecked havoc on my skin and took almost two months to recover after one exposure. Edited (6/21) to add: The foundation I use is discontinued. I'd recommend Everyday Minerals. They have a cheap sample kit you can get to try a variety of products/colors before you order the regular size. If you want a pressed mineral foundation, I like Jane Iredale. When I need new foundation, I'll be ordering from Everyday Minerals.

Q: How do you remove your makeup?

A: Easy! I just take some jojoba oil and massage it into my face. It breaks down the makeup and makes it easy to wash off. If I'm wearing a lot of makeup, I'll massage the oil around my eye area and then wipe it off with a baby wipe and/or cotton swab.

Edited (6/21) to add:

SUNSCREEN

Q: What do you use for sun protection?

A: I'm still searching for sun protection that I can happily suggest. At a friend's recommendation, Rachel and I started taking Astaxanthin (we like Nutrex Hawaii BioAstin) as a supplement. It is a strong antioxidant and studies have shown it helps reduce UVA damage internally. It has not been all that sunny in Chicago, but I can say that neither of us has gotten a sunburn, even on days in which the sun has made an appearance. As far as external sunscreen, I heartily recommend checking out the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide (they also have an app available, which is helpful if you're out shopping for sunscreen and need some info ASAP). We tried the Alba Botanical Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen, which rubbed in well and protected us from the sun, but has some questionable ingredients. We also tried the Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream which was incredibly chunky and difficult to rub in, but Rachel didn't get burnt (and she's pretty pale) and the ingredients are okay across the board. I think I'm more comfortable recommending the Badger, after studying the ingredients in both. Before applying, be sure to squeeze the tube thoroughly with the cap on to make sure the ingredients haven't separated. Both brands are available from Whole Foods and Amazon. Our end goal is to make our own sunscreen, so watch for a post on that sometime this summer (hopefully)!

Edited (7/16)  to add:

BREAKOUTS

Q: What do you do when you breakout? How do you spot treat?

A: Usually if I breakout the pimples are very small and inobtrusive. Occasionally, though, I will get a larger breakout on my jaw area (frequently hormone-related). When that happens, I spot treat with organic tea tree oil. That usually clears it up in a day or two. If I breakout in a larger area than usual, I either add a little tea tree oil to my jojoba oil before moisturizing or I use a topical Chinese herbal formula called Yin Care. Yin Care has many uses, but I really like it as a topical acne medicine because it's relatively gentle (meaning it won't burn or dry your skin), but very effective. To apply it, I get my hands wet (to help dilute the formula) and put a drop on my palm. I rub my hands together and then pat on to my skin and let it dry.

My best advice is to listen to your skin. Pay attention to it. Is it feeling dry? Use a little extra jojoba. Does it feel clogged? Maybe it's time to exfoliate. As with any skincare routine change, your skin may get worse before it gets better. I recommend sticking with it for 4-6 weeks. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!  


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Easy Does It: My Simple Skin Care Routine

This post has been a long time coming, because this is one of the things people ask me about most often.  I will start by telling you my acne story, and then tell you about my personal acne solution. I started breaking out around the age of 9. NINE. I had terrible, red, painful cystic acne for all of my teenage years and into my early twenties. As a teenager I went to the dermatologist weekly to get liquid nitrogen blasted on my face in the hopes that it would clear up my acne. I also got the really big zits injected with steroids for a while, but the steroids had a really unsettling effect on me, so I discontinued that treatment pretty quickly.

Basically I did every treatment recommended by my dermatologist, short of Accutane. In fact, I was on -cycline drugs for so long the roots of my teeth turned blue, something I didn’t discover until I had some teeth removed in my late teens. My oral surgeon asked if I’d been on tetracycline or monocycline for a while and when I asked why, he showed me my teeth and explained that prolonged use can turn the roots blue. That was kind of terrifying to me. It made me realize just how much the meds permeated my entire body - while not even having that great an effect on my skin!

Left-side cystic acne, with flash
Left-side cystic acne, with flash
Left-side cystic acne, with flash
Left-side cystic acne, with flash

I stopped the internal medicines shortly thereafter and decided to really focus on my skincare routine. I started really simple with Cetaphil, but had an allergic reaction in which my skin burned and turned bright red. Cetaphil is a line of products which most doctors recommend as super hypoallergenic, mild, and gentle. This was not going to be easy. Like most teenagers (in Hawaii in the '90s, at least) I went full-blown with Clinique products. It worked for a bit, but then I started having a reaction similar to that I’d had with Cetaphil. So not only did I have incredibly painful cystic acne, I also had extremely sensitized skin. Looking back, I think it’s because of all the internal and external medications I had taken. My skin had no idea how to take care of itself.

I went through a few more skincare lines with varying levels of success - Murad, ProActiv, Origins, Fresh, and others I can’t remember. I went to Boston for college, dropped out of college, started acupuncture school and, still, my acne was out of control. A year into acupuncture school a friend and I took a semester off to go to esthetician school. I figured THAT would be my ticket to beautiful skin. In esthetician school I learned the ins and outs of skin, skincare, and makeup and got facials and skin treatment pretty regularly. I also started using Dermalogica, because that’s what came in our kits for school. My skin got better for a while, but after a little while went right back to being bad again. I tried fancy organic skincare lines like Eminence and Dr. Hauschka only to have similar results.

I moved to Chicago when I was 22 and decided to join my roommates on the South Beach diet. My acne cleared up with the decrease in carb intake, but as soon as I had even a little bit of sugar it came back with a vengeance. I had basically given up and resigned myself to a lifetime of terrible skin.

I haven’t even mentioned all the makeup I wore during this time, trying to “cover up” my terrible skin, as if a layer of foundation could hide the bumpy landscape that was my face. Through the makeup forums online I read about oil cleansing and it sounded promising, so I tried that. No matter what ratio of oils I tried, my skin just felt clogged and dirty. I tried it for a few months, but was never able to get through the adjustment period. That was when I threw up my hands and went bare bones with my skin care. I gave up all skincare lines and went with my gut.

I went through a few incarnations before settling on what I’ve been using for the past few years. Are you ready? You sure? Okay, here goes. I use Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Castille Soap (diluted, 1:3 Dr. Bronner’s to water - though I think I'm going to switch to Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild once I'm done with my current stash of Tea Tree) to wash and I use either organic jojoba oil (usually from Trader Joe's or Mountain Rose Herbs, though I've linked to one on Amazon if that's easier for y'all) or a homemade oil blend to moisturize. That’s it. Even more? I only wash my face once a day. If I’ve gotten really sweaty and/or dirty, I may use Thayers Natural alcohol-free witch hazel as a toner, but I find that I rarely do that anymore (though it is a quick way to clean your face if you’re hiking or camping!). If I feel the need to exfoliate, I use good old Arm & Hammer baking soda. Take a little in your hand, add water to make a paste, and gently scrub it on your skin.

At one point during my “new” skincare routine I started working at Sephora. I got a lot of free product and decided to try some of their fancy skincare lines. Guess what? I reacted to every one. I either broke out or turned bright red or had a burning sensation on my skin. I went back to my simplified routine and my skin normalized within a couple of weeks. Now, this isn’t to say that I’m completely breakout-free. I do get the occasional zit, but usually it’s small and it goes away quickly. If I get an unusually stubborn zit, I will sometimes put a little tea tree oil on it. Even with occasional breakouts my skin is so much better than it used to be.

Right-side, slight breakout
Right-side, slight breakout
Left-side, clear skin
Left-side, clear skin

Now, I rarely wear makeup (we’re talking probably less than 10 times a year) and am 100% comfortable going out in public with a bare face. In fact, I even get complimented on my skin! Listen, I’m not ever going to push my routine on anyone. I know how uncomfortable that is and how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end. I did, however, want to share what worked for me, after trying what seemed like EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT ON THE MARKET. Do what you will with the information. Everyone is different.

The nice things about this “regimen” so to speak is that it is really simple, very inexpensive and it fits swimmingly with a sustainable lifestyle.  Dr. Bronner’s products are organically produced and organic jojoba oil is not hard to find.  The soap is diluted, which makes it last a super long time, and you are only washing once a day, which makes that purchase go even farther.  Certainly, the health of your skin is affected not only by what you put on your skin, but also by how you eat and your stress level. 

As a matter of full disclosure, I do not smoke or drink alcohol or coffee and I eat a diet composed mostly of organic foods. I run my own acupuncture business, so I have a stressful day here and there, but on the whole, my job is pretty low stress.  I also receive acupuncture regularly, which helps to clear out any things that might be waiting around to aid the production of pimples. Regardless, I have recommended this regimen to many of my patients, friends, and Rachel, and most have seen dramatic results.  Rachel went from constant breakouts to only the occasional blemish.  If you are fed up with what the beauty and healthcare industry has to offer in regards to skin care for acne, give this a try, and commit to it for at least four weeks. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

UPDATE 06.21.13: I've compiled a Skincare FAQ post to answer questions that y'all have been sending me. Check it out!


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Avgolemono: Fast, Delicious, Dinner

 Hot, fresh avgolemeno

Hot, fresh avgolemeno

If you are in a hurry and you have eggs, broth, and chicken kickin' around your kitchen, you are a pretty good candidate for Avgolemeno. Avgolemeno is a Greek soup made of lemon, egg, broth, pasta/rice, chicken, and sometimes dill. It is so easy I can't even handle it. We have made it 3 or 4 times and every time it is creamy (without cream!), tangy, and filling. We snagged the recipe from Dinner A Love Story and for the most part didn't mess with it. We did, however, make it more sustainable.

The recipe calls for 4 cups chicken broth. We used our homemade broth, which we mentioned in the Earth Day post. Usually, we have stock on hand. If not, we use Better Than Bullion Organics for our instant broth needs. Better Than Bullion has organic versions of most of its bases, and it is a very tasty stock replacement. In a pinch, you can use water in any recipe that calls for stock.

The other change we made was to substitute sushi rice for orzo. The cooking time is very similar, but we never really have pasta on hand. We do always have rice around. This change also makes this simple soup entirely gluten free. (Do you hear, gluten free friends, this soup is for you!) They call for a 1/4 orzo, but tonight I used 1/2 cup rice to make the soup a little thicker.

Tonight was the first time we used our pastured, organic egg share eggs for this soup. They are smaller eggs because the chickens are still young, so to get proportions right, we ended up adding five eggs instead of three. If you use store bought eggs, or buy local eggs from older chickens, definitely use three. Dill is abundant in the summer and pretty cheap (due to the fact that it is often considered a weed.) We usually think to make this when we have a bit of leftover chicken from an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods. The only thing you probably would not be able to get locally sourced for this soup is the lemon, assuming you're in the Midwest like we are.

The best part, aside from how lovely it tastes, is that it really only takes about 15 minutes. 15 minutes! We are basically lapping Rachel Ray in the race to dinner. Sustainable dinner in less than 20 minutes. Now this would add about a day and a half to cooking time, but I wholeheartedly recommend this with a fresh slice of homemade sourdough (gluten-free friends, you should obviously skip this). Kristl has been whipping up a loaf of bread every other week or so from her homemade sourdough starter, and I know she will be regaling you soon enough with her successes and failures thereof. For now, I will leave you with a picture of her most recent loaf, a part of which nicely accompanied our avgolemeno soup tonight. (Original soup recipe below the gratuitous bread picture.)

Image
Image

Avgolemono (From Dinner A Love Story)

4 cups chicken broth (or stock)

1/4 cup uncooked orzo (rice)

salt and pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons

lemon juice

handful fresh dill (chopped)

shredded rotisserie chicken (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; let simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add dill, salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken, if you so desire, and serve.

Reusable Swiffer Sweeper Cloth Tutorial

Hi friends! Rachel and I are skipping town for a bit, but wanted to get a post in before leaving. We'll be in Hawaii for a week (we know, poor us!), so keep an eye on our Twitter for updates on our trip! I don't know about you, but I tend to go into a major cleaning mode right before a big trip. Usually I wait until the night before I leave, but Rachel is a good influence on me and got me to help her clean on Sunday, a full 3.5 days before our departure. Amazing. I have a Swiffer sweeper which I purchased probably 7 years ago, when I moved into my first Chicago apartment and was not nearly as committed to sustainable living. I've dutifully kept it with me, occasionally buying refills, but usually just letting it sit in a corner. Last year when we were moving out of our condo and into our new apartment, I bought some Swiffer refills to easily clean the floor between showings.

Aside... 1. My goodness, if there is ever a time when sustainability manages to fly out the window, it's during moving. We probably used more disposables that week than we normally do in a year. 2. The refills I bought were Febreeze-scented and gave me a headache every time I got near the box. Seriously. I had to seal the box in plastic to avoid smelling the fumes. I swore that I would make some reusable, fragrance-free Swiffer cloths the next time I needed them.

That brings us to Sunday. We were cleaning and I needed to dust. We were out of Swiffer cloths and I said (yet again), "Dammit, I really need to go get some fleece so I can make more Swiffer things." Rachel went into her room, rustled around a bit, and returned with a spare bit of fleece she had leftover from some previous project. It was perfect!

Navy fleece scrap
Navy fleece scrap

It measured roughly 27.75"x17". I was able to get four perfect cloths and one slightly small cloth out of it with just a square leftover (for which I'm sure I'll find some project or other).

Place the Swiffer to get an adequate size pad
Place the Swiffer to get an adequate size pad

I placed the Swiffer's edge flush with the edge of the fabric, then lined up the yard stick about 1/8" away from the other edge of the Swiffer, and drew a line with a Sharpie. I then moved the Swiffer so the left edge was flush with the line and drew another line. These would be my cut lines.

Lines drawn
Lines drawn

I figured that if I just cut down those lines and then cut the resulting pieces in half, that would suffice, but to make sure, I placed the Swiffer back on the fleece and folded up the edge, to make sure the cloths would be wide enough to tuck into the little holes.

Fold the fleece over to make sure there's enough to grab
Fold the fleece over to make sure there's enough to grab

Success! I cut down the marks I made, then folded the pieces in half and cut down the center. I was able to get one more out of the smaller piece of fleece that ended up on the right, but I'm not 100% convinced it will securely stay on the Swiffer.

Navy blue cloth on Swiffer
Navy blue cloth on Swiffer

I tested out the cloth that night and holy crap did it pick up a lot of dust. I will oh-so-thoughtfully refrain from showing you an "after" picture of the cloth, mainly because I don't want you to know how dusty our house was. I picked off the larger clumps of dust and then rinsed the cloth out in the sink to see how well it cleaned up. Answer? Really freaking well. I think I'll rinse them in the sink after each use and then toss them in the washer for a deeper cleaning when I do towels/rags/rugs/etc.

Navy blue cloth on Swiffer - back
Navy blue cloth on Swiffer - back

So, in a matter of minutes and for a cost of $0 I made 4-5 reusable, fragrance-free Swiffer cloths. I can tell you right now that our house will be a lot less dusty from here on out.

Swiffer Sweeper Cloths

(For my Swiffer, each cloth ends up 10-10.5"x8-8.5", but make sure you measure your Swiffer to be sure of the size you need. Then you can determine how big a piece of fleece you need by how many cloths you want to make.)

1 piece of fleece (the one I used was 27.75"x17")

Sharpie or other way to mark the fleece

Yard stick

Scissors

Quick Broccoli Stem Pickles

Hey there, Rachel here! Today, I'll be sharing a wonderful way to use those broccoli stems you might be otherwise throwing away. Here's to repurposing perfectly good produce!

Growing up, my mother would peel broccoli stems and slice them into a pot of steaming broccoli. We would eat them that way, but I never considered how they might be as pickles. It makes sense though, they are pretty bland but with a little bit of that bitter broccoli flavor; they are crunchy and have a good snap before they are cooked. A pretty good candidate for a pickle.  

Kristl found a nice recipe or two on the internet, but when it was time to make the pickles, we couldn't find the recipe. I just decided to do it by intuition. That's basically always my style. Cooks often make discover the best recipes by making a few mistakes in the kitchen, if you ask me.  If I have the basic idea down, I'm pretty capable of producing something like what I'm aiming at. That's how it went with these lovely pickles.

Pickles Sitting in Brine
Pickles Sitting in Brine

I started by peeling and cutting the broccoli stems into sticks. We had a bunch of leftover broccoli stems from an ambitious Easter dinner, so we had quite a pile (2ish cups). You could, however make this recipe to work with 3-4 stems. Proportionally, it should work out regardless. After peeling and cutting, I tossed the broccoli stems into a bowl and covered with water and white vinegar in a 3-1 ratio. I just poured in water to cover the stems and then glugged 2-3 glugs of vinegar in. I put in 3 Tbsp fresh dill and 1 Tbsp mustard seeds. I also added 2-3 tsp whey for flavor. This is totally optional if you don't have whey kicking around. You are also welcome to add additional pickling spices and garlic. We didn't really have a whole lot else just sitting around (I had used all the garlic in puttanesca sauce earlier that day.) Also, you can do these pickles with a bread and butter or sweet pickle flavor, but I don't mess with sweet pickles. All dill all the time over here.

I let this mixture sit for a couple hours, but only because I had to go somewhere and didn't have time to finish immediately. Regardless, I don't imagine letting it set hurt the flavor at all. When I was able to return to the project, I added two large pinches of grey sea salt and 3-4 turns of the pepper grinder. I stirred the salt in and tasted the mixture to see if it needed more salt.  

I drained the liquid into a small saucepan and boiled to blend the flavors and get the brine ready for the fridge. Hot liquid helps set the pickles, at least that's the feeling I get. I'm not a pickling scientist. The boiling killed the whey, so my pickles won't ferment, but they will still have that slightly lemony flavor from the whey. I left the brine to boil for 10-15 minutes while I packed the broccoli sticks into jars. I also made sure to get a good amount of dill in each jar, because I love dill. I used pint size canning jars. Yum.

Just waiting for lids!
Just waiting for lids!

I took the brine off the heat and poured it over the pickles in the jars. I added an even amount to each jar and made sure that all the pickles were covered completely. Because they were only three small jars, I did not wait for them to be completely cool before popping them in the fridge. If you are putting a lot of warm items in the fridge, it can raise the temperature of your fridge to an unhealthy level, so you should let them cool. But three small jars seemed safe enough.  

Most recipes said the pickles would be ready to eat in around 24 hours, but we waited for 48, just to be sure. (I think probably they would have been pretty tasty right away, but honestly, I like my pickles pretty tart.)

Empty Pickle Jar
Empty Pickle Jar

We had a jar with dinner tonight.  Albeit, they were small jars, but yes, we did eat the whole jar.  The pickles were crisp, and they taste just like dill pickles.  And all those broccoli stems that might have been wasted otherwise have become delicious! Also, definitely an improvement on the steamed broccoli stems of my youth.