One Old Bed Sheet = Less Plastic Packaging

If you have an old sheet and a pair of scissors, you’ve got the tools you need to reduce the amount of plastic packaging you use in your kitchen and bathroom!

cut up old sheet (2)

This was an old bed sheet. It was a well-loved sheet, passed on to me by my first roommate in Cairo 15 years ago. She had inherited it from a friend who had left Egypt the year before. It was a lovely sheet – so soft and comfortable – and we enjoyed it as a bed sheet for years. Eventually it ripped, but I still refused to throw it out. I used it as a dust cover on the many storage boxes in my house (I have no cupboards to speak of). And then I read a suggestion in Beth Terry’s book How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. She recommends cutting up old sheets to use as paper towels in the kitchen. This, of course, eliminates the need to purchase paper towels packaged in plastic. So I grabbed my scissors and cut this old sheet into squares – some large, some small. You may be amazed at the variety of uses you can get out of one old sheet. Here’s how we use them in our house:

    • As a replacement for facial tissue, I use the small squares as handkerchiefs.

    • As a replacement for cotton swabs, I use the sheet to clean out my ears.

    • As a replacement for paper kitchen towels, I use the larger squares to:

      • drain oil from fried food

      • dry homemade pasta on

      • dry washed salad greens

      • wipe up spills

    • As a replacement for plastic wrap, I dampen the cloth squares and use them to wrap dough in as it rests.

One old bet sheet has gone a long way in my house! And has seriously reduced the amount of plastic I use. I no longer buy kitchen towels (in plastic packaging) or plastic wrap.

There are many other creative and practical ways to reuse and repurpose old sheets – from making yarn to dresses to rugs. This list of 20 Ways to Reuse Old Bed Sheets is a good place to start if you’re looking for ideas.

Have you repurposed old bed sheets? Do you have any tips to share? What other uses are there around the house for cut-up old bed sheets?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

* This post was originally published here on Plastic Free Tuesday. *

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Perfect for Christmas: Swedish Sourdough Bread

Have you made your sourdough starter yet? Annemieke, from Plastic-Free Tuesday, joins us again with more sourdough recipes. This time for Swedish bread. A perfect holiday treat!


I love sourdough products! Sourdough has such a rich flavor. Last month I shared with you a recipe for delicious pancakes (highly recommended!). This time I want to introduce you to one of my favorite sourdough breads. The recipe comes from a Swedish cookbook. Ingredients include walnuts and apple, which makes it a perfect bread for Christmas breakfast/brunch or as a starter/side dish for Christmas dinner.

Ingredients for two loafs of bread:

  • 150 milliliter (rye) sourdough starter – click here to learn make your own
  • 1100 milliliter whole-wheat flour
  • at least 200 milliliter lukewarm water (23-26 degrees Celsius)
  • 150 milliliter pearl barley (or barley)
  • 100 milliliter raisins
  • 75 milliliter coarsely chopped walnuts

  • 50 milliliter deciliter wheat bran
  • another 375 milliliter water
  • 1 apple
  • 0.5 tablespoon salt

For plastic-free wheat bran (rough or fine and enriched), raisins, barley, and walnuts you can buy them from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. You can purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s.

Baking the bread in three stages (over 24+ hours)

Step 1

In the morning right after getting up or in the evening before going to bed, pour the rye sourdough starter in a large bowl. Add the whole-wheat flour and the lukewarm water. Knead the dough for about five minutes. I use a Bosch MUM kitchen machine for this. Of course you can also use your hands. Make sure to spread some flour over your hands and the dough so that the dough is less sticky. In the end, the dough should form a nice round ball that does not stick to your hands. If the dough keeps falling apart, add some extra water (lukewarm) until the dough sticks together and forms a ball.

Take the dough out of the bowl. Spread some flour at the bottom of the bowl. This helps prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. Put the dough back in the bowl. Put a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for 24 hours, at room temperature.

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Step 2, twelve hours after kneading the dough

Take another bowl or pot. Put the pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran in it. Boil 375 milliliter water and pour this in the bowl. Blend together using a big spoon. Let rest for 12 hours.

Step 3, 24 hours after kneading the dough

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Turn on the oven (250 degrees Celsius). Add the mix of pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran to the dough.

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Rasp or grate (coarsely) a washed apple (don’t peel the apple!). Add it to the dough. Add also half a tablespoon of salt.

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Knead the dough again. Use a kitchen machine if you have one or if you can borrow one. Use your hands if you don’t have a kitchen machine. It takes a little longer, but it is doable and a nice workout. Be sure to pour some flour over your hands and a little bit on the dough so that it does not stick to your hands.

Knead until the dough is well mixed. This time the final result is not a nice round ball (as after step 1), but a sticky mess. Put parchment paper in two bread loaf pans. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the two pans. Place the pans in the oven (lower part of the oven). Decrease the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius.

Take the bread out of the oven after 50 minutes. Let cool down a little while and then take the bread out of the pans. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Wrap the bread in a clean kitchen towel.

The shelf life of sourdough bread is longer than regular bread. As opposed to regular bread, sourdough bread matures and becomes tastier over time.

Being Dutch, I enjoy eating this bread with peanut butter or apple syrup. But I imagine it tastes excellent with goat cheese or something else too.

Merry Christmas and bon appétit!

Plastic-free, healthy, and tasty: Home-made sourdough pancakes

Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday is back! This time she shares with us a recipe for sourdough pancakes.


Eating without buying or throwing away any plastic is easy and fun! Just Do-It-Yourself! #DIY! Home-made food is usually also healthier and more delicious than eating out or taking away. And it saves money.

Last month I shared with you how to make your own plastic-free sourdough starter. It takes about a week before the starter is alive and kicking. Your starter is ready to be used for baking if it is bubbling vigorously. Sometimes, my starter is so alive that it escapes the jar!

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Initially, I started to experiment with sourdough when I was looking for a plastic-free alternative to baking powder. The baking powder I used for my carrot cake muffins came in plastic and I wanted to get rid of it. On the internet I read that baking powder can be replaced with sourdough in combination with baking soda. In many parts of the world, the latter comes in cardboard boxes.

To keep the sourdough starter alive, I stir daily with a clean, wooden spoon. Every second day, I add new flour and some water (23-26 degrees Celsius/73.4-78.8 F) in a 1:1 ratio. Every week, I feed my starter a big meal. I empty almost the entire jar. I leave only about 1 deciliter in the jar. I then add about three times as much flour and lukewarm water (again, in a 1:1 ratio) and stir. This kind of big meals makes that the pH drops. This makes it easier for the bacteria to multiply.

It would be a waste to throw away the sourdough that I take out of the jar. So instead, I follow the instructions of Sandor Katz to use this sourdough to bake pancakes. It’s easy and super delicious. Just note that because this recipe involves fermentation, it is a two-step process. In the morning (or evening) you prepare the dough, in the evening (or next morning) you can eat the pancakes.

Ingredients

3 deciliter sourdough starter

4 deciliter flour (I use whole-wheat flour)

4 deciliter water (23-26 degrees Celsius or 73.4-78.8 F)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 bell pepper (I prefer a green one)

coconut oil, butter or any other kind of oil

2 eggs

salt

1 tablespoon peanut butter

For plastic-free flour in Dahab, you can buy your flour from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. The shop carries all purpose and semolina flour. You can also purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s. Remember to bring your own bag or container and you can buy the onion, garlic, bell pepper, butter, and eggs without plastic packaging. Look for local peanut butter brand AHEF which comes in a glass jar.

Step 1.

In the morning (before you go to work) or in the evening (before you go to bed), transfer 3 deciliter sourdough starter from the jar in a bowl (preferably plastic-free) or pot. Add 4 deciliter of flour. Add the lukewarm (23-26 degrees Celsius) water. Blend everything until the dough is smooth. Put a clean kitchen towel on top and leave it to rest for at least a few hours so that it can ferment. After about 10-12 hours, there will be bubbles in the dough.

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Step 2

Usually I blend the sourdough starter, flour, and water in the morning and leave it to ferment the whole day until I come back from work in the evening. Once the dough is ready for baking, chop the onion and mince (or chop) the garlic. Cut the bell pepper into small pieces.

Pour some oil in a frying pan. Fry the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. In the meanwhile, add the 2 eggs, some salt, and the tablespoon peanut butter to the dough. Blend until smooth. Add the fried veggies too and blend again.

Heat some oil in the frying pan. Pour some dough into the frying pan. I prefer small and relatively thin pancakes (because they turn out nicest this way), so I do not fill the entire pan. I only use a little bit of dough for each pancake. Make sure you move the frying pan around so that the dough is spread out. You don’t want thick pancakes, because that means risking that the outside is done but the inside is not.

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Wait until the upper side has turned dry. Then, carefully flip the pancake. Once both sides are golden brown, the pancake is ready.

This recipe will make about 10 pancakes.

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The pancakes are still very delicious the next day if kept refrigerated. They are delicious served with peanut butter, vegetable based spread, and/or avocado.

This is a recipe based on the instructions of Sandor Katz in his book “The Art of Fermentation” (page 236).

Bon appetite!

Popcorn: A Perfect (almost) Plastic-free Snack

We all have our own preferences when it comes to the snacks we love. Popcorn is one of my favorites, satisfying my craving for salty crunchiness. It’s also a great alternative to all the snacks available on the market. You know, all those snacks packaged in plastic – potato chips, nuts, energy bars, cookies, and cakes. Besides the issue of the plastic packaging, the nutritional value of these “foods” is also questionable. I’m not a big fan of snacks on most days, so it is easy for me to REFUSE these packaged snacks. When I do feel the need for a snack, one of the foods I reach for is popcorn.

If you bring your own bag, you can purchase popcorn completely plastic-free from the bulk bags at 1,000 Items (Alf Sunf) in Assalah Square. This past weekend, I paid LE 10 for a kilo of popcorn. Make sure you buy from the bag that says “POPCORN” because corn feed for chickens is also available.

popcorn in bulk

Bring your own bag or reuse a plastic one you already have.

To pop the popcorn on my stove, I cover the bottom of a pan with about a tablespoon of cold vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter). I then pour the kernels in, just enough to make one layer.

The oil, unfortunately, comes in a plastic bottle so when I purchase oil I always buy the largest bottle possible. (Crystal Sunflower Oil, 3 Liters) This at least reduces the amount of plastic that will need to be recycled. 

oil

Plastic-Saving Tip: Buy the largest bottle available.

The ghee comes in a glass jar that can be reused or recycled, but it does have a small amount of plastic on the lid. I prefer the ghee not only because it’s less plastic, but it’s tastier too!

ghee

Less plastic and better tasting – ghee

I cover the pan and put in on medium heat. As the oil heats, I shake the pan gently every once in awhile to make sure all kernels are covered evenly in oil. I continue to do this as the kernels pop. Once the popping has stopped, I remove the pan from the stove and pour the popcorn into a large bowl, sprinkle some salt on top, and start munching. I don’t measure anything so if you need more precise instructions, read these.

popped

What is your favorite snack food? Does it come packaged in plastic? Do you make it yourself? Do you have any recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Bake your own!

In my last post I wrote about bringing your own bag to the bakery to buy baked goods. But our local bakeries don’t carry all the varieties of bread I want. So, I bake my own! Making your own food is a theme that will come up often here on Don’t Mess with Dahab because it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce waste. Plus, it’s often tastier and more nutritious.

One of my favorite breads – tortillas – are produced locally by King M, but of course they come packaged in plastic. I used to buy these when I lived in Cairo but they weren’t available in Dahab when I moved here years ago. And maybe they still aren’t. I don’t know because I’ve been making my own for so long now I haven’t searched for them. 

tortillas

I use this recipe from Homesick Texan, using half all-purpose flour (purchased in bulk in my own bag) and half whole wheat (purchased in a paper sack). It’s a very simple recipe. These tortillas are perfect for burritos! Yum.

bean burritos

 

And although you can often purchase crackers from the bakery in your own bag, they are not always available so I have started to bake my own using this recipe as a starting point. I’ve been putting a homemade dukkah mix on mine, but you can create whatever type of crackers you are craving!

crackers

Are there any baked goods you make yourself instead of purchasing them? Do you have favorite recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle