Banana “Ice Cream” (Plastic-free, of course!)

For those of us wanting to REDUCE the amount of plastic waste we produce, finding plastic-free alternatives to snack foods can sometimes be challenging. The easiest way, of course, is to MAKE YOUR OWN. And to make our snacks 100% plastic-free, we must purchase the ingredients without plastic packaging.

One of my favorite summer snacks is ice cream. Since the locally-produced-and-packaged ice cream is not very tasty in my opinion, it it easy for me to REFUSE. Instead, when I am craving something cool and creamy, I head to Nirvana Indian Restaurant for their tasty homemade ice cream. As far as a take-away snack, I think this is a great option – you can order the ice cream in a cone and it’s plastic-free!

But is it truly a 100% plastic-free snack? What plastic packaging is thrown away by the restaurant when they make this ice-cream? Which milk are they using and how is it packaged?

I often make my own yogurt at home and will mix it with fruit and honey to make my own frozen yogurt. But making my own yogurt involves buying milk in Tetra Paks, which are not recycled here in Dahab, so I began to wonder how I could make a frozen snack without any plastic waste. I found the answer in bananas!

It was news to me, but it probably won’t surprise any vegans out there – bananas make a deliciously creamy frozen dessert!

banana ice cream

my banana “ice-cream”

Basically, you chop and freeze bananas and then blend or process them until they are smooth and creamy. You can refreeze the mix if you want or eat it straight away. I followed this recipe and added a dash of nutmeg and a few drops of vanilla oil to the bananas. (I purchased both the nutmeg and vanilla oil in bulk in my own containers so there was no plastic packaging. I did not use a bag to purchase the bananas, just carried them in my hands.) The possibilities, though, are endless when it comes to other flavors and ingredients you want to add. For my next batch, I plan on adding peanut butter.

The only drawback to making this plastic-free “ice-cream” is, of course, the fact that you have to have a decent quality blender or food processor. I don’t have the best blender, but it did the job. I think next time I will not freeze the bananas overnight before blending; I’ll just freeze them for a couple of hours instead. If you don’t have your own blending or processing device, ask a friend who does. Sharing these kitchen appliances is also good for the environment!

What are you waiting for? Buy a bunch of bananas and have fun experimenting with different flavored “ice creams”!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

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Quenching your Thirst without the Plastic

 

Next week's forecast from Accuweather.com

Next week’s forecast from Accuweather.com

As you can tell from next week’s weather forecast, summer is heating up here in Dahab! With these temperatures, it is very important for all of us, but especially children, to keep hydrated. Drinking water is essential, of course, but it does get kind of boring. For some, water is just too tasteless to drink enough of it throughout the day. So we turn to other refreshments – juices, sodas, sport drinks. Unfortunately, these all come in plastic bottles. And while we may now be able to recycle those bottles, let’s not forget the health risks associated with plastic. It leaks toxic chemicals into our food and drink. (Plus, recycling is not the solution to our global plastic pollution problem and soda is toxic all on it’s own!)

I have never been a soda drinker but used to enjoy a cold tonic water and lemon in the summer. I also love juice. But I gave up both bottled tonic water and juice in Tetra Paks several years ago when I started out on this journey to reduce my plastic waste. This was not a hardship for me as there are several plastic-free options for refreshments that are healthier, tastier, and less expensive.

Option #1: In Egypt, shops selling fresh juice can be found on almost every street and we have several here in Dahab. Take advantage of these! You can stop by the shops and enjoy a glass right there. (Try to remember to tell the juice man that you do NOT need a straw.) Many of the shops also sell fresh juice in reused 1 ½ L plastic water bottles, which is better than a new plastic bottle. If hygiene or time is a concern, bring your own bottle and ask them to fill it with your favorite juice. Nadim and I have done this often with ‘asab (sugar cane juice).

fresh juice

Option #2: Make your own juice! Visit the fruit and veggie stalls and choose your favorite summer fruits. Remember to bring your own reusable bag. My favorite mix at the moment is watermelon and lemon. I’m lucky enough to have a blender but it’s not necessary. You can also use a squeezer or handheld juice press, which are easy to buy here in Dahab.

Option #3: If you’re not a fan of juice, you can also make other drinks. Karkade is another of my summer favorites. Bringing your own bag and buying the loose karkade from the bulk bags means you can avoid all plastic.

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Loose karkade bought from bulk bags

Search the Internet for recipes for making your own sodas and other summer refreshments. Get creative! We have many local desert herbs growing in our garden and my husband often makes infusions out of these, which we then chill. Our favorites are shay al-jebel (Pulicaria incisa), dhafrah (Iphiona scabra), and a Saudi mint similar to habaq (Menta longifolia).

If you’re going to be spending the day out and about, fill a reusable bottle with your favorite drink and carry it with you.

What are some of your favorite plastic-free summer drinks? Do you have any tasty recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

What’s in my bag?

veggie bag

WHAT’S IN MY BAG?!

1 kilo of pomegranates, 1 kilo of oranges, 1/2 kilo of dates, 1/2 kilo of carrots, 1/2 kilo of cucumbers, 1 kilo of onions, 1 head of lettuce.

ZERO PLASTIC!

What can *you* fit inside one reusable bag?

For tips on using your own reusable bags at the green grocers here in Dahab, read Bags, Bags, Everywhere! You can also find out where to purchase cotton bags in Dahab

Bags, bags, everywhere!

Use cotton bags to buy produce, too.

Use cotton bags to buy produce, too.

How many of us remembered to carry our reusable bags this past week? It takes practice, doesn’t it? Maybe you still need to find or purchase some bags. Maybe you have bags to use but still need to find a way to remember to bring them with you to the store. Don’t give up! And give yourself a high five if you remembered, even once, to REFUSE a disposable plastic bag. 🙂

We are offered plastic bags at many other places besides the supermarkets, so we have to remember to bring reusable bags not only to the grocery store but also, for example, to the green grocer – where most of us do our shopping for fruits and vegetables. And this is where A LOT of plastic bags are used here in Dahab, especially when customers use a different plastic bag for each veggie.

Most of us select and bag the veggies ourselves so there is no battle involved with the grocer in having to REFUSE the plastic bags. We just have to bring our own and not reach automatically for the plastic bags hanging on the wall.

TIP: If you have plastic bags at home – or acquire new plastic bags – you can REUSE them. Shake or rinse them out and bring them back to the green grocer with you next time.

TIP: If you forget your reusable bags, try to use less plastic bags by using a single bag for as many vegetables as you can. It’s okay to put your tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag. The eggplant won’t mind riding along with the oranges. If there’s still room in your bag, go ahead and put the next veggie on top. We always put the heavier fruits and veggies in our bag first so they are on the bottom and not squashing anything underneath.

People have asked me how I deal with weighing the fruits and veggies. To be honest, when we first started using our cotton bags, we would put the veggies in the bag before we weighed them and I did not mind the extra weight being added to the total. What’s an extra 50 grams when we’re paying only LE 3 for a kilo of tomatoes? Especially if you’re weighing on a non-digital scale that doesn’t give you an exact weight anyway. Nowadays, more of the green grocers do have digital scales so you can measure a more precise amount. So now, my hubby (who usually selects and weighs our veggies since he’s the one who cooks) carries the produce in his hands to the scale, weighs it, and then puts them in the cotton bag. (My job, if I’m with him, is to stand there with the bag!) If this is too difficult (which it definitely can be if you are buying large quantities or are by yourself), then you have two choices: weigh the veggies with the bag and don’t worry about paying for the added grams OR weigh your bag when it’s empty and then subtract this from the total weight of the bag and veggies. So if your bag weighs 50 grams and you want to purchase a half-kilo of cucumbers, fill the bag with cucumbers until the total weight is 550 grams. Then simply report to the grocer that you have a ½ kilo of cucumbers.

TIP: When reporting to the green grocer what you have bagged, be prepared to show him what is in your cotton bags, especially if you’ve managed to put more than one item in a bag. Since the cotton bags aren’t see-through like the plastic, sometimes the green grocer wants to check that what you are telling him is what is actually in the bag. Don’t be offended. Just open your bag so he can peek inside.

TIP: Take your cotton bags to a green grocer or deli that has digital scales. Ask to weigh your bag and then write – directly on the bag, in permanent marker – how much the bag weighs. That way you won’t forget and you won’t have to weigh it each time. This is especially useful if you have many reusable bags, all of different sizes and weights. And something I need to remember to do with my own variety of cotton bags!

We shop mostly in and around Is-souq it-tujari in Asala and have never encountered a grocer who had problems with us using our own cotton bags. Like with supermarkets, if you visit the same green grocer frequently enough, he’ll get to know you and your plastic-free habits.

Do you already use cotton or reusable bags for your fruits and veggies? If so, have you ever shopped somewhere that had a problem with it? What tips do you have for other Dahabians wanting to switch to cotton bags for produce? Where else do you use your cotton bags for shopping?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle