Santa Steam Train at the Ribble Steam Railway

Two festive posts in a row!? Yep, we can’t get enough of it, especially with Kitty fully understanding the magic of Christmas. She is being exceptionally sweet when asking Father Christmas for gifts. The simplicity of her requests make us very proud and I’m certain that Father Christmas will have listened and will bring her the 3 things she has asked for.

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Santa’s Grotto at Oswadtwistle Mills

Since it’s finally December I feel safe enough to post this! Last Sunday we took Kitty to Oswaldtwistle Mills to see Santa.

Last year visiting Santa was an exciting thought for Kitty, that is until she came face to face with him. Then is was a different story. Santa can be quite terrifying to someone who is just over 2. Santa usually provides a helper because he can’t be in too many places at once, and the helper is usually a youngish big bloke with a bad beard. Kitty knows what a beard looks like, she’s never seen her daddy without a beard. And the poor helper has usually had a number of hours sat in his chair upsetting and frightening kids so his enthusiasm is understandably waning.

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Breakfast Potatoes

Yeah, sounds weird right? If you are a UK reader breakfast potatoes tend to be a popular American dish. The potatoes are cubed and basically roasted/fried with peppers and seasoning like Paprika. I always find them a bit dry and dull.

So, using our recipe for the Simple Potato Stew we make sure we make a big enough batch for the morning after.

Then we simply add sliced mushrooms, an extra chopped chili and a can of chopped tomatoes. Heat through long enough for the mushrooms to be cooked and hey presto! It’s a tasty, carby, tingly, easy, energising breakfast or brunch to set you up for the day. Don’t fear the carbs!

Serve with coffee of course…or champagne.

Breakfast Spuds

Simple Tasty Potato Stew

We’ve probably all done it, gazed into the fridge just to see pretty boring stuff looking back at us. Slightly relaxed vegetables, potatoes growing roots, wrinkled peppers and those chilies you bought in a multi bag.

The solution is simple. Chop it all up and prepare a very tasty stew.

Ingredients – 

  • Potatoes – Sweet, white, new, whatever you have. Mix it up. Chop the spuds into Oxo Cube sized pieces. What on Earth is an Oxo Cube? It’s a stock cube measuring about 1cm. What’s a cm?…a bit of an inch
  • Pepper – Red, yellow, orange, green, whatever you have. 1 or 2 chopped up, de-seeded. This will provide a nice subtle sweetness
  • Got a carrot? Chop that up however you want, leave the skin on, it’s sweet and nutritious
  • Small white onion or a couple of shallots – opt for the onion…much easier to grapple with. Chopped/sliced
  • Cavolo Nero (black kale) or any other sort of green. Cut up however you like.
  • Sun dried tomatoes – I love them so I put in about 15. Chop em up
  • 1 chili, any colour. Chopped. How hot you want it depends on the numbers/type of chili
  • Garlic – 1 clove, chopped/minced
  • Pinch of each – dried basil, thyme, salt (optional), ground black pepper
  • A splash of that open Sauvignon Blanc your mate brought round for the last party you had. A couple of tablespoons
  • 1tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Coriander (Cilantro) leaves for the final touches

Optional – 

  • Capers, about 1 and a half tsp. Black olives if you’re that way inclined.
  • Chives if you have some growing in the garden. Chop, and sprinkle at the end.

Potato Stew

Step 1 – Saute the vegetables in oil or whatever you use to cook – potatoes, peppers, onion, greens, coriander stalks if you wish and then garlic for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Careful not to let it stick.

Step 2 – Add the tomatoes and any optional ingredients. Cook for a few minutes.

Step 3 – Deglaze the pan with the wine and balsamic vinegar, scrape the bottom of the pan to get that lovely goodness mixed in.

Step 4 – Add the herbs, salt and pepper and add boiling water. Don’t go mad but make sure most of the ingredients are covered. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked.

Step 5 – Dish it up and add the coriander. Eat with a spoon.

This dish is more filling than you may realise, but if you are extra hungry go ahead and dip some bread into it.

Anytime 3 Bean Salad

This is a simple 3 bean salad recipe which can be kept in the fridge for a few days. It can be constantly nibbled at or used as a salad as part of a full dinner. It’s quick, cheap, tasty and super healthy.

Ingredients – 

  • 3 cans of cooked beans/pulses e.g. Cannellini/farver/butter/borlotti/kidney
  • Beetroot – cooked and not pickled. 4 – 6
  • Tomatoes – 1 punnet – any variety of small/baby tomatoes
  • Garlic. 2 – 4 chopped/minced cloves depending on how smelly/healthy you want to be!
  • Fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley or coriander – half a bunch of leaves – chopped
  • 2 green chilies – de-seeded and chopped small
  • Dried Oregano – 1 teaspoon
  • Red Wine Vinegar – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and Pepper – up to you, but a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt
  • Oil – Olive or Rape Seed – Optional, about 2 tablespoons

Step 1 – choose your beans – 3 tins/cans.

This is up to you, I like to go with 1 can of Cannellini Beans, 1 can of Butter Beans, 1 can of Farver Beans or Borlotti Beans. I find this combo looks nice and works well together as sizes and textures. (Use your preferred beans).

Drain the beans and rinse them if you wish. Put them in a mixing bowl with the oil, red wine vinegar, Oregano, salt and pepper.

Step 2 – chop the beetroot

Purple fingers time. Chop the beetroot into cubes about the size of a stock cube. Mix it in with the beans

Step 3 – Chop the tomatoes

Chop the tomatoes round the equator and mix them in with the beans and beetroot.

Step 4 – Add the rest

Chop the parsley/coriander and chop and de-seed the chilies, mix this in with the rest of the salad.

And that’s it! Simple, cheap, fast and tasty. It will keep for a few days in the fridge for snacks, and works perfectly well as a side dish or a main course.

Time to Science…

Benefits of Beans

Benefits of Beetroot

Benefits of Garlic

Benefits of Tomatoes

Eco-Exchange Week 14

Microbeads to plastic free products

This week we look at microbeads, something which is in a lot of products we use every day, products which end up washed down the sink and into our water systems. I’ll start with a definition: 

“Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than five millimeters in their largest dimension. They are most frequently made of polyethylene but can be of other petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene”

Yep that’s right tiny bits of non degradable plastic. That can’t be good I thought. It’s not. Here’s why; according to Greenpeace, about 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year and not an insignificant portion of this is microbeads. Marine biologist Professor Richard Thompson states 680 tonnes of mircrobeads are used in the UK alone every year. That’s substantially more than all of the litter we pick up on our beaches in voluntary beach cleans each year. 
Plastic which is then ingested by marine life such as whales, sea turtles and sea birds. One study suggested 90% of seabirds have plastic in their digestive system! Microbeads are too small to be filtered by our sewage systems so they find their way into our ocean. Too small to be filtered, difficult to clean up and adding to the pollution. 

Credit: Greenpeace

So what are they in? It turns out quite a lot. I had a look around our house and found we’ve been inadvertently adding to plastic pollution. Our exfoliating face wash? Tick. Toothpaste? Tick. My anti-aging facecream that doesn’t work? Tick. A detailed list of the offenders can be found here.

So how do we avoid them? Anything that claims to exfoliate should raise suspicious, in addition to some toothpastes and wrinkle cream. I think the theory is to fill your crevices with plastic so you’ll look more youthful! No thanks. Many detergents contain them too so if you have done so already consider a change to soap nut shells. When you’re out buying products look for this logo:


Thankfully authorities are seeing sense and are working towards banning the manufacture of products containing microbeads. The UK is set to have banned them by July 2018. That will be a ban on manufacturing products containing microbeads and a ban on sale of such products including imports. Yippee!!

That is a year off however  so we don’t want another 680 tonnes of microbeads entering UK seas in the interim do we? Have a look and what you’ve got in the house and bin the offending items! 

K

Eco-Exchange Week 13

Regular bulbs to LED bulbs 

When considering this week’s topic I thought, “I’m pretty sure I already have energy saving light bulbs.” I then had a look around the house to confirm. Yes some of the bulbs are LED but actually there’s a few cheeky conventional bulbs snuck in. The spot lights in the kitchen, the trendy industrial lamp in the study and a couple of other lights were the culprits. 

So a hand full of bulbs? What difference would that make on the grand scheme of things? Well an LED bulb uses around 75% less energy than a conventional bulb and lasts around 30 times longer (i.e. 30 less bulbs need to be made) and thus saves enough CO2 over its 25 year life to be able to cover the CO2 emissions of a short plane journey. So that handful of bulbs in our house quickly starts to look significant when you think of their collective carbon footprint.

75% less energy to run effectively means an extra day of running for free every three days when compared to a conventional bulb. How much money this saves is completely dependant on how long you have your lights on for, your energy supplier and how many lights you have on. One resource suggested running a single bulb for 5 hours a day would cost about £10 per year thus switching to and LED bulb would save around £7.50 per year per bulb. 

Of course it’s important to switch lights off you don’t need, use lower lightingwhere possible   and make  the most of natural light in the summer months to limit energy use.

We’ve made the switch to LED bulbs. Have we convinced you?

K

Eco-Exchange Week 12

New household products to recycled products

Whilst making a journey towards greener living we’ve found that we reflect on everything we buy. From picking up loose vegetable rather than plastic ones to changing the products we use which you can see across previous articles. We’ve had lovey weather recntly which mean we’ve had the luxury of drying washing outside (I know I’m a loser to be excited about this). Most of the pegs we had were either rusty, broken or a bit rotten in the case of the wooden ones. Again with my new green head on I researched into what I could buy.

I found these ecoForce pegs on ebay. Yes they are made from plastic which is not biodegradable but they are made from 93% recycled plastic. That’s less plastic going into landfill and interestingly manufacturing them from recycled rather than “virgin” plastic uses 70% less energy. They’re also made without a spring so last longer, thus less waste. They are also 100% recyclable and made in the UK. Buying local is always good when it comes to green credentials.

There are many other recycled products we have switched to such as ecoLeaf toilet paper, it turns out loo roll is responsible for mass deforestation and is one of the most wasteful products modern homes use, see more here. We’ve also changed to a recycled kitchen roll but are increasingly using reusable washable cotton cloths to reduce waste further. We use recycled sponges from ecoForce which manufactures sponge from off-cuts which would otherwise go to landfill. Ideally we’d like to find something which is biodegradable but thus far have found nothing in the UK that is fully biodegradable (w e will keep looking).

I appreciate I’ve just talked about the very non-glamorous world of loo roll, dish sponges and clothes pegs but these are all things we ALL use every day. It’s our everyday products we need to change to make big differences to the environment over time.

Do you have any household products that are green-minded? Have you made any eco-exchanges after reading our blogs? Do get in touch via our contacts page or in the comments below.

K

Eco-Exchange week 11

Long showers to timed showers

An average shower uses 7.75 litres per minute with power showers using 17 litres per minute. According to waterwise the average shower is about 8 minutes. This is about accurate for us. When I thought about it I realised I spend a fair bit of time dawdling in the shower. I really don’t need 8 minutes so I wanted to shorten this and searched for a solution. 

I bought this handy easy to use timer from the Amnesty international online shop.

£7.95 bargain

 

I know, I didn’t know they had a shop either until writing this article. They’ve got loads of ethical bits and bobs on there, well worth a look. Anyway I digress, the timer is really simple- you hold the respective button down for how many minutes you wish to shower and it beeps after that time.

It turns out with the pressure of knowing it’s going to beep I really get a move on.  My morning  shower is done in three minutes, and that includes hair conditioning. That’s 5 minutes less for Rick and I each day which is a staggering saving of 77.5L per day!

There are other things that could be done if you don’t fancy shortening your shower such as reducing the flow with a Waterwise shower head. The water is aerated thus they claim you don’t notice the reduced volume of water and could save 4L water per minute. 

So there we have it short and sweet just like our showers!

K

Coconut Porridge

A nice simple, nutritious and delicious breakfast recipe. This makes 4 huge portions if you’re greedy like us or 6-8 normal sized bowl fulls. We make a batch to last a couple of days. It reheats fine in the microwave.

Ingredients:

150g porridge oats

40g milled linseed (optional)

1 can coconut milk

350-450mls water depending on preferred consistency

1tsp cinnamon

2tsp vanilla essence

2 bananas (optional)

Method:

Slick everything into a pan, slice the bananas and put them in too. Cook low on the hob stirring frequently. It’s done after 5 minutes!

Sprinkle brown sugar or maple syrup over the top and add your favourite fruit. We like ours with strawberry compote. This is simple: strawberries with a dash of water simmered on a low heat for a few minutes!

Easy-peasy and scrummy.

Enjoy

K