Pretty Up Your Pasta Sauce: How to Turn an Ugly Jar Into a Pretty Jar in 8 Easy Steps.

In the past, every time I opened a glass jar of something I would always think, I could totally use this for something! But then, said jar would sit on the counter for weeks before I finally tossed it in the recycle bin. If only I could get this stupid label off it! If only there was a resource of information at my fingertips that would tell me how to do such a thing!

Turns out removing labels from a pasta sauce jar is easier than I thought (Thank you, Google!). And now that I know how to do it, I can’t stop. The more I remove labels, the more uses I find for my clean beautiful glass jars: Vases for quick flower drop-offs (no returns necessary!). A paper/binder-clip holder for my desk. An attractive receptacle for my bulk-food purchases. A container for soup delivery for a sick friend. Pasta sauce jar with a label? Not so pretty. But a clean glass jar? Girl (or boy), please!

Here’s how to easily remove a pesky label from your jars, so you can become an obsessive label-removing freak like me!

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and stir in about 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
  2. Completely submerge jar in water for a few hours.
  3. Remove jar from baking soda/water. The label may automatically come off. Most the time it will require step 4.
  4. Create a paste of equal parts vegetable oil and baking soda (you really probably only need about 1/2 teaspoon each). Spread it all over the label (I just use my fingers, but you could probably use a pastry brush if you’re fancy).
  5. Let the pasty substance sit on the jar for an hour or so.
  6. Scrub it with your scrubby of choice while under warm running water. I find a wire scrubby works best. (Don’t worry, you won’t have to scrub too hard.)
  7. Hand wash your new beautiful jar with dish soap and water.
  8. Pat yourself on the back. Look how crafty you are!
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Share some of that crockpot yogurt you’re making!

 

Meatless Monday: Gardein Meatless Meatballs and Pasta Sauce.

Have you tried the Gardein Meatless Meatballs? I’ve tried other veggie meatballs and so far these are my faves. And they have them at the Target right by our house!

With15 grams of protein per serving, there’s something about the spiciness (maybe fennel?) that tricks your mouth into thinking it’s a real honest to goodness freakin’ meatball!

Simmer them up in some marinara (I like this Victoria stuff but you do you). The rest of my family likes a few Banza noodles with it (more protein!), but I’m usually a straight “meat”balls-and-sauce girl. Add a salad. And BAM! you’ve got yourself a delicious meatless Monday meal.

I couldn’t get much easier than this. Unless, I guess if you had a robot simmer them for you. But that would be silly.

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Skip the Tub: How to Make Crockpot Yogurt in 7 Simple Steps.

We’re big yogurt eaters in my family and for a long time I was buying two big tubs a week. I hated seeing all of that plastic come into our house week after week (even though it got recycled). I remembered hearing that you could make yogurt in a crockpot, so I decided to give it a whirl.

After watching approximately 8 billion YouTube videos, and reading an equal number of blog posts on the subject matter, I attempted my first batch. “Attempted” being the key word; it was a big fail. The happy lady in the video made it look so easy!?!? She SAID it was SO EASY?!?!? After reading approximately 3 million more blogs (and comments!), I realized that my crockpot temperature at “low” was not the same as the YouTuber’s crockpot temperature at low. I borrowed my neighbor’s meat thermometer to check the temps (using water) and it turned out mine needed to be on high for the first step, not low. I tried again—and success! YUM! You guys, homemade yogurt is soooooo yummy! And no poopy plastic tubs (unless you decide to store yours in a plastic tub that you saved from your last store-bought yogurt like I do).

Here’s how I made my crockpot yogurt. (First things first: I have the Rival® Crock Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker, Model #3351. It’s pretty old, but still works like a charm. Don’t have a slow cooker? I can almost guarantee you’ll find one at the local thrift shop or neighborhood garage sale.)

  1. Pour 1/2 gal milk in crockpot (we’re trying to save plastic here so buy whatever brand that comes in cardboard containers. I like Sweet Meadows Farms).
  2. Turn the crockpot on HIGH for 3 hours. Temp should get somewhere between 170-190 degrees, so it’s a good idea to calibrate with water and a meat (or candy) thermometer ahead of time to make sure that’s what your crockpot is at HIGH.
  3. Turn off and unplug crockpot and let sit for 2 hours. After two hours, temp should be 110-ish degrees.
  4. Add 1/4 cup or so of starter. The starter is just any plain yogurt. You can start with a little container you get from the store. Just make sure it’s plain and says that it contains live active cultures (I used Chobani). Once you make your first batch of yogurt, you can set aside 1/4 cup to use as a starter for your next batch. One more thing about starter: I usually set mine by the crockpot at step #3, so it gets to room temperature by the time I have to add it. I have no idea if this is necessary or why I started doing that. Maybe I read it in one of the 8 million blog posts I read.
  5. Swaddle your crockpot like a little baby. I use a heavier large bath towel and just completely wrap the crockpot (while in the base–make sure it’s unplugged!) and let it sit 8-12 hours.
  6. Strain your yogurt to desired thickness. I place a steamer on top of a bowl then put a large square I cut from an old pillowcase or t-shirt over/in the steamer. Then I spoon the yogurt into that. You can let it sit in the fridge like that anywhere from one to four hours. The longer it strains, the thicker the yogurt. The bowl will be filled with whey that you can use in cooking or smoothies if you’re ambitious (I put it on our dog’s food sometimes too). If you forget about your yogurt in the fridge and it gets over-strained and thicker than you want it, you can always stir some whey back in to thin it out.
  7. Serve with toppings of choice. My favorite is a tiny touch of honey, sliced bananas and chopped walnuts. YUM!

That’s it! Once you make crockpot yogurt a few times, it’s super easy—pinky swear! It mostly just sits so the hardest part is timing it so you’re around the few times you need to pay attention to it.

You should try it. (Bonus: It makes a great gift too. And you can get rid of some of those glass jars you’ve got cluttering your kitchen cupboards. I mean, not that I would know anything about THAT.)

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Don’t Have a Cow: 3 Meatless Monday Motivators

I grew up Catholic and remember how it felt like such a giant sacrifice to not eat meat on Fridays. OMG, we have to have FISH (which, HELLO, is technically meat)?!?!? CHEESE PIZZA?!?!? THE HORROR!!!

As I got older, I started enjoying meat less. Honestly, at the beginning, it wasn’t even about compassion for the animals or protecting the earth, meat just kinda grossed me out.

But then I started learning what meat production (especially factory farming) does to our planet and became more aware about how we’re raising and treating the animals that feed us, and I decided I would try to do better. Here are a few convincing motivators for eating more plants and less meat:

  1. This video:

2. Carbon footprints:

Beef = 26.61 kg

Lamb = 25.58 kg

Pork = 5.77 kg

Chicken = 3.65 kg

Fish = 3.49 kg

Eggs = 3.46 kg

Fruits & Veggies (from heated greenhouse) = 2.13 kg

Tree Nuts = 1.2 kg

Field Grown Veggies = .37 kg

(The moral?: If you want to lessen your environmental impact and still eat meat, choose fish or chicken.)

3. This book.

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First of all, if you haven’t read any of Jonathan Safron Foer’s books (like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or Everything Is Illuminated), I highly recommend. I was already a Safran Foer fan before Eating Animals.

Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Eating Animals is difficult to read at times. I often teared up about how awful we humans are reading passage after passage to my husband before falling asleep at night (in hindsight, not the best bedtime reading). Yes, I have read articles and seen documentaries about factory farming. But none of them moved me the way this book did. This book is what pushed me over the edge to a mostly plant-based diet (still hanging on to eggs, dairy, fish and the occasional piece of chicken). It should be required reading for everyone. Not a reader? Maybe you’d prefer it in movie form instead (I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m guessing it can’t be as good as then book).

You don’t have to go completely vegan overnight. If you’re a meat lover, try starting with Meatless Monday. Or, maybe commit to buying ethically farmed beef and pork (look for words like “pasture-raised or grass fed.” (Yes, it costs a lot more but that might help you eat less!)

You can make a difference with just little steps. WE can make a difference.

Skip the Plastic: 4 Tips to Help You Start Your Cloth Bag Habit.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Often when I’m using my reusable bags, a cashier or shopper will say to me, “I wish I’d remember my cloth bags when I went shopping.”

Been there. Said that.

As with any positive behavior, you’re trying to turn into habit, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while to find your cloth-bag groove. But I know you will. And soon you’ll be toting your cloth bag like some sort of cloth bag rock star. Need a little nudge? Try these simple tricks:

  1. Keep Them Where You’ll See Them – Are your cloth bags buried in the closet? Unless you’re shopping on the closet floor, this is not helpful. You want to make them as visible and convenient to grab as possible. I keep my bags on a hook by our back door. Some people like to keep them in their car (I tried that for a while but I kept forgetting to put them back in the car after I emptied them). Got a plan to go grocery shopping in the morning? Put them by your wallet/phone/purse the night before.
  2. Add it to Your List – If you’re a list maker, put “BRING BAGS” on the top of your grocery list. You may not check it before heading out the door, but the very act of writing it down (or putting it in your phone) will help you remember.
  3. Find Ones You Love – Let’s face it, you can have 800 reusable bags and all the good intention to use them, but if they all suck, you’ll leave them at home, so find ones you like. For general grocery shopping, I like a good boxy bag that stands up on its own for easy bagging. If I’m walking to the store to just pick up a few things, I prefer a looser one with a long shoulder strap.
  4. Treat Yo’ Self – Set up a little reward system. If you remember your bags, buy yourself a little treat while you’re at the store. No bags, no treat! (Side note: Some argue that treats don’t help form habits. If they don’t motivate you, consider it a treat for the planet.) If your store offers a bag discount, ask for it in change and collect it in a jar at home—those nickels add up!

 

If you don’t think shopping with reusable cloth bags will make an iota of difference, consider this: When others see you do it, they might be inspired to do it too. And what if so many people start doing it, the grocery store stops offering plastic bags all together (applause, applause!

If you forget your bag, don’t beat yourself up (just pick paper over plastic) and give it some time. Before you know it, you’ll have this habit in the bag (sorry).

 

DIY Packaging: De-Mystifying the Bulk Food Aisle in 3 Easy Steps.

aroma-aromatic-assortment-531446For the longest time I would avoid the bulk food aisle. Sure it looked cool, but it just seemed too much trouble. I already hate shopping. Now I have to remember to bring my own packaging?!?

But little by little, I slowly started to get the hang of it. and now I’m a bulk food master and you can be too in just three simple steps:

  1. Start Small – If you’re intimidated by the bulk food aisle like I was, start by buying just one thing in bulk. For me it was almonds and cashews. My foray into bulk food included using the store’s plastic bags which really defeats the purpose, but you have to start somewhere! Before long, I got the hang of scooping the nuts out without spilling them all over the place and writing the bin number on the twisty tie and I was ready for more!
  2. Pick the Right Packaging – Before you leave the house, consider what you’ll be buying in bulk. For things that aren’t wrapped like nuts, dried fruit, rolled oats, etc., you’ll want a light plastic container or even better, because they’re less bulky, a cloth bag like this. These mesh ones are great for produce, but not so great for food you can’t wash. For things like rolled oats, I just bring the original cardboard rolled oats packaging I got before I switched to bulk—the same thing I store them in. Otherwise, old yogurt, cottage cheese or hummus containers work great (PRO TIP: Write the container weight on them with a permanent marker. It saves you re-weighing when you’re shopping at a store that deducts the container weight at checkout). I honestly think it was all of the pre-planning of packaging that kept me from bulk shopping for so long. But now it really takes barely any time at all to go through my shopping list and grab the necessary containers before heading out the door. Don’t believe me? Try this tip I got from the great Gretchen Rubin: If you don’t want to do a small task because you think it takes too much time, use a stop watch to actually see how long it takes you to do it. You’ll be amazed to see how little time planning which containers you need to bring with you for bulk shopping really takes. And once you do it a few times, it takes even less time. Things I now buy in bulk: Cashews. Almonds. Walnuts. Rolled oats. Popcorn. Dried fruit. Oat bran. Honey. Maple Syrup. Sometimes special flours (but those can get kinda messy).
  3. Just Do It – Here’s how: Scoop the quantity you need. Write the bin number on the twisty. Place it in your shopping cart. BAM! When I need to buy just a little of something for a recipe (say, coconut), I’ve been known to bring a measuring cup with me so I don’t buy more than I need (world’s worst eye-baller here). Some grocery stores even have a scale that will print out a label for you. Just plug in your bin number, weigh your item and out comes the label that you can just stick on your container! I felt like a big dork the first few times I perused the bulk aisle and didn’t know quite what to do. But trust me, it will become habit in no time. And think of all the plastic you’ll avoid! Hooray!