Erin boyle is a minimalist with a penchant for a good story and a soft spot for an aged patina. A lifestyle blog, written by Erin Boyle, celebrating a practical and purposeful approach to a simple, sustainable life.
Waste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a vegetarian recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here.
This week I made Carrie’s White Bean and Escarole Soup, which makes very smart use of Parmesan rinds for extra flavor. This soup is extremely delicious. With just a little bit of time, it develops into something creamy and rich, but decidedly not heavy. It’s the perfect soup for enjoying while riding out an early spring snow storm. (Spoken from experience.)
I once heard that every time someone composts a Parm rind, an angel loses its wings.
Maybe not, but definitely each time a rind thuds against a trash can, some Parmesan maker in Italy disappears a little, kind of like Michael J Fox in Back-to-the-Future when he is, er… dating his mom.
Ok, fine. When you toss a perfectly good Parm rind, probably nothing really happens other than you waste a seriously valuable food treasure. But… isn’t that bad enough?
Aside from the fact that Parmigiano-Reggiano is the undisputed mostly-agreed-upon King of Cheeses, it’s also kind of a splurge. It’s not like they’re giving it away—a good deal on the real stuff is likely to set you back $19 or $20/lb. Bear with me for some simple math: If you paid $10 for your last hunk of cheese, and the weighty rind accounts for 20% of the price, and you throw it out, you’re depositing almost $2 in the trash. And $2 isn’t a fortune, but multiply that $2 times all the Parm you buy in your life and suddenly it’s like, you could have flown to Italy and back with the money you discarded. Not to mention, I just spied my local Whole Foods selling pint containers of rinds for $8.99/lb! I don’t think they could get away with that if Parm rinds were worthless!
Beyond the fact that it’s not cost-effective to toss it, I think there’s a popular misconception that maybe cheese rinds aren’t edible? Some of them definitely aren’t, ie those made of cloth or hard red wax. Definitely don’t throw them in a soup unless you love red broth. But, most other rinds are good-to-go! Just think of them as the hardened, roughed up version of the actual cheese itself. Yes, some of them are stinky. And, sometimes they’re moldy. Or not that pleasing to the eye. And… also, sometimes they have a gritty, unpleasant texture. I’ll concede, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But most cheese rinds are edible, flavor bombs. Particularly, the hardened edges of your Parm. In fact, in my house, finding the melted Parm rind in your bowl is like winning a prize or finding the trinket in a King Cake at Mardi Gras. Winner, winner, Parm rind dinner!
Long story, kind-of short—saving up your Parm rinds for a rainy day is just about the easiest way I can imagine for you to take steps towards curbing food waste and extending your dollar in the kitchen. So next time you think about dooming your Parm end to live the rest of its milky life in the deepest, darkest depths of a trash bag or compost pile—instead of depositing it in the trash, open the freezer and deposit it in a handy container or bag used just for this purpose. They add up quick! And whenever you’re ready to add a super flavor boost to stocks, soups, and broths you will never be short on cheesy flavor goodness. Who knows—if you save up enough, maybe you could start a cottage industry selling them to your neighbors for $7.99/lb!
Cannelini & Escarole Soup
Servings- Large: 4 Smaller: 6
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 large-ish shallot, thinly sliced
1 large head escarole, chopped and very well rinsed to remove grit/sand
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans
1 quart low sodium veg stock (homemade or high-quality store bought)
2 fresh bay leaves (3 dried)
2 oz Parm rind(s)
½ lb ditalini or baby shells
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high.
Add smashed garlic cloves and sliced shallot to pot, cook until lightly golden, 3-4 minutes.
Add the clean escarole by grabbing it with your hands or a spider from the water, leaving the sand/grit behind. Season with ½ Tbsp kosher salt and a few grinds pepper. Add a pinch of chili flakes (or you could leave this out if you’re not down with the heat).
Stir to wilt, 3-4 minutes.
As the escarole cooks, open both cans of beans: drain and rinse 1, pour the second can into a shallow bowl and use the back of a fork to roughly smash the beans and their liquid. Doesn’t have to be totally smooth. Add the smashed beans and their liquid to the pot with the escarole, along with 1 quart each low sodium veggie stock and water, 2 fresh bay leaves, parm rind(s), and 1 tsp salt. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Add reserved drained beans and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente (according to package instructions), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Once done, taste, season with more salt and pepper if necessary (remember you’re going to add grated Parm which brings some salt, too). When you’re ready to serve (which should be kind of prontissimo after it’s done) hit it with some freshly grated Parm, a drizzle of olive oil, and, if you’re like me, more chili flakes.
+ This is just one of lotsa ways I use Parm rinds. And, I make many versions of this soup, usually depending on what kinds of odds and ends I find in my pantry. (Full disclosure: unlike my bud, Erin, I eat meat. Non-meat eaters, ignore this next meat-related tip!) Sometimes, when the food waste gods will it, I find that I have an odd end of bacon or pancetta or a few random leftover bacon strips tucked in the depths of my fridge. It’s dreamy—akin to finding the exact change you need in your pocket. On these occasions, I dice up the pork and start the soup by rendering the fat out and crisping it up. Then I fish out the crispy bits, leaving the fat behind in the pot, and build the soup on the back of that rather than olive oil. Then, I top the bowls with crispy, rendered bacon or pancetta bits when serving.
+ Pasta purists will hate this, but as long as the pasta shapes are around the same size, ie all small, like ditalini and baby shells, or super small, like stellette or pastina, I just combine them in the pot. Voila! 2 (or maybe even 3!) food waste birds killed with 1 stone.
+ I tend to use canned cannellini beans (say that three times fast) because they are speedy and also I like the milky texture that I find hard to replicate when I make them from fresh. Feel free to sub a few cups of beans that you’ve cooked from dried if you’d prefer!
+ If you’d like to make the soup ahead of time, skip adding the pasta initially. Bring the soup back to a boil and add pasta ten minutes before serving.
What about you guys? Do you save your parm rinds? What’s your favorite way to put them to use?
+ Spring bulbs. Egg hunts involve more chocolate, but don’t forget to go on a bulb hunt, especially if you have little ones afoot. The first of the spring bulbs are starting to bloom. Spot crocuses, snowdrops, muscari and keep an eye out for the green leaves of tulips and daffodils just starting to unfurl.
+ Easter Grass. Plant your red winter wheat this week and have a basketful of green grass by Easter morning. I like to use a shallow tool tray to plant mine. Easter bunny, take note: Faye’s already excited about the prospect of the finding a cache of chocolate eggs nestled in the grass.
+ Edible Flowers. Make sweet or savory shortbreads and press them with edible flowers for the very prettiest Easter treat. (Also, pasta)!
+ Garden plans. Draw up a plan, gather a few seed starts, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, start some seeds indoors as you wait for the ground to warm up.
+ Compost. Use the holiday, or the start of spring, if you don’t celebrate, to recommit to one environmentally sound habit. Maybe it’s composting, maybe it’s bringing your reusable bag, maybe it’s trying never to get coffee in a takeout cup. See how long you can make it without missing a step. (And if you stumble, start again!)
+ Forced branches. Take a few branches off your forsythia, dogwood, plum, peach, cherry, and bring them inside. Smash the ends of the branches a bit, plop them into room temperature water, and try to be patient. You’ll have buds by Easter morning.
+ Pastel pouches. Skip the plastic eggs and fill up spice sacks with package-free Easter treats from a bulk shop. (If you’re feeling fancy, try a low-stakes dyeing project while you make Easter eggs.)
PS. More ideas for a clutter-free and waste-free Easter basket, this way.
Rebecca Mir Grady launched her eponymous jewelry line in Chicago, Illinois in 2013. Today, her jewelry is made with care in her studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and she takes inspiration from landscapes encountered on far-flung adventures.
Rebecca’s jewelry is stunning in its simplicity, characterized by organic shapes and an understated modern aesthetic. In her most recent collection, Rebecca found inspiration in the otherworldly landscapes of Montana and Wyoming, where this past fall Rebecca and her wife, Sonia, celebrated their honeymoon and collaborated on a joint creative project.
As an advocate for environmentally sustainable practices, Rebecca makes all of her jewelry by hand from reclaimed precious metals—primarily Sterling Silver and 14k gold—and ethically-sourced stones. As a supporter of marriage equality, Rebecca’s collection includes a wide range of rings that could be perfect for betrothed couples. In celebration of her newly launched Collection VIII—and as a chance to offer RMTL readers a special discount on choices of their own—here are a few of my favorite pieces.
I’m especially drawn to Rebecca’s most delicate designs and I couldn’t resist the sentimental pull of a three-stoned ring to symbolize three of the most precious people in my life. The 14-karat yellow gold Petit Pré Diamond Ring now has a permanent spot in my own collection. The diamonds are flush-set into golden balls on a hammered band with a matte finish. I paired it here with the Terence, a simple band with slightly squared edges.
On my ring finger is the Opal Thetis, which I’ve been wearing for a few years now. It’s set with a 3mm Australian opal cabochon. In these images it’s paired with the Rebecca Mir Grady Thetis band, a rounded band measuring just shy of 1mm thick. I’m wearing the Thetis and Terence bands in yellow gold, but they’re also available in white and rose gold. The Cloudbreak Opal Necklace was originally part of Rebecca’s Sightline’s collection. In this necklace, Rebecca uses the same style of Australian opal cabochon as the one found in the Thetis Opal ring. It’s available with a sterling silver or yellow gold chain. The Teton Opal Studs take their name from the Teton mountains in Wyoming. The Oregon hyalite opals in these earrings (and in the collection’s Grand Pre Opal Ring) are faceted, and their blueish tint and appearance is reminiscent of Moonstone. They’re gorgeous.
I always point fellow bracelet-loving folks to Rebecca’s bracelet designs. Her new two-toned Fuller Bangle was also inspired by her Wyoming trip and is named for writer Alexandra Fuller who lives in a yurt on the edge of Grand Teton National Park. The bangle is made from two parts sterling silver melded with one part 14k yellow gold. The Breakwater Cuff Bracelet, shown here in 2mm yellow gold, catches the light with subtle hand carving.
What about you? What would you choose?
Use the code TEALEAVES for 20% off all orders through March 26, 2018 at 11:59 pm MDT.
A bit of spring, and an encouraging perspective on a big challenge:
“We believe the invisible hand is making businesses behave soullessly; that under capitalism, especially late-stage capitalism, there’s an inevitability to every sad-but-profitable situation. Unfettered, this is true. But capitalism is still full of people — not just workers, who might all be robots someday soon, but the shoppers, the CEOs, the shareholders, the venture capitalists, the former presidents of multinational corporations who fund businesses as a retirement pastime. They make these decisions because they are still decisions.
“And the unsettling part about Winthrop’s question, “Can’t we all just do a little bit of this?,” is that no matter how relatively small you are, you’re still implicated in it. It can be maddening and deflating that people at the top don’t make decisions that lead to more American manufacturing, to better-paid and more secure workers, to a less inequitable world, but it doesn’t absolve you of your own choices. As impossible as it might seem, each individual’s choices do add up.
“The story is about doing something instead of doing nothing because doing nothing is easier. It’s about worrying less about determining if something is Good or Bad than finding the pieces that could be improved and trying to improve them.
“It’s doing that scary and maybe difficult thing that you hear will be good for you, and letting it be good for you, and letting it change you for the better. Standing instead of sitting down, like Thelma Agular. Spending the money to add a tenner frame, like Page Ashby. Allowing one of your investments to be less profitable in the short term than it theoretically could be, like Donald Kendall.
If the message is to be an engaged human citizen, regardless of the shirt on your back, that seems like something that’s worth saying again and again. And, looking around, like something we need to hear more and more and more, to combat the deafening buzz that says it’s not worth it. I know I need to hear it. I think I even believe it.”
In my pet apartment fantasy, I imagine getting free reign to transform our current bathroom into something rather more bright and light and welcoming. Punch a hole in the ceiling and let the light stream in? Anything’s possible in a daydream.
Until then, I keep our tiny bathroom neat and tidy and free from clutter. Part of the reason that working toward a zero-waste and plastic-free home makes so much sense in a small space—and in the bathroom specifically—is that eliminating the clutter of lots of single-use plastic bottles, or a panoply of plastic bath toys, or other packaged products, automatically frees up space and keeps me from feeling hemmed in. For me anyway, trying to find creative solutions to lessen a room’s impact on the environment outside of our apartment has an immediate effect on the climate inside our apartment.
I haven’t written a ton about our recent low-waste efforts in the bathroom, so here are are a few points of progress and a few areas that could stand some improvement. As always, I’m eager to know what all of you have had luck with (and what has been more troublesome).
Shampoo: After writing this post, the women at Plain Products reached out to me about trying their shampoo and conditioner. We’ve been using it since the beginning of the year and I’ve been totally pleased with the product itself in addition to being a fan of their business model more generally: The company allows customers to send back their aluminum bottles for refilling in lieu of bottling in single-use plastic. My only minor complaint is that the bottles are a smidge tall for fitting perfectly in our shower caddy, and I wish they were a little more subtly branded. Overall though, a very welcome helpmate in our efforts to produce less waste.
Soap Saver: Speaking of bathing, a tiny improvement to our morning shower routine has been the soap saver bag that I first mentioned back in the fall. It provides the perfect amount of scrubby exfoliation and it keeps the last bit of bar soap from slipping down the drain.
Toilet Paper: For years James and I have been buying recycled toilet paper for our daily needs, but in the past year we found ourselves increasingly relying on last-minute runs to the pharmacy a block away to stock up on whatever least-bad toilet paper they had in stock. (Who can huff it the extra blocks for the 100% recycled option when there’s a toddler waiting for you on the loo?) After a reader mentioned that I could find Seventh Generation toilet paper in bulk online without the plastic wrappings, I was encouraged to stock up. But then, my shipment arrived very much wrapped in plastic. Better luck next time? Most recently, we received a trial box of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. The cheekily branded toilet paper is one-hundred percent recycled and free of scents or dyes. (For hygiene purposes each roll comes wrapped in colorful paper that I wish were dye-free, too, but it’s refreshing that the whole shipment arrives without plastic.) I’ve been especially enjoying the fact that the 3-ply rolls are extra large and densely rolled. The paper’s not super plush (though they do have a more luxurious bamboo option), but the recycled rolls are totally sufficient for the job at hand. The one major adjustment for us has been storage. Because the toilet paper ships in large quantities—24 or 48 rolls—it currently feels like we have rolls of toilet paper stuffed all over our apartment. But weighed against constantly running out, that feels like a small price to pay for a good solution to an inherently wasteful problem.
Toothpaste: I know a lot of folks who make their own toothpaste, but we haven’t quite gotten there in our family. In the meantime, finding a toothpaste option in a recyclable tube felt like a step in the right direction. We’ve been trying David’s Toothpaste and can attest to the fact that it’s…delicious. They pride themselves on using US-grown mint and other domestically sourced ingredients and the result is refreshing and lovely, a subtle minty freshness that’s neither too minty nor too sweet. (Faye’s still a bit sensitive to minty things and less great about spitting, so we’ve been using the milder Weleda Tooth Gel for her and for Silas.)
Facial rounds: It’s been a few years since I bought cotton facial rounds. I’ve mostly shifted my grooming habits as a way to make up for the lack of rounds, but when I’m feeling like I need the extra help of a cotton round, it’s nice to have an alternative option around. For the past six months or so I’ve reached for these soft sherpa rounds from blog sponsor, Natural Linens. They’re large enough for bigger jobs like cleaning off a face mask, but still small enough to be perfect for simpler needs like dousing your face with a bit of rosewater.
Hairbrush: I was desperate for a new brush earlier this spring and I bought this wooden Widu brush. My mom had given an even smaller version to Faye and Silas and I love this grown-up counterpart. It’s made from wood and natural rubber and it’s the perfect small size for keeping in my top dresser drawer and for traveling with. (The brush comes with extra wooden bristles in case any need eventual replacing.)
Room for Improvement:
Razors: James and I have had the same razor blade handles for years and years, but our blades themselves are made from both plastic and steel and so they’re not recyclable. I still haven’t made the jump to going totally old-school with a safety razor. Afraid of nicks, I guess. James and I would both love to make the switch but we need encouragement. If anyone out there has had good luck, I’d love to know.
Toothbrushes: For years James and I used toothbrush handles with replaceable heads. The brushes felt like a nice compromise because less toothbrush was getting thrown out every three-months or so, but the heads still weren’t recyclable. Indeed, most toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles, which do a great job of cleaning teeth, but which can’t be recycled or composted. (Even on a bamboo brush that’s advertised as compostable, you need to pluck out those nylon bristles before composting.) Last year I began using an electric toothbrush on the very strong recommendation of my dentist. I admit that I really enjoy using it and I’m reluctant to switch back to a more conventional brush, but I cringe thinking about the waste. Anyone gone down the sustainable electric toothbrush rabbit hole and found anything promising?
What about you guys? New habits or products that you’ve found to be helpful?
In case you missed them, a few more bathroom-related posts:
My current favorite part of the week comes when we get an emailed summary detailing how Faye spent the morning at school. Accompanying photographs include messy haired kids with socks hanging halfway off chubby feet and bellies peeking above elastic waist bands. Blurred hands and feet are in motion in every frame. Last week’s email included a photograph of Faye hard at work painting in an upside down tiara. She’d spent the morning making a French yogurt cake from scratch. (Oh, to be three.)
Together with her tiny classmates she rubbed sugar and lemon between her fingers and then spent the rest of the week repeating the process with imaginary ingredients.
“Do you want some sugar with lemon, Mama?” she’d ask with her fingers held up in a pantomime. I ate a dozen imaginary cakes before deciding I needed to recreate the real thing.
This is not the first recipe for a lightly sweetened, perfect-for-a-gloomy-afternoon cake that you will find on this blog. It’s my favorite kind of treat and in the midst of riding out a particularly gray week, we needed something a little extra sunshine-y to eat. You’ll forgive me if I needed to cut into it before it had properly cooled.
Olive oil to coat a loaf pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest (approximately the zest of one lemon)
3/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
What you need to do:
+ Preheat oven to 350°. Coat your pan with a thin layer of olive oil and dust with flour, knocking out any extra.
+ Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
+ Use your fingers to rub sugar with lemon zest in a second bowl until the sugar is moist. (Or, whenever the smallest among you has had enough of rubbing her fingers in sugar.) Add yogurt, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients, without over-stirring.
+ Pour batter into your prepared bread loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a straw inserted into center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes.
+ Let your cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and let it cool completely. (Or don’t. It’ll be just fine.)
The bruise is spreading like a slowly blooming jellyfish across my left hip. Dark purple and bright blue and blurry at the edges. It’s tender to the touch and my blue jeans put more pressure on it than I wish they did. But the tender spot doesn’t stop the jitter in my legs. I have that particular kind of springtime jumpiness that’s making me want to pack up my computer and head to the park even though it’s cold and windy.
James gave me my skateboard two years ago on my birthday. I’ve ridden, but timidly. I’ve been embarrassed, maybe, not to be better, or faster, or more sure of myself. I’ve been afraid, a bit, of falling. Or failing. Probably both.
For the past few weekends we’ve taken advantage of sunshine to head to the parks. Faye has demanded that I bring along my skateboard and so dutifully, I have. It doesn’t occur to her that I might not be sure of myself. She sees me glide across the skate park and she’s is gleeful, giddy, giggling. She chases after me and begs to ride, too. She sees me tumble off the board. She’s utterly unfazed. What’s a fall in a day that’s full of them?
Another child arrives to the park on rollerblades.
“I’m just learning,” he explains to us.
“Me, too,” I say.
“You’re really good.” His blue eyes sparkle and he grins at me and races off, knees knocking.
“Thanks,” I call after him. “You are, too.”
A habit shift: Giving myself permission to fall. (And yes, I’ve ordered a helmet. This one.)
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