Saturday, 28 June 2008

Organic Jasmine Tea

Steenbergs sell organic jasmine tea. You can also buy it from Birt and Tang.

Lemon polenta cake

Downhearted from the failure of the simple domestic task of making homemade muesli, My Eco Self sneaks out to the local shop and buys a lemon polenta cake to pass off as my own to the domestic achievers. “What have you been doing with yourself?” asks one mum with baby to another. “I’ve been selling cakes to one of the local delis,” she replies. My attention is attracted, having started to lose interest due to excessive baby talk, and sizes up domestic mum friend as a possible source for cupcake baking. Suddenly My Eco Self remembers that domestic mum lives equidistant from the new deli with lemon polenta cake for sale. Mum is looking her straight in the eye as she says, “This cake is delicious.” “Anyone for more jasmine tea?” I ask.

Homemade muesli recipe

If you do want to make your own, there's lots of recipes on the internet. This is a basic muesli recipe from the BBC.

200g/7oz jumbo porridge oats
25g/1oz flaked bran or wheat germ
75g/3oz barley or rye flakes
50g/2oz hazelnuts, lightly crushed
50g/2oz flaked almonds
50g/2oz sultanas
50g/2oz dried, ready-to-eat apricots, roughly chopped
50g/2oz dried, ready-to-eat figs, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
2. Place the oats, flaked bran or wheat germ, barley or rye flakes, hazelnuts and almonds on a large baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, shaking and turning in the tray halfway through. Take the tray from the oven and leave to cool: this should take only about 10 minutes. 3. Mix the toasted ingredients with the sultanas, apricots and figs. These fruits are only suggestions: you can use whatever you prefer, for example dried apple, mango, papaya, dates or cherries.
4. You can eat this muesli straight away with milk.

A good place to buy muesli ingredients in the UK is Holland and Barrett. If you live in London, you could win extra eco points by buying these ingredients loose at Unpackaged - they have everything except the rye or barley flakes. In the US, you should find everything at Whole Foods.

NB: Check out my other muesli posts, here.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Lovely Lazy muesli

There is some lovely muesli for sale by Lovely Lazy. It's sold in some shops in South London, and is home-made and made locally, without My Eco Self's hint of garlic. I have bought the granola several times from Trinity Stores, and it is very tasty.

Homemade muesli

One of My Eco Self’s reduced employment initiatives is to make homemade muesli to reduce my salt and sugar intake from mass-produced brands, and to reduce the extortionate spend on various organic brands from the specialist deli. I am also keen to display something homemade and delicious in glass containers on the open shelves in my newly finished and debt-inducing kitchen. My Eco Self is hosting an afternoon tea for over-achieving domestic goddess friends with small children and homemade curtains, and can only compete on grounds of muesli-making. My Eco Self has a trip to the health store to buy organic oats, hazelnuts, Fair Trade honey, flaked coconut, and various oat bran things with well-documented health benefits.* Following a tip I’ve read in an eco blog, I roast the porridge oats in a cooling oven, instead of heating up a cold oven especially for the task. The next day I am up early and eager for some granola and yogurt to accompany my usual invigorating peppermint tea. There’s a subtle taste which isn’t disguised by the freshly added locally picked strawberries. “Taste this,” I tell Food Neurotic Friend when he calls round. “Why does your granola taste of garlic?” he asks. I wonder if this is a potential consequence of roasting the porridge oats straight after a tray of roasted vegetables. “Is it worth leaving it there for the display alone?” I ask FNF, but he shakes his head, not a frequent advocate of presentation over taste.

*Check out the recipe I have posted here. Or if you can justify the extortionate spend on food from the local deli, Lovely Lazy has a delicious range of mueslis which I have written about here.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Lola's ice cream - the inspiration

My Eco Self's ice cream van aspirations were also inspired by Lola's Ice Cream Van. I'm planning to have this at my wedding (date and groom to be confirmed.)
Look at these flavours - these are my favourites -I'm salivating already:

Fresh mint ice cream with a chocolate brownie
Pineapple and chilli sorbet
Melon and ginger sorbet
Lemongrass ice cream
Star Anise and Saffron Ice Cream
Beetroot and Cassis Sorbet

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Beach hut for sale

This beach hut in Southwold, Suffolk, is for sale for £80,000 - find more information about this, and its scenic surrounding location here.
My Eco Self's finances may some day stretch to renting a beach hut - there's lots of information here.

Crab sandwich recipe

There's a great feature and recipe for making your own crab sandwich by Mark Hix of the Independent here.

Sustainable fishing

There are some places to eat eco-friendly fish (from a sustainable source) mentioned in an article in the Telegraph here.

According to this article, crab is in plentiful supply in the UK.

This is a list from Greenpeace of fish to avoid: (see link for more information, there are a few exceptions under some species.)

Red list fish: species at high risk of being sourced from fisheries using destructive practices -

Atlantic Cod
Tropical Prawns
European Hake
Atlantic Halibut
Dover Sole
Skates and Rays

In the US, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has some good information on seafood to avoid here.

Crab sandwiches

FNF and I sit on the end of the pier, eating crab sandwiches bought from a stand just off the beach.
“Do you think this crab is from a sustainable source?” I ask.
“Go and ask one of the fishermen,” says FNF, pointing to a group of men in yellow waxed jackets and trousers. “I need some time alone to research my story. I’m here in a professional capacity, remember.”
I walk up to the fishing village and look in an estate agent’s window. Despite having already remortgaged my flat to decorate it and have some financial slack through the three day working week scenario, I wonder about calling BT to see if beach huts can be wireless enabled. I don’t have any mobile phone reception. The beach hut fantasy might be short-lived.

Environmentally friendly paint

Ecos Organic Paints have been rated the most environmentally friendly paints in the UK by Which magazine.

There's some more information here.

In the US, there's some useful information about VOC's in paint by the US Environmental Protection Agency here and here.

A trip to the seaside

Now that My Eco Self has more free time, Food Neurotic Friend takes me on a travel assignment to a newly redeveloped seaside town. There are a row of pretty painted beach huts along the beach. “This might be the perfect life” I say, “sitting in your beach hut with a laptop, watching the elements, listening to Radio 4.”
“So what Radio 4 programme have you enjoyed recently?” he asks, raising an eyebrow in intellectual scepticism.
“I was listening to the Today programme just the other day – very topical.”
I tune him out while the interior design vision for my beach hut comes to me. I decide to consult the small spaces editions of Living Etc and Elle Decoration for further advice. I am thinking shabby chic, with pink-striped ticking and calico with dusty rose repeats, and walls painted in environmentally friendly duck-egg blue paint.
“Do you think environmentally friendly paint is resistant to salt and wind?” I ask Food Neurotic Friend.
I try to engage him in an eco debate, asking if it’s more environmentally friendly to have to repaint a beach hut each year in eco-friendly paint with reduced chemicals, or to paint every few years with a more polluting paint, but FNF does not look interested in my interior design dilemma.

Choc Star - the inspiration

My Eco Self's vision for a converted ice cream van/cart comes from Choc Star, who is touring the country spreading chocolate love.

There's a brilliant video with her here.

Eco business opportunity #3

Despite concluding that the milkman might not share a pale pink vision, My Eco Self is still excited about the prospect of home delivery. The Tea for Joy idea has not progressed further, due to the commitment of a lease and overheads. I have a new idea for cupcakes for sale from an old converted ice cream van. My Eco Self lives near a large common where yummy mummies and offspring gather at weekends for little league football. Or, as a more environmentally conscious option to the ice cream van, My Eco Self decides I can adapt a bicycle and cart to cycle into the crowds and sell cupcakes at half-time. My Eco Self remembers again the often overlooked fact that I don’t actually like cooking. I wonder if I can outsource the actual baking to a number of bored mums in the area. Then I can be the face of the business, with an apron or cute organic cotton candy-striped uniform with my name embroidered on it in pink thread, for easy access to single divorced dads with angelic children playing football on the common, young enough to still bond with a stepmother. My Eco Self works on a Saturday morning business plan, factoring in the cost of outsourcing. It does not look profitable, when you deduct the cost of the park license, and of the specially commissioned pink-striped uniform in organic cotton with hand-embroidering, and of the cost of converting a bicycle to catering use.
“If I set up a business selling cupcakes from a bicycle,” I ask Food Neurotic Friend, undeterred, “can you review it in your newspaper?”
“I write about travel,” he reminds me.
“But aren’t you sleeping with the food columnist?” I ask.
“I’m the only one getting favours” he replies.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Shopping excursion continued..

So far on the shopping excursion, My Eco Self has patronised the local antiques dealer (no sales), the local TV business (no appearances). My Eco Self is feeling smug, especially having remembered to bring my own drawstring bags on the shopping trip. Next stop is the local bread stall for a white sourdough loaf. From another stall, I buy mixed wild mushrooms. My Eco Self has made choices within my budget; choosing the mushroom stall over pancetta and fresh ricotta from the Italian deli across the road. Turning to go home, I feel proud and sacrificial, and walks straight ahead, without even a sideways glance to the film crew. To show how puritanical my new attitude is, I pop into a clothes shop unusually renegaded to the over-40s, to demonstrate how easy it is to exercise restraint. Except the shop has a new range of stylish jewellery, and a comfy-looking navy skirt reminiscent of a favourite skirt from my teenage years. It’s retro, I decide, wondering if a recycling of styles can count as a vintage purchase.

Make your own bag

If, after restringing old beads you are still feeling creative, you could try knitting your own reusable bag - there is a pattern here on the Lion Brand wool website. Please send me pictures of any bags you've made and I'll post the best ones on here.

Sainsbury's milk in a bag

This is the BBC coverage about Sainsbury's new milk in a bag. There is an article in The Times about it today too - read it here.

I think it's a great idea. The only thing is, my local council doesn't collect plastic bags for recycling, only plastic bottles. The chances of me collecting these plastic bags and taking them back to the shop is nil. I still think it better to use your local milkman, if you can get a pre-work delivery, or are confident that your street is free from doorstep theft. I've written a previous post about how to find a milkman. Anna Shepard has also written in the Times about the advantages of using a milkman.

How to restring old beads

To restring old beads, rather than throw them away, try following instructions like those here.

Shopping excursion

On the first official day of My Eco Self’s part-time working, I decide to walk to the gourmet food shops across the common. My Eco Self has just spent part of the previous weekend walking the Capital Ring with a friend, and so in a spirit of non-consumerist and non-Fashion-centric trend, I put on my walking shoes for the trip, unable to think of anyone I might want to impress on a Thursday afternoon. I pack a crisp £10 note, to minimise any unjustified splurges. A worthy half hour walk later, My Eco Self is sidelined by the antiques shop at the top end of the road. I wonder if it might be chic to discover an interest in antique jewellery. With an untrained eye, it is difficult to discern whether the coloured glass necklaces on display actually are vintage or whether they could be bought in Accessorize, ten pounds cheaper. A man in a reflective jacket enters the shop. My Eco Self is pleased that a road sweeper has such diverse interests that he likes to check out antiques in his coffee break. Unconvinced that any of my friends would actually realise the jewellery was stylishly retro, not of course the primary reason to buy vintage, My Eco Self continues on. A cluster of men in reflective jackets reveal themselves to be a film crew. There is no evidence of a celebrity presence, with the prime attention being paid to a gaggle of mums in an estate agent. My Eco Self tries to look nonchalant and available, in case the TV crew are in need of an extra who fits a slightly different demographic group. My Eco Self remembers the non-fashionable and non-TV worthy walking shoes and crosses to the other side of the road.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Milk delivery in the US

Still on the milk theme, this story is from last year - it looks like in the US milk delivery is on the up!

Love Libraries?

A website which has lots of good things happening in libraries across the UK.

This one is similar, based in the US.

Library visit

My Eco Self has joined the local library, last frequented in my early teens, to improve my environmentally friendly rating. I take out A Fine Balance, a literary masterpiece recommended by a high-brow work colleague. There is an informative notice board advertising a book group, knitting group, and local community choirs. My Eco Self is delighted to see the library runs a battery recycling scheme, a solution for My Eco Self’s secret stash. I devour the book, one of the best I’ve ever read. My Eco Self reviews the genre balance of the current books on my shelves, with a slight predilection for chick-lit, if you include the embarrassing stash in my bedside cabinet, hidden from public view. I wonder what would happen if I set up an environmental interest group, have an inaugural meeting at my house, and an attractive young man from the local allotment group is put off by the content of my bookshelves. I quickly order a copy of A Fine Balance from Amazon to permanently improve the intellectual weighting of my reading material.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Milk bottle news

Looks like there are lots of milk bottle collectors out there - check out these two links:

Milk Bottle News
Milk Bottle of the Week

Find a milkman

If you want to give your local milkman some business, check here - I just checked my local area which has Dairy Crest deliveries and there is actually the option of organic milk.

This website, Milk and More, also looks like it provides a good service in different parts of the UK, although it doesn't look like a lot of the options are available in glass bottles.

I can't find a US based website which allows people to enter their zip codes and brings up a local dairy - if anyone is aware of one, please let me know and I'll add it here.

Eco opportunity #2

My Eco Self walks past the milkman every day and contemplates placing an order. He can’t be doing a lot of trade, with the corner shop and supermarket express five minutes away. My Eco Self struggles to get to work on time during the dark winter hours. I contemplate asking if being at home to receive the milk delivery is a reason enough to ask for later working hours, but wonders if the recently granted three-day week might have ruled out any further employment negotiations for the foreseeable future. MES wants the glass milk bottles to display flowers, Fair Trade only and grown in the UK if possible.
“Is your milk organic?” I ask the milkman.
“No” he replies. There’s an eco crisis. Organic milk in non-degrading plastic bottles from supermarket conglomerate, five minutes walk away, or local dairy milk in glass bottles delivered to the door from the milkman and left out for recycling? Before I question the milkman about whether his cart is run on bio-diesel, and suggest that his cart has a makeover, I ask Food Neurotic Friend what he thinks about a milkman service which delivers organic bread, yogurt and ice-cream.
“He could make it over with a 1950s retro look, all pastel colours etc.”
“How much of what you tell me do you think I’m interested in?”
“Goodbye,” I say.
I phone my mother. “Would you like a pastel coloured milk cart to deliver your milk?” “My milkman is out of service” she says.
I’m disappointed. My Eco Self holds her mother partly responsible for putting her local milkman out of business, by buying most of her milk from the supermarket, instead of predicting her consumption accurately and increasing her order when required. I consider phoning up the dairy and asking them if I can buy their unused glass bottles to sell marked up as architectural salvage. I phone FNF again.
“What about the milkman as a distribution channel for my cupcakes?”
“I think it’s about 10%.”
“10% of what?”
“10% of what you tell me that I’m interested in.”

Monday, 2 June 2008

Love Food Hate Waste

This is the website - Love Food Hate Waste. There are some good tips on here, plus recipes which use up leftovers.

Portion Control

My Eco Self is working on portion control. I have found a website which advises how much per portion to measure out for pasta, rice etc, so you don’t make too much food and end up throwing some of it away.
“It’s not difficult,” says Food Neurotic Friend, “you just use make enough for me as well.”