Zero Waste No Bake Energy Bars

When I was in college I ate energy bars almost every day. At nearly 4 dollars a bar, it was not a sustainable habit at all. Not only was I spending way too much money, I was wasting a lot of packaging. Lately I have been focusing on preventing all packaging waste and as a result decided to take a stab at making energy bars. This was the first recipe I tried and it is INSANELY good. It makes a batch of about 15 bars depending on how you cut them, and I gave away some of the extras to my friends who all independently told me I should sell them. Try them out, you won’t be disappointed!

Trash is for Tossers No Bake Energy Bars

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup popped amaranth
1 cup nut butter (almond or peanut butter works) I used peanut
3/4 cup honey

Pop the amaranth (see below for instructions)

Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl one by one

Combine thoroughly using your hands (best part)

Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking pan that is lightly greased with coconut oil to prevent sticking (mine is a glass pyrex)

Refrigerate for a few hours to harden the ingredients

Slice into energy bars and enjoy! These will last for about a month in the refrigerator (but probably not because you will eat them before) or for a long, long time in the freezer.

Also, feel free to add other nuts/fruits in, if the mixture gets too dry add a little bit of honey at a time to get the consistency you want. The world is yours!

Popping Amaranth:
Amaranth is a short-lived perennial flower that produces protein packed seeds like the ones you see below. For this recipe we will be popping the amaranth which is fun and simple and really gives the protein bars a nice, toasted flavor. Heat a pot to medium/high heat and add a few seeds just to see if it is hot enough. When ready, drop in about a tablespoon of the seeds. After a few seconds, the seeds will begin to pop just like popcorn! Quickly cover the pot with a lid to prevent the seeds from popping all over the stove and shake the pot around a bit to prevent the seeds from burning. All of this happens pretty quickly, so don’t just leave them to pop and walk away from the stove! When the majority of them have popped, transfer them to a measuring cup. I then repeat this until I have the one cup needed for the recipe.


Zero Waste Food Shopping

Zero Waste food shopping probably sounds much more daunting than it is. One would assume it involves excessive preparation, a lot of hard work, and hungry days. This could not be more untrue. Zero Waste food shopping could not be easier for me. First of all I have a relatively regular schedule and know exactly what I like to eat so preparing a shopping list and thus shopping supplies is easy and predictable. Secondly, I bring my own jars and produce bags to the market and I buy in bulk so I leave the market with absolutely no packaging and can take the food from my reusable bag and put it right on my shelf at home.

When food shopping, I always bring around four to eight jars and two bags depending on what I am purchasing. See my post on Zero Waste shopping essentials for a detailed list. I keep one bag for jars, and the other for fresh produce like tomatoes or kale so that it doesn’t get squashed. This method also helps me save money. By thinking about the containers I will need, I also think about the food I will be buying which prevents me from making impulse purchases (however I always bring one extra jar because markets often have bulk items on sale and it is nice to stock up on things while the price is lower).

Shopping without purchasing any plastic is very easy once you get used to it, and then the process just becomes routine like setting your alarm before you go to bed. This experience was expressed in the documentary Trashed. It was stated that it usually takes a shopper about three times forgetting their Zero Waste or eco shopping supplies before they finally remember and prepare adequately, and after that it just becomes routine. The same thing happened to me. I used to go to the market three times per week because I was not prepared for what I was purchasing and did not plan ahead. This resulted in the use of plastic bags and the purchase of packaged products. I usually bought more than I needed and fewer of the things that I actually used. After two times of gauging how much I purchased and in what quantities, I was able to prepare for the market. Now I only have to go to the market once per week and do not buy anything in plastic because I utilize the bulk section of my market.

The photos below show my experience at Integral Yoga Natural Foods. My favorite market in the city! Integral has a huge variety of bulk foods ranging from amaranth to yeast and they even sell mason jars! I recently found out that the 4th Street Co-Op in NYC sells bulk oil and vinegar which I am not able to purchase at Integral.


How to Store Vegetables So They Last Longer

I love carrots. Before I started my Zero Waste journey, I bought baby carrots without really taking into account that they are packaged in so much plastic and washed in chlorine or other detergents YUK! So I switched to raw, whole carrots with the stems on or loose unpackaged carrots. For the longest time I would buy them and have to eat them in the same day because within days they would shrivel, brown, and go totally limp, not fun. I recently found a trick that works absolutely perfectly and keeps carrots bright and crisp. It is so simple. You just take carrots, cut off the tops (the leaves suck moisture from the root aka the carrot) and put them in a jar of water. Voila. The same thing works for celery and keeps it nice and crunchy.

More Zero Waste food storage tips here!


The BEST Zero Waste Granola Recipe

I love granola and eat it every week. So, I decided to make my own Brown Sugar Winter Spice Granola. Yes, I know it is summer, but I am so nostalgic for the crisp, cold weather, warm chunky scarves, anything pumpkin, sitting in small village bars in front of a fireplace, and oversized sweaters.

I usually avoid making my own by buying bulk Organic granola from my local store, but when gathering snacks for my road trip to Chicago I realized that the 100% Organic granola that I used to purchase was now “made with Organic oats” and the rest of the ingredients were conventional, so I decided to try it out.

The recipe called for walnuts and pecans which were unfortunately the most expensive nuts at the store right now. I also added chia seeds, dried cranberries (after baking) and maple syrup to mine. I think adding shredded coconut or dried cherries would be great. The beauty of granola is if you keep the amounts stated in the recipes consistent, you can really experiment with what you put in it. Plus it made my apartment smell AMAZING.

I saved over five dollars making my own and the whole batch cost me a little less than ten dollars. I still consider  ten dollars to be expensive so next time I will alter the recipe and put in cashews, almonds, and some pepitas in which are much more affordable and will probably lower the cost to 6 dollars bringing the price down from $1.25 a cup to about $.75 cents per cup.

Brown Sugar Winter Spice Granola:

  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup almonds chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup other mixed nuts or seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, cashew etc.
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil UPDATE: I like using 1/3 cup Organic coconut oil instead of canola
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 250F
  2. Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until it boils and the sugar is completely dissolved
  3. Let the mixture cool to room temperature
  4. In the meantime combine the oats, almonds, other nuts and seeds, cinnamon, and salt and mix well
  5. Once the sugar mixture has cooled, add the oil and vanilla extract and stir until combined
  6. Pour the sugar mixture into the oat mixture and combine with your hands
  7. Transfer to a baking sheet and pat down in an even layer
  8. Bake for 60 minutes and then remove from the oven and using a spatula flip the granola
  9. Return to the oven for 60 minutes until the granola is completely dried
  10. Let cool before serving and store in a tightly sealed container. It will keep for 2 weeks.

UPDATE: I have been playing with this recipe and I have stated to add a few things to it:

  • Add 1/4 cup Organic chia seeds to the mixture in step 4
  • Substitute Organic coconut oil for the canola oil in step 5 (I think it makes a sweeter granola)
  • Add 1/4 cup real maple syrup to the oat mixture in step 6 (I use Organic grade A)
  • I like to add Organic dried fruit to the granola after step 10. I use either Organic dried cranberries or Organic raisins. (I use Organic dried fruit because non-organic is said to use petroleum based sulfites to preserve them, YUK)


Why You Should ALWAYS drink Organic Wine

Have you ever heard that cheap wine gives you headaches and hangovers? Well, it might be an old wives tale, but it has some actual legitimacy for a very simple reason: Sulfites.

What are sulfites?

Sulfites are chemical compounds of sulfur. They are used as food preservatives and have antioxidant and preservative properties 1. They are used on fruits and vegetables to prevent browning, on shrimp and lobster to prevent melanosis or brown spots, wines to prevent bacterial growth, in dough as a conditioner, and to bleach food starches and cherries. They are also used in pharmaceuticals to preserve stability and potency of certain medications.

Please note: Sulfites are different from sulfur.

Sulfur can be a naturally occurring and essential element for humans found around volcanoes and hot springs. “Elemental sulfur was once extracted from salt domes where it sometimes occurs in nearly pure form, but this method has been obsolete since the late 20th century. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum” 2.

While Sulfur has been used in winemaking for centuries, sulfites recently became a major ingredient in wine as an additive to stop bacteria oxidation a.k.a. a preservative and as a sterilization tool.

Sulfites absorb oxygen and prevent aerobic bacterial growth that would otherwise convert ethanol into acetic acid, souring the wine.

While some sulfties naturally occur in the fermentation process, added sulfites used in winemaking are a residue of natural gas and petroleum crude 3.

Okay, so drinking natural gas sounds gross, but is it bad for you?

Sulfites have been used as a food additive since 1664. The problem? Sulfites, in many cases, are used excessively and are known to have adverse health consequences. It has been suspected that a percentage of the population has a sulfite sensitivity that can induce reactions that range from mild to severe 4.

The FDA estimates that 1 out of 100 Americans or around 3,139,000 people are sulfite sensitive and that 5 out of 100 asthmatics are sulfite sensitive.

Sensitivity to sulfites can develop at any time during a person’s lifespan with some reactions being delayed and not showing up until a person’s forties or fifties. Sulfite sensitivity can manifest in many forms including dermatolical, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular symptoms 5.

Is sulfite usage regulated?

The legal maximum sulfite level for U.S. wines is 350 ppm, with most wines averaging about 125 ppm. Naturally occurring levels of sulfur dioxide in a wine, without chemical additives, would weigh in at around 10-20 ppm.

On July 8, 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfite preservatives in fresh vegetables and fruits that were intended to be served raw because they were linked to deaths and many illnesses 6. Additionally, Sulfites cannot be used in
products such as meats that serve as a good source of vitamin B1 because sulfites can scavenge that vitamin from foods.

Since 1987, the FDA has required that sulfites must be declared in cases when concentrations exceed 10ppm 7. According to the International Center for Alcohol Policies, the USA is required to disclose or declare sulfites in alcohol 8.

(They are also required to do the same for aspartame, a known carcinogen, which I didn’t even know was in alcohol).

Food products that contain undeclared sulfites above 10 ppm will be subject to the following potential recall actions 9:

Class I (greater than or equal to 10mg) recalls are the most serious and involve situations where there is a reasonable probability that exposure to the violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or deaths. FDA is aware of deaths occurring among sulfite-sensitive asthmatics

Class II (3.7 -9.9 mg) recalls include situations where exposure to the violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is rare

Class III (less than 3.7mg) recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences

Is one wine safer than another?

Sweet white dessert wines contain the most sulfites, then blush wines and semi-sweet white wines coming in at a close second. The middle ground is a dry white wine. Dry red wines have the lowest sulfite levels. Additionally beer, cocktail mixes, and wine coolers also may contain sulfites.

My advice, avoid anything with sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite on the label and go with Organic. Organic wines, by definition, do not have any added chemicals, including sulfites so you can rest assured that you are not drinking natural gas or putting yourself at potential risk of sulfite induced illness.

*NOTE: The FDA regulates the use of sulfites in drugs and food, while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of sulfites in meat and poultry. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) regulates the use of sulfites in alcoholic beverages and the use of sulfur dioxide as a fungicide on grapes comes under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

*NOTE: When you try to SEARCH sulfite on the ATF website, nothing comes up.

*NOTE NOTE: On the FDA Food Additivies and Ingredients list, food starches contain sulfur dioxide, sodium metabisulfite is found in fruit
jellies, sodium sulfite is is also used as a boiler additive.


The Healing Properties of Plants

When was the last time you ate because of a specific food’s nutrients or properties? Some greens when you were on a diet, some ginger when your stomach hurt, some meat because you felt that you were protein deprived? In my last post I talked about the types of vitamins that we need every day and listed a few foods that provided them. But now I think it is important to be able to preventatively eat, meaning choosing certain foods because they will heal you, prevent you from becoming sick, and keep you energized.

Here it is, my long list of foods and why they are good for you:

Aloe: Antibiotic, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Used externally to treat burns, abrasions and other minor skin injuries and also aids in digestion.

Apple: Stimulates appetite, cleansing, benefits the effects of radiation and mercury level in the body.

Almond Butter: Rich in vitamin E, benefiting skin and hair, anti oxidant, contains copper and iron, increases blood flow and bone mineral density.

Avocado: Contains copper, vitamin E and protein.

Beet: Benefits the heart, circulation, purifies blood, cleans intestines, anti-parasitic.

Bok Choy: Low in calories. Rich source of Vitamin C.

Bee Pollen: Astringent, detoxifiying, aids alcoholism and hypertension and contains potassium

Bell Pepper (green and red): Improve appetite, aid circulation, contains vitamin C

Blueberry: Source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese

Carrot: Contains beta carotene, benefits lungs, spleen, pancreas, assimilation and digestion, anti parasitic

Cabbage: Cleansing, benefits skin, digestion, stomach and intestines, contains vitamin C, vitamin E, iodine and calcium

Celery: Detoxifying, aids hypertension, contains silicon, benefits lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, assimilation, digestion, anti-parasitic

Collard Green: Contains vitamin A and chlorophyll

Coconut: Potassium, magnesium

Cucumber: Detoxifying, benefits heart, blood, skin, stomach, pancreas, large intestine, spleen, and aids hydration

Daikon: Cleansing, detoxifying, anti-parasitic

Dandelion: Used internally for dyspepsia, loss of appetite, flatulence, and as a diuretic

Fennel: Aids stomach and gas build-up

Flax Oil: Rich source of omega fatty acids, lignans, protein and fiber, beneficial for women’s hormone balance, aids weight management, improves immune function

Garlic: Cleansing, anti-parasitic and pungent, aids digestion, colds, circulation and healthy intestinal bacteria

Goji Berry: Cleanses blood, boost immunity, anti-oxidant, helps detoxing, aids weight loss, strengthens the heart

Ginger: Used internally to treat nausea, motion sickness, vomiting

Green Chard: Vitamin A

Kale: Aids congestion, contains chlorophyll, beta-carotene, calcium and iron

Lecithin: Brain food, contains omega fatty acids, phosphorus and vitamin B

Lemon: Astringent, anti-septic and anti-microbial, aids circulation and hypertension

Mango: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, rich in vitamin A, E, and mineral selenium, alkalizing, improves digestion

Parsley: Contains beta-carotene, chlorophyll, sodium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, aids digestion

Peanut Butter: Rich in vitamin E, anti-oxidant, fiber, coenzyme Q-10, calcium, iron, niacin, and protein

Pineapple: High in vitamin C, anti-oxidants and fiber, benefits elasticity of skin and eyesight

Red Leaf Lettuce: Detoxifying, contains vitamins A and C, chlorophyll and iron

Romaine Lettuce: Detoxifying, contains chlorophyll, vitamins A and C

Strawberry: Anti-oxidant, detoxifying, high in folate, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium and some B vitamins

Sweet Potato: Detoxifying, contains vitamin A, benefit blood

Spinach: Laxative, removes toxins, aids digestion, contains chlorophyll, vitamin A, iron and calcium

Tomato: Detoxifying, benefits hydration, stomach, blood and digestion

Turmeric Root: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improves circulation, boost immunity, contains essential minerals and amino acids, supports liver health and a number of women’s health issues

Wheatgrass: Acne, aging, arthritis, asthma, bladder, blood pressure, bones, bronchitis, cancer, circulation, diabetes, eyes, fatigue, hair, heart disease, kidney, liver, lung, skin,weight loss, nervous disorder, ulcers


Eating a Balanced Diet

I have been thinking a lot about the foods that I eat in terms of buying Organic, local, and sustainable foods but like many I am a creature of habit and tend to stick with the same things. Sure, I eat healthy foods, but am I eating balanced meals?

Here is the breakdown of what an adult eating a 2000 calorie diet needs per day.
WATER: 3 liters/day
Total Fat: 65 grams
Saturated Fatty Acids: 20 grams
Cholesterol: 300 milligrams
Sodium: 2400 milligrams
Potassium: 3500 milligrams
Total Carbohydrate: 300 grams
Fiber: 25 grams (barley, legumes, bulgur)
Protein: 50 grams (legumes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, fruits, milk)

Vitamin A (growth and development, immune system): 5000 IU (carrots, pumpkin, egg yolk)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (cellular restoration): 1.5 mg (oatmeal, brown rice, oranges, eggs, kale)
Vitamin B6 (amino acid metabolism): 2.0 mg (chickpeas, supplements)
Vitamin B12 (metabolism of every cell in the human body): 6 micrograms (egg yolk, supplements)
Vitamin C (collagen synthesis): 60 milligrams (orange, grapefruit, peach, kiwi, bell peppers)
Vitamin D (enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate): 400 IU (mushrooms)
Vitamin E (a-tocopherol) (antioxidant): 30 IU (tomato, sunflower seeds)
Riboflavin (energy metabolism, metabolism of fats, carbs & proteins): 1.7 mg (almonds, sesame seeds)
Niacin (digestion, nerve function): 20 mg (avocado, dates, leafy greens, carrots, broccoli)
Calcium (signal for cellular processes): 1 g (collards, broccoli, beans, almonds, milk, figs, orange)
Iron (oxygen transport, cellular respiration): 18 mg (walnuts, dark chocolate, cast iron pan)
Folic Acid (aids rapid cell division): .4 mg
Phosphorus (essential for molecule building): 1 g (cornmeal, brown rice, rolled oats, milk)
Iodine (constituent of thyroid hormones): 150 mcg (iodized salt, kelp)
Magnesium (catalysts for synthesizing ATP): 400 mg (buckwheat, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice)
Zinc (metabolism of DNA and RNA): 15 mg (nuts, beans)
Copper (electron and oxygen transportation): 2mg (sunflower seeds, cashews, dark chocolate)
Biotin (synthesis of fatty acids): .3 mg (whole grains, almonds, peanuts, eggs)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health a healthy plate should look like my picture above:

  • 1/2 of your plate should be vegetables and fruits
  • 1/4 of your plate should be whole rains such as brown rice
  • 1/4 of your plate should be a healthy protein such as beans, nuts, or egg

This food should be consumed with a glass of water and cooked by steaming or with a healthy plant oil such as olive, sunflower, or coconut oil.

Since I make and eat most of my food at home except for the occasional restaurant outing, sticking to a healthy diet is easy and it is really evident to me what I am lacking by just looking at the foods that I don’t eat. For instance, I am a vegetarian which means I probably do not get enough B, which is why I take B12, also, I am probably a little deficient in copper, and Vitamin C.

I realized, after reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that many adults lack Calcium, Fiber, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C,  Vitamin A, and Potassium. All of these are very easy to fix! My next post will talk about all of the healing properties of different plants so that you can choose foods that will benefit you the most and provide you with all of the essential nutrients you need.