Things to do on Earth Day

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

For those looking to celebrate Earth Day, here are some fun, and simple suggestions.

  • Join a group for a beach clean up.

Or gather a group of friends and family and do it on your own. Also applicable to nearby parks, lakes, neighborhoods, and more. Make it a fun event so that more people will want to go. Here’s a local option in Orange County, if you are around.

  • Make a habit shift.

For example, when you do groceries this Sunday, try our No Plastic Challenge. We make an effort to never leave a grocery store with single-use plastic containers, even if they ARE recyclable. There are many habits worth shifting. If this challenge is too difficult, then start with something small, such as carrying a reusable water bottle.

  • Ride bikes everywhere you go.

DSC09668

Every weekend, Mike and I make an effort to bike and walk everywhere. Last week, we biked to our coffee shop to refill our re-usable Cold Brew Howler. We walked to a restaurant when we wanted to dine out, and we bike to the library when we have to drop off books. Anything to try to limit car usage. In Mexico, I was very impressed to see that every Sunday, they close down the roads from 8 am to 4 pm so that people can bike and roller blade all day. It not only promotes physical activity and community, but also eco-friendly habits. Once we realized how close and accessible everything was on a bike, we started to use it more and more. Try it out for yourself!

  • Plant an herb garden.

While planting trees would be ideal, some such as ourselves do not have a backyard (or front yard for that matter). But I DO dream of planting an herb garden on our balcony one day. Why not start on Earth Day?

  • Simply get outside.

DSC03411

Notice the sun warming your face, the sound of trees moving in the wind, the smell of an ocean breeze. We can’t learn to appreciate the Earth if we don’t take the time to acknowledge it’s worth.

How about you guys? Doing anything fun this Earth Day? Leave comments and suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Less Waste: Nix Paper Towels All Together

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I have not bought paper towels in over a year. Mostly as a direct result of my steely drive to avoid all things disposable, as best I could. Partly, to save the planet, partly to save money. Which is all fine and good, since I’ve spent countless years throwing these sheets of paper like confetti on a new year’s eve, celebrating what, exactly, I’m not sure. Convenience?

I find paper towels to be extremely unnecessary. I tried to make a list of all the things I used paper towels for in the past, and I have found that I could always substitute a re-usable, washable, sturdier piece of cloth. For example, for wiping messy mouths and hands at the dinner table, substitute linen napkins. For wiping down newly washed dinnerware, substitute kitchen towel. For wiping down surfaces sprayed with chemically-laden cleaning supplies, substitute rags. For straining oil from deeply fried foods, leave it to a strainer. Or may I suggest, eliminate deeply fried foods? Except maybe for extremely moody days, when nothing will comfort you except freshly pipetted churros. Then, strainers it is.

Despite my history with paper towel use, I think there was always a part of me that was inclined against its extravagant use. I could thank my mother for this, as images of her tearing off corners of paper towel sheets, rather than the perforated lines that were meant to dictate how much could be used at a time, surface to my mind. As is the usual case, we turn into our parents whether we mean to or not. I remember when Mike and I started living together, and he noticed my funny paper towel use, something I was oblivious to. He asked one day, with a little exasperation in his voice, “Why do you tear them like that?” I look up, surprised at the jagged edges at the end of a paper towel roll hanging limply in the kitchen heat, not realizing what I had done. Reflexively, I answered, “So as not to waste it.”

When I decided to reduce waste, paper towels were one of the first things I let go. Nevermind that they were paper, which is a biodegradable material. They were unnecessary. That, and they seem to only come sold in plastic packaging. It seems that reducing waste and simplifying life came hand in hand in my story, so it was fairly easy to justify nixing the habit. What do we use instead?

Linen napkins, for every day dining.

DSC05231

We got these for a wedding gift, and we use them all the time! Whether we are hosting for a party of twelve, or eating burgers by our lonesome selves, these are always at hand, you know, to stay proper and all. I love linen, mostly for the way it looks and feels. It softens up over time, and the grey color allows me to dig into barbeque sauces and dribble mustard without worrying about staining (as if I can help the dribbling!). Like all cloth alternatives, I simply toss these in the wash along with other towels and rags and call it a day.

Kitchen towels, from drying hands to drying dishes.

DSC05235

These are always hanging from the cabinets, and each one has a designated role. The one under the sink is for wet hands, the one underneath the stove is for dry hands. There is one for drying dishes, and one for wiping down the coffee machines. Sometimes, they are used to cover resting dough, to keep the draft away. Sometimes they are used to top bowls of fruit left on the counter. Their uses are never-ending, and they are as reliable as an old friend.

Old tees, turned into rags.

DSC05241

Last week, we were hosting our usual boardgame night at our loft, when as chance would have it, a friend knocks over a glass of beer amidst a dramatic hand-gesture, and then catches it mid-air, but alas, with beer sloshing all over the floor. As laughter fills the room and apologies are brushed to the side, Mike gets up from the table and grabs a kitchen rag. Or, in our case, an old tee. My friend immediately picked up on the cloth, and credulously inquired, “Did you just grab a T Shirt?!” To which we had to explain that, in order to reduce waste, we had re-purposed T shirts into useful cleaning supplies. The roommate herself even pitched in on the “up-cycling” and donated her own used tees to our communal rag pile sitting underneath the sink. “I guess…”, the guest says dubiously. But when the beer spills for the second time that day, up the guest gets and grabs the tee and wipes down the mess. Which goes to show that habits can easily be shifted, perceptions easily changed, differences easily made. So what if it’s not glamorous, or matching, or new. It’s functional, and practical, and kind to the environment.

DSC05237
An old tee, catching the drips from a bamboo drying rack.

How about you guys? Ways to rid of paper towel use? How many years abstinence have you got? Words of wisdom welcomed.

For the curious, we absolutely love our collapsible bamboo dish rack, easily stored when guests are over and brought out on a busy weeknight. We got ours from Mother’s Market, but a similar one can be found here. The grey linens are a wedding gift from Restoration Hardware, although similar and more ethically made ones can be found here.

Recent Reads: A Baker’s Year by Tara Jensen

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Sometimes in your life, you come across a kindred spirit. Usually, it’s at a time when you least expect it, and in the most unusual of characters. Fictional, for example, or in people who you have never met. Despite these peculiarities, you just know that they are of the same spirit and mind as you, even if they are miles away. Tara Jensen is one of these kindred spirits. When I picked up her book and sat it across my lap in a hidden, dusty corner of Barnes and Nobles, I was not expecting to meet anyone kindred that day. But after the first few words, I just knew. Her book, A Baker’s Year, “chronicles twelve months of baking and living the simple life at the Smoke Signals Bakery”, smattered with a few recipes and baking techniques, which is what roped me in in the first place, but it was her story that made me stay. Better yet, she was able to summarize a collection of very deep-rooted feelings that even I was not able to bring to the surface until her words dug them from their graves, feelings which all too entirely shape the view that I have of the world today, as well as drive the actions that I choose to take in my daily living. I think everyone could benefit from her words, even if they are not interested in baking bread for their communities. Below is an excerpt from the book that struck a chord with me so many times over the course of two pages (!!). Below is the story of Camille. 

“Camille came to Madison County in 1972 with her husband, Dave. Dave’s father had grown up here, moving to Detroit at the age of nineteen for a better life. He couldn’t believe Camille and Dave wanted to return to what he remembered as a desolate region with nothing to offer. They were warned not to come, but their minds were set on it. Enraged by the Vietnam War, they wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible and learn directly from those who could still teach the way of the land. Less income meant minor tax payments, resulting in fewer dollars toward war machine. They took on cows, chickens, rabbits, sheep and a garden. “A farm is a big name for what we had,” she says.

What was big was their ambition. It had to be. It was up against a lot. War was a symptom of an entire broken social system fueled by overconsumption. Refusal of business as usual was crucial to Camille. “I know we have to live,” she pointed out, “but we don’t need to do it at this level – we don’t need to destroy.”

Camille had already experienced the horrors of war. In 1944, her childhood home in Normandy was bombed, and although everyone was safe, the devastation left only a corner of the original house. Her family first took refuge in a nearby graveyard, surviving only on milk. There her father decided they would take the two-day walk to his parent’s farm, where he was certain food could be found. In the summer, they returned home to rebuild.

Normal weekly rituals ensued, one of which was a trip into town for bread. One afternoon, her sister returned with more than a sack of loaves; she also bore toys she’d found scattered on the roadside. Thin metal rods, like long pens, with a coil wrapped around the middle. They played with them for days, knocking them on rocks like drumsticks. But they weren’t toys. They were cast-aside detonators, and while her mother was busy with the wash, one exploded in Camille’s hand, causing the loss of her right arm at the age of two.

A decade into their life of resistance, Dave was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The long list of daily chores became difficult to maneuver. The cow jumped the fence. The sheep ran away. The dog chased the chickens into the woods. They allowed their responsibilities to dwindle, eventually eating the cow. “It was part of the economy,” Camille explained, a firmness still in her tone. Despite changes in physical comfort and energy, they were as true to their original intentions as they possibly could be.

After Dave passed, Camille carried on the design of their home and land, every nook and cranny meticulously thought out and crafted. Stairwells fashioned after the golden spiral, massive mosaic projects, wood scraps and windows everywhere: ideals for a gentle society radiate from the walls. “I never had a course in building,” she said, “just an interest. I could look at an old building, I would see that it was still standing, and I would think, That is good.” Although Dave is gone, his presence remains, amidst a host of new and radical projects.

Never short on determination, Camille hired a carpenter to frame a door into a dirt wall so that she might dig herself a basement. Rigging up a bucket, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, she chipped at the top of the wall, directing the dirt downward into the bucket. When the bucket was full, she’d take it to the wheelbarrow and empty it. When the wheelbarrow was full, she’d haul it outside and dump it in the gully. She kept at the work for days and months until rumors began to surface.

Her apprentice who frequented the local bar came to report back on the widespread speculation about what exactly Camille was up to. “You’ll never believe what they’re saying about you, Camille. They say you are digging out your basement single-handedly with a spoon!”

She chuckled. “Well then, let them think just that.”

I spoke with Camille recently. We wondered if it was even possible for future generations to go back to the land. There is increasingly less land to go back to, and the old-times who knew the plants and the ballads are passing each year. Besides, living the rural life isn’t for everyone. It seems that each spring, a new crop of young homesteaders arrive bursting with ideas, and only some of them make it to the next year for one reason of another. Many leave when they have children, and divorce is common under the stress of poverty. I like living here because it is so unchanged, and yet sometimes I forget there is a world past the blown-out streetlight. This landscape is a jungle that does not bend to human will easily. Some like the challenge. Some don’t.

Yet what we lack in finery we make up for in freedom. We have a choice. We can choose the detonator or the spoon. What will you leave behind? What will your legacy be? Free, gentle, and diverse is the culture I want for myself, my community, and my bread. Be an instrument for peace. Choose the spoon.”

To learn more about the nuances of simple living, or to learn about baking bread, please do go on and read A Baker’s Year. Our society can benefit from her words in more ways than one. 

Less Waste: For All Menstruating Persons, with Lunette

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It undertook a lot of internal debating (a few months worth, actually!) before I had enough guts (read as wits?) to start writing this review about my beloved Lunette cup. The hesitation, off course, came from a silly, socially-instilled instinct to be wary of ever saying the word period outside the context of grammar class, literary works, and historical recitations. We’ve been taught that periods are something to be ashamed of, and not talked about. (Also taboo, sharing personal stories about monthly cycles, esp. for the entire world to read.) But while the topic of Mother Nature remains uninvited to dinner parties with the in-laws, I figure that my blog already teeters between the norm and the unspoken, so I might as well bridge that gap here and feel all the more relieved about it. In fact, I would consider it a social responsibility to alert all menstruating persons of the existence of Lunette period cups (ah, that felt much better, writing it aloud), and to speak about Mother Nature openly for the sake of Mother Earth. Why keep the silence when half of the population consists of menstruating persons?

Before Lunette cups….

I struggled about the monthly wasteful habits I was engaging in. Specifically, single-use tampons in plastic capsules and the occasional single-use pads.  TMI? Read on anyways. If you think about it, assuming each menstruating person uses an average of 4 tampons a day for seven days a week, twelve times out of a year, for thirty seven years, basic math tells me that each menstruating human uses 12,432 tampons over the course of time that Mother Nature chooses to visit. Multiply that number by all humans favoring tampons, and you’ve got a whole lot of tampon plastic applicators covering up that landfill. Now, not everyone prefers this method, so say they use pads instead. The math comes to something similar, and the visual of a piece of land covered with a mountain of pads is just as stark. So when I started to consider the planet’s needs and wants, I started to fret about my monthly decisions.

I considered many different alternatives.

First, I switched to recycled pads and tampons without plastic applicators. But still, knowing that I threw these away at the end of the day really bothered me. Then, I thought of the reusable rags that remind me of medieval times. A doable deed, but then I didn’t love the idea of walking around in soaked rags all day, and what of swimming? So then I looked into underwear that is made from materials that soak up the leaks. A fan of the new wave engineering, but then what of the smell? This post just gets worse and worse doesn’t it? And still, it didn’t solve my problem with the swimming. (Why the obsession with swimming you may ask. In high school, I was part of a swim class that required me to be in a pool every day, at a time when I was just starting recurring menstrual cycles. So yeah, the problem of periods and swimming still go hand in hand, and always will.) But as with everything that seems like it can’t get any worse, eventually, it gets better.

LRG_DSC05202

I found Lunette cup…

…right when I was about to give up. If I am being completely honest, what caught my attention at first was the fact that I could choose whatever color I wanted. This post is becoming all around shameless. For new users, what is a menstrual cup you may ask. For lack of a better image, think of a literal cup used to catch your flow. It’s reusable, safe, odorless, eco-friendly, and most importantly, comfortable. So comfortable I forget about Mother Nature all together, for up to twelve hours at a time! Which is such an upgrade from the typical 4-6 hours with other single-use tampons and pads.

The first question that I asked was, “How safe?” We’ve all been taught to care about the food that goes into our bodies, so why not the other things too? Lunette cups are made from medical-grade silicone that is FDA approved, hypoallergenic, toxin-free, durable, and isn’t harmful to human tissue. This Finnish company has thought of it all!

The next question obviously is how to use. The packaging comes with a very simple diagram with light verbage to walk every first user through the steps. After washing your hands (duh!), you simply fold the silicone cup and insert, allowing you to go about your day for up to twelve hours, worry free! Depending on one’s flow rate, you may have to remove and empty the cup more often than twelve hours. For convenience, there are two cup sizes, one larger than the other to accommodate heavier flows so that days are not bogged down with emptying cups. Once emptied, rinse, and repeat. The rinsing simply involves using cold water and then hot water. If you are concerned about needing to do this at a public restroom with only one common sink area, Lunette has got you covered with their Lunette CupWipes! But honestly, 12 hours is a long time, so as long as you remember to empty right before you leave the house and right after you get home, then there really is no need for the CupWipes. Then again, not everybody is a homebody. At the end of the cycle, I always boil my menstrual cup in a pot of water for 20 minutes. Lunette sends a small pouch with every purchase to store your cup in during non-menstruating days, which allows me to carry it around at all times, in case of surprise visits.

So now, the specifics…

…to the Lunette cup for me personally. TMI continues. And yes, I created questions for myself, then answered them. This is such a peculiar post…

  • Color: Pink! Erm, well, violet, technically.
  • Size: Lunette Size 1. This is the smaller size. I am 5’1″ and am barely over 100 pounds. I chose this one because to me, it seems it would be more comfortable for my petite frame.
  • How many times do you empty the cup? 4 times a day for the first few days, 2-3 times for the later days. I could probably empty it less frequently if I get the larger size.
  • How long have you been using the Lunette Cup? I have been using Lunette cup for the past four months. I can’t believe I have lived so many years without one!
  • Have you ever used their cleaning products? No, not yet. I find that boiling the cup upon first receiving it and after every cycle is sufficient.
  • Is there a time where you’ve found it inconvenient? Yes. Only once. When we traveled to Mexico City and I was not confident that faucet water was as bacteria free as I would like. I had to keep waiting for a time and place where I was able to take a bottled water into a private bathroom with me and use that to rinse the cup. This may have been the only time I would have bought the cleaning products, if I thought of it ahead of time.
  • Is it difficult to use? No! The learning curve is flat as a valley, it’s so easy! And it teaches you so much about your anatomy. I think we all need to start learning more about our bodies, in general, instead of always trying to hide away from it. I think everyone should give this a try.

For those interested in trying Lunette for the first time, use the code EarthDay18 to get 20% off of all Single Lunette Cups! Feeling charitable? Try the Charitable Buy One, Give One Menstrual Cup, benefitting girls and women in need around the world. 

Getting to Know: Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster of Plaine Products

Tooth Brushing Techniques With Bogobrush

This post is sponsored by Bogobrush, a source for ethically made, sustainable toothbrushes, with a one-for-one give-back program for low-income communities. 

We all know that prevention is better than treatment when it comes to the dental office. There are many ways to prevent caries formation and periodontal disease, the most common of which are proper oral hygiene at home and consistent visits to the dentist for dental check-ups and cleanings. Off course, there are many tools one can use to implement oral hygiene at home. However, the tools are not as important as the methods with which we carry out our everyday oral hygiene. Hence, this short discussion on tooth brushing techniques.

People always see me at the dental office and ask me, “Hey Doc, do I need an electric toothbrush?” Well, that depends. Are you physically capable of brushing your teeth? If you are without Parkinson’s or Rheumatoid Arthritis, or other such conditions that could impair your ability to hold and maneuver a toothbrush, then I would venture that you do not need an electric toothbrush. Now, if the question you meant to ask was, “Could I benefit from an electric toothbrush?”, well, that depends too. If you put in the minimal time and effort to learn how to use a toothbrush effectively, then a manual toothbrush would work equally as well as an electric toothbrush. If you do not want to put in the effort to learn how to properly yield a manual toothbrush, then yes, you can buy a gadget that can do the work for you. It makes sense that the results of inefficient manual toothbrush techniques will be subpar with the results of a vibrating electric toothbrush. However, what most people do not understand is that the results of an efficient manual toothbrush can be as good, and sometimes even better, than your new gadget.

So, in an effort to save you some money, and to save the planet from unnecessary plastic devices, I am going to discuss tooth brushing techniques using my favorite, eco-friendly, socially-conscious Bogobrush.

How to hold your toothbrush.

Most people brush too hard. The point is not to be vigorous with brushing. I know that your intentions are good, and you are making all efforts to remove the plaque from your teeth as best as you can, but excessive forces while brushing can lead to recession of the gums, which can then unleash another set of problems such as teeth sensitivity. Dentists love gums as much as teeth, so we definitely do not want to do that! The root of the problem is usually in the way a person holds their toothbrush. Usually, I see people enclosing their entire fists around the handle, which increases the pressure they can exert on the gum tissue. Unfortunately, this is WAY too much pressure. You want to hold your toothbrush like a flute. Four fingers on the top and the thumb on the bottom. You will notice the vast difference in pressure, and your gums will be all the more happier about it.

DSC05115

Tooth Brushing Techniques

There are multiple tooth brushing techniques! Some are good, some not so good, and some are entirely bad. The methods that I will discuss today are the Bass Method, Stillman Method, and Charter’s Method, the names of which are completely unimportant, but the techniques of which are instrumental. All three methods can be modified, which will also be discussed here. Lastly, there are a few subpar methods called the Fones Method and the Roll-Stroke Brushing technique, which could be useful in teaching children elementary brushing techniques, however, they are not entirely effective in plaque removal and require graduation from once the individual is capable. But first…

How NOT to Brush Your Teeth: The Horizontal Method

A lot of people brush their teeth in horizontal fashion. Meaning they move the toothbrush left to right, from the posterior teeth to the anterior teeth, back and forth over and over again. Typically the toothbrush is pointed directly at the teeth, without ever touching the gums, which is the first negative part about this technique. Plaque will tend to accumulate near the gum line, so we definitely want to focus in this area. However, it’s just as bad if the horizontal method was carried out while pointing the toothbrush at the gums. This method is one of the leading causes of abrasion lesions. This means that the back and forth motion scrapes away at the gums and causes recession of the gum tissue. And as we said earlier, we want nice healthy gums to be covering the roots of our teeth. In the past, this is the tooth brushing method that was taught, so I hardly blame anyone who still believes that this is the optimal technique. But my dear friends, times have changed. Hand in hand with the idea of brushing your teeth as hard as you can, we now know that this is not the ideal way to brush teeth.

Good Brushing Techniques:

So how DO we want to brush our teeth? Below are three methods of teeth brushing. The three methods may seem very similar, and a mixture of these techniques may be used. The one unifying link between these brushing techniques that I think is an important take-away is the fact that the toothbrush is angled towards the gum line at a 45 degree angle, always!

dsc05127-e1523828267577.jpg

  1. The Bass Technique

This is my favorite brushing technique and it is actually one of the most effective because of its ability to remove plaque underneath your gum line, which then helps prevent periodontal infection.

Method: Point the toothbrush towards your gum line (where your tooth and your gums meet) at a 45 degree angle.  Gently put enough pressure so that the bristles of the toothbrush enter the gingival sulcus, otherwise known as the space between the tooth and the gums. Create a vibrational movement using very very short back and forth strokes. You need to do 10-15 strokes per tooth (which is essentially what you pay an electric toothbrush to do for you). The important part is to do this vibrational motion without removing the bristles from the sulcus. After 10-15 strokes, you can move to the next tooth.

  1. The Stillman Technique

Method: This is very similar to bass technique with a slight modification. You will still point the bristles at a 45 degree angle towards the gum and place similar pressure. As you vibrate the toothbrush using short strokes, you move the toothbrush towards the occlusal surface (otherwise known as the top of the tooth). So in essence, you start at the gum line and move towards the tops of your teeth, while moving in this vibrating motion!

  1. The Charter’s Technique

Lastly, the Charter’s technique is used when there is an appliance in the mouth, such as braces!

Method: Think of the Charter’s technique as an inverted version of the Bass Technique. Instead of the toothbrush pointing at the gums, we want the toothbrush bristles to be pointing towards the occlusal surface of the tooth (or top of the tooth). The sides of the bristles should then be pushed up alongside the gums. The toothbrush should still be at a 45 degree angle. Vibrational movements are still used to remove the plaque.

dsc05148-e1523830392576.jpg

  1. Modified Versions of Techniques 1-3

The modified versions of all three techniques can be made, wherein one rolls the toothbrush towards the occlusal surface (or tops of the teeth) at the end of each vibrational sequence (Remember, 10-15 vibrational strokes per tooth!).

Brushing Techniques for the Young Learner

  1. Fones Technique

This technique is one of the subpar techniques that can be used to LEARN how to brush, in a very elementary sense, but is not extremely efficient in removing plaque. We teach this technique to children who are just learning how to brush their teeth.

Method: This technique is known as the circular brushing method. A toothbrush is placed on a set of teeth and is moved in a circular fashion a few times, before moving to the next set of teeth. It is important to understand that this method is only meant to be used to introduce people to brushing techniques.

2. Roll Stroke Brushing Technique

Similar to the Fones Technique, this technique is also subpar, but is simple and requires little practice, so it is usually used as an introduction to tooth brushing.

Method: Place the toothbrush towards the gums and swipe towards the occlusal surface of the tooth (the top of the tooth). Continue this movement until all teeth have been brushed.

Common spots you don’t want to miss!

It’s easy to forget about the backs of your teeth, but those are equally important as well. The back of your front teeth are where plaque and calculus tend to accumulate for most people, mostly because this area is so easily forgotten. Brushing the backs of anterior teeth can be very difficult, so here are some images to show how you can achieve the 45 degree angle in such a funky spot. Uncomfortable at first, but like everything else, it’ll fall right into “normal” after a few practice runs. Disclaimer: you have to brush the backs of anterior teeth with an electric toothbrush too!

dsc05137-e1523829151111.jpg

DSC05132

So there we have it! Tooth brushing techniques that will save you from needing an electric toothbrush, and the planet from unnecessary plastic.

To learn more about Bogobrush, check out a previous post here.

Bogobrush 1

Fun Fact: On average, a person should be replacing their toothbrush every 3-4 months. Once the bristles are splayed out, they are less efficient at removing plaque. Conveniently, Bogobrush has a subscription option that will automatically send your next toothbrush at a monthly interval of your choosing. Bogobrush is currently offering TheDebtist readers their first subscription for free.

As always, thank you for supporting those that support TheDebtist.

Zero Waste Tumeric Red Lentil Fritters Tomato Bowl with Tahini Dill Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Rumor has it that my co-worker’s wife makes the best lentil soup, and vegan friends have sworn that lentils make for an amazing alternative to meat, whether in burgers or in meat-less meatloaves. So when Mike came across a recipe for Lentil Fritters and voiced a willingness to try a vegetarian alternative to meatballs, I decided to give it a go. This recipe in particular included tumeric, a spice that previous to this post, I have not tried for myself, despite seeing it on every shelf at Mother’s Market and Whole Foods in every edible form imaginable. The benefits of tumeric still escapes me, so anybody able to shed light on this is entirely welcome to! Either way, while curiosity killed the cat, in this case, it got two humans to try a vegan meal in a normally very-non-vegan house.

Happily, I was able to get all ingredients in zero-waste fashion from the bulk aisle of our local Whole Foods. Initially, there was no inkling amongst the both of us that lentil was a grain. For some reason, I always imagined a leafy green. But we finally found it after a quick Google search, and carted away red lentils, chia seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds in self-brought containers. Determined not to buy pre-packaged tahini sauce, I decided to be generous in the sesame seed purchase, so that I could make tahini from scratch at home. And in my efforts to continue with the zero waste, we used some day old bread to create the bread crumbs that we needed to add some texture to the fritters. Biased-ly enough, any recipe that allows me to curb landfill waste is a great one! So I hope you enjoy the nutty, seedy, earthy fritters atop a refreshing bed of salad as much as we did.

Ingredients:

DSC04987

Seedy Lentil Fritters
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 tsp or more cayenne
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

DSC04997

DSC05034

Tahini Dill Sauce
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
Bowl
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes & cucumbers

The Process:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. DSC05007
  2. Add all the spices and drained lentils. mix and cook for only a minute.
  3. Add salt and water and cook for 11 minutes partially covered. Uncover, fold in spinach and parlsey and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and all the liquid is absorbed. The mixture will be soft. Taste and adjust salt and heat.

    DSC05013

     

    DSC05009

  4. Add chia seeds and sesame seeds and mix in. Chill the lentil mixture for half an hour (in our case, we just placed it right in the fridge!)

    DSC05025

  5. Meanwhile, make croutons from day old bread using our Basic Crouton Recipe. Once croutons come out of the oven, crush them using either mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin.  DSC05056
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220ºc. Mix in 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in the lentil mixture. The mixture will be soft but should get easily shaped into soft balls without too much sticking or squishing.

  7. Once the lentil mixtures have been shaped into fritters, place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to rub olive oil over the surfaces, for an extra crisp texture. Bake for 20 minutes.

    DSC05057

  8. Blend everything under tahini sauce in a food processor, starting with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients after the tahini sauce has reached the desired consistency. Taste and adjust, adding salt and lemon as needed. For a garlicky dressing mix in 1/4 tsp garlic powder.DSC05040
  9. Assemble the bowl with greens, juicy tomatoes or cucumbers, and as many Lentil fritters as you like. Drizzle dressing generously.

This makes way more fritters than necessary for a party of two. Good news is that they refrigerate quite well. Reheating in a toaster oven makes them good as new, so batch cooking these babies can really come in handy on a busy day. I would also venture to predict that future self will be substituting these for beef patties, on the regular.

DSC05069

Finances: Using “Extra” Loan Money on Vacation Was a Financial Mistake

Right on the heels of my previous post is a suggestion for all current college students to avoid taking out the maximum student loans in order to travel the world. Lest anyone got the wrong idea, I think a follow up is necessary to shed light on the fact that I used borrowed money to pay for my portion of that trip to the Bahamas. More blatantly, I made a mistake, and learned from it, albeit a little too late.

By no means do I regret travelling, ever. There’s a lot to glean from expanding horizons and investing in your world view. You learn things about other people and other places, as much as your own home and yourself, that you will never learn in a classroom. And I paid an arm and a leg for a classroom. So it’s worth paying to travel. But it’s NOT worth spending borrowed money, which equates to borrowed time.

In your early twenties, it seems like a wonderful idea and the repercussions are not so easily visible. For the first time, you have the ability to have access to “extra” money, and the calling to reward yourself during seasonal breaks is all too strong to resist, but resist you must.

I was advised to take out my maximum student loans from the get go. You know, just in case. As in, just in case I find something else to spend that money on. Which, for a young twenty-something, isn’t entirely too difficult to do. I was told that once I was a dentist, I would have no problem paying it back. The premise was that I would be making so much money that it would be easy to get rid of that debt quite quickly. So worry about it later. What appeared odd to me was that when I got close to graduating, I kept being fed this “worry about it later” mantra. I was told I could (and should) put loans on the back burner for another twenty five years under a loan forgiveness program. Because by then, I’d be like, a millionaire or something, and it’d be suuuper easy to pay it back, surely. Which is the same reasoning they fed me when I started dental school. It was then that I woke up, and realized that all people are saying are “worry about it later.” I started worrying about it NOW and when I did, I realized that I was sold a lie.

Unfortunately, the realization hit me a bit too late. Towards the end of dental school, I had accumulated “extra” money, read as extra loan money. We took that trip to the Bahamas, and I wanted to pay my share for the trip. You know, with my “extra” money. I’d call myself a downright fool for ever thinking that borrowed money is money worth spending. Especially on frivolities such as trips. As a young twenty-something, I still did not have a full grip on the daunting largeness of my student loans. What difference does a few extra thousand make? Well, glad you asked (because I surely did not)!

Warning: The example below is not as hypothetical as it seems. 

Assuming you take a $550,000 loan out, but towards the end of your schooling, you had an extra $5,000 left. You decide to take an international trip and reward yourself for all your hard work. So instead of using that extra $5000 to decrease your loan to $545,000, you keep your loan at the maximum $550,000. If you decide to do a 10 year standard repayment plan such as I did, the difference after ten years is about $7,000. Which means that instead of a $5,000 trip, it was actually a $7,000 trip. That’s a 40% increase from what you thought the trip originally cost, assuming no inflation occurs in ten years (unlikely).

For those unconvinced, they ask, what does a difference of $7,000 make in a loan so large? The literal answer is slightly over a month of loan repayment. But the non-visible answer is hundreds of patients, hours of static postures, tens of times recharging your loupe lights, and more than a few times that your back aches, your eyes become strained, your fingers cramp, and you come across a stressful situation. It’s a month of your life spent earning an income and getting nothing out of it. Well, except a trip that you took in your twenties. So the real question is, how much do you value a month of your life?

The answer depends on what camp you fall under: YOLO or JOMO. If you fall under YOLO, then yes, maybe the trade off isn’t so bad. If you fall under JOMO, then the outcome isn’t so good. For the record, I did not regret that trip. I just regret the resources I used to get there. But hey, at least it wasn’t an engagement ring!

For those interested in traveling while in school, might you try travel hacking instead?