Jennifer Forrest has lived an interesting life so far, and I'm so lucky to call this talented gal one of my best friends since high school. A former international model turned Le Cordon Bleu-trained pasty chef turned wedding dream maker, Jen is a master of all things style and food, and if you're not already following her Instagram Weddings Yay!, then you really should be. It's ethereal, opulent, and addictive, and one of my favorite accounts to follow.
Naturally, when I was developing the concepts of this blog project, I reached out to my besties. And no one loves Halloween more than me except for maybe Jen.
When we were in high school, we two weirdos came up with the idea of Pumpkin Month, where we made and ate one pumpkin recipe for each day of October. My parents still recoil at the smell of pumpkin, but I also wonder what was wrong with them to even entertain that idea in the first place. It was like that scene from Forrest Gump but with pumpkin instead of shrimp: pumpkin cheesecake, baked pumpkin, pumpkin curry, pumpkin salad, pumpkin flan, pumpkin pasta, and something absolutely appalling called pumpkin meatloaf. *shudders*
I reached out to Jen about a pumpkin bread recipe for the Meals Without Plastic Challenge. Was it even possible? Jen was right that baking does, in many ways, translate much more easily into reduced-plastic packaging recipes than protein or dairy heavy meals.
Most of the ingredients are available in cans, bottles, or paper containers, and packaging options vary widely by region. For instance, in Charleston you can easily snag the nuts and chocolate chips in a paper coffee bag at Earth Fare! The rest of the ingredients are easily accessible in any major grocery store.
There were three big stumbling blocks down here, though: 1) the tiny cellophane wrapper around the top of my metal and glass vanilla extract bottle, 2) the plastic lid to the baking powder, and 3) the spices, as you can tell from the photo above.
Here are the solutions to each hang up, respectively.
Vanilla Extract: Honestly, I just went ahead and bought a quality bottle. The lid is metal, the bottle is glass, it smells like heaven. It generated only the tiniest bit of waste for an ingredient that will contribute to many more meals to come, so it's way better than, say, chicken packed in styrofoam and then shrink wrapped and double bagged in plastic. But, it's apparently super easy to make (some of you will be getting this for Christmas!), and you can purchase it in a mason jar on Etsy.
Baking Powder: Though the packaging on this isn't too bad from our local stores, apparently it's also readily available around the rest of the country packaged like this and like this, and you can buy both online if you'll be baking a lot this fall.
Spices: This one is a super easy solve. I went to Charleston Spice and Tea Exchange, and they told me they will happily fill any container you bring in to them, since spices are sold in bulk based on weight. This is awesome, because if your recipe calls for something bizarre, you don't have to go buy an entire bottle of it that will collect dust and taste like sawdust by the time you need it again. (Witness, the three things of nutmeg I threw out last year. Who uses that much nutmeg?!)
BUY WHAT YOU NEED! Forty percent of the food in the US each year is wasted, uneaten. Think about how much money you LITERALLY THROW AWAY, next time you balk at spending a couple extra dollars at the farmer's market or on a local product.
Truth bomb: you're already spending that money anyway, but getting nothing for it other than trash.
This recipe is fabulously easy, delicious, and your friends will love it! It tastes like fall and happiness. We ate mine at a potluck for dessert, and I maybe got seconds.
1/2 can (7.5 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped nuts (from bulk in paper bag)
cup raisins, if desired
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease bottoms only of two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 loaf pans.
Stir together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pans.
Bake 8 inch loaves 50-60 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans, remove from pans, and place on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.
And finally, in case you're new here, I'll again answer the Why Meals Without Plastic question, but add to the previous arguments thanks to new information.
China is no longer accepting our recyclables. Oh, you didn't know we're shipping our waste plastics, textiles, and mixed paper to China? Me either. We are. Are we equipped to handle that volume of plastic here, now that they don't want it?
Though technology has recently been developed to aid in the recycling of plastic back into food-grade plastic, the FDA is still very cautionary against it, and much of the plastic you're encountering at the store is a brand new plastic container.
I don't care what political party you are, it's near impossible to say that competition over petroleum or petroleum-based products (ie. plastic) or the handling of oil related environmental disasters hasn't caused us all an enormous amount of strife on this planet. The less dependence we have on this non-renewable, non-biodegradable crap in our day to day lives, the better for everyone, in my opinion.
Plastic does have a place in this world. Lord knows you'll never find me asking for a bamboo IV at the hospital. But my point is this: There's enough of it already in this world. Recycling is a wonderful thing, but it's time to change the way we live. As always, I'll remind you it's projected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Think about that, those of you that have or want children. We owe the next generation better than this mess!