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Dinner parties are fun in theory, but when considering the cost, the hassle, and the mess, a restaurant dinner is often chosen as an easier alternative. But what if we told you that you could feed 12 people for less than the cost of a restaurant bill and help save the environment, too?
Here are a few things that you’ll need to have around in order to facilitate the no-waste lifestyle. In your kitchen, you should have the following materials. (If you’re missing any of these, there are great, affordable websites that will help you stock up on these long-lasting staples.)
Candles are important for dinner parties, they set the mood and dress-up the table. The best eco-friendly candles you can get are soy candles. These last a long time and you can buy them unscented and add your favorite essential oils to personalize them. Flowers are equally as important in setting the mood and are waste-free. Your local farmers market will always sell them package-free. Wine bottles are easy to recycle and they're also easy to repurpose. Keep a few bottles around for flower vases or water pitchers.
on the menu:
Seasonal vegetable salads are incredibly easy to make and are very environmentally friendly. Pop over to your local farmers market with your tote bag and fill up on whatever vegetables speak to you. Mix in some fresh fruit to liven it up and to make use of the last waves of summer fruit bounty. Bitter greens like arugula and kale pair well with sweet fruits like watermelon, strawberries and peaches. Lighter greens like romaine and butter lettuce pair nicely with citrus fruits like mandarin orange and grapefruit. When it comes to dressing, you can easily find recyclable glass bottles of dressing your local grocer, but they’re not entirely waste-free. The adhesive label and plastic seal will end up in a landfill. The best alternative to buying bottles of salad dressing is making your own. You can buy oil and vinegar in bulk or you can bring your bottles in for refills at your local specialty grocer. Mix together some oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper and a pinch of brown sugar for a delicious, summer-fresh, waste-free dressing. Whisk it together in a bowl and pour the dressing into a small jar to serve and store.
Crostinis are great, simple appetizers that pair well with any salad. You can get as creative or basic as you want with these. At your farmers market, find a fresh baguette or loaf of sourdough and wrap it up in a cloth napkin until you’re ready to use it. That will help the bare bread stay fresher, longer. It’s easy for unpackaged bread to get stale so it’s important to keep as much air out as possible. Refrigeration helps, too. When you’re ready to use your bread, slice it laterally and brush on a coating of olive oil, feel free to add garlic or lemon to kick up the flavor. Bake at 375F for about 12 minutes on a baking sheet. While it’s heating up, mash up some avocado. Add salt and pepper to taste. Other fun additives include lemon, chili flakes, balsamic, thinly-sliced apple or pear. Once your bread has cooled for a few minutes, smear on a thick layer of the mashed avocado. This is best served warm but it’s just fine at room temperature.
For your main course, you have tons of grainy, filling options. If you don’t have a bulk ingredient store near you, try your local Whole Foods. They have an entire aisle dedicated to bulk, package-free food. Bring a jar from home and fill up on pasta, quinoa or rice. Store these ingredients in your kitchen in a tightly sealed jar. Pasta is a perfect dish for serving large parties. Cook up a large pot of your favorite pasta while you get to work on your homemade pesto. You’ll need basil (farmers market), garlic (farmers market), olive oil(bulk), pine nuts (bulk). Toss them into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pour it onto your strained pasta. Add some diced tomatoes to freshen it up or some quinoa to pack in some protein.
Fruit is the best no-waste dessert. If you want to dazzle your guests, try a baked fruit paired with a chilled dairy. An amazing end-of-summer dessert is a baked peach. Grab twelve at the farmers market and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. First, you’ll slice them in half and pit them. Be sure to put your pit in your composter, or plant it outside if you have the space! Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon on the peaches before putting them in the oven at 375F. These will bake for about 30 minutes or until the sugar has begun to caramelize. Prep the peaches before your guests arrive and wait to put them in the oven until dinner has begun. The smell will be amazing and they’ll be the perfect temperature when your guests are ready for them. Once they’re out, drop a scoop of your favorite ice cream in the pitted center. If you have an ice cream maker, be sure to use milk that’s sold in a glass jug or a recyclable container. Vanilla and strawberry taste the best. If you’re purchasing ice cream from the grocery store, be sure to look for a recycle symbol on the carton. Keep in mind that the waxier the container, the more unlikely it is that it can be recycled.
You'll need to stock up on a few items that will last forever and change the way you clean.
All of your food scraps will be collected in your composter which you’ll empty out at your local farmers market, if your neighborhood does not service compost pick ups. Whatever wine bottles, corks or cartons you’ve collected will go out with the recycling. (Be sure to check your local rules and regulations.) Whatever food you don’t eat, you can package up in mason jars which will keep it fresh in your fridge. Bring it to work the next day for lunch or give your guests doggy jars to take home with them. Your Castile soap and dish scrubber will take care of the utensils, pots, pans, dishes and cups. Use your cotton cloths to wipe down and dry dishes before returning them to the cabinets. A little white vinegar, Castile soap and baking soda will clean the cloths when you’re through with them. You can do this in your sink or bathtub. Be sure to hang them right away to dry.
With lunch for the next day, full and happy guests, you’ve fed your friends and helped do your part to protect the environment. Zero-waste cooking and cleaning products are not only eco-friendly and on-trend, they're much more chic than plastic, will look great on display in your kitchen, and will last you a lifetime.