The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 29, 2008

Plastic-free Thanksgiving – Pumpkin Pecan Risotto, Brussels Sprouts, Winter Salad

I hope you all had a happy and safe Thanksgiving. We spent Thursday at a Thanksgiving potluck with friends and made sure that our three dishes were as plastic-free as possible. Below are links to the recipes, with info on ingredients. I wish I had thought to take pictures of the brussels sprouts after they were cooked as well as Michael’s salad.

Dish 1: Pumpkin Pie Risotto with Candied Pecans (From NPR web site.)

All the dry ingredients came from bulk bins at Whole Foods.

I followed the recipe per the NPR instructions, but I kind of feel like something’s wrong with it as written. The risotto tasted great, but it was much softer than expected, bordering on mushy. The procedure is different from most risottos, requiring you to put the rice and liquids all into the pot together instead of sauteeing the rice first and then adding liquid gradually.

Next time (and there will be a next time because I’m determined to get this right) I’m going to try sauteeing the rice in butter first and then adding liquid gradually. Since this is a dessert risotto with sugar and milk in it, I wonder how I can keep the milk and sugar from sticking. Any suggestions?

Dish 2: Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts (from

Until this weekend, I never knew that brussels sprouts grew on long stalks like this! I had always just thought of them as baby cabbages. So when I found a binful outside Whole Foods on Wednesday, I was immediately enchanted.

Dish 3: Autumn Harvest Salad with Persimmons (from NPR web site)

This salad was great fun for us to make together, full of unusual ingredients: persimmon, pear, pomegranate, pecan, Medjool dates (one of Michael’s favorite foods). It was the first time I’d ever cut into a pomegranate, actually. The next day at Trader Joe’s, we saw pomegranate arils (the beautiful red edible seeds) packaged in plastic containers, and we thought how much fun we would miss if we were still buying all our foods pre-packaged.

In all three dishes, the only unavoidable packaging came from the dairy products — milk, butter, and cream. Going vegan would solve that problem. But I’m just not ready to take that step. Maybe next year.

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Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hey, Hayley. I hope you will stop back and see my answer to your awesome comment. Thank you so much for posting. It’s not too long. It’s truthful, and that’s what matters.

Hayley, you can only do what you can do. You can’t change your parents. You really can’t change other people. Other people will change if and when they are ready to, and maybe not at all.

But what you can do is change your own actions. Educate yourself as much as possible. Read about plastic in the North Pacific Gyre, for example. Read the article, Plastic Ocean and pass it along to your friends. Read about other environmental issues. Then, decide that you will do and do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. Just keep trying the best you can.

Your example will help others to see what is possible as long as you are not “preachy” or self-righteous about it. Bring your cloth bags shopping. If your mom collects more, that is not your fault. Bring your reusable water bottle with you and fill it up. Turn off lights and other electronics when not in use. There are all kinds of things you can do personally.

Think your small actions won’t make a difference? They will. They will change the most important person — you. They will help you to more fully become the type of person you already are — someone who cares about more than her small self. Someone who realizes that she is connected to everything and that her actions affect everything around her.

What to do with those plastic bags — how about creating your own bag monster and then using it for a plastic bag action at your school. You could plan your own “Day Without A Bag.” E-mail me privately and I’ll hook you up with folks who can help.

14 years ago

Oh dear, be prepared for a super long post.

I’ve been lurking at this blog for maybe three months now, waiting and waiting over and over again to introduce myself…
And I now I’ve finally gotten down to it. As I tend to be rather tangential, I wouldn’t advise reading all of this post. But I’m going to write it because I want to.

So, here it is:

I am Hayley you-don’t-need-to-know-my-last-name, your 13-year-old worst enemy.

Worst enemy? Well, environmentalists worst enemy. My family is, uhh, well… well-off. Three, formerly four, of us live on the lakefront of the North suburbs of Chicago, in a 5 million dollar custom built house, with a small forest behind our backyard, a 20k pond, a personal movie theater, and, well, you don’t want to know. But I’ll tell you. We have a giant house-wide sound system which can store up to like 600,000 songs, and takes up an entire closet. My parents refuse to talk about money, but I’ve managed to gather some figures by careful observation.

My Dad is your personal worst enemy, Beth. He owns a private equity firm (which buys companies, makes them worth more and then sells them) and one of his companies is a major producer of, you guessed it, plastic bottles. He also has roofing and flooring companies, furniture companies, pill-counting machine companies, I don’t know exactly how much he owns, but while I was working on his website he slipped and said that $225 million was very low.

So why am I here? Because I do care, I just can’t alter my family’s lifestyle. I can’t and don’t want to stop the flights upon flights that bring us to our various vacations, I can’t stop my Mom buying plastic-packaged food, can’t get my Dad to do anything at all for the environment if it makes him go out of his way. I could do a lot more than I do, but it is hard. It’s hard to not buy anything to drink every lunch, hard to resist the pop sitting in our small drink refrigerator (okay, so we have six refrigerators in the house. Big deal). I can bring plastic bags to reuse every time I go with my mother to the grocery store, but can’t stop her from bringing home more plastic the rest of the time. And there is no way I can negate the three giant hunks of plastic that are my asthma inhalers, or the three constant subscription drug bottles from ending up in my trash can. And honestly, I’m often just too busy to bother to fish out plastic bags from my garbage can or nag my parents. I have school (with lots of homework-I hate honors courses), hours of swimming, extra-curricular activities like Science Olympiad or Latin. I try some, but I fail. And I should try harder. I’m working on that one.

End of introduction, I’ll get to my two answers to your question and a few questions of my own.

-Nope, the recession hasn’t changed a thing for me. I can’t figure out how much money we lost, but I know it’s a decent amount, but it’s not enough to really affect us.
-Madonna x)

-What is something useful I can do with the plastic bags I collect that I don’t need to reuse? I’m paranoid about making anything that might waste them, but don’t want to just recycle them. help?

14 years ago

Thanks for the mention! My bags are thin organic fine mesh, so they do not add too much to the weight, but they aren’t good for flour. I am working on a good bag for super fine stuff that won’t add too much to the weight. Store clerks can sometimes be a pain about taring. Easier to just have a lighter bag.

14 years ago

Sorry – just saw the question was already asked!!

14 years ago

Question: How do you buy food from the bulk bins without using a plastic bag? I’ve been struggling for a solution to this.

Small Footprints
14 years ago

Mmm … your recipes sound yummy!

I recently discovered pomegranates … and you’re right … the peeling and digging is half the fun … so are the red fingers.

Take care!

Small Footprints

14 years ago

That all looks yummy, Beth. We went 90% local for Thanksgiving this year, which entailed a bit of plastic as packed by the farmer — fresh local bird in plastic vacuum pack, local cheese in plastic vacuum pack, and local lard (for pie crust) in reusable plastic container. Um, guess you can tell we’re not vegetarian.
I’ve made savory pumpkin risottos that used a more traditional preparation. The only key to keeping milk and sugar from sticking is stir, stir, stir and watch your heat.

Coconut Bunch
14 years ago

Hey! We had Brussel sprouts too with our turkey, at the Txsgiving buffet, Moana Surfrider, on the beach at Waikiki! Yours were no doubt better.

Unfortunately, no creamed onions.

But they did have a wide assortment of raw & cooked fish stuff, which the couple from Japan who were sharing our table enjoyed thoroughly. And they did try the turkey as an afterthought.

14 years ago

The risotto sounds Lucious, and I love love love brussel sprouts!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

HI Susy. I too use cloth bags for dry bulk goods. Organic Needle makes some, as “make a bag” mentioned, and you can also get them from and I believe my Whole Foods sells them as well. Make sure you let the checkout clerk know the “tare weight” to deduct so they don’t charge you for the weight of the bag. Cloth bags are heavier than plastic bags.

If you use them for anything sticky, be sure and rinse them out and hang them to dry right away to avoid mildew.

I also sometimes use brown paper bags that I reuse over and over (for coffee, for example), emptying it into a container when I get home.

For wet food (like hummus from deli counter, meat, etc.) I take stainless steel containers, like you can buy from or The grocery store staff at Whole Foods and other bulk places are able to deduct the weight of the container from the total price.

And Green Cat, reusing plastic containers is allowed!


The Green Cat
14 years ago

Wow, I never knew brussel sprouts grew like that either. That’s a great photo!

I’ll confess there was plastic involved in my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner (I made ice cream) but all of it was reused plastic (deli containers to transport the ice cream from my apartment to my friend’s house) and will be reused again so at least it didn’t go into the waste stream.

make a bag
14 years ago

Hey Susy – Try cloth bags. You can use a washable marker to write the bin # on it for the cashier.

If you are at all handy with needle and thread, they are nothing to whip up, even from an old t-shirt or some other reused (and washed!) lightweight fabric. Or you can buy them on – one seller is OrganicNeedle. I’m not affiliated with her; just read her blog and she posts here a lot as well.

14 years ago

I love brussels sprouts steamed for a few minutes then sauteed with some bacon and garlic. I have never been able to find them on the stalks though. I think I may try to grow them next year.

What kinds of containers do you fill from the bulk bins? I’ve been looking for something to take with me so I don’t have to use those plastic bags. I usually save them and take them back so at least I’m using the same ones every time.