Waste free cilantro stem vinaigrette recipe

Make this cilantro stem salad dressing at home to reduce packaging and food waste. 

Easy to love, hard to grow and a shame to waste

Did you know cilantro – coriander to my Australian friends – is part of the carrot family? Did you also know I love it, but can’t grow it to save my life. Even if I could, I probably couldn’t keep up with my own demand.

When I buy cilantro I use nearly every part. I use the stems and leaves differently though. Each has that wonderful aromatic flavour, but the leaves are most beautiful as garnish, while the stems are perfect for recipes calling for blending or crushing.

Here is a simple, tangy, cilantro-y vinaigrette that would work equally well as a marinade.

Cilantro stem vinaigrette recipe

  • one bunch cilantro stems
  • slosh of apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • slosh of macadamia nut oil

Blend and pour over the salad just before serving.

Yesterday I used this on a salad of mignonette lettuce, avocado, thinly sliced white onions, and tomatoes. Two of us ate it, but it might be portioned more appropriately for four servings. I really like salad.

Another good use for cilantro stems is in a sort of white sauce for tacos.

Mexican cashew-cilantro stem sauce recipe

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • one bunch of cilantro stems
  • juice of 1 lime
  • dash cumin
  • dash chili powder
  • pinch salt

Just blend together. If you want a more pourable mix, add hot water a bit at a time until you get to the consistency you want. You can substitute tahini for the cashews, or milk kefir to replace the cashews and water.

A delicious way to reduce food waste

Even though I compost, that still comes second to making sure I don’t let anything edible go to waste. As far as eating root to leaf, cilantro’s a pretty easy sell.

Let me know how you use cilantro stems in your cooking. My sister suggested blending to make a fresh curry, which is a great idea that I will definitely try.

Quick links and long reads

Happy Sunday folks.

Noticing nature, even in small doses, improves one’s “willingness to share resources and the value placed on community” says a new study out of UBC. Here’s more from different research into the relationship between wellbeing and indoor plants. As if I needed another excuse.

Did you hear about the surfer who built a surfboard with 10,000 cigarette butts? Here’s a video if you want to see how he did it. 

Paris has been making other cities look bad since way back, and now again by putting sparkling water fountains around the city. It’s part of an initiative to encourage Parisians to choose tap water over bottled. Sydney, let’s do this!

A good example of the value of tapping into existing motivations, rather than trying to change a person’s motivations, or ‘motivate’ them.

Return and Earn – the container deposit scheme for NSW kicks off next week!

It’s been a year since California kicked the plastic grocery bag habit and here’s what’s happened since.  And here’s what changed in Canberra in the five years after the ACT banned plastic bags.

3 ingredient zero waste lip balm recipe

Here’s a three ingredient formula for a versatile zero waste lip balm that I use on my lips, cuticles, and as the base for my DIY zero waste deodorant. 

3 ingredients, no packaging

This basic balm recipe uses only three ingredients, all of which can be found unpackaged here in Sydney:

  • cacao butter
  • coconut oil
  • beeswax

It’s inspired by a lip balm I had long ago from Lush (Honey Trap, I think) that was great for cuticles and lips alike. I began making my own once I found out how simple this kind of thing is, and when The Soap Dispensary opened and started offering refills of these ingredients in only the amounts I needed. My recipe is a bit simpler than Lush’s, but works just as well.

zero waste lip balm ingredients

Melt and pour method for making the balm 

Melt all three ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio in a mason jar set into simmering water. Stir to combine, then pour into silicone moulds or small reused lip balm tins. The mixture will harden as it cools to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, put the moulds in the fridge.

You can usually find silicone ice cube trays at the op shop – that’s where I got these heart shaped moulds.

Variations on the lip balm recipe

For meltier bars, reduce the relative amount of beeswax. For harder bars (or in summer) increase the beeswax. You can also mix and match oils, butters and waxes if you don’t have cacao or coconut or beeswax – the trick is to start with the roughly 1:1:1 mixture of oil, butter and wax, and then adapt to your climate and preference. The more liquid your ingredients are, the softer the balm will be. I use this combo of cacao, coconut and beeswax because I can find it all packaging free, and cacao butter smells like chocolate!

Uses for the everything balm

I usually make a couple at a time since extras are great as gifts, or stored for later in an upcycled candle jar. The little bars can be remelted and mixed to make DIY paste deodorant.

Impress your friends with water kefir

A long time ago, I used to drink Diet Fresca. Today, water kefir is my obsession. 

Water kefir is a delicious, zero waste drink

If you enjoy drinking any sort of probiotic drink, you might try making it yourself, since $5 a serve is not affordable, no it’s not. If you are also someone watching their household waste you will almost certainly brew at home. It’s a great way to reduce packaging and the load on recycling systems. Whether glass or plastic, the more we reduce, the better.

I started with kombucha, the gateway ferment. Ubiquitous, and in theory, easy. In reality, I made some good batches, but mostly a lot of vinegar (useful, but not the point). So when my kombucha SCOBY faded out last year, I quit the ‘booch and went with water kefir instead.

Compared to kombucha, I find the taste of water kefir to be more crisp, less vinegary, and importantly, fizzier. It’s also more abundant, since I can make a new batch every one to two days rather than the 7 – 14 day brew time for kombucha.

I drink it chilled, add it to bircher for soaking (including the spent fruit pieces), or as a mixer for spirits.  If you’re champagned out during or after the Aussie silly season, it’s a refreshing alternative to champagne all by itself.

Water kefir is easy, fast and fizzy

After being inspired and convinced of a certain ease by this article, I acquired some grains at a food shop in Bronte and got started. Water kefir, also known as tibicos, has nothing to do with milk kefir except that the SCOBY is also grain shaped.

I had immediate and sustained success. My water kefir is reliably fizzy, low sugar (confirmed by a diabetic friend, who now also makes her own), and takes flavouring better than kombucha ever did for me.

My favourite water kefir flavour combos:

  • Mulberry or plum + cardamom + vanilla (tastes like cream soda!)
  • Raspberry + rose water
  • Lemon myrtle + raspberry
  • Cardamom + anything!

I won’t rewrite the method here, as it’s well explained in this Milkwood recipe (though I still use sugar, not honey). It’s a bit like a sourdough, and uses a simple backslop method where you pour off the majority of the the mother to make each flavoured batch, but retain and keep feeding that small amount. The word backslop sounds pretty gross, but it’s all very tidy and less visually disturbing than a kombucha SCOBY. It’s easy enough that I can eyeball the volumes and process a new batch in about five minutes.

Helpful tips for making water kefir

  • Don’t fret if all you have are metal utensils. Some people say this weakens the culture, but I use a metal strainer and utensils with no trouble.
  • My grains do best when I feed with a slice of fresh fruit, a piece of dried fruit and some sliced fresh ginger along with their sugar water.
  • A nice bit of fizz means it’s all alive and well.
  • Expect more fizz and faster brewing in the summer, less in the winter.
  • If I don’t get around to making a batch after a few days, I will pop in another slice of fruit. It just seems to work to keep things balanced with the yeasts.
  • If I’m away for more than a few days I feed, then refrigerate.
  • I use water that’s been filtered with a binchotan stick. I don’t notice a difference in the taste of the water I drink, but it made a dramatic difference to my ferments when I ticked over from non-filtered.
  • You can speed up the process by dissolving the sugar into a small amount of boiled water, then adding the hot water to room temp filtered water, rather than boiling the entire amount of water to dissolve the sugar and waiting for the whole volume to cool.
  • I cover the jars, but not super tightly, and I make sure to release built up gases if I see lots of fizz in warmer weather.
  • I like keeping the starter/mother in a wide mouth mason jar – It’s easy to get fruit in and out and measure the liquid.
  • If you prefer flip top bottles for the second ferment, they are cheap and plentiful at the op shops.
  • A bottle tastes best within about a week in the fridge, but we would rarely ever have it around that long.

Need to find a SCOBY? Try here if you’re in Sydney, the Crop Swap Facebook group is a good resource. This Pinkfarm online community lists those who are willing to swap cultures. I found water kefir to be more elusive, and actually bought my grains from Star Anise Wholefoods.

If you brew water kefir, what’s your favourite flavour combo?