May 29, 2013

Party Time! Zero Waste style.

This weekend, I threw a cocktail party to celebrate my becoming an author. Our house's size limited our guest list, nonetheless, forty people RSVP'd. My full time work schedule did not give me much time to get ready. On Friday, I tackled the grocery shopping armed with a shopping list and a basket full of jars; Saturday, I worked from morning till 6:45pm, just in time to take a quick shower, take a few pictures to share with you and welcome our first guests. 

My book describes Zero Waste entertaining, so this post is to show how I put some of my tips into practice.

Here is how we managed to make our soiree a Zero Waste event:

Glassware and plates

As mentioned before, when we host parties bigger than our table can sit (10) we serve a buffet of finger foods with our stack of cloth napkins (I only have 32, but was not worried about running out for our 40 guests, as I have learned from previous experiences that only half the guests actually use a napkin for finger foods). Our everyday glassware (two full shelves, about 50 pieces) eliminate our need for disposables. Our everyday (white ceramic) and camping (polished stainless) plates served as platters, a handful of turkey lacers as reusable toothpicks, and jars of plant trimmings as decorative items.

Reusable Ware


To simplify my cooking, I took full advantage of items sold loose in my grocery store (one stop shop), including the salad bar, olive bar, prepared food counter, meat counter, fish counter, and cheese counter using jars; the bulk bins and bakery using cloth bags; and, the produce aisle using mesh bags. I also used home-grown and foraged (neighbor) herbs. Our menu consisted of:

  • Pistachios (bulk bin)
  • Black olives (olive bar)
  • Green olives (olive bar)
  • Leo's breadsticks: He rolled leftover dough (onion tartlets) in a beaten egg, then in grated parmesan cheese (salad bar)

A few snacks

Veggies and Cheese

  • Zucchini (produce aisle) slices topped with a chickpea mixture: Marinated chickpeas (olive bar), blended with an immersion blender and seasoned with ground cumin (bulk bin) 
  • Mini Skewers of mozzarella balls, asparagus and cherry tomatoes: The ingredients consisted of a salad (prepared food counter), which we then separated and skewered onto turkey lacers.
  • Onion tartlets: Homemade using bulk ingredients
  • Eggplant spread and blinis: Homemade using bulk ingredients
  • Marinated chili peppers (olive bar) stuffed with a mixture of feta cheese (salad bar) and cream (reusable bottle), then tipped in freshly ground pepper (bulk bin)
  • Celery sticks (produce aisle) filled with a blue cheese (salad bar) mixture and a pecan (bulk bin) 
  • Goat cheese balls: I rolled the mixture used to stuffed the chili peppers in 3 different ingredients, including chopped celery leaves (discards of previous appetizer), chopped herbs (home-grown), and chopped almonds (bulk bins). I hid a snap pea (produce aisle) for extra crunch in the first two types.
  • Veggies (produce aisle) and hummus dip (salad bar)
  • Three types of cheese (cheese counter) on a platter and toasted baguette (stale baguette)

Veggie and Cheese Appetizers


  • Pate with toasted baguette and cornichons (recipe and origin of ingredients here)
  • Chicken and Quinoa meatballs (prepared foods counter) with their honey-mustard dip (homemade using the recipe provided in the book by replacing sugar with honey).

Pate and Baguette

  • Smoked Salmon (fish counter) and lemon rind (produce aisle) on Blinis (homemade using bulk ingredients)
  • Salmon Sushi: Homemade using fresh salmon (fish counter) on sushi rice (bulk bin, using a mixture of bulk apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt to season the cooked rice), and a drop of homemade horseradish (recipe in the book).
  • Baked cheesy (grated, salad bar) shrimp (fish counter) toasts (stale baguette): This appetizer was my only hot item; once guests arrive I want to join the party and give them my full attention!

Smoked Salmon on blinis, topped with lemon  rind.

  • Five types of cookies (bakery self serve)
  • Malt balls (bulk bin)
  • Sugar coated peanuts: Homemade using salted peanuts (bulk bin)
  • Fresh strawberries (produce aisle)

  • Revive Kombucha, sold in reusable growlers at our grocery store (the bottles are returned to customer service to be reused by the company)
  • Two types of beer, the growlers of which we get refilled at our local brewery
  • Red and White wine, the bottles of which we get refilled at a local winery
  • House Cocktail: Vodka (360 brand, available in flip-top bottles which we reuse for wine refills), French pomegranate lemonade (the bottles of which we also reuse for wine refills) and orange juice (I reuse and fill our milk bottles from the squeezing machine in my grocery store)
  • Flavored water: Rosemary and Lemon, simply squeezed into flip top bottles and then filled with water.

Cocktail and Flavored Waters

These accompanied with beautiful weather, great music and our favorite people, made for a successful and memorable event. And even a couple of days worth of leftovers!

Have a party scheduled? Questions? Ask away!