One week before Purim, I had a goal: I wanted to make the mishloach manot that my husband and I give to friends as plastic-free and low-waste as possible. Unfortunately, what I didn’t have was a plan for how to make that happen. I had come up with two great ideas, but both ideas required saving empty containers for several months. Given my lack of a functioning time machine to go back and think of these ideas right after Sukkos, I was stuck. (There’s always next year, so I’ve noted in my bullet journal when I need to start stockpiling for next Purim.)
I was floundering around with no theme, no ideas for packaging, and not even a good sense of what I wanted to include in the mishloach manot. The only thing I knew was that the Black Forest brownies I had made one Shabbos in February had been a big hit with my family, so I wanted to share them:
Very Forgiving Black Forest Brownies
Start with your favorite brownie recipe. Whether it’s from scratch or a box, it doesn’t matter. I tend to bounce from recipe to recipe, depending on what I have in my pantry. It seems like any time I bake, we have just run out of canola oil, coconut oil, or parve margarine, so I jump to a recipe that calls for what I have on hand.
Once the brownie mix is ready, dump in one can (or more) of cherry pie filling. I like the 21 oz. can, but if you want the cherries to dominate, you could easily use more. Stir in thoroughly.
Bake according to the recipe or package directions.
A few minutes (five or less) before the brownies are ready to come out of the oven, pull the pan out and shake chocolate chips over the top. A little or a lot, it’s totally up to you.
Put back in the oven to finish. If you want a thin chocolate layer on top, you have the option to smooth the melted chocolate with a knife across the whole pan, or just let the chocolate melt slightly so you get chunks of chocolate.
When I was thinking about Black Forest Brownies, Somehow, the idea of the old joke “What’s black and white and red all over?” popped into my head. A quick google search led me to this recipe, which I modified by using parve oat milk and margarine. I added white chocolate chips and rolled the muffins in sugar, omitting the recommended cinnamon from the topping to add more white to the off-white muffin. After that, the red item came to mind pretty quickly. I couldn’t find my first idea, a healthy berry juice in a recyclable container, so I went with cans of Coke. Okay, the contents were planned, but how was I going to pull it together?
I knew I wasn’t going to go with plastic bags for the baked goods, and I landed on thin pieces of waxy paper baked goods are often wrapped in when you buy them at the bakery counter. I bought them at a store that supplies restaurants, schools, and more. Since I wound up with a box of 500, so I would recommend asking if a local kosher restaurant if they would sell you a smaller amount. On the upside, my packaging for a whole lot of Purims is already partially handled.
Luckily for me, my husband is a creative type who works in marketing, so in the course of a quick car ride to run an errand, we came up with the concept for our tags. A good friend did the gorgeous lettering. I simply copied her design onto card stock, and I was good to go.
With my “black and white and red all over” theme, of course I was going with newspaper for the packaging. I was able to grab mine for two days and my neighbors’ as well, so I had plenty of something that was otherwise headed for the recycling bin.
I had planned to tape the pages together using a paper-based tape so the sheets could still be recycled, but Amazon didn’t deliver the tape in time. By overlapping two sheets and tying them with red ribbon (not purchased new, it came from my ribbon stash, which I hope to talk about when I have a blog post on the intersection of organization and reuse), I had a workable solution.
I have to admit, the first bundle looked a little wonky, but I was delighted with the rest. I threw on a newsboy cap and grabbed a messenger bag to deliver what I labeled the Shushan Gazette. As it was for you, no doubt, Purim on erev Shabbos was a very hectic day, but I felt good about my efforts to clean up the messiest holiday!
What About the Kids?
Like any aspect of parenting, it comes down to picking my battles. For example, my kids are all pretty well accustomed to putting items in the recycling bins now, so I’m working with them on cutting back water waste (more in a future blog post, IY”H). That means I’m not mentioning turning lights and such off. Okay, sometimes I slip! I do make sure to thank them when I see them using a nonpaper towel, washing something for reuse, etc.
With that mindset, when I asked them what they wanted to put in their mishloach manot, I didn’t place any limits based on how “green” any of their choices were: good-old plastic chip and pretzel bags went in alongside Mike & Ike’s and cans of soda. The most important thing to me was their happiness.
All things considered, their packages came out relatively low waste also. I bought bags made from 100% recycled paper. (Creating a market for goods made from recyclables means more things will be recycled, so I do take the time to look at labels and try to choose items made from or packaged in post-consumer content.) One kid decided to make tags with the pieces left over after I cut out my labels from the card stock. And the Mike & Ike’s and Coke came in recyclable packaging. They were happy; I was happy. It’s a win-win!
On to Pesach…