Blog (Page 2)

Plan a zero-waste wedding and the planet will thank you

We all know weddings an get expensive, and excessive. As a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard I see first hand just how lavish these events can be. While your wedding day should be special, beautiful and uniquely yours, it can still be all of those things while being less wasteful. Plus, on top of feeling great about tying the knot you can feel good about lessening your impact too! Executing a “green wedding” doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes some thoughtful consideration.

Here are some of our favorite green wedding ideas that are easy to implement, and won’t take away from the beauty and elegance of your affair. Remember even small details can make a big impact on your big day!

1. Responsible Invitations. I prefer good old snail mail for wedding invitations, especially in this digital age there’s something particularly nice about opening a beautiful piece of mail. Try using 100% sustainable recycled post-consumer paper and minimize it by directing guests to your wedding website for additional information. As for your Save the Dates go paperless–Minted, Paperless Post, evite and Greenvelope offer a ton of templates and options that will still ensure your guests receive high quality invitations they can get excited about. The same goes for your thank you cards!

2. Upcycled dresses and accessories. Consider wearing a previously worn or second hand dress down the aisle or during your rehearsal dinner or brunch. Sites like Tradesy and Nearly Newlwed sell preowned dresses that look brand new (and no one will ever know!). Shoes and accessories can get pricey too, and there’s loads of gently worn versions available more affordably and responsibly. You may also want to ask around your family to see if there is an heirloom piece you can repurpose or redesign. Nothing is more special than sharing in the history of your family during your big day! If you prefer a brand new dress, shop around for a designer that uses sustainable fabrics (like organic cotton, silk or hemp) such as H&Ms eco-friendly wedding line Conscious Exclusive Collection. As for your bridal party why not give them a color palette to select from and have them wear something they already own? We all know most of those bridesmaid dresses we hope to “wear again” just stack up in the back of our closets…

3. Go plastic and paper free. Make sure to tell your vendors that you’re trying to be as zero-waste as possible and they’ll help you! If you’re ordering linens ask that they not be wrapped in plastic for delivery. If you’re serving cocktails ask your bartender to forego the straws. Serve water from pitchers or have a water station with a tap. Look for bar/catering options that offer stainless steel kegs that are reused and avoid buying ice in plastic bags. Use cloth napkins in the bathroom instead of paper towels.

4. DIY Flowers. There’s no denying that flowers are gorgeous but their environmental cost can be high. When selecting fresh flowers be sure your blooms are sustainable as possible by seeking out vendors that are farm-to-table or using local flower growers. By using locally grown in-season flowers you’ll be ensured the freshest, highest quality stems at the best price. On Martha’s Vineyard Tea Lane Farm and Morning Glory Farm grow many varieties of annual and perennial flowers and they design beautiful arrangements. Additionally, Donaroma’s offers floral design, as well as the opportunity for brides and grooms to rent their Island grown plants for their special event–allowing for the look of fresh greenery while knowing it will be thoughtfully repurposed.  

Paper bouquets can also be fabulous, and unique, plus they’re compostable. There’s also the option to plant your own flowers or use a recycled or foraged bouquet. For centerpieces, consider growing or purchase potted plants or fresh herbs that can be reused. Even dried herbs can make beautiful arrangements! I love the idea of clustering several small arrangements together to make one beautiful display that several guests can bring home. Be sure to compost any remaining flowers after the event that can not be reused, your soil will thank you.

5. Less is more. Decorating your venue can be enticing but some of my favorite weddings have been the simpler ones. You can save a lot of waste and money by minimizing your decorations, plus your venue is likely an attractive space in it’s own right, so let it shine! When decorating use organic materials that can be sourced in nature. Things like bark, seeds, rocks, stones, bricks, building materials, and found objects. Also don’t be afraid to ask for donations! You can use or collect jars/glassware that you or your family may already own for centerpieces. Pieces like bird cages, wooden grates, chalkboards etc. are likely lying around at your friends’ homes waiting to be repurposed.

6. Go natural with your place cards and signage.  You can also use plant matter for your place cards and table assignments. Get crafty by writing on things like eucalyptus leaves, flat rocks, and wooden bark or shingles for your signs and display notes. And of course there’s all sorts of green inspiration on Pinterest!

7. Make it family style. When it comes to your catering options consider serving local food family style, reducing the footprint it takes to get to your plates and reducing the dish ware that needs to be used and cleaned. Several Island-based caterers like Smoak BBQ and Kitchen Porch Catering offer farm-to-table menus that will allow your guests to taste the delicious local food available on Martha’s Vineyard, while reducing the resources it takes to feed them.

8. Go green with your gifts. Traditional wedding gifts often require shipping resources to get to you, and come decorated with wasteful wrapping paper. Instead ask your guests to donate to your honeymoon. Sites like honeyfund.com make it easy for guests to safely and securely donate to your dream vacation or new home. If your guests are insisting on giving you a physical gift create an eco-friendly wedding registry.

9. Do the world a favor with your favors. When it comes to giving your guests something special to remember your event by, look into items that come in compostable eco-friendly packages. Soap, reusable totes, plants, seeds or homemade jams all make great thoughtful gifts that are easy on the environment. Or instead of a physical gift make a donation in everyone’s name to a local charity you can feel good about!

10. Compost, and recycle as much as possible. Make sure to do all you can to reuse and compost whatever remaining trash and leftovers remain at the end of your event. As for recycling remember the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”? Recycling comes last because it should be a last resort, it’s complicated and not as environmentally friendly as most people think. Composting on the other hand is easy and goes straight back to the earth. You’ll want to make sure to compost your flowers and any other organic matter that can be reused. Paper from your cards and envelopes can also be shredded and composted. Be sure to ask your caterer about composting the prep, scraps, and leftovers from your event, many caterers will do this anyway. You can also hire Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to do it for you as part of their Food Waste Collection initiative. Contact them at (508) 687-9062 or at sophie@igimv.org more more details.

Bringing the farm, and the sea, to school

If you ever have the opportunity to eat at the West Tisbury school for lunch you won’t be disappointed. The impressive food program, led by rockstar chef Jenny Devivo is quite the operation. And Jenny, well she’s the cherry on top.

Since 2011, the head chef and cafeteria director for the up-Island regional school district (West Tisbury School and Chilmark School), has made it her mission to source local food for the schools’ daily lunches. Part of Jenny’s dedication is fostering real relationships with local food purveyors, farmers, and fishermen; which enables her to enrich the developing palettes of Martha’s Vineyard with her farm-to-cafeteria-table menus.

Each Friday Jenny’s approach is more fish-to-table with her local “Catch of the Day” program, the first of its kind in the country. Since 2016, the program has been providing students with locally sourced and sustainably harvested fish through Menemsha Fish House and Boston-based regional seafood purveyor Red’s BestOur friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting seafood as their Harvest of the Month for April, so it’s only fitting we spotlight Jenny’s incredible work that brings the bounty of our local waters directly to our Island’s most selective eaters.

Getting kids to eat fish sounds like a challenge but Jenny’s got it down. “Fish Friday is as popular as pizza day,” she states proudly. Not only do the students take the bait, literally, but they’re educated on the sourcing too. Red’s Best uses traceability software with quick-response (QR) codes on the packaging that Jenny can scan and track. With that information she can tell the school community who caught their fish, off what boat it came, and how and where it was caught. That’s just about as local, sustainable and transparent as you can get.

The first time we visited the West Tisbury kitchen Jenny was serving Roasted Pollack with Lemon, Capers and Butter. Other Friday favorites include her popular fish chowder made with locally sourced sustainable white fish like hake, cod, and haddock. The day we visited she was serving Fish Cakes and a special tasting treat of Blue Moon Oysters, harvested by fisherman Scott Castro from Katama Bay. These fresh bivalve mollusks were baked in the oven and then served on the half shell with turmeric butter…yummm! She’s also been known to serve up Paella, Mediterranean Fish Stew, Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Salmon, Baked Fish with Butter Cracker Crumb, and a Fish Sandwich.

Any day of the week you can find Jenny and her assistant chefs Maura Martin and Nisa Webster buzzing around the West Tisbury School kitchen preparing fresh, local lunch for up to 550 children and staff each day. That reflects an almost 100% participation rate in the program, up from close to 40% when she first took over the kitchen several years ago.

It all started in 2011, when the up-Island regional school district voted to opt out of using the corporate school lunch provider they had contracted, and hired Jenny instead. She, along with many supporters including Noli Taylor of Island Grown Initiative (IGI), helped salvage materials from the old Edgartown school, including the prep table, the roll-down window, the steam tables, even the sinks. The greater Island community helped her renovate the kitchen in two months, and she got to work. The mission was to cook healthier food and sourcing from as many local resources as possible. It’s safe to say it was the right choice, and there’s no looking back. “It’s been hard but rewarding,” says Jenny.

Children are offered a hot lunch option daily (think herb roasted chicken or local pollock and haddock chowder) as well as a daily offering of salad bar and egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwich and fresh vegetables. The ever-changing salad bar is a lavish offering all its own, with fresh local produce, and scratched cooked, freshly prepared salads that as Jenny says “push the boundaries of flavor.” You might find an apple fennel salad or beet hummus, along with several local grain options, and teachers and students alike load up their plates.

So how does she do it? By 9am each morning she has the orders in for the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools, which allows her to eliminate food waste as much as possible, and know what she’s up against for the day. Any food not consumed is either reused the following day or composted by IGI along with the help of the students, and it’s something they take seriously. “I’ll see kids fish things out of the garbage that should have been composted or call each other out for not doing it properly.” Clearly her methods are working.

Jenny prides herself on making approachable food that inspires the students to try new things, while setting limits on selections to encourage them to venture outside of their comfort zone. “If we eliminate 17 choices for lunch, the cost goes down, and it allows us to introduce the kids to new flavors.” Of course living on an island with access to fresh local food helps, and she readily takes advantage of it. In addition to locally caught seafood, Jenny is able to source meat and produce from Beetlebung Farm, The Good Farm, The Grey Barn, Morning Glory Farm, Thimble Farm, Cleveland Farm and Whippoorwill, and she genuinely appreciates everyone’s contributions to her kitchen.

According to Jenny it’s a community program that encourages participation, and sharing. She’s come to see how it has helped kids to take pride in the presentation of their food, and to know where it comes from. “When we’re in here cooking all day and they can smell it in the halls, it’s a sensory experience. They already feel connected to it, and it boosts enrollment.” And the kids aren’t only eating it, they’re cooking it too. “We have kids that ask to help us prepare food and we bring them back there and put them to work.”

Jenny’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It’s obvious that the students and faculty love her and the rest of the country is taking note too. These days when she’s not in the kitchen she travels throughout New England consulting other schools on how to implement similar programs. “It’s all about getting the kids to eat real food… The options are endless when it comes to feeding kids.”

What to consider if you’re considering a first look

As a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard one of the most common questions I get from couples is “should we have a first look?” Like any important decision you make about your wedding, it’s a personal one, and a choice that you and your partner should make together, and agree on. After all, you can only take a first look once.



If you’ve always imagined laying eyes on each other at the altar and that’s a vision you share, then that’s what you should do. But, if you’re open to the “big reveal” in a less conventional setting–but one that is still special and romantic–than a first look might be for you. Not to mention it’s an incredibly picturesque opportunity. You’ll both be looking your best, and floating on cloud nine in eager anticipation. No matter where and when it happens it will be one of the most memorable moments of your life.


Personally, we’re big fans of the first look. Practically speaking it allows you to have more time to enjoy your cocktail hour and mingle with guests post-ceremony. But most importantly it offers the two of you some intimate time together before the knot is tied, to quietly feel those feels and take a deep breathe without all of your guests surrounding you.


Obviously, a wedding is an emotional experience, and a first look means your photographer can capture that honesty. Quite frankly, first look photos are some of our favorites. They capture the genuine love, and surprise and delight of our client’s most sentimental moments.



Now, if it’s important to have your squad nearby then you can let them in on the first look too. We’ve had many couples share a first look while they’re parents and bridal party looked on from afar, or showed up several minutes afterward to share a sneak peek of the happy couple. It’s a great segue to taking your family and bridal party portraits beforehand too, meaning more time after the ceremony to devote to celebrating. Again, it’s your day and your decision, and we’d love to help customize a first look that works best for you.


Let’s not forget that having a first look is a great way to help ease you into the emotion of the day. You’re about to promise forever to the love of your life and it can be overwhelming. If you opt for a first look you’re less likely to cry walking down the aisle, avoiding a makeup malfunction (which we all know too well). Then, once you approach the altar you’ll feel more comfortable in front of your guests and can focus on the task at hand–making it official!


But like anything, timing is everything and it must be coordinated appropriately if a first look is for you. If there isn’t time in your timeline to make it happen, don’t force it. A first look should help you ease some of the stress and anxiety of the day, not create it! We recommend that a first look happens at least an hour or more before the ceremony so you can be safely tucked away before your early guests arrive. That also means you’ll need to be ready earlier too, so consider your time wisely.



So there it is, for your thoughtful consideration. Whether you opt for a first look or stick to the more traditional route, the right answer is the one that just feels right to you!

The Most Eggscellent Month of the Year

When’s the last time you’ve stopped to hail the almighty egg? These nutritious and delicious capsules of goodness are Island Grown School’s (IGS) Harvest of the Month for March and they’re personally one of my favorites. I start each day with a farm fresh egg that has been laid by my very own chickens. Here on Martha’s Vineyard keeping chickens is almost as common as keeping a dog or cat as a pet. It’s a way of life and one I’m grateful for–the difference in quality between a store bought egg and a local egg is exceptional.

First off a store bought egg might be months old! It’s pretty alarming but true. Eggs can have a long shelf life and may still be safe to eat but it’s not too appetizing to think about how long ago they were laid. Farm fresh eggs on the other hand are usually only days old when sold to you, meaning their more nutritious, as they lose some of their value as time passes by.

When it comes to food shopping some items are created equal, but eggs are one of those foods that’s worth paying extra for. Locally grown farm eggs can cost about $6 a dozen, but at about 50 cents per egg they are one of the most affordable sources of Island grown food, not to mention one of the most protein rich.

In fact eggs have 6 grams of high-quality protein, making them a protein packed breakfast that can help sustain your mental and physical energy throughout the day.  Unlike other breakfast foods like cereal or yogurt, eggs only contain one ingredient – “eggs.” They don’t contain sugar or carbs either. That means you can eat a well-rounded breakfast during the week without feeling too round yourself..

On top of the benefits that protein and choline provide, eggs are also packed with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin a, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium. Eggs are considered a ‘complete’ source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids; the ones we can’t synthesize in our bodies and must get from our diet.

Remember not to skip the yolk! Over the years many people have shied away from eating egg yolks for fear of their high cholesterol. We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat we eat–so embrace the yolk!

Egg yolks also contain choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also key in the development of infant’s memory functions, so moms shouldn’t miss out on its vital nourishments when pregnant or breastfeeding. You’ll find that the yolk of a farm fresh egg is typically richer in color and taste while store bought egg yolks are usually a medium yellow. Not only do farm egg yolks have a deeper color, their yolk is creamier and doesn’t break as easily when cooked. 

Hungry for eggs yet? If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard you can buy fresh pasture-raised eggs from your local farm stand or at Cronig’s Market and the Scottish Bakery. In season you can also find eggs at one of our local farms including the Farm Institute, Morning Glory Farm, Black Water Farm, Ghost Island Farm, The Grey Barn, Mermaid Farm, North Tabor Farm and more. Check out this interactive map of local farms on Martha’s Vineyard and their offerings.

If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration read below for some tasty recipes from some of couple of our talented local chefs and friends. Remember, you don’t need to  limit your eggs to just breakfast, eggs make a great lunch or dinner option as well. 

Try this Shakshuka recipe from local chef Jamie Hamlin of V. Jaime Hamlin Catering and Party Design. She recommends it as a great for brunch option.  

 

*Makes 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds( NOT powdered cumin)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 sliced onions

2 red peppers, sliced into strips

2 yellow peppers, sliced into strips

4 tsp sugar

2  fresh bay leaves

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp saffron threads (reconstitute in a little hot water first)

pinch of cayenne

2 tbsp chopped parsley & 2 tbsp chopped cilantro (save some for garnish)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 or so cups of water ( to keep the consistency saucy)

8 eggs (organic are best)

 

Method:

In a large frying pan dry toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.

Add olive oil and onions, saute 5 minutes or so.

Add both red & yellow pepper strips, sugar and chopped herbs, saute another 5 minutes.

Add  tomatoes, cayenne, saffron, salt and pepper.

Cook all together for 5–8 minutes adding water to keep the consistency “saucy” and remove bay leaves before adding eggs. Taste for seasoning.

 

Make 8 indentations in the sauce – break the eggs into them, cover and cook on simmer for 10 minutes or so or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

 

Have fun with this Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Frittata from private chef Gavin Smith of Food Minded Fellow. He recommends eating it for any meal of the day (or even a late night snack). He loves frittatas for their versatility, plus they can be prepared for immediate consumption the days before for an easy meal on the go.

 

Ingredients:

8-10 Large farm fresh eggs

1/2 cup red bell pepper (julienned)

1/2 cup onion (julienned)

1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced)

2-3 cups raw spinach

3 Tablespoons whole milk

1/2 Cup cheddar sliced thin or grated

1 tbsp olive oil

Pinch salt

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F).

Beat eggs and milk together.

Add dd oil to a large deep skillet.

Soften onions and red pepper over medium heat, 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and stir until softened.

Add spinach and salt and stir until spinach is wilted.

Pour egg and milk mixture over all ingredients evenly (do not mix or stir).

Evenly distribute cheese over the top of the egg mixture.

Place in the oven and cook until edges of the frittata start to brown, 10–12 minutes.

 

Let cool slightly then cut and serve.

 

Hungry for more? Check out this simple Avocado Egg Salad recipe from IGS’s chef Gabrielle Chronister.

There’s something to be said about those magical beans

These cold winter days are ideal for spending more time inside preparing meals and perfecting recipes. One of the most versatile foods to experiment with is beans. Dry beans store well and canned beans can be quickly added in a pinch to many of our favorite dishes.

It’s only fitting that our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) have selected beans as their featured food for February’s Harvest of the Month. Beans can be incorporated into just about anything, yielding creative comfort foods for now, and light and fresh options for the warmer months.

Beans may sound like an afterthought or a filler food to some, but their actually one of our most diverse forms of food, not to mention affordable. Did you know that there are more than 18,000 species of legume plants that yield the vibrant, edible seeds we call beans? On Martha’s Vineyard Morning Glory Farm pumps out some pretty tasty and pleasing varieties. This year they grew Kenearly Yellow Eye, a traditional choice for baked beans, and Cranberry Beans, a beautiful tan bean with scarlet freckles famous for storing well. Next year, they’re planning to grow Black Turtle Beans, too.

When you think about it, beans have actually been providing us with nourishment since the beginning of time. We also use them to feed to our animals, so in essence they’re responsible for even more of our diet than we think about. Plus they have a nitrogen fixing growth cycle which means they have the unique ability to “fix” nitrogen in the soil, making soil more fertile once the plants are tilled under. Sounds pretty magical, right? They’re also relatively easy to grow since they’re self pollinating, they’re resilient since they can hold up to drought and have a long-term shelf life, and they’re health benefits are lengthy.

“Beans, beans, the magical fruit…” we’ve all heard the catchy nursery rhyme. Even though beans are not the kind of fruit you’re used to, they are the fruits (or seeds) of a family of plants called Fabaceae, and your body loves them. The magical power of beans means they’re high in fiber, folate, protein, iron, potassium, zinc and manganese. They’re packed with antioxidants which could reduce the risk of cancer and inflammation. They’re also good for your heart health and can contribute to lower cholesterol too. Beans are actually somewhat of a superfood which is why they have been integrated into virtually every cuisine in the world.

With so many variations and benefits adding beans to your diet is a no brainer. Start by picking up some dry beans and adding them to your favorite dishes. As a reminder dry beans need to be soaked and then boiled. The practice of soaking beans overnight has been debated but you can do a quick soak in boiling water for just a few minutes. Alternatively, canned beans are dried beans that have already been cooked so they’re more convenient but the canning process can omit starches, proteins, and plant solids, which often results in a less potent flavor and texture. If you can cook them yourself we recommend it, the rewards are worth it. Look for these varieties of dry beans: garbanzo (chickpeas), black eyed peas (cowpeas), lentils, navy, lima, pinto, kidney, and black beans. Choose loose, dry beans that have similar size and color and store dry beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place.

In my cookbook Simple Green Suppers with author Susie Middleton, she expresses her love  of dried lentils–especially black beluga lentils and green-blue French or du Puy lentils. According to Susie, these little jewels cook up quickly, maintain their shape well, and offer a firm texture and pleasing peppery flavor that marries beautifully with citrusy vinaigrettes, leafy greens and tangy cheeses. Susie also raves about home-cooked chickpeas, and swears by having them around the house to add to your favorite dishes. Plus, unlike other beans, chickpeas can be sautéed and roasted until brown and crisp.

When you’re shopping for canned beans look for ones that are organic with no preservatives, and those that are low in sodium or and in BPA-free cans. While not as robust as dried beans, canned beans are great to have around the pantry. Eden and Westbrae Natural canned brands check all the boxes, and as a reminder always rinse canned beans before using.

When it comes to cooking with beans your options are endless. The most obvious ways to incorporate them into your diet is to add them to your soup, salads, dips and sauces (we recommend curry!). Next time you make a casserole consider using lentil as a meat substitute, or add black beans to your pizza for an unexpected fiber rich topping. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to get your bean benefits is to make homemade hummus with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and herbs.

In Simple Green Suppers Susie devoted a whole chapter to beans, and she offers some pretty simple yet savory recipes including: Sugar Snap, Spring Onion and Chickpea Stir-Fry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce; White Beans and Artichoke Hearts with Chard, Lemon, Thyme, and Bread Crumbs; Baby Potato, Greens, Garlic and Chickpea Hash; Layered Black Bean, Zucchini, Corn and Avocado Salad; Grill-Roasted Bell Peppers with Lentil Salad and Goat Cheese; Indian Curry with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Coconut Milk, and many more. Needless to say there’s no excuse for leaving them off your plate!

Get started experimenting with the wonderful world of beans with this sweet chickpea recipe from Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister.

 

Chickpea Flour Cinnamon Maple Crackers

1 cup chickpea  flour, sifted

*See below on how to make your own

3 tbsp olive oil

(or avocado oil / melted coconut oil)

4.5 tbsp maple syrup

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a spatula or your hands until well combined and you can form into a dough ball. Dough should be sticky and wet.