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Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Earth Day

As a Taurean, I feel a strong connection with the earth. I love to feel the rhythms of Nature, to watch as animals and plants go through their annual cycles. It makes sense that Earth Day is in the early Spring, during the time of birth and rebirth. Yesterday I saw a robin fit to bursting with eggs – she was VERY territorial. I imagine today she’s sitting on those eggs in her nest. I also noticed that the Queen Anne’s lace is aggressively pushing up in the flower beds – it’s a survivor weed, for sure.

Here are some fairly painless things you can do to honor Mother Earth every day.

  1. Switch out those lightbulbs and be vigilant about your electrical use! Using compact fluorescent bulbs is an easy way to save electricity. Some people say the light from cfls is too harsh. However, they come in all sorts of strengths, so there is one out there for you. Turn off lights when you leave the room. You don’t save electricity by leaving a lightbulb burning – that’s an urban myth. Unplug your cell charger and coffeepot if you’re not using them. Get a power strip for your computer and turn it off when you’re done with the computer. Hang your clothes on a clothes line. The less electricity we use, the less is generated and the less pollution from that generation. This is especially true in the US, where 70% of our electricity comes from coal and natural gas. Now that hydrofracking is a real and awful way to extract natural gas, we have to be especially vigilant in our use of electricity, because we are now polluting our water supply to feed our hunger for electricity. Another 20% of our electricity comes from nuclear, which is a whole other Pandora’s box.
  2. Compost your food scraps (not animal based scraps, though)! Even if you can’t have an actual compost bin with worms and everything, make a pile in the woods and cover it periodically with dead leaves and grass clippings. Put coffee grinds, egg shells and vegetable peels in your flower beds. The less that is discarded, the less goes into landfills.
  3. Reuse, reuse, reuse. Wash out the Ziploc bags that didn’t contain meat products and use them over again. Keep your takeout containers and use them to store EVERYTHING. Make cloth napkins from old clothing and stop buying paper ones. Use cloth kitchen towels instead of paper towels. Cut up junk mail and use it for scrap paper. (I keep a supply of this near the phone.) Stick used dryer sheets in your sock drawer or in the shoes of the stinky-footed people in your house. You can also use them to scrub the bugs off your car! Donate your used magazines to schools or libraries – art teachers LOVE old magazines. Donate clothing to a thrift shop or the Salvation Army so someone else can use it. Use that cute little tote bag from Bath and Body Works as a lunch bag until it falls apart. Then recycle it. Before you throw ANYTHING away, ask yourself if it has another use. Chances are, the answer is “yes”.
  4. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Everything. Plastic, paper, metals, cardboard, glass, motor oil, cell phones, computers and printers, plastic grocery bags, tires. They are ALL recyclable. Seek out the places where you can do this. Check with the Family & Consumer Science teacher at your local high school to see if they have any ongoing recycling projects.
  5. Trade in your car for a more fuel efficient one. I drive a Honda Fit. It averages 40 mpg. It replaced a van that got – max – 25 mpg. I didn’t really need a van anymore, because I sold my harp. It feels good to drive this little car.
  6. Buy recycled products. Get the recycled all-purpose printer paper. Buy recycled Reynolds aluminum foil. Get toilet paper and tissues made by Marcal or Seventh Generation. There are so many products made from recycled materials on the market these days, it only helps to buy them and increase the demand for recycled products. It puts less in the waste stream.
  7. READ LABELS on your cleaning products (including personal grooming products). Go with the ones that have little or no sulfates. Go with ones with biodegradable surfectants. Eliminate petroleum usage wherever you can. This is hard, because a HUGE amount of personal grooming and cleaning products contain petroleum in one form or another. Laundry soaps, shampoos, makeup, body washes, moisturizers, lip balms, all have petroleum bases. Find ones that don’t and use them. The less oil we use, the better.
  8. A little discomfort goes a long way. In the summer, use fans in your house instead of air conditioning. We have 3 super strong fans that circulate the air in our house and one up in the attic that sucks the hot air out of the attic. Close the windows and shades on the east and south sides of the house in the morning, then the south and west in the afternoon. Yes, you’ll sweat and eventually turn on the air conditioning, but every minute you can put it off is a gift to the earth. On super hot days, we go into the basement in our house. It’s underground, has a tile floor and is always at least 10 degrees cooler than upstairs. Don’t use the oven in the summer! Rely on your crockpot and toaster oven that use much less electricity and generate much less heat. If your house is well-insulated, it can be hard to get rid of the heat in the summer, especially when the temperature is above 80 for weeks at a time. Here in the Northeast, we open all the windows on breezy days and get the hot air out.
These are only a few of the things that you can do to effect a positive change in the health of our planet. Consider the fact that billions of people are sharing the same resources you are. Homo Sapiens is the only species on earth that takes and uses more than it needs. We are wasteful and should correct that. We determine the future health of our planet.
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Winter Vegetables

Sitting in my dining room wearing a sweater, gazing out the windows to the east and south, I am surrounded by white. Several feet of snow lay on the ground, and icicles are dangling from the gutters, threatening to re-part my hair whenever I go outside. This has been a brutal winter so far, and there’s more to come. Yet, even in the bleak midwinter, when spring seems so far away, I know this is going to be a good produce year. Spring and summer following a bad snow season always seem to give us more plump, vibrant produce than in other years. I suspect half of that is due to the nitrogen the snow puts in the soil and the other half is due to my desperation for fresh vegetables after the long winter; they look better than they really are. One of the most beautiful sights of the year is a fern poking its tightly furled head out from under dead leaves. Fiddleheads are the true harbingers of spring. Forget asparagus…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share two of my favorite vegan recipes that make use of produce available at this time of year. Use up a cabbage that you’ve kept in cold storage and pair it with a warm soup made from carrots or cauliflower or anything else you have. Try to stick with local produce – I think it’s really important to support local businesses, especially when it’s not the active growing season. Apologies ahead of time for the lack of photos – I dropped my camera and now it can only take a picture of the inside of the camera body… oops!

Gujarat Style Baked Cabbage

Indian food is among my favorite cuisines, whether I’m eating in or eating out. There’s something wonderfully seductive about the combinations of spices, chiles, meats and vegetables. Many Indian dishes feature one main ingredient showcased to utter perfection by a supporting cast of onions, flours, spices and oils. This is a perfect example.

2 cups firmly packed finely shredded green cabbage

1 large onion, halved and finely sliced

1/4 cup grated coconut, fresh or thawed (I use unsweetened dried coconut rehydrated in a little hot water)

3/4 cup chickpea flour (available in some large grocery stores or Asian/Indian markets)

1 tsp. freshly grated ginger (I always use more)

1-2 fresh hot green chiles, chopped (use the seeds if you want a good heat punch. Serranos are a good choice.)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. salt

3 Tblsp. mild vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

sesame seeds (I use black and white together)

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil and water (you couldn’t combine them anyway – HAH!). Add the oil and water and mix thoroughly. Dump the mixture into a greased 8″ square baking dish (I use a 9″ round clay baker and it works just fine). Press lightly to spread into an even layer. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top – as much or as little as you like. Bake until cabbage is lightly browned – about 45 minutes (I bake it until I have a golden color on top and crispy bits around the edges). Let sit for about 5 minutes then cut and eat.

NOTE – This can be served hot or at room temperature. It can be made ahead and kept in the fridge. To reheat, place the cold pan in a cold oven and turn the heat on to 350F. Bake until heated through – about 15 minutes. This recipe doubles well. However, if you double it, don’t double the salt. Use about 1.25 tsp. in that case. Nods to Laxmi Hiremath for this recipe adapted from her cookbook “Laxmi’s Vegetarian Cookbook”.

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Basic “Cream” Soup

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped (use the greens if they’re attached)

2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced thinly

1 Tblsp. olive oil

approx. 4 cups cleaned, chopped vegetable, in 1/2″ to 1″ pieces (the picture shows cauliflower)

5 – 6 cups vegetable stock (or water and Vogue VegeBase or the equivalent of any other vegetable stock or bouillon)

2 Tblsp. light miso (optional)

1-1/2 Tblsp. tahini (optional)

salt and pepper

  1. In a soup pot, heat oil. Add onion, celery and garlic and saute over medium-high heat for a minute or so. You should smell the garlic. Add the chopped vegetable. Continue cooking for another few minutes.
  2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook at a simmer until your main vegetable is tender, usually around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.¬†If you are using miso, add it now, stirring to dissolve (takes only a minute or two). At this point, you can puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender, liquefying the tahini (if you’re using it) with a little of the soup in a separate bowl, adding back to the pot when done.
  3. If you don’t have a hand blender, let the soup cool for 15 minutes or so and puree in batches in a blender, adding the tahini in the blender (if you’re using it). Return the blended soup to the pot and reheat to serve.

NOTE: I rarely use the miso/tahini option. I find this soup has tons of flavor and goodness without them. However, garnishing with tahini cream (equal parts of tahini and lemon juice with a pinch of both garlic powder and salt, let it sit briefly to thicken) is a great variation. You can use any vegetable in this recipe, from light vegetables like fiddleheads or cauliflower to heartier choices like sweet potatoes or winter squash. Use your imagination! just remember if you use the tahini cream, you’re adding a lemon flavor – make sure your vegetable choice tastes good with lemon.

This recipe is adapted from Marilyn Diamond’s American Vegetarian Cookbook. Everyone, from omnivore to vegan, should own this book.

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