Sunday, February 14, 2016

Urban farming


Readers of Greenmomster know that our food choices have direct effects on the environment, as well as farm workers.  When we decide to eat less meat, the result is a smaller carbon footprint.  When we eat organic food, we decrease the pesticides used in food production (less exposure for the environment and farm workers), but we also increase the amount of land needed to produce food (decreased wildlife habitat) -- a trade-off that each consumer should consider.

Many of us also enjoy growing some of our own food!  Could the "backyard farmer" movement solve some of our food production problems?  Could we reduce use of fertilizer and water, while producing all the food that's locally needed?  According to a new study from the University of Washington published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (reported by Sarah DeWeerdt of Conservation, 1/26/2016), while farming within city limits can produce substantial amounts of food, odds are good that we still need farmlands and lots of them.  Be sure to read the summary of the study.

What's the take-home lesson?  A few important points surface as we look at these results:

  1. Greening our cities is an important goal when it comes to decreasing energy costs and cleaning water
  2. Farmland preservation is also necessary to sustain an ever-increasing human population
  3. Food waste should be kept to a minimum in order to reduce food production environmental impacts.  Check out the Think.Eat.Save website for more info on reducing food waste.

Friday, February 12, 2016

So you think vegetarians are wimps?

Once again, we celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and Greenmomster!  And our birthdays fall on a meat-free Friday!  To celebrate the big day, my boys gave me a cookbook that they said matches my personality -- Thug Kitchen, the official cookbook.  Hmmm, maybe I need to dial down the intensity in the kitchen.  But  I can't wait to try out the recipes!  Not familiar with Thug Kitchen?  Check out their website.  If you're offended by swearing, DON'T check out their website. Seriously.  Don't.

Since I haven't had a chance to try any of the new recipes, here's an oldie-but-a-goodie that we had last night.  Enjoy!

Cornbread Soup

This is actually a recipe that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe (January/February 2013) for Black-Eyed Peas and Cornmeal Dumplings, but we’ve changed it so much that we gave it a new name.  A big hit here at our house -- you can leave it with its mellow flavor or jazz it up with a hit of hot sauce.  Variety is the spice of life!


  • 9 or more pieces of Morningstar Farms veggie bacon strips, cooked crispy
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 (15 oz.) cans blackeyed peas, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped spring onions
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tblsp chilled butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • hot sauce (optional)
1)  Saute onion in a large pot with olive oil, for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute.  Add veggie broth, blackeyed peas, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  If more liquid is needed to make the blackeyed pea mixture “soupy,” add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water or veggie broth.
2)  In a separate bowl, combine flour, spring onions, cornmeal, baking soda, butter, buttermilk.  Mix well and form into little balls by hand.
3)  Drop the cornmeal balls into the blackeyed pea mixture and allow them to cook thoroughly – at least 10 minutes.
4)  Serve immediately, adding hot sauce if you want a little extra zing!  A great side dish for this meal is kale, sauteed in olive oil with chopped red bell pepper and garlic.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wishing you a green Lent!

Lent is here, so I'm reposting some thoughts from 2012 on ways to make your lent more green and meaningful.  Enjoy!

Lent, the Environment, and Jerry Garcia

Well, we’ve stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, the shroves have returned to their nesting sites for another year, the king cake is eaten, and we’re cleaning up the beads.  What’s next for Lent?  It’s time to think green!  Even New Orleans is going green for Mardi Gras and recycling several tons of the Mardi Gras beads.  Although I’m not a big fan of giving things up for lent (we prefer to DO things for lent, like have each of our neighbors to dinner or volunteer somewhere), I can see a role for sacrifice this season.  I propose we give something up for the environment for Lent.  God created this big blue marble; we’re part of the creation and responsible for protecting it.  Here are some ideas:
  • Give up use of disposable bags.  For the next 6 weeks, try bringing your own bags everywhere that you’re usually offered a plastic bag – the grocery store, department stores, drugstores.
  • Give up meat for two meals per week for Lent.  Let’s kick it up a notch and try going beyond the ol’ “no meat on Friday.” 
  • Give up those disposable bottles of water for Lent.  Start carrying your own water in a reuseable bottle – it’ll save you money and keep plastic out of the landfill.
  • Give up one household cleaning product with toxic ingredients.  Try switching your dishwasher soap to one without chlorine – I likeSeventh Generation dishwasher gel, no scent, phosphates, or chlorine.  Or maybe an environmentally-friendly laundry detergent?  I like Whole Foods or Seventh Generation products
  • Give up one car ride per week.  Is there somewhere that you’re driving, where you could walk once a week?  Give up that ride and you may also be giving up a couple of pounds!OR bridge bikes
  • Give up a patch of grass on your lawn.  Plant a native flower butterfly garden or an organic vegetable garden.
  • Give up one degree of heat in your house(frankly, this would be the toughest one for me).  Use a little less energy this Lent by letting your house be one degree cooler.
  • Give up 15 minutes each week to write yourstate or federal representatives about an environmental issue that you care about.  Do a little research and send off a quick e-mail or letter to voice your opinion.
  • Give up the winter raspberries.  Try to buy most, if not all, of your fruits and vegetables in season for the next 6 weeks.  Asparagus is almost ready and the leeks are looking good! 
  • Give up rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  This is an easy choice for the lazy green momster in all of us.
  • Give up disposable napkins.  Invest in cloth napkins or washcloths and use them at meals instead of disposable napkins.
  • Give up junk mail.  Sign up with Catalog Choice to limit the catalogs you receive in the mail.
  • Give up the long showers.  Try to conserve water and energy by taking shorter showers (ok, maybe this one would be the hardest for me….)
  • Give up a little cash and buy one new organic vegetable per week.  Organics benefit you and the environment by keeping pesticides and herbicides out of the environment.
  • Give up a day to volunteer for the environment.  State and local parks and other environmental groups are always looking for help.
  • Give up your old way of thinking and try to think outside the box on environmental issues.  What can you do to protect the planet?  Come up with a great idea!  At one point in their history, the Grateful Dead actually got involved in rainforest protection.  When asked why they were doing it, Jerry Garcia answered, “Somebody has to do something, it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”  Some days, I agree with Jerry, but during this time of Lent, I believe God is saying that it does have to be us.  So let’s get busy givin’ it up!DSC_0039  Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way!

Monday, February 8, 2016

8 Great Octopus Facts!

I volunteered at the National Zoo's Invertebrate House for several years, and one of the most fascinating animals was the octopus.  These creatures are smart, curious, and as you can see from the above video, can be fond of people!  The book The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery does a great job of describing what it's like to work with an octopus.  Here are 8 great octopus facts about the more than 200 species of octopus:

  1. An octopus has special cells in its skin that allow it to change color
  2. An octopus has chemoreceptors on its arms and suckers -- it can "smell" in the water!
  3. The only hard part of an octopus' body is its beak
  4. An octopus can squeeze through VERY tiny spaces -- the space only has to be as big as the octopus' beak!
  5. You can tell a male octopus from a female octopus by looking at the end of the arms -- the males lack suckers on the end of one of the arms
  6. An octopus can release ink to confuse predators and prey, but this ink also stings predator's eyes and causes their senses to become less acute
  7. An octopus has three hearts
  8. The plural of octopus is.....wait for it........octopuses! (photo:  D.Di Mauro)
Montgomery, S.  2015. The Soul of an Octopus.  A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness.  Atria Books;  New York NY. 

Smithsonian Institution.  Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Superbowl chili!

The perfect Superbowl chili!  I adapted this recipe from a Cooking Light chili.  Don’t be afraid to fiddle with the spices to make it taste the way you like it.  I made a batch for 70 people this week at our church and everyone loved it!  Check out the accompanying cornbread recipe.
Veggie Chili with Indian spices  

  • Cooking spray (I actually use at least 3 tablespoons olive oil, rather than just a layer of cooking spray) 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 ½ lbs fake meat, optional (I used theQuorn tenders from the frozen food section; if you’d rather have a “beefy” feel, try Morningstar farms “crumbles”, also in the frozen foods) 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 3 tbsp garam masala (see below) 
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp ground red pepper 
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg 
  • one 6 oz. can tomato paste 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 2 (15.5 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed, drained 
  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can light red kidney beans, rinsed, drained 
  • 1 bag frozen corn
Garam masala: I don’t measure out these exact amounts – I just use proportions. So you should have 3 times as much cumin as pepper, etc. 
  • 3 tbsp cumin 
  • 2 tbsp coriander 
  • 1tbsp black peppercorn 
  • ½ tbsp cardamom
  • ¼ tbsp ground cloves
1) Heat oil and sauté Quorn, onion, garlic, and salt until the onion is close to translucent
2) Add garam masala, cinnamon, red pepper, nutmeg, and tomato paste. Saute until things are well mixed together.
3) Add water, vinegar, and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes.
4) Add beans and corn and cook for about 20 minutes. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL??!!


Can a huge sporting event like the Superbowl possibly be green?  According to Neill Duffy, Sustainability Director of the Bay Area Superbowl 50 Host Committee, it can indeed be green!  In a recent interview with GreenSportsBlog, Mr. Duffy states that the goal of his organization is to host a Net Positive Superbowl.  The group has 4 pillars for greening the Superbowl:

  1. Reduce impact on climate change -- deliver a low-emissions event
  2. Responsibly use materials and resources (food/water/waste)
  3. Leave a positive and lasting legacy for the region
  4. Inspire fans to embrace sustainability
If you live in California, you're invited to take the Play Your Part pledge to help achieve these goals. If you don't live in California, you can still take the pledge and participate in sustainability as you watch the big game!  Nachos anyone?


Friday, January 29, 2016

"Chicken" tetrazzini

A great winter casserole!  This tetrazzini (adapted from a recipe in the January 2009 issue of Southern Living) substitutes white wine and green chiles for the more traditional sherry and mushrooms.

  • 1 16 oz. box of spaghetti
  • 2 packages of defrosted Quorn chick'n tenders
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 15 oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 18 oz. jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 5 small cans of Hatch green chiles (mix hot and mild to taste)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup slivered almonds and extra cheddar cheese for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions
  3. While the pasta is cooking, stir together chick'n, cheddar cheese, mushroom soup, Alfredo sauce, chiles, vegetable broth, wine, and pepper. Stir in the pasta.
  4. Spoon chick'n and pasta mixture into an 11x8'' pan (lightly greased).  Top with almonds and cheddar cheese.  Cook for about 35 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and top is golden brown.