Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Interesting new ingredients

Many folks these days are trying to buy more “locally grown” food (grown within about 150 miles of home). Local food is grown in season, is fresher, and often tastes better than produce shipped across the country. Additionally, by buying locally grown food, you make a small reduction in the energy costs needed for shipping, and every little bit helps! One of the best parts of buying locally grown food is supporting local, smaller farms.  It’s not going to solve every environmental issue associated with feeding 7 billion people, but buying local could be an addition to our bag of tricks.  Interested in learning how important “buying local” is to small farms? Check out Forrest Pritchard’s book, Gaining Ground, about his experiences as a small farmer in VA.

When you’re trying to buy local, does all of your food have to come from the local area? Nope – some items just aren’t grown locally. In Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life, her family tried to buy only locally grown food for an entire year, but each person was allowed two “non-local” items, ie. coffee, orange juice, some wines, even candy.  Here’s an example of the other extreme:  a chef who owns a 100% locally sourced restaurant in…..wait for it…….Maine!  I guess if he can do it, we can give it a try!

My church screened an interesting documentary about the local food movement and its environmental impacts, called Ingredients.  It’s definitely worth an hour to learn a little more about the environmental impacts of food production.

Many folks don’t like to eat locally, because they say the food is more expensive, but cheap food often has hidden costs (see Ingredients, above).  Additionally, many farmers markets now accept SNAP benefits!  Remember, one of the best ways to get inexpensive, local food is to grow your own. Turning your lawn into a vegetable garden and pollinator garden is a more productive use of your space.  And you’ll get great veggies too!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Zesty Tex-Mex Quiche

This week’s meat-free Friday dish comes to us from Texas!  I adapted this recipe from one I found in Necessities and Temptations by the Junior League of Austin.  As an aside, you can get this cookbook for just $1.99 at the Barnes and Noble website, and I use manyNecessities and Temptations of the recipes (like the yummy banana bread recipe) frequently.  So enjoy a little southern zest this cold January with some Tex-Mex quiche!
Ingredients:
1 10 inch pie shell,lightly browned
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 small can Hatch chilis (hot)
5 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup red salsa
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Instructions:
1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  Combine mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.
3)  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add mayonnaise, flour, milk, salsa, and Hatch chilis.
4)  Stir vegetables into the egg mixture.
5)  Layer 1/2 of the veggie/egg mixture into the pie shell.  Sprinkle a layer of cheese on top and then add the rest of the veggie/egg mixture.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
6)  Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until firm and a knife stuck in the center comes out without liquid on it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Appreciating those squirrels!

It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day, so here’s a list of 10 fun facts about squirrels!  In honor of this wonderful day, I’m re-running a post I wrote previously about squirrels and what’s happening inside those nests – enjoy!

Like most folks, I’ve had plenty of experience with squirrels – watching them frolic in the yard, steal birdseed from my birdfeeders, avoid cars in street.  The one thing I always wondered was, what’s going on up in those nests in the trees?  Well, this past Saturday, I learned the answer to that question.  I spent Saturday morning at a training class for volunteer interpreters (for nature and history programs) at my favorite state park, Sky Meadows.  One of the other volunteers at the program works with a wildlife rescue group, and she was taking care of three baby squirrels – what a treat toIMG_20130223_110548_095 be able to see these little guys up close!  I learned a few new things about squirrels and the happenings in the nest this time of year:

  • at 1-5 days old, baby squirrels are about the size of a woman’s thumb, from knuckle to tip.  They have no hair and are totally pink.
  • at about 2-3 weeks, they begin to have more visible grayish purple hair
  • at about 3 weeks, the lower front teeth begin to emerge, while the upper front teeth don’t emerge until about 5-6 weeks
  • at about 5 weeks, the squirrels’ eyes open and their tails begin to curl over their backs
  • at about 6-7 weeks, the squirrels are fully furred and a week later, they get their fluffy tails!
  • squirrel mothers actually have to help the baby squirrels urinate by licking the babies’ genitals – the babies are so helpless they can’t do it on their own (makes this greenmomster think the diapers weren’t so bad after all….)
  • the genus name for squirrel is “Sciurius”, which is a combination of the root words “skia” for shadow and “oura” for tail, since they sit in the shadows of their tails wrapped over and around their backs and heads

IMG_20130223_132607_599These cute little guys were picked up by the wildlife rescue league when their nest tree was cut down.  So, other than the fact that these squirrels are so cute and the rescuers have big hearts, why go to all the trouble to save them?  Squirrels are an important part of their ecosystems, providing seed dispersal, food, and predation within the ecosystem.  And in rural areas, like Delaplane VA, squirrels aren’t nearly as numerous as they are in urban and suburban areas (think fewer predators in the latter areas). 

If you need to remove a tree in your area, be sure to consider the squirrels.  In the mid-Atlantic, squirrel babies are born in February and March, and then again in June and July.  Thus, avoiding tree felling within about 3 months of that time will give enough time for the squirrels to mature and leave the nest.  If you need to remove a tree – think November!

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Monday, January 19, 2015

I Love Free Stuff!

In past posts, I’ve written about some of our great national parks and wildlife refuges – Shenandoah National Park, Bull Island SC, Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  These parks are beautiful jewels in our country’s crown.  I love visiting them, and was a little sad to find out that today, Martin Luther King Day, meant that entry to national parks was free – I didn’t know!  Ah, but no worries!  It turns out there are several other days in 2015 when you can visit a national park for free – start planning your green getaways now:

  • January 19
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 14-16
    Presidents Day weekend
  • April 18-19
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day

For more information, see the National Parks website. 

Bryce12

“Life is a great adventure…accept it in such a spirit.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, January 16, 2015

This could’ve gone either way…..

IMG_20150112_174907_921But thank goodness it went in my favor!  This week’s meat-free Friday recipe is Chickpea Soup with Fried Sauerkraut.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was DELICIOUS and very easy to make.  I found the recipe at the Washington Post’s Weeknight Vegetarian, so I’m providing the link to the recipe.  The only two changes I made to the recipe were: 

  • I substituted a small can of hot Hatch chilis for the jalapeno pepper, and
  • I substituted 1 tblsp of jarred chopped garlic for the clove of garlic. 

Still super tasty – I highly recommend this one!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Her name is Shelley!

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Sometimes a girl just wants to go shopping and buy a little something special for herself.  Well, a couple of weeks ago I did a little online shopping and came home with a……wait for it……..SEA TURTLE! 



OK, I didn’t actually buy the turtle.  I “adopted” it.  But still, it’s my turtle!  Her name is Shelley and she’s a loggerhead (photo credit:  Sea Turtle Conservancy).  In previous posts, I’ve written about how much I like sea turtles and enjoy visiting them every summer in South Carolina.  Now that I have Shelley, I can enjoy turtles during the winter as well!  I can track her oceanic travels (daily locations are entered via satellite tracking), and let me say, my turtle really covers some ground!  Along with her adoption certificate and tracking emails, I also received a very informative booklet on sea turtles, their habitat, and ways that the public can help to protect them.  I’m also going to receive a subscription to a newsletter all about sea turtles!
Do you want your own turtle?  It’s easy – just visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website, and choose the turtle you’d like to “adopt.”  The website includes plenty of other information about the organization and sea turtles – there’s even a sea turtle quiz for the more competitive greenmomsters.  Enjoy and remember, Turtles Rock!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Veggie Chili!

 

2007 12 04 001It’s coooold outside, so here’s what we’re having for dinner at my house tonight!  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.  Nobody doesn’t like this chili!  Check out the accompanying cornbread recipe for a tasty meal.

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
Instructions:
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.

Enjoy!