Friday, August 31, 2012
My favorite pesto recipe comes from the original Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. Her addition of butter and parsley adds a nice mellow finish. You can add this to a dish of hot pasta, or mix a spoonful into mayonnaise for a terrific sandwich spread. Another favorite way at our house is to spread pesto on pizza dough, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, and top with sauteed spinach, diced tomatoes, black olives, and feta. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. (We call it the Popeye Special.) Pesto is so simple to make...
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
2 large cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3/4 cup packed fresh parsley (stems removed)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
Salt to taste
Combine everything in a food processor on low, then medium speed. Thoroughly work into a smooth paste. Toss with hot drained pasta. Refrigerate leftover pesto.
I always say that once you've hauled the food processor from the bottom shelf of the pantry, you might as well whip up some hummus. This high-protein spread goes great on crackers or a baguette slice, especially when topped with bruschetta (the recipe for bruschetta follows.) It's a filling summer appetizer you can eat outside on the deck. This hummus recipe is also from the Moosewood Cookbook, revised edition.
2-3 medium garlic cloves, sliced
a large handful of parsley
2 healthy scallions, in 1-inch pieces
3 cups cooked chick peas (2 15.5 oz cans, rinsed and well-drained)
6 T tahini
6 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 to 1 T salt (to taste)
optional: cayenne and a little cumin, to taste
1. Place garlic, parsley, and scallions in a food processor and mince.
2. Add chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, and salt, and puree to a thick paste
3. Season to taste, if desired, with cayenne and cumin (and correct the salt, if necessary. Transfer to a tightly-lidded container and chill.
(This recipe calls for plum tomatoes, but I also like to use grape tomatoes for their sharp, crisp flavor.)
8 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf French bread, toasted and sliced
In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Mix in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Serve on toasted bread. (Great if you put a dollop of hummus first, followed by the bruschetta!)
Marna Ashburn Krajeski, Author
Amusing malapropisms and outrageous abuses of the English language
HOUSEHOLD BAGGAGE: The Moving Life of a Military Wife
HOUSEHOLD BAGGAGE HANDLERS: 56 Stories from the Hearts and Lives of Military Wives
Party Planning Notebooks for all occasions
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
This week’s endangered species is the African Elephant (Loxodonta cylclotis) (photo from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust). Found in sub-Saharan Africa, these elephants are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, due to human/elephant conflicts and poaching for their ivory tusks. Most of us have seen elephants, on TV or in zoos (or in the wild, if we’ve been lucky enough), but can you pass the GREAT BIG ELEPHANT QUIZ? See if you can answer the following 10 questions:
- T/F Elephants only use their trunks for smelling
- T/F Elephants can use their ears to cool their bodies
- T/F African elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth
- T/F Herds are led by dominant females
- T/F Male elephants live in herds
- T/F Elephant gestation is one of the longest pregnancies on Earth
- T/F Both male and female elephants have tusks
- T/F Elephants are carnivores
- T/F Elephants have great memories
- T/F Elephants are big sleepers
- False – elephants also use their trunks for breathing, drinking, and picking up small objects. The trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles!
- True – thanks to radiation of heat through their ears
- True! Asian elephants are a little smaller
- True – elephant herds are made up of family groups of females, led by one dominant female
- False – once they hit maturity, these big guys are loners
- True – yes greenmomsters, your pregnancy may have seemed long, but it’s nothing compared to the 22 month gestation of an elephant. Oh, and you thought your 9 lbs baby was big? Try 200 lbs!
- False, thank goodness – elephants survive on grasses, roots, and bark. Up to 300 lbs per day!
- True – not just a myth! For a fascinating book on elephants, their memories, and one woman’s love story and lifetime of trying to save orphaned elephants, check out Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick
- False – elephants don’t really sleep for long periods of time
Need more reasons to care about elephant conservation? From Wildlife Heroes, “Elephants shape the environments in which they live by opening up forests, controlling brush and tree growth, and digging for water and minerals, which benefits other animals. Their copious amounts of dung also help fertilize the landscape and disperse seeds.”
How’s a greenmomster to help?
- NEVER buy ivory or other elephant products
- Read and learn about these fascinating creatures. An easy read on elephants that I really enjoyed was “Echo of the Elephants” by Cynthia Moss and Martyn Colbeck.
- Support elephant conservation. Two groups worth looking into: Save the Elephants and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
I’m known in my family as “Julie McCoy the Cruise Director.” I’m always looking for something fun and maybe a little unusual for our family trips. Our latest trip to Bull Island SC did not disappoint! Bull Island is a barrier island within the beautiful 62,000 acre Cape Romain National Wildlife refuge (a class 1 wilderness area).
The only way to get to the island is by boat, and we took the Coastal Expeditions ferry to get there. We boarded the ferry at 9 am and enjoyed a 30-minute ride through the pristine coastal estuary. As we cruised along, our captain provided us with lots of interesting details regarding the plants and wildlife we were seeing. We now know the difference between a whelk and a conch, thanks to our crew. We can also identify a lightning whelk. We got a great look at some oystercatchers. Once we got to the island, we unloaded our bikes (no cars are allowed on the island) and began our adventure!
Now, I’m guessing that conditions change on the island during the year, but I’m going to write about conditions in August, the month we visited, after a relatively rainy spring. A visit to Bull Island in August is not for the fainthearted. You’ll need to bring several items with you to ensure a pleasant day: bug repellent for your time in the interior of the island, LOTS of water, stronger bug repellent, sunscreen, “definitely not natural ingredients” bug repellent, a nice lunch to enjoy on the boneyard beach, bug repellent you can use in the Amazon, your camera for the stunning scenery, and 1 extra can of bug repellent. Thus, if you can’t take a few bug bites, you shouldn’t visit Bull Island in August.
That said, if you’re the intrepid type, your toughness will DEFINITELY pay off.
After our ferry ride to the island, we biked from the dock side of the island to the beach. Grassy bike paths are wide and well-maintained with only a few areas too sandy for biking. Along the way, we were treated to a view of an alligator in the water along the trail! Once we hit the beach, it was as if we owned our own private island. My family and I walked for several hours, enjoying the sea breeze, playing in the water, and finding dozens of sea stars, whelks, and sand dollars. At the north end of the beach, we discovered a beautiful “boneyard” of trees stranded in the surf – the perfect spot for a little lunch! After lunch, three members of the family continued to walk on the beach, while my son and I decided to see if we could find more alligators in the interior of the island. We enjoyed biking the wide trails (moving at a brisk pace to try to outrun the mosquitos) and saw a stunning buck as it bounded by us.
At the end of the day, we returned to the ferry with many stories of all we had experienced on Bull Island. After our day on this beautiful barrier island, every other beach seemed incredibly crowded! The crew of the ferry happily answered any questions we had about the things we’d seen on the island and continued to teach us new facts about horseshoe crabs, oysters, spartina, and even pluff mud!
If you’re looking for a chance to see what the South Carolina coast looked like before the changes that humans bring, be sure to visit Bull Island!
Friday, August 24, 2012
A couple of years ago, my family and I visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One of the exhibits allowed visitors to listen to the actual audio of one of the Apollo launches. I remember sitting in the “control room,” so impressed and proud of what our country and its citizens had accomplished! I remember thinking, if we could put humans on the moon, with the “old fashioned” technology of the day, we could conquer many other technological hurdles.
Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing our nation and the world today. Slowing climate change is this generation’s Apollo mission. I believe that if we have the political and popular will, climate change is an issue we can address. Thus, I found Mitt Romney’s energy plan, announced yesterday, to be incredibly disappointing. I’m certainly not alone in my disappointment. Mr. Romney did not follow the lead of John McCain who, in 2008, acknowledged that climate change was a significant issue for the nation and supported carbon emissions reductions. In fact, Mr. Romney’s plan did not mention the issue of climate change at all. Instead of looking ahead toward renewable energy and becoming a worldwide leader in the industry, Mr. Romney’s proposal looks backwards toward an increased reliance on fossil fuels. Here’s how it’s explained on the campaign website:
“The United States is blessed with a cornucopia of carbon-based energy resources. Developing them has been a pathway to prosperity for the nation in the past and offers similar promise for the future.
- Conduct comprehensive survey of America’s energy reserves
- Open America’s energy reserves for development
- Expand opportunities for U.S. resource developers to forge partnerships with neighboring countries
- Support construction of pipelines to bring Canadian oil to the United States
- Prevent overregulation of shale gas development and extraction”
Additionally, Mr. Romney proposes to “amend [the] Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview.” Wow. At a time when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007)(IPCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)have stated that CO2 is a major cause of climate change, that’s his solution? Here are a few statements from the IPCC and NOAA regarding climate change:
- “Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. (IPCC 2007)
- Current levels of atmospheric CO2 are the highest in the past 650,000 years. (NOAA)
- “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.” (IPCC 2007)
In comparison, President Obama’s proposed energy policy acknowledges the reality of climate change and is more favorable than Mr. Romney’s toward renewable energy (although I’d like to see the “clean coal” item disappear). Mr. Obama’s proposals include an “all of the above” strategy that encourages development of fossil fuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy. Probably, Mr. Obama’s biggest achievement toward reducing greenhouse gases while in office would be the legislation that will improve the overall fuel economy of the nation’s passenger auto fleet to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double the fuel economy of 2008.
So why should our energy policy be an issue on which you vote? Because climate change will affect the lives of our children and our grandchildren – that’s an issue greenmomsters should care about. If you’re still unconvinced, check out this video, the first in a series on climate change from Joylette Portlock:
I fully understand that gradually moving our energy policy towards renewables won’t be easy or simple. Neither was going to the moon. It’s going to take leadership, vision, and political courage. But isn’t that what we should expect from our elected officials? The U.S. didn’t become the richest and most powerful nation in the world by looking backward. We didn’t become who we are by being fearful of new ideas or new directions. We’ve always been a leader in technology and innovation. I hope we can once again find that spirit of courage, innovation, and leadership and insist that our government leaders help to create an energy policy that is sustainable for many future generations.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Here’s a great recipe from Cooking Light that I found on MyRecipes.com (photo is also from MyRecipes.com) and made a few changes to suit my family’s tastes. I hope you enjoy it!
- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 2 tblsp olive oil, divided
- 1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) sliced green onion
- 1 cup peas and chopped carrots
- 2 tsp bottled minced garlic
- 1 tsp bottled minced fresh ginger
- 2 tblsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tblsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
- Cook rice.
- While rice cooks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.
- Add eggs to pan and scramble into small pieces. Remove from pan.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add onions, peas and carrots, garlic, and ginger; sauté 2 minutes.
- While vegetable mixture cooks, combine sake, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add cooked rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tofu, egg, and soy sauce mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Adapted from David Bonom, Cooking Light
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Since we’re just back from our trip to Edisto Island SC, I’m re-running an endangered species of the week: the loggerhead turtle. Every year, the highlight of my visit to Edisto State Park is the evening we accompany the state park staff as they check the turtle nests. As I described in my post from last year, after the park personnel have logged how many eggs have hatched, how many turtles didn’t make it, and how many live turtles were found, we get to witness the turtles heading for the ocean! Here’s how I described watching the turtles on the beach:
“The park staff instruct us to stand in two parallel lines from the nest to the ocean. They release the little hatchlings, and we watch them scuttle towards freedom. I’ve seen baby turtles countless times, making their way to the ocean, in nature films. Cute as that is, nothing compares to watching them in person. Those flippers that make it look like they’re flying through the water aren’t quite as graceful on land. The hatchlings struggle to make their way across the sand, getting knocked on their backs by the waves, flipping back on their stomachs, and starting again toward the ocean. We humans have to stand still to avoid accidentally touching or stepping on the hatchlings. What an incredible sight to witness as the sun sets on Edisto beach!”
All data gathered on the turtle nests, as well as other interesting information about ongoing turtle research (even genetic research that determines which turtles returned to which beaches) can be found on the sea turtle website. Specific data on the Edisto Beach population is also there. The turtles and the programs that support their survival need your help. Can’t make it to a turtle nesting beach this summer? You can adopt a turtle or adopt a nest – what a great way to help protect these magnificent creatures!
Monday, August 20, 2012
If you’re looking for a fun outdoor adventure, I’ve got the place for you! My friend Karlin (the photographer for the trip) and I decided that swinging in the trees with our boys would be a great way to spend a summer day, and we were right! Go Ape is a ropes course/zipline company that started in the U.K., but now has 3 locations in the U.S. (in MD, VA, and IN). The experience starts with a 30 minute safety briefing and practice run, so that everyone can learn to “clip in” throughout the course. Adults can only supervise two children at a time and the minimum age is 10 years. After the fitting of your ropes belt (it’s tight) and the safety briefing, you’re off to enjoy the course! Each course includes a series of challenges high in the air (I mean high-pucker-factor high in the air – 40 feet high) that each end in a nice, long zip line. Courses include twisted ladders, net bridges, and tarzan swings. I enjoyed playing the little piggy and yelling “wee, wee, weeeee!” on each zip line – not at all embarrassing for my 13 and 12 year old boys. The course also includes signage telling you about endangered treetop animals like chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as the local trees, but I think I’m the only one who read the signs between courses. Nice to know they’re there, though!
The website estimates that your visit to Go Ape will last 2-3 hours, but we were there for over 4 hours – we took advantage of having no groups behind us, did the tarzan swing a few extra times, and perfected our tarzan yells!
Sunday, August 19, 2012
So this morning, I put on my old clothes, tied up my frizzy hair (which bugs really dig), spritzed myself with bug repellent, and headed out to do my once-in-a-while chore of weeding. I freed the okra of the tangles of wild strawberry at their feet, and dug up some really stubborn bronze fennel that, although the butterflies like it, was threatening to overtake the raspberries (a pretty good trick, I must say). I took a break to enjoy the hundreds of skippers nectaring on the Joe Pye Weed. Then it was back to pulling the weeds that were choking the yarrow and black-eyed susans.
Despite the fact that I don’t find my happy place when I’m weeding, I’m thankful for the weeds. Although my area of the country has been dryer than usual, we’re not suffering from the severe drought seen in the rest of the country. We’ve had a hot summer, no doubt, but we’ve had rain unlike other parts of the country, which are suffering from relentless drought and heat. According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), 33% of the country is suffering from severe to extreme drought (using the Palmer Drought Index). Reports were released from the NCDC just this week that July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the U.S. Not a lot of weeds growing in much of the U.S., I'm guessing.
Climate scientists for decades have been warning us that this heat and other extreme weather events, including wildfires and storms, will become our new normal if we don’t get serious about climate change. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote a fascinating editorial in the Washington Post last week, explaining how these events are not likely attributable to chance – climate change is occurring and it’s largely a man-made phenomenon. Unfortunately, as scientists have talked and presented paper after paper on the subject, our national leaders and, yes, those of us who vote, have been asleep at the wheel – pulling weeds and cursing their existence, instead of feeling thankful and trying to protect their environment. As our national leaders slowly wake up to this issue (see the congressional members working to keep the windpower tax credit), here are a few actions that the rest of us (who can’t afford solar panels) can take to slow climate change:
- insulate, insulate, insulate – conservation of energy means we won’t have to burn so many fossil fuels
- turn off the lights
- turn up the temperature on your air conditioning
- eat AT LEAST one meat free day per week
- walk more, drive less
- consume less – factories use fossil fuels
As we wait impatiently for our national leaders to develop a reasonable energy policy for the country, let’s do what we can as individuals and try to be thankful for the weeds.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Arugula and Fig Salad
Figs, stems off, cut in half
shredded parmesan cheese
italian dressing, optional
1) Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl. I never use the dressing, so test it before adding any dressing to your salad. Enjoy!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Monday, August 13, 2012
Thursday, August 9, 2012
1 can cream style corn
1 bag of frozen whole kernel corn
1 can of Rotel or other tomato/pepper mix
1 cup veggie broth
chopped cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese
1) Combine first four ingredients in a pot and cook until hot.
2) Serve and garnish with cilantro and cheddar cheese.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Definitely a park to visit, Bear Creek Lake will certainly be on our “to do” list again next year!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
From the Sowing the Future Facebook page (and my friend Randi Mears!) – this is a great reminder of household plants that do more than just beautify your house. These are very hardy plants that help to clean your indoor air. Just a reminder – don’t plant the English ivy outside, it’s invasive.
Friday, August 3, 2012
4 slices fake bacon (I like Morningstar Farm Veggie Bacon Strips)
5-6 small yukon gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 small carrots, chopped
3 tblsp olive oil
1 package Quorn Chick’n Tenders
1/2 large onion chopped
3 1/2 tblsp all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups veggie broth
1 refrigerated pie crust – homemade or store-bought
1 tblsp milk
1 large egg white
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2) Microwave fake bacon as directed
3) Heat olive oil in a large pan. Saute potato and carrot for about 3 minutes. Add chick’n tenders and saute 3 more minutes or until slightly browned.
4) Stir in flour, salt and pepper and onion.
5) Pour in veggie broth; bring to a boil. Cook 2 more minutes or until slightly thick. Spoon the mixture into a round pie dish or a square baking dish. Top with the dough, folding under and sealing at the edges.
6) Combine milk and egg white. Brush mixture over top of dough. Bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
This week’s endangered species is the Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a small bird with a 20 inch wingspan that makes an incredible migration each year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the FWS status assessment report, the Red Knot migrates approximately 9,300 miles each year, from Tierra del Fuego north to its breeding grounds in the central Canadian arctic, and then back again! Upon reaching the breeding grounds, the birds form breeding pairs and establish nesting territories. Like piping plovers (discussed in an earlier post), the Red Knots create nest scrapes and lay usually 4 eggs per nest over 4 to 6 days. After the eggs hatch (about 22 days later), the female abandons the brood, while the male remains with the chicks in wetlands habitats until after fledging (about 25 days after hatching).*
Red Knot populations are currently very depleted and the Calidris canutus rufa was named as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection in 2006. When Red Knots migrate, they make several stops along the way, in order to “fuel up.” These feeding stops are critical to the survival of individual birds during the migration, breeding, and wintering. One of the major “pit stops” for the red knot is the Delaware Bay, where the birds feast on high-protein horseshoe crab eggs. Since the 1990s, the horseshoe crab population has declined, due to increased use of horseshoe crab eggs in the conch and eel fisheries. This decline in horseshoe crab eggs is believed to be a primary reason for the at least 50% drop in Red Knot population. Fishery closures and declines, as well as beach closures and exclosures to reduce competition from gulls, are some of the actions being taken to protect the Red Knot. Unfortunately, one of the other suspected threats to the Red Knot, warming temperatures in its breeding grounds, won’t be addressed until we get serious about climate change.*
If you’d like to learn more about the red knot and horseshoe crab, be sure to check out this terrific program by PBS/Nature.
* U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. May 2007. Status of the Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) in the Western Hemisphere.