Friday, May 31, 2013

You say tomato, and I say tomaaaahto…

Be sure to "Like" greenmomster on Facebook for great meat-free recipes and the latest environmental news!

This week’s recipe is for creamy tomato soup!  I adapted the recipe from one found in the April 2013 issue of Cooking Light.  Accompany the soup with cheese quesadillas and a salad, and you’ve got a tasty and quick Friday meal!

2 tblsp olive oil
1 large (28 oz. ) can diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tblsp garlic
32 oz. vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half

1)  In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Saute onion, cumin, salt, and paprika until the onion is almost translucent.  Add garlic and saute for another minute.
2)  Add tomatoes and vegetable broth.  Cook for about 10 minutes.
3)  Remove from heat and add half and half.
4)  Scoop out about half of the soup and puree in a blender (remember to remove the center of the lid to allow steam out, but cover the hole with a paper towel, to keep soup in!).  Repeat with the other half of the soup.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amphibians–they’re wet, cool, and in need of our help

Current estimates state that 1/3 of all amphibian species worldwide are threatened with extinction.  Now, a recent study released by the USGS in the scientific journal PLOS One reported that U.S. amphibian species are declining at a surprising rate.  Scientists analyzed 9 years of data from 34 sites and 48 eyes on youspecies to determine that amphibian populations are declining at an average rate of 3.7% per year from 2002 to 2011.  At that rate, scientists estimate that we could see amphibians disappearing from half of their current habitats within 20 years.   Here’s a surprise – declines are occurring even on lands that are specifically set aside for conservation, such as national parks.   Scientists hypothesize that the causes of these declines could include land use change, global climate change, disease, or contaminants. 

So what’s a greenmomster to do?  In previous posts, we’ve discussed the Japanese giant salamanderfrog life cycles and threats, the Panamanian Golden Frog, and a new frog species found in NYC.   But let’s take another look at ways we can protect frogs in our own backyards: 

  • Locally, be sure to protect frog habitat; the areas where frogs live are often sensitive areas that affect the quality of water.  Is there a new road or housing project being put into your neighborhood?  Have the builders checked for the presence of frogs and other amphibians.
  • Join Frogwatch USA and help with citizen science to keep track of local frogs. 
  • Got a lawn?  Check out the FWS Homeowner’s Guide to Protecting Frogs – it’s a great guide for reducing use of pesticides and herbicides that can harm frogs. 
  • Consider buying organically grown produce to reduce contamination by pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
  • Globally, support organizations involved in frog protection – Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (for frogs in Panama), Amphibian Ark, or you can even adopt a frog at the World Wildlife Fund.

Conservation efforts of this size cost money, but this is a problem we can help address.  Did you know that, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $80 on Halloween, totaling nearly $8 billion in 2012?  And that in 2010 American consumers were estimated to have spent over $20 billion on video games?  Why not resolve to spend a little less on entertainment, and a little more on our kids’ future environment?



Adams MJ, Miller DAW, Muths E, Corn PS, Grant EHC, et al. (2013) Trends in Amphibian Occupancy in the United States. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64347. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064347

USGS Newsroom.  5/22/2013.  “USGS Study Confirms U.S. Amphibian Populations Declining at Precipitous Rates”  Accessed 5/29/2013,

Friday, May 24, 2013

Zucchini Quiche

Here’s an easy recipe for an ingredient that we’ll have TONS of come summer – zucchini!  I adapted this recipe from a Cooking Light recipe in their August 2012 issue.

1 frozen pie crust
1 tblsp olive oil
5 cups sliced zucchini
3 tblsp garlic
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup non-fat milk
1 1/2 tblsp all-purpose flour
black pepper to taste
3 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1)  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Bake the pie crust, weighing down the crust using wax paper and dry rice, for about 5 minutes (until the crust just begins to brown).  Lower oven heat to 375 degrees.
2)  Heat the oil in a pan and saute the zucchini, garlic, and salt.  Layer the zucchini in the bottom of the pie crust.
3)  Combine milk, flour, eggs, and cheese and whisk together.  Pour over zucchini mixture.
4)  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the liquid is set.

sky meadow cattle 2

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sea Turtle Update

To get all the latest environmental updates, be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook!

Greenmomster has reported on the status of endangered sea turtles, as well as the problem of wildlife poaching.  Unfortunately, these two topics are combined in a recent article posted by Live Science regarding sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica.  Check out this article to learn about the challenge of protecting sea turtle nesting sites, and remember to never buy products made from endangered species.  Additionally, you can support sea turtle protection efforts by visiting  edisto3

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wolves– we love ‘em….or do we?

Wolf populations in the U.S. are at their highest levels in 60 years (wallpaper photo from  Greenmomster recently posted an update on several wolf populations (gray, red, mexican) found in the U.S.  The attitudes of folks living near these wolf populations is critical to their future survival, and that’s why a recent study in Wisconsin is worth our attention.  Researchers surveyed just under 2000 households in 2001 or 2004 and then resurveyed roughly 650 households in 2009 to determine whether attitudes toward wolves changed over time.  It turns out, attitudes regarding the presence of wolves became more negative over time, particularly with individuals who saw wolves as competitors for deer (that is, people who wanted to hunt deer, but saw wolves as their competitors).  Interesting!  It seems that negative images of wolves on local media may have played a role in changing citizens’ attitudes.  Researchers suggested more studies to determine whether positive environmental education, as well as compensation for any losses due to wolf predation, might keep attitudes more positive.  It looks like wolf reintroduction and conservation efforts will need associated environmental education to make these programs successful in the long term, which is necessary as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers removal of the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act. 

Source:  Treves, A. and L. Naughton-Treves, V. Shelley.  2013.  “Longitudinal Analysis of Attitudes Toward Wolves.”  Conservation Biology, Vol. 27. No. 2, 315-323.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Meat-Free Friday–Thinking out of the Box!

Usually on Meat-Free Friday, we try to think outside the box and try some vegetarian dishes.  Today’s Meat-Free Friday, is out of the box, but it’s not meat-free.  A recent UN report states that insects could be an important part of food security for an ever-increasing world population.  monarch caterpillarAnd thanks to NPR’s Science Friday, we now have 4 insect recipes you can try at home:  Three Bee Salad, Fried Green Tomato Hornworms, White Chocolate and Waxworm Cookies, and Deep-Fried Tarantula Spider.  Greenmomster encourages you to eat low on the food chain! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I love cicadas!

DSC_0140And that’s why I’m so excited -- it’s once again time for a brood of 17 year cicadas to emerge in my neck of the woods.  Sorry, but I’m sick of people who say “ewww” and “yuck” when they’re looking at one of nature’s amazing events.  Here’s why they’re so incredible and why we should be impressed, rather than grossed out:

  • Cicadas actually communicate with one another – males use one call, females another
  • The adult stage cicadas breed in trees after emerging from underground, changing from nymph to adult stage, and then finding another adult
  • The nymphs live underground for 17 years and all emerge at the same time – how do they do it?
  • There are 12 known broods, or cohorts, of cicadas.  These populations are all the same ages and emerge at the same time every 17 years.
  • Ever watched a cicada emerge from its exoskeleton?  If not, you’ve missed out.  The adult emerges with what look like crumpled useless wings, but over the course of a few minutes, you’ll watch the wings expand and become fully functional.
  • Cicadas can’t bite or sting – they’re totally harmless.  And they’re beautiful!  Look at those colors and delicate wings!

Still need a little more selling?  Watch this video from David Attenborough – maybe this wonderful nature photography and that oh-so-classy British accent will bring you around!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

IMG_0156Here’s to my mom on Mothers Day!  People who know my mom might be a little surprised that she’s my inspirational greenmomster – this is a woman who proudly states that “roughing it is a black and white TV!”  True enough, my mom is not a camper (although there was that slightly infamous camping trip outside of Hershey Park….).  But my mom was definitely always a source of inspiration and encouragement.  First off, my mom is a huge animal lover.   IMG_0123From her early childhood habit of “borrowing” people’s dogs from the local farmers’ market to our family days with pet dogs despite everyone’s allergies, Mom taught me that animals are an important key to enjoying life.  She always put up with the many other animals I brought home too – hamsters, fish, geckos (and she would say boyfriends)….you name it!  And although my mom won’t spend a free Saturday afternoon hiking Old Rag in Shenandoah, she’s done countless miles on Volksmarches throughout Germany, instilling in me a love of hiking and discovering new places.

Mom encouraged my interest in science and the environment.  There was the year she allowed me to try to cross-pollinate all of our roses (the entire garden was covered with ziplock bags).  She encouraged me to join the 4H Rabbit Club (which I promptly quit when I noticed “slaughter the rabbit” at the end of the year’s schedule).   She didn’t blink twice when I moved 60,000 bees to our backyard to help the kids learn about science.  She’s a meat and potatoes gal who has been very supportive of her vegetarian daughter’s culinary choices.  And of course, everyone who has been through a masters and PhD program knows that Mom’s support was 100% essential!

So here’s to my favorite greenmomster on Mothers Day!  And Happy Mothers Day to your mom too!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring snow pea and radish salad

Be sure to “Like” greenmomster on Facebook for all your Meat-Free Friday recipes.
Here’s an easy salad idea that uses the veggies that are in your garden right now!  Serve with some veggie burgers (we like Morningstar Farms black bean burgers) and you’ve got an easy Friday meal.

3 cups snow peas
1 cup radishes, sliced thin
1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds
3-4 tblsp Annie’s Asian Sesame Dressing

1)  Combine first three ingredients and toss with the dressing – easy!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

We adopted a stream–and it’s good for the local economy!

Want to be an up-to-date greenmomster?  Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook!

In several past blog posts, greenmomster has been updating you on the streams that our family has adopted and the unfortunate condition of those streams.  You might be wondering, what can be done to improve the condition of these impaired streams?  Streams can be restored through biological andvastateparkDiMauro3 engineering projects, and a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that these restoration projects can be good for the local environment and the local economy!  As reported by the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, a restoration of a 1.8 mile section of a tributary to the Anacostia River is yielding big benefits, both environmental and economic.  The year-long project, which cost $3.7 million dollars and was funded by multiple agencies and non-profits including U.S. EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation, reduced erosion, improved water quality, increased and improved wildlife habitat, and provided recreational space for local residents.  Additionally, the project generated 45 local jobs, $2.6 million in local labor income, and an estimated $3.4 million in value added in DC and 20 counties in VA, WV, and MD.  Not too shabby!  For more information on this project, be sure to check out the U.S. EPA’s update.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 cool facts about wolverines

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The public comment period on this proposal closes on May 6, so keep your eyes on the latest news!  You’ve probably never seen one of these creatures, because they are secretive and live individually.  Here are five facts that you may not have known about wolverines (the non-movie wolverines, that is):

  • Wolverines are the largest of the mustelid family, which includes badgers, ferrets, and minks
  • Wolverines have five toes on each foot with curved and semiretractile claws, because they’re diggers
  • Wolverines have wander-lust!  Home ranges of adult male wolverines can range from 100-900 km2!
  • Wolverines like it cold – in the more southern part of their range, they move to higher elevations (basically, “where the weather suits their clothes”)
  • Wolverines are currently threatened by habitat and range loss due to climate change

If you’d like to read more about wolverines, be sure to check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile, where I found these fascinating facts!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Bean Burritos!

A dish from south of the border for the holiday!
3 15.5 oz cans black beans, drained
about 3 teaspoons cumin (to taste)
about 3 teaspoons garlic (to taste)
2 avocados (omit these if you're going strictly locavore)
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups chopped tomatoes (if they're not in season, omit or try canned)
2 cups chopped onions
sour cream
salsa verde
3 cups corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)
10 tortillas (slightly heated); you can use corn or flour tortillas, whichever your diners prefer


  1. Combine beans, cumin, and garlic and heat in a small saucepan.
  2. Peel and chop avocado.  Mix in a bowl with lime juice and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Set up the table with separate bowls of beans, avocado, tomato, onion, sour cream, salsa verde, and corn.  Let the gang prepare their own burritos, just the way they like it!
  4. Makes 10 burritos