Monday, September 25, 2017

Mammal Monday -- sea otters!

It's Sea Otter Awareness Week!  I was born in Carmel, California, and the Monterey Bay area is always a favorite of mine.  This week's mammal comes from beautiful Monterey Bay -- it's the sea otter!  Did you know,
  • sea otters are the only marine mammal that doesn't use blubber to stay warm in the icy waters of the Pacific -- to stay warm, they have incredibly thick fur that traps air
  • sea otters are a keystone species in their habitat -- the role that they play impacts all the other species in the area
  • sea otter populations seem to be spreading (that's good news!) -- there was a recent sighting in southern California
  • sea otter mothers tie their babies into floating seaweed while they go looking for food, but there's always a plan B:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Meat-free Friday -- Jaska's Gazpacho!

What to do with those last tomatoes in your garden?  Here’s a great gazpacho recipe from my mother-in-law, perfect for a September Friday – enjoy!


  • 2 stale rolls or 3 pieces or bread pre-cooked in a little water
  • 1 thick slice onion
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 or 4 peeled red tomatoes or canned tomatoes
  • 2 tblsp wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1)  Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and add tomatoes to the top.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
2)  Chill in refrigerator several hours, until icy cold.
3)  Serve topped with croutons, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.  You can also add a dash of curry or chili powder to vary the flavor.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mammal Monday -- Tamandua!

My latest trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC brought me to the small mammal house, where I discovered these guys:

The southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) is a relative of the anteater and native to South America.  Thanks to it's prehensile tail, which is furless underneath, these mammals can climb trees.  Like anteaters, they have long tongues which allow them to slurp their favorite food -- ants and termites.  

Fortunately, populations of tamanduas are not currently threatened, but we should still be vigilant to keep the species secure.  The threats are similar to many mammals found in North America -- overhunting, habitat loss, vehicular traffic, and fires.  And sometimes people try to keep these guys as pets -- remember, wild animals don't make good pets!  Want to learn more?  Check out the National Zoo's informative tamandua fact sheet.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Meat-free Friday -- What to do with all that eggplant

First the good news:  in late summer, my vegetable garden looks like this:

Now the bad news:  I'm the only person in the family who LOVES eggplant.  Everyone else says "it tastes funny" or "it's leathery."  So I was on a search for a GREAT eggplant recipe.  Enough of the old, tomato-based ratatouille.  There had to be something new and exciting.

And I found it!  The best eggplant recipe ever (right after eggplant parm, that is).  Super easy and tasty, this recipe comes from Food52 Vegan, by Gena Hamshaw.  The only changes I made was to add some parmesan cheese as a topping and serve on quinoa instead of brown rice or toast.  Enjoy!

Roasted Ratatouille

  • 1 1/4 lb tomatoes, chopped
  • about 1 small eggplant, chopped into 1 inch pieces and lightly salted
  • about 2 small zucchinis, chopped into half slices
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced (or 4 tsp jar garlic)
  • 3 cups (or two cans) of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • parmesan cheese
  • cooked quinoa
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. On a large pan, combine tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, shallot, garlic, and chickpeas.  Stir well.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, thyme, and salt.  Drizzle over vegetables and stir.  Season with pepper. 
  4. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring halfway through.
  5. Serve over quinoa, garnished with parmesan cheese and basil.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mammal Monday -- What happens to animals in a hurricane?

As we follow numerous hurricanes this season, you have to wonder "what happens to the animals?"  Zoos have learned from the past and have plans in place:

But what do wild animals do? Well, it turns out that some fare better than others.  We've all heard and perhaps seen that many animals seem to know when a storm is coming.  Have you ever noticed how the birds in your area start to eat a lot prior to a blizzard and then things get very quite just before the storm hits?  Sure, it's anecdotal evidence, but there's also research that shows how animals deal with changes in weather.  Animals that breed well after major rainfall (think of some types of toads) and animals that are scavengers and not picky about what they eat (think raccoons or rats) do pretty well.  Animals that can use fallen trees for nests or protection also recover relatively quickly.  The species that don't fare so well include:
  • sessile creatures -- these plants and animals can't move away
  • some marine mammals -- manatees and dolphin strandings have been on the news after Hurricane Irma
  • migrating animals that can be blown off course
  • endangered or threatened species -- they often have very limited habitats
  • sea turtles (also endangered) -- their nests can be destroyed in a hurricane
Want to learn more?  Check out this article in today's Telegraph:  What happens to wild animals in a hurricane - and which species do surprisingly well?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Meat-free Friday -- Italian Soul Food!

It’s the end of summer, which means lots of green and red peppers.  And that means it's time again for one of my favorite summertime dishes -- italian sausage and pepper sandwiches.  How can a vegetarian greenmomster have all the tastiness and none of the meat?  Here’s the vegetarian version; we call it “Italian soul food” at our 20140528182354house!


Instructions:1)  Slice peppers and onions into long, thin strips.
2)  Put 4 tblsp olive oil into each of two frying pans and heat.  Fry italian sausage in one pan and peppers and onion in the other (until the pepper and onion are very soft)
3)  Place sausage into hot dog bun and top with peppers and onions.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mammal Monday -- helping lemurs

Did you know that today is the UN's International Day of Charity?  There are many, many worthy charities for your contributions, both for recent disasters and ongoing needs.  But let's say you've got a little extra left over that you'd like to designate to conservation programs.  Why not consider helping the lemurs?

Lemurs are incredible creatures that are only found in Madagascar.  Almost every one of these primate species is threatened with extinction.  I’ve written about both the lemurs and a terrific movie about these fascinating primates. 

If you’re like me, you often want to help with conservation efforts, but feel frustrated that you don’t have enough information regarding charitable organizations and their work.  Well, now there’s an organization that makes things simple.  The Lemur Conservation Network has done the research for you!  From the Network’s website:  “The Lemur Conservation Network unites organizations who are working to save Madagascar’s lemurs from extinction with people who want to support the cause. It is a funding guide for individuals—and potential donors—who want to learn more about lemurs and support lemur conservation, and a resource for organizations who want to promote their work in lemur conservation.”

You can go to this site and choose the organization you’d like to support, confident that your money will be used wisely to save these wonderful creatures and their habitat.  Check it out today!

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Meat-Free Friday -- Tomato gravy, etc.

Fresh veggies and fruits, easy-to-prepare recipes -- I love summertime cooking!  Here's our meal from last night -- rice with tomato/okra gravy, watermelon, and peach pie.

I'm just going to pass on the links for the recipes and the changes I made to the recipes:

Rice with Tomato Gravy -- this recipe doesn't have a lot of kick, so I added some red pepper flakes and creole seasoning.  If you don't like the okra so stringy, I'd suggest saute-ing it a little before adding to the gravy.

Peach Pie -- my change is frozen pie crust.  Who's got time to make crust when the weather's so nice?