Saturday, December 30, 2017

Have you seen this film where a plastic bag is the star?

Is watching more movies one of your New Year's resolutions?  Then check out this fascinating short film:

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Years Tradition!

OK -- it's almost New Years Day, so it's time for some blackeyed peas and greens to bring us luck!  I bet you’ll be looking for a tasty recipe with blackeyed peas – wish fulfilled!  Here are two perfect meat-free dishes for New Year’s!

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John 


  • 2 15 oz. cans of blackeyed peas, drained 
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 package vegetarian ham (I like Litelife Smart Deli Baked Ham, but there are many other available brands), chopped into small squares 
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste) 
  • 2 tblsp olive oil 
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice 
  • sour cream 
  • salsa verde
1)  Heat olive oil in a pan.  Add green and red pepper and onion; saute until onion is almost translucent.  Add vegetarian ham and saute for about 2 more minutes. 
2)  Add blackeyed peas and salt to the vegetable/ham mixture.  Cook for another 10 minutes on low heat. 
3)  Serve over rice with sour cream and salsa.

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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Last of a kind

Most folks have seen the horrible video of a starving polar bear, illustrating the effects of climate change.  An equally daunting threat to biodiversity is habitat loss, and the white rhino is one of the species that will go extinct due to habitat loss and overhunting.  My son took one of his college assignments and decided to reflect on the plight of endangered species. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Merry Christmas to me

Happy Mammal Monday!  Be honest -- we all like to give ourselves a little gift over the holidays while we're looking for just the right gift for our friends and family.  I like to give myself animals -- the "adoptable" kind.  Sometimes I "adopt" a sea turtle.  Sometimes I "adopt" a naked-mole rat.  Most years I also "adopt" an aye-aye named Grendl from the Duke Lemur Center.  Check out past posts to learn more about lemurs!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Something warm and filling for Meat-Free Friday

Filling?  Yes! Warm? Indeed! Lo-cal? Heck no!
Here's the recipe for Patatas Bravas Mac from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook by Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade.  If you like mac and cheese, this is the cookbook for you!

Ingredients (I doubled everything)
  • 1/2 lb dried elbow pasta
  • 2 tbslp olive oil
  • 3 fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced, skin on
  • 2 tblsp butter at room temp
  • 1 tblsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • salt
  • 2 cups Mac Sauce
  • 2 cups grated Manchego cheese
Instructions for mac sauce:
  1. Heat 3 cups whole milk and slowly mix in 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour.  The goal is to have a nice, thick (but not lumpy) sauce.  Want more detailed instructions -- buy the cookbook
Instructions for mac and cheese
  1. Cook the pasta until al dente
  2. Saute potatoes in olive oil until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel.
  3. Combine butter, smoked paprika, garlic, lemon juice, and 1 tsp salt in a small bowl.  Mash together until it's a thick paste.
  4. Add mac sauce, paprika paste, and cheese to a large pot and heat until the cheese is just melted.  Add the cooked pasta and stir until everything is smooth and hot.
  5. Spoon into bowls and top with potatoes.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mammal Monday -- reindeer!

I was thrilled to see a reindeer during my trip to Iceland this summer.  These sleigh-pulling wonders are fascinating animals -- did you know that only the females keep their antlers during the winter?  Check out these reindeer fun facts:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meat-Free Friday -- Baked Potato Bar!

20140417173854This Friday’s meat-free dish is an easy one – a baked potato bar!  Just poke some holes in your potatoes and microwave until they’re soft.  Saute some peppers and onions in olive oil and some mushrooms in butter.  Put out some shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa (red AND green, of course), salt, pepper, and red pepper.  How about some hot sauce?  Serve with a side salad and enjoy!  Anything else you like to add to your potato?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Changes to our national monuments

This week, Interior Secretary Zinke proposed that the U.S. government change its management policy for 4 national monuments and six other protected land and marine areas.  The natural follow-up question to this proposal is, "Who gives a flying flit, or why should we care?" 

Let's take a look at the marine areas.  While many of us assume that these marine areas are simply "paper parks" without much impact on marine conservation, recent research suggests that these protection designations help to support marine biodiversity.  This biodiversity has real impacts, both environmentally and economically.  Check out this summary from Science Friday:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pipeline palooza!

This week and next, the VA Water Control Board is conducting its final review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which transport natural gas from WV through VA and into NC.  While many experts agree that natural gas can serve as a "bridge fuel" as we move our economy toward reliance on renewable energy sources, there is much disagreement about the need for these two pipelines, their safety, and the effects on ratepayer fees and development of renewable energy sources in Virginia.  It's always good to take a look at what both sides are saying, so here's the rundown:

First, let's take a look at the procedure that DEQ has used for review of the project, with regard to water resources.

Next, let's review Dominion Power's Atlantic Coast Pipeline Factbook -- the main arguments are that the pipeline provides cleaner energy and lower costs.

Finally we'll look at the information that is presented by citizen groups, namely that the building of natural gas pipelines through Virginia will stall development of renewable energy sources, endanger water resources (think possible spills), destroy private and public lands including the George Washington National Forest , and raise energy prices for Virginians.  Here are summaries from the Sierra Club, and Wild Virginia.

Where do I come down on this issue? Although I understand the need for "bridge fuels", I also feel that we need to keep our eye on the ball -- 100% renewable energy should be our goal.  We should not be investing in infrastructure that will delay implementation of that goal.  Additionally, I'm not convinced that Virginia needs these pipelines -- Dominion has already stated that the two new natural gas generating stations in southern VA can be serviced by existing pipelines for the foreseeable future.  Combine these concerns with the possible environmental impacts outlined in the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and we have two projects that the VA Water Control Board should not approve.