Thursday, August 23, 2018

Zucchini palooza!

In spite of all the rain this year, we've got a little zucchini at our house, so this week’s recipe once again features this plentiful vegetable. The recipe is adapted from 101 Things to do with Zucchini – enjoy!

Egg Stuffed Zucchini

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper, red pepper flakes if you like a little zippier dish
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese

  1. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch of shell. Chop the pulp. 
  2. Pour the water in a baking dish and put the zucchini shells in the dish, facedown. Cook the zucchini in an oven at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.
  3. Saute pulp and tomato in butter until tender. Add the eggs, salt and pepper. Once the egg is cooked, spoon it into the zucchini shells. Top with cheese and cook in the oven until cheese melts.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Maned Wolves

I’m a very fortunate person, because I’ve actually had a close encounter with this week’s mammal and endangered species, the Maned Wolf. Maned wolves are beautiful creatures who live in the grassy areas of central south America (parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and possibly parts of Peru and Uruguay). These wolves (people often say look like “foxes on stilts”) are omnivores, hunting at night and eating a diet which includes fruits and berries as well as small animals like rodents, reptiles, and insects. Because of this diet, the wolves play an important part in their ecosystems, controlling animal populations lower on the food chain and acting as seed dispersers. One of their primary food sources is the lobeira berry -- this fact caused some difficulty when zookeepers were first trying to raise the wolves in captivity many decades ago. Zookeepers knew that the wolves were omnivores, but didn’t know about the importance of lobeira berries in their diet. Until they worked out this puzzle, the wolves often suffered from dietary problems in captivity.

As mentioned on the ARKive website, these solitary wolves live in home ranges of 25 to 50 square km and only come together during the breeding season. Females reach sexual maturity at one year and can give birth to litters of 1 to 5 pups. The primary threat to these wolves, as is the case with many other endangered species, is habitat loss. Scientists and conservation managers are working hard to protect these wolves from loss of their habitat, as well as negative contact with humans and road kills.

I just read about Rogerio Cunha de Paula, one of the leading biologists working to protect the species. He is working to protect the Serra da Canastra National Park in Brazil from logging, mining, and conversion of habitat from soil plantations (see the book Wildlife Heroes by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken for more info). Many other people are also working hard to protect the wolves, and that’s how I got my close encounter. The National Zoo has been involved in maned wolf conservation for over 30 years and is the coordinator of the Species Survival Plan for the maned wolf. As a volunteer with the zoo, I was an “interpreter” about maned wolves for the public. One of the keepers at the maned wolf exhibit, my friend Kim, took extra time with me to teach me how truly special these animals are – she shared her knowledge of the wolves and gave me an unforgettable look at these fascinating creatures! What a treat to see these animals close-up, to hear their specific vocalizations, and yes, even to smell their (very strong) scents during mating season. Based on these encounters, I can say that the world would be a poorer place without the beautiful maned wolf.

Friday, August 17, 2018

It's that time of the year again!

Zucchini time!

Mexican Zucchini Soup

  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 28 – 32 oz. veg broth
  • 3 cups unpeeled chopped zucchini (peel it if it’s as big as our zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 can hot Hatch chiles, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tblsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions for garnish
  1. In a pan, saute the onion in butter until soft (2 or 3 minutes)
  2. Stir in broth, zucchini, corn, chiles, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until zucchini is tender.
  3. Add milk and heat the soup back up, but don’t boil it.
  4. Serve garnished with pepper jack cheese and green onions

Monday, August 13, 2018

Happy World Elephant Day!

Yesterday was World Elephant Day, so I'm re-running the Great Big Elephant Quiz.  Enjoy!
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:
  1. T/F Elephants only use their trunks for smelling
  2. T/F Elephants can use their ears to cool their bodies
  3. T/F African elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth
  4. T/F Herds are led by dominant females
  5. T/F Male elephants live in herds
  6. T/F Elephant gestation is one of the longest pregnancies on Earth
  7. T/F Both male and female elephants have tusks
  8. T/F Elephants are carnivores
  9. T/F Elephants have great memories
  10. T/F Elephants are big sleepers
Answers (from Wildlife Heroes, by Scardina and Flocken; National Geographic website; and Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick)
  1. False – elephants also use their trunks for breathing, drinking, and picking up small objects. The trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles!
  2. True – thanks to radiation of heat through their ears
  3. True! Asian elephants are a little smaller
  4. True – elephant herds are made up of family groups of females, led by one dominant female
  5. False – once they hit maturity, these big guys are loners
  6. 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!
  7. True!
  8. False, thank goodness – elephants survive on grasses, roots, and bark. Up to 300 lbs per day!
  9. 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
  10. 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?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mammal Monday -- mountain lions

Maybe you saw this video of a family of mountain lions having a drink on a Colorado family's deck:

So let's take a look at mountain lions (Puma concolor), or cougars/pumas, for today's Mammal Monday.  This cat, the largest in North America, has a range spanning from Canada all the way to Argentina. They're usually solitary animals who can defend a territory from 10 to over 300 square miles.  As you can see from the video, they have litters of 2 to 4 offspring that can stay with the female for 1 to 2 years.  Mountain lions are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with the biggest threats to the species being habitat destruction and conflicts with livestock.  Want to learn more?  Check out the National Wildlife Federation's page on the species.

Friday, August 3, 2018

I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

This quote from an old Alka Seltzer commercial is what I was thinking when I tried today’s meat-free Friday concoction. Diane’s Dad’s Summer Sandwich won the NPR taste of summer contest, and it’s my choice for tonight’s dinner. So weird, yet so tasty. Here’s how you make it:
  1. toast two slices of any bread you like
  2. layer the following IN ORDER onto the bread, starting at the bottom
  • crunchy peanut butter
  • a slice of vidalia onion
  • cucumber slices
  • tomato slices
  • a slice of white cheddar cheese
Now that’s a tasty sandwich!