Posts Tagged ‘food’


Christmas–a paler shade of green

January 3, 2011

I am not a green goddess.  In fact, I think I put saving the environment on hold this holiday season.  Not that I went out of my way to sully the environment; I just didn’t go out of my way to NOT sully the environment.  It also seemed that when I tried to be green I failed, more often than not for lack of funds.  Being green is not always cheap.

Gifts.  This year was a year of consumption over creation.  Last year I made many gifts.  This year I bought many gifts.  OK, I made some too.  I did a little needle felting:          DSCF8698                  DSCF8701DSCF8705

And did a little “regular felting (those are hats). 


I’m afraid time constraints led to the purchase of most gifts.  Does it count that all blood relatives with whom I exchange got a very light gift? Down vests all around!  Shipping weights were down (sizes of boxes, however, were still large – aye yi yi! The postal bill!)

Wrapping Gifts. Wrapping the gifts was another area where my ideals and my reality didn’t quite meet.  I looked at the $10/roll recycled paper gift wrap and then looked in my wallet and then went to the dollar store and bought 4 rolls for $3.  I am not worthy.

OTOH, any and all gift boxes and bags were reused from previous years, as were all shipping boxes and packing materials.  It’s a family tradition; in the past I’ve sent a box, had it sent back to me, and then resent it again.  One of the boxes we received this Christmas was a U-Haul moving box marked “Easter decorations”.  Reuse, it’s what we do.

Holiday treats.  In the best of all worlds I would use all organic ingredients.  This world is pretty good, but apparently it isn’t the best, cost and availability being the limiting factors; so I focused on chocolate.  I wanted to use organic baking chocolate for fudge.  I did find some, and I did buy some, but not much – too dang expensive.  A quick visit to my friend Mr. Google and I learned that making fudge doesn’t require bars of baking chocolate as I’d been led to believe (by the recipe on the wrapper of the baking chocolate).  You can use chocolate chips.  I can find organic chocolate chips for a fraction of the cost of organic chocolate in bars.  Considering how much chocolate I cook with over the holidays this was a significant savings.

Lights.  At least we have LED lights on the tree, and on the porches.  (Yes, there are 3 little non-LED trees in the backyard – they are just visiting for this year though).

Now while every gift I gave may not have been organic, handmade, or fair-trade – I received a number of eco-friendly gifts including  baskets, a bowl, a platter, boxes, notecards, jewelry, soap, and a bird house.  I even received a jigsaw puzzle with embedded wildflower seeds so I can plant it in my garden after I’m done with it.  I received foodstuffs, often local specialties where people live or visit, such as wild rice, and cherry and fig preserves. 

It’s possible that people were greener in their giving to me than I was to them this year.  That’s ok, I have 12 months to prepare for a greener season of giving.  I wonder what I’ll come up with.


Dark Days 14 – roast chicken redux

February 20, 2010

Last weekend my daughter asked for a special Valentine’s Day dinner of roast chicken.  And so my husband roasted one.

chicken and potatoes

The chicken was a local bird.  The potatoes were from our garden.  The milk was from the local no-hormone dairy.  The papers on the table under the plate are unfortunately typical.  The erratically set table is typical also – but do note the cloth napkins.  Oh, and yes, in that bowl in the foreground (I could have cropped it out, but that wouldn’t have been honest) is popcorn chicken – because my 14 year old won’t eat chicken that isn’t coated in sodium-laden bread crumbs.

Oh, did you notice how beige the meal is?  No greens.  We had each had large salads for lunch and just opted out.

We’ve had roast chicken for our dark days meal before – we’re running out of options I fear.  The stores from the harvest are depleted.  That and I think my imagination is depleted too.  Doesn’t matter really, nothing wrong with sticking with a winner and this chicken was delicious for days after and will soon become chicken soup too.  Hmmm, I don’t think we can get local barley for the soup, but maybe we’ll try a potato, onion, carrot, garlic chicken soup.  A local onion at this time of year will be tough…. we’ll see how it goes.


Dark Days 11 – Meat and Potatoes

January 30, 2010

A little from the basement, a little from the pantry, a little from the farmer’s market – put it together and you have a Dark Days dinner.

dinner 2

This week it was pork chops, roasted potatoes, salad, and green tomato relish.   The pork and salad were from the farmer’s market – local and ethical, not 100% sure of the organic-ness.

potatoes The potatoes were from our basement – well, originally from the garden.  My husband used a wavy knife I got him for Christmas to cut the potatoes and said it made the potatoes a lot easier to flip since there wasn’t an entire smooth side to stick to the pan.

The green tomato relish was canned by my husband at the end of the summer when we had lots of green tomatoes and not enough frost-free days to ripen them on the vine.  It was delicious – I used mine not only with the chops but also on the salad.  Not a great dressing, but not bad either.

Exceptions to the SOLE-ness of the dinner were spices on the pork, balsamic vinegar on my potatoes (and ketchup on my husbands), and salad dressing for my husband and daughter too I suppose.  My daughter had the local, natural, not quite organic milk.  (My son was ill so his meal doesn’t count at all).  My husband drank water (local – straight from the tap) and I had seltzer – made with my Sodastream seltzer maker – so I guess that makes it local too.


New Year Resolutions – The Usual Weight-Loss Thing

January 2, 2010

I am not being original regarding resolutions because I am in desperate need of the typical, cliché resolution – I need to lose weight. The trick with weight loss, for me anyway, is to make it new and fresh.  Maybe if I make it green.

Weight loss is dependent on one basic fact, expend more calories than you take in. clip art by Although not easy, this can be done by cutting back on food alone.  Word has it that high fiber foods fill you up more so you will be tempted to eat less. And it just so happens that high fiber foods are good for you.  In addition, it is increasingly possible to find good for you and good for the planet high fiber foods.  Generally, organic and local greens, grains, and vegetables are a good bet.  On top of that add locally or organically produced cheeses and meats (or both local and organic when possible), cut back on the sweets and snacks (the sweets are my special downfall), and I should be on my way. 

Last year I did lose some weight by cutting back on food alone when a back injury and then foot problems (getting older has its challenges) kept me out of the gym.  Now, though, I’m healed and ready with a personal trainer created exercise plan.  Adding exercise to the plan should speed along weight loss by increasing the number of calories I burn.  The deal here is making exercise green.clipart by

The easy way is to exercise at home.  Presently, that is easier said than done.  In the room I exercise in the Christmas tree is still up and there are still presents and boxes strewn across the floor.  There is no room for my yoga mat (a brand new eco-friendly yoga mat from my sister.  Thank you, Gail!).  In a few days, though, that will change and I can do some core-building exercises in the comfort of my home.  In addition, there is always walking.  It is presently 4 degrees Fahrenheit.  When I was younger, that wouldn’t have phased me.  It phases me now.  I’m staying in.


That leaves the gym. clip art from It has an indoor walking track and an assortment of weights.  I do need to add weight training to my regimen (as if I actually have a regimen).  Buying my own weights just doesn’t seem sensible.  In theory I would have to buy more and heavier weights.  Buying weights is just not the green thing to do – using the gym’s weights is better.  Of course, that means I have to drive to the gym (10 miles).  It isn’t ideal, but with some planning I should be able to incorporate it into my drive home a few days a week adding only a few additional miles to the trip.

So, I guess that’s set.  I will begin eating more healthily – any change from my holiday bingeing will be an improvement.  And I will begin exercising.  I will be better for it, and the earth won’t be worse off.  Seems like a deal.



Holiday Treats

December 24, 2009

This is not a cooking blog. I know that is kind of hard to tell lately, what with all the Dark Days posts. But anyone who knows me well knows I’m not much of a cook, but I do eat, and I do have a sweet tooth.  At this time of year I have a handful of holiday treats that I like to make  – and if you do it three years in a row it becomes a tradition.

Every year I make fudge – mostly because the kids and my husband like it.  I make coconut swirls – which taste like mounds bars.  [I don’t think they are actually a family secret recipe – but I’m not ready to share it.]  And I make 2-minute cookies – which are an oatmeal “cookie” (milk, butter, sugar, oatmeal, cocoa and then coconut, nuts, or raisins – I like the nuts and/or raisins – but the kids don’t – so this year it is coconut).  Often we dip pretzels in chocolate too.  None of these requires any kind of oven time.

I make up plates for various and sundry people around town, take some with us when visiting, and eat too many ourselves.

When I went to the store last week to stock up on treat supplies I made an effort to look for organic ingredients and got a lesson in what is available and what isn’t.

First, I failed in the butter category.  I had intended to make butter from our local, natural (not quite organic, but hormone-free) milk – but we weren’t able to get cream this week.  So, I had to resort to the butter in the fridge – which is what we can get in town – your typical run-of-the-mill unsalted butter. 

I need lots of chocolate for all of these treats.  I was able to get organic chocolate semi-sweet chips [Kroger’s store brand – Private Selections Organics].  I also got organic sugar and organic powdered sugar (also Kroger’s Private Selections Organics].  In my cupboard I have some organic cocoa powder.  The other items I needed were oatmeal, sweetened condensed milk, and powdered milk.  At the large grocery store I was at (Kroger – which has an impressive “natural food” section and increasing number of organic products intermixed with the nonorganic) I could not find any organic versions of these items.  Bob’s Red Mill apparently makes organic rolled oats, but it wasn’t readily available to me.

So, I guess I did 1/2 way ok on the organic factor.  None of the ingredients are particularly local though. 

As for taste – I can’t say as I can tell a difference.  But since much of the ingredients are organic I know my family, my friends, and I are ingesting minimal pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer chemicals.

Anyway – it’s Christmas Eve.  For everyone who celebrates Christmas – I wish you a very merry one.  For everyone else – I hope you have a lovely, peaceful day.



Dark Days – Week 5 (yes?) – Breakfast for Dinner or Acorn Squash – Your Choice

December 18, 2009

This week we ended up with two relatively SOLEful (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) meals. You can pick your favorite.

Option 1: PANCAKES!  And local, ethical (weak on the sustainable and organic) pork sausage.

I made the pancakes.  I always make the pancakes – but usually I make them from a box.  This time I found a recipe for whole wheat pancakes on the web and modified it for my egg-allergy.

I used local whole wheat flour and the local, ethical, sustainable (but not organic in the winter) milk. pancakes The oil is just your basic canola oil, the sugar is organic, the baking powder is from wherever baking powder comes from.  For the eggs I use Ener-G egg replacer.  They were actually really, really, good.  I figured that pancakes involved a lot more ingredients carefully combined – and that is why they sold mixes. HA!  Pancakes are really easy!  And it must be this local flour – these were great with just a little texture to them.  

For those who wanted sweetness with their pancakes there was organic maple syrup (not local) or local corn cob jelly (one of the ingredients is “corn cob squeezin’s”).  It has a very delicate flavor (which is a nice way of saying not much flavor at all).  Frankly, I think the sausage and jellypancakes taste best naked.  I’ve frozen the leftovers for tomorrow’s breakfast.

The pork was mixed with some Penzey spices (breakfast sausage blend) and was very tasty.  What more can you say about sausage?

We needed something fruit or vegetable-ish – so organic apple slices were chosen.  Again, organic, but not local.  Seems we can generally do one or the other: organic or local – it’s harder to do both unless we eat salad everyday (with no dressing).

Option 2: Acorn Squash. 

Yesterday, the kids were both gone for dinner (at a rehearsal for a special by-invitation-only-choral-concert — pretty cool!).  My husband and I could eat whatever we wanted – so we made acorn squash.  That’s it.  Just an acorn squash each.  My plan had been to make some fresh butter and use some local honey to sweeten it – – it would be simple, elegant, and SOLEful.

So we made acorn squash.  We couldn’t find any cream for fresh butter but we still had butter that I made last week – you may recall that it never did separate from the butter milk and the butter milk in it started to sour the next day.  Well, it is past its prime now.  But it was ok for the squash. acorn squash My husband, however, used brown sugar in the acorn squash when he cooked them (albeit organic brown sugar – but not local – we can only make assumptions about it’s sustainability and ethicalness).  So much for using the definitely local honey. 

Having only an acorn squash for dinner seemed like we were cheating – although before kids we often had one item dinners.  Maybe I’m being too hard on myself.  Still, I’m mulling over some ideas for next week.  Now that the semester is over maybe we can plan ahead, or maybe we’ll have pancakes and acorn squash.


Dark Days – Potatoes Au Gratin

December 12, 2009

It is the end of the semester for the two family faculty members, plus the usual meetings, the occasional holiday concert, etc. etc.  I am not whining, I’m explaining.  Dark Days week 4 was in danger of sneaking by with nothing au gratinto say for itself.  But we pulled our act together and my husband made potatoes au gratin.

We used the natural/ethical/local milk we are fond of and local cheddar cheese.  I made butter from cream from the same dairy that our milk comes from.  And the potatoes came from our own organic (and of course, sustainable and ethical, and needless to say, local) garden.  A baked potato for the youngest and hydroponically grown local salad for the oldest (and any other takers).

My husband is a tad lactose intolerant and the milk in this meal put him over the comfort edge, so we probably won’t repeat it.

Butter making does not seem to be as straightforward as you would assume.  Beat the milk until it cries Uncle has always been my recipe.  This time I beat it and beat it and it got to the consistency of very very hard whipped cream or very very light butter, but never clumped together and separated from the butter milk.  I don’t know the variables that might affect butter making.  I don’t know if freshness of the cream matters, or how rich that cream is to start with, or the temperature, or the mood of the cow.  I just don’t know. I suspect I could have/should have beat it longer.  But then again my husband has declared this the best butter he has ever tasted.butter and baked  So perhaps I’ll aim for this consistency in the future.

Luckily, I have this cute butter dish to put it in.  It is incredibly light (the butter, not the dish) and it is awfully tempting to spread it on bread like it is cream cheese rather than butter. 

Next week? Who knows which direction the muse will send us.