Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some of my Favorite Recipes

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Recipe
My favorite pumpkin recipe is also one of the quickest and easiest I have found. I came across this recipe in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and tweaked it a little for my tastes. I can whip up a batch of my Pumpkin Bars in a few minutes (without a mixer!) bake, and have warm and delicious fragrant bars for dessert or with afternoon tea. It is so light and fluffy and the frosting is so creamy that it can even pass for birthday cake! It is hard to beat, and a favorite of many, especially topped with smooth cream cheese frosting.... MORE
Do-it-yourself Healthy Trail Mix
I call it trail mix, some know it as gorp, and my coworker likes to refer to it as my bird seed. Whatever you call it, a mix of fruits, nuts, seeds and other goodies is a great healthy snack that will fill you up and keep you going between meals.

Pre-packaged trail mixes that you find in the store can be expensive, with so much sugar, salt, and preservatives that it defeats the purpose of a healthy snack. Fortunately, it is easy and economical to make your own trail mix.

I make big batches in a plastic storage tote that I store in my cupboard. I fill little snack sized baggies or small plastic containers with the mix and throw them in lunches or in backpacks or purses for snack emergencies. They are great on the weekend, eat a handful before you go into the grocery store, you will save more money by not shopping on an empty stomach! I also bring it on car rides, train rides, camping, hiking, and anywhere there is a chance of someone getting hungry....MORE
The Best Frostings
The best cake icing is homemade, you can taste the difference. Good icing can save a mediocre cake or make a good cake spectacular. My favorite icings are not too sweet, and depending on the cake, light and fluffy or smooth and creamy. Here are directions for easy recipes for each. Both recipes cover a 9x13" cake.

This first recipe was the first icing I ever made, I learned it from my mother. It is still a favorite for its versatility and airy texture.

Cream cheese frosting is great on almost any cake, and for topping carrot cake, pumpkin cake, or other spice cakes it can't be beat... MORE

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The true costs of supermarket meat

Another great article from the New York Times on the costs of industrial production of meat to the environment and our health. Much of this information can be found in The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (see earlier post), and the author also quotes Michael Pollan's new book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (which is on my reading list for this year).

Excerpts from Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler Published New York Times: January 27, 2008
" estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation...

...if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius....

...Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens

...about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption...It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States...

...We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.)..."

...Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fun Garden Blogging

Here are some cute blogs that I have come across about gardening

Good 'n' Planty by the Web Editor of (Also a useful site)
You Grow Girl

More Recycling!

An update to my earlier post on Spring Cleaning and how to recycle your electronics.
Here are some more ideas from Organic Gardening on the other stuff in your closet that still may have a life to it:
  • Backpacks and Coats
    • Check with your local shelters, schools, and churches if they are collecting for underprivileged children
  • Boots/Shoes
    • Boots for Rangers for African rangers who patrol park boundaries and wilderness areas
    • Passages Northwest Outdoor exploration for girls of diverse backgrounds
    • Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program makes surfaces for basketball courts, tennis courts, tracks, and playgrounds out of any brand of athletic shoe
  • Clothes
    • Donate to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army Store
    • Check with local shelters, domestic violence programs, and churches- especially with maternity clothes or baby clothes
  • Career Clothes
  • Prom Dresses for underprivileged students

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Adventures in Breadmaking

What is better than a slice of butter-melting warm bread in the morning, the fragrance of fresh baked bread filling your home, or even better, inexpensive and healthy homemade food with no preservatives! These thoughts got me interested in making my own bread...
Check out my article on how I got into making homemade bread with a breadmaker with tips for other beginners.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I have been hearing many alarming things about the plastic that contains our food and beverages. It is worrisome that our need for convenience and disposability may be poisoning us. It is alarming to see plastic becoming the only option and cooking being done in plastic bags.

Here are some things I learned from an Article in the New York Times (1-5-08) titled 'The (Possible) Perils of Being Thirsty While Being Green'
  • Most plastics have a number (1 to 7) on the bottom that designate how to recycle or dispose of it
  • Plastic bottles for water, soda and juice (No. 1) are usually made from a petroleum-based material, which can leach harmful trace metals if it becomes degraded from washing and re-use
  • Water bottles are rumored to leach out a chemical that interferes with male hormones, but it is in amounts too small to be a risk
  • Plastic bottles with small openings are harder to wash, and can have harmful bacteria in them if reused
  • Hard plastic bottles (Nalgene) made with polycarbonate plastic (No. 7) are made from the same type of material as some baby bottles, are a better alternative to disposable plastic bottles
  • There is some concern that the hard plastic can also leach an endocrine-disrupting chemical (which is also in other materials, such as most food and beverage can coatings and some toys) and scientists are currently studying this issue
  • Safer options of plastic are No. 2 and No. 5 (found in most margarine tubs and yogurt containers)
  • Stainless steel is a healthier (if more expensive) alternative to plastic bottles
  • Do not heat anything in any type of plastic in the microwave (I have also heard that freezing is bad
  • Avoid washing the hard No. 7 plastic bottles in a dishwasher or with harsh detergent
  • Use wax paper instead of plastic bags for disposable needs, use Tupperware type containers for re-use

After reading this article, I was inspired to get rid of my plastic water bottles and invest in some nice stainless steel. I got 'his and hers' versions of Klean Kanteen (27 oz) by adding colored clips to the top to tell them apart.
I have to admit, I didn't think the difference would be that noticeable, but these bottles are amazing! The water tastes so much better, and stays nice and cool. The bottles are heavy duty, but not too heavy to carry, easy to clean, and fits in my backpack pockets, my car cup holder, and even in my down vest pocket! I like the loop cap version because I can clip it to things and make sure I don't lose my investment. I'm thinking of getting the Klean Kanteen 40 oz size to have a bigger one for camping and backpacking.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Winter Camping

2007 was a year of many firsts for me, one of which was camping in November. I survived a 20 degree night with a good tent, hot water bottles, lots of layers of clothing, and piles of wool blankets. With a Christmas present of a pair of really nice snowshoes(Atlas Women's Snowshoe), and some simply glorious winter snowshoe outings with the dogs, now I am being encouraged to try real winter camping. I had been thinking more and more about it when I ran across this article. I love how the author captures the magic of the outdoors in winter.

Camping Under a Mantle of Snow
By Dave Caldwell, Published New York Times: January 4, 2008

"The great outdoors beckons, even in the dead of winter.

Yes, it is colder, windier. But the air is crisper, the views clearer, the animal tracks easier to see. And that blanket of snow on the ground and the glaze of ice on bare tree branches transform the woods. Here is the best part, though, hikers, skiers and snowshoers say: the abundance of blissful winter solitude."

While this article refers to areas in the Northeast US that are good for winter activities, it also has a link to a site that offers winter camping tips, including safety tips and packing lists.

For more in-depth info on winter camping, I'm told 'Bills Winter Camping' website is the best.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Time For Spring Cleaning!

I decided to start out the New Year with a clean and clutter free house. I ended up with a pile of old electronic devices and cords that I was not sure how to get rid of.

Here are some recycling resources I found online:
  • A list of recyclers, some with fees and some with no fees
  • Takes back iPods and cellphones at no charge
  • Takes all cellphones and PDAs, no charge
  • Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation
  • Join a list service in your area to give away your old stuff
  • donates electronics to nonprofit groups, some of which teach disadvantaged people tech repair skills
  • takes cellphones (plus batteries and chargers), refurbishes them, and provides them as emergency lifelines for survivors of domestic violence
  • find a local drop-off recycling center to get rid of old Cathode-ray tube (CRT) TVs and computer monitors (CRTs can contains over 2 pounds of toxic lead)
  • Staples stores - take electronic devices (except TVs) for recycling ($10 fee for large items)
  • GreenDisk takes miscellaneous technology waste (CDs, tapes, games, digital cameras, cords, cables, VCRs...)