Friday, June 27, 2008

A Touch of the News

  • New kitchen appliance allows you to scan empty containers and create a grocery list, and items are delivered to your door. It also reminds you which containers can be recycled. Sounds interesting, I wouldn't mind less trips to the grocery store, but I think delivery in my area is a way off.
  • The debate over raw milk goes on. Supporters list the benefits and try to legalize selling it in all states, and the FDA lists the risks.
  • Greenpeace rated 18 major electronics companies in its Guide to Greener Electronics. Ratings are based on practices including using toxic materials, recycling programs, and political lobbying to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quick Breads for Quick Breakfasts

Avoid the temptations of fat laden fast food for breakfast (McBreakfast, donuts, monster muffins...) by keeping some quick breads around. They are easy to make, store well (even freezing), are portable, are not greasy, and are cheaper than buying breakfast. The best ones hold together nice for one handed eating with limited crumb spillage.
“Quick breads are the friend of the busy breakfast lover. ... Even if you can't help eating on the run, at least you can add some whole grains and nutrients to your homemade goodies instead of buying food that is just dessert masquerading as breakfast.” Julie O'Hara (courtesy of an NPR interview)
Quick breads can have many different ingredients and flavors and come in the form of scones, muffins, biscuits, loaves or cornbread. For recipes see...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Not Just a Garnish: More Uses for Radish

My garden is now in summer mode, and the radish season is about over. We planted 'Easter Egg', a mix of white, red, and purple radishes, and enjoyed a good crop of crisp, tangy globes.

I love fresh sliced radishes on salads (with radish greens too, I've learned the tops are edible too!) but towards the end of the crop I was looking for more creative uses for these seasonal vegetables.

In this country we usually think of radishes as garnish, but there are many cultures (and recipes) out there that use radishes in different ways.

Refrigerator Pickled Radishes

(Adapted from IL- Extension)

1/2 pound radish- sliced or shredded
1 carrot shredded or diced
1 tablespoon canning salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. Wash and slice or shred radishes and carrots. Put in a bowl with water, sprinkle salt and mix well.

  2. Let set, and after 30 min, drain and squeeze dry

  3. Combine vinegar, sugar and red pepper and combine with vegetables in a jar.

  4. Refrigerate overnight. Will keep in the fridge about a month.

These pickled radishes are a treat! Crisp, sweet, tangy- they can be served as a snack or on sandwiches or salads.

A slightly different and quicker version of this would be Radish Salad.

Other Delicious Radish Ideas

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Please Don't Take My Bananas!

I eat a banana every morning first thing. If I'm in a hurry but starving I grab a banana for the road. I snack on trail mix with banana chips. Bananas are cheap, filling, easy to eat, extremely portable, and good for you. They don't have a very long shelf life, but there's always banana bread.

I have been ignoring the little green voice in my head that says bananas are not so good for the environment. After reading the article Yes, We Will Have No Bananas, I can ignore it no longer. I may have to start looking for a banana alternative, or save them for a special treat (Although, even at $1/lb they are still cheaper than most fruits, unless they are on sale. It's difficult to find a balance between convenience, price, and environmental benefits).
"ONCE you become accustomed to gas at $4 a gallon, brace yourself for the next shocking retail threshold: bananas reaching $1 a pound. At that price, Americans may stop thinking of bananas as a cheap staple, and then a strategy that has served the big banana companies for more than a century — enabling them to turn an exotic, tropical fruit into an everyday favorite — will begin to unravel.

The immediate reasons for the price increase are the rising cost of oil and reduced supply caused by floods in Ecuador, the world’s biggest banana exporter. But something larger is going on that will affect prices for years to come.

That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas..." More Interesting Banana Info

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Fisher- Wildlife Encounters in the North Woods

It was a hot muggy day in June when I braved mosquitoes, ticks, deep woods and swamp to see a fisher den.

It was the weekend of our annual 'Sibling Retreat' at our family cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. On a hike with his dog the day before, my brother spotted the den and the mother fisher with three babies. When he told the tail, the rest of us were intrigued. It's not often you see a this extremely shy and solitary animal, let alone four of them and a den. We followed him through the deep woods equipped with camera and bug spray to catch a glimpse of these interesting creatures.

The first time I saw a fisher I didn't even know what I was looking at. We were driving down the road (in that same area) when we saw a big brown animal in the road. It was too big to be a cat, too small to be a dog or bear, and shaped like a weasel. It ran into the woods as we got closer, but when we stopped to look closer it charged out at us and tried to attack the tires! We thought it could be a marten, but the locals said it was most likely a fisher, a very aggressive predator, similar in appearance but larger (4-15 lbs and 29-47 inches in length) than the marten.

The den was a hole in the top of a tall hollow tree deep in a quiet part of the forest. The mother fisher was not around but we could see three pairs of eyes looking down at us. The babies look like a combination of bear cub and kitten. Cute, I thought, until I spied the leg of a fawn hanging from the tree and the rest of the unfortunate prey strewn about the swampy ground. A creepy sight, but somewhat rare, fisher usually prey on small mammals and some ground birds. We didn't stay long, the mosquitoes swarm if you stop moving, but I did get a couple shots of the young ones. The fisher's dark brown pelt is prized for fur, and the species has ridden a population roller coaster in this country, as trapping regulations have changed. It is proving to be an adaptable species, and they are now finding a way to survive in suburban areas as the preferred habitat (deep old woods with high canopy cover) is lost to logging and development. There have been reports of fisher in surburban backyards and attacks on stray cats and dogs and some domestic pets.
More info...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Touch of the News

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tips on Eating Less Meat

In my earlier post, The Protein Plan, I wrote about eating less meat and more of other protein sources. So far the plan is going very well. I have found my favorite cookbook very helpful in coming up with creative non-meat meals and meals with just a little meat. The author recently wrote an article in the NYTimes that seemed to speak right to me. His tips are summarized below.

The Minimalist -Putting Meat in Its Place -

1. Forget the protein thing- You can get quite a bit of protein from vegetables (they have more protein per calorie than meat). Average meat consumption of typical Americans is twice as high as recommended by the USDA, which is on the high side to begin with.

2. Buy less meat- Learn to accept smaller serving sizes. Use meat more as added flavor to a dish instead of serving a big hunk of meat.

3. Get it out of the center of the plate- Make the side dishes the center of the meal (vegetables, grains, beans, salads and fruit).

4. Buy more vegetables, and learn new ways to cook them- Stock the fridge and freezer and pantry with veggies, pasta, rice, beans, cheese, eggs, fish, bacon, and a little meat. Make dishes with what you have, get creative.

5. Make non-meat items as convenient as meat- Precook things for easy meals, cook a big batch of beans or grains and store in the fridge or freezer. Keep greens in a salad spinner, store blanched veggies to throw in stir fries or other dishes. (I started using a salad spinner and my salad consumption is through the roof!)

6. Make some rules- No meat for ___ . I have meatless breakfast and lunch during the week, only 3 dinners with meat per week. Weekends are anything goes.

7. Look at restaurant menus differently- Eat at restaurants that serve good non-meat dishes, or use going out to eat as a reward and eat a big steak if it makes you happy. Sharing meals also helps, and you can order extra sides if you need to.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good Reads: Notes From Little Lakes

This past winter was long, stretching it's cold fingers into spring. This wonderful book, Notes From Little Lakes, by Mel Ellis, helped me through the long cold season.

The author's descriptions of his homestead in Wisconsin (not that far from me!) brings alive a world of color and beauty. The book it set up like a journal, and takes you through the seasons of the land, animals, and his family. It inspired me to write more about my own little homestead and natural beauty of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fast Food Industry Hurts Southern Forests

Southern forests of North America, the most threatened forests in the US, supply 60% of US paper (15% of global). Over 30% of native Southeastern plant communities have become endangered.

Fast food restaurants are leaders in consumption of paper products and contribute to waste in landfills and litter on roadsides.

The Dogwood Alliance
, formed to increase awareness of the problems that Southern forests face. Their new campaign No Free Refills targets food packaging in the fast food industry.

To reduce their impact on the environment, the Dogwood Alliance suggests Fast Food Retailers
  • reducing packaging
  • use 100% post-consumer recycled boxboard
  • not use paper from endangered forests or industrial pine plantations
  • recycle waste
Examples of Progress:
Americans use 15 billion disposable hot beverage cups every year.
Starbucks now uses 10 percent recycled post-consumer cup (instead of non-recycled paper). This will save 11,000 tons of wood and 47 million gallons of water.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Electronic Junk in My Trunk

I have a broken printer in my trunk. I've been driving around with it in there for a few months now. I refuse to throw in in the trash, and I'm trying to recycle it. Really, I'm trying!
  • I tried to give it away for parts to family members and freecycle.
  • Goodwill only takes working items.
  • There are a few local stores (and online) that take them but charge $10 or more (I know, I'm cheap).
  • There was a free electronic recycling day announced in my town, but they forgot to mention where (and I forgot to follow up).
Lesson #1- Don't buy cheap printers anymore. They don't last very long, use too much ink, and you can't get rid of them.

Lesson #2- Why don't we have better electronic recycling programs? It it was easier to do, more people would recycle instead of throwing it out or stockpiling in the basement (or car trunk).

Fortunately there is hope on the horizon! Best Buy has announced a trial electronic waste recycling program in some stores. Maybe if I keep the printer in my trunk long enough, I will drive past one of those stores!