Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Meme

Picked up a web meme.

Ten Years Ago
Transition period. I was changing jobs, single again, moving. And, I had just lost my father, my one person in the world who understood me. I have to say the ten years since have led to many improvements in my life! I would call that a year lost to insanity from grief. Good riddance.

What's On My To-Do List
Hell, what isn't? Blog posts I need to research. Plant our family garden. Work. Housework. And I need to get some new recipes going when the farmers market starts up next week — finally!

If I Became a Billionaire
Well, the to-do list wouldn't have clean house on it anymore. I'd have more time to blog. Have another child and adopt a few more who need a loving home and bright future. A farm and "green" house and a greenhouse with local food for my CSA that provides food and meal support both to low-income families. Quit my job and work on the cook book project. I think my to-do list would just get longer, but it would have some great stuff on it. Oh, and buy up every bit of land I could — so we would keep our farms locally for growing food.

Three Bad Habits
1. If I find an hour free, I think of four hours worth of stuff to do with it, and try to do it all.
2. I look like hell every day, and I should try harder.
3. I am terrible at paperwork. And remembering birthdays.

Five Jobs I Have Had
1. Rest home caregiver/cook/cleaner
2. Waitress at a country club. HATED IT.
3. Photo studio assistant. I can use any format camera, well, if you can even find film for them anymore. Loved that job.
4. Art director, offline and online both, won some awards. Male models have asked me, "Which nude photo of me do you like the best?" during a work day.
5. Shark wrangler/journalist/photographer, but my site bio tells you that.

Five Things About Me
1. I have the world's coldest feet. In the literal sense.
2. I only like dark chocolate, not milk.
3. I like shoes, but I hate to wear them.
4. Peanut butter is my favorite ice cream topping
5. On Myers-Briggs, my personality type is characterized as " a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. Rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them."

I'm going to tag Mama Bird with this one. We just stumbled into one another during a Carnival of the Green. Also, Jen, because even though we've never met I am guessing she is an INFJ, too. Just a hunch.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Triple Threat

"Yep, the sky is blue."

[whine] "But I don't waaaaant it blue .... "

"Honey, I can't change the color of the sky."

[whine] "But I don't waaaaant it blue .... "

Repeat until you lose your mind.

Actually, this is just an example, but you can darn near insert any topic in place of the color of the sky and the result is about the same. Welcome to world of the three-year-old. You see, when you thought that whole terrible two thing was behind you, well, they lied. Threes are worse. They just defy explanation and logic, and maybe that's why nobody has bothered to let me in on this secret — except other parents.

Threes. There's drama, emotion, whining, rebellion. It's like a preview of the teenage years to come, all packaged into the small body of your sweet child. Only more randomly ignited and no chance of winning.

Given this, I've decided to log some of my fairly successful strategies in order to help others dealing with this phenomenon.

  1. Accept that you are powerless. The tantrum, like all other natural disasters, will blow over. And be replaced by another in about five minutes.
  2. Break into a spontaneous and stupid song and dance routine in the midst of the tantrum build up. It won't solve the problem, but it might buy you 30 second of levity. Or, your spouse will have you committed. Bonus vacation!
  3. Try to limit the choices offered to your child to two at a time. Your child, will, of course always opt for a third — an unobtainable — option.
  4. Logic need not apply. Face it, logic is not even on the table.
  5. "Look! A school bus!"
  6. Take your child to the park first thing in the morning to run laps, ride a tricycle, play in the park and kick a ball around. After a couple hours, you will both need a nap.
  7. Give in. It will buy you about an hour of peace. And you will pay for that hour the rest of your natural born life.
  8. There is safety in numbers. Invite others over for a play date. Let the three-year-olds drive each other nuts for a while. It's not any more relaxing, just more of a spectator sport.
  9. Don't turn on the TV. Ever. Once its been turned on, you can never get rid of it.
  10. Put yourself in time out. A five-minute one.

The New Header and the "Double-ex"

Thanks, every one, who has commented on the new header. As a former web designer, it was about time I got around to fixing that. As far as the double-ex, I have needed to add that as well to help decrease some confusion.

I'm no longer an expat. And I have not been for some time. However, when I started the blog, it was to be home for all my travel and conservation writing and photos, with some food. I got into the local food, present took over past (as it should) and here I am writing on local food and family.

I probably should have changed over to a new blog, but I didn't. And I didn't know I would ever be lucky enough to have so many visitors. I am glad you are here!

Spring Appetizer

Baby Artichokes with Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette
2 lbs. baby artichokes
2 lemons
1 tbs. capers, drained and rinsed
4 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. white wine vinegar
8 oz. crumbled feta

Place cold water in a large bowl and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it. Wash the artichokes. Pull the bottom three layers of leaves off and trim the stem to 1/4 inch. Using a sharp knife, cut the tops of the artichoke, removing the sharp ends of the leaves, about 1 inch of trimming. Cut the artichoke in half. Place in the lemon-water to keep from browning. If the artichokes are small enough, you will not have to worry about removing the choke. If it has a choke, this needs to be removed when trimming.

Place the prepared artichokes in a steamer and steam for about five minutes. Carefully remove and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Turn on the broiler. Sprinkle the artichokes with the feta cheese. Place under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the feta softens and just browns a bit here and there.

Mix the dressing by combining the juice of the other lemon, olive oil, vinegar and capers in a shaker. Taste and adjust by seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the artichokes. Serves 12 as an appetizer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's That Smell?


I posted this previously at Eat. Drink. Better on March 12. The comment period closes in two days. A great and detailed post on exactly how to navigate this buried and complex commenting process (Ethicurean) is a great guide. I am just suspicious enough to wonder if making the the comment process difficult is an accident.

Ag industry lobbyists and lawmakers from agricultural states have pressured the Environmental Protection Agency to drop requirements that factory farms report their emissions of toxic gases — even though the EPA’s findings show the gases pose a health threat.

In a head-spinning move, the EPA complied, citing that the reports are not used by local emergency workers and are thus, unnecessary. Unnecessary to whom? It seems valid that the acknowledged threat to residents living and working nearby would be important information.

Unless, of course, they could be used in a lawsuit against you, which has happened with several industrial farms since 1980 when the EPA was first required to document the emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. These reports are one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce.

Thus, it’s not a big surprise that the livestock industry has lobbied for years for the rule change. To add insult to iniquity, the EPA posted the proposal in the Federal Register while Congress was on its December holiday recess. The change would take effect in October.

Comment period on this issue ends soon, March 28, make sure to let your representatives know you think this stinks. You can also submit a comment directly to the Federal Register.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why We Should All Go Hug A Family Farmer

Over at Eat Local Challenge, I posted on the issues that concern farm policy and our food supply. One of the key points in that discussion is that the farmer only gets about NINETEEN cents of every food dollar when participating in conventional food supply (food goes to processor, processed food goes to retailer, consumer purchases at the store).

While this dynamic is offset simply by scale and large subsidy for the industrial farms, the impact on the family farmer is devastating. Earl Butz' policy of "Get Big Or Get Out" is definitely working to oust the family farmer.

If that is not enough, consider some of the tactics that are used on family farmers by the food processing giants. Blog for Rural America presents an examination of what happens to the farmers who actually raise the chickens in the closed loop of large-scale poultry operations. It is not pretty. The company owns the chicks and feed inputs, dictates the farmers' operations by contract, then controls the pricing at the end of the loop. When the company changes its demands, the farmers are on the hook for the debt — and some are losing their homes. (Thanks, Ethicurean). This type of business practice is not limited to the poultry industry either. Ultimately, the farmer is the one being squeezed and often from both sides.

Two of the family farmers that I purchase produce and meats from have second jobs to support their families and to be able to afford to continue farming. Farming is hard work and time-intensive during season for crops and year-round for livestock. There is something inherently wrong about these individuals having to work two jobs in order to "afford" to grow healthy food.

Additionally, because these farmers grow non-commodity crops like vegetables and fruits, they are not eligible for subsidy payments. Meanwhile some of the large-scale farmers with incomes in six figures are eligible for subsidy payments — that enable them to buy more land and grow in scale. It's a frustrating and unfair system that hurts the small family farms most.

Here is what you can do:

Buy meats, eggs, produce direct from your family farmers. This way, the farmer gets 100 percent of your food dollar. You can purchase direct from farmers in several ways:

  1. Join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program. Information on what these are and how to find one is posted at Eat. Drink. Better.
  2. Buy from farmers who sell their own local produce and meats at the farmers market near you. You can find the nearest market using the search on Local Harvest.
  3. Go to the farmer direct. You can contact farmers to purchase meats, eggs and produce direct from the farm, bypassing the expense and time commitment doing sales at a farmers market. Sustainable Table has a search tool that will help you find a farmer by the product you are looking for.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Recipe Carnival: Easter Edition

Happy Easter!
I've now reached my annual quota of deviled eggs, but am going to stay up a little later to show off what I found in my Easter basket of Recipe Carnival. The theme here is "Greens, Eggs, and Ham" for the holiday, but there were plenty of other surprises to be found.

Greens, Eggs and Ham:

What to Eat Besides Rabbit:
Even a Bunny Gets Tired of Carrots:
Bread for Your Basket:
Peeps Won't Work for These Dishes:
If You Didn't Get Enough Sugar Rush Off The Chocolate Bunny:
If You Got TOO Much Chocolate Bunny:
If You are Still Trying to Peel Your Sugar-Overloaded Kid Off the Ceiling: Miscellaneous Easter Eggs, (always a few well-hidden surprises to avoid with the lawn mower):

Real Green, Not Fake Grass:
As always, thanks to the Recipe Carnival creator, Shawn Lea. Next week's Recipe Carnival will be the Spring Chicken Edition. Last week's was the Spring Has Sprung edition.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chocolate-coconut Tapioca

I decided to make dessert tonight, one of those instant decisions with just a few minutes to throw something together. I still had the small pearl tapioca around from the last egg-free dessert experiment. This time, I thought I would try and use up some of our hot chocolate mix as well.

First of all, the mix is designed to be used with cream, not water or even milk. It's a dark chocolate one, fair trade, organic. It's finally no longer hot chocolate season, and I didn't want it to go to waste. The mix does not contain any milk products. I say that because I did take a vegan approach with this recipe as well as the first.

Chocolate-Coconut Tapioca

2-1/2 cups water
3 tbs. small pearl tapioca
3 tbs. dark chocolate hot chocolate mix (Allegro)
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tbs. sugar or honey
pinch salt

Bring water to a boil. Add tapioca pearls and stir as you add to prevent sticking or clumping. Boil the mixture for about 20 minutes. Add sugar and pinch of salt, and hot chocolate mix, stir to dissolve. Add coconut milk and stir well. Bring back up to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring to prevent sticking, for about ten minutes. Cool and refrigerate. It takes like what a "Mounds" bar would taste like if it were made with good ingredients and a custard.

Friday, March 21, 2008

After This, How Did They Ever Sell a Billion?

Is that a Dixie Cup strapped to his face?! If I were a parent in the 50s, this would have scared me off the place for good. Yeah, kids, just watch TV and eat burgers, shakes and fries! Isn't it fun?! The obesity epidemic begins.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Republicans

Our 26th President, Republican Theodore Roosevelt
  • Elected in 1904, Theodore Roosevelt, considered himself a "steward of the people," and as such, he took all action necessary for the public good — within the laws set forth in the Constitution.

  • Roosevelt was known as a “trust buster.” He worked to regulate big business in the best interests of the economy and of American workers.

  • Roosevelt had a strong foreign policy, and understood the need for a global presence. During his presidency he helped solve disputes over Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Morocco. He also won the adoption of the Drago Doctrine, which prevented the use of force in collecting foreign debts.

  • He was also known as “The Father of Conservation.” During his presidency, he formed the United States Forestry Service. Forest reserves in the U.S. went from approximately 43-million acres to about 194-million acres.

  • As President, he signed legislation that established five national park units: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sullys Hill, North Dakota; Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma. He also established eighteen national monuments including: Devil's Tower, Wyoming; El Morro, New Mexico; Montezuma Castle, Arizona; and the Petrified Forest, Arizona; and a large portion of the Grand Canyon in 1908.

  • Early in Roosevelt's presidency, Upton Sinclair published an expose on the meat industry’s use of downed, dead, diseased and decayed cattle. After reading the book, Roosevelt ordered an investigation into the issue. Apparently a previous USDA investigation was less than truthful. When Congress still stalled on taking action, Roosevelt released a report on the issue to the public and this public outcry forced Congress to take action and sign into law the Pure Food and Drug Act — the foundation for today’s FDA and USDA organizations.

And then there’s our 46th President. Also Republican. George W. Bush.
  • Steward of the people? Well, as long as you are certain people in certain special interest groups.

  • Trust buster? My trust is busted. But a lot of big businesses are happy.

  • Foreign policy? Let’s not go there. Oh yeah, we’ve been there for five years now.

  • Conservation? Let’s see, worst environmental record of any president ever includes:
    • Gutting key sections of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts
    • Cut the EPA's enforcement division by nearly one-fifth, to its lowest level on record
    • Fines for environmental violations dropped by nearly two-thirds in the administration's first two years
    • Opened millions of acres of wilderness to logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling.
    • Opened areas for development including the million-acre Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, the 2,000-foot red-rock spires at Fisher Towers, Utah, and dozens of others.

  • As for fighting Congress to legislate for healthier food when confronted with the meat industry’s use of downed cows (for school lunch programs) … uh, Dubya? You there? Dub? Yeah, I thought so.
So, there you have it. Two Republicans. If Teddy were running today, I would vote Republican. Then again, the Republicans would likely not want him for a nominee.

But, let's not dwell on the past, shall we? We've got a lot of work to do to fix this nation. In saying so, I challenge you, the next president of our embattled and embittered nation, to be half the leader that Theodore Roosevelt was. Half. And, we'll all be a whole lot better for it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is It Just Me?

You know, I didn't set out to bash Monsanto or the other Big Ag offenders. I really just stumbled into all this because we discovered heirloom tomatoes, and a crazy farmer who supplies produce to the best restaurants in town. At least we thought he was crazy. Especially when he tells the story about the goat with the giant ... never mind. All his ramblings about fertilizers and WWII and Nazis, about government and organic certification being a crock were a bit odd, I thought.

And then I changed.

Then I got involved in the Eat Local Challenge. I was writing about food, but there were so many issues. As I looked deeper into real food, I found myself taking a hard look at some truths about the health of our food supply and our environment. I started researching issues, checking different sources. The same names kept coming up in the "bad guy" column. Over and over. My food got all tangled up in politics.

It always was, I was just to busy to care. I needed to change.

The lies, the manipulation, the unethical and the shocking. All centered on our food. Our sustenance. Our health. All with a blatant disregard for our safety and our environment. By the people that make our food and the people who make our laws.

And nothing changes.

People have died. A friend who used to work with me just had a liver transplant as a result of E. coli contamination. Two kids under the age of five, siblings in a family we know, have matching dialysis scars from a bout with E. coli. Can you imagine the weeks their parents spent at the hospital with both of their children in critical condition? I saw the look in their eyes, living in hell with a parent's worst fear. Thank God the kids made it.

And nothing changes.

Kids at school lunch have been served potentially dangerous meat — and a company that knew the meat could be dangerous and knew it would be fed to children, but opted to just make a few extra bucks, 'cause who's gonna know and hey, the other guys are doing it too, why shouldn't we? And then we, the people, DID find out, and we do know.

But nothing changes, not quickly enough, perhaps not ever.

My spouse says, when I am venting and ranting, "Where's the outrage?" Even though, he lives with me and sees me wrestle with it every day. He means in general, by "normal" people. Not me. He's right, there is not nearly enough honest, activist outrage these days. It's our food, people, it's our food.

Something must change.

Or, maybe, I'm just crazy. Or a bit tired. Or both.

This was selected for a March Just Post.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wonder When This One Will Hit the Theaters?

bande annonce film Monsanto
by rue89

French film makers release a documentary exposing Monsanto's abuses. A must-see. Trailer is in English, very interesting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And Some People Get to Dream About George Clooney ...

We had a quiet Sunday after a long week. Kiddo took a rare two-and-a-half hour nap. I joined her. But something I read over at Grist must have stayed with me, because in my dream, everyone got smart about their meat source, and I could no longer get beef from my local farm. He was sold out. It must have been a nightmare.

What, you ask, could possibly make me dream about meat? Well, for starters, it seems the beef industry is trying to save on the rising cost of grain by using the leftovers, or distiller grain, from the process of making ethanol. While plain, old corn has caused enough E. coli 0157 issues, the dregs of ethanol processing multiply the problem for the cows and for us. In fact, the USDA even admits that feeding cattle distillers grain may be one of the reasons for the record amount of beef recalls in 2007. The amount of beef recalled last year alone was EIGHTEEN times the previous record amount of beef recalled in a single year. The USDA does not plan on banning the practice of using distiller grain for feed.

This does not include the massive recall recently from Hallmark/Westland, either. You see, that beef was recalled because of the use of downed cows. And, here's where it gets scarier. Feeding cattle the distiller grains can cause sulfur toxicity in the cows due to the high sulfur content of the corn mush. Sulfur toxicity causes neurological damage, making the cows sometimes repeatedly bash their heads into the fence, and even die, if untreated. Given this, the questionable practice of processing downed cows may become a common issue. And no one will know the actual cause, sulfur or mad cow disease. Nice, huh?

The "feed" is also very high in phosphorus, which causes an increase in this environmental hazard from the cattle waste. Phosphorus is one of the key factors that caused the dead zone in the Gulf.

So, more deadly bacteria in beef, more questionable and untested cattle being processed, and more environmental harm just to create a biofuel that has a larger carbon footprint to produce than it generates. Genius!

Which is good reason to do a bit of tossing and turning as you sleep. What a nightmare.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Going Green for St. Patrick's Day

Guest authors for this post are nationally recognized experts on children’s health, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. Both are pediatricians, parents, and award-winning authors whose most recent book is Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup (American Academy of Pediatrics, Oct. 2007). Menu recipes are my own.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, many families celebrate by having green food. While it may be tempting to artificially color your way to a green St. Paddy’s day dinner, health-conscious parents can achieve a better result by choosing locally grown green herbs and produce and throwing them into the mix.

My kids don’t like green foods, you say? Let’s take a step back and see why this might be. Just about all naturally green foods are vegetables. And a large number of vegetables happen to be green. That said, it can’t just be a vegetable’s green color that leaves so many kids sticking to their story that they just don’t like vegetables? Given the opportunity, very few kids will turn down green SweeTarts or Skittles, so we’re clearly not just dealing with shades of green. It must then boil down to the fact that vegetables - and green ones in particular - unintentionally (or intentionally) be given bad press by children’s most influential role models—their parents! Add to that the fact that green foods don’t get much love in television commercials or in casual conversation amongst friends and classmates—two other important influencers in children’s lives – and we seem to have identified the root of the problem.

So what can you do to bring green back into your child’s diet?

  • Keep any anti-green propaganda to yourself. Hearing disparaging remarks about asparagus and other green veggies on a regular basis is certainly not going to result in them receiving a warm welcome at mealtime, and can even lead children to shun foods they otherwise might like.
  • Keep a can-do attitude. It is very useful to keep in mind that it can take multiple exposures to a food before a child will eat it. It’s not surprising that parents often give up serving green vegetables after one or two rejected attempts. Just knowing that many children require a dozen or more tries before realizing a food isn’t so bad (and may actually taste pretty good!) can help you promote the cause a little longer.
  • Don’t turn green vegetables into second-class citizens. Forcing a child to eat his veggies in order to get dessert is a common ploy that can backfire. Instead of seeing green as a good thing, kids will see it as a means to an end and actually grow to dislike it even more. The desired food (dessert) simply becomes more desirable, while the “required” food becomes more of a chore.
  • Get your creative juices flowing. Look around and try to find healthy foods—green or not—that appeal to both kids and adults. Mix green foods and herbs with other foods your family loves, and you’ll have a menu that you can all feel good about.

Here’s a sample menu you can try. We’re hoping these flavorful green, nutrient-rich foods will overcome any fear of green you or your child may have—and leave your friends and neighbors green with envy.


“Spring Green” Pasta
For the sauce:
1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. pesto
1/4 cup half and half
1 large leek, cleaned well of grit, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
salt and pepper to taste
For the veggies:
1 bunch chard, washed, stems and center rib removed, chopped
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh if you can find them)
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1/2-inch pieces OR 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, diced, whichever your child will more likely eat

1/2 pound spaghetti OR spinach pasta storebought OR
1/2 pound spinach pasta (recipe follows)

Boil the water for pasta. While waiting for the water to boil, place the veggies in a steamer, and set timer for only 4 minutes. Vegetables often taste best “tender crisp” and not overcooked. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the leek. Sweat the leek until white parts are translucent. Add the half and half, stir until it thickens, then add the cheese and pesto. Boil the pasta, following directions, to al dente, drain, but do not rinse.

You may notice that there are a lot more vegetables than sauce! This is intentional to keep the dish light and to let the flavor of the spring vegetables come through. Combine the ingredients, tossing lightly. Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired. Serves 8.

Spinach pasta
6 cups fresh spinach, cleaned and drained
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
1 cup semolina flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp. Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Salt

“Pan” the spinach by putting the damp leaves into a pot and heat on low just until the spinach wilts. Drain the spinach and let cool. Squeeze the spinach into a ball with your hands, pressing out as much of the water as possible. Chop fine.

Add the spinach to the eggs. Olive oil, and salt. Place all but a 1/4 cup of the flour and semolina in a food processor work bowl. While the blade is running, pour the egg and spinach mixture through the feed tube. Pulse until the dough comes together, sticky and still a bit rough. Do not over mix. Place the dough on a work surface, sprinkled with some of the reserved flour. Knead the dough, adding flour if needed, for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, but not sticky. Allow the dough to rest for one hour before rolling.

Using a pasta roller, roll 1/4 of the dough at a time into sheets. Cut to fettuccine size with blade attachment, or by rolling the sheet of dough (lightly sprinkle with flour) into a roll and slicing the roll into 1/4 inch thick strips. Toss the strips with a bit of flour, and keep covered with a kitchen towel until use. You can also freeze the pasta at this stage for later use. This recipe makes about 1 pound of pasta, you will only need half of a batch for the above recipe.

Lucky Fruit Salad
5 Kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
1 cup green grapes, sliced lengthwise
2 granny smith apples, cored and diced
1 lime, zest and juice
1/2 cup apple juice
Toss the fruit gently in bowl with the lime and apple juice. Garnish with lime zest and optional mint.

Chocolate-Pistachio Zucchini Bread

Dry Ingredients:
1 3⁄4 cup flour
1⁄2 tbs. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
4 tbs. cocoa powder

Cream together:
3 eggs
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Fold in:
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup dark chocolate (bittersweet) chips
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the dry ingredients, blending well. Using a mixer, cream the “wet” ingredients and sugars. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just blended. Fold in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts. Put batter into a standard loaf pan.
Bake for about one hour. But the water content of the zucchini can vary, so check the bread. If a toothpick inserted in the top and center comes out clean, it should be done. I baked mine for closer to 90 minutes, so you have to watch it.

The end result is rich, moist and chocolate-y without being overly sweet. Is it bread, vegetable or cake? Does it matter? You can also bake the batter as cupcakes or muffins and frost for a St. Pat’s celebration. Adjust the baking time to about 20 minutes and check, baking longer until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Look for this post in the Carnival of Recipes and the Carnival of Family Life this week.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And Who Says There is No Justice ...

The Catholic Church has announced All-New Seven Deadly Sins! While I am not sure about the imminent doom of merely being born to obscene wealth, some of the others are interesting.

The good news? Monsanto is going to hell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Coconut Cardamom Tapioca

We're fortunate to not have any food allergies around here. I forget, at times, but Rachel always reminds me. Now, I can't help but assess each recipe I work on for allergens and who might be allergic. I stumbled on this one, I was improvising off the package directions for tapioca (a personal favorite comfort food) when I realized, hey, this is egg-free custard! And, dairy-free and even gluten-free. Vegan, even. Triple bonus. I am going to stash away the recipe in case we ever have company with special dietary needs.

Coconut Cardamom Tapioca
2-1/2 cups water
3 tbs. small pearl tapioca
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 green cardamom pods
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp. almond extract
3 tbs. sugar
pinch salt

Bring water and spices to a boil. Add tapioca pearls and stir as you add to prevent sticking or clumping. Boil the mixture for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove spices. Add sugar and pinch of salt, stir to dissolve. Add coconut milk and almond extract and stir well. Bring back up to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring to prevent sticking, for about ten minutes. Cool and refrigerate. I served ours with dark chocolate shavings on top. Nice addition.

Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Spinach

The photo doesn't really do it justice, this is a nice looking side dish that you could use for an appetizer as well. Spinach is also just about in season, and I could sure use some spring green.

Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Spinach
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Carnival of the Green #118

The eco-tour continues from where we left off at Confessions of a Closet Environmentalist. If you are looking to catch up on all things green, this is the right stop.

Eco Joe goes G.I. Joe with a video clip from The Onion on making the Iraq War more eco-friendly. He also offers a look at the home of Amory Lovins, who pays zero for heating costs, and actually sells back energy to the electric company. Includes three main ways to emulate his success.

Life Goggles' Team has a laundry list of submissions this week.

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has a rant on the waste from computer parts that cannot be fixed or updated. She also request for you to send The Electronics Takeback Coalition stories of your own frustrations with this.

The Natural Patriot takes a look at the myth of biofuels and the research showing clearance of land for biofuel crops creates a "carbon debt."

Brave New Leaf takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the how diverse the modern greenie can really be. Which kind are you? Personally, I've been doing the eco-warrior bit for over 20 years now, so that rules out Eco Soccer Mom along with my refusal to wear leggings, I must be a pragmatic. announces its launch of a "community for creative minds," a social network said to house some content for informed activism. Nice images and galleries for the artistic activist.

Tao of Change writes about a waterless car wash product. Now, all we Karate Kid would-bes can Spray On! Wipe Off!

Mama Bird of Surely You Nest tries to find a way around the environmental health hazard of silica dust in most commercially available playbox sand. The warning label is interesting! Might also watch out for presents from the neighborhood cats.

Marigolds2 of The Blue Voice contemplates the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and various doomsday scenarios. The vault is a fascinating project if you have not checked it out.

Lynn at Oganic Mania contemplates the loss of the "commercial free zone" for kids, even in the organic product aisles. Now parents have characters like "Peter the Probiotic Bug" to contend with. USDA Organic, of course. I hear you, Lynn, 5,000 messages a day aimed at our kids from all sides is rough on us parent types.

Need the "green" in your Easter Basket? Cindy at My Recycled Bags offers a free free pattern for a recycled Easter basket plus lots of other green, eco-friendly patterns and tutorials for creating recycled bags.

Ket at Ethical Junction reviews The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience. He declares it a must-read, details in the post.

Elizabeth at Go Green Travel explains how to think about travel as part of a "spectrum of green" in shades of pea green to forest. What shade is your passport?

Umm contemplates the difficulty of simplifying in this post on how to de-clutter for you peace of mind.

Don't just whistle while you work (your cube mates will hate you), reduce, recycle and reuse instead. Chad at DigiBlog shows you how.

Oliver of Care2 posts a comparison of how different players with differing motivations and agendas view organic farming and food? And what sort of role does the mainstream media play in this construction work? Oliver Moore delves in, using Irish, UK and International examples.

Next week, the carnival packs up and heads over to The Natural Collection. Of course you can always find details on the Carnival of the Green at its home, Treehugger.

Friday, March 07, 2008

That's It, We're Moving to France

Limagrain, Europe's largest seed cooperative, is moving its research tests on genetically modified organisms to the United States, specifically about 1,000 tests on GM crops this year alone in Illinois.

Part of the reason for the move is the strongly anti-GM sentiment of the French citizens who requested a ban on commercial use of Monsanto’s 810 GM strain of corn. Repeated attacks by activists on the test fields were also a concern.

The U.S. will not only welcome the companies research division, Biogemma, and the GM crop tests, but U.S. farmers are even eligible for crop insurance discounts, approved by the U.S. government, if they can prove they've planted enough biotech corn.

Some disturbing news with regard to GM crops is the rapid rise of resistant pests and weeds to the GM strains — more rapid adapting than what is normally seen with conventional pesticides and herbicides.

Perhaps it is time to say au revoir to the fairly screwed Big Ag system here in the states and hello to a return to being an Expat. Don't think the spouse would mind. And the Kiddo? When I tell her that in France, preschoolers get served a cheese plate with lunch, she'll be ready to roll. Check the menu for yourself, Lamb and Couscous Tagine for the under-fives.

Hey, KatieZ, know a good place for us to settle in?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ding Dong, The Witch is ...

Dead. And, for now, so is the Kansas bill that would ban "rBGH-free" labels on milk. A large showing of local opponents to the bill, letters and testimony submitted to the legislative members and the dangerously vague language of the bill itself dropped the house on this one.

At this point, Senator Taddiken, chair of the legislative committee, announced the bill will not be part of this legislative session. The senator cited that the wording of the bill was considered to be too broad, and that any necessary changes could be either accomplished through rules and regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture and reviewed by the legislature or that this issue could be taken up by an interim committee. Fortunately for Kansans, the Secretary of Agriculture submitted testimony in opposition to this bill.

Next in the firing line of this state-by-state effort is Missouri, and currently, Utah. It is important that all concerned consumers, regardless of state, speak out. Your home turf could be next.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Sunshine Home: Suppertime

The smell was the first thing I noticed when I walked in the door. It's beyond hospital smell, it's the hovering reek of human waste, the overtone of cleaner and that other smell, some would say it is the smell of death. If you want to put it that way. For me, it will always be a smell I associate with a dark place called The Sunshine Home. My first job, twenty-six years ago. I choked back on the smell and about a million memories, and walked down the hall to the dining room.

This place was a friggin' Taj Mahal comparatively. They had hot tubs and lifts. And staff. Not me, though. I was not there to work, but to visit. My 90-year-old grandfather fell and broke his hip. He is recovering pretty well post-surgery. He's a tough, proud old man who has worked hard his entire life, since fifth grade, in fact, when he left school. He's not giving up. He's going home.

We walked in at dinner time. Grandpa was staring down a plate of pretty much unidentifiable mush. He was ready to roll back to his room. I didn't ask him if he wanted to finish that meal, either. On the way back, he complained about the food. With good reason.

On either side of the hall, other patients were parked in their chairs. It's supposed to be good for them to be out in the mix, not alone. One man was wailing nonstop and others just stuck there, no way to roll themselves away from it all. Staff going about their business. I didn't see the good in it. We walked past to my grandfather's room.

I thought again of those same empty hours for the people I cared for. All day stretching before them, three channels, rabbit ears, and a couple urine-stained couches. No activities, no therapy, no music. No bingo. Perhaps an occasional game of checkers when I had a free moment, which was rare since there were twenty residents and one of me for a regular shift. Otherwise, nothing. Except meals.

Meal times were the few bright spots in a day. A time to gather, the be able to fulfill one need, one function, for themselves. Meals were a huge focal point to say the least. And weekend meals were a real cause for celebration.

Weekends, we were staffed up, all two of us. Weekends were the hard shifts where we did all the bathing, cleaning, laundry and care that should have happened all week. It didn't. Weekends also meant that the cook, Lola, was not on duty. Lola was a huge woman, who did a lot of sitting and not a lot of cooking. What did get cooked, was meat boiled in water with canned vegetables and no seasoning. Or dried up rocks passed off as roast. It was not the Taj Mahal, but the food was from the third world.

So, we cooked. Oh, hell yes, we cooked. Still a teenager, I learned from the older woman who worked with me all of the foods that these people loved. Yeast rolls that smelled so good while they were baking that for a moment, you couldn't smell that other smell. Gravy, pan gravy. The cuts of meat were cheap, so we slow cooked them and always served gravy. Greens, overcooked, and the reason I had trouble these years later to embrace them, but a favorite. Mashed potatoes, real ones, no flakes. Butter. And cobbler, or cake if we had the time.

The ingredients were not much to work with. And, we were constantly getting bitched at for cooking too much, using too much. Betty and I, we did not care if the owners complained. These were the people who changed the pay period start day randomly to avoid over time pay. I made $3.35 an hour. I got regularly got screwed out of maybe twenty bucks a week of pay. For these people.

We cooked in spite of them. Perhaps to spite them. But mostly because, I realized, cooking is all we had to offer the other people. The ones who counted. Those meals were the one little bit of happiness in an otherwise long, empty day. It was the most we could do, and the least we could do. I was barely sixteen, and I understood the meaning of food even before I really learned to cook it. What a gift a meal can be, and just how many memories are wrapped up inside the warm, soft dough of a homemade roll.