This Week in Pictures

Looking back on this first week of 2013, I think it’s fair to say that, for me, quality sets the tone for this year.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to learn how to read a knit pattern chart. And to make socks.

Sock cuffLace Pattern

It’s a cotton-silk-bamboo blend so the yarn feels heavenly. I expect the socks will carry that on.

Learning to bake gluten-free cookies was next up… but I read the recipe incorrectly: 1 3/4 cups flour, not 1 1/4 cups! Everyone liked them anyway. I can’t help but think that those fabulous organic ingredients shine through even with such a misstep.

cookies turned to chocolate chip bark

Feeling a bit off with my cooking, I decided to cut my losses and try a new gluten-free restaurant. One Dish Cuisine. It was awesome!

My oldest drawing while we wait for our eats.

We stopped for some antiquing on the way and found this… I wish i’d bought it! I can picture my onions and potatoes and root veggies happily spending time here.

During a quiet evening at home, I decided to work on my socks. I saw a mistake and ended up making more mistakes until it was ripped out to almost the beginning. argh. [Head hanging] I remind myself that it’s better to redo something properly.

This morning, my wee one wanted to put names around his train track . These letters are fabulous: birch boards with fine grade sandpaper.

It was lovely.

What’s your green living sin?


In my family, we recycle, reuse, and repurpose; carry reusable bags everywhere; minimize plastic; eat organic; and do a million other things big and small that reflect our desire to both be healthier and live lightly on the planet. But there are two big weak spots that we will probably never get over:

1. Paper towels. My co-blogger Liz has eliminated paper towels from her life. I know it’s the best thing to do, and we recently moved into an apartment with a washer/dryer so we could totally make it work. I have upped our usage of cloth kitchen towels over the years. But for some jobs–wiping down the bathroom, cleaning up cat puke–there’s just no substitute for being able to clean up and then toss the mess and never think about it again. With a new baby and an aging cat who’s been throwing up and peeing all over the place, we’ve been going through a LOT of paper towels.

2. Disposable diapers. Again, we now have a washer/dryer, so there’s really no excuse for this. And I do think cloth diapers are super cute. I just…can’t do it. Don’t even get me started on how hard it would be to get my husband on board with this one.

What’s your own green living sin? Come on, we all have at least one!

How do we decide?

If we’re going to spend our hard earned $$ on something, I’m going to know what kind of company I’m supporting. Someone asked me today where I research companies before bringing their products into our home. I’m researching one right now, so here we go:

I came across the brand Back to Nature and wondered about it. I looked at the ingredients in the Multi-seed Rice Crackers and thought they looked ok:  BROWN RICE FLOUR, POTATO STARCH, SAFFLOWER OIL, SESAME SEEDS, SEA SALT, BLACK SESAME SEEDS, POPPY SEEDS, FLAX SEED. CONTAINS: SESAME SEED.  Remember, I said ok, not great.

Then I googled ‘Back to Nature brand’ and found some interesting info. It split off from Kraft in August. Well, ok – maybe it’s good that it split off from Kraft, but since this happened recently i figured that they’re probably still using the same practices as they did when they were owned by Kraft. I looked deeper and found out that Kraft still has a large minority share of the new parent company… hmm… starts to get interesting now and then I look a little further in that article and found that Kraft’s planning on splitting at the end of this year and this might be part of that move. Back to Nature, which is still (as far as I’m concerned) pretty much a Kraft company, seems to be positioning itself to go head-to-head with Annie’s, according to that article.

So, Back to Nature is a ‘no’ for our family. We don’t support Kraft because we don’t support GMOs and i’m exceptionally annoyed with companies giving loads of $$ to stop Proposition 37. And i like Annie’s well enough.

While I’m at it, here’s a list of Kraft foods – some are sold at Whole Foods. fyi.

Blueberry Soup

I’ve spent the last couple of years exploring my family history in old-fashioned ways. I’ve been knitting, dyeing textiles, exploring herbal remedies… and cooking.

My family comes from Northeastern Poland and had a local diet à la 19th century (except they came to the US in the 1960s!). I vaguely remembered a summertime blueberry soup from my visits, so i asked my Mom for the family recipe. Mom explained that it was often served during summer harvest when my grandmother had to feed a farm work crew with not much time for cooking. My mom also couldn’t help but mention that it took longer for her and her sister to pick the wild blueberries than it did to make the soup.

Noodles are optional, but certainly make for a more filling soup.

Blueberry Soup
15 minutes (without noodles)
40 minutes (with noodles)

3/4 pint ripe blueberries
a pinch of salt
sugar (raw and to your liking)

Wash your blueberries. Bring them to a simmer with 1 1/2 cups water (filtered, if you have it). Add a pinch of salt and enough sugar for soup on the sweet side, or less if you prefer. The more ripe the blueberries, the less sugar you’ll need and the tastier the soup will be. Simmer about 10 minutes.

Noodles
1 cup AP flour, plus more for kneading
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 egg
warm water

When starting the soup, put a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Mix the flour and salt on a cutting board or in a bowl, then make a mound with a crater in the center. Add the egg and start to work it in, adding warm water as needed. You want a smooth dough. Cut the dough in half and roll it out on a floured board. I remember my great-aunt cutting long beautiful noodles, all the same width, using just a knife and a consistent stroke – so that’s what i tried to do. let’s just say i have some practice ahead of me, but no one was complaining. My goal was 1/4″ or a little smaller.

Move the noodles to a lightly floured surface (i used a cookie sheet) and let the dough sit for a few minutes. Cook in batches. I used a medium sized pot, so I placed a handful of noodles in the boiling water for about 7 minutes, but depending on the width, this may take longer. Check to see if they’re ready with a taste (once your noodle’s cooled slightly).

Drain the noodles and put as many as you’d like in a bowl. Ladle the soup over the noodles. In my opinion, this soup is best served at room temperature, but can be eaten hot or cold.

Mom also suggested that leftover crepes can be made into noodles for this soup. Roll up a crepe and cut into matchstick-width noodles. Ladle the soup over them.

post by lizard | | 0

Ginger Tea

All this talk of tea bags lately has made me realize that there’s no reason to use one for ginger tea! It costs less & tastes great.

It’s this simple to make your own:

 

 

 

 

 

 

grate the ginger and steep.

strain to taste into your glass…

 

strain the rest into a jar to use the next day.  Don’t forget to put it in the fridge.

Add hot water… and sweeten if you like with honey or maple syrup. if you’re iron’s low, you can add some molasses and a squeeze of lemon juice too. yummy.

There’s plastic in WHAT?

You know those exfoliating cleansers with “microbeads” that you see everywhere these days? I just read a blog post pointing out that those microbeads are, in fact, made of plastic. Which, when I read it, I was like, well DUH, why didn’t this ever occur to me before? What did I think they were made of, pixie dust? I guess I always assumed they were some sort of magical laboratory-invented material that would eventually dissolve, if I even thought about it at all. Nope—just polyethylene, which then washes down the drain and eventually into the ocean, where fish and other marine creatures eat them. Nice.

I haven’t used a plastic-based exfoliating cleanser in a long time, not because I had any awareness of the potential environmental problem, but because they tend to include ingredients like parabens that I’ve been trying to eliminate from my personal care products over the years. The good news is that if you need a scrub, there are plenty of natural alternatives. I’ve seen salt, sugar, and oatmeal all recommended as ingredients in homemade scrubs. The classic St. Ives apricot scrub that we all used in high school is obviously made with, well, apricot kernels. There are a bunch of other options listed here.

Personally, I love Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream (you can get it at Whole Foods or lots of places online), which technically is not a scrub, since they specifically tell you not to scrub with it (there’s this whole “technique” to applying it). I’ve also tried this scrub from Pangea Organics but found it a little too coarse and rough—it would probably work better on teenage skin. What products do you like?

Safer cans

Great news if you are concerned about BPA in canned food: Muir Glen, maker of organic tomato products, is going to be switching to BPA-free cans as of their next tomato harvest. As far as I know, this is the first company to put tomatoes in BPA-free cans. Canned food is a major source of BPA exposure in humans, and until recently there have been very few options for food cans whose linings don’t contain BPA. Eden Organics is one notable exception; their beans come in BPA-free cans and are the only canned beans I’ll buy now (when I’m not trying to cook my own from dried; that’s another post). But in winter, when store-bought tomatoes don’t even deserve the name, it’s been hard not to just grab a can of tomatoes, especially when I really do like Muir Glen’s tomatoes (far better than Pomi, which I’ve been buying instead because they come in BPA-free aseptic packaging).

So I’m thrilled that, perhaps by next winter, we’ll have a good BPA-free option for tomatoes, too. I’m also thrilled that the FDA and EPA both recently announced they will be taking a look at the effects of BPA exposure (the FDA in food packaging, the EPA in the environment). About time!

(News from greenbiz.com via Safer Cans)

Non-toxic silverware and dishes for kids

When my daughter started solid foods, of course I wanted to find dishes and spoons (and later, forks) that would be safe and non-toxic, ideally non-plastic. My main objection to plastic stuff for kids was not just about chemicals/safety, but aesthetics and durability. Plastic utensils, especially, seem to get chewed up pretty quickly, and dishes get scratched and just plain don’t last. This stainless steel bowl and spoon, on the other hand, was MY first bowl and spoon, back in the dark ages of the early 1970s; it has held up well enough to be used not only by my younger brother, but now my own daughter, and hopefully more children for years to come.

We started out, of course, with the silicone-tipped Gerber baby spoons everyone uses. When R progressed to more self-feeding, we tried this Safety Fork and Spoon set, but I hated them—the spoon was too flat to actually scoop anything up, and the “safety” tines on the fork made them useless for spearing anything. We also have the Take and Toss set, which I kept in the diaper bag for meals out and travel, but since they’re all plastic, I didn’t want to use them for every day.

Then one day I wandered into Fishs Eddy, one of my favorite stores. They always have a big display of open stock flatware in the front of the store for $0.99 per piece. Demitasse spoons are the perfect size for a toddler or preschooler, and dessert or cocktail forks (or maybe fish forks? no idea what all those different forks are for) work great too. I even picked up a little butter knife for when R is ready to practice using one. Here are the little pieces I picked up, with a full-size dinner fork and knife next to them for comparison:

Browsing around the clearance section at Fishs Eddy, I found some other items that work great repurposed as kid dishes: latte bowls and espresso cups:

You can order from Fishs Eddy online, but a greener option would be to scope out garage and estate sales or flea markets, or even restaurant supply stores, in your area to find odd little flatware items or mini dishes to use. Ceramic ramekins are also great for serving and microwaving baby food.

One last resource I love: Asian markets. Japanese-made kidware is adorable, and I tend to trust its safety (more so than, say, made-in-China stuff) because they just have higher standards than we do—they were way ahead of us on BPA, for example. I got this super cute owl dish at Pearl River Mart here in NYC, where they have so many other great kids’ dishes—don’t you just love these bowls? (I didn’t get them myself because I knew R would constantly be picking them up to look at the animals on the outside!)

Photo: pearlriver.com

Oh, and I have to mention what we do for drinks. Out and about, we love our Kleen Kanteens; around the house (when R is sipping juice on the couch, for example) we use Take and Toss Straw Cups with disposable straws (I know, SO not eco-friendly, but the reusable straws get gross and moldy so easily and I don’t have the patience to clean them properly). But at the table, Rose gets a real glass—the Ikea REKO glasses are stackable, kid-sized, and so cheap ($1.99 for 6!) that I don’t mind if she breaks one every now and then.

What kids’ dishes and utensils do you love? Have you found other “grownup” items that work well for kids?

What to do with all those Easter Eggs?

My friend Cecelia asked this morning “Anyone got any good recipes that use 2 1/2 dozen hard-boiled eggs?” I wanted to share (and try to make) this recipe for Easter Egg Kotlety that my mother makes. A quick call to confirm ingredients and i was ready to give it a shot on my own.

First, using a serrated knife, carefully cut each egg in half long-ways.

Then scoop out the inside of each egg-half and chop. How coarse is up to you. Add this to a bowl and then add salt, pepper, mustard, raw egg, and chopped parsley. All to taste. Mix it up really well.

Gently put the egg mixture into each shell so that it’s even.

Dip in bread crumbs.

Put a little butter in a hot pan and add the egg. Cook slowly to cook through but you may want to put the heat up for a moment or two to brown the bread crumbs.

That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!

Easter Eggs – Our natural dye experiment

We used:

onion skins
turmeric
red cabbage
blueberry
beet juice
chlorophyll


We added vinegar once the liquids were in mugs for dyeing on the counter, except for Chlorophyll.

We hard boil the eggs right in the onion skin and water. This is traditional for us, it makes a beautiful burnt sienna color – might be too close to brown for some. I strained the liquid into a mug for dipping other eggs… For instance, my favorite yellow is a golden yellow that’s formed from dipping in turmeric for a bit first and then in this onion skin liquid. so pretty.

The turmeric and water (1.5 tablespoons to 2 cups of water) is boiled first – it’s best used warm or even hot – it separates as the water gets cool.

The red cabbage made the most beautiful color of blue-purple water. but it barely colored the eggs in the end. i was disappointed. Next year, we might try to boil the eggs directly in this like with the onion skins but we won’t use vinegar in the boiling. it’s used in cooking with red cabbage so that the cabbage keeps its color and we want it to give up its color to the water.

Beet juice made a pretty light pink. i used canned beet juice – drained the liquid from the canned beets into a mug. i warmed it up in the microwave. warming was an outright necessity. i might try something else for pink next year.

The chlorophyll was really interesting. makes a really pretty green – but you cannot add vinegar to it like to the others or it curdles (for lack of a better word). it may seem pretty that way, but the curdled, darker pieces never set and the dye comes off on anything it comes near. the dye without the vinegar comes off a little, but it was barely anything worth mentioning. we just poured it straight from the bottle and didn’t heat or anything. really easy, really pretty. and didn’t take long to get a great color.

The blueberry was a pain to make but made a really pretty blue. I used frozen blueberries, added some water and then smashed the blueberries with fork and forced what liquid i could through a fine mesh strainer. i should have warmed this up a bit to see if the color would take faster. Next year, i’ll try canned blueberries and just drain the liquid and use that and i’ll see how it goes.

First row from the back: onion skin, chlorophyll with vinegar, turmeric then onion skin liquid, turmeric then onion skin liquid, beet juice
Second row from the back: onion skin, onion skin, blueberry, beet juice, chlorophyl, and red cabbage. (i forgot about a couple of eggs in the red cabbage solution and they oddly turned green. i’m thinking it was an aberration.)

the turmeric straight made brighter yellow eggs – they were pretty too. there’s (a blurry) one in the easter basket below.