Monday, January 16, 2017

Meatless Monday: In 2017 Everything Matters

I let the end of the year slip by without farewell thoughts or best wishes for the new year.

I returned from my first ever Christmas on the west coast, with resolutions in hand. At the top of the list was “Blog More.”

It is now the THIRD Monday of January, but better late than never….

My first post of 2017 has three parts:

Part One: A Place I Visited

While in California we had the opportunity to have lunch at Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto. Started by Mike Roberts (the former global president of McDonald’s), Mike Donahue (McDonald USA’s former chief of corporate communications), and Stephen Sidwell (who helped found the meat substitute Gardein), this fast casual chain offers something healthy for everyone  — omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. It is a place any group can happily go to enjoy a meal together. Menu items are under 600 calories! 

A prominent feature of the restaurant’s decor is a hydroponic herb wall, shown in the photo below.

Photo by LYFE Kitchen
Lyfe Kitchen’s  mission is: “To consistently provide flavorful, nourishing experiences and extraordinary service. We feature balanced flavors from real, high quality ingredients for the freshest possible meals, making the choices to feed you and your family easier.” Mainly of the ingredients are locally sourced. There are currently thirteen restaurants in six states. Alas, Connecticut is not one of them. 

Part Two: A Show I am Watching
When I got back I discovered a docu-series on Netflix — Chef’s Table . The teaser reads: “Dinner is served. Find out what’s inside the kitchens and minds of the international culinary stars who are redefining gourmet food.” I started with the spinoff series, Chef’s Table — France, of which I have seen two installments. 

Episode one tells the story of Alain Passard, who dramatically transformed the menu of his famed restaurant L’Arpège. He replaced the meat on his plates with vegetables grown in his own gardens. L’Arpège never once lost any of its three Michelin stars and Passard became known as the founder of the Farm to Table movement. 

Alexandre Couillon and his restaurant La Marine is the subject of episode two. He transformed a seasonal family restaurant into a year round destination, putting his island Nourmoutier on the map. Relying on local fish harvested in a sustainable manner, Couillon endured through an oil spill, from which he drew inspiration for a dish that brought a critic to tears. HIs restaurant has earned two Michelin stars.

Part Three: A Thing I Learned
Potatoes and root vegetables are traditionally stored in a cold cellar, but here is a trick for those of us who don’t have one: If you keep your potatoes in a paper bag, they will not sprout and they will last longer.

The common theme? Through food you can be an agent for change. The French chefs changed the world and economy around them through the food they chose to cook. The founders of Lyfe Kitchen brought “healthy” to fast casual. And a simple paper bag can help you to waste less food in your kitchen.

We need to keep hope alive and remain optimistic in the challenging days ahead. How each of us lives our lives can have a positive effect on the planet and inspire others to do the same.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Giving for Good

Each of us has important people in our lives whom we like to honor with tokens of love, gratitude, and affection. The quest to find meaningful gifts that will be enjoyed and not stowed can be daunting, expensive, and exhausting. I have assembled a smattering of ideas for alternative gifting that I hope will help and inspire you. 

Honor the Person Who Needs Nothing with a Gift that Keeps on Giving 
  • Consider making a gift to Kiva in his or her name. Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Here’s how it works: You make a gift to Kiva in the amount of $25 or more in honor of someone. Kiva notifies the individual about your gift with an invitation to search through the Kiva database of over 5,000 loans and select a borrower. When the loan is repaid, the process repeats! 
  • At Oxfam Unwrapped YOU choose the gift when you honor someone. (For example: A Christmas donkey for $150 or a toilet for $50.) You receive a humorous gift card to send. 
  • Heifer International works in much the same way. You can browse their gift catalogue here
Stuck with what to give a grandchild? 
  • How about the gift of an adventure with you? Check out the intergenerational offerings at Road Scholar
  • Or consider a gift to his or her college fund. Ask your son or daughter for info on how to make a contribution. Or, set up a CHET account yourself and take the CT tax deduction.
If you want to give a tangible gift, try these ideas:

Edible Gifts:
  • Homemade baked goods.
  • A gift certificate to a favorite coffee shop, deli, or restaurant.
  • Support a family farmer by shopping at CitySeed Farmers Market (Saturdays and Sundays until Dec 18) OR online through Local Harvest with its catalogue of over 5500 products including fresh fruits, nuts, dried fruits, and non-edibles from beeswax candles to clothing and baskets.
Shop for Good:
  •  Make someone’s life better by shopping at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer, with an online shopping site AND a physical store on Chapel Street. The company strives to improve the livelihood of artisans in developing countries. According to the website, “$140 million in sustainable income has been earned by makers who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed since our founding in 1946.”
  • Shop to benefit a local not-for-profit such as Creative Arts Workshop’s Celebration of American Crafts. 
  • Shop at a museum gift shop: Yale Center for British Art, Yale University Art Gallery, the Peabody Museum, or the New Haven Museum Shop.
  • Give a green and useful gift like LED lightbulbs, good for the environment and for the user’s budget. IKEA is a great place to shop for these; it is the only type of bulb they sell.
  • Also at IKEA: For every toy, piece of play furniture, or children's book sold until December 24, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1 supporting children's right to play and develop. The New Haven store is collecting soft toys for the Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, so buy a few extra to put in the donation bin. 
Other Ideas:
  • Do you have too many cookbooks? Pass some of them on, perhaps adding tabs for your favorite recipes and decorating with a gadget or two instead of a bow. 
  • Make a gift. 
  • Do you have too many notecards? Give them, along with a selection of beautiful stamps, to someone who still likes to correspond the old-fashioned way. 
  • Divide and repot your plants. (Be sure to keep them warm when you transport them).
  • If you have a skill you would like to share with someone, give the gift of lesson(s).
Happy Gifting!

[Note: This is an edited version of an article I wrote for the holiday issue of HomeHaven News, a monthly newsletter for the members of HomeHaven, an organization in New Haven helping seniors to "age in place." While some of the ideas are geared to shopping locally, I hope they will give you ideas for ways to help the community in which you live.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meatless Monday Matters

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.  In these uncertain times each of us needs to commit to doing all we can to lower our individual carbon footprint.

Eating less meat is one step we can take.

Wasting less food is another.

A small step is better than no step. It can be as simple as making a meal at home from ingredients you have on hand, especially those that are nearing the end of their shelf life.

If you feel like comfort food at the moment, this recipe might be just what you need. Inspired by a dish I once ordered at a pancake place, it comes out of the oven high like a popover and falls as soon as you cut into it. It will take you to a happy (ier) place. 

It is very easy to make and is a great way to use up apples picked earlier in the fall that are starting to become a little soft. If you do much cooking you probably have the other ingredients in your fridge and pantry.

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 4 tart apples
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Preheat ovn to 425°.
  • Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet.
  • Peel and slice the apples.
  • Add the apple slices to the melted butter and stir.
  • Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring often until apples are tender.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Combine the eggs, flour, and milk and whisk together until smooth. [You can use a blender.]
  • Spread the apples evenly in the skillet.
  • Pour the batter over the apples.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the pancake is puffed up and nicely browned.
  • Cut into 6 pieces and serve immediately with a bit of maple syrup.
[I have only baked this in a skillet but I imagine a casserole dish would work, too.]

This may not be the most nutritious meal, but there are far worse.
  • This comfort dish has benefits, too.
  • You have kept food in your fridge from going to waste.
  • You have lowered your carbon footprint by passing up meat AND by leaving your car turned off.
  • It is also a really cheap meal. Perhaps you can do some good with the money you save.
I am not saying this is all we need to do in the days ahead, but observing Meatless Monday is a good start.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”