Monday, February 23, 2015

Meatless Monday: Hankering for Citrus and Warmer Days

This week was much like the last several in the Northeast — daily Weather Alerts warning of winds, frigid temperatures, snow, and the dreaded “wintry mix.” Trips to the gym, bike rides, and even long walks have been replaced with shoveling snow and ice chopping. Our landscape is looking decidedly polar and the Arctic blast has just made another comeback. At least the sun has been shining (sometimes).

I find myself dreaming of warmer climes and the smells and tastes that go with them.

A couple of weeks back I really wanted some navel oranges like the ones you can pick from backyard trees in California. After a disappointing walk down the produce aisle, I decided it was time to visit LocalHarvest, an online store where family farmers offer some of their products for sale directly to the public. You simply search for the item you desire (or have fun shopping through the catalog) and choose your vendor. Often there are some special offers.

I have shopped through Local Harvest several times, always with great success. [This past post details the Local Harvest story and one of my purchases.]

This time I ended up buying 12 pounds of fragrant, juicy, naturally orange oranges from Rancho Charanda Citrus Ranch that are: “Non GMO and “naturally grown using organic fertilizing techniques, rain water from the mountains and old fashioned farm labor.” I ordered on Monday the 26th, and they arrived around noon on January 30, in perfect condition.

A friend was so impressed with my success that she used the Local Harvest site to locate and order red grapefruit from Texas. The arrival of her fruit was just what she needed to lift her spirits. 

All this dealing with winter has sapped a bit of my energy, so the remainder of this post is late, brief, and purely informational…

On thinking about grapefruit this question popped into my mind: “Why is this large, yellow fruit called ‘grapefruit’?

The answer? According to the “Everyday Mysteries” section of the Library of Congress website: “If you see grapefruit growing on a tree, you will notice that they grow in clusters. It is suggested that these clusters resemble the shape of large yellow grapes and so the fruit was called a grapefruit. Another explanation is that the premature grapefruit looks similar in shape to unripe green grapes.” [See if you agree after checking out this image.]





The grapefruit is a relative newcomer to the citrus family. It was described in 1750 as “the forbidden fruit” of Barbados and was mentioned in an account of plants found in Jamaica in 1824. It grows wild on several islands of the West Indies. The grapefruit is believed to be an accidental hybrid between the pummelo and the orange.

There have been several attempts to change the moniker “grapefruit” to something else, but each time without success.  

You can read more about the history of the grapefruit, how it arrived in Florida, how it made its way to Texas, its nutritional properties, and how it happens to come in so many colors in this excellent article on the Purdue University website. 

Happy Meatless Monday! Once again, bundle up and watch out for any icy patches!

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, February 15, 2015

Meatless Monday: Avocado Toast

Over the weekend we were pretty much stuck indoors again. There was a mad dash on Saturday morning to get the requisite errands done before the latest Blizzard Warning went into effect. In the end we were spared the predicted dump of snow, but we did not escape the wind and bitter cold. It was decidedly not the weather for venturing out.

The grocery list is still stuck on the fridge, and over the last few days we’ve played “Chopped,” trying to create the best possible meals from what we could find in the freezer, fridge, and cupboard.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of ripe avocados on hand. One was turned into guacamole, but the second became a version of Avocado Toast, the perfect accompaniment to our two remaining cups of homemade chowder.

Here is my version of this (still) trending treat.


Elaine’s Avocado Toast
(serves two as a side)

Ingredients
  • 1 ripe (but still firm) avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 thick slices of whole grain bread
  • Butter (for greasing the egg poacher)
  • Cayenne pepper flakes
Directions
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and carefully scoop the flesh from the skin.
  • Slice the avocado lengthwise.
  • Poach the eggs to the desired doneness.
  • While the eggs are cooking, toast the bread.
  • Put the toast on two plates.
  • Arrange half the avocado slices on top of each piece.
  • Turn the poached egg out on top of the avocado.
  • Sprinkle with cayenne pepper flakes to taste. 

One of my two vintage egg poachers. They do the job.
While my recipe features an egg, there are scores of variations on this theme, with and without eggs, to satisfy everyone from a vegan to a carnivore. Check out these 5 recipes from Bon App├ętit or these 10 from Self for inspiration. These are some of the easiest small plates that you could possibly whip up in your kitchen. 

Why is Avocado Toast enjoying such popularity? Avocados are considered by many to be a “super food.”  Don’t let the 250 calories in a medium (5 oz.) avocado keep you from enjoying this heart-healthy fruit, rich in both polyunsaturated fats and mono-saturated fats which help to lower cholesterol. Avocados are an excellent source of vitamins B6, C, E, and K, as well as folate, lutein, magnesium, and potassium. They are high in fiber and have been shown to boost the absorbency of fat-soluble nutrients in foods with which they are eaten.

Happy Meatless Monday! Once again, bundle up and watch out for any icy patches!

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.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Things Worth Knowing (2.6.15): Change of Thrones

I loved my Kohler Pompton toilet—its height, its compact, unobtrusive profile, its small footprint in my small bathroom. But when its seal sprang a small leak, its time at our house was up. Yes, it was time for it to go.

The Pompton in place. Out with the old…
The Pompton toilet is no longer manufactured, for a very good reason. It is a water hog. Toilets built before 1982 (as this one was) use 5 to 7 gallons of water. The mandate in drought-stricken California (expected to take effect in 2016) is 1.28 gallons per flush. The current limit in that state is 1.6 gallons.

Even though we live in a region rich in water, we knew it was wrong to squander so much. How can a couple say they are trying to be Green and still allow so many gallons of water to be flushed away each day when they know there are better options available? Inefficient toilets not only waste a valuable natural resource: they also put an unnecessary strain on the sewer system. In New Haven the storm and sanitary systems are still combined in many parts of the city. During major storms, the sudden surge of rainwater can be too much for the system to handle, causing untreated water to pour into our watershed. The less water entering the system, the better.

Last, but not least, is the economic factor. The cubic feet of water our household uses determines both our water bill and our sewer use fee. The lower the water usage, the better it is for our budget.

We knew it was time to make the switch.

There are a number of more efficient toilets readily available in the big box stores, with some models requiring as little as 1.28 gallons per flush.

But from our friends at Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven we heard about an even more efficient option — The Stealth UHET (Ultra High-Efficiency) Toilet, sold by Niagara Conservation. This is the most efficient toilet currently available, requiring a mere 0.8 gallons per flush! 

You can watch a dramatic demo and full explanation of Stealth technology here. [The video is a bit long, but at least watch through the demo.]



We decided to go all out, and opted to purchase a Stealth — in the round bowl option.  It comes in two pieces, its seat is higher than the Pompton’s, and its footprint is larger, but we were pretty confident we could make the adjustment.  

We called the regional distributor, who gave us the name of the local plumbing store that carries Niagara Conservation products. We placed an order and our Stealth arrived in the store a few days later, exactly when promised.

Our new toilet is installed. We had to switch to a square box of Kleenex, but we are getting used to the new look and seat height.


In with the new…The Stealth installed.
We push a button on the top of the tank now. The Stealth has a quiet but extremely powerful flush. [The video explains how this is possible.] It has done the job every time.

This model is not ADA compliant, but the elongated version, with its 17” high bowl and longer seat, meets the ADA requirements.

We are so happy with our Stealth that we are planning to swap a second toilet very soon. We are hoping to see a big change in our next water bill…