Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Shorts: 11.15.14 America Recycles Day


Today, Saturday, November 15, is the 17th annual America Recycles Day.

For most of us weekly curbside pickup makes it easy to recycle paper, bottles and cans, and plastics. But there is so much more we can do, including:
  • eCycling. Take your old computers or other electronics to a local recycling center. This helps keep lead, cadmium, and other substances out of the landfill. Find eCycling centers near you. Some states, including Connecticut, have laws mandating eCyling. Best Buy is one location where homeowners can drop off a few unwanted items on each visit to the store. Select your state on the Best Buy site and you will see what items Best Buys in your area will accept. For more information specific to the greater New Haven area, check out this past post for more ideas. 
  • Cleaning out the basement. In New Haven, HazWaste Central is closed until spring, but that does not mean recycling has to come to an end. If you find chemicals, solvents, pesticides, alkaline batteries, or items containing mercury, set them aside, boxed, labelled, and ready for the first collection day in April.
There are quite a few items you can recycle in any season. You just have to know where to take them.
  • In CT, you can now recycle unwanted paint in a number of paint stores. There are a few rules to follow. Drop-off is free and is funded by a surcharge on every new paint purchase. Check here to see if you can recycle paint in your state. 
  • IKEA will accept CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries, and plastic bags, as well as paper, plastic bottles, and cardboard.
  • If you live in an area where plastic shopping bags are still allowed, look for collection containers for used bags at the grocery store entrance.
  • Fluorescent light tubes can be returned to Home Depot stores.
  • Recycle your eyeglasses. Lions Club International accepts prescription and reading glasses, sunglasses and plastic and metal frames. Children's glasses are especially needed. Most of the recycled glasses are distributed to people in need in developing countries where they will have the greatest impact.  
And, of course, there is always something I know I need to do:
  • Thin out the closets. Never throw an article of clothing, no matter what the condition, into the trash. Goodwill will take it all, sort through it, and make sure your donation is put to its best use. Goodwill accepts many other household goods as well. Donating Dos and Don’ts are posted here. Donating your unwanted items to Goodwill helps provide employment opportunities in your community. Donations can also help you at tax time. Here is a valuation guide covering a wide range of donations. 
CT residents have a great resource in the “What do I do with…?” section of the CTDEEP site, covering items from “A” (Air Conditioners) to “Y” (Yoga Mats). 

I could go on and on, but this should get you going...

Happy recycling. 

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meatless Monday: Baked Acorn Squash, So Easy, So Versatile

Welcome to my third post with the theme of easy recipes using native ingredients. [See easy cornbread from October 20 and cranberry sauce from November 3.]

This week’s featured ingredient is the winter squash, a thick-skinned fruit in the genus Cucurbita. Familiar species include the Butternut (Cucurbita moschata) and the Acorn (Cucurbita pepo, var. turbinata); pumpkins are varieties of Cucurbita pepo as well.

Most Thanksgiving feasts feature at least one winter squash dish — mashed, roasted, baked, topped with marshmallows, or baked into a pie. For many vegetarians, a squash baked and stuffed with nuts, seeds, mushrooms, or quinoa often serves as the main course.    

The Native Americans had been growing squash in combination with beans and corn for centuries before the Europeans arrived. They called the crops “The Three Sisters” and considered them a gift from the Gods. [More on this soon.] However, the squash they grew is not the squash we know today. Check this link for descriptions of some of the heirloom varieties. 

Acorn squash is very easy to prepare. 

You will need:
  • An oven
  • An Acorn squash [Butternut works, too.]
  • A sharp knife
  • A baking pan
  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar or maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper

Here is the recipe: 
  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Wash the squash well.
  • Cut it in half lengthwise.
  • Scrape out the seeds.
  • Oil the edges.
  • Place the halves upside down in the baking pan.
  • Roast for 30 minutes.
  • Turn right side up.
  • Add a pat of butter, salt and pepper, and sweetener to taste.
  • Smoosh in a bit with a fork.
  • Return to the oven (right side up) for 20 minutes.
There you have it, the perfect addition to any T-Day feast or cold-weather dinner.

For more recipes, check out Martha Stewart’s site where you will find 51 recipes and 17 videos for ways to prepare Acorn squash! 

If you are up for a challenge, you might want to check out my 2012 adventures with a Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima) and how I prepared it for Thanksgiving dinner.

Watch your fingers!

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you, and to the planet.


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.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meatless Monday: Cranberry Sauce, A DIY for Everyone

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it seems appropriate to continue the theme of easy recipes featuring native ingredients. [See easy cornbread from October 20.]

You can make this, too!
This week’s featured ingredient is the cranberry (Vaccinium macropcarpon), a member of the Heath family, and one of the few edible fruits native to North America. It was originally known as the “craneberry,” because the plant’s small blossoms reminded the colonists of the head and bill of a Sandhill crane.

Some form of cranberry dish is common to nearly every modern day Thanksgiving feast, whether traditional, vegetarian, or vegan. It is also one of the easiest foods to prepare. [More on that later.]

For years before the Pilgrims landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts, Native Americans had been crushing this wild berry for use as a fabric dye, as a medicine to treat arrow wounds, and in a high-protein food called “pemmican,” which was composed of cranberries, dried deer meat, and melted fat.

The cranberry requires several special conditions to thrive: sandy soil, abundant fresh water, and a growing season that lasts from May to October. When the Pilgrims arrived in the 1600s, the cranberry was growing wild on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel, and clay-like material. Known as “bogs,” these beds were originally formed by glacial deposits. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Association website, in 1816 Captain Henry Hall of Dennis observed that the wild cranberries in his bog grew better when sand blew over them. He began sanding his vines, his technique was copied, and the cultivation of cranberries began.

I grew up thinking that cranberry sauce came in a can, that was cleverly removed in one piece by opening the can at both ends and gently, slowly, pushing the contents onto a plate for carving.

But once I discovered that cranberry sauce is one of the easiest things to make, there was no going back for me. Homemade cranberry sauce has a kick that just doesn’t come with jellied sauce from a can. 

Every bag of fresh berries has a recipe printed on the back. You need five things:
  • A source of heat
  • A pot for cooking the sauce
  • Water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • A 12 oz bag of cranberries

Here is the recipe: 
  • Rinse and the berries well and pick out any small stems or shriveled berries. (It is important to do this well.)
  • Dissolve 1 cup sugar in one cup water over medium high heat. 
  • When it boils, add the 12 oz bag of berries. 
  • Return to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and boil gently.
  • Stir often until all berries have popped (about 10 minutes). 
  • Remove from heat, pour into a bowl or storage container and cool. 
  • Then refrigerate until ready to serve.

There you have it, the perfect addition to any T-Day feast.

After your initial success, feel free to experiment. If you like a firmer sauce, use less water next time. If you like your sauce less sweet, cut the sugar.

November is the month when the produce bins are well-stocked with bags of these colorful, just harvested fruits. Buy a lot — for cooking now and for future use. They are easy to store; just pop the unopened bag in the freezer. There is no need to thaw the berries before you use them; you can use frozen berries in any recipe calling for fresh fruit.  Be sure to rinse them well and keep in mind that they will take a little longer to pop.

For more on the cranberry, check out this blog post from the past. Ocean Spray is an excellent source for recipes.

Here’s to home cooking! 

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you, and to the planet.


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.”