Friday, December 31, 2010

December News Roundup & Blog Updates

The theme Times are Strange (7/16) continues with the weather very much in the news.

A Christmas week storm covered the state of California, blanketing the Sierras with record snowfall and the rest of the state with heavy rains (half the state’s annual rainfall in one week), prompting mudslides in the south where devastation from forest fires had left nothing to soak up the moisture. Gov. Schwarzenegger declared seven counties disaster areas. Good news? This year’s snowpack in the Sierras may ease the water shortage caused by years of drought. The storm then swept across the country, wreaking havoc with all forms of holiday transportation, ultimately leaving New York City unable to cope with its 20 inches of snow.

A second California storm arrived in the Mid West just in time for New Year’s Eve. A tornado associated with this weather event killed 3 and injured several more in Arkansas earlier today.

England was hit with a pre-holiday blizzard of its own. The heaviest December snowfall since 1981, coupled with heavy cold and compounded by a shortage of de-icer, closed Heathrow for nearly 4 days, stranding travelers on both sides of the Pond.

The wettest December in 150 years has led to widespread flooding in Australia.

Diseases in the News:
Some 130,000 people in Haiti have have been infected by cholera since the first case was confirmed on October 22. The death toll is currently over 2,700.

While it may be difficult to convince the unconvinced that the earth is warming with so much cold weather in the news, NOAA has released its statistics for November, including this statement: For the 2010 year to date (Jan.-Nov.), the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20th century average—the warmest such period since records began in 1880.

At the 2010 UN Convention on Climate Change held in Cancún, an accord was reached on December 11, which is far less than many had sought, bur far greater than many had deemed possible. Bolivia stood alone in opposing the agreement. The nations will convene on the same topic in S. Africa from November 28-December 9, 2011.

On December 28 the EPA issued a press release outlining in general terms its plan for enforcing in 2011 the greenhouse gas pollution standards called for under the Clean Air Act, first passed in 1970 and revised in 1990. Many anticipate that the agency will have to tread lightly since there is much opposition to the implementation of this legislation.

The results of November’s election are by now well-known. While the full ramifications of how we voted are not yet clear, one thing is certain. Change is on the horizon. The election for governor in my state of Connecticut was a real cliff-hanger. Dan Malloy, former mayor of big-city Stamford, will be the first Democratic governor in two decades. CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will become junior senator, replacing long-serving and hardworking Christopher Dodd.

In California, former Gov. Jerry Brown will once again be sworn in as Gov. Jerry Brown on January 3. California voters rejected both Proposition 19 (which would have legalized and taxed marijuana) and Proposition 23 (which would have repealed the Global Warming Solutions Act enacted by the state in 2007). California municipalities continue to ban plastic shopping bags: San Jose banned the hand-out of single use bags of any kind. Progress continues towards meeting the state’s goal of one million solar roofs by 2018. 

Census results were released this week. Why is this filed under my political news? Where people live has a direct impact on the number of Congressional Representatives allotted to each state. A number of states in the Northeast and in the Rust Belt will lose a representative in 2012. New York and Ohio will each lose 2. The winners were a number of states in the Sun Belt. Florida will gain 2, and Texas is the big winner with a gain of 4! Representatives in states about to be redistricted are scrambling for options. It is speculated that  Dennis Kucinich’s Cleveland seat is a possible target for elimination. Those in power at the state level redraw the political maps. Kucinich is out there on the left in a state the Republicans rule.

Among the significant pieces of legislation passed in the lame-duck Congress were the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act, which improves the quality of meals served in schools; and the Food Safety Modernization Act, which aims to enhance the safety of food produced in the US and imported, and to prevent food-borne illness.

Elm City Market Co-Op, scheduled to open in Spring, 2011, has more than reached its goal of 300 “founding members.” Over 400 people have joined the Co-Op. The Co-Op held its first elections. Stephen Fries (professor of hospitality management at Gateway Community College, food columnist, and producer of the New Haven Iron Chef Competition) was chosen to replace outgoing Meghan Knight.

New Haven appeared in the national media for a number of good reasons at year’s end. Yale’s Whiffenpoofs appeared on Sing-Off. Yale student Sam Spaulding ’13 placed second in the 2010 College Championship edition of Jeopardy! Finally, our mailman’s daughter-in-law Brenda DePonte and her mother Carol Vollono, owners of the Sugar Bakery in East Haven, were the winners of the first Cupcake Wars of the new season! The $10,000 prize is pretty sweet… Congratulations to them all. 

Check out this link to one of my holiday shopping posts at NPR. My blog’s page views have gone from 3339 on 9/27 to 7000+ today, 12/31! FYI my own personal page views are not counted. Thanks everyone. Please keep reading in 2011 and tweet, buzz, or tell your friends.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Vegetarians Beware

Those of you not snowbound may find yourselves off to the movies this post-holiday Monday. And while you are there, you just may find yourself indulging in refreshments, a box of candy, perhaps. 

A recent email from a college classmate prompted me to look into candy coatings and to  share the information with my vegetarian and vegan friends, as well as with readers who are neither but wish to adhere to a strict observance of Meatless Monday. 

My classmate wrote that as a vegetarian she always checks the ingredients lists on candy packages to make sure there is no “confectioner's glaze.” Confectioner’s glaze, also know as “resinous glaze,” is defined as the “food grade” version of shellac (used as a wood finish), a product harvested from the secretions of Laccifer lacca, a plant-sucking insect known as the “shellac” scale. While lac (the secretion) is clearly a problem for a vegan, I wonder if some vegetarians might still be OK with this as the Glee gum site claims. Is ingesting lac somewhat akin to eating dairy? I welcome comments on this one.

There is another “hidden” ingredient which I am sure vegans and vegetarians alike would choose to eschew — carmine, often used to impart a red color to a food, beverage, or lipstick. Carmine is manufactured by crushing the bodies of the cochineal insect, also in the scale family. Carmine is still listed as an ingredient in some yogurts and other foods and beverages, but beet juice is a viable substitute. Stonyfield uses beet and red cabbage juice to achieve that pretty pink color in its strawberry flavor. You can use this handy site to check out the ingredients on a number of products.

The message of this relatively short post? Read your labels, and look up any term you don’t understand. Something as pleasant sounding as “confectioner’s glaze” or “carmine” might actually translate to “insect juice.”

The aforementioned classmate is May Berenbaum, editor of Honey, I’m Homemade. Those of you interested in either bees or cooking with honey should really check out May’s book. Proceeds benefit the University of Illinois Pollinatarium—the first freestanding science outreach center in the nation devoted to flowering plants and their pollinators.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Worthy Causes

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays
For most of us there was some level of gift shopping to do over the course of this holiday season. On each of the 10 Thursdays from October 21, up until today, the day before Christmas Eve, it was my goal to present 10 ideas (at least), in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions were from places I know or products I'd purchased or received. I managed to meet my goal and find myself (a little later in the day than usual) at my final post of this series — List 10. This list is not about things to buy, but rather about places to make a donation, perhaps in the name of a person for whom you have not shopped and for whom it is too late to send a gift in time for Christmas. (Or maybe just a gift for yourself.) These groups are all working to change the world, and they could all use a little extra help as they feel the pinch of the recent economic downturn. I have tried to include an idea for everyone. BTW, I had this list in the works well before Google Chrome announced “Chrome for a Cause.” There is some overlap, but you know what they say about great minds… Here is my List 10.

10 Worthy Causes
    Flow How did a handful of corporations steal our water
  1. Water. It’s a simple fact that water is essential to human life. According to the website for the film Flow, “of the 6 billion people on earth, 1.1 billion do not have access to safe, clean drinking water.” Two groups for your consideration are charity:water and
  2. Medical Relief. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent, international medical humanitarian organization which goes where others dare not go, providing relief in places ravaged by natural disaster, threatened by epidemics, or torn apart by armed conflict. Created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971, the group received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
  3. Disaster Relief. Oxfam International is often the first responder after a natural disaster. Formed in 1995 by a group of independent non-governmental organizations, Oxfam’s aim is to “work together for greater impact on the international stage to reduce poverty and injustice.”
  4. Conservation of ecologically important lands and waters. A number of groups are working in this area, including: The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and local land trusts. 
  5. Wildlife Conservation. Greenpeace (for its work with whales and dolphins) and the World Wildlife Fund are two of the most well-known organizations with this focus. The work of the WWF is particularly accessible to children.
  6. Ending Hunger. Feeding America and a national network of local food banks, including Connecticut Food Bank, secure surplus food and get it to those who most need it. The network members of Feeding America supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year. 
  7. Literacy. As a person who loves the written word, it is difficult to imagine just how closed the world would be to me if I did not have this skill. Many in the world, however, have not received this gift. Room to Read works in developing countries with a focus on literacy and ending gender inequality in education. Motheread works in the US, combining the teaching of literacy skills with child development and family empowerment issues. Through Motheread parents and children learn to use the power of language to discover more about themselves, their families, and their communities. 
  8. Advocacy. Although I live on the East Coast, I am a member of Environment California, a group in working on “protecting California’s air, water and open spaces.” With an economy ranked in the world’s top ten, California is often the testing ground for new ideas. Their successes and failures provide the lesson plans for the rest of the country. Or, if you prefer, pick an advocacy group closer to your own home or in an area of special interest to you. There are so many. Let me name just a few from whom I have drawn material for this blog: Food Democracy Now!, Slow Food International, Environmental Working Group
  9. Shelter. Everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity which helps build homes for first-time homeowners. Lesser known is NeighborWorks America, of which Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven is a member. During the course of its 30-year history, NHS has fully renovated and sold nearly 300 houses to low- and moderate-income families. Through the New Haven HomeOwnership Center, NHS puts approximately 500 families a year on the path to homeownership through its homebuyer education classes. They have a wealth of information for homeowners on all the latest energy-saving products.
  10. Creating an East Coast Greenway. There is a dream that one day it will be possible to cycle 3,000 miles from Maine to the tip of Florida by connecting existing and planned shared-use trails. A donation to The East Coast Greenway is a perfect donation in honor of any bicycle enthusiast.
There you have it, List 10. Pick a cause, any cause… 

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays to you all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meatless Monday: And Everyday at Claire’s Corner Copia

This is Claire Criscuolo. She is standing still in her restaurant, Claire’s Corner Copia, in New Haven, CT, just long enough for Don to take her photo for my Meatless Monday column. Claire’s Corner Copia turned 35 years old this Fall. For most of those years every dish served at the restaurant on Mondays, and on every other day of the week, has been meatless.

When it opened in 1975, Claire’s was a tiny restaurant in the former location of a KarmelKorn, a corner store known for being a late night haunt of Yale students and street people with the munchies. Good food had decidedly NOT been happening there. Claire Criscuolo, RN, soon changed that. 

In the introduction to Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook (published in 1994) Claire writes about how the restaurant has evolved over the years. Claire, her husband Frank, and other family members were its first employees. While her first soup was vegetarian (Vegetable Bean), Claire did prepare meat and poultry until 1977, the same year in which she banned smoking and hired her first paid staffer. Tuna salad persisted as a menu item until sometime in the last decade, but with the exception of meat without feet, Claire’s has observed Meatless Monday every day and in every way for over three decades now!

Claire has both boundless energy and a heart of gold. According to a recent article in the Yale Daily News, Claire traditionally donates 10% of the restaurant’s profits to charity. But in celebration of the restaurant’s 35th birthday Claire upped the amount to 35% of her profits from September 17-October 20. Two local charities, determined by customer votes on Facebook, each received a check for nearly $1100. 

Over the years Claire has become an advocate for local food and an activist for healthy eating. She has served on a number of important panels and was instrumental in bringing the Growing Connection and EarthBox Gardening to New Haven. Since 2007, she and Frank have been growing organic arugula and heirloom tomatoes in their home garden, Giardino del Mare.

Claire's Classic American Vegetarian Cooking: 225 New and Favorite Homestyle Vegetarian RecipesClaire's Corner Copia Cookbook: 225 Homestyle Vegetarian Recipes from Claire's Family to YoursWe have known Claire ever since she first opened. In those days we ate soup or split a piece of Lithuanian coffee cake when we splurged on a meal out. As the restaurant grew and became slightly less funky, we brought parents there for dinner before attending the Shubert Theater. Then we added a family member, and Claire’s was one of the earliest child-friendly places, equipped with sturdy highchairs, so guess where we brought the baby? Claire’s later became the place to grab a seat near the window to enjoy a coffee and a little something for a treat after nursery school or some downtown shopping. The years have passed, but Claire’s is still a favorite haunt, with friendly faces, healthy and tasty food, fair prices, and always something new to try. When we went there for a quick brunch on Sunday with friends (whose daughter worked there in the ’80s), who was there but Claire!

Claire’s was named one of the Top 10 Heart-Healthy Restaurants by in 2010 and is also kosher, two more reasons to drop by. Let me just issue one warning in advance of your visit. The portions are large, and the food delicious. Come hungry and with a friend or you may have to choose between a meal and a dessert. 

If you can’t make it to New Haven, check out the cookbooks. Those who once lived here and have fond memories of Claire will find many familiar recipes there. You just have to love someone who writes, “If we can ever change the world, and I know we can, it will be through our good work — Together!” That’s Claire. 

Claire, here’s wishing you a very happy belated birthday. Downtown just wouldn’t be the same without you!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Random Things

For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the 10 Thursdays from October 21, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas (at least), in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome. Random Things are great items that simply didn’t make the cut on my previous 8 lists. There should be something on this list for everybody. Many of these items are made in the USA and sold locally. I offer up List 9.

10 Random Things
  1. The Weekender eTech Convertible Bag sold by eBag. This amazing bag is my find of the year! Its dimensions make it a legal carry-on. Since it has no wheels, there  is a large interior volume for packing stuff. Stow-away straps allow for easy conversion to a backpack if you discover you need to walk any distance. This bag is durable and lightweight with many zippered compartments and a contrasting lining, making it easy to locate a particular item. This bag holds a lot. With careful planning you can easily pack for a week under most circumstances (one level of dress, no temperature extremes). The savings on the checked baggage fee at each end will just about pay for the bag. There are over 2,000 reviews of this bag on the E-Bag site; 97% of reviewers would buy this bag again. Here is a sample: “It is more than a weekender. I travelled to a casual week in northern California with this as my main carry-on luggage bag…It easily fits into the overhead storage bin and, because it is missing the wheels and extendable handle it is much lighter and compresses better in smaller spaces. It has an end grip which works best when you are boarding a plane and about to throw it into the overhead. It has a side grip which is best for walking through the terminal or on an escalator. The back-packing straps, which are comfortable and easy to put on, came in handy, too, for hands-free walking. It comes with zippered pockets that help organize your stuff or keep things at-the-ready if you need them… My luggage before this is no longer a carry-on and, had I taken it it on this trip, the fee for checking it would have cost more than my Weekender eTech Convertible. I know someone who needs one of these.” I wish I could add that this bag is made in the USA, but I just heard from the company rep that it's made in China.
  2. Hula Hoops are back! Devotees of hooping include Marisa Tomei (and Michelle Obama who, according to the Caucus blog at the The New York Times, did 142 swivels at the Healthy Kids Day she hosted at the White House. You can burn calories with any hula hoops for serious exercise are very different form the colored plastic ones introduced by Wham-O in my youth. The updated ones are weighted and come in a wide range of prices. Many are collapsible to save space (the diameter on these is quite large); some come with instructional videos. Marisa Tomei has put together her own complete package. Philo Hagen, the founder of, has hooped at the Burning Man Festival and is no slouch as you can see in this video. For more on the exercise benefits of hooping check out this article at
  3. Calendars to support a cause. My perennial favorite is the Wilderness Calendar the Sierra Club publishes each year.
  4. Souvenirs from “home.” Caps, mugs, a new book, hoodies, or a t-shirt… I once sent a t-shirt packed in one of Modern Pizza’s signature boxes. For those of you who might not know, New Haven’s Modern Pizza is favored by most locals and is now on Playboy’s A-List for best pizza. 
  5. Naturopathic Remedies. I am no fan of flying, but sometimes it’s the only practical way to get there. I am prone to motion sickness and discovered Sea Bands after an unfortunate on-flight experience (yes, some people still do use those little bags). These comfy bands seem to work and are not that noticeable. They are also good when riding in the back seat of a car. For those who suffer from migraines, I have been told that lavender eyeshields are an effective remedy. Last year I gifted a handmade one purchased at the CitySeed Market. Its scent is activated by a short stint in the microwave. The site for the Lavender Bee Farm in Petaluma, California discusses the medicinal properties of lavender and provides instructions for making your own eye pillow.  
  6. Beeswax Candles. These cost more but last longer than paraffin ones, which are made from petroleum products. They don’t drip, burn cleaner, and have a pleasant natural scent. More importantly, they are a natural and sustainable product. Save the remnants for unsticking old fashioned drawers, doors, and windows. You can read more at this candle company’s site. Check out your farmers’ market or online at the LocalHarvest site to see if you can purchase these locally. 
  7. A Rotary-style Cheese Grater or a Microplane (also known as a “kitchen rasp”). Say “no” to grated cheese in a jar. And remember to collect and save your parmesan rinds for cooking.
  8. Micro-fiber Cleaning Cloths. This is not a sexy-sounding gift, but these cloths virtually cut out the need for paper towels, good both for the planet and the wallet. Easily laundered. Readily available in the supermarket.
  9. Tickets to a play or concert. Give someone you love a night (or afternoon) out on the town while supporting the arts in your community.
  10. A Harvey’s Bag. One of these bags (a bright red one) caught my eye in the window of Idiom on Chapel Street in New Haven. I looked closely and then saw that it was made from seatbelts! Harvey’s bags are rather pricey, but they are very stylish and look like they would last forever. Check out the Stella line at the site: these are real beauties! Harvey’s was started in 1997 by a husband and wife team in Santa Ana, California. The idea came to them as they were installing seatbelts in their old Buick. Take a virtual tour to see where the bags are “built” and who builds them. They are on Blogger, just like me! You can shop online, but there is also a store locator on the site.
I have two more bonus suggestions for you:
  • Give something you have to someone who would love it more. I am not talking about simple “re-gifting” here. Make it something good.
  • Keep a memory alive. Brighten up the holidays by buying a gift for someone who needs one in memory of someone you loved and for whom you used to shop. This year my dad is “giving” LEGOs and KNEX to some special needs kids.
Look for me next Thursday. Just one list to go…

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meatless Monday: Vegans on My Mind, a Continuing Saga

Eggless Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake
I have been reflecting on vegans quite a bit over the past year. This Summer’s egg recall had me considering for the first time what it would mean to go without eggs. In October I spent time with my college roommate who is trending toward veganism. And last month I had the task of preparing vegan-friendly dishes for the holiday feast.

I have some experience with tofu. I do know how to make both a tofu scramble which is a passable substitute for scrambled eggs and a pretty tasty eggless egg salad. And I have a great repertoire of recipes for legumes. While it is not too difficult for me to come up with a vegan main course, it is rather hard for me to refrain from adding a generous sprinkle of cheese to top off a dish of rice and beans. 

Still, by far my biggest vegan challenge falls in the realm of desserts. I have learned how to make a flaky pie crust using canola oil. I have discovered articles and lists, such as this detailed one from PETA, about what to substitute for eggs in baked goods. But the articles all advise that it is much easier to substitute for 1 or 2 eggs than it is to substitute for more. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable way to make an eggless meringue or angel food cake. Bananas, applesauce, and tofu all have their place, but sometimes the recipe calls for “egg replacer.” In my October post about the egg recall, I promised to look into such products and to report back.

Here is what I found. There are two readily available products marketed as “egg replacer.” Each has a shelf life about a year with no refrigeration required. PETA references one called Ener-G Egg Replacer, which is free of gluten, wheat, casein, dairy, yeast, egg, soy and nuts but  does contain some multisyllabic ingredients as well as potato starch. I opted to purchase the second — Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Egg Replacer — for my experiment, since I was already a fan of Bob’s whole wheat pastry flour. Bob’s products are milled in the Northwest using old stone grinding equipment. This egg replacer contains whole soy flour, wheat gluten, corn syrup solids, and algin (from algae). The instructions on the package (which I trusted based on an earlier success with Bob’s recipe for carrot cake on the pastry flour bag) called for mixing 1 tablespoon of egg replacer with 3 tablespoons of water for each whole egg to be replaced.

I started small, with a simple recipe for a Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake. The recipe called for a small amount of milk, 1 egg, and some melted shortening to accompany the dry ingredients in the batter, and 2 tablespoons of butter in the streusel topping. I substituted canola oil for the shortening and the egg replacer for the egg, but I didn’t monkey with the rest—this time. The result is pictured. It was delicious. If anything, it tasted even better than usual. With some 63 tablespoons remaining in my 16 oz. bag of egg replacer, plenty more experiments will follow. Next up is to make this cake with soy milk and vegan-friendly margarine. If it works I’ll publish the recipe. All I need is time…

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

10 Things Thursday: 10 Things to Stuff in a Stocking

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays
For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the 10 Thursdays from October 21, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas (at least), in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome. For stocking-stuffing ideas I have searched my memory bank for winners from the past, and combed store shelves real and virtual for new things wonderful. There should be something for everybody. I offer up LIST 8 and BLOG POST 100!

10 Things to Stuff in a Stocking
    Pass the Pigs Game w/ Free Dice Cup
  1. Pass the Pigs. This game has been a hit at my house for decades. In Pass the Pigs, two cute pigs serve as dice, and how they land after you toss them determines your score. It’s your turn until you “bank” your points or you wipe out your score for the round with an unfortunate landing. Try out this hilarious (and free) online version to get an idea of the game’s intricacies. Although the online version is free, it is limited to two players (and doesn’t fit into a stocking). Pass the Pigs is a highly competitive and fast-moving game, and is really a lot of fun at a party. With their compact carrying case, it’s easy to take these pigs on family trips. 
  2. A Pedometer. I’m sure you all the many benefits of walking. You might think you walk a lot (or perhaps that you don’t walk enough). But do you know how many steps you take in a day? Tara Parker-Pope reported in an October column that researchers using pedometers to measure daily movement of over 1,000 adults around the US discovered that Americans are “thousands of steps behind other countries when it comes to daily physical activity.” The results of the 2003 study were published in a recent issue of a sports and exercise journal. According to a researcher quoted in Pope's article, a person is considered sedentary if he or she take less than 5,000 steps a day. The data collected showed that the average American takes 5,117 steps in a day while a person in western Australia takes 9,695. Pedometers are available in many price ranges with a variety of features. This article reviews nine models. A pedometer that just counts your steps should cost less than $10. Just search Amazon until you find your price range.
  3. A DBA 98 Biodegradable Pen. The DBA Pen, marketed with the tagline, “Think before you write,” is made from a potato-based plastic and is 98% biodegradable. Produced at a wind-powered facility in the United States, it uses ink composed of simple, environmentally responsible ingredients. Watch this video to learn more. DBA currently sells pens and notebooks, but other products are in the works. This idea came by way of my friend's blog: Joan Spear's Authentic Adventure.
  4. A Preserve Personal Care Product. Preserve (Nothing wasted. Everything gained.™) was launched in 1997 with a toothbrush that you could mail back to the company for recycling into plastic lumber when its life as a toothbrush was over. Preserve products are made from recycled yogurt cups retrieved in the Gimme 5 program: you may have seen the collection boxes in Whole Foods stores. Other products include razors, tongue cleaners, cutting boards and kitchen and tableware. Preserve offers an online toothbrush replacement subscription service. Some Preserve products are available in retail stores including Barnes and Noble, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.
  5. All Natural Cosmetics. I have long been a fan of Burt’s Bees products (now owned by Clorox), in particular their line of all-natural lip glosses that can pass for lipstick. But, vegans beware that some of the glosses may contain carmine, which is a red dye made from crushed scale insects. Burt’s Bees products are now widely available in retail stores as well as online. I did some online checking for vegan products. Urban Decay is highly rated and has extensive vegan offerings, noted with a purple paw print. There is a store locator at the site
  6. Reflective Pant Clips for the Cyclist. This dual-purpose, low-tech item can be a life-saver. Reflective tape on the metal clips helps a driver discern a cyclist in the darkness. A higher-tech model elastic model with an attached LED light is even better. If you live in CT, I suggest you make a purchase from my friends at Devil's Gear. Night comes early in December (at least in my hemisphere), and I know you love your biker. 
  7. Xylitol Chewing Gum. Since scientists in Finland in the 1970s noticed xylitol’s ability to prevent dental caries, dentists in other countries have been urging their patients to chew this gum after each meal. We have been a little slower to catch on in this country. Xylitol gum is available in some stores, and more affordably in bulk online. Not all gum is created equal: I have found B-FRESH© (kosher, vegan, gluten-free, with xylitol made in the USA) to be a good product. I have received compliments from my dental hygienist, and have gotten fewer cavities since I began chewing the spearmint flavor. I just ordered 4 bottles (and got free shipping).
  8. Garlic from California. It may surprise you to hear that much of the garlic for sale in US supermarkets is actually grown in China. Gilroy, California promotes itself as “The Garlic Capital of the World,” and celebrates everything garlic with a festival each July. Chinese imports plus the debilitating white rot disease posed major setbacks to the region, but Gilroy is striving to make a come-back. One of the largest growers in Gilroy is Christopher Ranch, which ships over 60 million pounds of fresh California garlic each year. Their organic garlic can be found in retail stores around the country. The online catalog is for large quantities only.
  9. Dryer Balls. This product lets you dispense with liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets (and their associated chemical additives). Although not as quiet as the sheets, dryer balls will fluff and soften your clothes and speed up the drying time, saving you energy as well as the expense of extra laundry products. For those of you who love fragrance, check out Nellie’s All Natural PVC-free dryer balls with a fragrance option; these balls accommodate scented oil sticks (sold separately.)
  10. iTunes Gift Cards. Let the ones you love choose the gift(s) they love. The music of the Beatles is now available at the Apple Store—finally! Commemorative Beatles gift cards are currently a choice (but only in $50 and $100 denominations.) Check out the archival footage of the Boys from Liverpool at the iTunes store (free for your viewing pleasure).
  11. Folding Ear Warmers. This site has more choices than you would have dreamed possible. Baby, it’s cold outside in CT and I’ve got these on my mind. Available in a wide range of colors, they easily fit into a coat pocket or purse. Even a macho guy will appreciate these once the mercury falls low enough. Some models come with built-in stereo headphones.
  12. Conflict-Free Diamonds. If you are considering this type of purchase, I suggest you shop a reputable jewelry store and that you use yelp to help you find one. This article will provide the information you need to make an ethical choice.Nellie's PVC Free Dryer ballsTimex T5E011 PedometerM-Wave Bicycle Safety Reflective Pant Leg BandITunes Gift Card - The Beatles - $100iTunes Gift Card - The Beatles - $50180s Men's Commuter With Headphones Ear Warmer,Black,One SizePreserve Toothbrushes, Ultra Soft Bristles, 6-Count Package

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meatless Monday:Breakfast for Supper

Happy Monday! Why not treat yourself to breakfast for supper (or dinner depending on where you live or your lifestyle) on this Meatless Monday? I don’t seem to have many mornings to prepare and enjoy a meal of pancakes, french toast, or popovers. But I sometimes find the time in the evening, and once in a while I whip up this recipe of my own invention — part popover, part pancake, baked in my trusty No. 10 cast iron skillet. My Baked Apple Pancake is a particularly welcome comfort food in these nearing Winter days so short on sunshine. It’s also a great way to use up any apples picked earlier in the Fall which may be getting a little soft. You probably have most (if not all) of these ingredients on hand.

Vegans be warned that that although you may be able to swap out the milk and butter in this recipe, I don’t think egg substitute will work this time. 

But before I get to the recipe, I’m going to ask you to consider taking some important action. If you find you just can’t wait, jump ahead, but please come back. Remember this Summer’s massive egg recall? On Tuesday (November 30), the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act S.510, “The Food Safety Bill,” introduced by Illinois Senator Richard Durbin (D) in March 2009, was finally passed with a margin of 23 votes. An amendment introduced by Senator John Tester (D-Montana) in April of this year, designed to protect small farms for whom the regulations would have posed economic hardship, saved the day. This map illustrates how each Senator voted.

If this bill can be reconciled with a bill passed earlier by the House, then the safety of some 99% of the eggs (and other ingredients) you purchase to create this festive dish will be protected in the future. Food advocates Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are two supporters of this legislation. You can read an excellent summary of its key components here. The Senate bill must now be reconciled with a bill passed earlier in the House. The bill could be derailed by efforts of two groups who oppose its passage—owners of larger farms who do not want ANY growers to have exemptions, and anti-government activists. Pollan and Schlosser have called the Food Safety and Modernization bill, “the best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply.” Let your legislators know where you stand. Wouldn’t you like to feel more confident that any food you serve your family will actually be good for them? 

Back to the recipe. Here you go…

(pictured above)
Preheat oven to 425°.

4 large apples
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup of flour

In the No. 10 cast iron skillet, melt the butter on low heat, being careful not to burn it. While it is melting, peel and slice the apples. Then sauté the apples in the melted butter. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the spices. Add this mixture to the apples, and continue stirring and cooking until the apples are tender. Turn off the heat and spread the apples into an even layer.

In a food processor, or with a hand blender or whisk, blend the remaining ingredients until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter over the layer of apples, and put the skillet into the preheated oven. Bake 20 minutes until the pancake is puffy and browned. 

This pancake/popover has a pretty dramatic appearance when first taken out of the oven. Like a soufflé, it will deflate as soon as the first cut is made. So have everyone gather round to admire it before you serve it up with a drizzle of maple syrup on each plate. Remember that this pan is really hot (and heavy). Use an oven mitt to hold the handle when serving and a heavy-duty trivet if you set the pan onto your counter.

The milk and eggs provide significant protein, and the amount of butter is relatively small, making this a healthy “sometimes” meal. It serves four generously, up to six if you have some side dishes. You can warm any leftovers in the oven at low heat; microwaving will turn it rubbery. This pancake is best hot, straight from the oven.

I hope your new week is off to a good start. Please look for me on Thursday when I expect to post another list (No. 8!) of eco-friendly shopping ideas. I'm behind on my monthly blog update, but I'm working on that, too. It's a busy time of year for us all. Please don't give up on me.  

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ten Things Thursday: 10 Thought-Provoking Things

The Story Behind 10 Things Thursdays
For most of us there will be some level of gift shopping to do in the coming weeks. On each of the 10 Thursdays from October 21, up until the day before Christmas Eve, it is my goal to present 10 ideas, in 10 different themes, for eco-friendly gifting. Many suggestions will be places I know or products I've purchased or received. One hundred ideas by no means makes a comprehensive list. But it's a start. Suggestions for future lists are most welcome. For gift-giving season I have gone through my bookshelves and scoured stores both in town and online for books and DVDs wonderful, upbeat and mindbending. No gloom and doom for me this holiday season. I offer up List 7, with more than a dozen suggestions. After all, it’s my blog.

The world is beautiful (1-2 of 10)
    Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America's Wild Places
  1. Ansel Adams in the National Parks. Renowned American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) began photographing in the national parks in 1923. This recently released volume (October, 2010) contains over two hundred images, some never before published. “This is the most comprehensive collection of Ansel Adams' photographs of America's national parks and wilderness areas… Edited and with commentary by Andrea G. Stillman, the foremost expert on Adams' work, this landmark publication includes quotations by Adams… and essays by a number of prominent authors.” I have held this one in my hands and turned the pages, but I don’t own it (yet, anyway). You can get a preview here.
  2. Eye to Eye, by Frans Lanting. A collection of animal close-ups, this volume published in 2003 by Taschen is one I treasure. Life: A Journey Through Time is a later offering. Check out the slideshow by clicking on “Start the Journey” at this website to get a taste of these extraordinary images. If you ever find yourself in Santa Cruz, CA, you can visit the Frans Lanting Gallery featuring Lanting’s prints from around the world. There is a complete list of Lanting’s books here
Its creatures are amazing (3-6 of 10)
    Honey, I'm Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and around the World
  1. Honey, I’m Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and Around the World. May R. Berenbaum, my college classmate and professor of entomology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, edited this extensive collection of recipes she “gleaned from friends, family, alumni, and colleagues as well as from various and sundry campus archives (e.g., the Illinois State Fair culinary honey competition winners from the Illinois State Beekeepers Association records over the past century).” Honey: The A-B-Cs, May’s introduction to the book, tells the remarkable story of honey and the honeybees who produce it. Proceeds from this volume benefit the UI Pollinatarium, a science center devoted to pollinators and pollination.
  2. Leaf Cutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of The Ants. Accessible to the lay person as well as the scientist, “The Leafcutter Ants provides an unforgettable tour of Earth's most evolved animal societies. Each colony of leafcutters contains as many as five million workers, all the daughters of a single queen that can live over a decade. A gigantic nest can stretch thirty feet across, rise five feet or more above the ground, and consist of hundreds of chambers that reach twenty-five feet below the ground surface. Indeed, the leafcutters have parlayed their instinctive civilization into a virtual domination of forest, grassland, and cropland—from Louisiana to Patagonia. Inspired by a section of the authors' acclaimed The Superorganism, this brilliantly illustrated work provides the ultimate explanation of what a social order with a half-billion years of animal evolution has achieved.”
  3. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, by Paul Stamets. This book was written as a manual for using mushrooms to rescue the planet.With  sections on “The Mycelial Mind” and “Mycorestoration,” I guarantee this book will permanently change the way you think about mushrooms.
  4. Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. This new field guide is illustrated with more than 3,400 photos, some 90 of them by nature photographer Jim Zipp, co-proprietor of the Fat Robin in nearby Hamden, CT. The guide comes with a bonus CD and contains a wealth of updated information on bird ranges.
So are its people (7 of 10)
    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.)
  1. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope is the true story of William Kamkwamba, born in Malawi. Forced to withdraw from school due to lack of funding as a teenager, and with only a book from the local library to inspire him, William built a windmill to supply electricity to his family’s home using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a scrapyard. He became famous after a newspaper story about him was circulated in the blogosphere. William was invited to speak at TEDGlobal 2007 and is now a student at Dartmouth. Go here to read more of his story.
Anything is possible/thinking outside the box (8-10 of 10)
    Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)
  1. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics argues “that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections.” Don’t be scared off by the word “economics” in the title. With Chapters like “Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with their Moms?” this concise volume is a fascinating read. Freakonomics: The Movie premiered in Spring 2010, was released to theaters in October, and will be available at iTunes in January.
  2. Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small, by Yale professors Barry Nalebuff (co-founder of Honest Tea) and Ian Ayres. Why Not? offers simple techniques for learning to think in new ways about the things we do and see every day. Once you become inspired, visit to become a participant in the WhyNot? Idea Exchange. 
  3. Living More with Less 30th Anniversary Edition. Published by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) “in memory of Doris Janzen Longacre, who died in 1979 at the age of thirty-nine before she could complete the original Living More with Less manuscript.” According to the MCC, the book was written “as a practical guide for simple, sustainable, healthy living that keeps the future of God’s creation and its inhabitants in mind.” Living More with Less has just been revised and updated by Valerie Weaver-Zercher in her honor. According to Weaver-Zercher, “With stories, reflections, and advice from people around the world who are making changes to their daily habits in response to climate change and global poverty, Living More with Less: 30th Anniversary Edition is a vibrant collection of testimonies, old and new, of those who are discovering the joy of living with enough.”
The Universe in a NutshellEverything can be explained (bonus)
  1. The Universe in a Nutshell, by Stephen W. Hawking. In this concise and beautiful volume, one of the most influential thinkers of our time takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe.  Copious four-color illustrations help clarify such surreal aspects of the universe as the shape of time and the ten or 11 dimensions in which we exist.
And three documentary films to delight all ages (second bonus)
Earth (Disney, 2007), March of the Penguins (Warner Brothers, 2005, Academy Award for Best Documentary), Oceans (Disney, 2010)