Showing posts with label green living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label green living. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2013

{Recipe ReDux} A trend in every pot: Rabbit stew with sweet potatoes

As people are learning about our food system and that many of our current systems aren't sustainable, we are seeking alternatives. The majority of animals raised for meat in the US are done so without respect for the animals and without care for the environment. The good news is that consumers are looking for food that doesn't wreak havoc on the earth and farmers are meeting the need.

One growing trend in meat consumption is rabbit. If the idea of eating something so fluffy and cute makes you take pause, consider this: chickens are pretty cute too. Anytime you eat meat, an animal had died. It is easy to be oblivious of the animal's life when all we see at the grocery store are packages of pieces that don't look anything like the living animal. It is difficult to know what the animal was fed, if they were given hormones or antibiotics and the living conditions. By getting to know your farmers, you know what food you're eating and how those choices are impacting the environment.

I had the opportunity to interview Nick Carter of Meat the Rabbit, a rabbit meat supplier based in Indiana. Nick is an entrepreneur and farm kid and saw a niche to be filled- chefs wanted to have rabbits on their menus but didn't have a reliable supply. Eating rabbit is a greener option for eating meat. Large scale for raising rabbits might be twenty working does - rabbit lingo for a breeding mother - versus 1,000's of beef cattle on an industrial feedlot. The rabbit manure stays on the farm and increases soil fertility vs. cow manure being treated as a hazard and being carted off and polluting our waterways. Rabbits also have a very high feed:meat ratio - this means that it takes significantly less food to produce a pound of meat in a rabbit than it does in a cow. Rabbits are clean and quiet - excellent neighbors indeed - and are raised without hormones or antibiotics for Meat the Rabbit. Finally, because rabbits are sold whole, waste is much lower than when buying only part of an animal, such as chicken breasts or pork loin.

Nick's favorite way to cook rabbit is beer braised. I'll have to try that next! The inspiration for this recipe came from here, and I modified it to my personal tastes and the ingredients I had on hand. Don't know how to cut up a rabbit? I didn't either - but with the guidance of google and youtube, I managed. Unfortunately, I had Elmer Fudd's little tune "kill the rabbit" stuck in my head. Gulp.

Rabbit and Sweet Potato Stew
  • 1 rabbit, about 3 pounds, cut up
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil.
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, sauteed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Dijon mustard, for garnish 
  1. Preheat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoon butter or olive oil.
  2. Dredge rabbit pieces in flour and add to pot. Brown meat on all sides. 
  3. Add celery, onions, salt, pepper, bay leaves, water and wine. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for two hours, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in remaining tablespoon butter or olive oil until nicely browned. 
  5. After stew has simmered for two hours, add sweet potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. Simmer 20-25 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. 
  6. Mix flour and remaining 1/3-cup water until no lumps remain. Stir this mixture into stew to thicken. 
  7. Ladle stew into serving bowls and garnish with Dijon mustard. 

Make sure your knife is sharp
Brown rabbit meat on all sides
This stew is loaded with vegetables!

Thicken stew with flour mixture

Reader poll: Have you ever eaten rabbit? What is your favorite recipe?

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Friday, December 21, 2012

{Recipe Redux} Gadget Gifts - Worm Tower Composter

Living lightly on the planet has been a main  focus of my life. I am fascinated by gardens and how plants grow, like playing in the dirt and am refreshed by time spend outdoors. The theme of this month's Recipe ReDux is kitchen gadgets. What is our favorite?

As an avid cook and foodie, picking a favorite kitchen tool feels akin to picking a favorite child. Yikes! There are some classic choices - a good, sharp knife that fits the hand of the cook is probably the most important. I use my kitchen aid mixer all the time and lately have been making a bunch of veggie-full pureed soups using my immersion blender. However, I wanted to write about something unique; a worm composter that helps my kitchen and home to be more green.

One year ago I bought a worm composter that I use in my Washington DC basement. I had wanted one for a long time - it makes me upset to throw away food scraps - but was moving too much to justify buying one. Now that I have had one for a year, I am happy to recommend it to you! As this is an unusual kitchen addition, I am going to enlist the help of Miss Guided to cover the basics of composting in the city and clear up myths and concerns. We last spoke with Miss Guided about cloth napkins and why we should use them daily, not just for special occasions.

Thank you to my brother, Chris, for being my photographer!


An Interview with Miss Guided: Worm Composting

Miss Guided (MG): Eww. Worms. Really? Why are you welcoming red wigglers into your house?
Holly Larson (HL): I am using a worm composting system because it can be done inside. Since I live in the city, some composting systems aren't appropriate to use outside in a city as they would attract mice, rats and other vermin. Another advandate of using worms is that they make the process very fast.

MG: What does your composting gear include? A gas mask? Snorkel? Hazmat suit?
HL: No! Surprisingly the system doesn't smell. This has been verified by friends, my roommates and my family. If there is something wrong with the system, it can smell. I chose to buy the above system from amazon because was much more hands off. You could also give making your own a try, but I was hesitant to paw through the worms too much.

MG: How long did it take you to dig up all of those worms?
HL: I actually bought them online too; they came in a cardboard box and I added them to the worm tower.

MG: Who cares about composting?
HL: I do, and we all should. The majority of garbage being buried in the landfill is compostable - this includes paper, cardboard and food scraps. Food waste in the landfill creates methane and contributes to climate change. By removing these things from the waste stream, you're building good soil for your garden and house plants and reducing use of fossil fuels to transport waste.

MG: What can you compost in your worm tower?
HL: There is a lot! Any paper or cardboard, egg and berry cartons, egg shells, leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps (avoid citrus), coffee grounds, tea bags, peanut shells, banana peels, etc.

Ready to compost!
MG: What things do you have to avoid when worm composting?
HL: The plastic windows in envelopes, coated paper, fats and oils, meats or dairy (worms are vegan). I've heard worms don't like onion peels, but I've put them in and haven't heard any complaints from the composting crew.

MG: So now you expect me to run to the worm composter after each meal?
HL: I collect scraps into a quart yogurt container and add it to the composter when it is full. It depends on how much my roommates and I are cooking, but it is usually 1-2 times per week.

The top newspaper is peeled back so I can add food scraps. Hello worms!
MG: Then what?
HL: The worm tower is a set of stacking trays that are perforated on the bottom - like your spaghetti colander. When you're setting up the composter for the first time, you set up a single tray and add damp bedding for the worms. This tray is called the working tray. The bedding and the working compost should be like a wrung out sponge - damp, but not too wet. You can use shredded paper (excellent way to prevent identity theft!), brown leaves or buy shredded cocoanut shells, called coir. The directions said not to use pine needles. The tower came with one coir block, but I haven't elected to buy any more since I have a paper shredder and that makes it easy and free. Under the bedding, you add the food scraps and your worms. Across the top you lay a whole piece of damp newspaper - this maintains the moisture level in the system and helps prevent bugs from finding your composter. When you have  more scraps to add, just put them in a different corner of the working tray, under the bedding. When your working tray is full, remove the solid piece of newspaper, or tear is up and mix into the working tray. Place an empty tray on top of the working tray and add fresh, damp bedding. Bury food scraps in the top tray and add a new piece of damp newspaper; this is now the working tray.

Tip: save the plastic bag from the dry cleaner for maneuvering your trays - lay the plastic on the floor and use is as a place to set the trays without dirtying the floor or dripping when you carry a tray to your garden.

Finished compost - white spot is an egg shells; just fine to add to the garden
MG: How many trays are there? What happens when you fill up the last one?
HL: You can buy towers with 3-5 trays. When your top tray is full, your bottom tray should be fully composted. You remove the bottom tray from the stack, admire the hard work of your worms, and then add this rich compost to your garden or house plants. The plant will thank you. There will probably be some worms in there but they'll be fine in your garden.

Finished compost - ready to add to your garden!
MG: What is that spigot for?
HL: That is the only other regular maintenance you'll need to do. As the food breaks down, they release water. After adding food to the composeter, I'll usually use the same quart yogurt container to drain any extra water - called compost leachate. Use the leachate to water your lawn. This is not the same thing as compost tea where you soak finished compost to "brew" tea. Leachate potentially has harmful bacteria and so you do not want to water your edibles with it.

Compost leachate - best thrown onto your lawn

MG: I don't have a garden. I don't have a yard. 
HL: It is never too late to start a love for gardening - you can choose to save the finished compost for a future garden, or you could find someone who would take your compost. Or, you could sprinkle around a tree or bush in your yard or in a local park.

Side dressing my basil plants with finished compost
MG: Have you had any problems with your system?
HL: One time I did have some kind of mold or fungus growing in one tray. I just threw away the contents of that tray, gave it a thorough rinse with the hose and reused. I haven't seen anything like it since. I do occasionally see flies, but they haven't been a problem. One tip I read was to keep one tray full only of shredded paper on top of your working tray because it is harder for the flies to get in and out of all that paper.

MG: really doesn't smell?
HL: Really! It doesn't smell!

Reader poll: Do you compost? Do you live in the city, in a suburb or in the country? How is it working for you?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ten ways to be green while saving green

It is a shame how often people thing that being green and being frugal are mutually exclusive - they're not! In and out of the kitchen, we can be better stewards to our earth and keep that green in your wallet. Here are a few ideas to get you inspired:

  1. Skip bottled water: bottled water is creating an enormous amount of trash, takes fuel to produce and transport and is often just tap water anyway. I have a stainless steel bottle that I tote everywhere.
  2. Wash clothes using cold water they get just as clean and significantly reduce your energy used while running the machine. You also don't have to sort clothes into different colors as using cold water reduces color bleeding.
  3. Hang clothes to dry - saves electricity and cost of drier sheets. It really doesn't take that long. Added winter bonus? As the clothes dry, they are adding humidity to the dry air in your home.
  4. Use cloth napkins all the time - not just for special occasions. Paper towels cost 1-3 bucks per roll and can only be used once. They're also not doing anything for your mealtime ambiance.
  5. Skip the plastic wrap and use a pot to store bread, muffins and bagels. Plastic wrap can cost $2-4 per roll.
  6. Make coffee at home and carry in a reusable mug or jar. Add spices to keep it interesting.
  7. Cook at home and pack your lunch. You save on food costs and packaging and it is usually healthier to boot. If you're a kitchen newbie, start small, take risks and don't be discouraged. We've all had our kitchen disasters!
  8. Cereal Killer Muffins
  9. Re-purpose food instead of throwing it away. Stale cereal can be used to make Cereal Killer Muffins and stale bread is easily turned into bread crumbs.
  10. Eat lower on the food chain. Beef is easily 4 or 5 times as expensive as beans. Conventionally raised beef is devastating for the environment - choosing meatless meals lowers your carbon "plate-print". If eating meat, look for animals that are raised responsibly and are fed grass - that is what cows are supposed to eat and they're healthier for it. Check out Meatless Monday for recipe inspiration and more information. 
  11. Use two wheels - The benefits of traveling by bike are endless, but better focus in school and at work, less dependance on oil, not needing a gym membership and rethinking unnessary trips and purchases (do I really want to carry that home on a bike?) are a few.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of feeling overwhelmed with wanting to make too many changes at once, or worse, feeling like what you're doing doesn't matter: it does! Do what you can and build from there.

 Reader Poll: What is your best tip for being green and saving green?

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cereal Killer Muffins: when good cereal goes bad

Cereal Killer Muffins: when good cereal goes bad

This muffin recipe is a quick way to use up cereal that has gone stale and bananas that are past prime. The cereal rises like the phoenix into something new and improved and we don't waste so much food! Good choices.

In the US, nearly 14% of trash headed towards the landfill is food waste; this staggering number accounts for 34 million tons of food waste generated in 2010! Holy cats! Beyond prevention, this food waste could easily be diverted to a compost pile (if you're in the country and aren't supporting a rat family) or a worm bin (anywhere) or fed to chickens (anywhere). Food waste deserves its own posting, but for now, give these muffins a try and do your part to lower food waste ending up in the landfill.

For more information from the EPA about food waste click here.

Cereal Killer Muffins

2 cups stale cereal ('O' shaped cereal works well)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 cup of banana puree (2-3 medium bananas mushed)
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray or line with paper muffin cups
  3. Crush cereal; try a potato masher, the bottom of a glass, or let your kitchen helper use a rolling pin to crush the cereal in between clean tea towels (can we do this without plastic bags?).
  4. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until just mixed (don't over mix*). Distribute batter between the 12 muffin cups evenly and bake 18-22 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a few muffins comes out clean
Note: If these last longer than ten minutes in your kitchen and don't have a big enough storage container, try your stock pot. 

Measure stale cereal
Crush using a potato masher, the bottom of a glass or a rolling pin
Measure ingredients into large mixing bowl

Mix until just combined

Divide between 12 muffin cups and bake until done

*Food science: muffins are in a classification of baked good called quick breads;  they are fast to whip up in the kitchen and their name comes as an alternative to yeast breads; those breads that get their air bubbles from yeast exhaling inside the bread dough in a process that takes a few hours. Whole wheat bread is created when the flour is kneaded and gluten is pieced together, much like making a paper chain to decorate for a party. The chewy texture comes from the gluten and desirable in sandwich bread.

Quick breads use chemical processes to create air bubbles using the baking powder or soda. The baking soda  If we mix the bread too much, we develop too much gluten and our flaky biscuits or tender muffins quickly turn into rocks. So, long story short, just mix enough to wet the dry ingredients and evenly distribute everything.

Science rules!

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Cloth napkins: not for special occasions

Cloth napkins: not for special occasions

You may have noticed that in my food photography, there is often a cloth napkin nearby. This isn't just for show; I really do only use cloth napkins if I can help it. 

Cloth napkins add that special touch to a dinner party or picnic, they're greener than paper napkins and
Folded; no ironing please!
they're more sturdy and protect your work clothes better too. Why, then, aren't we using them more? 

I think we are too worried about the work needed to use and maintain napkins. However, if we give ourselves permission to just not iron them, not to worry about staining them and not to worry if they're matching, there is a lot less to worry about!

Trash can to neatly collect dirty napkins and towels before being washed.
We can be misguided with our worries about using cloth napkins. And so, I have invited Miss Guided over for an interview to address the main concerns inhibiting our use of cloth napkins. I hope this will encourage you to get yours out or to pick some up!

An interview with Miss Guided: Cloth Napkins

Miss Guided (MG): Holly, doesn't it take a lot of work to iron all of those cloth napkins?
Holly Larson (HL): Miss Guided, I don't iron the napkins at all! I avoid ironing like the plague. In fact, I had to search the house high and low to even find my iron when a house guest wanted to use it.
MG: *gasps* If I understand you correctly, you're using wrinkled napkins, in public?
HL: Yes. Not only that, I use them for dinner parties, on picnics, in my packed lunch and for brunches
MG: Holly, do your napkins match?
HL: Nope; I have collected them over the years from outlet malls, thrift stores and  have received them as gifts. Cloth napkins are also available for purchase from and other online stores.
MG: Do your friends call you a hooligan for displaying mismatched and wrinkled napkins?
HL: Not to my face
MG: (Miss Guided faints)
HL: Holly pats Miss Guided's face with a damp cloth napkin. Oh, the irony. 

Tip: if you hang your napkins to dry, fold them in half and hang them evenly over the wire; this way they're a snap to pull off when they're dry. The napkins will already be folded into fourths and save you time.

Hung to dry; no electricity needed
Folded; no ironing please!

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