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Nourishing Mondays: Vegetarian Taco Salad

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Who doesn’t love taco night?? With fresh ingredients, this recipe for vegetarian taco salad is sure to be a Monday night hit!

Ingredients:

2 mini (or 1 regular-sized) yellow orange bell peppers, seeded, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
½ medium cucumber, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 scallion, slice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup salsa of choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 avocado, pitted, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta or cotija cheese

Directions:

Combine bell peppers, tomato, cucumber, celery, scallion, parsley, cilantro, chili powder, and salt in a medium bowl; toss well. Add salsa and olive oil; stir well to mix. Gently fold in avocado and cheese.

Serve as a salad, atop cooked brown rice, or over refried beans and hard-shell corn tortillas for incredible instant tostadas.

Serves: 2 large portions

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Sustainable Saturdays: How to Support Sustainability

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Every Saturday Foodem dedicates this blog to sustainability and this Saturday is no different.  But today I wanted to share specific ways you can personally support food and crop sustainability. As you read the list you will see how important it is for us to stay connected with our food supply.  Remember our food comes from the Earth not the grocery shelf!

  1. Learn to cook

Without having basic cooking skills, it’s virtually impossible to support the sustainability movement as you will be forced to rely on pre-made convenience foods.  Even learning simple skills and a few basic recipes will open up you up to embracing the world of eating and cooking in a sustainable manner.

  1. Eat food that is in season

Not only does eating food in season reduce the amount of transportation required to bring food to market, it is also is a great way to vary you home menu by seasons.

  1. Plant a garden

Most Americans no longer see any of their food grown. It simply appears on the grocery shelf which creates a disconnect where price is valued over quality and the process of growing.  Start small with tomatoes or an herb pot and you might just catch the gardening bug. As I know fall and winter is approaching you could even try an inside hydroponic garden!

  1. Save fresh food for later

If you already have a large garden, you probably know the challenge of using all of your harvest in August and September.  Learn canning, freezing, preserving, or dehydrating so you can enjoy your summer harvest well into the winter.

  1. Refuse to buy ultra cheap food products

The “Walmart Way” is an amazing demonstration of economic efficiencies but what is lost is the environmental and sustainability challenges.  Remember when you are saving a few dollars at the register buying the ultra cheap produce, you are also paying a cost to our environment.

  1. DIY Convenience Foods

These foods are made at low prices and in mass quantities but many of these can be made at home in small batches. You will be shocked at your appreciation for these convenience foods when you make them yourself. Start by trying to make taco seasoning, chicken stock, or tomato sauce.

Even if you aren’t able to embrace all of these, try a couple out this month.  These can build new habits which will help us all support long-term sustainability.

About the Author:

Chris Wimmer writes about gardening, cooking, and juicing at HealthSmartLiving.com.  You can also follow him on facebook and twitter.

(Photo Courtesy: Wendy Copley)

Nourishing Mondays: Quinoa Pizza Bites

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Who says you can’t have fun with quinoa? Check out this recipe for quinoa pizza bites.

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup canned (or cooked) pinto beans
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar of choice, or pinch stevia (this is for balance and can be left out if you absolutely must)
mozzarella cheese of choice, such as Daiya, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a baking sheet well, then set aside. In a medium bowl, mash the beans completely. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Taste, then add a little more sweetener only if needed. (Mine didn’t need it.) Roll into balls, then break off a piece of the cheese—if using—and push it into the middle before sealing the ball back up. Place the balls onto the baking tray and cook 30 minutes. For a crispy outer shell, feel free to broil a minute at the end.

Servings 8-10

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Sustainable Saturdays: Is HHP Good for Juice?

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The fresh squeezed juice category has been a source of rapid growth for high end grocery stores, local juice shops, and small specialized beverage makers.  This success has attracted the attention of the larger beverage companies looking for their next big profit driver.  Until recently, what has made fresh squeezed juice so popular also helped keep the big companies out.

Fresh cold pressed juice is packed with ultra nutrition but must be consumed within 72 hours or risk spoilage and the rapid loss of the original nutrition.  For big companies with massive national distribution systems, 72 hours isn’t long enough to produce and distribute to customers.

Now enter HHP or High Hydrostatic Pressurization which is based on the Le Chatelier principle which states that increasing the applied pressure on a liquid will kill or slow bacteria and other pathogens.

Based on this principle, companies now produce cold press juice on a massive industrial scale and extend the shelf life to 14 days but placing the juice into large pressurized tanks to ‘safely’ pasteurize the juice.

While this type of food technology advance promises to bring wider distribution and improved affordability to the juice market, it is not without controversy.  Traditional producers of fresh cold press juices question whether the HHP technique also destroys the juice’s vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that their customers are seeking.

The data is limited and not clear yet. While more studies are on-going, the early studies have been mixed and also are subject to interpretation.  For example, research studying blueberry and pomegranate juice found that after 14 days the HHP treated juice did have more residual nutrition vs. an untreated juice.  However, opponents of using HHP point out that the pressurized juice still has 15% to 25% less than a traditional cold pressed juice drank within the first 24 hours.

This battle will continue to play out and it’s important to point out that there are no current FDA labeling rules requiring disclosure of the HHP process.   Given the lack of labeling requirements, the best ways to ensure you are still drinking truly fresh squeezed juice is to buy them from stores that produce on site or to juice at home.

What are your thoughts on this debate?  Join the discussion on Foodem’s facebook page.

About the Author:

Chris writes about gardening, cooking, and juicing at HealthSmartLiving.com. Chris has a great juicing resource page for anyone looking to learn more about how to juice at home.

(Photo Courtesy: bertholf)

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September 5: Favorite Sites Friday

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Here’s another interesting mix of food-related websites and blogs for your reading entertainment. #FavoriteSitesFriday

  1. Crunchy Betty: If you’re looking for an alternative to purchasing harmful cosmetics and household products, check out Crunchy Betty. You will find tons of DIY that will save money, as well as our environment.
  2. Tech.Food.Life: An IT architect by trade, Eva Smith created Tech.Food.Life, which is a lifestyle blog that highlights technology trends, food, nonprofits, events, reviews and giveaways. It also actively promotes and engages in activities that support the advancement of all women, entrepreneurship, education and new media.
  3. She Know’s Food & Recipes: Searching for seasonal recipes? Want to know how to entertain your guest or what wine to serve with your menu? Do you need to know how to preserve your spices? All of this and more can be found on this site. This site is a one-stop shop for all of your food and entertainment needs.
  4. My Life Runs On Food: This blog is all about food. Given our daily lives and all the running around we do, it’s hard to get a well-balanced meal in sometimes. My Life Runs On Food is a blog demonstrating how to plan a well-balanced meal back into our lives. There are “brown-bagging” it tips and seasonal recipes. You will also find advice on how to adapt life events into a weekly menu, and how to quickly update a menu in the middle of the week because of a sudden change of plans.
  5. LocalHarvest: Consumer demand is driving the “buy local” trend and LocalHarvest is helping to make that easier. LocalHarvest is a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, sustainably grown foods and other local food resources. Additionally, the website offers event information, an online store, which helps small farms develop markets, a forum, various blogs and more.

Be sure to share your food-related site with us, we’d love to feature it in our next Favorite Sites Friday post. Leave us your URL in the comments area or shoot us a tweet @foodem.

 

Natural or Store-Bought?

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It seems like there are new household products being released every day. But we have to wonder: how are the chemicals in these products affecting our environment, our bodies, and our homes.

If you have ever been puzzled over the chemical-filled ingredient list on the back of your shampoo and condition bottles, and are curious about alternatives to these highly processed commercial goods, then you are not alone. There has been a quiet backlash against potentially harmful synthetics as more and more people experiment with homemade natural versions of cleaning and beauty products.

Why not try a few DIY versions yourself. Let’s take a look at a few methods.

Do your laundry

An easy combination of borax, bar soap, and washing soda will save you 16 cents per load! Try this alternative to store bough laundry detergent.

Clean your carpet

Baking soda and vinegar make another useful appearance in this DIY recipe designed to replace your current chemical-filled carpet cleaner. All you need to do is mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar together to form a paste, and rub the paste into the carpet stain using an old toothbrush. Let it dry, and use a vacuum to clean up the baking soda. Repeat until the stain disappears.

”No poo” for your hair

Many people are afraid to reduce the amount of shampoo they use, complaining that their hair either becomes greasy or extremely dry without it. But what they don’t realize is that shampoo strips your hair of its essential oils, which actually causes it to produce more oil to compensate or vice versa. Despite its silly name, the “no poo” method can be quite effective for some. It involves replacing your shampoo with baking soda and your conditioner with apple cider vinegar. Experimenters of this method swear that their hair has never been healthier.

Refresh your skin

Reading like a cookbook, this recipe for a facial scrub is not meant to be eaten. Instead, mix together grits, honey, and your favorite oil and massage your face, sloughing off dead skin and leaving your face feeling refreshed.

Bye-bye to bugs

Summer and fall are great seasons, but it comes with a few pests: insects, to be exact. Rather than spraying potentially harmful DEET on your body to keep the mosquitos, ticks, and flies at bay, try this homemade version instead. It combines essential oils with rubbing alcohol and vinegar for more gentle protection.

While there are several products on the market that use all-natural ingredients, these are just a few examples of how you can take control of your cleaning and beauty products. Not only will you be protecting your body and the environment from chemical damage, you will also be saving quite a bit of money in the process.

(Photo Courtesy: Alex Van)

Guest Post: Tips for Growing a Spice Garden in Window Planters

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What can add a natural zest to your home better than an herb garden? Actually, the benefits of houseplants stretch beyond aesthetics and herbs will provide fresh odors to boot.

With spice-filled window planters, you can pick your herbs right in your kitchen, and toss them directly into your favorite recipes. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save on squirrel repellent! In order to reap the many gifts of an indoor spice garden, let’s get planting.

Seeds vs. Plants

First, decide if you want to begin with seeds or plants. Seeds are cheaper but they have a greater chance of dying early on. Seeds will also take longer to produce, so if you want your herbs to be available soon, opt for the plants. Check seed packages to confirm that they’re fresh before buying.

Choose Your Herbs

How do you want to use your herbs? As additions to recipes? Medicinal purposes? Here are some options:

  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano

Prep the Pot

You can purchase pots at the store, or make them out of empty food containers. Regardless of your choice between seeds vs. plants, you’re going to want the bottom of your pot to have drainage holes. Line the bottom ¼ of your pot with pebbles in order to assist drainage.

If you bought seeds, fill the remainder of the pot with soil. Using soil from your yard will work, but purchasing nutrient-rich soil may yield healthier plants. These types of soil feed the plants, increasing their chances of flourishing.

Only fill ¾ of the pot with soil if you bought plants.

Place the pots on cloth or in plastic – something to catch the drained water.

Plant

Read the seeds’ packets to know what’s best for them. This should provide instructions regarding 1) how deep they should be planted and 2) how many seeds can thrive in a certain amount of space. Usually, seeds should be planted about ¼ of an inch below the soil.

Insert plants into your pot’s soil with about 7 inches between different plants’ stems. Arrange them with taller plants in the center. Fill gaps with soil.

Nurture

Cover your pots with plastic wrap to ensure the pots are warm and humid. Spray your pots with water so that the soil never dries out. When your seeds grow to 5-6 inch plants, consider transferring them to bigger pots. If you started with plants, top them occasionally to encourage them to continue thriving.

Now you can sit back and enjoy the natural look and smells of your beautiful indoor spice garden.

(Photo Courtesy: missellyrh)

Welcome Fall With Open Arms

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Labor Day is always a reminder that summer has come to a close and fall is here. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Fall can be a great season for locally-available produce and those nostalgic fall flavors. The last of the bright summer fruits and vegetables are fading from the market tables, to be replaced with darker, more savory produce.

Fall is the time to start harvesting and storing for winter. Before the first frost, you’ll want to aggressively harvest any herbs you’re growing. Most herb plants are perennials, and will survive all but the harshest winters, but they go dormant in the colder months and won’t produce new leaves. Annual herbs, like basil, won’t survive the winter outdoors. Either way you won’t be able to go out to the garden and pick fresh herbs, so you should try to dry or freeze as much as possible.

Though summer is the season of overabundance, there are many foods that peak in fall. Soft-skinned squash like zucchini rules the summer, but its harder-skinned cousins, like “winter squash”. These varieties have a long shelf life and pair beautifully with the warm spices we associate with fall – cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

In much of the US, local apples and peaches (in some areas) will hit their stride in September. Cranberries come into season in early autumn and continue into the winter. Figs, chestnuts, and quinces are among a few underrated stars of fall.

Fall means returning to braising and roasting, techniques that heat up the kitchen far too much for a summer meal. Hearty meals like soups, stews, and chilis are welcomed back as the weather creeps to lower temps. Whether you’re a home cook or a chef cooking for customers in a restaurant, they will appreciate something to warm their bellies as the temperatures begin to dip. Fall is more changeable than winter, though, and there will be warmer days sprinkled in, when you can still serve fare reminiscent of summer. Melons, such as cantaloupes and late watermelons, can bridge this gap. Raspberries can also extend into the early fall, and have the versatility to be served light and cooling or rich and warming.

So, don’t despair the end of summer. Yes, we’re leaving behind strawberries, fresh crisp cucumber, and tender new potatoes. But we’re welcoming a whole new selection of delicious produce to look forward to.

(Photo Courtesy: keywest3 )

Nourishing Mondays: Caramelized Onion Cheeseburgers

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Send summer out with a bang. Go the classic route and serve cheeseburgers to your guest this Labor Day. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 small clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb. 85%-lean ground beef
4 slices Comté or Gruyère cheese
4 good-quality hamburger buns or rolls, split
12 fresh arugula leaves

Directions:

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Alternatively, position an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil and lightly oil the perforated part of the pan.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper; reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply golden brown and tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

Combine the mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, rosemary, and garlic in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, gently combine the beef with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Form the beef into 4 patties (3-1/2 inches in diameter) and make a deep depression in the center of each patty so the burgers keep their shape during cooking. Lightly sprinkle the patties with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Grill or broil them on the prepared pan for about 4 minutes per side for medium, or until desired doneness. Top each burger with 1 slice of the cheese and grill or broil until melted, 30 to 60 seconds.

Toast the buns on the grill or under the broiler until golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve the burgers on the toasted buns with the caramelized onions, mayonnaise, and arugula.

Serves 4

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Sustainable Saturdays: Stand Up for Water!

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We often talk about small ways to save our environment and our precious natural resources. Today, water is the topic at hand. Whether we are in the midst of a drought, or you just want to see a lower number on your water bill, it might be worth making some minor changes in order to conserve water. It turns out, there are sustainable ways to wash your car, clean your dishes, and stay hydrated.

Drinking: It may not seem like it’s a waste, but running the water until it gets cold is very wasteful. Keep a ready-to-grab pitcher of water in your refrigerator. This can be a water filtration pitcher or just a standard glass carafe, but either way you will have cold and refreshing water on hand at all times.

Washing Dishes: If you wash dishes by hand, fill or cover dirty dishes with water, let them soak and then rinse them with a sponge using the soaking water. If, on the other hand, you use a dishwasher, use the water-saving mode. That’s what it’s there for.

In the shower: Some of us have the habit of turning on the water and going about other tasks for several minutes while the water “warms up.” That’s a no, no. Get into the shower immediately after turning on the water. Another tip is to turn the faucet off while applying soap or shampoo. Turn it back on when you are ready to rinse off. Easy, right?

Watering plants: Have you ever heard of the upside-down water bottle technique? This is great for potted plants and it’s easy to do. First, cut several holes in the cap of a plastic bottle, cut off the bottom, and fill it with water. Then, place the bottle cap-side down in a plant, allowing the water will leak out gradually. Not only are you conserving water, you’re also re-using your plastic bottles.

Washing Your Car: Fill a bucket with soap and water instead of spraying your car with a hose. Scrub the car with the soapy water from the bucket and only bring out the hose for the final rinse.

What are some other tips and tricks you use to conserve our precious resource, water?

(Photo Courtesy: KL Images)