Small Actions – Mixed Greens Blog http://mixedgreensblog.com Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Resolutionary Thoughts: Snacks Unwrapped & Plastic http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/12/28/seasons-eatings/snacks-unwrapped/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/12/28/seasons-eatings/snacks-unwrapped/#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=7084 dried apricots and hazelnuts

I’m reading the paper the other morning, oblivious to the impending New Year, when from across the room Bob asked if I had resolutions for 2010. Not yet, was my absent-minded reply. But then the brain started buzzing, independent of what I thought I wanted it to do, and it began to muse about the list I make each new year, an enumeration of intention. Flights of fancy some, and difficult or impossible to accomplish, others easy enough and will be checked off the list before December 31, 2010.

(Yes, this is a repost from 2010, but apropos again, we think. Happy New Year, 2015.)

Dried fruit and nuts

Collectively the list is biographical, a reflection of the small and large things in life that currently seem important,  a personal state of mind-ful or mind-lessness. Every year, because I love a physical thrill like zip lines or kayaking into caves, I consider putting sky diving on the list – the flying through the air part tempting, the jumping out of the plane part preposterous. And that’s the dilemma of what could vs. what will end up on a list. The exercise reveals the presence, or lack thereof, of a lifestyle yin and yang, sometimes well balanced, sometimes not. Last year’s list included tiramisu from scratch, building a stone sculpture, more dancing and writing a story. Attainable.

From out of the blue came two of this year’s nominees: nuts and plastics. (I know. Yaaaaaawn.)

*”Except for the very small amount that’s been incinerated – and it’s a very small amount – every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”

Would I like to know Dr. Oz’s Realistic Resolutions for 2010? Again, from across the room. And this time he doesn’t wait for a response, just starts to read a list from the NY Times. Commit to family night, seven minutes of yoga a day, go to bed earlier, keep nuts/healthy snacks handy, make space for sit-ups in front of the TV . . . the list goes on, but he had me at the snack, simple, sustainable, healthy nuts. Not  revolutionary, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but then the moment arrives when you’re ready to take it in. Not sexy material for the annual list, but healthwise a grand idea. Resolutionary. So, Oz, along with *Sue Casey (science writer), brought me to a couple of this year’s convictions: to drastically diminish my consumption of plastic and to increase my consumption of nuts.

And now you know this isn’t going to be a hefty food story with a recipe at the end, but a statement about a simple resolve: to snack healthfully, and, it turns out, sustainably – without the requisite specially snack sized cutely wrapped plastic containers. For me, a snack of hazelnuts (Holmquist Farms is a good Washington source), and dried apricots or our own dried plums is appealing – crunchy protein with a chewy bite of sweet fruit. Local food without excessive wrappings and trappings. The environmental trick is to buy in bulk and then make sure they’re available in the car, at the desk, in the kitchen. Despite resolve, those other snacks won’t disappear, the chips and chocolate, but diminish. I’m not completely crazy.

dried fruits and nuts snack

Inexplicably perhaps, a couple of common snack foods are off limits in my book. Peanut butter and energy bars. Never, nada, nichts. I know that it’s a culinary sin to hate peanut butter and my credibility just took a nosedive. I made a decision about peanut butter when I was four and it has held. Unless it’s baked into a cookie, forget about it. But, a simple pile of nuts (no peanuts) and dried fruit, I’m in.

And there’s no extraneous, small-portions-plastic-packaging involved. Bonus points. This is significant. Our planet is suffocating from discarded plastic. (Take a look at this site, amazing environmental/informational art,
Chris Jordan’s photographs of America’s Intolerable Beauty.) 

And here’s to un-wrapping healthy snacks in 2010 (& again in 2015.)

*The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2007 includes a piece by Susan Casey called Plastic Ocean, which might change a person’s sensibility about buying anything at all that’s surrounded by or made of plastic. Of the plastics we commonly use and conscientiously recycle, only 3-5% are reused in any way.

“Except for the very small amount that’s been incinerated – and it’s a very small amount – every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”

“Set aside the question of why we’re creating ketchup bottles and six-pack rings that last for half a millennium and consider the implications of it: plastic never really goes away.”

Maybe we can scare ourselves into healthy unpackaged snacks. A worthy resolution. snacks unwrapped

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Farm to Vase: Local Flowers http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/04/29/local-living/farmers-markets/farm-to-vase-local-flowers/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/04/29/local-living/farmers-markets/farm-to-vase-local-flowers/#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2012 19:03:16 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=16092

I’ve always considered myself lucky to have a “flower name” because I adore flowers but then, who doesn’t? Making a bouquet for the kitchen table is a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. It can be practically anything from the yard — flowers, grasses, fruits, herbs, branches, even vegetables gone to seed.  Scissors in hand, I just roam around the garden or down the alley and there’s always something to bring in and admire.

A few weeks ago, inspired by the transformation of my garden from winter to early spring, I gathered a bouquet to photograph. As luck would have it, the very next day I was looking at Valerie Easton’s blog, Plant Talk, and lo and behold, she was sponsoring a spring bouquet contest. So, I entered and not to brag about it but… I won! One of the prizes is her lovely new book, Petal & Twig: Seasonal Bouquets with Blossoms, Branches and Grasses. Valerie is one of my favorite local garden writers and I’m sure you’ve seen some of her excellent writing in the Seattle Times or maybe one of her many books. Petal & Twig is a guide to living seasonally by bringing bits and pieces of nature indoors to renew our connection with the beauty that surrounds us.

 

For those of us who are passionate about eating local food, using local flowers to adorn our homes makes perfect sense. The local flower movement is gaining momentum at a fast pace even though 80 percent of all cut flowers sold in the US are still imported. Washington state is leading the trend in cut flower sales, second only to California. Our local flower growers, many from the Skagit Valley, have organized themselves, along with some growers from Alaska and Oregon and opened a cooperative in a warehouse Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood called the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. As the name implies, this is open for wholesale only but some of the same growers sell at our local farmers markets. One of my favorites is Choice Bulb Farms for their eclectic selection. You can find them Saturdays at the University Farmers Market.

A beautiful bouquet is always a welcome hostess gift. The next time you’re tempted to run into the grocery store and pick up some of the cellophane wrapped flowers, think instead about going to the farmers market and supporting our local flower growers.

   Walking through the market stalls during tulip season can be overwhelming. The colors are gorgeous and the potential combinations are endless. You’ll find that most vendors have pre-made bouquets but are also open to incorporating your choices if you can bear to choose. These people are pros and the flowers are much fresher than what you’ll find that’s been shipped from South America. You can always ask each grower about their use of fertilizers and pesticides and usually they’re happy to discuss their practices with you. If you want to go straight to the source, The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing now until the end of April.

Don’t worry if you don’t make it to the tulip festival now. Later in the summer there will be zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, just to name a few. If you have an event coming up or if you just want to bring some beauty into your home, think about using local flowers.

To learn more about seasonal, local and sustainable flowers in our region, check out The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing. It’s loaded with information about the growing field of “slow flowers”.

 

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Less meat is more, as in Ping Gai Chicken http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/01/04/seasons-eatings/protein/less-is-more/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/01/04/seasons-eatings/protein/less-is-more/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2012 01:10:13 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=15263 For me, the less is more theory applied to the eating of meat has kicked in. Taste buds appreciate the deliciousness of other flavors and the notion of sacrifice is gone. It helps that I know it’s also better for the planet that I and millions of others are eating less meat – obviously, millions of vegetarians have been in the forefront of that movement for a very long time.

Given my upbringing it’s a little surprising. The production of and the eating of beef were a way of life. Grandparents and father were cattle ranchers. On my way to vegetarianism? Probably not, but I’m simpatico with eating a lot less meat. More effort, though not a lot more time, is spent thinking about variety and flavor when putting together meals that aren’t so much meat dependent. With more variety on the plate there’s inherently more flavor. Yeah, more is more as a concept works too.

From Michael Pollen’s Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual, “Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasions food.” A quote from this small chapter: Meat, which humans have been eating and relishing for a very long time, is nourishing food, which is why I suggest “mostly plants, not “only”. It turns out that near vegetarians, or “flexitarians” – people who eat meat a couple of times a week are just as healthy as vegetarians.

As I look back through Mixed Greens’ previous posts, most main dish recipes in our archives are light on meat. It’s been happening for a while now – I just hadn’t taken notice, though I wrote about eating meat a couple of years ago. Intention for 2012 is to continue using a lot less meat in cooking. That means exploring new recipes, new flavor possibilities, and benefiting from more veggies.

For example, Ping Gai Chicken, boneless chicken thighs marinated with garlic, coriander and black pepper and then grilled or broiled. My Canadian-American sister made this the other night – awesome meal! – the recipe straight from her favorite Thai restaurant in Toronto, the Queen Mother Cafe. It can be made with more or less chicken. I can attest to the success of this one using a lot less.

We’re Eating Less Meat. Why? Mark Bittman, NY Times, 1/10/12.

Ping Gai Chicken Recipe

From the Queen Mother Cafe in Toronto

Ingredients: 2 lbs, instead of 4lbs, chicken thighs, boneless if you can get them, skin on. Use the smaller amount of chicken, which is still plenty for 6 – 8 servings.

Marinade ingredients: 1 bunch fresh cilantro/ 6 cloves garlic/ 1 T black peppercorns/ 3 T Oyster sauce/ 2 T soy sauce/ 2 T vegetable oil

Directions for chicken marinade: Put the washed bunch of cilantro, including stems and roots, into food processor with garlic and peppercorns/ Process until finely chopped/ Add oyster sauce, soy sauce and oil/ Process until combined/ Place chicken in shallow glass baking dish/ Brush all over with marinade/ Cover with plastic wrap/ Marinate at least 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.

Dipping Sauce ingredients: 1 C water/ 1/2 C sugar (or use less)/ 3 sprigs fresh cilantro/ 2 cloves garlic/ 2 T white vinegar/ 1 T lime juice/ 1 T Thai garlic chili pepper sauce/ 1 T Thai fish sauce

Directions for dipping sauce: Combine water and sugar in saucepan/ Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until dissolved/ Continue cooking 10 minutes or until reduced and syrupy/ Cool completely/ Add to food processor with cilantro, garlic, vinegar, lime juice, garlic chili pepper sauce and fish sauce/ Process until smooth.

Directions for cooking chicken: Preheat BBQ to medium high/ (If broiling, preheat broiler and cook on wire rack set in baking pan or on cookie sheet.)/ Place chicken pieces, skin side down, on greased grill/ (Place skin side up if broiling.)/ Close BBQ lid/ Cook about 8 minutes or until skin is crispy and chicken is almost cooked through/ Turn chicken/ Close lid/ Cook chicken 6 minutes more or until cooked through/ Remove meat from bone if necessary, chop into 1-inch pieces/ Serve with dipping sauce.

Serve with any rice, or Emmer Farro. Make marinade and dipping sauce on Sunday afternoon and this is a quick meal on Monday or Tuesday.

Thanks to my brother for Michael Pollen’s book for Christmas and my sister for the Ping Gai dinner. Here’s to your own version of less is more in life and to your good health in 2012.

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The Winter Tomato Dilemma http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/07/17/local-living/small-actions/the-winter-tomato-dilemma/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/07/17/local-living/small-actions/the-winter-tomato-dilemma/#comments Sun, 17 Jul 2011 23:55:35 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=13827 How can I put this delicately? You’d be out of your mind to buy tomatoes mid-winter? Or the more delicate version, think twice before consuming an industrial winter tomato from far away that’s grown with extremely questionable, shall we say, techniques.

The human cost is devastating to consider and has been referenced in a previous post, Tomato Love Gone Bad. But the industrialized tomato itself, à la southern Florida, devoid of its essential character and flavor, still, technically, a tomato, is another story. The other other story is how we can have winter, and eat good tomatoes. First, some information to strengthen your resolve.

In his recently published book, Tomatoland, How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit , Barry Estabrook reveals more than we may want to know, but need to know, about industrial tomato growing in southern Florida, where, apparently, nearly all of our winter tomatoes are grown. Here’s an excerpt from Dwight Garner’s July 5th New York Times review of Tomatoland, which is worth reading in its entirety.

Why is South Florida such a grim place to grow tomatoes, the fruit we’ve agreed to accept – don’t ask, don’t tell – as a vegetable? Florida’s sandy soil, Mr. Estabrook writes, is as devoid of plant nutrients as a pile of moon rocks. “Florida growers,” he writes, “may as well be raising their plants in a sterile hydroponic medium.”

He continues, witheringly: “To get a successful crop, they pump the soil full of chemical fertilizers and can blast the plants with more than 100 different herbicides and pesticides, including some of the most toxic in agribusiness’s arsenal.”  Migrant workers are coated with these chemicals too. The toll that’s taken on them, in the form of birth defects, cancer and other ailments, is hideous to observe and should fill those who eat Florida tomatoes with shame.

I guess they’re one of the vegetables, OK fruit, that we miss the most mid-winter. We’ve all eaten them off season, been unable to resist trying one just to make sure we’re not missing something delicious. Looks kind of like a tomato, quacks kind of like a tomato, but in heart and soul, not a tomato.

Recipes for Tomatoes in Winter . . . Preservation!

So, here’s the deal. Take advantage of local summer tomatoes wherever/whenever/however you can get them – they may not be cheap, but certainly no more than the arm and a leg required at the cash register for winter tomatoes from across the land or the world. Buy or grow some and preserve them for next winter, like a squirrel. They won’t disappoint, I promise. Tomato fiend that I am, I can testify that preserved summer tomatoes retain the glamorous aura of real honest-to-god tomatoes, canned, roasted and frozen, or dried. And in January, trust me, the tomatoes’ culinary glam factor is something to behold. Your palate will dance with joy.

Roasted Tomato Sauce, Frozen or Canned

Roasted Tomato Sauce, a Walk in the Park, Tomatoes for Winter

Sundried Tomatoes

Happiness is a bowl of Sungolds mid-winter

If all else fails, get the best tomatoes you can in late summer, a little overripe is OK. Even in a cool, wet year like this one there will be tomatoes in August and September. Rinse and quarter them, place in zip lock bags and freeze. Ten minutes, done. Use in sauce, soup, juice whenever you’re ready.

 

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In Hot Water Over A Drink of Water http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/05/26/in-the-garden/a-drink-of-water/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/05/26/in-the-garden/a-drink-of-water/#comments Thu, 26 May 2011 07:45:18 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=3717 We’ve been condemned for our over consumption of just about everything on the planet, now it’s bottled water. Like cell phones, bottled water came out of the blue a decade or so ago and once again we’ve been snookered into a product that we probably don’t need. Cell phones are another matter.

From the Natural Resources Defense Council: Bottled Water
“How does drinking bottled water affect the environment? In 2006, the equivalent of 2 billion half-liter bottles of water were shipped to U.S. ports, creating thousands of tons of global warming pollution and other air pollution. In New York City alone, the transportation of bottled water from western Europe released an estimated 3,800 tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere. In California, 18 million gallons of bottled water were shipped in from Fiji in 2006, producing about 2,500 tons of global warming pollution. And while the bottles come from far away, most of them end up close to home — in a landfill. Most bottled water comes in recyclable PET plastic bottles, but only about 13 percent of the bottles we use get recycled. In 2005, 2 million tons of plastic water bottles ended up clogging landfills instead of getting recycled.”

The outlandish part is that what’s pouring out of our faucets is generally superior or equivalent to water that comes in a plastic bottle, and it comes through a fairly energy efficient infrastructure. Whereas the shipping of bottled water around the world generates a huge carbon footprint for those few convenient sips. Some businesses now offer a bottle of water as a courtesy to customers, a kind gesture which I decline on a regular basis.

Turn on the faucet and there are ways to filter it if you must. Generally, Washington state has good water, but when I could smell chlorine in our water a few years ago, for me it was time to make a move. We converted to a large Brita filtered pitcher for our drinking water. Still wasteful since filters have to be replaced every few months and all that packaging is a nuisance. The on-faucet filters must be the best deal in terms of sustainability and we’re going there next. Truthfully, I now question all of the filtering gizmos (more marketing?). I could lighten up, live dangerously and drink water straight from the tap – what a concept.

water-drinks-1 water-drinks-2
How to escape the bottled water debacle? One possibility is to turn on the tap and brew lightly flavored and refreshing drinks on the kitchen counter that are superior to anything bottled in terms of cost, taste and waste. Jerry Traunfeld tweaked my imagination with herbal infusions, tisanes, in his Herbfarm Cookbook. Herbal lemonade was described in a previous post, Summertime Sippin’ with Herbs. The sky’s the limit with these infusions, they’re fast, can be made in large quantities and used for days. Dream something up and get brewing.

A Recipe for Herb-Infused Refreshments, Tisanes

Thank you Jerry Traunfeld.

Rosemary, lemon balm, mint, lavender (just bloomed), anise hyssop are in the garden so I picked a bunch and made a couple of batches of cold and frosty herbal beverages.

Directions for an herbal drink of water: About two cups of herbs – a mix of mint, anise hyssop and lemon balm – into a large pitcher/ Add boiling water, a couple of cups, stir and let it sit for fifteen minutes/ Remove the spent herbs, add more water, another handful of fresh herbs and some ice.

The other version is a mix of 1/2 C lavender and 1/2 C rosemary in 2 C boiling water, a tablespoon of honey and a small piece of lemon, any citrus would work, and squeeze it thoroughly before removing/ Let steep together for 20 minutes, remove spent herbs and citrus, add more water to taste and ice/ Garnish with fresh herbs and another slice of citrus if you have it.

You see how it is. There are infinite possibilities for unbottled refreshment.

These are delicate summer drinks, light and fresh, made straight from the tap and the garden. No cash, no shopping, no plastic bottles, no waste. Even if the herbs are purchased, it’s still a good deal. Make a bunch, pour into a thermal container and carry that in the car instead of a disposable plastic bottle.

And the clincher is that herbs are packed with nutrition, which we’re inclined to forget (Herbs, the garden’s green tonic, 3/09).

Just a glass of water isn’t a bad idea either. Remember that? plain-water

The following links are good sources of information about this issue. I thought I might find varied points of view, but no. Seems to be a consensus that bottled water is another modern convenience that’s become an environmental debacle.
Bottled Water: What a Waste

Breaking the Bottled Water Habit:
“Misseldine is the Sustainability Coordinator in Mill Valley, Calif., one of a growing list of 60 American cities that have canceled bottled water contracts. Except for emergencies, Misseldine believes bottled water is wasteful and largely unnecessary when we’ve invested heavily in a safe and reliable public water supply.
She also believes that the bottled water craze is creating a global environmental problem. Most bottled water is sold in small plastic containers like the ones we buy at airports. The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates Americans buy more than 28 billion single serving bottles annually. Most people assume the vast majority of plastic bottles are recycled, but that is not the case, as the market for recycling plastic is not as well developed as the infrastructure for recycling glass or paper.”

In Hot Water Over a Drink of Water is a reposting from June 2009.

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Subsidized home cooking, say what?, & super bowls http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/02/04/local-living/small-actions/subsidized-home-cooking-say-what-super-bowls/ Fri, 04 Feb 2011 23:33:11 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=12254 Thank you Mark Bittman! Among his list of ideas for making a more sustainable food system in A Food Manifesto for the Future, (NY Times, 2/2/2011), is a plug for subsidizing home cooking, perhaps not as lofty as stopping subsidies for processed food, but still:

* Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.

Backyard rhubarb patch, nourished by its own compost, coming to life again in late January.


Speaking of cooking at home, there’s this football extravaganza coming up. Make a super bowl of caramel corn.

Basic Popcorn Recipe

From a recent posting, Popcorn, No Package

Equipment: 2-quart pan with a lid. Or, use a larger pan and increase quantities.

Ingredients: 3 T high heat oil like canola or safflower/ 1/3 C popcorn/ 2 T butter/ 2 t salt. If you have a larger pan feel free to increase amounts. One third cup corn makes 6 – 7 cups popcorn, plenty for two, enough for three.

Directions: Place pan with oil over high heat/ Add popcorn/ Put the lid on and wait/ Every few moments shake the pan, either slightly off or on the burner in order to move the corn around/ You’ll begin to hear it sizzle after about a minute/ Turn heat down to medium high and continue shaking the pan, lift it off the burner from time to time/ The idea is to keep the pan hot enough to pop the corn without burning already-popped kernels/ When popping begins to subside turn the heat off, leave lid on and allow a few more corn kernels to pop/ Pour  popped corn into a large bowl/ Melt butter in the same pan which is still hot, pour over the popcorn, add salt to taste and toss it all together/ This yields 6 – 7 cups of classic popped corn.

Maple Caramel Corn Recipe

Preheat oven to 250º. Over medium heat melt 1/4 C butter (1/2 stick) and stir in 1/2 C brown sugar/ Add 1/4 C maple syrup & 1/2 t salt/ Stir together and then allow to boil without stirring for four minutes/ Turn off heat, stir in 1/4 t baking powder and 1/2 t vanilla/ Stir together and pour over 6 – 7 C popcorn/ Mix thoroughly and spread evenly on a large parchment-lined casserole or baking pan/ Bake in oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes/ Pour into a bowl and I dare you to stop eating this stuff.

The low and slow baking crisps the corn and caramel making it even more delectable. Well worth the 60 additional minutes in the oven. After the baking it can be cooled, packaged and enjoyed for several days – if it lasts. Good luck with that.

I’m bummed that I tried making caramel corn at home and succeeded. I thought it would be daunting, it’s not, and now I have this caramel corn staring me in the face. Rich and addictive, it’s hard to ignore, and, oh great, it’s easy to make.

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Popcorn, No Package http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/01/16/local-living/small-actions/popcorn-no-package/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/01/16/local-living/small-actions/popcorn-no-package/#comments Mon, 17 Jan 2011 00:34:45 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=12047 Like with *salad dressings, I’m back on the bandwagon. This time it’s popcorn. Microwaves pop corn for us these days, thank you Paul & Orville. We buy cardboard boxes full of however-many cellophane-wrapped servings, remove cellophane, set dials, pop corn, pour it out of its bag into a bowl, dispose of bag. The convenience of pretty good popcorn comes with a pile of packaging.

Popcorn can still be purchased in bulk in a bag at any grocery store. Use a little at time, make a batch from scratch, watch a movie. Some things never change.

Beyond butter and salt, popcorn flavors have taken a villainous and delicious turn. There’s Parmesan, maple caramel, curry, chili, chipotle, and chocolate popcorn to name a few . . . and easy to make.  A little longer than the 3-minute microwave variety, but not by much. Five or ten minutes to make your own batch from scratch. Same with the caramel corn + 60 minutes in the oven.

I thought paper bags would be another way to pop bulk corn in the microwave, but I’ve learned that most paper bags contain flavors – materials – that you probably don’t want in your kids’ or your own popcorn. Unless you know for sure you have ‘clean’ bags I’d abandon the microwave and try the stove top method. Plus, you know exactly what’s in the bowl because the mystery ingredients are your own.

At their remote Canadian cabin my grandparents made popcorn for us on their wood burning cook stove. There was no electricity, which was part of the allure. We’d sit around the fireplace with kerosene and candlelight and munch on freshly popped corn. I spent every summer there throughout my teens and knew, even as an adolescent, that the experience was something extraordinary. Stove top popcorn was part of it.

Basic Popcorn Recipe

Equipment: 2-quart pan with a lid. Or, use a larger pan and increase quantities.

Ingredients: 3 T high heat oil like canola or safflower/ 1/3 C popcorn/ 2 T butter/ 2 t salt. If you have a larger pan feel free to increase amounts. One third cup corn makes 6 – 7 cups popcorn, plenty for two, enough for three.

Directions: Place pan with oil over high heat/ Add popcorn/ Put the lid on and wait/ Every few moments shake the pan, either slightly off or on the burner in order to move the corn around/ You’ll begin to hear it sizzle after about a minute/ Turn heat down to medium high and continue shaking the pan, lift it off the burner from time to time/ The idea is to keep the pan hot enough to pop the corn without burning already-popped kernels/ When popping begins to subside turn the heat off, leave lid on and allow a few more corn kernels to pop/ Pour  popped corn into a large bowl/ Melt butter in the same pan which is still hot, pour over the popcorn, add salt to taste and toss it all together/ This yields 6 – 7 cups of classic popped corn.

Classic +: Toss 6 – 7 C freshly popped corn with 2 – 4 T melted butter and, instead of salt, consider lemon pepper, chipotle, garlic salt, curry, chili, parmesan, sweetened cocoa . . . I haven’t tried all of these yet, but can recommend the chili and lemon pepper. For 6 – 7 cups of popcorn start with 1 tablespoon of whichever seasoning , stir and taste, add more as needed. Chipotle pepper is hot – start with 1 teaspoon, or, go ahead and be bold.

Parmesan Cheese Popcorn: Toss 6 – 7 C popcorn with 3 T heated olive oil, 1 C finely grated Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.

Maple Caramel Popcorn: Preheat oven to 250º. Over medium heat melt 1/4 C butter (1/2 stick) and stir in 1/2 C brown sugar/ Add 1/4 C maple syrup & 1/2 t salt/ Stir together and then allow to boil without stirring for four minutes/ Turn off heat, stir in 1/4 t baking powder and 1/2 t vanilla/ Stir together and pour over 6 – 7 C popcorn/ Mix thoroughly and spread evenly in a large parchment-lined casserole or baking pan/ Bake in oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes/ Pour into a bowl and I dare you to stop eating this stuff.

The low and slow baking crisps the corn and caramel making it even more delectable. Well worth the 60 additional minutes in the oven. After the baking it can be cooled, packaged and enjoyed for several days – if it lasts. Good luck with that.

I’m bummed that I tried making caramel corn at home and succeeded. I thought it would be daunting, it’s not, and now I have this caramel corn staring me in the face. Rich and addictive, it’s hard to ignore, and, oh great, it’s easy to make.

Caramel PopCorn @ allrecipes.com provided inspiration for this trial run, though I made a smaller amount and used maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

Humble beginnings for many popcorn possibilities. Pop on, no packaging.

* Handmade Dressings for Salad

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Seafood Watch, a fish story http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/01/12/local-living/small-actions/seafood-watch-a-real-fish-story/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/01/12/local-living/small-actions/seafood-watch-a-real-fish-story/#comments Thu, 13 Jan 2011 01:01:03 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=11996

Monterey Bay Acquarium’s Seafood Watch comes up from time to time in our postings because it’s an excellent resource. When we found Cooking Up A Story‘s short video about Seafood Watch, its history and purpose, its usefulness in our lives as consumers, we nabbed it.

A few months ago we patted Mashiko’s Sushi Bar on the back for being the first sushi restaurant in Seattle to go sustainable and to adhere to Seafood Watch guidelines. Eating Out, Staying Green. Mashiko’s is a great sushi bar thanks to Chef Hajime, much loved in its neighborhood, and crowded every night of the week. When you finish a meal there a small Seafood Watch pamphlet is delivered along with the bill, meant to show Hajime’s commitment, and to serve as a guide for fish-buying customers.

Thank you Cooking Up A Story. Check out their site which is devoted to their online television series (and blog) about people, food and sustainable living.

By coincidence last night my husband was reading a piece about shrimp in The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2010 (All You Can Eat, by Jim Carrier). We’ve known that affordable shrimp have inundated markets the past few years, large, plump and cheap, and that their production has done great harm to SE Asian coastal waters. Didn’t know how widespread it has become. Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, India, Bangladesh and Guyana – all are farming shrimp in ways that are deeply harmful to both land and sea. People living in these countries are emphatically protesting the environmental degradation, but when some folks are finally making a buck, saving the environment is a hard sell.

Shrimp harvested domestically are a another choice. The Pacific Northwest has prawns from B.C. which you can get some, not all of the time, and for a price. That’s the deal.

A constant balance is required to sustain healthy sea life and presently our oceans and some species of fish are in crisis.

Printable Seafood Watch guides are available online and there’s a Seafood Watch app.

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Cook on . . . it’s green http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/12/02/local-living/small-actions/just-cooking/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/12/02/local-living/small-actions/just-cooking/#comments Thu, 02 Dec 2010 09:00:06 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=1515 We emphasize local/seasonal food on this blog, which implies the importance of cooking. Maybe we need to declare it more emphatically, champion the act of cooking in the same way we champion the use of local/seasonal ingredients, carpooling and unplugging electronics. Cooking meals from scratch is a sustainable act. Buy whole fresh food, put on an apron, turn on the tunes and get cookin’. Use seasonal and local ingredients when you can, but the cooking itself is part of living green too.

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The other side of the coin are prepackaged, processed food-like substances. Two NY Times articles got me going: one was about a father who cooks with his four-year old son almost daily (Fry Daddy); the other about the biggest challenge for Biggest Losers (tv show) is teaching contestants how to shop for and cook healthy meals from scratch (In Kitchen, ‘Losers’ Start From Scratch).  From different points of view, each article implies the powerful relationship of food and cooking to our own health and that of the planet, its impact on building community.  Bringing our kids along for that ride is part of the deal.

And whole food? Michael Pollan, trying to condense and simplify how one might approach identifying real food, says to buy only what our great-grandmothers would recognize.  Pop tarts and tater tots might not pass the test.

Not everyone knows how to or even wants to cook, which is a challenge for those wanting to maintain a relatively green lifestyle. Cooking was part of my family’s culture. My mother and father both cooked, grandmothers and grandfather, and now my brother and I and our kids too. Good fortune I think. Life’s sweetest moments are gatherings around a dinner table and the conversational banter that happens when bellies and hearts are satisfied with food homemade – some of it anyway.

Check this out, the article and video.  For Dinner (& Fast), the Taste of Home

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What are fast meals with a sustainable conscience?  What if you want to live more sustainably, but aren’t that interested or have little time?  For reluctant or time-challenged cooks out there, would it be helpful if we posted entire meals occasionally instead of  independent recipes?

Originally posted February 16, 2009. Just Cooking.

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Small Towns in Big Cities http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/10/10/local-living/small-towns-in-big-cities/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/10/10/local-living/small-towns-in-big-cities/#comments Mon, 11 Oct 2010 00:30:55 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=10928 A small town in eastern Washington was how my father-in-law described his West Seattle neighborhood. Growing up, those small towns in eastern Washington were mine. A city girl now, mostly, I understand the analogy. There’s a lot to love about the city (Picasso! at SAM) and a couple of things to hate. Commuting for one, crowded pasteurized impersonal shopping centers another. Enough said, everyone has their own list.

Open neon C & P Coffee House

Small towns are part of all big cities via distinct neighborhoods. NYC, oddly enough, kind of has this down, starting with people having the sense not to drive EVERYWHERE.

Husky's Deli NW Art & Frame neon sign

Bakery Nouveau Independently owned, small businesses abound, green spaces, beaches (aaah yes, salt air and fog horns), good restaurants, and retail that have genuine sustainable practices at heart. And, like NYC hoods, a good vibe can be found on our main street where things are hoppin’ almost any night of the week – busy restaurants, Art Walk 2nd Thursdays, and live music at Easy Street now and then, including unannounced Pearl Jam performances.

Retail owners become acquaintances just because you show up in their store from time to time, and some are friends that we catch up with like family and depart from with hugs: Lisa and Mary at Capers, Jack at Husky Deli, Stephanie at Small Clothes (recycled clothes for kids), our friends John and Frances at Click!.

Click! retail shop Small Clothes street view

I recently paid my respects to Mashiko’s Chef Hajime for his admirable use of only sustainable fish in his sushi restaurant, and he, the hotshot, sometimes irreverent, beloved local chef responded with humility and appreciation. Cameron and Pete have made C & P Coffee a great place to hang out or to have a birthday party, which I did two years ago and it was a blast. The Elliott Bay Brew Pub crew, owner, chef and manager, took time to sit down with me a couple of years ago and describe their version of running a sustainable restaurant. People trek across the city –  which, considering Seattle traffic, is a serious compliment – to buy baguettes and pastries at Bakery NouveauFresh Bistro is all about local/seasonal food and owner, BJ, is a generous participant in the community. The West Seattle Blog, our virtual command center, has become an amazing catalyst for galvanizing and unifying our neighborhood. Salons like Ola’ and Illusions galvanize our hair, spas too. We look fabulous!

Mashiko's Neighborhood shopping sprees, or just a walk on by and hello, such places brighten a day. And there are so many more . . . everyone has their own who’s who or best of list.

Neighborhood small businesses, parks, sidewalks, we love you. We appreciate the convenience of your location, that you recognize us when we stop by, that you’re there through hard times, that your presence allows us to stay close to home more of the time, reducing our hair-pulling-blood-boiling commuter frustration. We need that hair.

Shop and live locally, our battle cry! Consume less, waste less, drive less, walk more, find out what’s happening closer to home. Reduce commutes. Bump into a neighbor, a new acquaintance, have a small town moment.

Did I mention our beaches? Alki Beach

So where’s your small town?

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