Posts Tagged ‘food’

Quinoa-Stuffed Summer Squash

Remember that time I made a blog about food and sustainability and then left it high and dry? Sorry about that. I am working on finding my blog-groove and since this site surprisingly is still getting hits (thank you, restaurant reviews) and I don’t intend to stop photographing food and cooking with local ingredients any time soon, I think it makes sense to keep it going. Further, I’ll be posting a brief synopsis of the meal + the ingredients and what I paid for them over at my other blog Talking on Common Ground. Because I like to show evidence of how cooking locally and eating sustainably is practical. Other stipulations: I have the attention span of a 5-year-old and the free-time of…well…a 22-year-old, so I’ll never post a recipe that takes longer than an hour to make (minus slow cooker deals) or has more than 10 ingredients. So that’s the story.

First up, a recipe I made with my roommate Hilary a few weeks back that I never got around to posting. It was adapted from the cookbook Vegan with a Vengeance, which was a stuffed pepper recipe, but since that day I had gone to the farmers market and come home with about 10 squashes (that the farmer had just given me for free!) Hil and I decided to make stuffed summer squash.

Quinoa-Stuffed Summer Squash

1. Saute 3 diced medium onions and 3 cloves of garlic, minced in 2 T. olive oil. Feel free to throw in mushroom or diced bell pepper if that suits your fancy. Saute for 5 minutes. Then add 1 T. chile powder and salt to taste (1 tsp.)

2. Then, add 1/2 c. quinoa, 1 c. tomato sauce, /4 c. water. Turn the heat down slightly and let it all simmer covered for 20-30 minutes.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half, then do a criss-cross pattern over the seeds part and take all that out and set aside.

4. Parboil the squash for about 5 minutes so they cook a bit and retain their color/nutrients.

5. When the onion-quinoa mixture is done and the squashes are parboiled, add the squash “meat” to the quinoa and carefully without burning yourself, stuff them with the quinoa. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes!

Vegan! Soy-free! Local! Full of nutrition, tasty and filling!

Sweet and soy grilled salmon & flowers to make my apartment a home

Well, now I have tons of stuff to blab about. I am debating if I should break all of this up into separate posts? Yes, yes I should.

OK. Now. I do want to talk a bit about what’s the deal with how I changed my blog theme (and ask for your opinion, although it’s not done yet so I guess that doesn’t matter…) and announce that I did indeed graduate last weekend and I managed not to trip across the stage or forget to bring my name card or some other Kelly-like embarrassing thing, in addition to lots of other mushy crap about how much I love everyone who’s been reading my silly blog over the past semester and told me how much they enjoy it. I also want to talk about where this blog is going now that my independent study is over (I got an A, in case you were wondering, and even though it’s “over” I am thinking I may following in Jacquie’s footsteps and try to print up my most relevant posts up and bind them together. I might be good to show future potential employers, no? I can’t quit you, blog!)

Anyhow, all of that can wait because I made this delicious salmon dinner for a friend and I Thursday and holy crap. Ah-mazing.

Let’s discuss.

I decided I wanted to go all out and get that most sustainable salmon available at Whole Foods (Wild King Alaskan, $24/lb.), which in my humble opinion, tastes the absolute best. I ended up buying two 1-inch (at the thickest) fillets for $17.

Here’s what I did.

Sweet & Soy Grilled Salmon with Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion

Combine in a bowl the following:

  • 1/4 c. olive oil (exact amounts don’t really mater, you might need more if you are marinating larger fillets)
  • a few T. of soy sauce (I don’t know how much, I just poured the rest of the bottle in)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • a dash or seven of garlic powder, depending on how much you love garlic

Yeah so swirl all that stuff around and plop your salmon fillets in and if you are super fancy and have a brush, coat them with the marinade. Then cover the bowl and pop in the refrigerator. Mine marinated for about 7 hours, but I am sure you could do for much less time, probably even 3-4 hours would suffice.

Then, slice up some avocado and some red onion and tomatoes (if you want) and drain some capers. Whatever you love on salad. You could also do a couple hard-boiled eggs using Jaden’s method (from the Steamy Kitchen) that makes the egg somewhere in between soft-and hard-boiled. I opted to leave the egg out. I initially was going to use Jaden’s recipe for a grilled salmon sandwich but then decided to use a marinade for the salmon…and then never actually made the dressing and I also made a salad instead of a sandwich…so really my dinner ended up totally different and I’m not sure why I am even referencing that recipe aside from the fact that it made me think to use capers, which I never have cooked with before.

By the way, I should also mention that my parents got me three new K. Sabatier knives as a graduation present, and they are fantastic. I have never had nice knives and it feels so nice to be able to actually slice through food without applying pressure. Fabulous. (When you begin asking for things like food processors and knives for presents, does that make you officially old? Yikes.)

I also bought myself a new eco-friendly skilet at Target the other day, which made me laugh because I never would have thought that a skillet could be not eco-friendly but hey, I guess that’s just the direction we are heading and I dig this pan a lot. I made eggs the next morning without a speck of cooking spray and it just slid around the pan like in an infomerical, it was hilarious.

Back to the salmon. You then heat up a skillet to medium-high and set your fillets on it. I ended up grilling the salmon for about 3 minutes each side, but it obviously will depend on how thick your fillet is.

Yes, mom, that’s a band-aid on my thumb. Yes, it’s from the knife. Yes, I will be more careful next time. Yes, I know those knives “could CUT OFF my finger.”

Definitely don’t overcook the fillet. If you have any feeling it might be done, take it off and take a good look at the center–with salmon you don’t really want the rare-ness you might go for with a tuna steak, but it should still be rather pink. Also, about halfway through cooking, throw your onion slices and capers in with the skillet (I much prefer grilled onion over raw.)

Once everything is ready, you plate it all up and voila! We found the salad didn’t really need “dressing” especially if you let the salmon marinate for as long as I did, because it was sooooo juicy and the onions had collected that marinade as well. But do what you like. I suppose you could do a drizzle of honey-dijon or some such over the lettuce if you prefer.

By the way, we drank a Pinot Noir with dinner which was a great pair. Pinot Noir’s are a bit more smooth and sweet, which went well with the hints of brown sugar sweetness in the salmon. (This is me trying to sounds like a foodie. Or a wino that doesn’t know wine, either/or.)

That meal tasted like you would pay at least $25 for it in a restaurant (maybe even more because of the fact that it was Alaskan King salmon, which is the priciest.) But when it came down to it, not including the wine, it  cost about half that to buy all the ingredients. And it was so so worth it. It just melted in your mouth. The best part, for me, is you could almost feel good about eating it knowing that it didn’t have the added dyes and hadn’t been raised in a confined space being fed tons of antibiotics, etc. I’ll spare the nasty details for here.

OK. So not to be all jumbly, but I do want to give you a glimpse into last weekend, in a post later on today or tomorrow in case anyone cares (I’m mainly thinking of relatives…)

…and next up, what I am looking forward to doing today (and hopefully for the rest of my life!)…Yoga! =)

It feels good to be back.

Fun with food processor-ing

Woo! So, this is the final homestretch for school. I have one more final paper for *this* class that I am going to finish up tonight and get turned in and then, I’m done! It’a going to be hard to put all I have learned from this blog into a 2-page paper. How am I going to do that? Wish me luck!

I took this weekend off, quite literally–I slept until 4:30 on Sunday. Who does that? Consequently, I was awake rather late playing with my food processor. And I may have proud mother syndrome but I am going to say, she’s the best, ever. Literally, the best hummus I have ever had. The best almond butter I’ve ever had. Not the best cookies I have ever had–but that’s only because I should have added the chips last…and then would have retained the chip-ness. Instead I got CHOCOLATE COOKIES. Yummy but not what I intended. Also, I made them vegan! Yeah! I have a problem eating regular chocolate because of the dairy content. So these ones didn’t give me…issues.

Jen thinks I could land a husband with this hummus.

“Recipe” – Yummus Hummus

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz.)
  • juice of 2 smallish lemons (keep seeds out!…obviously!)
  • like a couple tsp. of olive oil
  • a couple dashes of salt
  • 1 1/2 T. sesame tahini
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic depending on how much you love garlic and the size of the clove

Put it all in a food processor, zooshzoosh… and you’re done!

OK, I bought all of this because it was on sale 4/$9. and it will last me lunches for a couple weeks.

Dinner! Hummus on a pita with tofurkey = the best.

Chocolate chips that don’t make me feel sick! Yay!

Vegan CHOCOLATE (chip?) and peanut butter cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • cinnamon, a hefty dash or five
  • vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 Earth Balance butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T. peanut butter because I wanted to get rid of it so I had a jar to store my almond butter in

Basically you put the dry stuff in the food processor with the dough attachment, and in a separate bowl mix the softened butter with the sugar. Add the vanilla last. If you want them to look like mine, put the chips in at the beginning, but if you want them to come out like real chocolate chip cookies, put the in at the end.

This literally was just almonds (one lb. bag for $4.49 at Whole Foods made enough to fill an old PB jar. Meaning making almond butter at home is cost-effective. AND SO MUCH FUN. TRY IT. )

Another amazing thing I did over the weekend: bought a new computer! My old one has been kernel panicking lately (just turns off sporadically), so I decided to splurge and spend some hard-earned babysitting dough.

OK enough messing around. Off to write my paper!

PS: Got any great food processor ideas? Drop me a line 🙂

Communicating the benefits of urban agriculture while innovation grows

The area of urban agriculture has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few years. I think the more people start to realize the feasibility, and soon necessity, of producing their own food, the more it will develop and become even more feasible, affordable, and mainstream. So what are some of the innovations we have seen?

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Innovations in urban agriculture

  • Hydroponics is a method of growing fruits and vegetables in water, which conserves the use of vast areas of farmland and allows crops to be grown in desert areas where they otherwise would not be able to. Further, it is able to also conserve and re-use water that is lost during evaporation or field run-off in traditional soil farming. Also, there is no risk for parasites or weeds to infest the controlled systems in which hydroponic plants are grown, therefore making them largely non-GMO and free of pesticides and chemicals. Bonus: you can grow hydroponically basically anywhere–in an apartment or a house. Eve Bratman has a hydroponic garden on her houseboat that she made entirely on her own from used water bottles and empty jugs.
  • Permaculture is still a bit of a flimsy term, in my opinion, only because it can mean so many different things, and isn’t widely known about. But it basically indicates an “ecologically designed system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.” Permaculture is currently being used in different ways in different places and in all of those places, there is not a unified “permaculture” there are just isolated tactics that build on the idea of a permaculture. For example, think of worm composting, or vermiculture, which is one such tactic which is being carried out in various cities in the country, some even offering workshops and providing free worms and materials to those interested. This provides a sort of mutual symbiosis between two living things–the worms benefits by being fed, humans benefit by receiving rich soil and not filling landfills with compostable garbage. Perhaps a ” perfect permaculture” is the pie-in-the-sky goal we set to achieve, but it is through these mutually symbiotic relationships that we are able to do get closer to that.

    Photo credit: cafedirect

  • Rooftop farming, which can often be combined with hydroponic growing, is typcially used in areas of urban sprawl where soil/ground space is limited, to utilize unused rooftop spaces where sunlight is ample. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn is one case study that has really taken this concept to a whole new level. They also offer various workshops on cooking, gardening and how the farm works. Their farm grows primarily vegetables, and is open from June through November.
  • Sack gardening is a way for people to grow vegetables in small sack containers, usually when the contamination of the soil around them is too high. It is typically done on a smaller, individual scale, in places where food scarcity is a problem, and in both urban and rural locations.
  • Window farming is another way of using hydroponics, but in a specialized manner and primarily in urban settings. It is a way of using water bottles, water, hydroponic seeds (usually herbs and lettuce and greens like that), along with an low energy-intensive air pump which circulates the water, to grow plants in your window. This type of method is barely “farming,” however, if people were properly instructed on how to best go about making their own, it could be worth looking into. Also, if you live in a city and the view of your outdoors is the brick wall of the building next to yours, this could actually prove to be an improvement to your home, from an aesthetic viewpoint. (Not to mention that having plants in your home has been known to have all sorts of health benefits.)
  • Seasonal cooking would basically just mean knowing what is in season and planning your meals around those items. The fortunate reality is that a lot of us have access to local, fresh fruits and vegetables. However, many people don’t know what to do with a lot of those fruits and vegetables. It would be great to see more community and cooking classes, mobilizing people to learn how to cook just to start, but also to learn how to use local ingredients. Because if the option is there, there’s no reason not to choose local over imported. Epicurious offers an example of a map that can help to inform people about about what to expect is in peak season from their CSA or farmer’s market and how to therefore meal plan to accommodate those ingredients.

So what’s stopping us?

Locations. Some work better in some communities versus others.

Seasons. Not all of these methods can provide food at all times of the year everywhere, (except for the hydroponic ones.)

Culture/Value systems. People are going to have to shift how they think about and value their food, each other, and future generations. These types of methods require more time, patience, research, and money than traditional ways of getting food–going to a restaurant or the grocery store. Which means people are going to have to change the way they think about food. People might have to forfeit some of the time they spend watching television in the evenings in order to tend to their gardens or make time to cook meals from scratch in their homes. They are going to have to learn to appreciate eating with the seasons, and in fact, eating generally less, in quantity.

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Communicating benefits to consumers

While all of these methods of urban gardening and having a local, low carbon-footprint certainly interest some of us, and they are something we would be willing to use, they aren’t all 100 percent practical. Would these methods be used in conjunction with traditional food shopping? Would they slowly replace traditional methods? Or would they just be something some people adopted while others did not?

It’s hard to really know the answer. What I foresee is something quite similar to how companies like, say, Apple, market their products to consumers: first, the innovators get on board. Eve Bratman, my professor with the compost bin and on-the-boat garden, is one such innovator in the field of urban agriculture. Next, there are the early adopters, then the early majority (also called the “pragmatists”),  then the late majority (“the conservatives”), and lastly the laggards. How you move along more quickly is by conveying the importance–the “gotta-have-it” factor–of the technologies.

This reality and challenge is something that excites me, as a student and soon-to-be graduate in the field of communications. I feel like a lot of what is missing in the environmental movement is strategic communication about how and why people should change their behaviors. I think there is a place for communicators to get that message out to the public and I see that as being a huge catalyst for change in the future of the “sustainable movement”.

The way I imagine these sorts of methods becoming more widely accepted is through slow implementation motivated by strategic communication, just like all new technology works. Pilot programs embraced and tested out by the innovators and early adopters will not only provide evidence for the feasibility of certain tactics, but will allow for what doesn’t work to shine through and motivate alterations that can be modeled after later on. This will also allow programs to evolve at a pace that doesn’t freak out the “treehugger-phobics” as I like to call them (the kind of people who, when you “threaten to take away their right to buy bottled water” get all bent out of shape and start spouting off allegations of “fascism”)!

It’s important to communicate knowing that there are going to be those opposing voices when it comes to getting people to change their lifestyles. Which is why I feel when it comes to revolutionizing our food system, especially with tactics that require people to change on a personal level, you have to prove to consumers the benefits, and that change doesn’t have to be just easy, it’s rewarding.

Happy Earth Day! Happy Birthday!

This week is like woah. Really busy.

But look what I made for breakfast this morning, the first time I could sleep in for ages (9am=sleeping in).

It’s eggbeaters over a grilled portabella mushroom with onion and micro-baked red potato. (Everything’s from the Dupont market, of course, except the eggs…)

Monday I caught up with my independent study professor and we decided how I shall be wrapping up this semester, and he also told me about this awesome school/farm in Pennsylvania that we may try to visit in the next week or two. Then Monday night was the talk with William McDonough. Tuesday was finishing up a presentation on the Green Movement in Iran (not related to the environment really, but green nonetheless) as well as another presentation for PR portfolio. Wednesday was my last day of classes, final presentation to the Arlington Academy of Hope, and final presentation of my group’s non-violence project to our class.

And today is Earth Day!

Which means there’s lots going on as well, and for the next few days, too. Tonight, Lester Brown is speaking on campus, but it’s also my friend’s birthday dinner. I hate having to pick between things but I really would love to see him speak so I think I’ll end up going. Also, tomorrow is my birthday and Brad‘s birthday so the three of us can have a collective birthday bash out on the town.

Friday evening is also the release party for AmLit, the literary mag on my campus. I got a photo in this year so I’m going to check that out, they always do a beautiful job with the magazine.

Saturday there’s a brunch reception I’m going to for a mentoring program I was a part of this semester. My mentor can’t make it because her life is quite possibly busier than mine, and she lives in New York City so it’s even harder. (I think the brunch will be a good networking opportunity anyway.) But I told her I would make a trip up one weekend soon or she can come down another time. She does public relations for LUSH, which is basically my new favorite cosmetics brand. Their soaps and shampoos make my bathroom smell heavenly.

Sunday, there is the Climate Change Rally on the mall which I would really love to check out. It is supposed to rain though, which kind of sucks :/. Some of my favorites will be there though (The Roots, Passion Pit, Joss Stone, others). So I will keep my fingers crossed for good weather but might still brave a little rain…Also Sunday, my Environment & Development professor Eve Bratman is throwing us a farewell BBQ/party with various awesome people in the field. She is bummed about the possible weather because she had plans to take us on a walking tour around the area (she lives on a HOUSE BOAT in southwest D.C.–how hilarious and great is that?). But she is awesome, she does worm composting and I’m really crossing my fingers the meteorologists are wrong because this is/was going to be a really fun day.

What I am saying is, pray or do whatever it is and hope for no rain!

Then next week, as schoolwork goes, I am sort of busy, but not totally in over my head. Luckily, I have professors who believe that we should actually prove how hard we can work and how well we can think, instead of how well we can memorize, so they have assigned us at-home final exams. My Environment & Development exam is timed so I have to study leading up to that. My Non-violence paper is due Wednesday but shouldn’t be too hard and we are having a dinner party at the professors house where we will turn those in. He is Palestinian so I imagine the food will be totally new to me, and I’m excited. And then just finishing up with my paper for this class! And then graduating May 8th!

Soon after I will probably figure out how to transform this site, moving into my non-student life. But more on that later.

Phew. So much to think about but trying to stay in this moment as well.

Hope everyone’s having a great Earth Day…Doing anything special for the occasion? Or do you try to do a little something every day? =)

Where have all the farmers gone?

Or, I suppose the better question is, if someone does a study that shows the economic benefits of growing more diverse fruits and vegetables for more local consumers on smaller farms, will enough people attempt to test the theory out?

Job creation

Let’s first take a look at exactly what this study (“Selected  Measures of the Economic Values  of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in the Upper Midwest”) found. First, more fruit and vegetable production in the six Midwestern states looked at could, theoretically, equal $882 million in sales at the farm level, with more than 9,300 jobs. Corn and soybean production on that same amount of land would support only 2,578 jobs. If half of the increased production was sold in farmer-owned stores, it would require 1,405 such stores staffed by 9,652 people. Only 270,025 acres—roughly equivalent to the average cropland in one of Iowa’s counties—would be needed to grow enough fruits and vegetables for the six-state region.

It’s first important to note that I realize this data was collected based on research in the Midwest, and the same numbers would not apply throughout the United States. However, if pursued even just in the Midwest, this sort of movement could drastically change the way agriculture is looked at in this country. This study shows that there is the potential to grow 28 different kinds of fruits and vegetables there that people in the region are currently getting from far distances, possibly even outside the Untied States. This is one thing that really irritates me, personally, with regard to buying locally: the idea that food items are being trucked or flown in from far away when they actually are being grown just miles away.

Creating desire by easing the process

But here is the one looming issue: Are there really enough people out there that want to be farmers? Can we really get 9,300 determined-to-be-farmer folks? It’s hard to say, because I don’t think there are enough people out there that know they can be farmers. There are plenty of college recruiters visiting high schools and talking to students about spending thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, on their education. How many of them are talking about studying agriculture? I don’t even remember thinking about the idea of agriculture until well into college. And further, how many of those colleges actually offer degrees in agriculture? And how well do these degree programs actually train people to own and manage a farm in a practical sense but one that uses progressive, organic methods? This Web site indicates that there are at least twelve schools that offer this degree in the U.S.—compared to the oh, say, hundreds, perhaps thousands that offer finance or business degrees. But then what happens after?

This got me thinking about creating an agency that would facilitate efforts to create more small farms (say, 100 acres or less) that did not rely on government subsidies for commodity crops. I am familiar with the NFFC (National Family Farm Coalition), but I feel they are still very small and focus primarily on helping existing farmers instead of making communities more able to produce their own food by motivating more people to take interest and become educated on how to.

What would an agency focused on making farmers succeed do?

  • put interested individuals in touch with schools/universities that offer degrees in agriculture
  • put students and potential students in touch with scholarship programs specifically designed for agriculture students
  • help to find land to farm or existing corn/tobacco/soybean/cotton farms that can be transformed and diversified
  • teach them how to correctly negotiate the purchase of this land
  • offer classes/put in touch with education on proper farming techniques that would minimize or eliminate pesticide use, not rely on GMO’s and keep land fertile (crop rotation, etc.)
  • train on proper budgeting and financial training, how to take out loans properly and how to pay them back
  • helping to create a business plan

All of this would have to come for free or for a very low cost in order to encourage more farmer training. And these are just some of the ideas that first come to mind. There are likely other innovative and less expensive ways to go about encouraging more small farmers to go into business (programs at the universities that partner up business students/MBA’s with those that specialize in agriculture/biology who might want to start a farming business together).

Farmers as entrepreneurs

Because the truth is that farming is NOT easy, which is why it has been industrialized over the past 100 years. It requires both farming know-how, technological savvy, science and biology training/college education in agriculture, business planning, and huge start-up costs (though you can get a loan, much like any businessman or entrepreneur knows). Further, farming carries with it huge risks related to crop failures, inability to sell enough goods, weather-related issues, and other problems. This is why it is so tempting for farmers to grow commodity crops, in order to get by on subsidies from the government, (which also gets into why the government needs to diversify its subsidy program in order to encourage more biodiversity.)

Interestingly, I think the idea of making more people embrace the farming life as a legitimate job, in fact a business well-worth pursuing, comes down to a bit more education, that is, PR type messaging to the country as a whole, which could lead to cultural shifts. As Giovanni Federico asserts in Feeding the World, 75 percent of the population must take up the helm of farming if we expect to keep people fed but do so with more traditional farming methods (I don’t think the real figure would be quite this high, because I think traditional farming methods have been improved on many existing smaller farms, while still keeping them sustainable.)

But the reality that more people would need to farm (and more people will need to garden/find ways to produce their own food) in order to eliminate industrial farming is quite undeniable.

Next up, I plan to outline some of the innovative ways urban gardening and small farm operations are improving.

Easter Egg Dying Isn’t Just for Kids

I have a problem lately with school work. I can’t concentrate on it.  Call it me having ‘too much on my plate,’ call it senioritis. Call it whatever, but it’s bad. So I think from now on, or until I catch up with stuff, if I post entries about my “personal life” I am going to just keep it to mostly photos and cut all the back story out. I will still post about what I learn–food system related, etc–but there has to be a way to streamline things.

By the way, are you aware that I write really funny photo captions? You can only see them if you hover the mouse over photos and they are only funny if you think I am funny regularly though. That’s the catch.

These are pictures from the weekend, which I spent at my sister’s in Virginia.




Don’t they look great, though? Very modern and bold and original. Or, as Katie says, “They are really graphic…”

“It’s just so amazing how they all come out different!” – Me, caught up in the magic of egg dying apparently, speaking hyperbolically, genuinely

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We spent ours at John’s (Katie’s boyfriend) brother’s and sister-in-law’s in York, Pennsylvania. They have two little girls so that was cute. And if you don’t celebrate Easter I hope you had a wonderful Passover. Or whatever it is you celebrate…

PS! Has anyone seen these scanner things at the Giant supermarket? Apparently they have them in Virginia. I have yet to see them in D.C. Talk about taking the personal-ness out of shopping! :-/