Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Not Easy Living With Someone Who's Green

A friend recently sent me this in an email and I had to laugh because it describes my father so well. He was green way before there was such a thing as an Earth Day. Back then we called it being cheap, or on kinder days, "thrifty."

It's amazing how much thrifty and being green have in common.

We had one car. But my parents didn't fight over who got to drive it. My dad walked, jogged, or rode his bike to work. My mother walked to her volunteer job at the hospital. The car was for grocery shopping and car trips.

We made our own lunches and took them to school, bringing back the lunch box, thermos, and plastic sandwich bags to be washed and reused.

Our home's thermostat was never set above 55 deg. F. When the winter winds blew, rattling the old windows, we'd pile on extra sweaters and my dad would put up his homemade double windows (plastic sheeting over a frame, inserted into the window frame - very classy). We'd get in trouble for huddling next to a heating vent, hogging up all the heat, but on the days when our breath was visible, it was worth it!

We had a push mower. Not one that's gas powered. One that's human powered. I know from lots of personal experience that it takes a lot of work to mow a lawn with a push mower. Pushing the mower was only part of the effort. There were also the frequent stops to empty the grass catcher onto the compost pile. Yes, we composted way before it was cool. It only makes sense to compost when you have a garden where you grow a lot of your own vegetables and have fruit trees that inundate you with apricots, cherries, and plums.

Since I was raised this way, I am still fairly thrifty. Thus, one of my favorite places to shop is the thrift store. It's like a treasure hunt, sifting through other people's cast-offs to find that one thing you've been looking for.

One of the things on my wish list was a cast-iron pan. I am weaning myself away from non-stick (toxic fumes and nastiness leaching into my food is not a bonus for me) and was delighted to acquire a rugged cast-iron pan at the thrift store for only $7. Usually something is discarded because there's something wrong with it. Such was the case here. The pan was wearing a rust coat. It looked like it had been someone's camping skillet and was left out in the rain.

Fortunately, I have a super fabulous husband who's handy with tools he sanded it with power tools, creating a silky smooth surface. Then I seasoned it with flaxseed oil, a time-consuming process, but one that gave it a nice start to being non-stick. Now it is our go-to pan for all things breakfast. Eggs, sausage, and even grain-free pancakes cook up beautifully in it. Grain-free?? Yes, you read correctly. Pancakes without grains are possible.

This lovely pancake was made with shredded apples, topped with yogurt and blueberries. Breakfast bliss! And the bonus with cast-iron is that you get extra iron in your food. And if you buy your pan from the thrift store or a garage sale, you're recycling! You can't get much greener (or healthier) than that.

Apple Pancakes
 - adapted from Gluten-Free Gourmet
makes 3-4 servings

2 apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
4 eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Butter or coconut oil

1 - Using your hands, squeeze the grated to get most of the juice out. (Save the apple juice in the refrigerator for a tasty beverage.)

2- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the apple and cinnamon and stir to combine.

3- Place your skillet (cast iron rocks!) over medium heat. Grease it generously with either butter or coconut oil.

4- Pour about 2/3 cup of the mixture into the heated pan. Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, gently smooth the batter to the sides.

5- When the pancake is nicely browned on the bottom, but still wet on the top, flip it over to cook the other side. To flip, slide the pancake onto a plate with the wet side up. Place the plate over the skillet and quickly invert it.

6- Cook the second side until done and slide it onto a serving plate.

7- Top with your favorite toppings. I used yogurt and blueberries. Other choices include: warmed honey, jam, peanut butter, caramel sauce, or, for the purists, butter and maple syrup.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Of Spiders And Muffins

It's a well known fact in my family that I hate/fear/loathe spiders. I hate their legs, their webs, and the way they scuttle around, jump at you, or drop unexpectedly on your neck or head. (Excuse me a minute while I slap repeatedly at my head and neck because that creepy feeling I got just now might have been a spider.) I know they have their place in the grand design of the universe, but my place in that same design happens to be standing over them with a heavy shoe poised for the kill. But that's only if no one else is in the house. If my husband is home, then he's the one to gallantly spring to action when he hears my piteous shrieks of terror. He'll calmly take a piece of tissue and squish the spider (with his bare hands!) and toss it into the toilet, which I hurriedly flush, just in case that spider's planning a comeback.

It would surprise my family to know I have an uneasy relationship with a spider in my laundry room. This is not the kind of relationship where I name the spider an endearing name, become attached to it, and it weaves messages to me in it's web. No, we have an agreement. The agreement goes something like this: I promise to not hunt him down in his hidey hole next to the washing machine as long as he traps and consumes the other bugs that lurk in there, keeps the webbing to a minimum, and does not show his creepy legs during daylight hours.

When I stretch the terms of the agreement and go into the laundry room at 5:00 am, it is his responsibility to scuttle out of sight and it's my part of the bargain to pretend I don't see him. If he chooses to linger, a quick, squashy death brought about by my shoe or the nearest heavy, hurlable object is in his immediate future.

This might sound harsh, but I don't waste time being sentimental with spiders. I either shriek, throw, or stomp, all the while hyperventilating. I figure I'm showing great restraint in not asking my husband to introduce Mr. Spider to Death By ShopVac.

Oh, crud - I just named him! What's next? Allowing his webs to stay up, festooning the laundry room with cobwebs filled with dryer lint? Looking for cryptic messages in those webs? Opening the window to purposefully allow flies to come in so he won't starve? Spending my time in the laundry room talking to him??

No, this must stop right now. I'm going to march down there and put an end to this weird, permissively symbiotic relationship. With a shoe. Which is in my closet. Which I can't get to without waking up my husband. Hmmmm.

Mr. Spider is looking pretty big these days, approaching the size of a Smart car. Maybe I'll just wait for my husband to wake up and let him deal with Mr. Spider.

And while I'm waiting, I'll bake up a batch of attaboy treats. Muffins. A terrific way to start the day! Plus, since they're grain-free and contain no sugars, they won't spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling lethargic and groggy, which you absolutely shouldn't be if you're going to do battle with spiders!

Banana Blueberry Muffins
- adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

3 cups almond meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
2 cups (4-5) mashed very ripe bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. (Don't omit the paper liners. It makes a HUGE difference at clean up time.)

2-In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and baking soda.

3- In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond meal mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the bananas, then fold in the blueberries. Using a large spoon or scoop, divide the dough between the muffin cups.

4- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

5- Set the muffin tin on a wire cooling rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then serve. Preferably with lots of good butter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


A few days ago the mail lady, who is very sweet, said to my son as he retrieved the mail, "Happy Egg Day!" He came in the house quite confused. "Mom," he said, with a crease between his brows, "what's Egg Day?"

Well, I tried to gently explain that for some non-Christians, Easter is about eggs and bunnies and candy and an excuse to buy new clothes. That's what I said on the outside. On the inside I hit the ceiling.

I'm so tired of having holy days co-opted for commercial purposes. Christmas is gone. It's all about Santa and presents. People around the world who are confirmed Buddhists, Hindus, atheists and pagans celebrate that day with ornamented trees, twinkling lights, lavish feasts, and a glut of presents. But taking the name of the holiest day on the Christian calendar, the whole reason for our faith, and using it as an excuse to feed your kids yet more sugar, buy them yet more clothes, and have their picture taken sitting on the lap of a giant, terrifying bunny, is not OK with me. Easter is about JESUS!

Just in case you've never heard why there is a day called Easter, or if you ever wondered why it's on a different day every year, here are a few things you should know.

Jesus is God. He came to earth in human form to live a sinless life and die a death he didn't deserve. All people everywhere sin, and the penalty for sin is to be forever separated from God. When we die, we go to a place of eternal torment without God. But, God loves us so much he doesn't want that to happen to us. He wants us to live with him forever, so he sent Jesus to be the sacrifice that pays the price for our sins.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover is celebrated right before Easter and a lamb is killed for the Passover feast. Jesus is our sacrifice, hence the name Lamb of God. Yes, that's where all the Easter lambs come in. Not Bunny of God. Lamb of God.

After Jesus died on the cross, he was buried in a tomb. But the amazing, exciting, wonderful news is that he didn't stay buried. He rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses before he ascended to heaven! That means that when we die, we won't stay dead, either.

If you look at your life and can see the sin all over it and know that you've made a mess of things, Easter is for you. It's the chance to get to know Jesus and hear his offer. He says, "Come to me. Give me your sins, and I'll make you clean and give you a new life." Best. Deal. Ever!

I'll throw in a recipe to sweeten the deal. You can think about this post as you bake. And if you decide to take Jesus up on his offer, please let me know. I'd love to pray for you!


White Chocolate Brownies
- adapted from The Baking Bites Cookbook

1/4 cup butter
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz. dark chocolate, cut into chunks

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with rack in center of oven. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang (these are the handles to remove the brownies from the pan). Lightly grease the foil.

2- In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt together the butter and white chocolate. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

3- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

4- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt over the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined, with no streaks of flour remaining. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then pour the batter into the pan.

5- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6- Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the brownies front he pan, using the foil as handles. Cut into 25 squares.