Monthly Archives: April 2011

random acts of kindness to the earth…

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that everyone lives their daily lives in an environmentally conscious way. Of course none of us are perfect, but we should all do what we can.

Simple changes, even little ones, can make a huge impact on our world. I try to adopt new habits and make small adjustments, continuing to progress slowly. Its less painful that way. We can’t all go out and be “No Impact Man“, but we can be more mindful of our decisions and the effect they have.

Last year I made the conscious effort to quit using regular toxic cleaning products and soaps (more to come on that next week). I’ve known the effect of phosphates on our water shed, but for some reason, I couldn’t let go of that fresh soapy smell. Fortunately many mainstream companies have gotten on board and it is easy to find suitable environmentally friendly products. Beware of greenwashing though. Research your products to make sure they truly are eco-friendly.

I’ve found that I love the natural scent of eucalyptus or sandalwood more than artificial “fresh linen”. I’ve also rediscovered my love of Dr. Bronner’s magic soap. I was on a lavender kick for a while but now its all about the almond scent again.

Here are a few simple, every day things you can slowly adopt:

  • Add vinegar to your washer to get your gym clothes extra clean. It works better than adding extra soap or using harsh detergents or color safe bleaches. Use less soap in general. Most of use twice as much of these highly concentrated detergents than we really need. Old habits die hard.
  • Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water. Hot water isn’t necessary.  The heat of the dryer will kill anything remaining on your clothes.
  • Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Turn lights off as you leave the room. Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. They are more expensive but can save a lot in electricity costs over their lifetime. Plus they use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.
  • Pee in the shower. Seriously. It saves toilet paper and water. Brazil even had a campaign to save water/toilet flushing, by peeing in the shower or showering with a friend…but just not both at the same time 🙂 (click here for a giggle) This suggestion is only for the occasions that you are actually planning to take a shower…don’t just randomly use your bath tub as a toilet!
  • Don’t flush anything down the toilet except what is supposed to go down. Avoid throwing tissues, cotton swabs, tampons, wrappers, condoms, etc down the drain. They just have to be fished back out. More chemicals will also need to be added to clean the water with these products mixed in. Just put them in the garbage where they belong and take it out more often.
  • Recycle the cardboard from your toilet paper roll (you know you just toss it in the regular bathroom garbage…) This assumes that you are already recycling, right? Right!
  • Use cloth napkins. Pack them in your lunch. Keep one at work. Use it a couple of times before you wash it. I go to Pier 1 or Cost Plus and buy single napkins in different pretty designs. They usually have clearance items for $1. We use different colors so we know which one is ours and leave them out on the table until they need washed.
  • Carry reusable bags and USE THEM. Avoid plastic bags altogether. Try to get in the habit of using them at clothing stores, drugstores, and convenience stores, not just the grocery store. My favorites are Envirosax and Bag The Habit. I like these small compact bags because I can leave them in my purse, coat pocket, or glove box. Less expensive single bags are available pretty much everywhere you shop.
  • Don’t buy bottled water. Carry a stainless steel bottle with you and refill it. If you like sparkling water, buy a Soda Stream and make your own!
  • Compost your vegetable waste or start a worm bin. The rich fertile soil you get in return is a reward in itself!
  • Turn off lights and unplug vampire appliances and chargers when not in use.

What little (or big) things do you do? Please share!

Just by adopting a few of these easy habits, you can make a difference in the future of our world. Practice random acts of kindness to the Earth. Whether its good karma that comes back to you, clean water from your tap, or just the knowledge of knowing you helped to do your part, its all worth it!

Happy Earth Day!


fishy fridays: cod with a kick…

As a pescatarian (a “semi” vegetarian who consumes fish), I’m always looking for new ways to prepare my fish. I have it at least once a week, if not two or three times, so I need lots of variety. Fruity, garlic-y, lemony, spicy, bring it on!

Seasoning experimentation can be tricky with seafood. Dill with salmon, yes! Wasabi with tuna, more please! Lime on fish tacos, uh-huh! But have you ever mismatched seafood flavors with a pesto, tomato, cream or mole sauce? I’m not saying its impossible, but you really have to be careful with the type of fish and the mingling of certain ingredients.

The following is a nice cod dish with a kick of spice. It almost has a Thai flavor to it. The vinegar gives it a little extra oomph too. You can play with the thickness of the sauce. If you want to reduce it down to a thick paste to top off the fish, add more cornstarch. If you prefer a brothy, light soup to serve it in, skip the cornstarch altogether.

Recipe: Spicy Cod in Chili Sauce

1 1/2 pounds cod (can substitute halibut or any other solid white fish)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs chili sauce (I use Sriracha) **you can reduce or omit this if you aren’t a fan of the heat
1/4 C cornstarch (or flour)
1 tsp garlic pepper (or a salt, pepper, and garlic powder mixture)
2 Tbs oil (canola, vegetable, or olive)
1/2 small onion or 2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp grated ginger root (or chopped pickled ginger)
2 small hot chilis (or 1 jalapeno), seeded and finely minced **again, be careful and reduce the amount if needed. only use the amount you can handle!
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce. Stir in about 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch.

Place remaining cornstarch in a shallow dish and mix in garlic pepper. Dip fish into mixture and lightly coat each piece.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add fish and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, but not until cooked through. Remove fish from oil and place on a platter.

Using the same skillet and oil, add the onion, ginger, chili peppers, and garlic. Cook for about a minute. Stir in the broth mixture and bring to a light boil so it starts to thicken.

Return the fish to the skillet and spoon the sauce over it. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Serve the fish with the remaining sauce over it.

This dish is nice served over brown rice or with a big hunk of crusty bread. If you want it more saucy/soupy, just double the broth. Enjoy!

fishy fridays: shrimply delicious…

Another weekend is upon us, yay! Here is a quick Friday meal that is very satisfying and can be prepared fairly healthy too.

You can buy the shrimp at the seafood counter of your grocery store, or purchase it frozen for a bargain (the Whole Foods 360 brand is only about $9 for a bag). If buying frozen, I prefer the larger tail/shell on raw shrimp. Its easy enough to remove the shell myself after thawing. They seem to be less processed and have a better texture in my opinion.

For the polenta, you have several options. I am currently using an organic instant polenta that I recently discovered. You can use grits or regular polenta in place of the instant. I just like it because it only takes 5 minutes to make and is still creamy tasting. If you want to splurge on the best of the best, I recommend Anson Mills Grits.

The greens can also be substituted for whatever variety you prefer or have on hand. Kale, collards, mustard greens, chard, or spinach will all balance this dish out. Allow significantly more cooking time if using collards.

To make it more decadent and rich, use real butter in the polenta and add more cheese. You can also experiment with mixing in green chilis, roasted peppers, parmesan, or cinnamon as alternate flavors.

For a saucier shrimp, double the olive oil. To keep it healthy and lower calorie, substitute vegetable broth for most of the oil. You can use this trick on the greens too. Be sure to add just enough oil so that everything doesn’t stick to the pan. I’ve found that my new Calphalon non stick pan requires very little oil…a very worthwhile investment for my diet!

Feel free to omit or add any seasonings to the shrimp. I prefer garlic and spice, but maybe you like a more subtle, mild flavor. Put your own flair on it and enjoy!

Recipe: Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Polenta and Greens

1 pound shrimp (thawed and cleaned)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp chili powder or crushed ancho pepper
1 tsp cayenne or aleppo
2 cloves chopped garlic or a tablespoon of crushed/chopped garlic from a jar
1 tsp salt

2 cups polenta-prepared per the package
1 can (or about a cup and a half) vegetable broth
1 Tbs butter or light spread
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or 1/4 cup shredded parmesan

1 pound spinach
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the shrimp, combine the oil and desired seasonings in a bowl. Place the cleaned shrimp in the bowl and coat all of the shrimp, letting them mingle in the sauce while you prepare the polenta and spinach.

Prepare the polenta or grits per the instructions on the package. Substituting vegetable broth for half of the water will give you a more flavorful dish. Add butter, cheddar or parmesan, and a little salt at the end.

Lightly saute the greens in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few tablespoons of broth or water if needed. You can add garlic or red pepper flakes if desired. Remove from heat when they are mostly wilted and avoid over cooking. Spinach will take less than 5 minutes. Other greens will take a little bit longer.

Heat a skillet on medium high. Add shrimp and sauce to pan, cooking about 2 minutes on each side.

You can the items serve next to each other on a plate or layered in a bowl.

fishy fridays: friday fish fry…

Friday Fun: Say the title 3 times fast! Ok, maybe it’s not that fun. But it made me smile 🙂

Happy Friday! Happy April! Happy Spring! Can you wish someone a Happy Lent? I think not, but hey, you get the point of what this post is going to be about…

In lieu of my regular Meatless Monday posts, I’m going to offer some ideas for those who are practicing lent and abstaining from “meat” on Fridays. Since the Catholic definition of meatless Fridays allows for the consumption of fish, I’ve got a lucrative new “meatless” audience here! While I’m not an observing Catholic, I have quite a few family members and friends that are. Plus I just love a good fish recipe!

With all of the “Friday Fish Fry” dinners that go on in my neck of the woods, I have had a major craving for fried fish. I’m still going strong on my diet so I’m not about to blow it on a Filet-O-Fish or some other delicacy straight out of the fryer.

Reflecting back on my chicken experiments, I decided to seek out a panko recipe for fish. This one did the trick! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Please forgive any incorrect wording or religious references to Lent/practice vs observe/Catholicism, etc. Since I was ineligible to baptized (cough-cough, bastard child), I failed to learn the intricacies of their beliefs. I in no way mean any disrespect!

Recipe: Panko Baked Cod

4 Cod Fillets
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Tbs fresh dill or parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
lemon wedges for serving if desired

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the panko crumbs with 1/2 of the dill. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining dill, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice together.

Pat the cod dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lay the cod in a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, space the fish about 1/2 inch apart.

Brush the tops and sides of the fish with the mayonnaise mixture. Sprinkle and press the crumbs into the mayonnaise.

Bake on middle rack until the crumbs are golden brown and the fish flakes apart when gently prodded with a knife, about 15 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges if desired

Number of Servings: 4