No Impact November

Go low impact this November by making alternative food and transport choices

Happy November, friends! Can’t believe we are already through part of the autumn, it feels like it has just begun.  With all the craziness in the world, it is easy to just see the days fly by and not know where the time has gone.  The good news is that we are blessed to start each day fresh and new and tackle those things that might have been too much to handle yesterday.

This November, like Novembers in the the past few years, I am trying to take a step back and look at my consumption habits and try to be more conscious about my intake and impact of goods and products.. its No Impact November!  Inspired by Colin Beaven’s book and documentary No Impact Man, which I blogged about a bit last November, I hope to take stock of the “things” and “stuff” in my life and eliminate what is unnecessary.  Beaven’s experiment was over the duration of one year with his wife and daughter out of their NYC apartment and they went so far as eliminating electricity, transportation and the actual waste accumulated by the year’s end could be contained in a shoebox top.  Why shouldn’t we be able to do this all the time?

Should you decide to join me in a self-aufit of your personal habits and work to change them, we cannot imagine that we can eliminate all the bad stuff in a few days or weeks and be done with it.  Here’s some suggestions for the process:

  1. Look at your present habits, decide what you’d like to focus on, i.e. food waste
  2. Set some goals, i.e. purchase food items within a 100-mile radius
  3. Recruit friends and family to join, make it a group challenge!
  4. Research other alternatives, i.e. local CSA, co-op, or community garden
  5. Reflect on the process and how the challenges went.. how will this affect the way you consume in the future?

Here are some ideas to get you started, try it for a week, 2 weeks, a month:

  • Food: buy in bulk, from food sources within 100 miles
  • Processed food: no processed products, i.e. chicken, coffee, cheese
  • Car: no car use for a week (get out those old rollerblades!)
  • Power: no power, no gadgets, no email
  • Waste: no trash created
  • Spending: no purchasing of new products, clothes, etc.

A challenge like this one has a funny way of bringing people closer together.  When the power goes out, what do we do?  Whine and complain, yes.  But we pull out the candles, the board games and have a grand time.  We don’t need to live in a stone age, but we need to start living within our means and consider our impact beyond our own towns, states and countries.  Would you give up water for a month?  Not just bottled water, not just tap water, but any source of water for bathing, cooking and drinking for a month.  Millions around the world don’t have water security.. what right do we have to waste?  What will you do to decrease your impact on the environment and increase your impact on people?

I hope to cook more, with less.  I hope to drive less, walk more.  I hope to power down and cheer up. This world is all we have.. what will you do with it?

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Food Day with Food Fighters

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What a team effort!  This past Monday, October 24th was the first national celebration of Food Day, hosted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI.)  I am currently interning with a fantastic non-profit in NYC called Food Fight and we celebrated Food Day from dawn to dusk!

We were invited to have an informational table at the national marquee event in Times Square and we got to meet some really wonderful folks.  Michael Jacboson came over to chat with us; he is the executive director of CSPI and was the emcee of the whole event.  Ellie Krieger is a chef, TV personality and cookbook author and was kind enough to come say hello and take a look at our table.  Ellie was responsible for the vegetable curry and other delicious food at the Eat Real Eat-In.  We also told a lot of folks who were passing by about the Food Fight mission and what we do in NYC high schools; we are revolutionizing the way people think about food.  We are working in over 15 schools to bring food education and nutrition education over a semester or a year to students and teachers to make them more aware of how businesses are targeting them and how they can become more educated and healthy consumers.

We also had an event at one of our Food Fight schools, the High School for Hospitality, and the main event was a cooking demo by Chef Marvin Woods, who stole the show.  Chef Marvin made a breakfast smoothie and talked to students and other attendees about the importance of frequent, small meals starting with breakfast.  He also made a chicken stirrup, showing people how easy and healthy it can be to make meals at home, being in charge of what’s on your plate.

We had a wonderful Food Day and got to gift a lot of people with Food Fight bling.. so if you see our logo out there.. give us a shout out!

Check out this article that was just written by Hannah Wallace for the New York Times about Food Fight’s work in classrooms! Don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Fresh & Fancy Harvest Fest

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We had a great time a few weekends ago at Fresh & Fancy Farms for our Harvest Festival!  Friends, family and neighbors came out on October 8th to the farm in New Milford, NJ to celebrate the autumn and all of its goodness with us.  We painted pumpkins, enjoyed the beautiful mums, sipped on apple cider, munched on cookies from J’s Bake Shoppe and lent a hand to decorate the Fresh & Fancy tree.  Thanks to everyone who came out and made it a smashing success!  Will we see you again soon?  We’ll have Christmas trees, wreaths and so much more for the holiday season!

Check out the Fresh & Fancy website for more information, find us on Facebook and Twitter too for fun updates.

Treasure Hunting

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I have a passion for repurposing.  Whether its old jars, a metal rake, doorknobs or a vintage suitcase, everything can be given a second life with a little bit of elbow grease and imagination.  With a garage full tables, chairs, vintage toys, Ball jars and other treasures awaiting a new coat of paint, varnish or some serious reupholstery, we almost never need to buy anything new and have a constant flow of projects to keep our minds sharp.

Turn a banged up old pot into a planter or a luminary.  Use the head of a garden rake as a wine glass holder.  Clean up some old frames and install lace in them to hang jewelry or your child’s artwork.  We don’t need to go out and buy all of these things that commercials tell us will make our lives easier.  Our lives are complicated enough and we don’t need to get bogged down in stuff, though my garage is full of it.  The next time you see a garage or estate sale, take a look around.  Don’t be limited by what the object is conventionally used for.. what could you make it into?  Over the next few weeks, months, and years (?) I’ll share some how-tos of the projects that I’m working on.. stay tuned!

Adventures in Pasta

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I met a woman last week who calls herself a food educator, though not a trained nutritionist or dietician.  She is spending her time at back to school nights and giving presentations at libraries about eating healthfully, reading labels and what things like “whole grains” really mean.  Much of what she talked about was an affirmation of information about the food industry I had already absorbed but I did pick up a few new things.  While Greek-style yogurt is great for me because of the high levels of protein, I really need to watch certain flavors and brands because they pack in the sugar.. not something I had been conscious of every time I ate it.

It was interesting to hear a room full of parents ask very detailed questions about certain food items and habits and take copious notes.  Because of my background, food decisions have very much been conscious decisions in the past few years especially.  But these parents were asking which flavor of Cheez-It was best.. hardly a question in my mind.  As Mark Bittman states in his recent op-ed article in the New York Times (Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?), we are in need of a culture change.  But we MUST understand that millions of people in our very own country don’t have access to grocery stores, let alone Whole Foods, local food co-ops or farmer’s markets.  Cooking is NOT the culture in every home, some don’t even have working kitchens or a home in which to cook.

I’m looking at a box of pasta right now and my eyes are drawn to the ingredient list.

Ingredients: Semolina (Wheat); Durum flour (Wheat); Niacin; Iron (Ferrous Sulfate); Thiamin Mononitrate; Riboflavin; Folic Acid

While this is not the worst ingredient list I have ever seen, I certainly have no idea what good or evil Thiamin Mononitrate* is doing in my body.  I do however know that eggs, flour, salt and olive oil are all whole ingredients that will fulfill my needs when paired with the right partners.  These four ingredients create pasta dough, made at home with family and friends.  This isn’t a paid advertisement by the pasta-machine company.  Its an ask by me to you to cook when you can, what you can, with what you have.

I am blessed to have a fantastic working kitchen, a full pantry and adventurous family and friends.  But not everyone is so blessed.  Do some research.. see if there is a local community kitchen or workspace that teaches cooking classes.  Find out what they’re cooking (or not) at your child’s school; this will affect their food choices and preferences for a life time.  Instead of beans in a can, try soaking dry beans and cut out a great deal of sodium.  Small steps turn into big ones.

The photos above are of some friends making pasta with a pasta-maker at home.  Though time-intensive, we have come to plan for pasta nights every week. (This would be our third Tuesday pasta night!)  Maybe in your house, it can be ordering take-out or going out one less night a week and making a quiche or a whole wheat pasta dish.  Stay tuned for some more pasta and recipes!

*According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, thiamin(e) mononitrate is a B-1 vitamin that is “perfectly safe, despite adding minuscule amounts of nitrate to our food.”

Mum’s the Word at Fresh & Fancy

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What’s New Jersey’s best-kept secret?  How can I pick just one?  But I do know for a fact that one of them is Fresh & Fancy Farms in New Milford, run by the Low family of Oradell.  I was connected to Meg Low through a mutual friend from high school and we played email tag while I was finishing my year with Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Oregon.  I paid Fresh & Fancy my first visit last week and let me tell you, it was a little slice of heaven.

Meg, a fashionista/social media maven/crafty lady extraordinaire, greeted me at the farm like we’d been friends for years.  Indeed it feels like we’ve known each other forever, though the extent of our friendship had just been via email and texts to this point.. funny how the world works.  I’ve been following all of Meg’s tweets and Facebook posts about the farm and was just overjoyed to take a look around and see all of the beautiful nooks and crannies this extraordinary little farm had to offer..

Originally Klinger’s Farms, owned by Bill and Sharon Klinger, the Low family purchased the farm this year and opened it on Mother’s Day.  (You can find more of the backstory in the New Milford Patch article about the farm.)  Nearly 100 years old, the twinkle and the charm of days gone by still whisper to you as you walk through the farm.  Meg showed me the greenhouses, of which there are several, that she wants to get into working order and we talked for hours about the plans she and her family have for the farm.  I can feel her excitement and enthusiasm as she talks and I appreciate her suggestion of walking around the farm on my own to snap pictures and explore.

I am so excited to join the Fresh & Fancy team as a guest blogger, part-timer, friend.. whatever you want to call it.  Be sure to stay tuned to their blog (http://freshandfancyfarms.com/) and put Harvest Fest into your calendar!  Happening for the first time on Saturday, October 8th, there will be face-painting, wonderful deals on plants, games and so much more.  Will we see you there in your fresh and fancy gear?  Hope so!

The (Food) Love of my Life

Hummus.  How did I live 20 years without you?  Your versatility, deliciousness and general sassiness make you a fantastic complement to sandwiches, crackers, pita.. Let’s be honest here.. I eat hummus on its own.  It wasn’t until this year that I attempted (along with my JVC housemates) to make my own hummus and let me tell you.. its a grand time.  Lots of tweaking it involved but its been a beautiful friendship since the very beginning.  Here’s my super simple go-to recipe:

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From The Moosewood Cookbook:

  • 2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, sliced
  • large handful of parsley (super easy to grow yourself!)
  • 2 healthy scallions, in 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15 1/2 oz. cans, rinsed and well drained or soak dried beans)
  • 6 tbs. tahini (found in specialty aisle, ground sesame seeds)
  • 6 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp. salt, to taste
  • optional: cayenne and cumin, to taste

Place garlic, parsley and scallions in a food processor or blender and mince

Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and salt, and puree to a thick paste.  (You can also do the mincing and mashing by hand.  The hummus will have a coarser texture, but that can be nice, too.  My note: We did not have a blender that worked in my house last year so all mashing was done by hand.. it was coarse for sure but made for a nice arm workout!)

Season to taste, if desired, with cayenne and cumin and correct salt if necessary.  Tansfer to a tightly lidded container and chill, not before lots of taste tests of course.

My favorite pairings are carrots, pita chips, crackers and red wine.  The red wine is a necessity.