November 30, 2010

Ginger Cookies

Recipe UPDATED! I was making these cookies the other day and realized that a few things were off in the way I wrote it. Not a huge deal but I want to make it easy for everyone, even those who don't have enough experience cooking to interpret what I meant, rather than what I wrote. 

This post is linked to the "Whole Foods for the Holidays Progressive Dinner" blog carnival, (dessert edition) hosted by Modern Alternative Momma. Visit for more real food desserts.

I also contributed this recipe to "Pennywise Platter Thursdays" on The Nourishing Gourmet.

Eggs from our hens.
This cookie is one of our favorites. I started with a Martha Stewart ginger cookie recipe and made some big changes - way less sugar (and whole sugar instead of brown), black strap instead of regular molasses, much more spice, chopped candied ginger, and whole wheat flour. As always I use free range eggs (my chickens) and Organic Valley butter (which the Cornucopia Institute says is pastured as advertised). Since it's made with nothing but whole food, have more than one!

Very Gingery Cookies

375 degree oven. Makes about 12 (before dough is nibbled).
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur White Whole Wheat... it might be too heavy if you used traditional whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup rapadura
1/8 cup black strap molasses
1 egg
1 Tbl. vanilla paste (or extract) if you're using commercial stuff. 1/2 Tbl extra strength extract from your kitchen or mine.

1/4 - 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped

Sift together dry ingredients. Cream butter, rapadura, and molasses. Beat in egg. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Stir in candied ginger. Roll into balls and place on buttered cookie sheet. Squish balls for a flatter cookie (if you like them that way). Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes.


P.S. These are super low sugar cookies. I've spent years gradually adding less and less sugar to my baked goods. I'm used to it and now I find that I'm not crazy about normally sweetened thing. However, this might be too much too soon. Feel free to add up to 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup molasses as the original recipe calls for.

November 26, 2010

What To Do With Green Tomatoes

Here in Texas we still have tomatoes growing in the garden. Where I live on the coast we may not get a hard freeze for a month or it might freeze tomorrow... you never can tell. Some of my friends in the Hill Country however are getting their first freeze tonight. That means lots of green tomatoes coming into the kitchen.

What to do with green tomatoes?

Part Two: The Bathroom (A List of Methods for the Non-Disposable, Low Waste Life)

Welcome to part two. Be sure to check out Part One: The Kitchen and stay tuned for parts three and four.

The Non-Disposable, Low Waste Life - List of Methods
(This is the entire list in simple form.)

- make our food from scratch
- buy loose tea, bulk items, and no single serving sizes
- reusable, compostable, recyclable packaging
- no paper, no plastic flatware, little non-reusable food storage
- no non-stick or plastic cookware, dishes, etc.
- we don't buy water
- reusable grocery sacks
- compost and chickens

- no make up or deodorant
- cloth menstrual pads
- recycled and recyclable razors and toothbrushes
- pee wipes
- cloth shower curtain
- solid shampoo
- homemade soap
- vinegar rinse
- if it's yellow...
- no chemical cleaners
- buy hemp

- salvaged furniture
- no VOC paint
- lighting choices
- no synthetic clothing
- durable clothes and shoes
- mattresses and linens 

- bike
- combining trips in the car
- cloth ribbon, upcycled packaging
- paper and cardboard as garden mulch
- sew and mend
- soap
- grow food
- wash in cold, dry on the line
- limit air conditioner and heater use


  • No makeup or deodorant
Half of us don't wear deodorant. Neither of us wear makeup. I haven't done makeup since I tried it out for a year when I was 13. Not a fan. I do use lip balm and some lotion in the winter. Making both these things is on the to do list.

November 25, 2010

When is a Sustainable Textile Not a Sustainable Textile?

Keeper of the Home has a nice series of on going posts about sustainable gifts for the holidays. So far she's told us about some yummy lotions and lip balms and very cool reusable gift wrapping. Yesterday's post covers glass straws (I heart glass straws!) and green fashion. It was the featured green fashion website Fashion and Earth which got me agitated and inspired me to write a post about sustainable textiles.

In the world of eco-textiles we have the clearly bad, the slightly better, and the actually sustainable. There is a lot of confusion about which is which. If we are really interested in making the best choice we need to do some critical thinking about what a truly sustainable fiber is. 
Hand-sewn tea towel from naturally grown hemp.

I think there are three questions to be asked on this issue:
 1. How much do we really need? Sustainable clothing is expensive. If I spent the money I used to buy all my normal clothes on a few high quality pieces of sustainable clothing, I'd have much less clothing... but so what? 
2. Is it even worth it to buy a slightly less destructive version of my favorite t-shirt or should I stop all together and pay the money for true sustainability? Are the intermediate, "better than conventional" steps valid?
3. Should the intermediate, "better than conventional" products be marketed as sustainable? Are these really products that should make us feel "pride and satisfaction"? Will you indeed "positively affect your community and set examples for others"? Or is this just more green washing?

I'm only going to deal with question #3. My issue with Fashion and Earth (and other "eco" clothing purveyors) is not whether we should take intermediate steps or be more radical - that's another discussion. I don't want to talk here about how many clothes we need - maybe another time. But I do want to talk about what is and is not a sustainable textile. If you've made the decision to spend the money and buy a real sustainable textile, which should you choose?

Here's the short version: If we want truly sustainable fiber crops we're talking hemp, animal fiber, silk, and perhaps flax linen. Organic cotton and bamboo rayon are not and probably can not be sustainable fibers.

The Candidates:

Hemp: I'll start here because it's a clear winner. This is what Fashion and Earth's website says about hemp (emphasis mine): "Earning a reputation as one of the most environmentally friendly fibers in the world, hemp is also one of the oldest plant fibers harvested for clothing, popular as far back as 8000 B.C. A particularly hardy plant, there’s no need for pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in its farming, and it needs very little water to grow. Strong, durable and naturally wrinkle-resistant, hemp fashions also offer the cool hand of linen and the softness of cotton." Anything you can do with cotton you can do with hemp. 

Organic Cotton: It's nice that some cotton is grown organically since conventional cotton is such a heavily sprayed crop. But, in order to grow cotton organically you have to grow it somewhere very dry and/or you use organic pesticides which (while better) can still be ecologically disruptive and toxic to animals other than the insects you're trying to kill. Cotton uses a ton of water. If you grow cotton in the desert for organic purposes (as many pest-susceptible crops are) then you have to use a ton of water in an ecosystem which already doesn't have much. So we see aquifers being drained to support "organic" farms. 

November 22, 2010

Simple, Quick, Real-Food, Light Meals and Snacks

As I've mentioned before, we make nearly everything from scratch. I'm not going to lie... cooking from scratch takes more time and makes a bigger mess (often) than heating up a frozen dinner or compiling a casserole by emptying a can of condensed soup, some instant rice, and pre-measured spices into a dish.

It seems that time is the number one reason people eat processed foods. Much of the conversation around the lunch table at work was a discussion which frozen dinner or "short cut" packaged foods was the least disgusting. Not which they liked best, but which they hated least. Obviously, the choice of convenience food over slow food and whole food is not made based on taste. (Whether or not people actually "don't have time" to cook good food is a discussion for another time.)

Whether you're someone who feels short on time or someone who takes the long slow route to food, we can all use some simple and fast real food dishes.

For those times when you're too hungry to wait on a slow simmering stew but want something more than a handful of nuts or some crackers here are some suggestions.


The baby chickens at 1 week old:

Baby chickens at 7 weeks old:

November 20, 2010

A List of Methods for a Non-disposable, Low Waste Life. Part 1: The Kitchen

So, sometimes when I'm reading other people's blogs, I come across a sustainable or environmental choice they've made that has a significant impact on consumption but which I've never thought of. This is how I felt when I came across cloth menstrual pads. I was like "That is brilliant!"... and so obvious when you think about it. It had just never occurred to me that I could replace disposable plastic pads with cloth.

beans we make from scratch, buy in bulk, and store in glass
Now that we've made so many changes to our life it seems like we have run out of all the easy and big impact stuff we can do. We're down to the things that, if we did them, only make a tiny difference (making our own tortilla chips) or the things that make a big difference but are not financially possible (geothermal priming for heating and cooling), or infrastructural things that don't exist in our area (there is no public transportation at all that goes between here and my husband's place of employment). So I'm always on the look our for that next big obvious thing that I just missed. In that vein I thought it might be useful for me to publish a list of the (sometimes radical) environmental actions we take in case there's something here you've never thought of but which might make a large difference in your life. 

I've broken the list into separate posts. Part one is the kitchen, followed by the bathroom, the bedroom, and then a list of miscellanea. In each post I'll include the entire list in simple form, for reference, but go into more detail below.

November 18, 2010

Very Simple Assertively Dilly Tomato Dill Soup

(I posted this recipe on The Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Platter Thursdays. There you'll find a collection of frugal and nourishing recipes.)

This is a super simple soup but we love it and eat it all the time. Amounts are approximate. Use what you have in the sizes you have.

1 quart canned diced or chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 quarts homemade chicken or beef bone broth
1 to 2 quarts water
1 large bunch of fresh dill, chopped
at least a half head of garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
butter and olive oil for sauteing

Add butter and/or olive oil to your soup pot. Saute garlic and onion until fragrant and golden. Add in tomatoes, broth, water and half the dill. Simmer. When you're ready to consume, add the other half of the dill. Blend for a smooth soup or leave it alone for chunky. Freezes well.

Sometimes we blend it and drink it as a broth. Other times I leave it chunky. Often we "cracker bed" (crumble crackers in the bottom of the bowl, add shredded shard cheddar on top, pour on soup). Often we add yogurt to the bowl for some tang. It's very versatile. I recommend homemade whole grain crackers. And of course it's excellent with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread.

November 17, 2010

Green, Sustainable, Crunchy and other descriptions for a save-the-earth lifestyle

(I'm working on some posts about the environmental impact and nutritional qualities of grass fed meat, dairy, and eggs that are very research intensive, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some other types of posts. Even these take a long time to produce! I've gained tremendous respect for all those bloggers I read who have coherent, detailed, and well researched posts.)

I've been thinking about the words and phrases we use to describe a "green" lifestyle. In addition to green we've got sustainable, crunchy, organic, beyond organic, granola, eco, eco-friendly, low impact, no impact, intentional, locavore, and others I've come across and forgotten. 

Each has a slightly different connotation. For example "green" is pretty general and now that companies are "green washing" (usurping the term to market products that are not, in fact, green) I think it's not very useful anymore. Similarly "organic" has lost much of its value. Unlike green it has a specific legal meaning. Most people imbue it with either more or less meaning than it actually has, but for me, organic does not go nearly far enough to describe how I live my life, raise my chickens, or grow my vegetables. 

"Sustainable" is my favorite. I think it's the most useful because it is not a metaphor (green is, after all, a color) and it's specific (sustainable adj \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ - capable of being kept up or prolonged). Its specific definition makes particular sense when we use it to describe systems. Thus something might be environmentally sustainable or economically sustainable. 

So "sustainable" works but it only describes the outcome not the process. It doesn't give any clues as to what specific choices and lifestyles end up being sustainable. I've been thinking about other words we can use to describe the process of living a sustainable life. The words I would use to describe my life and the values that inform our choices are: