More on SIGG: trade secrets and our health

The recent hoopla over hidden BPA in SIGG water bottles was made possible because it is legal for a company to not disclose the ingredients of packaging that comes in contact with our food and water because of trade secrets. Now, I cannot claim to be an expert or to even have done significant research on this topic; however, had SIGG been legally required to disclose the content of their old liner (and even their new one) for the simple fact that it comes in contact with beverages consumed by humans (or anyone really) we would not have had this issue arise.

I find it ironic that paint (such as non toxic milk paints) or even my non toxic cleaning products, must have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), because many of these items do contain toxic ingredients. And yet, SIGG (and other manufacturers) are allowed to claim trade secrets and not reveal the ingredients of their liner, despite the fact that over time food containers and utensils have been found to contain ingredients that are toxic, such as lead, and more recently, BPA. This is especially silly considering that no one actually expects you to eat paint; however, the primary expectation for a water bottle is that it holds beverages that folks intend to consume. How can it possibly be legal that SIGG was able to claim trade secret and not disclose the ingredients of their water bottle liners?

This line of thought has led me to wonder what else I dont know about food containers and the regulations that direct how they can be made and what exactly makes them food safe. If there is not already legislation in the works to require full disclosure on ingredients (even non reactive ingredients) for containers that hold food and beverages for human consumption, there needs to be one!  In the meantime, our family will do our best to stick with glass and stainless steel.

If you have any ideas or great resources regarding this topic please share them below or write about them on your blog and send me the link to share.

Eco Mom Series #4: Use non toxic products

Concern for the products that enter our bodies through our mouths is pretty straightforward. No one in his or her right mind would willingly drink a bottle of chlorine or munch a handful of lead. Indeed, humans and animals alike can very easily be poisoned and or affected in a multitude of ways if we ingest something toxic to our system. However, we are often in denial of the fact that products that touch our skin or that create vapors can be just as toxic.

Indeed it is commonplace for our society to overlook the fact that human skin is a living organ, which makes what we put on or next to our skin seriously important. Somehow, we think that our skin acts as a barrier, when in fact it can absorb toxins and environmental irritants just as easily as our digestive system. And, products that are absorbed through our skin can be especially dangerous because they go straight into our blood stream. At the least, toxins ingested through the mouth if they dont kill us first have the opportunity to be cleaned out of our system through the digestive process. This is why alcoholics get cirrhosis of the liver. The body works so hard at clearing the alcohol out of their bodies’ that it eventually cant keep up.

Similarly, the lung is a working organ and the only way for humans to get oxygen into our blood stream. Every time we inhale a chemical irritant we damage our lungs. Enough damage and the lungs start to lose their ability to repair themselves. Furthermore airborne irritants and toxins can aggravate the lungs for folks who already have breathing problems, such as asthma, even worse they can induce asthma in folks who were previously not at risk. Smoking may be the most common cause of lung cancer but it is not the only cause.

According to research collected by the Eco-Mom Alliance over 150 toxic chemicals are common to the average household. What is really bad news, is that many of these chemicals have been connected to increased incidence of asthma, allergies, cancers, and behavioral disorders.

Chemicals to avoid (more info at the Environmental Working Group):

  • Triclosan – antibacterial agent in soap. Reacts with chlorine to create chloroform a known carcinogen and it is showing up in water sources, humans and animals in unprecedented levels.
  • BPA – Is found in hard clear plastics, such as baby bottles, old Nalgene bottles, your Cuisinart food processor and more. BPA is more likely to leach when heated or in contact with fatty or acidic foods.
  • Fragrance (pththaltes) this includes perfumes, but also extends to baby lotions and all sorts of bath and body products.
  • Oxybenzone – chemical blocker in sunscreen is a photo carcinogen itself, as well as, highly allergic to certain people. And, in Sweden they have recommended that at the least it should never be used on children under the age of two, because they dont have adequate enzymes to eliminate in from their system.
  • PBDE and other fire retardants Bad, bad, bad. Bad for you, bad for me, bad for baby, bad for fish, bad for everyone.
  • Lead We’ve known about lead poisoning for eons. Why is this still a problem?
  • Chlorine is a lung irritant and also toxic to aquatic systems

Non-toxic replacements:

  • Antibacterial soaps and wipes: warm water and hand soap; alcohol, thyme or tea tree oil based wipes. I am very fond of these non-toxic wipes by CleanWell. Be cautious with alcohol gels and wipes around toddlers and pre-school age kids – the concentration of alcohol can be toxic.
  • Buy glass or BPA free baby bottles & sippy cups; glass food storage containers and the like.
  • For sunscreen look for physical blockers (like Zinc) versus chemical blockers. Checkout how your favorite sunscreen (or body product) rates at the Skin Dip Cosmetic Database.
  • Filter tap water to reduce exposure to lead, chlorine and other water contaminates (most filters cannot remove Fluoride).
  • Cook with stainless steel pans and a little healthy olive or canola oil or use a seasoned cast iron skillet.
  • Use green cleaners, but watch out for preservatives (which can still be skin and lung irritants.
  • Eat your omega 3 fats and fish that are low in mercury; breastfeed your baby!
  • Use a sprig of pine; baking soda in the fridge or freezer; orange rind or lemon in your garbage disposal; bake a fresh pie or cookies; or a soy or beeswax candle to freshen your air!
  • Make your own non-toxic cleaners with baking soda, vinegar, borax and more!

Also, don’t immediately trust a product because it calls itself GREEN. For example, Clorox Green Works, which has received lots of positive reviews contains preservatives that are potentially toxic to aquatic life and are most definitely potential skin and lung irritants. Specifically in question is the Kathalon biocide preservative and isothiazol. I have not yet fully researched these components and the claims against them; however, in the meantime if you have breathing problems or other chemical sensitivities I would steer clear of the Clorox Green Works line.

***Update***

When I posted this earlier today I forgot to mention two very important messages from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice:

  1. The Disney Go Green Campaign: Disney is participating in Florida’s Green Building program and they have committed to using non-toxic cleaning products in their zoos/animal enclosures. However, they still use over 80 highly toxic cleaners in areas where children play, bathe and sleep! Please join the campaign to ask Disney to Go Green! Follow this link to take action!
  2. The Non Toxic Home Cleaning Guide (down loadable PDF)

Life without paper towels

I enjoy challenges. Perhaps that makes me the perfect candidate for just about any green living experiment. On the other hand, I believe that it is inaccurate to say that green living is a challenge. Certainly our disposable life has become a life of unmindful convenience, but is it really easier for us than it was for previous generations? Has our quality of life improved over that of our great-grandmothers simply because we have, for example, super-absorbent paper towels?

Ive never lived in a home in which the residents (my parents, roommates, etc.) were willing to pony up for the spendiest name-brand absorbent towels, but Ive always had paper towels. Perhaps the ease with which I have transitioned away from paper is the result of never having lived with the Bounty. On the other hand, paper towels of any quality are deceptively convenient, so I have tallied up my fair share of paper usage over the years. The key word here is deceptively convenient, because I can honestly say that I dont miss my inexpensive recycled paper towels one bit. Cloth does it better every time!

I dont remember the exact day that we stopped using towels. Nor did I record the date that we finally moved the now empty paper towel rack (counter top) to the laundry closet. We have held onto a single roll of paper towels stashed away that allow Mr. Green Me to sleep at night without fear of disaster and maybe someday will come upon a situation in which nothing else will do. Perhaps a winter day without any electricity and not a clean towel to be found?

By now if you are a paper towel devotee you are probably wondering if our house is a complete disaster and whether we are wading around in muck and dried messes. In fact we are not our house is clean (at least once per day while Baby Green Me naps) and at times even sparkling with shine.

 

The Green Me Family anti-paper towel stash:

  1. Regular old dish towels: there are a variety of dish towels with different uses and strengths, so if your current towels dont do the job maybe you need a different variety. Here is what I have found: terry towels are great for messes and moisture but sometimes leave behind lint; waffle weave towels are great for drying dishes or wiping ups spills; flour sack towels are perfect for drying dishes and hands.
  2. The European Sponge cloth is perfect for wiping up spills, wiping down the counter, and washing up spots on the floor. It is highly absorbent and highly wring-able. You can sanitize it in the dishwasher, laundry, or microwave and they are biodegradable at the end (think compost pile) when they’re through. If your cat (or other pets) like to leave you presents get a cloth damp, wipe up the mess, shake it in the trash, rinse off the cloth, spray on some enzyme wash pat clean the mess spot, and toss your cloth in the wash. Ta da! No mess, no towels, no waste!
  3. The Bamboo Sponge cloth is excellent for drying dishes or wiping up spills. This baby is seriously absorbent! After a run through the wash it is also soft and delicate for dusting your china or furniture, but still powerful enough to wipe up your toughest messes! (Think of that commercial with the kiddo and cupcakes you dont need a paper towel you need a Bamboo Sponge Cloth!)
  4. Microfiber towels: A spray bottle with 50/50 water and vinegar and a few clean and dry microfiber towels will have your windows, mirrors, and stainless appliances sparkling in no time at all! Newspaper works great, but it gets your hands all messy. Vinegar and microfiber is the clean, green, and simple solution! Microfiber is also great for wiping down furniture and dusting. But my all time favorite use for microfiber? Soaking up bacon grease!!! The Green Me Family has a somewhat illicit love affair with bacon, but we dont love extra grease. In the past I have wasted 10 or more paper towels trying to degrease my bacon. One microfiber towel does the trick sucking up the grease until my bacon is dry! I keep a few microfiber towels with my dish cloths (dont get them confused with ones for cleaning house) and when washed with a little baking soda and vinegar I never have any greasy residue left behind.
  5. Cloth Napkins: In a pinch a napkin makes for the perfect single use clean-up. I use the single use swipe washing up Baby Green Me after his meal or to pick up something squishy that Ive just dropped on the floor. (Floor towels of any kind go straight to the wash and not back into use!) Cloth napkins are of course also great to use with meals paper napkins are also out!

 

Energy Saving Tips (for you and your dryer):

  • Keep a small basket on the washing machine for soiled towels so you always have a safe receptacle for grimy, wet, or otherwise soiled towels. I line mine with cotton bag, so if it gets dirty I can wash it with out any fuss.
  • Wash your towels on hot if you must, but to save energy wash on cold. To deodorize the towels and your wash use baking soda with the detergent and vinegar instead of fabric softener.
  • If the towels are really stinky or they have been used to clean up pet stains or they are starting to mildew start the wash before bed and use an enzyme wash. Let the enzyme wash soak over night and complete the cycle in the morning.
  • Hang your towels to dry, but fold them how you like them first, this way they will hang dry, but appear to have been ironed and or expertly folded! (See photo above!)
  • Even the youngest among us can be trained to use cloth! Baby Green Me knows to pat his mouth with a napkin and he occasionally tries to wipe down his high chair tray after a meal.

 

The bottom line folks (repeat after me): I DO NOT NEED paper towels!

I DO NOT NEED paper towels!

Does your baby get a rash on his/her neck on occasion?

Very disturbing post over at Zrecs. Also surprising, because I have occasionally noticed a red spot on the back of my sons neck, but assumed it was from fabric rubbing. He rarely wears Carters tag-less clothing, but we do have a few we received as gifts or seconds. One more reason to keep your little ones in organics!

Read more at Zrecs: Tagless Infant Clothing Causes Chemical Burns

BTW on a different note for those of you with infants and Pajamas avoid any clothing with fire retardants! Tight fitting cotton PJs will be retardant free, but most baggy, fleece, and other PJs contain fire retardants, unless other wise noted. There will be a report coming out soon over at the Environmental Working Group. Ill post up a link when they publish their report.

Party In Style: Zero Waste!

I love parties, but I hate waste. Even before I was cognizant of the environmental impact of party waste, it still bothered me that so many decorations, plates, etc. were single use and destined to an afterlife at the dump. So, when I learned that Ecocycle had made it possible for the average Joe (or Jane) to host her own Zero Waste party I was sold. The deal was sealed when I realized that zero waste (and industrial composting) meant that I didn’t have to do any dishes (that is once the food was served)! A birthday party has multiple aspects that can contribute to waste which I’ve broken down into three categories: decorations; food & drink; and gifts.

Before the party, however, comes the invitation! I am a romantic and I know a few people in this day and age that don’t use (or like) Evite, so I sent real invitations via snail mail 3 weeks before the party date. The invitations were made from 100% post consumer paper (all 3 pieces), which I ordered through Formal Invitations, an online green stationary company. For less than $25 I made my own formal Birthday Invitations, which were not fancy, but got rave reviews all the same! Hopefully, folks recycled or kept their invites (rather than tossing them in the trash). I meant to put a recycle me! sign on the back of the card, but I forgot!

Decorations: Parties with a theme always seem a little more cohesive, so I thought long and hard on what I could do for my sons first birthday. Id already decided to bake him an airplane cake because we live in the flight path of a municipal airport and get to see little planes fly by day in and day out. Airplanes seemed lacking on their own, so I decided to combine that with the Little Prince.

To decorate I bought a small pink rose which I planted in a beautiful painted blue terracotta pot that we already owned. I then found an expired (2004) Little Prince calendar through Free-cycle, which I cut up to make hanging decorations and little place cards. Id hoped to reuse the cards, but most of them became stained with food or bent, so they moved on to my paperboard recycling container. I used the cardboard in the calendar (inserted to keep it flat) to make a little box, such as the pilot drew for the little prince when he first asked him for a sheep. I then put a small stuffed animal sheep on the box just in case my guests missed the reference! I placed these center pieces on black tablecloths (standard fair in our home) over the picnic tables in the gazebo.

Food & Drink: The biggest challenge in hosting a zero waste party is the food and drink. Especially when hosting the party in a park, which disallows the use of glass, and on a day that was forecast to be in the 80s. Our solution? Compostable tree-free plates, cups and tableware, made from either sugar cane fiber or corn, and reusable plastic and stainless steel serving dishes, trays and spoons. The food was very summer like with a bean and corn salad, a macaroni and edamame salad, a fruit salad, hummus & pita chips, and Applegate farms Organic beef hot dogs.

You cant really see it in the above picture, but the gazebo is home to a small charcoal grill which I was sure would be a source of waste. Fortunately while at Whole Foods we discovered these little charcoal bags that are non toxic and waste free. The entire little bag is burned, the wood is coated with paraffin (to help it burn) and the ashes can be added to your compost! I am sure that no charcoal at all would have been the greenest option, but then I’m not one for raw hot dogs!

We ate our hot dogs on whole wheat buns from Rudi’s Bakery, which is local to us (yipee!) and we chilled our drinks with ice from the near by grocery store. We had nearly 40 guests, so we did collect a fair amount of plastic waste from the hot dogs, buns, and 3 bags of ice. Nonetheless, in the spirit of zero waste we collected all the plastic for recycling.

For drink we provided Izzes (also local), water in compostable corn bottles (it is debatable how green and how compostable they really are), and a selection of other canned sodas nothing containing HFCS but that is my personal pet peeve! We set our two composting containers and one recycling can up surrounding the single trash can and we politely educated our guests on what to compost and what to recycle. Hopefully, nothing got tossed in the trash! Everyone seemed really pleased by the Zero Waste aspect of the party, so hopefully well be seeing a few more in the near future!

The cake I made myself (as you should already know!) and it was served on a simple cardboard tray which went into the compost at the end. I started to recycle the tray, but my husband pointed out that with all the cake and frosting remnants that it would be better served to go in the compost. I covered the cake with the tasty cream cheese frosting recipe that was given to me by my kind reader Maranda, but I decorated the cake with the Wilton decorating icing recipe.

To color the frosting and icing I used the India Tree colors, which ended up working out okay. I recycled the cream cheese and butter boxes, as well as the foil cream cheese liners. I tossed paper that they wrap the butter in, but I would guess that butter is wrapped with wax paper, so if Id been thinking ahead, I should have been able to add them to the party compost. As for the rest of the cake, I used local Ollin Farms eggs and recycled the egg carton! Egg cartons, can either be recycled and or composted if you toss one in your home (versus commercial compost) bin, beware that it may take a few months for the carton to decompose.

Gifts: After cake comes the presents! Many folks consider this to be the best part of the party, although I personally would be happy for more time to converse. I’ve attended and heard about many kids parties of late that are gift free. I considered that option for this party, but I also know (and understand) that most folks like to give gifts, and some even feel compelled to give. And, since it was Baby Green Mes first Birthday with grandparents and other relatives in attendance, I made no restrictions or suggestions in regards to gift giving. Incidentally, nearly all of his gifts came in gift bags, and few even came in reusable cloth gift bags. Woohoo!

The end result of our party is that we collected a large bag of compost, some compost for my home pile, some smaller collections of recyclables, and a very small wad of wrapping paper for the trash (see here for more on the gifts and wrapping). And, in case you are wondering, the zero waste aspect was 100% easy to implement, made for an easy clean-up and will definitely be repeated by our household in the future!

Bug Off!!!

Personally, I try to steer clear of bugs and bug repellent to the best of my ability. My husband is not very fond of bugs either especially mosquitoes! I wish that I had a video to share of him running from a swarm of mosquitoes in Yosemite (on our Honeymoon) waving his arms, shaking his head, and generally looking like he was a mad hatter. Unfortunately mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance, they can also transmit disease. In much of the US there is concern that mosquitoes might transmit West Nile and ticks might transmit Lyme disease.

When it comes to ticks the most important thing to remember is to check yourself (and your kids) thoroughly (from head to toe) after an outdoor outing, especially in areas with brush or tall grasses. Ticks that have been properly removed within 24 to 72 hours of attaching are unlikely to transmit Lyme disease (so it is important to check early and often).

Mosquito bites are unfortunately unforgiving, and once bitten there is not much you can do! So the goal with mosquitoes is to keep them away!

Avoid the bugs: Get rid of the stink, whether it be salty sweat or sweet perfume, bugs like smells, so if you want to be bug free, keep it clean and clear. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid and CO2, so dont run or breathe when you are outside. Just kidding. It might actually work better to get the bugs to avoid YOU. Several different companies are working on formulations that keep mosquitoes from populating grassy areas, basically natural insecticides using ingredients like soybean oil (suffocates the buggers) and garlic oil (keeps them away). One such product that appears to get good reviews is Mosquito Barrier. Ive not tried the stuff myself, but their site looks fairly convincing!

Stay inside at dawn & dusk: A good suggestion is to avoid being outside at dawn or dusk in mosquito infested areas as these are the littler buggers prime biting times. This is especially good advice for the very young and the elderly in areas with West Nile Virus.

Standing water eliminate it or Mix-it-Up: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. If you have a pond, puddle, bird bath or other small (or large) body of standing water near your home mix-it-up on a daily basis (or at most every 2 days) or eliminate it completely. If you have a pond or pool look into other safe ways to eliminate mosquito larvae. I am also certain that Ive both heard and read about some sort of soy based product that can be put in ponds or standing water that interrupts the larvae development, but I could not find any good info online. If any readers are familiar with this, please send the information my way or comment below!

Use an insect repellent outdoors: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Personally, I do my best to stay away from DEET although I have been known to use it in generous amounts while camping. Hopefully, in the future I will be able to steer clear of DEET. If you do choose to use a DEET based product, beware that DEET can cause toxicity if it is over applied, especially in kids under the age of 8!!! Whatever you do please do not apply any sort of insect repellent to children under 6 months!

Picaridin was developed by Bayer and it supposedly surpasses DEET in being non-irratating and odorless (I do not have personal experience with Picardin). In addition, unlike DEET, Picaridin does not dissolve plastic! Nonetheless, Picaridin is another artificially derived chemical that comes with a list of precautions, so I found it rather encouraging to read numerous reviews that indicate repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are highly effective.

The following non-toxic bug sprays get good marks:

Repel – Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent gets good reviews in regards to keeping away the skeeters.
Herbal Insect Repellent by Burts Bees also seems to be effective against mosquitoes, but may attract some other bugs

Our family has actually used All Terrain insect repellant and found it to be somewhat effective. It wasnt perfect, but it was much better than no application at all! And, they even offer Kids Herbal Armor that is supposed to be effective for children ages 6 months to 6 years.

Permethrin treated clothing: I also read recently that Permethrin treated socks and shoes are very effective at preventing ticks from jumping on to kids (or adults) while frolicking in the outdoors. And Permethrin treated clothing is effective at eliminating mosquitoes; however, Permethrin must never be sprayed directly on the skin and clothing treated with the stuff should only be worn after it has completely dried! Personally, Id consider it wise to keep away from anything that cant be sprayed directly on the skin. Checking for ticks is not such a big deal (Ive had a tick bite and lived to tell). And, there are other ways to avoid mosquito bites (Ive had Malaria and lived to tell.)

Further Reading: There are a lot of sites and articles on bug control, but I found a few that Id recommend:

Natural Mosquito Relief

Insect Repellent and your Kids

Colorado State Extension on West Nile & Mosquitoes

Ecological Cooking

Ecological Cooking, by Jo Stepaniak & Kathy Hecker is a mini-encyclopedia of Vegan cooking. The book may not sport glossy pictures, but it is filled to the brim with instructions, ideas, tips and recipes that should help even a kitchen novice to start cooking vegan. In fact, the book is a veritable Joy of Cooking for the vegetarian chef. Technically, the recipes provided in the book are purely vegan, meaning that zero ingredients that contain animal products or foods that are made using animal products can be found in the book. Nevertheless, Ecological Cooking is a useful resource and guide whether you are simply looking to cook a few vegetarian meals or become a full blown vegan.

The first section of the book is filled with useful tips for an earth friendly kitchen. To start the authors provide a list of recommended kitchen gadgets and basic ingredients to have on hand in the vegan kitchen. Many of the suggested ingredients are standard pantry items, such as beans, flour and baking powder; however, other ingredients such as tahini, barley and miso may be less common. Next in line is a thorough glossary of special ingredients, such as agar gar, nutritional yeast, Seitan, Tempeh and TVP.

Suggested ingredients and the glossary of vegan foods are followed up with an inclusive list of Natural Foods Substitutions. As an experienced cook who is nevertheless terrible at stocking my pantry, I am always thrilled to find substitutions, as they often mean I can make a dish without an extra trip to the grocery store. This list is especially good for vegans (and some vegetarians) who avoid a variety of plant based foods that are made through the use animal byproducts. For example, bone char is used in the whitening process of commercially available white sugar, and according the list of substitutions, a vegetarian chef might substitute ½ cup maple syrup or 1 cup apple butter in a recipe that calls for ¾ cup processed white cane sugar.

Once you have read through the first section and stocked your pantry the aspiring vegan chef should be ready to cook. The recipe section of Ecological Cooking is chocked full of delicious recipes that range from variations on standard American fair to traditional ethnic recipes and everything in between, including a few recipes that must have been invented on accident. One recipe that is surprisingly good, but definitely not traditional, is the Tomato, Mushroom and Pecan Casserole on page 163. I must confess that I only made this recipe, because I could not believe that it would taste good – but it did. Somehow, the combination of tomato sauce, tamari and cooked pecans makes a filling dish with a meaty texture. I am not sure exactly what this dish reminds me of, but perhaps you could think of it as similar to a spaghetti pie.

A perfect accompaniment to the Tomato, Mushroom and Pecan Casserole is the Daily Bread, found on page 84. Most bread is vegetarian; however, as mentioned above, processed white sugar is generally made using bone char. And, although many bread recipes are vegetarian, they are generally not vegan. The Daily Bread recipe is indeed vegan, using Sucanat instead of sugar and a mix of whole wheat and white flour. The recipe made nice heavy bread that was both filling and chewy. As I only have one loaf pan, I only made 1/3 the recipe, but this should not have affected the quality of the bread.

Ecological Cooking provides a variety of other bread recipes in addition to the Daily Bread. The recipes include: Chapatis, Anadama Bread, pita bread, sweet breads, pancakes, muffins and more. For anyone who wishes to eat more healthfully, while avoiding unnecessary processed foods and nasty ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, I highly recommend learning how to bake bread. Bread making (muffins and sweet breads included) is really quite simple, and once you have it down, takes very little time.

My favorite recipe from Ecological Cooking is the Alu Mattar on page 138. To make a complete protein out of this meal, I would recommend serving it with Chapatis. I am a succor for Indian food, but I am also lactose intolerant, and many Indian restaurants use cream or milk in their sauces. Consequently, I was thrilled to find this dairy free version of one of my favorite Indian dishes. I followed the recipe to a T except for the suggestion to garnish the dish with Cilantro, as both my husband and I abhor Cilantro. I enjoyed our Alu Mattar dinner so much that I found myself craving the stuff the next morning. We had leftovers, so I ate some with brown rice for breakfast. Tasty and much healthier than a slice of cold pizza!

Okay, so I have shared with you the gist of the book and a few of its best recipes, but you might still be wondering why vegan? If so, this excerpt from the back cover of the book should answer your question:

A meat-based diet affects:

The quantity and quality of our water supply

The worlds forests

The amount of fossil fuels consumed

Human hunger and health

The cruel part of this review is that the book is out of print and I plan to keep my copy, which Ive used and loved for nearly 10 years. You might be able to pick up your own Ecological Cooking second hand at Amazon or your local used book store; however, dont despair as the author does have a variety of other excellent vegan cookbooks. Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings is the best substitute of Ecological Cooking. Please visit Jo Stepaniaks website for books and lots of excellent vegetarian tidbits.

The recipes below have been reprinted with permission from the author.

Tomato, Mushroom and Pecan Casserole
Serves 8

1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
2 C chopped pecans
1 C cooked potatoes, diced small
1 C chopped celery
½ C sliced mushrooms
1 (4 oz) can tomato puree
1 C fresh bread crumbs
2 T tamari

Sauté onion in 1 tsp. olive oil until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Combine with remaining ingredients. Place in a lightly oiled casserole (I used a pie dish) and bake, covered for 30 minutes at 350 F. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.

Daily Bread
3 large loaves

4 C warm water
3 T (3 pkgs.) active dry yeast
½ C Sucanat
2 tsp. salt (optional*)
1/3 C safflower oil

Dissolve yeast in water. Add Sucanat, salt and oil. Stir well. Add flour, alternating whole wheat then white until you reach desired consistency [until dough pulls away from your hands without sticking]. Use as little flour as possible, since a soft dough will yield a moister bread. Knead 10-15 minutes on a floured surface. Form into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Turn dough to oil top and cover bowl with a damp cloth. Set in warm place for about 1 ½ hours, or until dough is doubled. Divide into 3 equal pieces. Form into loaves and place in greased pans. Let bread rest ½ hours, covered with a damp cloth. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

* The recipe says that the salt is optional, and as one who has recently baked bread without salt (as infants are not supposed to eat added salt), I do not recommend salt free bread, as it is rather blah.

Alu Mattar
Serves 6

3 T vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. tumeric
1 T Curry Powder (page 209) – I used premade Indian curry powder
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
½ C water
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chunked
4 C cooked, peeled, diced potatoes
1 ½ C frozen peas, thawed under hot tap water and drained
3 T fresh cilantro, or 1 ½ T dried cilantro (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté onions for about 10 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add spices and stir fry for about a minute more. Remove from heat and place in a blender along with ½ cup water. Process until smooth. Poor back into skillet add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and peas. Cook for 10 minutes more, until hot. Garnish with cilantro before serving. Is delicious rolled up in Chapatis.

If you love me, give me strawberries:

I’ve had a long standing love affair with strawberries. As a small child I once ate an entire mixing bowl full of strawberries that my mom had prepared for a cake. I later broke out in hives, but like all obsessive lovers, a little bump in the road didn’t stop me from coming back for more. For years the only flavor of ice cream I ate was “strawberry” and my favorite person in the world was my grandmother, who made a tantalizing batch of strawberry jam every summer.

My grandmother will be 89 this summer and she retired from the strawberry jam business a few years back. Since that time I have been left sampling every jam (organic) that I can find. There are an amazing number of organic and biologique jams to be found, but unfortunately most of them hail from far far away, and not one compares in flavor to my grandmother’s jam.

The only solution that I have come up with is to go into the jam business myself. And so, this Valentines Day, instead of flowers, my husband will be giving me 20 Organic Strawberry Plants, to be delivered from Seeds of Change after April 1st. I will add these to the 20 plants I started last summer and hopefully, sometime towards mid June, I will be in strawberry heaven.

You may be wondering why I am going to the effort of raising my own strawberries, when even organic berries can now be bought year round at the grocery store? Unless the birds get them first, homegrown berries are simply sweeter and taste better. Grocery store berries are not local, being trucked in primarily from California, but also coming in from Mexico, Central and South America. And, even organic grocery store berries tend to be bland and watery. According to the Western Farm Press, due to a favorable California climate, the US is actually the largest exporter of strawberries to the world market. So, for now, at least you don’t have to worry about your strawberries being imported from China.

Regardless of where they come from, I eat only organic strawberries and recommend the same to you. Why organic? Multiple studies have shown that organic strawberries have higher levels of beneficial antioxidants than conventionally grown berries. Recent studies in fact show that antioxidants are higher in organic crops, because they are part of the plants’ natural defense system. When pesticides are used to keep away bugs, the plants no longer need to defend themselves and the production of healthy antioxidants goes down.

So, conventional strawberry crops are pesticide intensive and strawberries are more likely than many fruits to absorb and maintain pesticide residue after application. From my point of view, if the consumption of conventional strawberries means that I get an over sized, but bland piece of fruit, which is tainted by pesticides, but without the benefit of healthy antioxidants. Why bother? My strawberries will of course be organic, and if you do buy strawberries, make sure to get the organic variety.