Monday, November 23, 2009

We're heading into the kitchen ...

With Thanksgiving later this week, many people are getting ready to cook a family feast. If your celebration is anything like mine, the meal will be abundant ... and that means using practically every pot and pan in the house.

Before we start stirring, simmering and baking ... let's talk about our cookware and find out which options are safe and Eco-friendly.

Non-Stick Pans (Teflon & Silverstone)

You've heard me say this before ... whenever a product offers "convenience", it bears further investigation. In this case, non-stick pans are definitely convenient ... less fat is required to cook most foods and the clean-up is easy. But, the synthetic coating used to create that slick surface (PFOA) is a known toxin and carcinogen in animals. In some studies, it has been linked to birth defects, cancer and infertility in humans. Most experts will say that, when used properly, there's no danger. So ... how many of us know what "used properly" means? I sure didn't. It means never scratching the surface because that releases the PFOA into the food. It also means never using higher than a medium heat because at higher temperatures, the PFOA releases gases into the air which causes flu-like symptoms called polymer-fume fever. My conclusion on non-stick pans is that, if possible, replace them. If you have them, be sure to read the manufacturers recommendations for use and use them properly.

Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum pans are usually inexpensive and lightweight. They are thermal responsive, meaning that they heat up fast. The problem with these pans is that they react with acidic and/or salty foods (tomatoes, sauerkraut, etc.) causing the formation of aluminum salts which get into the food (and our bodies). These salts have been associated with impaired visual motor coordination and Alzheimer’s disease (although that hasn't been definitively proven). As with non-stick pans, I would pass on these. If one wishes to use them, however, be sure that there aren't any dings or nicks in them ... the more beat up these pans are, the more chance of aluminum contamination. Don't cook acidic or highly salted foods in them and never use them as storage devices.

Anodized Aluminum

The surface coating of these pans (aluminum oxide) is very hard and non-reactive. Basically the aluminum is sealed, preventing any exposure to food. It doesn't react with acidic and/or salty foods so is considered safe to use. Calphalon is probably the best known of these pans. But, when buying them, be sure they are, indeed, anodized aluminum and not one of their non-stick varieties.

Stainless Steel

These pans are created by mixing steel, chromium and nickel. The result is a tough, corrosion resistant pan that is easy to clean. It is considered safe, however, one should not use abrasive materials to clean these pans because doing so may loosen and release small amounts of metals. While a bit of nickel is not poisonous, it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Cast Iron

Most chefs, who have learned to cook with Cast Iron, swear by it. It holds the heat well, cooks evenly and, if cared for properly, is easy to clean. It also has an added benefit by providing us with an important nutrient ... iron. The only caution with cast iron cookware is that, if not maintained properly, rust can accumulate ... and rust is not something we want in our food. So, proper maintenance is important with these pans.

Glass and Ceramic Cookware

Glass cookware doesn't react to food and is considered safe to use. Ceramic cookware is also a good option provided that lead wasn't used in the glaze.

The general rule for most cookware is to use it according to the manufacturers directions and keep it in good shape. Doing so will provide us with cookware that lasts a long time and is safe to use!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Joyous Diversion ...

Celebration ... a joyous diversion!

Isn't that a wonderful definition? People, throughout time, have taken brief respites from their lives to celebrate ... to come together and observe something bigger than themselves. We focus on special foods and spending time with friends and family. Often there are traditional ceremonies to observe and sometimes gifts are exchanged. Typically, to further divert our attention to the joyous ... we decorate our homes.

Seasonal decorating is big business. Turn on the television and you're bound to see advertisements for holiday adornments. Walk into any store and you'll be greeted with decorations of all sorts. The trouble is, most of those things aren't very earth friendly. The unfortunate truth is that celebrations, of any kind, typically generate a lot of waste.

So, in preparation for the the upcoming holidays, here are a few ideas for decorating ... in an Eco-friendly way:

  • Use cornstalks, pumpkins and bales of hay to create a fall scene.

  • Make a scarecrow (use burlap, straw, old hats and clothes) and let him greet visitors to your home.

  • Collect colorful fall leaves to decorate a table or fill a vase.

  • Display gourds of all sizes, shapes and colors.

  • Use baskets ... fill them or simply display them at odd angles.

  • Make a cornucopia.

  • Use bunches of deep red grapes to decorate a table or place them around bottles of wine on the bar.

  • Pick beautiful apples, arrange them in your nicest bowl and use them as a centerpiece for meals with friends and family.

  • Bring colorful container plants indoors or arrange them around an entry (chrysanthemums, flowering cactus, ornamental kale, flowering cabbage, dusty miller, etc.).

  • Make a wreath from natural products (pine cones, Rosemary, thyme, sage and berries).

  • Decorate a mantle with a natural garland made from evergreens.

  • Don't forget our feathered friends ... fill the nooks and crannies of pine cones with peanut butter, press in bird seed, and hang in a tree. It'll not only make the birds happy, it'll make any tree look festive.

  • Use fresh produce from the farmer's market as decoration. Pomegranates, oranges and walnuts make lovely center pieces.

  • Does Holly grow in your area? Snip a little for mantles or to place around candles.

  • Speaking of candles, opt for soy candles which are much better for the earth.

  • For those who decorate a tree, use strings of popcorn, small pine cones and cranberries for natural beauty.

  • Make a Gingerbread House.

  • Does it snow in your area? Build a snowman.

  • Are holiday lights a must? Use LED lights. And rather than stringing lights, of any kind, on the outside of your house, string them on the inside, around windows. Any heat created by the bulbs won't be lost.

  • Let food be a decoration. Cookies, candies and holiday breads, displayed in festive dishes, add warmth to any celebration.

Being kind to the earth ... now that's truly part of a joyous diversion!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Field Trip ...

I woke up this morning to beautiful blue skies. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. It's a perfect day ... a perfect day for a field trip.

Would you like to go with me? I promise it will be fun!! I've even arranged for an Eco-friendly bus ... so you won't need to worry about driving.

Want to join me? Okay ... let's go!

Bring your things because we won't be coming back here today. And then, when you're ready, climb aboard.

We're off (click on the bus):

Friday, November 13, 2009

America Recycles Day - November 15th

November 15th is "America Recycles Day". According to the National Recycling Coalition, it "is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products". While their focus is on recycling in the U.S., we at Reduce Footprints open it up and encourage everyone, worldwide, to participate.

So, to get started I have two easy tasks for you:

First, watch the video entitled "The Story of Stuff". It's a brilliant video about the lifespan of ... well ... stuff. In a very entertaining way, the video will open your eyes about how stuff is produced, how it affects the earth and what we can do. Sit back, relax and when you're ready ... click on this picture:

Wasn't that great!

Okay, on to #2:

Visit the "America Recycles Day" site and browse around. You'll find good information on recycling and there is a page where you can step up your efforts in a more formal way. Are you ready? Here you go:

Recycling is one of the cornerstones of living a green life. It saves money, it's easy ... and it's really good for the earth.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

How To End Food Waste ...

Our current Change The World Wednesday challenge, which is still in effect and can be viewed HERE, asks us NOT to waste food. It seems easy enough but, as some of you may have already found out, we sometimes toss bits and bites of food without even thinking about it. There's the bit of food left on plates or the few leftover bites of last night's dinner ... or maybe there's the trimmed pieces of fruits and vegetables that we don't want included in the dish. They seem insignificant but ... if tossed, they add up to a lot of waste ... unnecessary waste because they can be used.

Today, as I was wandering around the Internet, I came across 50 Ways to Never Waste Food Again by Planet Green. They list some wonderful ways to eliminate food waste. For example, number 19 suggests that, rather than toss out watermelon rinds, we pickle them. Number 24 talks about the broken pieces of pasta in the bottom of the box and asks that we "collect them and mix with rice and veggies for a simple side dish". And number 41 offers a great way to freeze herbs for future use.

So my tip for today is easy ... head over to Planet Green and take a look at their suggestions. I'm sure you'll find some interesting ideas and additional ways to end food waste!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Curried Lentils

Several years ago, we discovered Udipi cuisine which is vegetarian food from the Udipi (or Udupi) District in the Indian state of Karnataka. The food is spicy and delicious. Inspired by the exotic flavors, I created this lentil dish which is wonderful on cool fall evenings. I hope you and your family will enjoy it as much as we do.

Curried Lentils


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Large Garlic Cloves, diced
1/2 Jalapeno Pepper, diced (remove seeds for less heat)
1/4 Green Pepper, diced
2 teaspoons Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ginger
1 cup Brown Lentils (rinsed)
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1 can diced Tomatoes
3 cups Water
Salt & Pepper (to taste)


  1. Sauté the onion, garlic, Jalapeno and green pepper in the olive oil until vegetables are translucent (about 10 minutes).

  2. Add the curry and ginger and cook for another minute (to bring out the flavors).

  3. Add all remaining ingredients, except salt and pepper, and simmer (covered) for 30-45 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.


  • To create a lentil soup, just add more water.
  • Fresh mint works as a wonderful garnish on this dish.
  • Serve with fresh Naan Bread

As always ... I would love to hear from you!