Friday, September 23, 2011

29 Tips for Fall

Welcome to the first day of Autumn. As we move into the cooler months, we have the perfect opportunity to "green" up our routine. We've been compiling this list of ideas over the past several years ... they are tried and true. If you're moving into spring instead of fall, click HERE for some ways to get ready for the warmer months. Here are your fall tips:
  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.
  2. If you have a garage, park the car in it. As the weather gets colder, using a garage will alleviate the need to warm up the car before driving ... and will save fuel.
  3. Clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
  4. Move furniture or any obstructions from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators so that air moves freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris. And here's a tip if you have a radiator ... place a reflecting panel behind it ... you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
  5. Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can't be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.
  6. Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently. It's also a good time to check that the refrigerator is level ... the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open. Check the seal on the door ... try closing it on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. Repeat this process at several spots along the door to ensure that the entire seal is working. Here's another tip for running the refrigerator efficiently ... don't over fill it. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature. And how about another tip ... plan ahead and defrost frozen items in the refrigerator instead of on the counter top ... the frozen items will help keep your refrigerator cool thus making it run less.
  7. Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer. And don't forget, clean the filter after every use and every once in awhile, give it a good wash.
  8. Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.
  9. Check doors for weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
  10. Check your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.
  11. Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Now would also be a good time to install a rain barrel ... rather than allow water to drain into one spot, a rain barrel would allow you to direct the water to where it's most needed.
  12. Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in unused outlets. Be sure to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before doing this.
  13. Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.
  14. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.
  15. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
  16. If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction ... the fan should be run in a clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards). This pushes the air up against the ceiling and down the walls, to gently re-circulate the warm air without creating a cooling "wind chill effect."
  17. Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and get vent systems checked.
  18. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.
  19. Hang a thick curtain in front of the door to block cold air from entering the house.  Use a shower curtain rod and loop hangers so that the curtain can be easily pushed to the side to open the door. 
  20. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air. Hint ... for about a week, bring them in at night and then put them out during the day. This will ensure that they aren't "shocked".
  21. Do a little outdoor landscaping. Trees and bushes, planted in the fall, have ample time to develop strong, deep root systems before the heat of the next summer. This increases their chances of surviving and typically means less watering during hot months. For a discussion on fall gardening, click HERE.
  22. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower" (it's great exercise). Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.
  23. Even though fresh, local produce isn't as abundant during this season, there are still many options available. Visit local farms or farmer's markets and find out what's available and then, eat locally and in season. Visit Sustainable Table to learn which crops are growing in your area.
  24. Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.
  25. Bring out all those warm sweaters, socks, slippers and blankets so that when the temperature falls you'll be ready to bundle up instead of raising the thermostat.
  26. Are your kids returning to school? Consider buying clothes, backpacks, etc. from second hand stores and/or thrift shops. If you're buying new items at a store, opt for earth-friendly products and don't forget to pay attention to packaging. Also consider investing in reusable lunch items (beverage bottles, utensils, napkins, etc.) to further minimize your child's impact on the planet.
  27. Do your kids ride the bus to school? Often buses sit in front of a school, idling while they wait for kids to climb aboard. Suggest, to your school or the bus company, that bus drivers turn off the engine when waiting for their passengers. And, of course, if it's possible for your kids to walk to school ... all the better (for them and the earth).
  28. Speaking of school buses, as the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to drive kids to the bus stop. To save that fuel, bundle up and walk your kids to the bus stop instead.
  29. In the fall entertaining moves indoors. There are football parties, cozy dinner parties and later events like Halloween and Thanksgiving. When planning your fall event, consider reusable plates, napkins and utensils, decorations from nature, clean burning soy candles and plenty of plant-based foods on your menu.

Do you have any fall tips that we haven't covered? We'd love to hear them!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vegan Recipe - Blueberry Crepes “Raw Fusion”

Welcome to the first Friday Monday of the month and another delicious recipe.

This month we have a real treat ... a recipe from Patty "Sassy" Knutson - the brilliance behind Vegan Coach. When I became vegan, I had so many questions ... about nutrition ... about recipes that were easy to make and tasted good ... about how to make a vegan diet work. So I searched ... and quite frankly the majority of sites that I found talked about animal cruelty and a vegan lifestyle. While the information was important, it was way too much for me. I just wanted to know what to cook, how to cook it and how to get the best nutrition possible. I wish I would have found Sassy back then ... it would have saved me a lot of time!

Sassy seems to understand what people, like me, are looking for. The Vegan Coach is a wonderful resource. The recipes are delicious, easy to make and don't require one to search the markets for strange ingredients. But the site is so much more than just recipes ... one will learn about vegan nutrition ... there's information about kitchen tools that will help get a meal on the table easily ... and the site includes something unique called Flavor Matches. Flavor Matches? Yes, Indeedy! Sassy has put together a list of foods that go well together. So, when you're planning a meal or are just tired of the "same old, same old" recipe, check for a flavor match and create something spectacular.

The most amazing thing, to me, is that Sassy is involved with her readers. If one has a question, she'll answer it. She interacts through emails and reader participation. One definitely gets the sense that Sassy is a friend.

Sassy has graciously offered to share a recipe with us. It looks so yummy ... I can't wait to try it. I hope that you and your family will enjoy it!

Blueberry Crepes
“Raw Fusion”

This is a fun recipe for a lovely brunch or dessert. It combines a cooked vegan crepe with a delicious raw vegan cashew sauce. Yummmmy.

Plan ahead! Cashews must soak for 2 hours, crepe batter for 1. Use a crepe pan or a good non-stick frying pan.

Crepes can be tricky. If you have never made them before, you might find it helpful to double the crepe recipe below so you have a few crepes you can “practice” on. Don’t give up – you’ll get the hang of it. :-)

2 flax eggs
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour of choice
2 Tablespoons Sucanat (or other granulated sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons non-dairy butter (I like Earth Balance)

1 cup cashews, soaked in 2 cups water for 2 hours
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup or raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup organic frozen blueberries (thawed) – or use fresh blueberries when in season
1/2 cup raw organic pecans, chopped
organic powdered sugar

  1. Soak cashews for 2 hours. After 1 hour, prepare crepe batter.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine all crepe ingredients. Blend for 20 seconds. Do not over process. Allow crepe batter to sit for 1 hour.
  3. Heat oven on the lowest temperature. Then turn oven off (we just want to keep the food warm, not cook it in any way). Chop pecans and set aside. Warm blueberries in the oven while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  4. When both the cashews and crepe batter are ready, prepare the Vanilla Cream Sauce. Place in an oven-proof bowl and set in the oven to keep the blueberries company.
  5. Portion out 2-3 Tbsp. of the batter onto a hot non-stick lightly-oiled pan over medium high heat. Lift and rotate the pan so the batter evenly coats the bottom. Cook until almost dry on top and lightly browned on edges. Loosen the edges with a thin spatula and flip crepe over with your fingers, cooking for an additional 15 seconds. Adjust the heat as necessary. Place a rack on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven where the blueberries and cream sauce are having a party. As you complete each crepe, place on the rack in the oven to keep warm.
  6. When all the crepes are prepared, fill each crepe with 2 large Tbsp. Vanilla Cream Sauce and 1 Tbsp. blueberries. Roll up, sprinkle with pecans and dust with powdered sugar.
  7. Serve 2 crepes per plate.

Makes 8 crepes.

I'd like to thank Sassy for sharing this recipe with us ... and I encourage you to visit her at Vegan Coach.

If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please email it to me HERE. Find the entire list of all the recipes we've shared by clicking the tab at the top of the page or clicking HERE.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review - Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier

I was recently invited to review the new book, Thrive Foods, by Brendan Brazier. If you've followed my blog for any length of time then you know that I've never done a review and I don't typically promote products or services. But when I learned that Thrive Foods is about nutrient-rich foods which promote health and environmental sustainability ... well, I couldn't resist.

Let me first give you a little background on the author of this book. Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete and a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He is the creator of VEGA (an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products) and is recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on plant-based nutrition.

Thrive Foods begins with a wonderful discussion about nutrition and the environmental toll of food production. One will find out what nutrient density is and why it matters as well as learn how food production affects the environment.

Later in the book, the author talks about the key components of good nutrition and which foods will give us those elements. He uses icons to help us easily identify such things as calcium, iron and essential fats. Brendan shares 200 delicious recipes using the most nutrient-rich foods we can eat. We tried the recipe for Eggplant Rollatini ... it was easy to make and tasted wonderful!

But it is Chapter 3 that I found most interesting. It is entitled "An Appetite For Change: Environmental and Health Solutions Through Food". In this section, Brendan shares a unique concept in how we look at food and how we measure it's value ... the Nutrient-To-Resource Ratio. In other words, he's measuring how much nutrient gain we receive from a food versus the resources spent to produce it. He looks at resources such as arable land (land fit for the growing of food and which is in a climate conducive for agriculture with soil containing sufficient nutrients to sustain crops), water, fossil fuel and emissions. All of his calculations are presented for the reader to check and double check. You might be surprised to learn how some of your favorite foods fare in this scenario. For example, in the nutient-to-arable-land ratio he compares kale and beef. Remember, this ratio only takes into consideration the arable land and doesn't consider water, emissions, etc. From the book "To gain an equal amount of micronutrients from beef as from kale, 2900 times more arable land would be needed." Wow! Factor in the other natural resources and you'll see that the cost of beef, in natural resources, is huge!

So why are hamburgers, meat products and processed foods so cheap in the store if they take so many resources to produce? Brendan explains it to us and talks about government subsidies and how the price of food in the grocery store doesn't really reflect it's value ... if it did, most of us probably couldn't afford those items. In fact, if the grocery store reflected the true cost of a food, we'd probably all eat healthier. I quickly realized that there are hidden costs to food ... costs which affect our taxes, our health and the environment. The chapter finishes up with a chart ... it shows how many equivalent miles driven one would save by switching to a whole-food, plant-based, nutrient-rich diet. If you thought driving less was good for the environment, you'll be amazed at how much good you'll do by changing your diet.

Thrive Foods is sure to be a great resource for anyone who cares about their health and about the environment. I know that I'll be referring to it often!

I'd like to thank Brendan Brazier and Sequel Naturals for giving me the opportunity to review this book. You can pre-order Thrive Foods (sales begin on September 6th), as well as order Brendan's other books, from his site HERE.

Now for some exciting news: Would you like a chance to win a trip for two to meet Brendan at the Alive! Green Expo Lounge, surrounding the 63 Annual Emmy's? Just click on Brendan's Facebook Fan page for your chance to win an amazing trip. And while you're there, sign up for a free PDF download of the intro and 3 recipes from Thrive Foods.

Brendan Brazier Facebook Fan Page

You can learn more about Brendan Brazier and VEGA using the following links:
Vega Facebook Fan Page
Vega Twitter

I received a copy of "Thrive Foods" in order to write this review. I received no other compensation. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and reflect my honest opinion of the material reviewed.

Vegan Recipe - Programming Note

Welcome to the first Friday on the month. Typically you'd see a recipe in this spot but ... today I have something exciting to share with you ... my first-ever review. It's going to post in a little while so come back in about 30 minutes for that event.

And ... if that weren't exciting enough ... here's some more exciting news. I will be posting a recipe on Monday morning. Our guest chef will be none other than Patty "Sassy" Knutson, Vegan Coach/Author/Nutritional Consultant. I've seen the recipe and Mmmmm ... it'll make your mouth water and is sure to become a family favorite.

Okay ... stay tuned .... it's going to be fun!!