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Archive for April, 2014

EARTH DAY: Water Bottle Crisis

Every year 68 billion plastic water bottles are consumed in the U.S. The majority of them end up in landfill. Divided among the population, this means a per capita consumption of some 30.8 gallons of bottled water.

According to the International Bottled Water Association, the U.S. bottled water per capita was up 5.3% in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. The data comes with enormous consequences:

  • Too few plastic bottles make their way to the recycling bin: just 1 in 4.
  • The environmental footprint of plastic bottle is calculated in millions of oil barrels.
  • There is a direct human impact: making plastic requires chemicals that known to be hazardous to health. Not every water bottle is BPA-free.
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    Plus:

     

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    It’s very refreshing and popular, but 75% of the bottles end up in landfill.

     

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    The replaceable filter in Rubbermaid’s
    traveling water bottle. Photo courtesy
    Rubbermaid.

     
  • Tap water, the easy and cheaper solution, is actually a safer option than spring water or mineral water, even when bottles are BPA-free. Municipal water is regulated and tested frequently. There are no government controls on bottled mineral and spring waters.
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    Source: Green Glass Company

    How can you help? Drink from the tap!

    You can add a water purifier device to the tap or install one under the sink.

    You can buy special water bottles with built-in filters. Both of these water bottles have replaceable filters:

  • Rubbermaid water bottle’s filter lasts through 100 bottle refills.
  • The Brita Soft Squeeze Water Bottle’s filter is good for 300 16.9 ounce refills.
  •  
    Celebrate Earth Day by picking up one.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegan Wraps For Earth Day

    We’re recommending vegan wraps for Earth Day. Animal-free foods are more sustainable, so today’s the day for a vegan lunch.

    These two recipes were sent to us from Red Rock Press, from their book, A White House Garden Cookbook by Clara Silverstein.

    Both are lettuce wraps, but you can also use tortilla wraps.

    The first recipe, Daniel and Annie’s Salad Wraps, originated in the children’s section of the New York Botanical Garden and contains the surprise—and optional—ingredient of an edible wildflower.

    You can serve these wraps with a dip, or spread mustard or Nasoya’s Nayonaise (excellent vegan mayonnaise) on the lettuce leaves before filling.

    RECIPE: DANIEL & ANNIE’S SALAD WRAPS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 lettuce leaves, plus 6 more for slicing
  • Spread or dip of choice
  • 1 kohlrabi bulb or 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 5 radishes
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 mint or basil leaves (or more to taste)
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    Thus wrap is packed with arugula, carrots, cucumber, lettuce and red cabbage. Photo courtesy Online-Vegetarian-Deli.com.

  • Garnish: edible flowers (such as Johnny jump-ups, chive blossoms or nasturtiums—read all about edible flowers)
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    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the lettuce leaves. Peel and slice the kohlrabi. Wash and dice the radishes. Wash the scallions, and cut off and discard the root ends.

    2. LAY out 6 lettuce leaves on the counter top or a large plate. If using a spread, place atop leaves.

    3. CUT cut the remaining 6 leaves into ribbons with scissors. Into each lettuce leaf, lay some kohlrabi and radishes, 1 scallion (cut it in half if it’s too long), and 1 mint or basil leaf. Roll it up and pin closed with a toothpick as needed. Garnish the top with edible flowers.

    4. SERVE with your favorite dressing as a dip.

     

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    Tofu hummus wraps, a vegan sandwich with
    the added protein of tofu. Photo courtesy
    House Foods.

     

    The second recipe, Lettuce Wrap Treats, is almost a dessert, folding dried fruits and nuts and a dab of vanilla yogurt into the lettuce leaf.

    And, it couldn’t be easier to make!

    If you want to present the ingredients as a “build your own,” each person can choose his or her own mix of ingredients.

    RECIPE: LETTUCE LEAF WRAPS

    Ingredients Per Wrap

  • 1 lettuce leaf*
  • Fillings: 1 tablespoon each of any or all of the following: chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts or pecans, raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt (regular or vegan soy yogurt)
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    *Pick the largest, most pliable lettuce leaves that you can find. Leaf lettuces work really well for this.
     
    Preparation

    1. RINSE the lettuce in cold water and pat dry between sheets of paper towels.

    2. ADD the fillings to the center of the leaf. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

    3. FOLD the lettuce lengthwise over the toppings and then fold up the ends, like a burrito or a little package. Use a toothpick to secure as needed. Pick up and eat!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Tian

    Tian is an ancient Chinese term for the cosmos. But head west, and tian is a word from the old Provençal language of the south of France.

    It’s an earthenware vessel used both for cooking and serving, and it’s also the name of the au gratin vegetable dish prepared in it.

    The dish can be oval, rectangular, round or square. A more contemporary name is a gratin dish—a shallower casserole dish (the cassole is an earthenware vessel that originated in the Camargue and Languedoc regions of France).

    In Provençal cuisine, sliced vegetables are layered in straight or circular rows, then topped with a light cloak of grated cheese and baked. The layering of different colored vegetables creates a very pretty dish. In fact, a Pyrex baking dish works even better to show off more of the layering.

     

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    A popular tian trio: tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini. We like to add onions. Photo courtesy ForTheLoveOfCooking.net.

     

    MAKING A TIAN IS EASY

    Like quiche, a tian can be served cold, hot or room temperature. With both plenty of flavor and visual appeal, tians are a nice buffet food and can also encourage your family to eat more veggies on a dull weekday night.

    Tians also can be composed of layers one on top of the next, like a layered casserole or a seven-layer salad. It’s just as tasty, but not as attractive. It also allows the flexibility to include a layer of cooked ground meat (we like lamb), diced chicken or ham, hard-cooked eggs or tofu.

    A traditional layered recipe is made with yellow beans, diced zucchini, sautéed onions and green beans. In addition to the cheese, a layer of breadcrumbs can be sprinkled on top.

     

    tian-frenchfarm-230

    Here, a mandoline was used to cut the yellow
    squash and zucchini very thin. Photo
    courtesy The French Farm.

     

    This recipe is courtesy The French Farm, which used the Provençal brand of Moulin de la Brague herbes de Provence and olive oil.

    RECIPE: VEGETABLE TIAN

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups onions, sliced thin (use red onions for extra color)
  • 1 pound zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 pound eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1-1/4 pounds roma tomatoes (about 8)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (you can substitute Parmesan)
  • 4 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil.

    2. SLICE all the vegetables into even widths, using a mandolin or knife. Layer them, alternating colors, around the perimeter of the baking dish. Repeat until all of the vegetables have filled up the baking dish.

    3. SPRINKLE the minced shallots, garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbes de Provence over the top, and drizzle the olive oil.

    4. COVER the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes then uncover and bake for another 20 mintutes. when vegetables are tender, sprinkle the cheese on top, and broil until browned. let sit for 10 minutes before eating.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Ham & Cheddar Polenta Fries

    Here’s something fun to make with leftover Easter ham: potato-free Ham and Cheddar Polenta Fries.

    The recipe is from QVC’s chef, David Venable. David says, “These polenta fries can be eaten as an appetizer or a side, and can be served with anything from honey-mustard to aioli.”

    RECIPE: HAM & CHEDDAR POLENTA FRIES

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 ounces ham, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Cheddar, shredded
  • Peanut or canola oil, for frying
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    Not potato fries: They’re ham, cheese and polenta! Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil over medium heat in a 5-quart stockpot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the milk, chicken broth, and butter and bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, avoiding any lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. REMOVE the pot from the heat and add the ham, herbs, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    3. SPREAD the cornmeal mixture with a heat-resistant spatula on the surface of a rimmed 9″ x 13″ cookie sheet. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, put on oven mitts, then evenly press the mixture down, spreading it out to the edges. Refrigerate the covered cornmeal mixture until completely cooled.

    4. HEAT the oil in a Dutch oven to 375°F (or, preheat a deep fryer). Flip the polenta out of the cookie sheet onto a large cutting board. Cut the polenta into 1/2″ strips and then cut each strip into 3″ pieces. Fry in batches until deep golden brown. (Adding too many pieces at once can cool the oil down.)

    5. DRAIN the fries on paper towels; serve immediately.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Ham Recipes

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    Use leftover ham in a delicious bean soup.
    Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    You can just enjoy so many ham sandwiches and ham scrambles with the leftover Easter ham. Here are two recipes from QVC’s David Venable, that take a different approach.

    RECIPE: WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH HAM

    This recipe uses the ham bone, hock, or shanks.

    David comments, “Though it may officially be spring, there are still plenty of days that call for a recipe that takes out the chill. This broth-based soup is a great way to use leftover ham: It’s light enough for spring, but hearty enough to be filling.”

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry Great Northern beans*
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 2-3 lbs of ham shanks
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups ham, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh parsley
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    *A mild, white, oval bean, similar to the white kidney bean.

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the beans, sorting out any that are broken or discolored.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and remove the pot from the heat. Let the beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes.

    3. RETURN the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 60 more minutes.

    4. REMOVE the ham bone and discard. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired).

     

    RECIPE: SMOKED HAM & CHEDDAR HASH

    David advises, “This hash recipe works just as well with ham that hasn’t been smoked. Try serving it as a breakfast item by throwing some fried eggs on top. Like a little spice in your hash? Add some hot sauce to the pan!”

    Ingredients

  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
  • 6 cups smoked ham, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (such as panko)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
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    Yummy smoked ham and Cheddar hash. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In a large sauce pot, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and set aside.

    2. ADD the butter to a 10″ or larger, deep nonstick skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly colored.

    3. STIR in the paprika and ham. Add the broth, cream of mushroom soup and scallions. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer.

    4. ADD the parboiled potatoes and stir carefully to evenly incorporate all ingredients. Season the hash, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    5. COMBINE the Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the hash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until evenly browned.

      

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