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Monthly Archives: October 2010

I mentioned that I don’t use canned beans anymore. Most of you will groan at that and say you don’t have time for dried beans. But I ran out of my stash of frozen chickpeas yesterday and I just want to mention that it actually doesn’t take that much of your time. Here’s the deal:

1. I rinsed and put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and covered them (with an couple of inches to spare) with water last night just before I went to bed (2 minutes)

2. In the morning I drained them and put them in a large pot with some salt (2 minutes) and boiled (10 or so minutes, unattended) then simmered them for just over an hour (unattended, I put a timer on and went about my morning).

3. When they were cooked, I divided them into pint-sized wide mouth mason jars (or whatever you have that you can put in the freezer), covering them with their cooking liquid (5-10 minutes) and left them uncovered to cool (about an hour, unattended) then popped then in the freezer (1 minute).

So, although it took many hours, it only took about 15 minutes of active time. The caveat is that you have to be in the vicinity for the cooking bit so you can stop them when they’re done.

And the reward is that you know what’s gone in there and how much sodium, which is a major issue with canned goods, along with the potential BPA in the lining. And they’re almost as convenient as the canned ones since I can defrost them quickly in hot water (or a microwave if you have one) if I don’t have the foresight to know I’ll need them in a few hours (often the case).

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This isn’t really a “green” change, but I’m posting it anyway because after I read it a couple of years ago , it just stuck in my head and has impacted my driving ever since. I have this book called Change the World for Ten Bucks and in it, Action 12, actually, it says just that “If it says 40, do 40”. The reason? If you’re doing 50 km/h (about 31 mph) you are twice as likely to kill someone you hit than if you’re doing 40 km/h (about 25 mph). 40 zones are usually near schools and in small residential streets, so it makes sense.

Need more information? The Roads and Traffic Authority for NSW (Australia) has a (flash) video on the stopping distances at 40 and at 50 km/h and says:

“A car is travelling at 40 km/h. Another car is travelling at 50 km/h. Both drivers see a child about 27 metres ahead, recognise the danger and brake. The car travelling at 40 km/h will stop safely after 26 metres, avoiding the child. The car travelling at 50 km/h will take an extra nine metres to stop, and will still be travelling at 41 km/h when it hits the child.”

It’s something to think about it when you see a 40 km/h (25 mph) sign. Every time I’ve seen a 40 sign (while driving) in the past couple of years, that little mantra has gone through my head. It just stuck.

As for the book, it’s nice. It has some good ideas and facts in it. I think Action 43 (Unplug electronics when not in use) stemmed a little research into the phantom power issue and now I switch off the computer’s power bar every night and unplug chargers that aren’t in use. I recommend the book. It’s ten bucks and it makes you stop and think about 50 little things we can do an why we might want to.

The growing season is coming swiftly to a close here in Ontario. We actually order a produce box year-round from our CSA (Community Supported/Shared Agriculture) plan B organic farm since they do local food first in all fall/winter/spring shares and they have a local only option as well. In the winter, we get a lot of root vegetables like onions, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and apples make up the fruit portion much of the time. Also, when there’s a chill in the air, soup is one of my favourite foods.

This soup makes use of winter fare very well and is absolutely delicious. I won’t post the recipe myself (from “A Year of the Best: Seasonal Recipes From The Best of Bridge with Chef Vincent Parkinson“) but since a few people already have I’ll just link you to one of them. (By the way, she put the sugar and salt/pepper on the same line so it’s 1 tsp sugar, salt & pepper to taste.) You can make this a vegetarian soup very easily by using veggie stock instead of chicken stock.

Speaking of veggie stock, Mark Bittman has a rich and delicious recipe for vegetarian stock which involves roasting the veggies first. It’s easy to do, takes an extra 30 or so minutes (you can be doing something else, since the stuff is in the oven) but it is well worth it. I have his book “How to Cook Everything” but the recipe is online in a NY Times article here.

Photo below is my local organic butternut squash post-roasting for the soup. © 2010 Lynn Wyminga

roasting butternut squash

I have a weird obsession with shipping container houses.

I guess I really like the idea of re-purposing used containers that no longer serve any purpose except taking up space in shipyards. They are insulated using spray foam (some are soy-based) for a very high R-value (25-50). You’re not using the regular timber frame so trees are saved in the process. They’re modular by design so urban projects like Container City can be added to easily and square footage of homes is variable. But the truth is that designers have done amazing things with them. Below is a video about Container City in London from the History channel.

There is also this page from the Daily Green which is slightly hard to read (text in a box with scrollbar) but features a great slideshow of many container homes all over the world.

And this page from fabprefab lists a whole bunch of prefab container buildings worldwide.

Also, an article from Treehugger…

Some Canadians have been busy designing with shipping containers. Check out zigloo, bark, and ecopod.

Two years ago our CSA (plan b organic farm) gave us the option to buy a bushel of their organic roma tomatoes for canning. We’d never canned anything before, but since my husband had that week off work, we decided to go for it and figure out how to do it. It took us all week to get the tomatoes canned (mostly stewed dice, some whole, and my husband tried to make paste but never got it boiled down to a paste-like consistency) and they lasted us until near the end of February which was 5 months. By the end of the week, however, I thought I’d vomit if I smelled another stewing tomato…

Last year was a bad year for tomatoes in these parts, so we didn’t get the chance again and this year there was a glitch in the CSA’s email list so I’m not sure if they did it but by the time I got back on the email list their tomatoes were done.

We don’t eat many canned goods. I buy dried beans and soak and cook them with 4 to 6 cups to spare and freeze them in wide mouth canning jars for quick use. We get our veggies fresh. I don’t buy canned soups since they’re just too salty and fresh are much tastier. (Actually, one time I was feeling lazy and my eldest son asked for cream of tomato soup and instead of making it from scratch I opened a can and it was rejected by both of my sons.) Again, when I make soup I often double it and freeze half for a quick appetizer on a busy evening. However, we do go through a lot of canned tomatoes. I don’t know what it is. We eat lots of Italian and Indian foods, I guess, and they come in handy for both of those. But there’s the questionable issue of BPA in the lining of cans, and I read somewhere that canned tomatoes are the worst of canned foods since they’re so acidic and that makes the BPA leach into the food. This isn’t decisively harmful, but could be.

So a few weeks ago I went to our local farmers market and asked one of the vendors if he sells bushels of romas and he got me a bushel for the next week. I left them a day and then was asked what was going on with them the next day so I decided to get going… it’s a lot of work since you need to peel them first (put them in boiling water for a minute or until the skins start to split, then put them in cold water to stop them from cooking, then peel the skins off), then cut and stew them, sterilize the jars and lids, fill them with some lemon juice and salt, then boil the jars in a big pot for 30 or 40 minutes. However, in 3 days I had canned the lot of them (with a few put aside for a harvest tomato tart, pizza margherita, and pizza sauce) and we have what will hopefully be 5 months or so worth of canned tomatoes. They’re delicious… much better than the store bought ones. If you’re interested in doing your own canning, a website called canning-food-recipes.comis where I got all of the information and instructions on the process. Once I got into a bit of a rhythm, it was actually pretty quick. (Peel tomatoes first, sterilize jars and lids while stewing tomatoes, fill jars, boil jars, repeat.) I kept the water that was used to sterilize the jars and boil them later and added to it on each day to conserve water. I don’t own a pressure canner or any special tools with the exception of a large (fits 4 or 5 1-pint mason jars) and extra large (fits 7 1-pint mason jars) stock pot and a pair of canning tongs (rounded like a jar) that help with getting the jars out of the pot of boiling water.

canned tomatoes

This year's batch of canned tomatoes. © 2010 Lynn Wyminga

Just updating the full review since the last time I did it was in 2009.

Why review? To let you know how it’s going, what’s easy, what’s not as easy, etc.

I figure a table with a 1(hard)/2(medium)/3(easy) star (*) system (x means failure and there is one n/a not applicable) with a comment might be easiest to peruse, but sorry about the scrolling…

# Description *** Comment
1 Mow lawn every week * I am always a slacker by the end of summer, but I just let it grow –  I don’t bother with the neighbour’s electric anymore.
2 Fill kettle a cup at a time *** I have a counting strategy at the tap (3 is 1 cup, 6 is 2 cups, etc) but I’m still (year later) working on hubby
3 Bring home recycling & green bin *** We mostly just carry reusable stuff so it’s a non-issue.
4 Read news online (cancelled paper subscription) *** Works fine. Very rarely I crave a paper in hand. Plus I get news from more diverse sources now.
5 Buy produce at Farmer’s Market in season *** I actually only get my honey at the farmer’s market now that we use a CSA. (It comes in glass and is local and very tasty!)
6 Packaging free take-out *** Tiffin boxes have worked out very well. Restaurants love them and folks ask where to get them.
7 Fair trade chocolate *** It’s worth it (for my conscience) & you can buy it in more & more places (& I found it bulk!)
8 Unplug chargers/plugs not in use *** Habit took a few weeks to get into but I’m still doing well.
9 Walk to the bulk store instead of drive * Not since the bike accident…
10 No more bottled water *** Good.
11 Buy second hand *** This is easy, cheap, and all-around great!
12 No junk mail ** I don’t know if greendimes made any difference whatsoever but a sign on your mailbox certainly does.
13 Fair trade coffee *** We went a step further & roast our own green beans & I’ve never enjoyed my 1 cup/day more
14 Toilet train the oldest *** Working on the youngest now…
15 Saving our plastic bags for when they are added to the recyclables x The city reneged on this idea so I have slowly been adding them to our (extra small) garbage once a month or so.
16 Using green cleaning products *** Haven’t used caustic/toxic chemicals/bleach cleaners in many months! More info here.
17 Ride my used bike (vs driving) *** Riding, walking, and using TTC.
18 Buy less! *** Going down to one income helped with this but I’m very conscious of it now, unlike before.
19 No more nail polish ** After the thumb surgery last year, I went out and got a mani/pedi… I needed the pampering. That’s the only time… honest!
20 Next car will be green/hybrid/efficient/electric *** We’re not planning on buying a next car at this point.
21 Replace plastic food packaging & infant toys *** I’ve managed to get many glass freezer friendly containers but it would be nice if they stacked better when empty. Also, the lids mostly suck, except Frigoverre.
22 No more delivery food *** Done.
23 Don’t buy from Esso/Exxon *** Easy. Even that time I got caught with the “extremely low gas” light on…
24 Use Gel-Free Tushies when need to use disposables x Not absorbent enough for overnight so we switched to Seventh Generation chlorine-free
25 Don’t shop at Wal-Mart *** Easy. I don’t even consider it an option.
26 a) Use the car less than 2-3x/wk *** We use the car 1-2 times a week. We live near transit, parks, groceries, libraries, etc.
26 b) Don’t turn the tap on full *** This is a silly and difficult habit to break, but it’s working finally.
26 c) If it’s yellow, let it mellow… x We bought a dual flush instead. It smells better.
26 d) Turn out lights as I leave room * Easy, but I can’t change seem to the habits of the people I live with. The boys are getting good at it, though.
26 e) Navy showers ** This is a summer-only change. I’ll be back to navy showers when it’s warm again.
26 f) No paper subscriptions *** Always tempting, but I’m not going to.
26 g) Eat even less meat * We went pretty vegetarian for a while & my 3 year old (at the time) had a hard time with it. Meat 4 times/wk is average I think.
26 h) Amalgamate car trips *** Done. Easy.
26 i) Don’t buy food in non-recyclable plastics (e.g. cherry tomatoes) ** I do this, but it’s not always easy.
26 j) Cancel catalogues * When New Scientist expired we went for the new online only option. I have to talk to the ROM about this…
27 No T-Gel (coal tar) or Head & Shoulders (zinc pyrithione) *** Found an alternative at The Big Carrot.
28 Use only recycled toilet paper *** Ridiculously easy.
29 Use the kill-a-watt meter to see what’s sucking energy * We did it for a few things but dropped the ball on that one.
30 Use toothbrush with replaceable head *** All 4 of us use these now.
31 Switch to LED night lights *** They work great!
32 Fair trade organic loose leaf (low packaging) tea *** We buy it by the kilo every few months.
33 No trash week x I bailed. Too much on my plate to worry about being all extremist.
34 Plant flowers that support the bee population *** Next spring!
35 Don’t use microwave popcorn n/a No microwave, I make it in a pot the old fashioned way!
36 Vegetarian recipe exchange *** Got some good recipes (email if interested) & everyone was happy to be involved
37 Use organic vegetable & fruit delivery service *** Great service, but now that it’s nearly harvest time, we’re moving onto a CSA (see #51)
38 Write politicians about stopping the global warming nightmare that is the tar sands ** Done. I should really do this sort of thing more often, though…
39 Go green for xmas *** We pretty much bailed on the consumer-palooza that is Christmas for the past 2 years. They rocked.
40 Wash new clothes before wearing to rid them of formaldehyde finish *** I very rarely buy new clothes, but when I do, I do this.
41 Refer to the “dirty dozen” list & buy organic for the top offenders *** I have the full list in my phone and refer to it all the time.
42 Bought a hemp shower curtain *** This shower curtain rocks. No complaints.
43 Don’t buy anything in styrofoam *** Styro is recycled now in Toronto, but I’ve cut it out of my usage anyway.
44 Buy organic milk, mostly for the benefit of my little guys. * Whenever I can get it, I do.
45 Work towards creating less than 1 bag of trash/4 weeks * We’re at or just less than 1 full bag/4 weeks and holding steady.
46 Participate in Earth Hour *** Easy. We should do it more often.
47 Make my own sour cream (since I’m already making my own yogurt) * This worked a couple of times (even with lower fat cream) then it stopped working. Still trying to get it right. My sister-in-law is doing it successfully and loves it.
48 Don’t even consider using biofuels (with the exception of used chip oil) *** This is a ridiculous, yet government mandated, affair.
49 Buy naturally raised beef directly from local farmers *** Love that beef from beefconnections.ca.
50 Properly dispose of expired meds at household hazardous waste *** I missed my local Environment Days but have stashed the offenders to disposal at a later date.
51 Buy shares in local organic CSA for summer *** Loving it.
52 Got an “green” yoga mat for my 3 year old *** Love the new yoga mat I bought for my little guy but borrow when he’s in bed!
53 Turn off power bars for computer 2 *** Easy. Do it every night. Should have started a long time ago.
54 Use grey water for toilet flushing * This fell by the wayside around the accident when I couldn’t lift anything. Will try to get it going again.
55 Use a dry diaper pail ** Not currently using cloth diapers but we use cloth wipes.
56 Community park clean-up * in 2008 but not 2009
57 DIY toothpaste * I used it for about a year and then bailed. May go back.
58 Summer savings * I stopped using the clothesline and my bike after the accident but we don’t use A/C and I still did navy showers…
59 Events without bottled water ** I always push for this during our fundraising events. Last time I didn’t even have to push!
60 Dual flush toilet *** Excellent.
61 Holiday solar LED lights *** Excellent.
62 Gift free birthday party ** Last year it went great. This year we don’t have a plan as of yet.
63 Late night laundry *** Easy.
64 Knitting local and sewing. ** I make hats for folks with yarn from Kingston, ON now. Have to get better at patching clothes (boys and the knees in jeans, I tell ya…)
65 Hankies *** Haven’t bought a box of tissue in 6 months, although we do have one on hand for guests.
66 Recycled printing paper *** Excellent.
67 Cloth napkins redux *** We use them every day.
68 Re-purposed wood scraps *** Good fun.