Monday, September 29, 2008

Sigh.

Here is a very short article from WSJ.com that might interest you. Soybeans are in demand for animal feed (especially the cows, pigs, and chicken sold in American grocery stores) as well as for the soybean by-products found in almost all processed food. We are also increasingly using soybean oil in biodiesel. I saw a biodiesel VW Beetle this weekend with a bumper sticker saying, "Biodiesel. No War Required." Great but, unless you're using biodiesel made from used cooking oil, there's still a high cost. The soaring demand for soybeans has led Brazilians to increase the rate at which they are cutting down acres of rainforest in order to use the land for soybean cultivation.

How very sad. I remember walking past The Nature Company at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek as an elementary, junior high, and high school student. They had a meter outside that resembled a parking meter. You could deposit a quarter (or something smaller, I suppose) and "save" acres of rainforest. If we knew then, at least twenty years ago, that rainforest devastation would have such negative consequences, how is it still going on? I know I push my free market beliefs on my blog, but even I have the sense to know that we can't let this continue. If we, as consumers, aren't smart enough to stop buying products requiring soy, then someone else has to step in and fix this. Maybe it is up to the Brazilian government to quit turning a blind eye or maybe somebody like Yvon Chouinard (of Patagonia) will buy the whole Amazon and staff it with armed guards. Clearly, it's in dire need of protection.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two artists?


I've thought for about four years that Brynn is artistic. My beliefs were confirmed a few weeks ago when I saw some of her artwork next to the artwork of her peers at school. Brynn loves art and she's good at it. I haven't seen the same desire nor the same ability in Callie. That is, until tonight. No, the artwork pictured above isn't spectacular by SFMOMA standards, but it's the result of her sitting down and creating something totally her own for the very first time. The desk where our blank paper and colored pencils sit is usually occupied by Brynn, so Callie has to go find something else to do while her sister exercises her creativity. Today, though, Callie took a nap for the first time in weeks. As a reward, I allowed her to stay up long after Brynn (who did not take a nap) went to bed. As soon as I told her that she could "stay up a little longer," Callie made a b-line for the desk and started coloring. She was being quiet, so I left her alone.

A while later when I went upstairs to check on her, Callie had colored one of the four sheets pictured above. That alone was unprecedented. The fact that she made three more and is still upstairs coloring is a little mind-boggling for me. It's now an hour and a half past her normal bedtime, but she's being so GOOD and doing something that she rarely gets to do -- how can I send her to bed? I will, as soon as I'm done with this post. But, for now, I'm reveling in the fact that my little girl who doesn't sit still has been sitting at a desk for over an hour. And she's being productive! I'm a very proud mama...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This is just TOO much.

While I respect most of the work that PETA does, I have to say, this time they've gone too far. This is CRAZY. Here's a link to an article about how PETA wants Ben and Jerry's to switch from using cow milk in their ice cream to...no, not sheep milk. Not goat milk. Human milk. Yes, you read that right.

Human milk.

In ice cream.

Okay, let me take a deep breath before I go off.

Inhale. Aaaaand, exhale.

When I was failing at nursing and my babies (yes, both of them) were losing weight because of my ridiculously meager milk supply, I couldn't buy/borrow/steal human milk to FEED TO MY BABIES. I had to buy the powdered crap from Target because there was no other option for keeping my babies alive. Why in the world, when there are moms who have to buy powdered formula instead of feeding their babies the real stuff, would we use human milk in ice cream?? Doesn't that seem like a waste of human milk? Not to mention that the milk would probably be boiled to death just to make the ice cream, losing all of the value that it previously had.

I believe that PETA's point is that dairy cows are mistreated. And I agree with them. I think cows deserve to be treated well. I believe that so strongly that I buy raw milk from a very small local farm whose cows are treated like freakin' princesses. I don't eat factory farmed meat. I eat eggs from pastured chickens who get to eat worms and bugs and bruised organic kale in between hourly dust baths. I just bought half a pig from a local farmer whose pigs get to roam around in the open, rolling in the mud and frolicking in the sun. I am an animal rights fighter, yes I am. But, please, breast milk in ice cream? I really can't get over my disbelief.

Here's my idea: instead of using human milk in ice cream, how about if lactating women who want to make some extra money pump their milk and let moms who can't make milk buy this apparently abundant supply of breast milk? I've heard of milk banks for babies who are struggling to survive, but I've never heard of breast milk being readily available to normal babies. If I still had babies in my house, I'd be sending PETA a letter asking where they plan to find all of this breast milk, and asking them to send me the contact information for these human fountains of liquid gold. Screw Ben and Jerry -- I'd buy the milk for my babies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bacon makes everything better.

I'm very sad that I didn't pick up the two bunches of collards left in my CSA's trade box. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if we get more collards in our weekly box. Why am I sad that I didn't take somebody else's rejected collards? Because they're so seriously yummy! And out of this world when it comes to their nutrients. They're a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, and, get this...one serving has 593% of your RDA of vitamin K.

Now that we're not in veggie month anymore, I've been experimenting with bacon and what I've discovered is that almost anything tastes good when it's cooked with bacon. Except maybe beets (I even tried putting beets in a chocolate cake and...yuck...tastes like mud pie...but I'm going to try again). So, here's my second excellent recipe for collards. It's very complex...I don't know if you'll be able to manage it. Chop up two strips of bacon and sauté them. (You could probably even get by with just one strip.) While you're cooking the bacon, wash, dry and tear up your collards. When the bacon's almost crispy, drain off some of the fat and save it for another lucky bunch of greens or a fried egg. Throw a few smashed up cloves of garlic into the pan. Let the garlic get fragrant and then throw in your pile of collards. Collards cook down like spinach, so throw in a big heap of collards. Season with salt and pepper. Eat. Admire yourself for making something so healthy in under ten minutes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The chant that makes me shudder

Drill, baby, drill! Drill, baby, drill!

When you heard this chant during Rudy Giuliani's speech at the Republican National Convention, what reaction did it evoke in you? Did you get excited and jump up and down and throw your fists into the air and chant with the crowd? Were you so angry at the Democrats' calls for alternative energy research that you wanted to join in the chant? Or did you (like me) listen with wide eyes, shuddering and wondering if you were missing something?

Although I am a registered Republican, I have not yet decided who will receive my vote in the November election. There are a few things about each candidate that I like, and a laundry list of things about each that I don't. In fact, the "not-so-happy-about-this-quality/belief/record" list is so long that I've actually contemplated not voting in the election (I say this with fear and trembling, as non-participation in elections could be cause for being ousted from my family). Upon hearing that I may not vote, several people have told me, "If you don't vote, you can't complain. And I know you can't help but complain." Okay, okay. I guess I'll have to vote. I think I'm leaning toward McCain (after hearing Lieberman and Palin speak), but hearing the "drill, baby, drill" chant made me wonder if I could really do it. Can I really cast my vote to a candidate who is supported by masses of people who actually believe that drilling is going to significantly improve our energy situation or solve any of our energy problems?

To be totally truthful with you, here is one of the scenes that I witnessed in my mind as I listened to that chant. This one in particular was the most impactful for me, which is why I share it with you here. What I saw was a group of pubescent teenage boys, stupid in all of their hormonal glory, surrounding a helpless young woman and waiting for their turn to...well, you can figure out the rest. I saw mob mentality, when all rationality is thrown out the window, when logic means nothing, and it seemed so similar to the chant I was hearing on tv...when we think as a group, sometimes we don't think at all.

If we decide to start new drilling in Alaska or install new rigs offshore, it should be with heavy hearts. It should not be a celebration, but rather a last-ditch effort to save our country as we know it. It should not make us want to sing and dance and act victorious. It should make us take a deep breath and sigh, because we are at the end of our rope and have no choice but to do what we wish we didn't have to do. When we discover new technology for alternative energy sources, when we find realistic, reliable, clean ways to power our cars and refrigerators and air conditioners, that should make us sing and dance. That should make us shout for joy and chant and rally together.

I am a free market girl. I do not believe in government regulation. I do not believe in significant government involvement beyond what local governments and non-governmental organizations cannot do for us. I do believe in preserving and restoring our environment. Trying to balance those seemingly oppositional beliefs is tough. As one who works hard to keep all of my beliefs in perfect balance, here is how I reconcile my free market values with my desire to maintain a pristine environment: consumers are the key. Consumers must demand clean sources of energy. I've read that arctic drilling wouldn't really improve our oil supply for ten years anyway, but for a moment let's just pretend that we could turn on some faucet and have all the oil we want...until it runs out. What would that solve? Yes, in the short term SOME people would be helped by the cheaper gas prices, but apparently those same people, and many more, are already learning how to conserve gas. We're creative -- we're figuring out solutions to the high cost of gas. We combine trips, we carpool, we ride our bikes, we're buying energy-efficient cars. According to this Reuters article, "U.S. oil demand over the past four weeks has been running about 3.5 percent below a year ago and gasoline consumption appears on track for its first annual decline since the early 1980s." We have the ability to conserve while we wait for another solution, and seeing the high gas prices on the gas station sign will only make us more eager for alternative energy. Drilling is a very short term solution to a very long term problem -- a long term problem we're not motivated to solve if gas prices go back down.

I guess what I'm saying is that, in order to be a catalyst for change, the government needs to leave drilling at current levels and force consumers to continue to demand something better.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What kind of garbage is in my blood?

This is the question Brynn asked me today. You see, a few years ago Brynn and I participated in a study run by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They tested our blood for toxins from fire-retardant materials like what's in our sofa and in the padding under our carpet. Brynn's toxicity level was much higher than mine which was, I think, a predictable result.

Every once in a while, Brynn will ask me about the study. Maybe she was traumatized by the two viles of blood they took out of her. Her question today reminded me that I should tell you about the study, as the findings are (finally) being released tomorrow and will be reported in the local and national media, including on the Today Show (sorry, fans of Good Morning America) at about 9:15AM. If Ann Curry does the story I might not be able to watch. Anyway, if you are around a television tomorrow morning or if you have access to Tivo, you might want to catch that segment. Once the results are officially released, you will be able to access the details of the study at the EWG's website. For now, they're only available to a select few (including yours truly). I can tell you that our results are accompanied by a cute photo of us! Or, at least Brynn looks cute.

Update: here's a link to the Today Show segment, and a link to more information about the study.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yummy collards?

I've never had collard greens before, but when I found them in the CSA box last week, I didn't think they'd taste good. I imagined something like kale, and I really don't like kale. So, while making room in my fridge for a new CSA delivery today, I started searching the internet for a recipe including collards and green chard, both of which came in our CSA box last week. I was hoping to find a recipe that didn't taste like seaweed. Yes, as you can see, I had very high hopes. Then I found the recipe I've copied below. It's kind of like making salmon cakes or crab cakes, except you use greens instead of fish. It was really yummy. And it has 140% of my daily recommended amount of Vitamin A, 41% of my Vitamin C, and 20% of my Iron. Not bad for a side dish! I entered the recipe into a nutrition analysis program. You can see the analysis here.

Here's the recipe:

Croquettes (for spinach, chard, kale, collards, arugula or watercress)

Salt and black pepper to taste
2 lb fresh greens, large stems removed
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c grated cheese, such as Gruyere, Swiss, Cheddar, Parmesan, etc.
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter or more oil

Bring large pot of water to boil and add salt. Add the greens and onion and cook for just about 1 minute, until the greens wilt. Drain thoroughly and cool a bit. Chop the greens and put it and the onion in a large bowl along with the eggs, cheese and bread crumbs. Mix well, then add salt and pepper. If the mixture is too loose to form into patties, add some more bread crumbs; if it's too dry, add a little milk or another egg.

Put half the oil and butter into a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Form the spinach mixture into small patties (this amount will make 8-12). Put half the patties into the hot pan and cook for five minutes on each side --- until nicely browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Add remaining oil and butter to pan and cook the rest of the patties. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Here are the changes I made: I only used olive oil instead of olive oil and butter (mostly because I didn't want to dirty a knife cutting up the butter), I steamed the greens instead of boiling them (faster and used less water), and I also added some curry powder and a bit of cayenne pepper to the recipe to spice it up, and topped the cakes with a bit of plain yogurt. Oh, and when the mixture was a little too wet to stick together, I added a few tablespoons of oat bran to hold it all together.

This is why we only buy beef from local ranchers.

No, not even from Whole Foods. This is why.