Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Edition

It seems fitting that on Earth Day you should give the planet a present. But what do you give the planet that has everything? If you're struggling to come up with something, I have a few suggestions:

1. Take a shorter shower or skip your shower altogether! (If you've already showered by the time you read this, you could substitute "only flush the toilet selectively today" or "don't let the water run when you wash the dishes/brush your teeth.")

Here's our latest state drought map, after all, including the thirteen more river basins Governor Inslee has declared in drought conditions. Snowpack is at 20% of normal.

2. Consider installing one of these:
Look at these happy gentlemen from the King Cty website!
Not being the handy, installing type myself, I wish one of these rain barrels would magically appear outside our house, ready to go. But the County has an FAQ and tips for you more motivated types.

3. If you're under the gun timewise, consider the belated Earth Day gift. Bellevue's 2015 Spring Special Recycling Day is Saturday, May 2, from 9am-3pm in the Bellevue Presbyterian Church parking lot. What do they take, that you can't recycle curbside? Here are just some of the biggies:

Block styrofoam
Packing peanuts
And new this year...

Rigid plastics!!!
I'm pretty excited about the rigid plastics, since, like most Americans, I have a few of those $5 resin chairs in various states of usability cluttering up the backyard. Not to mention plastic buckets that used to contain something. There's only so many plastic buckets you can have around the house.

And you know, of course(?) that curbside recycling already can take household batteries now! The most recent flyer I've received says to place regular and rechargeable batteries in a separate, clear sealed bag and put it on top of the recycling bin for pickup. Strangely, King County has not updated its website to reflect this change.

Same goes for those fluorescent tubes and bulbs that I hate and refuse to buy any longer: wrap them in newspaper and secure with tape. Mark them "Fluorescent bulbs" and put them on top or beside your bin. (Bartell's will also recycle CFLs.)

4. And then there's always the "Reuse" option, for you serial re-gifters. I re-use freezer bags until they look cruddy or won't seal. I've re-used the thicker plastic bags found in cereal boxes for when I need a sturdier cover for things outside like the umbrella stand. I re-use plastic grocery bags to collect smaller recyclable plastic bags or to line the compost bin (but not to throw in the yard waste, of course). I reuse glass peanut butter jars to hold beans in the pantry or to refrigerate homemade yogurt. I reuse plastic trays and bowls and containers people have left after potlucks and such to serve my own potluck offerings or to send food home with others later--that way it doesn't matter if you ever get it back. And when the things aren't on condition to be re-used again, they can be recycled curbside or brought to the Special Recycling Day!

So no excuses, this year. Give our awesome planet a present and have a happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Noteworthy Notes, April 2015 Edition

Future Deviled Eggs

It's April 15th - Tax Day! That would be the bad news. The good news is, we have less than one month till Opening Day of the 2015 Bellevue Farmers Market season! The Thursday Market kicks off on May 14th with food, fun, and festivities. If you'd like to get involved as a vendor or volunteer, here's the link you need.

The Market won't be a moment too soon. Supermarket apples are mushy, the pears are Argentinian, and the strawberries of the giant, flavorless variety. Even the winter standby of oranges is getting hit-or-miss. For smoothies I've been falling back on frozen fruits, since they at least were ripe when processed.

Speaking of flavor, did you see this very interesting article on how naturally flavorful foods are actually higher in nutrients? It's based on a book I'm looking forward to reading:

As some of us have noticed, widely-available produce found out of season and grown on an industrial farm does not have anywhere near the flavor of the fruits and vegetables our local farmers or own backyards produce. Try one of the "sugar bomb" strawberries at the Market in June, and you'll turn your nose up at Watsonville's baseball-sized grocery-store offerings ever after. Well, it just so happens,
For more than 50 years, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As our crops and livestock become more productive, affordable and disease-resistant, they keep losing flavor. As any grandparent can tell you, tomatoes, strawberries, chicken—all taste like cardboard these days.
As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, modern tomatoes have half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s. We compound the nutritional insult by drowning bland food in the only things that can make it taste good—ranch dressing, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce.
Because we still love and crave flavor, we add it back in to food--usually favor cooked up in a chemistry lab.

Not only is the Market a convenient source of flavorful, nutritious food, but I've also noticed some of our vendors do a great job of riding food trends. We've had kale chips and gluten-free baked goods and fresh juices. Greek yogurt and hand pies and kim chee. Can't wait to see what this season's offerings include!

Food trends follow an arc, as this article notes, moving from Discovery to Popularity to Mainstream (Ho-Humness) to Been-There-Done-That. I'm glad to read that eggs, butter, and whole milk are back in, since we consume plenty of those. Sadly, also trending are pre-made sauces which you dump in a pan and heat. Today's version of Hamburger Helper.

Kicking it old school, for you lovers of fake home-cooking
Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

Whatever you're eating--flavorless or flavorful, trendy or classic--I leave you with these handy reminders of "5 Healthy-Eating Strategies That Will Outlast Any Trend" from a recent Huffington Post. 

Do a self-test. I scored 1 out of 5.

  • No, I don't use small plates. 
  • No, I don't eat twice as many vegetables as protein/grains. 
  • Yes, I eat colorfully. 
  • No, I don't try to "quash" unhealthy snacking. 
  • And, no, I don't eat mindfully.
Looks like the Market can't come soon enough...