Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do You Know About Bioregional Eating?

Eating bioregionally is gaining in popularity. Here's what you need to know, including how it differs from the locavore moment.
Growing local has its merits, but a growing movement suggests perhaps we need to let the region dictate what we grow locally. (Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)
There's a growing trend in sustainable food that sort of fine tunes locavorism. Sourcing from within bioregions is the one of the big food trends for 2016, according to Forbes, and although eating bioregionally has a lot in common with locavorism, it's not the same. What are bioregions and how can paying attention to them help us eat and live more sustainably? Here's a primer.

What are Bioregions?

A bioregion is a "geographical area with a unique combination of plants, animals, geology, climate and water features." When it comes to growing and raising food, each bioregion will have foods that it can naturally sustain and foods that it cannot.

Bioregional Eating vs. Locavorism

I have neighbors here in New Jersey who have a lemon tree in their house. They are avid vegetable gardeners and grow seasonally in both their backyard and a plot in a community garden. They certainly do their part to support the locavore movement. That lemon tree is something completely different, though. The climate where we live doesn't support citrus, so the tree is purely for fun. The number of lemons the tree produces may never equal or surpass the amount of money it costs to buy and sustain the tree, and the resources used to make sure it thrives are considerable.

I mention this not to put down my neighbors. In fact, I would love a lemon tree in my home. It would be fun to pick a fresh lemon each time I needed one, but I've established that my enthusiasm for growing my own food doesn't match my enthusiasm for eating it. So I mention this as an example of how growing locally isn't always sustainable.

Food that comes straight from your backyard has been hailed by many as the holy grail of sustainable eating for about a decade now. It's the ideal that resonated with me when I began my personal blog about eating local in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region. What I've come to learn along the way, though, is that eating sustainably is much more complicated than buying everything I possibly can from within a 100-mile radius.

Tomatoes grown in a hot house during every season may be local, but the practice isn't necessarily in keeping with bioregionalism. (Photo: Tree of Life/Shutterstock)

As with the lemon tree example, just because it can be grown locally doesn't mean it should be grown locally, especially when you take sustainability into consideration. My friends' lemon tree barely makes a dent, but large-scale production of foods that a bioregion doesn't naturally support can make a big dent in un-sustainability. Take for instance, energy-intensive hot houses that grow tomatoes out of season that are sold within the region. Are the tomatoes local? Yes. Are they sustainable? It gets more complicated then, doesn't it? They may (or may not) be more sustainable than a tomato grown in a warm region and shipped across country. Both methods of obtaining a tomato in the winter months in a place where they won't grow naturally use a lot of energy.

The concept of eating bioregionally seems to fine tune locavorism. Eating a locally grown hot house tomato in February is not eating bioregionally; eating a farm- or garden-grown tomato in July is. To truly eat bioregionally, we should forgo all fresh tomatoes once they're out of season.

Bioregionalism Beyond Food

This concept is easy to grasp when it comes to food, but it goes beyond that.

Your food bioregion may contain several towns, more than one state, and even more than one country. Part of bioregionalism is the idea of basing our political borders on nature. When you do that, you can see how it could get complicated fast. Instead of several different local, state or even national governments existing within one bioregion, there would be one political government within its natural borders. If we arranged "political structures around ecological regions and the cultures within them," argues Rachael Stoeve in Yes magazine, there would be sustainability in many areas of life.

There's a whole other blog post to write about that aspect, but it's interesting to look at the food concept with that broader scope. The decisions made about the resources within a bioregion would be more likely to benefit the environment and the people than corporations and those with a financial interest. That's something to chew on.

Monday, December 14, 2015

20 Gluten-Free Treats for the Holiday Season

It's mid-December, which means it's time for some holiday sweets. You won't find wheat flour in any of these sweets, but it's one ingredient you'll never miss. Whether you follow a gluten-free diet or not, these desserts from cookies and candy to cakes and edible gifts, will make your holiday season complete.

1. Caramel Pecan Turtle Clusters

It's hard to resist the addictive combination of buttery pecans and chewy homemade caramel nestled under a creamy milk chocolate shell. Wrap up a few in pretty tissue paper and give a box as a holiday gift.

2. No-Bake Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies

The only thing better than a no-bake cookie is one that involves a winning combination of Nutella and peanut butter.

3. Crisp Meringues with Whipped Cream

This is just about the simplest dessert imaginable. You can make it with meringues purchased at the grocery store or at a bakery, or make them yourself. Together the crisp meringue and soft cream melts together into one sweet and simple dessert.

4. No-Bake Sesame Coconut Ginger Cookies

Moist and naturally sweet with a gingery bite, these cookies contain just five ingredients and couldn't be easier to make.

5. Coconut Snowballs

When it comes to cookies, deliciousness usually arrives in the form of flour, butter, sugar, nuts, and chocolate. But when you can't eat any of those foods, coconut — in all its delicious forms — is your new best friend.

6. How To Make a Chocolate Soufflé

Not only are chocolate soufflés one of the most heavenly things you can eat with a spoon, but they're also surprisingly not all that hard to make.

7. Classic Southern Pralines

You can call the praline a cookie, because it's shaped like one, but it's rightfully a type of candy. These no-bake treats are made entirely on the stovetop, and take just 15 minutes.

8. Eggnog Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows make the perfect gift this time of year. And what better way to celebrate the season than with eggnog?

9. How To Make the Best Coconut Macaroons

Crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle — a good coconut macaroon has some texture for you to bite into. As long as you have some shredded coconut stashed away in your cupboard and a few eggs in the fridge, a batch of sweet macaroons can be yours in less than 30 minutes.

10. Holiday Nut & Fruit Brittle

Enrobed in caramelized sugar, the nuts and seeds in this holiday nut brittle look like little gems. It's easy to swap in your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and spices to create your own unique version.

11. Raspberry-Coconut French Macarons

French macarons make the most perfect, bite-sized presents. These macaron shells feature finely ground freeze-dried raspberries for sweetness and color. The raspberry flavor is subtle, and pairs beautifully with the coconut filling.

12. Baked Eggnog Custards

This seasonal treat is surprisingly light and smooth, with a subtly sweet eggnog flavor and a slightly boozy aftertaste.

13. How To Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

There's a lot to love about chocolate-covered strawberries. The crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth shell and the cool, sweet strawberry beneath. Whether you serve them for a party or give them as a gift, they're bound to be a hit.

14. Gluten-Free & Vegan Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread, in all its many forms, is a classic holiday treat. And this moist, richly flavored gingerbread cake is certainly not one to be missed.

15. Heavenly Hash Bars

Just when you thought you'd filled your arsenal with enough delicious homemade holiday treats, along came heavenly hash to sweep them all under the carpet. The combination of bittersweet chocolate, roasted almond, and marshmallow is truly a gift.

16. How To Make French Meringue

With a crisp outer shell, slightly chewy center, and a subtle sweetness, baked meringues are a melt-in-your-mouth delight.

17. Chocolate-Dipped Figs with Sea Salt

Dried figs are a sweet and easy treat any day, but dip them in chocolate and sprinkle with a little sea salt and they become a treat worthy of anyone's holiday gift list.

18. Raw Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bites

These truffles might be raw and vegan, but trust me — they still taste like an indulgent treat. They'll certainly suit nearly everyone on your gift list.

19. Sweet and Savory Roasted Cashews

These crisp and flavorful roasted nuts offer a little something for everyone. There are brown butter-sage cashews if savory is your thing, and cocoa-dusted cashews for those of us with a sweet tooth.

20. How To Make the Easiest Chocolate Fudge

This classic fudge has a dense, textured chewiness as you bite into it, and then melts in your mouth. It's a classic holiday gift to give for a reason.
[via The Kitchn]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Correctly Plant Tomatoes to Get 5–8ft Plants

How do we plant a tomato, you might ask?  With a ridiculous amount of stuff in the hole, is the answer.  When someone ropes me into telling them and I start the long answer, I eventually see their eyes glaze over.  That’s the point where I say, “Then you throw in the kitchen sink and cover it all up.”  To date, no one has laughed at that joke. I think they’re just either too overwhelmed by the real stuff we put in there, or they actually believe we’re throwing in a sink.

This is how we plant a tomato.  First off, let’s take a look at our sexy specimen here on the left.

We started this beauty in our heated greenhouse in late January. We potted it up to a gallon container about 3 or 4 weeks ago.  It will go into one of our freshly prepared beds, shown to the right.

The tomatoes are placed three feet apart. I’ve learned over the years that spacing them closer than that means less fruit.  We dig a nice deep hole to accommodate all the additions – the exact depth is dependent upon how tall the seedling is that you start with.  We want the plant to be almost completely submerged into the soil, and the fish head and amendments put into the hole need to be covered with a bit of soil, so we plan accordingly for the depth.  This particular hole ends up being almost two feet deep, and is ready for our first goody, these impressive fish heads.

We get them from the restaurant we grow for, Manresa.  You might be able to get them free from a good butcher or fishmonger.  I even know of someone who called a few restaurants in their area and was quickly rewarded with a nice bounty of juicy fish heads.  Fish tails, spines, guts, as well as shrimp, crab, or lobster shells are all good as well.  Some of you may worry about critters digging these up later.  We’ve never had a problem with animals digging up my tomatoes, and we’ve got three dogs, two cats, and what seem like an endless supply of raccoons living on the property.  I stress the point that this is the first thing that goes into our very deep planting hole.  That may help keep it from getting dug up.  You can see the six inch long fish head staring up at us from the bottom of the hole here.

If you’re reticent to put the fish head in the hole, or simply can’t get your mitts on any, we recommend using fish meal as a substitute. Two handfuls is about right. We get ours from Gardner & Bloome.

The next thing that goes into the hole are a couple of aspirin tablets and some crushed chicken egg shells. The aspirin is to help jump start the plant’s immune system.  You can read more about that science here.  We’ll put three or four crushed egg shells into the hole as well. You can see our three colors of eggs from our fancy chickens – yes, those are green eggs in there. The eggs supply a nice calcium boost, which will help prevent blossom end rot, that nasty brown patch on the bottom of tomatoes that lack calcium (the fish head bones and bone meal also help with that).

Bone meal is the next to go into the hole.  We put in a heaping handful of bone meal.  This is a nice organic phosphorus source, which is essential for blossom production.  More blossoms, more fruit.  Bone meal also increases calcium availability for the tomato. This is also a Gardner & Bloome product.

We then put in two handfuls of Gardner & Bloome’s Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer. It’s an all-purpose  organic fertilizer that contains the essential macronutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassiun. Their mix is a very nice 4-6-3 of those nutrients.

We also recommend putting a handful of pure worm castings in the bottom of the hole.  We amend our beds with worm castings and we also spray a worm casting tea on the plants while they grow.  Really great stuff.  Worm castings are available for sale at our tomato plant sale.

The hole is complete (sans kitchen sink) and we’re now ready to pop in the tomato plant.  We trim off the lower leaves, be there one, two, three or more, leaving only the top-most leaves.

We put an inch or two of soil on top of the amendments in the hole.  The plant is eased out of the pot, and before it’s placed in the hole, I sprinkle a third of a cup or more on the rootball with a product called Xtreme Gardening’s Mykos, which is a mycorrhizal fungi that attaches to the roots, growing as the root ball grows.  It protects the plant from some diseases, such as verticillium and fusarium wilts.  If there are any “silver bullets” here, it is this healthy addition of mycorrhizal fungi.

Once the tomato is in the hole, we double check the depth by judging how far out of the ground the plant will be sticking.

If it’s going to be too far down, we’ll remove the plant and add some more soil.  If it looks like it’ll be up above the soil more than we want, that’s too bad because we ain’t gonna be fishing them fish parts and all that other stuff up out of that hole and digging it deeper.  No siree.  So we try our best to gauge the depth of the hole according to the height of the plant we’re putting in.

We then back fill GENTLY – only one quasi-firm push settles the soil around the plant.

Please do not man-handle the soil around the plant by stomping on it or pressing too hard.  That’s not necessary and it expels all the air out of the soil.  Believe it or not, the roots need oxygen down there just as much as they need nutrients and water.

A temporary well is then made around the plant base to catch the first watering. The first watering is the most critical.  We do it multiple times.  Water it in once, twice, three times at least.  Wait a few minutes to allow the water to drain through.  If you have a deep hole, likely way more than 12 inches deep, you will be amazed at how much water it will take to wet the root ball a foot or more under the ground.  So don’t be stingy with the water the first day. Thereafter, you can back off the watering.  Here’s our finished bed.  You can see the tomatoes are spaced pretty far apart:

Drip irrigation will be repositioned on the bed, and staking and mulching has yet to be done.  In the meantime, please feel free to email us or leave a comment below with any questions.

If you’re still not getting the results you want, then consider taking this Tomato Masters class.

You can find more information all about tomatoes on the World Tomato Society website.

Good luck, folks!

[via RealFarmacy, Grow Better Veggies]

Monday, November 2, 2015

Top 7 Health Benefits of Organic Pumpkin Plus Recipes!

Halloween is fast approaching. What do we usually see during this season? Pumpkins! But don’t be fooled thinking they’re just for decor! – they’re actually one of the most nutritious fruits out there that you should eat regularly. Just don’t forget to choose organic and your family’s health will be taken cared well.

Check out these Top 7 health benefits of Organic Pumpkin below, plus the two healthy and yummy pumpkin recipes!

1. Aids weight loss – Pumpkins are rich in fiber, which slows down digestion. A cup of canned pumpkin contains seven grams of fiber and 20 calories, meaning it keeps you feeling fuller longer on fewer calories. Eating food rich in fiber helps people to eat less, and thereby shed pounds.

2. Keep eyesight sharp – Pumpkin’s brilliant orange color comes from its ample supply of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. It is known that Vitamin A is essential for the eye and helps the retina absorb and process light. One cup of pumpkin contains over 200% of most people’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making it the best option for optical health. Additionally, pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that helps prevent cataracts and may even slow the development of macular degeneration.

3. Reduce cancer risk – Research shows that people who eat a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer. Vitamin A and C are both antioxidants and they act as shields for your cells against cancer-causing free radicals.

4. Protect the skin – Beta-carotene from pumpkins can also help protect us from the sun’s wrinkle-causing UV rays, therefore helping you look younger. The pulp also makes a great all-natural face mask that exfoliates and soothes. Read my review of a great product that uses pumpkin as the main ingredient.

5. It Helps after a hard workout – Bananas are known for being the nature’s energy bar but cooked pumpkins have more of the refueling nutrient potassium, with 564 milligrams to a banana’s 422. Potassium is an essential mineral we need to keep our hearts and muscles working at their optimal levels. Try adding pumpkin to your post-workout snack or meal for the extra potassium boost.

6. Pumpkin Seeds can help your heart – Pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers. These may provide benefits for heart and liver health, particularly when mixed with flax seeds.

7. Seeds can boost your mood – Pumpkin seeds are also rich in amino acid tryptophan. The amino acid is important in production of serotonin, one of the major players when it comes to restoring our mood. A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds may help your outlook stay bright.

You can never go wrong consuming this healthy vegetable! And as promised, here are the easy healthy and yummy Pumpkin Recipes that you can try anytime soon! Enjoy!

A. Curried Pumpkin with Raisins

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 ½ tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lbs Organic pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¾ cup frozen baby peas
  • Fresh Cilantro, for garnish
  1. Heat butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, add onion, and cool until golden-brown, wait for about five minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.
  2. Mix in curry powder, salt and pepper. Add pumpkin and cook for five minutes, stir frequently.
  3. Pour in broth and raisins, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Add peas after 15 minutes. Replace cover and continue to cook until pumpkin is tender, wait for 5-10 minutes more. Garnish with cilantro.

B. Pumpkin Caipirinha

  • ½ lime, cut into 4 pieces
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 11/2 ounces cachaca
  • 11/2 ounces Organic pumpkin puree
  • Ice
For garnish:
  • Nutmeg
  • Lime wheel
  1. Cachaca is a popular distilled spirit from Brazil that is made from sugarcane. If you don’t have cachaca, substitute with white rum instead. Both spirits are made from sugarcane.
  2. Mix-up the lime, agave nectar, and fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shakerAdd cachaca/white rum, pumpkin puree, and ice. Shake until thoroughly mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and garnish with grated nutmeg and a lime wheel.
Enjoy these Pumpkin recipes while Pumpkins are still abundant! And don’t forget to share!

Cranberries Have Role in Heart Health, Should We Give Thanks?

Several studies, including new research presented at the Cranberry Health Research Conference, suggest cranberries may play an important part in heart health. As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and the height of cranberry season, it’s time to explore how these red berries may benefit heart health.

Cranberries are a rich source of polyphenols, including phenolic acids (e.g., benzoic, ellagic acids) and flavonoids (e.g., anthocyanins, flavonols), which have been found to have potent antioxidant properties. In fact, published research has shown “how polyphenol compounds help improve endothelial function, which is a critical factor in preventing atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries]” and “to inhibit the abnormal platelet aggregation that cause most sudden heart attacks and strokes, while fighting inflammation and supporting healthy blood lipids.”

The current study follows several previous efforts to determine whether cranberries should be considered heart-healthy and worthy of attention beyond the role they have played for years. That role has focused on their ability to help prevent urinary tract infections, particularly in women who are susceptible to this common condition.

Studies of cranberries and heart health
Before we get to the latest research, let’s look briefly at what preceded it, beginning with a Tufts University study published in 2007. The authors of that review noted there was evidence to suggest that the polyphenols found in cranberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by hindering the accumulation of platelets and reducing blood pressure.

In a 2011 study, a team at Boston University School of Medicine examined the effects of cranberry juice on vascular function in individuals who had coronary artery disease. Two studies were conducted: an acute, no-placebo pilot that involved 15 patients, and a chronic, placebo-controlled crossover study that enrolled 44 patients.

In the chronic crossover study, the individuals were randomly assigned to drink 16 ounces daily of cranberry juice or placebo for four weeks. The participants in the acute study consumed 16 ounces of cranberry juice one time only.

Here’s what the investigators found:
  • Mean carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (an important measure of stiffness of the aorta) decreased after cranberry juice and increased after placebo 
  • Several other important cardio measures, including blood pressure, brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, digital pulse amplitude tonometry, and carotid-radial pulse wave velocity, did not change
  • In the pilot study, there was an improvement in brachial artery flow-mediated dilation and digital pulse amplitude tonometry four hours after the participants consumed a single 16-ounce portion of the juice
In a subsequent (2013) double-blind, randomized study, the authors set out to see whether daily consumption of double-strength cranberry juice over four months would have a beneficial impact on vascular function and endothelial cells (which line the walls of the arteries). A total of 69 men and women who had peripheral endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular risk factors participated in the study and completed it.

The authors found that drinking the cranberry juice may protect against atherosclerosis by reducing the number of endothelial cells that make a compound called osteocalcin, which has been linked to hardening of the arteries.

Latest study of cranberries and heart health
In this latest study, the authors enrolled 10 healthy males (age 18-40) and evaluated the immediate impact on vascular health after they consumed 16 ounces of cranberry juice at various concentrations, ranging from 0 to 117 percent, including 25 percent, which is the concentration commonly found in commercial cranberry juice cocktail.

The investigators found that drinking cranberry juice improved (increased) flow-mediated vasodilation, which is a measure of blood flow and vascular health, ranging from 1 to 2.5 percent, depending on the concentration and when the participants were tested. At the highest concentration, there was a 10 mmHg decline in systolic blood pressure as well.

According to the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, of University Duesseldorf, Germany, “Significant improvements in vascular function from drinking two cups of cranberry juice suggest an important role for cranberries in a heart-healthy diet.”

The findings of these studies provide some evidence that cranberries may have a role in heart health. Although it may be too early to stock up on cranberry juice (which can contain lots of sugar depending on what you buy), it may be comforting to know that these little red berries may have more potential than helping ward off urinary tract infections. You may want to raise a glass of cranberry juice more often in the future…for heart health.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Pumpkins

While you sip on that pumpkin spice latte, consider these unusual pumpkin facts about your favorite fall produce.

Maybe you want to know why pumpkins fit so effortlessly into sweet and savory dishes, like pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin pie. Perhaps you are curious about how early American settlers used this foreign gourd for cooking, or why we carve faces into pumpkins on Halloween.

Pumpkins haven’t always been as popular as they are today. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Hard to believe considering pumpkin spice seems take over our taste buds every fall season. No food is above a little help from pumpkin spice: Pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, and even English muffins are cropping up on our supermarket shelves.

This fall season while you snack on your artisanal pumpkin [insert food here]; consider the facts about this versatile, tasty treat to discover how pumpkins went from the bottom to the food chain to the top of fall food trends over the past several hundred years

1.  45 Different Varieties of Pumpkins

While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the cleverly named pumpkin varietals include, Halloween in Paris from France, Cinderella (the varietal cultivated by the Pilgrims), and Wee-Be-Little a miniature pumpkin varietal.

2. Irish Jack-O-Lanterns

The tradition of carving pumpkins originated in Ireland. The Irish would carve jack-o-lanterns out of turnips to scare away evil spirits during the Celtic holiday Samhain, the night when spirits of the dead would walk the earth.

3. October = Pumpkin Month

80 percent of the pumpkin crop in the U.S. is available during October. That is roughly 800 million pumpkins out of the 1 billion pumpkins grown in the U.S. each year.

4. “Pumpkin Capital” of the World

Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world. Illinois is one of the largest producers of pumpkin in the United States with 90 to 95 percent of its crop being used for processed pumpkin foods.

5. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain more protein than peanuts and are a wonderful roasted with spices or salt. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of salads or eat as a snack on their own.

6. Pumpkins are 90 Percent Water

Admittedly, this is less of a surprising fact when you consider that pumpkins come from the same family as the watermelon and cucumber.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

4 Tips For a Zero-Waste Picnic

Hot sunny days are made for wandering around and just enjoying the weather. Picnics are an essential part of summer as they combine two guilty pleasures: good food and basking in the sun. However, some ideas are better than others. The concept of zero waste can be a challenge, so here are four tips for a successful zero-waste picnic!

1. Choose Reusable Tableware

Choose rigid, resealable plastic containers that you can use again on your next picnic. Personally, I much prefer to buy one sandwich box than dozens of disposable plastic bags. For utensils, you could bring your usual ones from home or consider some novel items such as sporks, which can be very handy.

If reusable containers are not an option, you may opt for tableware that is recyclable or compostable. In either case, make sure that it is certified as such. You may be surprised to learn that some places recycle polystyrene, so ask around.

2. Be Creative

  • Set yourself a challenge to try out new recipes—who knows, you might find your new favorite dish!
  • Take a flask rather than a bottle of water. I like to bring a big jug of cool fruit-flavored water. It’s incredibly easy: just fill your jug up with water, then add your favorite frozen berries.
  • Buy loose or in bulk! Have a sweet tooth? Buy dark chocolate loose and bring it along for dessert. Prefer savory? Popcorn is a simple, delicious snack that is perfect for summer outings.

3. Communicate and Get Informed

For your zero-waste picnic to be a success, you need everyone’s cooperation. Don’t be shy about assigning tasks—one person can be responsible for bringing all the recyclables home while someone else can take care of the compostables. By combining everyone’s strengths, your meal will be a sustainable, collaborative effort.

Next, find out more about where you will be eating. By being aware of the services available, you can make more informed choices. For example, if the park you are going to doesn’t have facilities for compost, favor reusable or recyclable utensils instead.

4. Leave Nothing Behind

Think about what you are going to do with the leftovers—bring a small pail, which you can empty at home, or a compostable bag. Bring recyclables back in a bag and put them in your bin!

Finally, ask yourself the ultimate question: have you left any visible traces of your day out behind? If the answer is no, your zero-waste picnic has been a success!


7 Homemade Ice Pops That Go Beyond Juice

It's time to break out that ice pop mold!

Do you own an ice pop mold? Maybe you bought it for a special recipe once and now it's just taking up space in your cupboard? Now's the time to pull it out. It's hot out. And nothing beats the heat like something frozen.

I'm guessing that the reason you're not using your ice pop mold very often is because you think you need to follow specific ice pop recipes to use it, and lack of time or lack of ingredients is getting in the way. I get it, I've been there. Epicurious has a lot of crowd-pleasing recipes if you want them, but the great thing about an ice pop mold is that you don't need to follow a recipe to use it.

A lot of ingredients that you probably already have in your fridge or pantry can be frozen into perfectly satisfying ice pops—and they don't necessarily need to be sweet. You also don't need to use every mold at the same time or for the same thing: fill each mold with something different and your freezer will suddenly become more exciting than any variety pack you can buy in the ice cream aisle.

Here's some of my favorite things to pour into my ice pop molds:

Coffee and Tea

Next time you make iced coffee or iced tea, make extra and pour it into an ice pop mold. Add a little milk and maybe even some sweetener, and you'll be able to get your caffeine fix in a totally refreshing and unexpected fun new way.


Turn your favorite breakfast yogurt parfait into an ice pop. Stir together some yogurt and jam or fresh fruit and even granola and pour it into ice pop molds.


Any kind of smoothie will also make a great ice pop. Any morning you're making a smoothie, just pour a little bit off into an ice pop mold and you'll have a healthy frozen treat to enjoy in the afternoon or after dinner.


If you ever find yourself with leftover pudding, spoon it into ice pop molds and freeze it into a decadent frozen dessert on a stick. Or make (or buy) a batch of pudding just for the purpose of turning it into ice pops—rice pudding pops are surprisingly addictive, and chocolate pudding pops will remind you of the Fudgsicles you grew up with.

Ice Cream

Make your own ice cream bars by softening any kind of ice cream you like, mixing in some fruit, candy, nuts, cookie chunks, jam, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, or what have you, and spooning it into ice pop molds. Be sure to pack them in firmly so they re-freezes in a solid form. Once they're frozen, you can get even more crazy and unmold them, dip them in melted chocolate and re-freeze for chocolate-coated ice cream bars.

Cocktails and Wine

On the hottest summer evening, wouldn't it be nice to nibble a frozen cocktail rather than drink one? Your favorite cocktails can easily turn into ice pops, so long as there is enough water or juice or non-alcoholic liquid in the mix to help them freeze. Wine ice pops are amazing too, and a great way to preserve any wine remaining in a bottle you opened but can't finish. Just mix that wine with some juice or water (use at least equal parts wine and non-alcoholic liquid) and maybe some fresh fruit and freeze it in your ice pop molds.


An ice pop mold is basically a huge ice cube tray that you can put sticks in. But you don't have to put sticks in it. These extra-large ice cubes are especially good for serving a cocktails in pitchers or punch bowls. For an eye-catching touch, tuck a few sprigs of fresh herbs or edible flower petals into each mold before you fill it with water, or add whole berries or slices of fruit.

[via Epicurious]

Friday, June 5, 2015

21 Vegan Barbecue Dishes

Just because you don't eat meat products doesn't mean you have to suffer through a vacuous frozen veggie burger while everyone else at the summer barbecue chows down on hot, delicious grill food.

You, dear vegan, deserve the very best. And, as it happens, the very best cookout foods are often vegan. Just see the alluring assortment of meat-free options below for proof, then prepare to cook up a veggie-packed storm all summer long.

1. BBQ Tempeh Bowl


Smoky-sweet, blackened tempeh triangles, sweet citrus, caramelized skillet sweet onions, buttery diced avocado, tender sweet potato cubes and a few crunchy California-style sprouts on a bed of baby greens. All that yumminess is drizzled in a super easy vegan ranch dressing. Dinner is done. And delicious! Get the BBQ Tempeh Bowl recipe from Healthy Happy Life.

2. Vegan Jackfruit Pulled 'Pork' Sandwiches


Jackfruit is a nice, meatless meaty substitute for pulled pork and since nothing tops BBQ better than a nice creamy slaw, you can whip up a vegan version, serve it all on a nice artisan sandwich roll. And of course, everything tastes better with tater tots. Proudly serve this recipe to any of your meatlover friends.

3. Vegan Macaroni Salad


Just as much as it’s not summer without pool days, it’s not summer without a good pasta salad. Usually the things are laden with heavy dairy products, but not this one! This recipe from Minimalist Baker is completely dairy-free and loaded with the perfect combo of crispy veg. Pasta heaven in a bowl.

4. Brown Sugar Baked Beans


A staple of nearly every backyard barbecue growing up was baked beans. This recipe from The Veg Life has adapted the traditional recipe into a vegan-friendly dish and while it takes a long while to bake, it's so worth it.

5. BBQ Charred Vegan Hot Dog


Hot Dogs are a classic, social, American food. Hot dogs are eaten at sporting events, from sidewalk food vendor carts and at summer beach BBQ's. Swap out those unhealthy traditional ingredients for organic, vegan, premium ones and we are in the beach barbecue business. Here's the Healthy, Happy Life recipe for those perfect beach hot dogs!

6. Colorful Veggie Slaw


The Superman Cooks Colorful Veggie Slaw recipe (otherwise known as “kitchen sink slaw”) was inspired by a couple of chefs -- whenever they had vegetables in the cooler that were quickly approaching the end of their shelf life, they smartly diced and shredded as many of them as they could, added a simple vinaigrette, and voilà! A great tasting, crunchy salad.

7. Vegan Dijon Fingerling Potato Salad


This dijon-veganaise potato salad recipe is a perfect lunch side, pack it for a picnic or for a weekday lunch and you're set.

8. Smoky Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro & Lime


Sweet potatoes on the grill? Heck yes! Thin-sliced sweet potato slabs grill up tender and perfect on the BBQ. Rub 'em with spices and top with cilantro and lime for the side of the summer. Grab the recipe here from Kitchen Treaty.

9. Vegan Barbecue 'Ribs'


This vegan spin on BBQ ribs is made from seitan for a hearty and wholesome addition to your next cookout. Try it for yourself....and impress those omnivores at your next cookout!

10. Jamaican Grilled Corn


Simply shove a few of these on the barbie or under the grill and you have yourself a perfect summery treat. This simple dish is quick to make and will make any mouth happy with its bursts of Caribbean flavor! Serve it up for the family with dinner, at your next BBQ or just to have on their own as a snack - you really can't go wrong!

11. BBQ Portobello Sliders


These perfectly proportioned sliders will be the highlight of any barbeque this summer. This Love and Lemons recipe can be adapted with a variety of toppings to suit any mushy-fan.

12. Vegan Skewers With Tofu And Pineapple


Among the vegetables and tofu is sizzling sweet pineapple, which is extremely enriching in taste. This recipe combines the salty tofu and gives extraordinary sweetness and freshness to the whole bit. When paired with an easy-to-make creamy avocado sauce, becomes a delicious meal, which we can also tuck in the house when the weather is nice not to grill outdoors.

13. Italian-Style Eggplant Sausages


What better to make a vegetarian sausage out of than a vegetable that has a meaty texture and is already pretty much shaped like a sausage! I'm talking about the Japanese eggplant, of course. This recipe flavors the Japanese eggplants using the same spice blend you'd find in almost any Italian sausage. It's a savory mix of sage, fennel, and spice.

14. Grilled Artichokes & Polenta With Blistered Tomatoes And Pesto


This rustic, family style Italian recipe is a feast for the senses. Fresh artichokes are blanched, then grilled to perfection giving them a delicious earthy, smokey char. Polenta is grilled and cherry tomatoes are blistered. Drizzled with pesto, sprinkled with capers and strewn with basil leaves, this meal can be kept vegan and gluten free!

15. Vegan Grilled Vegetable Pesto Pizza


Combining that fabulous smoky flavor from the grill and a household favorite...pizza! Welcome Summer with this classic, delicious recipe from Leslie Durso, the Veggie Dreamgirl.

16. Grilled Avocado


Avocados are spectacular fruits that lend themselves to all kinds of savory dishes (and sweet ones too!). But it’s not often we think of enjoying them grilled. This recipe is a fast and easy low-carb grilling option for the vegetarians in your household – no longer will they feel left out of all the smoky goodness that barbecuing brings.

17. Grilled Peaches With Coconut Ginger Caramel


When you grill a peach, or any fruit really, you want the exact right amount of caramelization. Too much and there’s bitterness, too little and it’s just kind of like eating a warm peach. The method in this recipe, simply sprinkles the peach with a little lemon juice and oil. Not adding sugar lessens the danger of over-caramelization, an epidemic that studies show affects 4 out of 5 peaches at every barbeque. Instead rely on the ginger coconut caramel sauce for sweetness!

18. Black Bean Burger


With the addition of chia gel (chia seeds mixed with water and left to sit), this gluten-free vegan recipe makes a great burger that actually holds together on a gas grill with flipping! Not dry or crumbly, not mushy or bland. Nailed it.

19. The World's Juiciest Veggie Burger


The secret is oh so simple – beets! They make the patty moist, and give it a more realistic color. And the slider size? No secret there – it’s more diet friendly!  These veggie burgers are a great go-to for those days when you just really want a burger – but want to be healthier. All you need is a food processor and you are good to go!

20. Grilled Miso Glazed Japanese Eggplant


This is a great example of how simple modern Asian cooking can be. It's a traditional Japanese recipe, with thickened sauce to use it as a glaze and cooked it on the outdoor grill. It is so easy and fast, but the flavors will knock your socks off. Miso and eggplant is a gorgeous combination of flavors, and by caramelizing the glaze it really takes this to another level.

21. Vegan Biscuits


Hats off to the Minimalist Baker for creating these super-simple, gotta-have-just-one-more, please vegan biscuits.  Fill’em with vegan butter and jam, smother them with gravy or paired with vegan BBQ.

  1. [via Huffington Post]