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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A while ago, I started making homemade cat food for my cat. It took her a while to really like it (she doesn’t do well with change) but now she hangs around the kitchen when she knows I’m making it to be sure she gets a scoop of it when it’s freshly made. She absolutely loves this stuff.

I got the inspiration from Beth Terry’s My Plastic Free Life blog post about her own homemade cat food, and decided to give it a try for myself. I was not only looking to reduce our waste in terms of cans, but I wanted to give our cat a healthy food that wasn’t made from corn and grain products and processed junk. When we adopted her, they recommended a balance of wet and dry food for her, and we were having trouble finding a wet food she could eat. Up to this point, Maddie would get sick if she ate anything processed we tried. She would scarf it down at first, then get sick. And then she wouldn’t eat any more of that kind. Ever. After going through several brands/kinds/flavors of wet food, this was the last thing I could try.

So I went to the BalanceIT website, put in all of Madeline’s info, chose my base ingredients (I chose chicken and white potatoes) and got a recipe and vitamin supplement from them.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit, and did the math so I can make about 2 weeks worth of food at a time.  She still gets dry food as well, so this wet food I make is really just a bit of a supplement to that. I divide it into jars, with about 3 days worth per jar. They freeze ok, but keep in the fridge for only about 3-5 days. So when the fridge jar is empty, we replace it with another one from the freezer. She gets a little bowl of it every morning. Apparently, it’s good enough to make it worth begging for, starting at about 4am.

Recently, my sister was thinking about trying it out for her cat, so I shared my recipe with her, just to see if her cat would like it before she made the investment. I gave her a bit of the supplement powder, she made a big batch from my tweaked recipe, and her cat absolutely wouldn’t touch it. Quinn apparently is a dry food kind of kitty.

The next time my sister came to visit, she brought her batch of cat food with her, so it wouldn’t go to waste. I was just about out of Maddie’s current batch, so it was perfect timing. The next morning, after her ritualistic begging for several hours, Maddie was served Sister’s food. And she wouldn’t touch it. She kept begging, acting like we were hiding her good food away somewhere else.

As the days went by, she grew more and more desperate for her old food (even though this stuff was the same!) and more adamant that we had some of the good stuff and were keeping it from her. I dare say we threw a good portion of it out because she just wouldn’t eat it. Even though it was the same food, from the same recipe.

Now, I know people who say it’s important to buy veggies from a farmer’s market, where you can get to know the people who grow your food. I think this might be how my cat is now: she won’t eat her food unless she knows the cook and is present to monitor the cooking process. I can’t think of any other reason.

So today was the day. Sister’s batch has run out and I started making a fresh batch for for Maddie. She was just about the happiest cat ever. She licked out the tuna can and the chicken container (quality control for freshness), and sat in the kitchen monitoring the potatoes as they boiled. She oversaw me adding the oil and vitamin supplement, mashing the potatoes, and stirring the meat in. And she sat by her bowl waiting for that fresh, hot scoop. When it was served, she dove in. Success.

And after a nice hot meal of her favorite food, a very happy Maddie went to take a nap.

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Popcorn is one of those things. I really like it, but it comes with a lot of waste and lots of unhealthy additives, preservatives, and who-knows-what else. And so I don’t buy it. But I still miss having popcorn once in a while.

I never wanted another appliance (like a popcorn popper) to store that I’ll hardly ever use, and popping popcorn on the stove sounds annoying. But I recently found that it’s super easy to make popcorn in the microwave, without the necessity of it being processed, pre-packaged, and sold in individual envelopes with that weird plastic foil thing inside. (What is that thing anyway?) It comes out just like microwave popcorn, but a whole lot cheaper, with less waste, and (presumably?) a bit more healthy. But watch out, it’s just as addictive!

You’ll need:

  • A regular paper bag. Not a huge one, but maybe the next size up from the small lunch-sized one.
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Place the oil, salt, and kernels in the paper bag, fold it over a few times and microwave for about 3-5 min or so, until it sounds done, just as you would with regular microwave popcorn.

That’s really it.

And, instead of just settling for whatever comes in the package from the store, you can experiment and tinker with it when you make your own (which I find fun). I made a batch last night with rosemary and parmesan cheese in the bag too, and it came out really great. I also drizzle a bit of melted butter overtop.

Yum!

As far as waste, you’ll still have the plastic bag the corn kernels came in, unless you can buy them in bulk somewhere. And the paper bag too, which after being coated with oil won’t be recyclable. But it’s still compostable. And you can reuse it a couple of times, as long as you can store in somewhere it won’t pick up dirt/dust, or get moldy, but I wouldn’t want to keep it more than a day or two.

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Valentines Day is often affiliated with binging on chocolate. Or is that just me?? But individually wrapped candies and chocolates generate so much trash.

And I have a particular hatred for Hershey Kisses, mainly because those stupid little flags somehow ALWAYS end up all over the floor, never making it to the trash, or recycling, or wherever. We don’t even buy them. I’ve actually banned them from the PathToGreen household I hate them so much. And yet I still find those darn flags in our house. It’s like an infestation.

Ok, enough ranting. Back on track.

It’s surprisingly easy to make your own homemade chocolate, and with much less trash. I’ve blogged about this before, and thought it would make a nice reposting for Eat Chocolate Day. (Yeah, let’s face it, that’s really what this holiday is about for me.) Check it out here, and get started making your own chocolate, and passing on the excess trash.

And with a small investment in some heart-shaped candy molds, you could really make some attractive treats!

Also, here are some great links about where to find fair trade chocolate. Because companies who produce chocolate (or anything for that matter) without the use of slave labor deserve our full support and are worth the extra dollars. Here and here are some great sites that list specific brands that use fair trade cocoa.

And on a personal/side note, this will be the first Eat Chocolate Day in several years that I haven’t had a (poorly planned) dentist appointment scheduled. Bring on the homemade chocolate!

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I’ve recently been suffering from my first cold of the season, and it caught me off guard. I didn’t have on hand any ginger or lemon for my usual cold remedy tea, no decongestants, nothing that would help. Naturally, in my desperate state of needing some kind of relief from crushing sinus pressure and pain and constant sneezing and blowing my nose, I tried searching the web for something, anything.

I came across something simple to make, with ingredients present in my house and decided to try it. It was a simple mixture of honey and cinnamon, found at Health Home Happy:

Simply mix 1 tsp honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon and ingest 2-3 times daily until cold symptoms recede.

I tried it and I felt better: the pain and pressure subsided, I actually slept that night, and my runny nose/sneezing was all but gone. But there’s really no telling if I wouldn’t have felt better the next day anyway. And I wanted something to work so badly, perhaps the placebo effect was in play as well. Who knows? Honestly, I don’t really mind a little brain trick now and then, if it makes me feel better.

But does it really work?

There are lots of holistic health sites that claim it does, but they also make all kinds of unrealistic claims about what honey and cinnamon can cure. Apparently, there’s a huge list of outlandish claims that’s been circulating the internet for quite some time, which originated in an article from the tabloid Weekly World News. Here’s what Snopes has to say about it.

And here’s a really down-to-earth response to those claims from the Crunchy Coach that I found very helpful.

Ok, now for some medical research:

According to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health web archive, it seems there have been several studies done about honey and upper respiratory infection, mostly in children, and almost entirely related to cough symptoms only. The results vary, with some studies concluding that honey works a little better than traditional cough syrup ingredients, about the same as cough syrup ingredients, or might work just as well as cough syrup ingredients, depending on the severity of the cough/infection. One study cited insufficient evidence in determining honey’s efficiency.

Here are links to the studies I looked at, if you’re interested.

Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents.

A comparison of the effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine on nightly cough and sleep quality in children and their parents.

Honey for acute cough in children.

And I feel a little silly adding this, since it seems obvious, but I don’t have a background in medicine. If you’ve got something severe or persistent, see your doctor. If you really like the honey/cinnamon thing, you might want to mention to your doctor or pharmacist you’re taking it, as it can react with certain medications and have certain side effects. 

Anyone have any thoughts on this? What’s your favorite at-home cold remedy?

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Vanilla extract is expensive, but it’s super easy to make your own. And not only is it super easy, but it’s cheaper, and absolutely wonderful too. There are only three things you need: vanilla beans, high-quality high-proof alcohol, and a jar to store it in.

With the vanilla beans, the best bet is to order them online. You can get a surprisingly good deal even through places like Amazon. Just doing a quick internet search for vanilla beans will bring back some good results on where you can get a good deal. Don’t fall for buying the overpriced ones at the grocery store. If you’re going to get them at a place like that, definitely make sure you’re getting a good deal first. And if you buy in bulk, this vanilla extract makes great gifts too!

I started with a 16-oz pasta sauce jar and 7-8 vanilla beans. Slice each bean open lengthwise and place them in the jar. I also had to chop some of them in half so they would fit. Then fill up the jar with alcohol and let it steep for 6-8 weeks, giving it a good shake maybe about twice a week or so. For the alcohol, vodka or bourbon works well. I imagine you could also use rum too. Just make sure you get the highest proof you can. For this one in the picture, I used vodka, and it worked just fine. It should be a deep caramel color after steeping and will smell absolutely amazing. When it’s ready, just spoon out what you need. I even leave the beans in there; no need to strain them out when the extract is ready.

UPDATE: I’ve been using the same vanilla beans for about 2 years now, just topping off the jar when it gets about halfway down. There’s no need to replace the beans any more often than that. I’ve heard other people say they can go up to 5 years without changing the beans. All I can say is I must go through a lot more vanilla than that, I think my beans could use replacing soon. The best advice I can give is feel it out. After about 2 years or so, you might want to think about replacing the beans, depending on how much vanilla you use.

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I have a major weakness: Cadbury Eggs. As we are currently deep within the depths of Cadbury egg season, I have eaten my fair share already and I don’t even want to think about the amount of excess trash I’ve sent to the recycling facility because of my little weakness.

And I now have this odd habit of carrying one with me at all times. You know, just in case. And it’s fun to forget there’s one in the bottom of my purse and find it by accident while rummaging for something boring like my subway pass. Jackpot!

It’s too bad they have to come both in individual wrappers and in a box. I’d generate a whole lot less trash if I could get them in bulk somewhere. Or if I had my own Cadbury bunny to lay them for me….I bet they’re better fresh.

So there you have it. I do have a dark side. I mean nobody can be all enviro-diva all the time, right? 🙂 I do try though…

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Springtime Gardening

First, a little background:

I can’t grow stuff. Anytime I try, I’m reminded of how awesome I am at killing plants. In fact, I bet I can kill plants just by thinking about them. I used to have an amaryllis plant and it died, but the weed that was growing in the pot with it didn’t. So I kept on watering it because that’s the only thing I’ve ever gotten to grow. The weed lived for almost a year before it finally relented to my awesome killing power.

So now, I have 7 different small pots in the windowsill, and a new resolution to grow something in them. I’ve tried this before and gotten some basil going, but it all died eventually. I love basil, so I pretty much just stick with that. I figure out of 7 pots, maybe I can get one that might by some freak mutation be Karyn-proof. Anyway, a while back, I planted basil in all 7 if my little pots in the window and hoped for the best. Much to my surprise, something actually sprouted! But……it’s not basil. I think it’s a weed. I got a freaking weed that I DIDN’T PLANT to grow instead of any basil. And that sage plant I got from my sister that died ages ago spontaneously resprouted instead of the basil seeds. Leave it to me to plant 7 little pots of basil seeds and get resurrected sage and some unknown weed plant. I might have better luck just putting the pots of dirt out and not planting any seeds at all.

Fitting that it should grow in the "Damn it" pot, wouldn't you say?

Though I suppose it takes talent to grow stuff I didn’t even plant, huh?

It was an absolutely gorgeous day yesterday, and Husband and I went out for dessert and sat in the park to eat it. We were sitting in the grass amongst some crocuses that had sprouted up all over the grass, outside of their little landscaped area under the trees. It was lovely, though I know it won’t be long before the groundskeepers pull them all out in the name of “taking care of the grass.” I would have brought some home, but I figured they would probably live longer in the park than they would under my care.

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