Sunday, October 21, 2012

No-meat soup for you!

A friend asked me if I knew of any good vegetarian recipes the other day, so as promised, I am posting a couple. Eating a vegetarian diet is not only a more ethical choice, it is better for the environment. Raising livestock involves a lot of resources like food, water, and land. To raise one pound of beef takes 2,500 gallons of water. Considering a steer can weigh 1,500 pounds, it could take about 3,750,000 gallons of water to raise one steer. So there's that, and also large, poorly managed livestock farms can produce a lot of chemicals that run off the farm into nearby water bodies. Animals do their business and when it rains, it washes nitrates into the water which causes eutrophication (extreme growth of algae which uses all the oxygen in the water and kills aquatic life).

So now that I've killed your appetite talking about animal business, let's talk about those recipes. I think the perfect food for this time of year is soup. Two of my favorites for fall are butternut squash and pumpkin. They're both pretty easy to make, really good, and vegetarian. You can eat these by themselves, or pair with a salad for a bigger meal. If you have any questions on how to make them, feel free to send me an email.

Pumpkin Spice Soup
2 cans of pumpkin (about 14 ounces each)
4 shallots
2 tsp butter (I use Smart Balance Organic which is made of vegetable oils)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ginger
1/2 - 1 tbsp of curry depending how spicy you want it
2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili sauce
3 1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can unsweetened coconut milk

Saute' shallots in butter until soft. Chop garlic cloves and add to shallots, along with ginger and curry. Stir in water, pumpkin, vegetable broth, coconut milk, chili sauce, and salt. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes. Let cool, then put in blender and blend until smooth. Reheat on stove.

Note: I find that too much curry can over-power this soup, so I usually only add about 1/2 a tablespoon.

Butternut Squash Soup
4 lbs butternut squash (about 2 large ones), peeled and cubed - make sure to take out seeds
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
3 tbsp butter (see pumpkin soup recipe for vegan substitute)
1/2 tsp salt
nutmeg to taste
8 cups vegetable broth

Melt butter in large pan. Saute' onions until soft. Chop garlic and add if wanted. Add in butternut squash, salt, nutmeg, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is soft. Let cool, then put in blender and blend until smooth. Reheat on stove.
This soup is good served with creme fraiche swirled on top.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beach Sweep

Today was Clean Ocean Action's 27th annual Beach Sweep, where people gather all along the Jersey Shore to clean up the beaches. Some of us from Rutgers went to the clean up in Point Pleasant and had a great time. The number one thing we found... cigarette butts. We had to have collected over 200 of them. So if you haven't read this post I made about that very subject back in August, you should... Here are some pictures from today.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Truth About Organic

So I wanted to clear something up... A month or so ago, organic produce took a hit in the news because a study found that organic produce is no more nutritious than conventional produce treated with pesticides. Unfortunately, this story may have deterred people from buying organic fruits and vegetables because the way it was presented made it seem like organic produce is no different from regular produce. Why would you spend the extra money that organic food sometimes costs when it is no more healthy than regular food? Well, actually it is more healthy for you. There is a difference between healthy and nutritious. When you talk about the nutrition of something, you're talking about the beneficial nutrients it can provide you with... vitamins, minerals, etc. So two apples, for example, taken from the same orchard are going to give you the same nutrition whether one was treated with pesticides or not. Healthy, on the other hand, means that you can eat a food without it causing harm to your body. By that definition, eating produce containing pesticide residues is not healthy. Conventional produce, mostly from factory farms and especially produce imported from other countries, is known to contain these residues. (Don't believe me? Just ask and I'll find you a scientific paper that supports my case). So along with the nutrients in a conventional apple, you could be getting doses of pesticides that cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and who knows what else.

Really, when you think about it, this story didn't need to be on the news. It's not some amazing discovery. I could have told you that organic and conventional produces have the same nutritional value without doing any studies. DUH. So instead of presenting both sides to this story, the news stations just confused people and probably stopped some of them from buying organic food.

Now, there is a difference in nutrition between local produce and produce imported from far away places, whether it is organic or not. Imported produce, whether it be organic apples imported to New Jersey from Washington or conventional grapes imported to the United States from Chile, is not as nutritious as local produce. When you buy imported produce, it has usually been stored and shipped for long periods of time. (And now I can mention another environmental problem... How much fuel is used to ship produce?) It loses its nutritional value during this time. Things break down and degrade.When you eat local produce, you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients because there has not been enough time for sufficient nutrient loss. That's why it is better to go to farmers markets, farms, local orchards, etc. for your produce. Sometimes even supermarkets will work with local farms and sell their produce in the store; you just have to find out if this is the case at your supermarket. And local, small farms typically use more organic practices, less amounts of pesticides, and less dangerous pesticides.

Well, I hope that clears that up. In short, buy local, and when you can, buy produce that is both local and organic!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cook Campus Farmer's Market

For anyone at Rutgers... There is now a farmer's market on the Cook/Douglass campus. It is located next to the book store (across the street from Jameson and the Cabaret Theater). It will be held every Thursday in October from 11 am to 3 pm. I went today and bought some stuff. It's worth it to go for the apples alone. They were so good! They also have all kind of veggies, pumpkins, gourds, squash, honey, and apparently meat, although I did not see it. Everything is local and really fairly priced too. Check out the farmer's market Facebook page here: and make sure to go!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Project Green Challenge

I heard about Project Green Challenge through a group I'm involved in at Rutgers, Students for Environmental Awareness (by the way, if you're a Rutgers student and interested in joining, check out the Facebook page, Project Green Challenge is a website that is calling on all high school and college students to learn to live a more eco-friendly life. Once you sign up on the website, you will be emailed a daily challenge (or you can log into the website and view it) during the month of October. These challenges are all based on being environmentally friendly. For example, today's challenge was to watch a video about chemicals in cosmetics and upload a document with 2 things you learned from the video and 2 things it inspired you to change. What's the point of doing that extra work? For all the challenges you complete you earn points that can get you prizes (The grand prize includes a trip to California). The challenges all have different levels... the one I mentioned before was the easiest, while the hardest was planning an entire "green spa day" at your school. And I mean intensively planning. While the harder challenges earn you greater points, I don't know anyone who has the time to do that. I signed up for it with the intention to just learn a few things, commit to being "greener," and maybe earn a few points, and if you're a student, I suggest you do too. You can find out more information at