Monthly Archives: February 2010
Another entry in the Monumentally Stupid What Are They Thinking category:
Nine months after effectively banning most fund-raising food sales in city schools, a city panel will vote Wednesday on an amended regulation that will allow student groups to sell items like Pop-Tarts and Doritos during the school day, but not brownies, zucchini bread or anything else homemade.
The new regulation is meant as a compromise between the city’s concerns about childhood obesity— which they cite as the reason for the restrictions — and the fund-raising needs of student and parent groups, some of which are struggling amid difficult economic times, especially after losing one of their most lucrative sources of revenue.
Under the new rules, students may sell fresh fruits and vegetables, or one of 27 specific packaged items that have been approved for sales in city vending machines, between the start of school and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The same goes for parent groups, except for an exception carved out for one no-brownies-barred Parent Teacher Association bake sale during the school day per month.
No homemade or unpackaged items are on the list of “approved” foods because “it’s impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is,” said Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for infrastructure and portfolio planning, who oversees the regulation….
*****(click here for full story)*****
I just can’t begin to comment on this. And note that they are not talking peanut allergy here, or stuff like that, they are seeing this as a move to combat childhood obesity.
We already can’t take anything homemade to school for children’s birthday treats, and gone are the days of making cupcakes for the first grade class. But this–this–is just ridiculous.
Okay, this is only peripherally connected to greenitude, but I thought this article from the Wall Street Journal was absolutely fascinating:
How cool is that?
A google search for “music therapy results” gives abstract upon abstract (unfortunately to articles you have to sign up for services to access) about music’s ability to produce demonstrable results in patients with autism, MS, depression and stress disorders, migraine, dementia…the list goes on and on.
Beats Big Pharma, doesn’t it?
Obviously, this is the day when I’m finally trying to get my Google Reader “unread items” down to two digits or possibly even one.
Every once in a while something comes across my computer that just makes me want to wiggle with glee the way my dog does when I’m getting his dinner together…
Bye bye, big nasty gas guzzling ridiculous monster. Go back where you came from.
My mom sent me this link to an article about a group of organic dairy farmers in Maine who, upon not having their contract renewed with a large company decided to start their own coop…this is the kind of story that gives me hope.
I direct a children’s choir once a week. I don’t give snacks or treats, but I do one thing that apparently the kids find very cool. My choir is a “shoes optional” environment. Because I like to hang out barefoot or in my stocking feet, so I’ve created a Cool Factor around it that allows me to not appear just plain unprofessional. I opt for “quirky” instead. And the kids like it. And they don’t tromp mud into the church. No matter how many fun shoes I’m able to find on ebay, I’d almost always rather skip them all together.
And now, after all these years of schmantzy cross trainers and specific shoes engineered for every sport you can think of, now scientists are realizing that it’s much better for your health and body to run and walk barefoot than in shoes. The basis for this seems to say, in essence, that when you run barefoot you hit the ground first with the ball of your foot, which is engineered to take the impact much more easily than the heel, which is the primary landing in running shoes. A guy named Galahad Clark, who ran the New York Marathon barefoot, has designed a shoe that’s as close to barefoot in its engineering as possible; these sound really cool. But are way out of my price range.
Then there are also the fun socks one can wear…I know this isn’t a particularly “green” thing to include, but a few years ago my mom got me these fabulous socks (made from recycled cotton–so I guess it’s fairly green after all!) from Solmate Socks –their motto: “Life is too short for matching socks.” So they have all these cool intentionally mismatched sock patterns, in wildly improbable colors, and they are thick and comfy and don’t go all threadbare quickly and are just really really nice socks. And when you buy them for kids, you get THREE socks to a pair, on the premise that kids will inevitably lose a sock along the way. (Or one can blow off the premise and buy two “pair” to wind up with 6 socks.) They have hats and scarves too…I just love these things.
So the heck with shoes–go barefoot!
Life is good!
From the article on TreeHugger:
“Ben & Jerry’s has recently committed to sourcing every possible ingredient from Fair Trade Certified producers. In 2005, it became the first ice cream company to use Fair Trade Certified ingredients and today it has announced that all flavors will be Fair Trade Certified by the end of 2013.”
This is big news for us. My husband is the globally monogamous type–which is great for our marriage, of course, but sometimes I wish he would just once try another ice cream, or another assortment of pizza toppings, or another brand of socks, or stuff like that. Variety just isn’t his thing–he glomms onto one thing and that’s it.
In terms of ice cream, that’s Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Always. Again and again. It’s all he ever wants.
While maritally monogamous, of course, I occasionally like to try different flavors of ice cream, from different brands. But I have to admit B&J makes some good stuff. New York Super Fudge Chunk. Coffee Heath Bar Chunk. Banana Split. And of course the classic, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. (My favorite was Wavy Gravy, but that one’s long since been discontinued. That was a flavor I could have been monogamous about…)
Go Ben and Jerry!
Yeah, right. So why is McDonald’s the official sponsor of the 2010 Olympics?
Check out this essay by a 12-year-old–yes, seriously, she’s 12–weighing in on the topic. (I thought it was a wonderful, thoughtful, persuasive essay even before I knew she was 12. Someone hire this girl fast!)
I found the link to her on PhD in Parenting, one of my favorite parenting blogs–another really good and well-thought-out post on the topic. Though one of the author’s points–one that made and continues to make good sense to me–was that no way were the athletes actually eating this crap they were peddling, because as athletes they need to take care of their bodies to win, and this article at ValueTheMeal.org tells about the three new McD’s built in Vancouver this year to feed the athletes and their families. So…I just don’t know.
And while I don’t necessarily think Subway is that fantastic–though as far as I know they don’t sell ammoniaburgers–this article about swimmer Michael Phelps and his Subway endorsement cracked me up.
I’ve hesitated to do a post on this since I discovered it (in the process of learning to make my own homemade Irish Cream Liqueur), because, really, what redeeming Green value is there in sweetened condensed milk?
But on the other hand, it’s delicious, it is a key ingredient in the Easy Version of a lot of recipes, and I confess that since I learned to make it I have had this disturbing tendency to sneak into the little tupperware container with a spoon. And making your own makes it easier to continue your boycott of Nestle products.
So: what the hell? Here we go (this was my source, but it’s identical to lots of others)–
Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe (makes the equivalent of 1 can)
- into a blender, put 1 cup nonfat milk powder, 2/3 cup sugar, a few drops of vanilla, and 3 tbs melted butter (about 15 seconds in my microwave)
- Boil 1/2 cup water in the microwave and immediately pour into blender. Cover and turn on. (No, seriously, don’t forget to put the cover on.)
- Blend on high for about 30 seconds, or until it’s all smooth and gooey.
- Transfer to another container, or into several small containers to freeze in smaller portions that can be thawed as you need them
- Lick the blender when your spouse isn’t looking
For me the key part is making sure the water is REALLY hot when you add it to the powdered stuff, otherwise it won’t dissolve and you end up with paste rather than goo. Goo is definitely what you want. (One must appreciate the distinction.)
And what can you do with this stuff, besides just attacking it with a spoon? Here are some ideas:
- Put it in coffee or tea
- Make homemade dulce de leche
- Hot fudge sauce. (Ice cream optional)
- Easy fudge
- Irish Cream Liqueur (or probably just about any cream liqueur…brandy would be delicious.)
- Just as easy truffles–use any liqueur you like for flavoring
- Okay, I probably shouldn’t put this on here, since they’re about as “green” as your average Girl Scout cookie, but they are also just as nostalgic–remember Hello Dolly bars? Those amazing concoctions with different kinds of chips and graham cracker crust and coconut on top, with sweetened condensed milk poured all over them before baking? OMG…
Like I say, this stuff is pure indulgence–I can’t even pretend that it’s anything but wildly full of empty calories. But on the other hand, your blender and containers probably don’t have BPA in the lining, and if you’ve gotten your ingredients from good sources you know you’re not supporting someone who pushes baby formula in poverty-stricken third-world countries and hands out free samples that last just long enough for a mother’s own milk to dry up.
And…I have to say…it’s so incredibly decadently yummy. Seriously. Go ahead and lick that blender.
Surely no one who knows me at all, Miss Obsessive Short Attention Span Theater that I am, really thought I was going to wait a year to try the recipe for baked paczki I found after being disappointed in the Fat Tuesday offerings we found? Or even that I would make it until the end of the Lenten fast?
(I’ve never been a “give up yummy things” person for Lent–to me that feels too much like it grows out of the old unhealthy food model, where “good” foods are a reward for being a good person, and where self-denial and going through life virtuously feeling deprived is a sign of moral rectitude…it may be a rationalization to justify my love for food, but eating good food well made just feels so human and real and connected to creation, and enjoying good food makes me feel joyful about creation, and I just can’t make sense of the denial part…) (Of course, I could certainly eat a little less good food well made, that’s something I have to deal with…) (Sorry, occasional soapboxing is a peril of blogging…)
Rather than “giving up” something for Lent, usually I try to make some significant change in my life that will permanently change it and me (and in many cases my family) for the better. Last Lent the commitment was, ironically, to give up processed foods, and to prepare good whole food for my family, real meals, food as close to where it grew as possible, and so forth. The irony there, of course, is that by this year’s Fat Tuesday my taste for the paczkis we’d eaten the previous year was completely destroyed, and they tasted all false and yucky this year. This year my commitment will be to try to wean our family off of paper towels–a sort of minimal and not very sexy undertaking, but it’ll be huge for us, and will be another significant step towards being conscious of the impact we have on the world and diminishing that impact. I did a post at the Green Phone Booth on that very topic yesterday.
So anyway–since I had a bunch of hours out of the office, I decided to take advantage of the “don’t have to be anywhere” time to try making baked doughnuts, specifically, a healthier and home-made version of the Polish paczki. I used the recipe I found here, substituted actual dairy for the dairy-free version here, and halved it so I wouldn’t waste too many ingredients if they turned out awful.
Verdict: They were not awful in the slightest; they were in fact quite delicious. Unfortunately, they didn’t taste even remotely like Paczki. More like a really nice sweet bread with fruit filling. (I used fillings that were already in the fridge–cherry butter, apple butter, blueberry preserves, and one with a spoonful of the “Death By Chocolate” sauce my mom gave my son last summer. ) And the best part was actually the little “doughnut holes” I made with the trimmings, rolling each in a little cinnamon-sugar before baking. Tasted like mini-cinnamon rolls, but not like doughnut holes.
So back to the drawing board. (Darn. ) My mom suggested a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site for baked doughnuts, though those look more batter-like and as though they need a doughnut pan to make. (Like many things on the King Arthur site, they only tell you how to make it if they can talk you into spending money buying more equipment or mixes or specialty ingredients or whatever.) But I may give it a try anyway. Deep-frying just isn’t something I can get into, delicious as it is…
On the plus side: I’ve always had a terror of the whole “homemade bread” thing, and what scares me has always been the kneading and the mess factor (two facets of the same problem, actually.) I got into the whole quick artisan bread thing and found it appallingly easy, so maybe that’s what made the transition not so threatening, but making and kneading these pseudopaczkis was a breeze and much less messy than I’d expected it to be. Every time things start to stick, you just toss a little more flour on top and/or onto your hands, and just keep squishing it till it’s not sticky any more and is all nice and soft. Once it rises and you punch it down, it doesn’t stick at all. Very cool stuff, yeast dough. It’s a big time commitment because of all the rising and stuff, so it’s not something you can do and then forget about (I have made good friends with my cell phone alarm and oven timer), but nowhere near as threatening as I’d always thought it to be. So at the very least I learned something really useful!
But as far as the paczki thing goes–back to the drawing board.