18 July 2008

july newsletter - a breath of fresh air!

Hey Y’all!

It’s very officially summertime and my ‘theme’ for the past couple of months has been “Fresh Air”. This is inspired by the organization of the same name (The Fresh Air Fund) that I have been doing fundraising for as a member of their team for next week’s NYC Half Marathon. Yesterday, I visited their summer camps where thousands of low-income NYC kids go on free vacations ever year, and had a blast walking around the woods, checking out the camps’ farm, singing with the campers, and watching them play carefree in the fields and lake. …And there’s no reason we can’t take that same spirit and apply it to our own summer fun!

Have a Picnic!
Picnics are one of my absolute favorite things about the warm weather. I like to invite a few friends to meet in a public park, everyone brings something to share, a blanket to sit on, their own fork from home, and it’s an instant and easy party! (Not to mention you don’t have to prepare your house for guests or do any major clean up after). Or, you can make an ordinary meal a bit more “ooh la la” special by dining by candlelight in the backyard or on the roof. (If you need some picnicspiration, try my Greenmarket Potato Salad recipe or Mark Bittman’s 101 Picnic Dishes.)

Go Raw Together!

A couple of the things I love about camp is the opportunity to try new things, make new friends, and work together. With the abundance of beautiful and delicious fresh produce in season right now, it’s a great time to experiment with new recipes. But no one wants to slave over a hot stove when it’s hot out, so try some raw or mostly raw dishes. You’ll get to play up the lovely flavors of summer produce with a minimum of sweat-inducing effort! Have a raw foods potluck, encouraging each invitee to bring a friend you haven’t met. (If you feel like getting fancy, check out recipes from Raw Food Real World).

Ride a Bicycle Made for Two!

Or, do something else you haven’t tried that can get you out and about. If you live near a lake or a river, you can probably rent or borrow a canoe, kayak, or tube and go out on the water. If you live near hills or mountains, go camping or for an early morning bird-watching hike. If it’s too hot where you live, go out for some late-night stargazing, run through the sprinkler at sunset, find an indoor ice rink, or check out a museum in town you’ve been meaning to go to. Or, if you’re stuck in the city, spend a day exploring a new neighborhood—try new foods and learn more about your neighbors! (Try TravelSkoot for ideas.)


NEWS FROM AJA
I'm Running the Half-Marathon! NEXT WEEK!!

Continuing with my running streak, I'm competing in the Nike NYC Half-Marathon next week for charity. I'm on The Fresh Air Fund’s team and I’m looking for sponsorship-- anything you can give will help to send 10,000 low-income NYC kids on summer vacations in the country.

I'm hoping to raise $1,310. Or, $100 per mile of the 13.1 mile race!
Though I think it would be great to raise a bit more- $1,600, which is the cost of sending one child on vacation. I would be really grateful for absolutely any contributions you are able to make.

You can donate online: http://freshair.kintera.org/ajamarsh
(There are also instructions there for how to donate by mail)


ANNOUNCEMENTS, etc.
In Season: It’s Wild Salmon season! It wasn’t really until last year that I realized I liked salmon. I always thought it was too fishy tasting and the texture didn’t appeal to me. Last summer, I had some really nice, slightly rare wild salmon, and oh my, what a world of difference. So if you think you don’t like salmon, I implore you to give it a try. Here’s a recipe for my Wild Salmon Burgers.

Cool Recent Blog Posts: Read about the highlights of my trip to Summer Camp, get some Green Cleaning Tips, and make some Vegan Brownies this weekend!

Guest Blogger Opportunities: I’m always looking for interested individuals to write guest blogs for Stem+Leaf about green and healthy-lifestyle related subjects, from your own perspective. No need to be an experienced writer-- just enthusiastic with something to say! Please contact me for more information.

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The day is yours—soak it up!

Aja

17 July 2008

a few good websites

Here's a roundup of a few websites I recently discovered and love!

RiverWired
"Good Green Fun." This site is kind of similar to TreeHugger, with categorized and quick-to-read blog posts and articles about all things green.

the story of stuff
This super informative and fun 20-minute video is great to watch with the whole family-- it discusses our consumption and waste patterns, and what happens to all the 'stuff' we have around us and get rid of.

tree hugging family
A Blog Focused on Sustainable and Green Family Living
I just found this blog today and have already spent an hour browsing the fun tips and articles!

poolwaddle food clock
Check out this clock to get a grip on what food production looks like in tons per second.

b.happybags
If you're in the market for reusable tote bags for shopping, etc. these are cute bags made of recycled plastic bottles or heavy weight cotton, are machine washable, and come in enough prints to satisfy anyone! They're made in Arizona of all domestic materials.


julep115 - earth and animal friendly designs
Super cute jewelery with a message handmade of recycled metal and other materials in Dallas! Designer Christy Robinson also has another line of whimsy and organic accessories.

15 July 2008

camp day!

If you are interested in supporting the Fresh Air Fund, you can make a donation through my personal page for the Half Marathon.

Today was a day I'd been looking forward to for a couple of weeks-- Camp Day!

As one of the runners who are on the Fresh Air Fund's team for the NYC Half Marathon, I was invited to go and visit the Sharpe Reservation where all of their summer camp programs are held. They took us up in buses, and after only and hour and a half on the road heading upstate, we were in a beautiful land of green hills, lakes, and forest, with views of the Catskills.


As we hopped off the bus, we were warmly greeted at Camp A.B.C. by a group of young girl campers singing and clapping and smiling. This was exciting already! We met up with the camp coordinators, and went on a tour of the camps.

Our first stop was the Farm. This was definitely my favorite part! They have a small learning farm where the kids meet resident and loaned pigs, goats, cows, turkeys, chickens, and rabbits, do chores to care for the animals, and also are taught how these animals are used (for meat, wool, milk, etc.). Behind the Farm, there's an all-organic garden that the kids harvest and taste from, learning how things grow, where food comes from, and practicing traditional recipes-- today they were making Iroquois corn cakes. The camps also source the majority of their fresh produce and dairy from local farms within 50 miles.

One of the things I was really excited about was how the entire reservation is almost entirely zero-waste-- composting and recycling nearly everything they use. This is integrated into meal times where each table of campers cooperatively and willingly separates their uneaten food and scraps into 'compost' and 'trash' (and they know the difference) and as a group, clear and wipe down the table.

After our tour of the highlights of the 2,300 acre property, we went back to Camp A.B.C.-- one of the largest camps on the reservation-- and were sprinkled throughout the dining hall, sitting at tables with the campers. Sitting down and chatting with the girls at my table about their upcoming talent show, how good of swimmers they were, where they're from, and singing songs with them as we ate our dessert, was the highlight of my day! (I was bummed as I left realizing I didn't get any photos of the campers! Was too busy having fun to remember to take any!)

It was great to see these kids learning and doing things they might never be able to do at home or school, and with nothing but green surrounding the camps, and big fields to run and play in, I wish I could spend the summer at camp too! When you spend too much time, or your whole young life, as many of these kids have, 'trapped' in the city, you don't realize how much good a little fresh air can do for you.

Touring the camps, it was exciting to see how the money I've been helping to raise (thank you for your support!) for this organization is being put to excellent use. The Reservation of five camps hosts over 4,000 low-income NYC kids from 9-15 for 2 or more weeks every summer, and providing summer jobs for many of the 'graduated' campers 16 or older. I felt really honored to spend a day at camp, sing songs with the kids, and see that the fundraising and running 13.1 miles is more than worth it.


If you are interested in supporting the Fresh Air Fund, you can make a donation through my personal page for the Half Marathon, or contact them directly about contributions, volunteering, and other means of support.

14 July 2008

recipe: in season - wild salmon burgers

Summer spells wild Alaskan salmon season, so get it while the getting's good.

And for the record, I will never, ever recommend farmed salmon to you-- it's not very environmentally friendly, and really, it has hardly any flavor, especially side-by-side to wild salmon, not to mention that color is added to get it that mediocre orangy-pink color. Wild salmon is a super vibrant rosy orange, super nutritious AND low in mercury.

For these, I took a cue from the turkey burgers I've made a few times, using some Asian influences. I've also made these without the chili paste and garlic, for a less spicy version, and they've come out great! You could eat these without the bun and just have them as nice little patties- or make them smaller and you'll have salmon 'cakes'.

Recipe: Wild Salmon Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1 lb. wild salmon, skin removed (they can do this for you at the fish counter)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chives or 1 medium shallot, chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1-inch ginger, peeled and grated or chopped very small
1 tablespoon Asian chili paste or sambaal (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg, beaten

4 whole wheat buns

1. To make the burgers you'll need to chop up the salmon. I usually do this by cutting the salmon into long strips, and then dicing it. Take the diced salmon and run your knife through it a few times to get smaller pieces. It's okay if it's a little chunky.
Note: You may notice some pin bones. If there are any that are especially large, remove them with your fingers, but once you chop this up and the burgers are cooked they won't be much of a problem. Plus, hey, extra calcium!

2. In a medium sized bowl, place all of the ingredients and mix well to combine with your hands.

3. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high to high heat. Meanwhile, shape the salmon mixture into four equal-sized patties. If you've never made salmon burgers, these will seem a little 'loose' compared to burgers made with ground meat.

4. Once the pan is hot, spray with non-stick cooking spray (I like Spectrum's High Heat Canola spray). Alternately, you could use a little olive oil, but you'll want to leave it on the pan for a minute to heat.

5. Place all of the patties into the pan, or do 2 at a time, depending on the size of your pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned. If it seems to be browning too quickly, lower your heat. Flip and repeat. I like mine a little bit on the rarer side, so I cook them for about 2 minutes per side. This is also a good option if you will be putting them in the fridge to reheat for another meal-- overcooked salmon is a travesty! But if you like yours well done, cook for 3-minutes per side. Place on a toasted bun and enjoy with your favorite toppings!

08 July 2008

think less, do more: cleaning greener

A while ago, my friend Heather wrote to me, asking:
"I was wondering if some day you might give advice on how to be a "green house cleaner"--I find myself using a lot of paper towels, and I'm not sure whether it matters what cleaning products to use. How do you dispose of your waste in a green way--aside from recycling!"
A bit belatedly, I'm happy to share a few easy tips!

Without having to go the distance of making your own cleaning products (even though it's fun and super economical), let's see what we can do to make our normal routines a bit more eco-friendly.


Paper Towels
If you are using paper towels in your home, purchase ones that are unbleached and made from recycled paper. If you are looking to reduce the usage of paper towels try these tips:

for use as napkins: tear each sheet into 2 or 4 pieces-- this is probably all you'll need! or simply use washable cloth napkins.
for cleaning: switch to lint-free towels that you can use again and again, or even more economically, use pieces cut from old towels or t-shirts.

Product Recommendation: The Twist family of biodegradable cellulose and bamboo sponges and cleaning cloths are of a style that's all the rage in Europe, and are great for green cleaning. They are easy to wash and reuse again and again, but are affordable enough that they can be disposed of when no longer effective. To replace paper towels, try the Twist European Sponge Cloth.


Cleaning Products
I try to steer clear from chemical exposure as much as possible, and it's especially important to me to use non-toxic cleaning products and to keep a chemical free home. (Read more on why this is important). What you keep and use in your home affects not only whoever is using the product via exposure, but also who and whatever else is living in the home by disturbing air quality, creating chemical residues, and heightening or creating respiratory or contact allergies.
(I started realizing the importance of using natural products after logging lots of hours in comme
rcial kitchens where I had a lot of contact with bleach and industrial strength soaps-- my hands turned to raw eczema ridden beasts! Now between wearing gloves and using only friendly products, my hands stay in a much more friendly disposition).

Many people have a whole cabinet or two devoted to various sprays, powders, scrubs, and solutions that they 'need' to keep their house clean. The easiest thing to do would be to purchase non-toxic cleaners from natural foods stores or online, or to make your own. You really only need two or three products to do most of your household cleaning. I would also recommend a non-toxic dish soap and laundry products.

Some of my favorite green cleaning products: Seventh Generation Dish Soap; Method Disinfecting Wipes; Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Laundry Detergent and Dryer Sheets


Air Fresheners
Between all the sprays, spritzes, plug-ins, and candles, we have no shortage of opportunity to make our spaces 'smell good'. But all air fresheners are not created equal and most contain perfumes and chemicals that can aggravate allergies and settle on our skin and into our bloodstreams. There are other ways to make your home smell fresh.
get some fresh air! Open windows on opposite sides of your home for a cross breeze and turn on standing or ceiling fans to encourage circulation.
simmering spices. Simmer a pot with aromatic herbs and water - cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg are lovely options. Refill with water partway through if it's getting low.
burn baby burn. Burn candles scented only with essential oils, use essential oil diffusers, or use natural incense or burning sage to cleanse the air. These products can be found online and at natural food stores.


Disposing Of Your Toxic Products
If you are interested in making the switch to green products but don't know what to do with what you have, you can of course, use them up and recycle the containers, or pass the partially used products off to an organization with limited resources that could make use of them. If you would prefer to dispose of them, read the labels to see if there are any special disposal instructions, and also consult your local hazardous waste department-- I would resist the urge to dump them down the sink, because despite filtration and water cleaning systems, it's still likely that some of that will make their way into our waterways. Here's a site with a few suggestions.

Recommendation: Green-Kits can get you started with a Green Cleaning Kit with all of the products you'll need!


Make Your Own!
I've started making my own cleaning supplies and it's fun how cheap and easy it is! And you could get away with just having white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice on hand and clean just about every surface in your house, but you can get a little fancier and make your own mixes to keep on hands, add some essential oils, like lavender or tea tree, for anti-bacterial and good-smelling benefits. Here's a guide to making the switch to natural products and a few easy make-at-home ideas.

A few other websites with 'recipes' for making your own natural cleaning products:
25 Non-Toxic, Homemade Cleaning Supplies; Recipes for Homemade Cleaning Products; Non-Toxic Home Cleaning



Waste Not, Want Not
As far as trash and recycling goes, well, it's a big issue. The easiest solution is to purchase fewer packaged items, and when you do try to purchase items that are packed in recyclable containers. Keep the old 'reduce, reuse, recycle' adage in mind, and you'll probably find new solutions everyday!

Reduce. When it comes to cleaning products, by using cloth towels and reducing paper towel usage, that's a big help, but you can also usually buy cleaning supplies in larger containers and use those to refill the smaller containers you already have. You can also streamline the products you have and limit it to just a few, and that will help, too.

Reuse containers as much as possible to store bulk food-- bring them with you to the bulk aisle and save the life of a container that way! Or use them in other creative ways throughout the house. Also check with after-school centers, churches, schools, and other organizations in your neighborhood to see if they can use them for craft projects or other activities. Reuse and repurpose other things around the house too-- jam jars become containers for bulk grains or drinking glasses, a water bottle can be cut and used as a funnel, office paper can be reprinted on, or flipped over and cut into quarters, stapled and used as notepads.

Recycle. Recycling paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal is of course, a great option to reduce what is sent to the landfill, but also be sure that you are following the recycling restrictions for your area, and know what can and cannot go into the bin. (Hard plastic lids, for example, are not usually curbside recyclable; and the tetra-pack containers that rice milk and other beverages often come in are regrettably not recyclable either). In NYC, the Park Slope Food Co-op accepts recyclable items from the community that cannot be picked up curbside. In Austin, Ecology Action of Texas accepts a wide range of recyclable material and also can help you find other centers.

Compost. Food scraps account for a large portion of our daily trash output, but you can save produce and other food scraps and compost them in your yard in a pile or special bin, in your house (with a worm bin), or take them to a local farm, farmstand, or community garden who will probably be more than happy to take them off your hands. Do a little looking around in your area and you'll probably find a way. Since I've started collecting scraps to drop off to the LES Ecology Center's table at the Greenmarket, I've noticed a 50% reduction in what I throw out. Sometimes more. And I can feel happy that the scraps will turn into a fantastic and nutrient-filled earth that can make plants grow stronger and make a new round of produce tastier!

You can actually compost quite a lot of things, but it really depends on where you're composting it and what it's being used for. Community gardens, farms, and other recipients of your food scraps will each have their own set of 'do's and don'ts', so if you're not composting for yourself, you should check what they allow.


Where to Buy
If you have a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or other natural foods store nearby, you'll definitely be able to find these green products. Many regular grocery stores and big stores like Target are carrying many of these products too. If you want to save some money and/or don't have easy access to stores that stock these products, buy in bulk and/or split big orders with friends or neighbors, by purchasing directly from the company or another online retailer like Amazon.com.

If you're making your own, you can purchase extra large bags of baking soda for $4 at large grocery or wholesale stores, lemons are available at every grocery store, and white vinegar is only about $1.50 a gallon. If we could only say the same for gas...


Have you tried any make-at-home products or are there any other tips you'd like to share or get more info about? I'd love to know-- post a comment!

04 July 2008

think less, do more: Get some Fresh Air this weekend!

While you're spending your holiday weekend in the country, at the beach, or in the backyard, think about all of the children who have never experienced life outside of the city.

I'm running the Nike NYC Half Marathon at the end of the month for the FreshAir Fund-- an awesome organization that for over 100 years has been sending thousands of low-income kids from NYC on summer vacations in the country to experience what it's like to swim in a lake, see starry skies, catch fireflies, and lay in the grass.

I'm really excited to be running on behalf of these kids, and you can support my efforts with a small contribution! I'm hoping to raise $1,310. And I'm getting there, but still have quite a ways to go! Whether you can give a lot, or just a very little, every little bit helps.

I would be honored if Stem+Leaf readers became a part of this magic.

My personal donations page: http://freshair.kintera.org/ajamarsh

03 July 2008

recipe: ginger-sesame turkey burgers

If you're looking for something different to make when you fire up the grill this weekend, give these a try! I made these up one night with ingredients on hand in the fridge. I've made them for friends and clients several times since-- and they're a big hit!

Recipe: Ginger-Sesame Turkey Burger
Makes 4-5 burgers

1.25 lb naturally raised ground dark meat turkey (can also use white meat, chicken, or beef)
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
2 tablespoons organic tamari or shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon freshly milled black pepper
2 teaspoons salt


1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF, or fire up your grill.

2. Place the turkey meat in a medium bowl.

3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and then combine in the large bowl with the meat. Mix well, but be careful not to over-handle the meat. Form the mixture into 4-5 round patties, nearly 1-inch thick.

4. Heat 1-2 tablespoons high-heat oil in a large pan until very hot. Brown the burgers for 1-2 minutes on each side. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 15 minutes until cooked through. If you are using a grill, skip this step, place directly on the grate, flipping once, until cooked throughly.

5. Top with some lettuce, tomato, and onion on a whole wheat bun. Or, amp up the spice factor and top with some kimchi. I like Hawthorne Valley Farms' raw, lacto-fermented kimchi.

recipe: low-fat vegan brownies!

In the past few weeks, I've made these a few times for clients and events.

This recipe is inspired by one I found on VegWebI've found one of the most important ingredients is a high-quality cocoa powder. The ones that came out best used Ghirardelli Chocolate. Use what you like!

If you're not interested in making them low-fat, sub half of the applesauce for additional oil, this will help to make them a bit richer and gooier.



Recipe: Low-Fat Vegan Brownies
2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, or a mix of the two
1 cup Water
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 cup organic cane sugar or turbinado
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups high-quality cocoa powder
1/3 cup organic canola or melted coconut oil (you could also use melted vegan margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 to 2/3 cup nuts or chocolate chips (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. In a small pot, heat 1/2 cup of the flour and the water, stirring frequently with a whisk. You'll do this until it begins to become pasty. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Mix in the wet ingredients and the flour-water mixture until thoroughly combined.

4. Fold in the nuts or chocolate chips if using.

5. Oil a square or rectangular baking dish (the smaller the dish the thicker the brownies. I wouldn't use anything larger than 9x13).

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool for 20-25 minutes, if you can stand to wait.

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