Cold Comfort: Winter-Friendly Veggies and Kale Chip Recipe
Think eating locally grown, planet-friendly food in the winter is impossible? Think again. Barbara Willard, an environmental studies professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, confirms that plenty of sustainable produce does well in winter. Whether you’re up for the gratifying challenge of growing your own, or prefer to buy all your produce, here are a few cold-weather-friendly veggies to consider.
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter squash
Of course, most winter veggies are well-known comfort food stars. But there are plenty of other, lighter ways to enjoy them, too. We’re currently obsessing over this kale chip recipe from Real Moms Love to Eat author Beth Aldrich. These healthy treats are packed with flavor, perfectly crispy, and completely addictive.
Paper-Thin Crisp Kale Chips
- 1 Tb. organic honey
- 1 Tb. olive oil
- 1 tsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 1 bag/bunch kale
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or waxed paper. In a bowl, combine honey, olive oil, and lime juice. Set aside.
- Rinse the kale under cool water and salad-spin-dry thoroughly. If the kale is not completely dry, the kale chips will not cook; they will steam. So spin-dry it a second time or third time.
- Rip the kale leaves into bite-size pieces, discarding the tough stems. Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet and lightly sprinkle them with the honey mixture. Dehydrate at 120 degrees for approximately 8 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, make these chips in your convection or regular oven at 350. Cook for 12-18 minutes.
- For either cooking method, check to see whether the chips are done by gently touching them. If they are paper-thin and crackly, they’re done. If soft and pliable, cook a little longer. Avoid overcooking chips. If they turn brown, they will taste bitter.
- Sprinkle with sea salt immediately after removing pan from the oven. (If you salt the chips before putting them in the oven, it will bring out the moisture in the kale and lengthen cooking time.)
Check out Field to Plate for more detailed seasonal picks in your state. Happy eatin’!
Have you checked out the Shedd Aquarium’s Right Bite program? They make it super easy to enjoy your seafood while supporting ocean-friendly fishing practices. Check out this video on a recent Right Bite Fish of the Month for more info.
Clothes-Minded: How to Green Your Laundry Routine
- Keep it cold: Ninety percent of the energy used in a wash cycle goes to heating the water, so going cold whenever possible is one easy way to save big on your energy bill. For tough stains, try presoaking as opposed to running a whole load with hot water. Or, if you do need hot or warm water for some items, go with a cold rinse after the initial wash cycle—it won’t affect the cleanliness at that point.
- Fill ‘er up: Opting for full loads is a more efficient use of your household energy. That said, don’t overload it—that can keep clothes from moving freely, which is important in getting ‘em clean.
- Break out the rack: Since the dryer is the second biggest electrical appliance hog in your home after the fridge, air-drying is one of the biggest ways to save energy. We know, we know, scratchy, stiff laundry isn’t super appealing. But using quality detergent and a liquid fabric softener will help keep those threads nice and soft.
- Maximize heat: When you do use the dryer, utilize the cool-down function. It’ll maximize heat that’s already built up to finish the drying process. Also, do more than one load in a row when you can to take advantage of that residual heat.
- Check those filters: Every time you use the dryer, clean the lint filter to keep efficiency up (and maintenance needs down, as overworking the appliance makes it run down faster). Similarly, have a look at the outdoor exhaust vent every once in a while to make sure it’s clear too.
Want extra credit? If your washer/dryer is more than 10 years old, choose an EnergyStar appliance next time you buy. If we all did that, we’d save 790 million kWh of electricity, 32 billion gallons of water, and 2 trillion BTUs of natural gas annually. Not sure what those numbers mean? They add up to about $350 million energy bill savings every year.
Open yourself up to any one of these green laundry choices, and you’ll score money savings and a cleaner environment while you’re at it. Not too shabby for an otherwise humdrum chore, huh?
A Whole New Ball Game: 5 Tasty Ways to Green Your Superbowl Party
Looking for fresh, green ideas for your Superbowl party? This weekend, root for your team, eco-style, with these five earth-friendly snack and drink ideas from some of Chicagoland’s best.
First up: beer, obviously. One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to green your drinking routine is to take the plunge and buy a keg. Or a pony keg. Or a sixth of a keg. Or a growler. Whatever makes sense—the point is, opting for one large reusable container versus a bunch of small bottles or cans saves resources. Here, our nominees for tasty local beer that’s available in such a format:
- A 1/6 keg of Great Lakes IPA or lager from Binnys, which has 27 locations around Chicagoland. Yes, there are breweries that are more local than this Ohio biz, but their focus on sustainability coupled with the fact that their beer a.) tastes good and b.) is actually available in a smallish keg (56 servings as opposed to 165 in a full keg) make ‘em a favorite in our book.
- Another big reco goes to Chicago’s own Half Acre. Again it scores high marks in the taste department, with a trio of solid ale options. Plus there’s the fact that it’s made uberlocally (hello, Northcenter) which helps you save all the resources associated with shipping. A new 64-ounce growler is $16 plus tax, or you can do refills on ‘em for $12.
And as for eco-snack ideas:
- Chips and dips: Pick up homemade chips and dips at City Provisions in Uptown, made locally with fresh, sustainable ingredients. For those outside the city’s North Side, just swing by your favorite natural foods store and pick up organic chips like Kettle’s classic Sea Salt ones, sustainably produced meats, and dips like Simply Organic’s savory Chipotle Black Bean Dip. Got a few extra minutes on your hand? Another great green option: pick up some fresh veggies and make your own chips. Rodale has some simple instructions here.
- Sandwiches: If you haven’t yet tried Hannah’s Bretzel’s creations, prepare to be awed by organic, local deliciousness. We’re thinking a platter of the organic turkey and farmhouse cheddar sandos should hit the spot. City Provisions also does a mean Italian sub.
- Sweets: The Bleeding Heart Bakery has us constantly swooning over its tempting organic baked goods. The February flavor of the month is red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and you can get it either in cupcake, cake, or cakeball form. Of course there are also a mind-boggling array of other flavors…Our pick for football fans: the Triple Chocolate Cakeball because it’s simple and to the point in its deliciousness.
Got other tips on greening a Superbowl party? Share ‘em with our community on Facebook!
Home Is Where the Heat Is: 9 Ways to Keep It That Way
There’s nothing like a good ol’-fashioned November flurry to remind us that in Chicago, winter takes up way more than its fair share of the year. And since for many of us, that’ll mean spending a whole lot more time at home, we thought we’d put together some handy tips and tricks for keeping your digs toasty all season long.
Of course it’s smart to do a little home winterization every fall, but it’s especially good for your wallet this year. That’s because just last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that consumers will face higher fuel prices this winter—roughly 10 percent higher on average. So, without further ado…
- Fill in small cracks: To find a draft, slowly move an incense stick along floors, windows, doors, vents, and walls—the smoke will flutter around leaks. Clean and dry the crack, then squeeze caulk along it. Try low-VOC AFM Safecoat Multi-Purpose Caulking Compound (under $10). Why bother? Sealing gaps and leaks can boost a home’s heat efficiency by 5-30 percent a year.
- Insulate outlets and switches: Since electrical boxes penetrate into the wall cavity, outlets and switches potentially cause air leakage. Use 10-cent outlet and switch gaskets to make sure they don’t. Just remove the cover plate with a screwdriver, insert the pre-cut foam seal, then put the plate back on. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce energy loss.
- Make the most of existing windows: Get better windows without actually buying ‘em—just cut air infiltration with EnergySavr Window Inserts ($39-$89), clear, lightweight insulators that pop into the frame. Or try shrink-fit window insulators ($4.50-$11.50 at Green Depot), which seal on to the existing window with a hairdryer. That simple step can cut heating bills in half.
- Mind the furnace filter: Keep the filter free of debris like dust, bacteria, mold, and pollen, all which clog and slow down the furnace. If you’ve got a throwaway fiberglass panel filter, remember to replace it monthly. But, since these only trap 10-40 percent of pollutants, consider switching to a permanent filter, which can trap 90 percent. Keeping the furnace clean reduces energy use, keeps you from having to replace it earlier than necessary, and saves up to 5 percent of household heating costs.
- Decrease water heater temperature: Make sure the thermostat dial, often located near the bottom on the gas valve, is set appropriately. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends 120 degrees for optimum performance/efficiency. Lowering the temperature by 10 degrees saves about 13 percent on water heating costs.
- Protect the water heater: Drape the tank with a wrap or blanket. This helps keep water hot longer, so the heater doesn’t need to work as hard. A good one can cost about $40 at Green Home Experts, but owner Maria Onesto Moran explains that you can make that money back in utility savings within just five months.
- Heat rooms you use, when you use them: If you’ve got a programmable thermostat, remember to use it. If you don’t, it’s well worth forking over a few bucks. A Honeywell Basic Programmable Thermostat is listed under $30 and they’re easy to install in half an hour with just a hammer, screwdriver, and drill. Switching to a programmable thermostat can save up to 20 percent on heating costs, says People’s Gas.
- Run fans in reverse: Find the switch on the fan’s wire housing and change direction to clockwise. This pulls cool air up and circulates warmer air that’s pooled near the ceiling back around the room. Run the fan at its lowest speed. Reversing the direction cuts your heating costs as much as 10 percent.
- Had enough tips for one go? We dig it. But stay tuned: later this month we’ll get into bigger projects, like fixing leaky ductwork and insulating water pipes. Till then, stay warm!
Go With the Flow: Reducing Water Use in the Shower
Prefer to keep things simple when it comes to saving the world? Ease into water and energy savings one shower at a time. Every day, the average home uses about 30 gallons on showers alone. Big picture: that’s 1.2 trillion gallons of water going down the bath drain daily in the US—enough to supply the needs of New York and New Jersey for a year, says the EPA.
What does that have to do with you, aside from the obvious feel-good factor that comes with any sort of conservation? Spending the $5-$50 it takes to go with a low-flow shower head can save you big time on your energy bill—about as much as it takes to power your TV use for a year.
Not too shabby for something that reduces shower flow by half without skimping on water pressure. Why fight it?
Ready for more?
- Check out the US EPA WaterSense site for more tips and stats.
- Visit the Department of Energy’s ins and outs of installing low-flow fixtures.
- Pick one up at your neighborhood hardware store or scope out EarthEasy’s online options.
- Score bonus points for just cutting one minute out of your shower time. With a regular recently-made nozzle that’ll save you almost a thousand gallons of water a year.
Posted by Daisy Simmons on September 20th, 2011
No-Meat Market: Go Veg Mondays and Reduce Your Water Footprint
Looking for a new food fling? Flirt with this culinary adventure: Meatless Monday. For vegetarians and vegans, it’s a no-brainer that you can eat well without eating meat. But for the tried-and-true omnivores out there, that may just not be in the cards. Still, joining in the effort to skip meat consumption once a week can make a big difference in the long run—both in terms of mama earth’s and your own health.
How’s that? Well in terms of your health, upping fruit and veggie intake is always a good thing, from curbing obesity to reducing the risk of cancer to avoiding the heart disease associated with red and processed meat. And as far as natural resources go, meat requires far more land and water to produce. Example: Swapping out one quarter-pounder beef burger for a veggie patty saves major water—like 625 gallons of it. (Yes, each time.)
So go ahead—scope out some hot new, uh, recipes now.
Hungry for more details?
- Visit Meatless Monday’s Why Meatless Monday page for a full rundown on health and eco impacts.
- Browse popular meat-free recipes online at Vegetarian Times’ magazine.
- Consider taking a one-time vegetarian cooking class at a local spot like the Chopping Block.
Posts by Daisy Simmons