Kathleen’s Kitchen: Is it squash? Is it spaghetti? Fear not, it’s both!

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve purchase spaghetti squash in the past, with the intention of creating a tasty, healthful meal only to see them get tossed away before I had the opportunity to use them.  Truth is, I was somewhat intimidated by this yellow orb of wonder; but not anymore!  I bought, I baked, I conquered! Turns out, it was one of the easiest, most delicious things I’ve ever made.

Traditionally, spaghetti squash is considered a “winter” squash, harvested mainly in the fall and winter, it is available year round.  You may have to look a little harder for it in the summer months, but it’s well worth it!  Oddly enough the term I would use to describe the flavor of this dish is “fresh and summery”.  Okay, enough chit-chat, let’s get on with this and you can decide for yourself!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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One- two pound spaghetti squash

One- medium onion, thinly sliced

Three- medium plum tomatoes, diced

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, oregano to taste

Shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

First: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise.

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Next: Remove the seeds and the strings, as you would when carving a pumpkin.

Then: Drizzle the squash with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.

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Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking/cookie sheet and place in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven.  Turn the squash over so the cut side is now facing up.  Using a fork, gently pull the strings of the “spaghetti” toward the middle of the shell.  If it doesn’t pull easily enough you can put it back in the oven for another ten minutes. Fluff up the strings into the middle of each shell.

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Divide the tomatoes and onions between the two shells, and top with the shredded cheese.  Return the cookie sheet to the oven, and broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

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This can be served as a meal in itself, or a side dish.  I left mine in the shells, and served it as a side with grilled chicken.  We passed the dish, and everyone helped themselves to their own serving of squash – and I have to say – it was a huge hit!

This is so incredibly easy and tasty – and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better – it’s fat free, cholesterol free, and gluten free. It’s definitely a winner in my book, and now that I’ve conquered my fear, I’ll be making it often!

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.

Adventures in Greening: How about a burrito?

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By Catherine Moran

I am writing about Chipotle today because I ate there last week. I didn’t really know much about Chipotle’s business practices until this video aired in 2011, followed by this video in 2013. Both videos take on the idea that factory farming is not the way our food should be getting to us. I applaud that idea, as I’m a big fan of farm to table proponents.

According to their website, Chipotle supports sustainable farming practices and family-owned farms whenever they can, steering clear of animals raised on hormones and antibiotics if possible. These are good practices for the environment, especially if Chipotle is honoring the declaration that they buy local when they can. For the chain, buying local means buying from locations within 350 miles of a Chipotle.

Chipotle pays employees more than the minimum wage, and employees can work their way up the management rungs, no matter where they start. Way to go, Chipotle!

Now, onto the really exciting news for greenies: Chipotle makes their burrito bowls using recycled materials From their website:

We try to use packaging materials that have minimal effects on the environment. Our burrito bowls are made from 93% recycled material–mostly recycled newspapers. And our aluminum lids are made of 95% recycled materials, including aluminum cans. Our lids reduces [sic] energy consumption by 96% compared to using lids made of new materials.

Their napkins are also made from 100% recycled content, hurrah! When you get your items to go, there are no extra napkins or utensils thrown in the bag (at least not in the NYC locations I’ve been to). You can pick up these items at a separate serving station. I can walk in, grab a burrito in a paper bag (or say no to the bag, in fact!) and be on my merry way, and no extra future trash has to make the trip with me.

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Now, a lot of this info came directly from Chipotle’s site, so it should be taken with a grain of salt (at least the sustainable farming commitment clams). The company page stresses that Chipotle uses fresh, organic, or sustainable ingredients wherever possible, but that means that sometimes it’s not possible. So, while it is frustrating to not know if the food you are consuming actually does fall within those parameters, I have to applaud Chipotle on their efforts. I may be naive in saying this, but I believe that they are making an effort; at the very least, they’re using buzzwords in a way that few other chains do…so they can have credit for that!

In conclusion: I don’t often eat from chains, but when I do, I’m happy in the choice of Chipotle. Now I’m hungry….

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Do you know about any other large chains that try to use sustainable practices?

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Link Love + Happy Anniversary

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By Catherine Moran

It’s been a busy few weeks, per usual for this greenie. I got stuck in some train traffic on the way home this weekend, and was thinking – I’ve been writing Adventures in Greening for almost two years now! As we approach my two-year greenieversary, I thought I’d re-share some of my favorite posts from days gone by. It’s been fun for me to write these posts, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them! Without further adieu, a jaunt down memory lane:

My very first post! (April 2012)

Jason Mraz is a greenie, and I admire him to pieces (September 2012)

How much do I love buying in bulk? Let me count the ways (October 2012)

All about Buy Nothing Day (November 2012)

All about my love of composting (July 2013)

My friend’s green wedding in Seattle (August 2013)

As always, thanks for reading, and be well, greenies!

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s Kitchen: Spring has sprung!

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

Spring has sprung…..well barely, weather-wise, but there is a bevy of fresh vegetables just waiting to be brought to the table!  Recently, I was looking to make something that would allow me to combine a load of vegetables and, I wanted to do it using as few pots and pans as necessary.  A trip to the market, a basket of goodies, a little of this, and a little of that, sprinkled with a dash of “hey, let me try this”; and this is what happened:

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Roasted chicken on a bed of vegetables in a white wine sauce!

The first time I made this I didn’t use wine, but chicken broth instead.  It was delicious, but the next time I figured I could tweak it just a bit more.  Very tasty, and it’s just one roasting pan to wash!!  Yay!!!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Chicken breasts, thighs, and/or legs – on the bone, skin on.

One bunch of asparagus (about one pound)

Two medium zucchini

Two yellow squash

One large white or red onion

Four or five red potatoes

Carrots

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup chicken broth or stock

1/4 cup white cooking wine

salt and pepper to taste

One teaspoon sage

One teaspoon poultry seasoning

One teaspoon fresh or dried parsley

First:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse all the vegetables and the chicken.

Next:  Mix all the spices in a small bowl, and set aside.

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Then:  Combine the wine and chicken broth in a measuring cup, and add half of the combined spices.  Set aside the rest of the spices to be sprinkled on the chicken.

Start by trimming the asparagus, and cutting it into bite size pieces; do the same with the carrots.  Cut the zucchini, squash, and onion into slices about one inch thick. Cut the potatoes into quarters (or smaller, depending on the size of the potatoes).

Place all the vegetables in the bottom of a 9×13 inch roasting pan.  Pour the wine/broth/seasoning mixture over the vegetables.

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Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with the seasonings set aside in the bowl.

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Cover the pan with foil, and place in the oven on the middle rack.

Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Remove foil, turn the heat up to 425 degrees, and continue to bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, and serve while hot.  This dish is so flavorful, and the chicken is ridiculously moist.  This is now a new favorite in my house, and we’ll be taking full advantage of all the fresh vegetables that Spring and Summer have to offer!

Kathleen’s Kitchen is a column running on Kate-book.com once a month. It is written by the amazing Kathleen Neafsey, who loves trying new recipes. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat. And make sure to look out for her amazingly fun column, Fabri-Kate.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Greening: Green from your couch

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By Catherine Moran

Almost everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a big movie buff. I’m lacking a lot of “classic” films from my movie repertoire, much to the astonishment and shame of my film-loving family members and friends.  However, while I go to see films on the big screen very rarely, I’m a bit of a tv addict. Long-form stories give the viewer more time to make a connection with the characters, as well as plots that can unfurl at a less-compressed pace. And, in this day and age, it’s very easy to sit down and marathon seasons of television shows; all it takes is one day of beginning a marathon (curse you, headcolds), and suddenly you’re spending all of your free time catching up to current episodes. I’m not alone here…right?

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How does my love of television relate to being green? Well, it’s the perfect time for me to do some green activities. Sometimes, life gets hectic. And if you’re a (wo)man on the go, you try to consolidate activities. A lot of green activities require time, an element of one’s day that can sometimes feel like a luxury. So, I try to make use of my time in front of the screen. Here are a few suggested green activities that you can multitask while watching television:

• Making your own laundry soap. Grating up a bar of soap by hand can take awhile, let me tell you. I would never do this task without something else to occupy my mind, unless I was using it as a meditative exercise, but I definitely prefer to take my mind off how long the process is (my grater is fairly small; I’m on the hunt for a larger one to possibly help me speed up the process). I feel pretty accomplished when this task is done, and I try to do more than one bar in one sitting, so I don’t have to worry about grating a new bar for awhile when I run out of the first batch. Plus, it works my arm strength, what an added benefit! Good preparation for becoming a green superhero.

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• Ripping the windows off of any envelopes that come your way, mostly from junk mail, or mail that includes a windowed envelope for you to return a payment or other information. In NYC, you can’t recycle envelopes with clear plastic address windows because they don’t dissolve in water (there’s an interesting Reddit thread on this subject and other recycling queries, for interested parties). This is a fun one, because you get the satisfying sound of paper ripping to go along with the task. (Again…just me?)

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• Making Stuff. Get to work on illustrating those homemade birthday cards or knitting beanies for the holidays. Even if it’s summertime, it doesn’t hurt to be forward-thinking; you’ll save time later.

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Of course, this list will only be useful if you’re watching a show that doesn’t require constant vigilance, or includes commercial breaks, or doing a task that doesn’t require strict attention. You would have found me very hard-pressed to draw my eyes away from the first season of True Detective. No multitasking during that hour, no way. Even blinking felt costly.

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There are plenty of other ways to make use of your television-watching time if you so choose, but those are just some of the things I do to save myself some time during the week. It’s all about getting things done sooner rather than later, so they’re not on my mind, and I can free up time for other things later, television-related or otherwise. And watching a show as a purely downtime activity when all else is down is pretty darn enjoyable, too.

cheers

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Adventures in Greening: Change and Challenge

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By Catherine Moran

I’ve been thinking recently about challenges. It’s no surprise that life is full of unexpected (and expected) uphill battles. They can occur in our relationships, our careers, our physical bodies; you name the staging ground, there’s most likely a challenge that could play there. Living a greener lifestyle is definitely filled with challenges, as is any lifestyle change. Change is the operative word here: it’s a scary thing to contemplate.

I was trying to think about what the first change was that made my lifestyle a bit greener, and other than an L.L. Bean backpack that I had throughout grade school (no need to buy a new one every year!), I think the first item that began my transition to less stuff was my iPod. Now, I’m not singing the praises of Apple here, because their use of planned obsolescence maddens me to no end. But mp3 players, in general, are a step forward.

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For the purpose of these ruminations, I am not discussing all of the resources used to construct a music-playing device, or how ethically or environmentally-sourced these materials are (topics for another time, methinks). So, back to the iPod. I’ve talked about my first iPod before, but not how it changed my life.

I’m a big music fan. Okay, huge music fan. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that allows me to have headphones in all day (you’ll be hard-pressed to find me listening to anything but Spotify, music junkie that I am), and teaching yoga on weekends allows me to share music with students. I’d always loved music, but when Napster became the Big Thing, I really went to town on a search for new, unheard-of artists.

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My CDs went with me everywhere. Choosing just five to fit in the Snapple carrying case I’d won in a giveaway was an agonizing process. When I went to college, I left with a larger carrying case, one that fit up to 500 CDs (without cases). I would tote this case between college and home for every visit (did I mention it was nearly full?)

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I had no problem carrying around hundreds of CDs. My family, on the other hand….well, let’s just say they were wiser than I. I accepted the iPod with reluctance (I know this might sound mildly spoiled of me, but I liked the way I was doing things; it took me ages to come around to Spotify, which is my preferred service for music listening these days, though my iPod is still much beloved). It took some time, but I eventually fell for my iPod, and it traveled (and still travels) with me everywhere. I have so much music at my fingertips that it is thrilling, and I refuse to travel further than a subway ride without music. I’m able to carry more than 500 CD’s worth of music at one time, and it weighs so very little.

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Change is hard for many of us, even if the change we are making is a change for the better (add a few letters to the word change, you’ll get challenge). Even after making a conscious effort to go greener, I find myself stumbling. I can’t avoid all plastic packaging, especially when all I want for dinner are some Buffalo Chik’n pieces, or when I forget my travel mug at the coffee shop (this post from Beth Terry is great on Guilt and the Green Lifestyle). And, sometimes, there are changes that I could make, but either run out of time (i.e. making my own almond milk, which just requires advanced planning, which I don’t always make time for), or am just not inclined to try (like forgoing shampoo and its friend, plastic packaging – yes, it’s a movement).

The best we can do is take it one step at a time, and do what we can. And who knows how something we do today will affect us in future? If I hadn’t received that iPod, it’s not hard for me to imagine myself still rockin’ the CD player and lugging around a lot of CDs, instead of using digital downloads, and wanting only digital downloads for my music and movie/television purchases nowadays. We don’t have to do everything all at once, and we don’t have to do “everything,” either. Small changes may not change the world at large, but they’ll change the world around us, and if that translates to something larger, great, but making a change that betters ourselves and the planet, even a bit, means we’re doing well.

 

Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Kathleen’s kitchen – monkeying around in the kitchen

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

 

I enjoy reading, mostly mysteries, but pretty much just reading in general.  Some of my favorite books are ones that involve bakers, cooks, and caterers that include recipes in their stories.  I have been reading Diane Mott Davidson’s books with her Goldy Schultz, town caterer character for years.  This week I stumbled across Joanne Fluke and her character Hannah Swensen, owner of the town coffee shop and bakery, The Cookie Jar.
Both authors provide fun, quick reads with interesting characters and some great recipes.  In Ms. Fluke’s Red Velvet Cupcake Murder she included a recipe for Monkey Bread.
Monkey Bread has long been a family favorite since my mom started making it back in the 70’s.  Neither my mother nor I have made it in ages, so seeing this recipe in the book made me think that this was the perfect time to try a new recipe and share it with you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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* 1+1/4 cups of granulated sugar
* 1+1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
* Four  (7.5 ounce) cans unbaked refrigerated biscuits (like Pillsbury)
* 1 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans) – OPTIONAL
* One (6 ounce) bag chocolate chips – OPTIONAL
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Let’s get down to business…..monkey business

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* Spray the inside of a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Set the pan on a cookie
sheet.
* In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
* Open one can of biscuits at a time, and cut each biscuit into quarters.

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* Roll each piece in the cinnamon/sugar mixture, and place them in the bottom of the bundt pan.

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* If you’re using the nuts and/or chocolate chips, sprinkle 1/3 of each on top of the first biscuit layer.
* Open the second can of biscuits and repeat the steps of quartering them and rolling them in sugar.  Place them in the pan, and top with the nuts and chocolate chips.

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* Repeat these steps with the third can of biscuits.
* The fourth can of biscuits should be quartered and rolled in the cinnamon and sugar, and placed on top of the nuts and chocolate chips.  This is the top layer, do not use any more nuts or chips.
* Melt the butter, and add any remaining sugar and cinnamon.  Stir to mix well, and pour over the top of the biscuits in the bundt pan.

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* Bake, on the cookie sheet to avoid any spills, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

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* Remove from oven and cool IN THE PAN on a wire rack for ten minutes.
* Find a plate large enough to fit over the top of the bundt pan.  Using potholders, place the plate over the top and turn the pan upside down to unmold the monkey bread.

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* Cut into slices, or pull the bread apart.  This is best served warm.

My family recipe traditionally doesn’t call for the nuts or chocolate chips, but I wanted to try them and see how it would turn out – While it was absolutely delicious, I probably wouldn’t use the chocolate again because, in my opinion, it put the sweetness factor just over the top. I prefer it as more of a “coffee cake” than a really sweet cake / bread.  Again, that’s just my opinion.

I guess I should also mention that no monkeys were harmed in the baking of this bread…..and where this yummy treat got its’ name is anybody’s guess – I did find this link online that shares a few different theories as to how the name was derived.

Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with genre-bending author Kate Racculia

Kate Racculia, This Must Be the PlaceBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this first week of March 2014, I hereby call to order the 32 meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate Racculia.

Kate Racculia grew up in Syracuse, New York, and attended college at the University of Buffalo, where she studied illustration, design, Jane Austen, and Canada. She has her MFA from Emerson College and now calls Boston home.  She teaches workshops in novel and genre writing at GrubStreet, Boston’s non-profit creative writing center, and has been a bassoonist, a planetarium operator, a coffee jerk, a designer, a children’s bookseller, a proposal writer, a prospect researcher, and a karaoke god.

She posts many pictures of her cat on the Internet and is a total sucker for a saxophone solo.

Her first novel, This Must Be the Place, was published by Henry Holt & Company in 2010. Her second, Bellweather Rhapsody, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2014.

Find more Kate on her website, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook!

Without further ado, Kate answers all your questions: Continue reading

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Adventures in Greening: This is Just to Say

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By Catherine Moran

that plastic bag
floating
in the tree
still present
closely
gripping the branches
still ugly
in tatters
once again
please leave this lone tree
you still
spoil the view

Inspired by the plastic bag outside my window, first addressed in April 2013, and by the William Carlos Williams poem, “This is Just To Say.”

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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Fabri-Kate: give ‘em the brush off

By:  Kathleen Neafsey

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pointless to keep my makeup brushes in my makeup case.  They get squished, and the bristles get bent.  I don’t own many, but my daughter, Bridget……..well, that’s another story.  This was actually Bridget’s idea to begin with – I just kind of ran with it.  So fasten your seat belts because this is going to be the quickest, easiest Fabri-Kate craft to date; and it only requires two supplies!!  That’s right, only two – unless you count the brushes – in which case, you’re on your own.

Let’s start with our supplies:

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One large, decorative glass bowl – can be found in the craft store or the dollar store.

Decorative accent stones in the color(s) of your choice – they, too, can be found in the craft or dollar store.

Step One: 

Wash and dry bowl to remove any dust or fingerprints.

Step Two:

Open bags of stones and pour into clean, dry bowl. Stand your brushes in the bowl, and you’re done!

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This makes it so much easier than dumping out a makeup case to find the brush you need.  Now they’re all there at your fingertips.

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Fabri-Kate is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Tuesday. It is written by the crafty Kathleen Neafsey, who wields a mean pair of scissors. Follow her on Twitter @dbmomkat and look for a brand new craft next time.

 

 

Kate’s Book Club: Q&A with Bree MacGowan Mystery maven Kate George

Kate George, Crazy Little Thing Called DeadBy Kate E. Stephenson

In this fourth week of January 2014, I hereby call to order the 29th meeting of Kate’s Book Club. Every meeting, we shall be reading a tome either (a) penned by an author named Kate or (b) that includes a character named Kate. If you missed our last meeting, feel free to get caught up.

Club members, this week meet Kate George.

Kate George is the author of the popular Bree MacGowan mystery series. She was born in Sacramento, California, and has been, in no particular order, a paste-up tech, a motorcycle safety instructor, an actor, and the assistant to the dean of a medical school, all of which provide fodder for her stories. Currently, she lives in an old farmhouse in the backwoods of Vermont with her husband, four kids, and three rescue dogs. Feel free to visit Kate’s website and email her.

And the answers are… Continue reading

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Adventures in Greening: What Do I Do With My DVDs?

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By Catherine Moran

I don’t know what to do with my old DVDs. Well, I guess they’re not old, but they’re underloved and underappreciated. In this new regime of Digital Technology, I would very much like to be able to trade in my physical DVDs for digital copies of the same film, but that does not seem to be an option anywhere that I can find. It’s not as if I have very many DVDs; on the contrary, I don’t have very many, but I have a lot of boxed tv series, and those babies take up space. I’ve been slowly distributing my DVD collection over the past year, but there are some shows and films that I want to hang on to.

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The closest service for turning physical DVDs into digital copies that I have found in my searches is VUDU, which was only available at Walmart when it was launched in 2012. However, the downside of VUDU, for me, is that it is a program. That, and the fact that you have to pay for the service of converting the films. I want to have my purchased movies and television shows available on storage devices, and not accessible only through a program–and you must have VUDU on any device you wish to watch your films on. That sounds like it’s restricting access to something I already own, so I’m not ready to go this route just yet.

Amazon has a trade-in option, but it’s only for certain titles, and they give you a pittance for the product, an amount that does not equal the cost of purchasing a digital copy of your film. You can’t give me $2 for my Harry Potter films when the digital copy is $10! I won’t be magicking my copies into digital any time soon, thank you very much.

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Another sell-back site I found is Zumu, but if I thought the rates at Amazon were abysmal, Zumu is even worse. I am not selling back my DVDs to make money, but I would like to be able to afford to re-buy the DVD that I am selling (I own it for a reason!) Zumu is interesting, in that: “Here at Zumu we don’t just recycle your pre-loved DVDs, CDs and Games by finding a new home for them, we also turn what can’t be re-homed into baby bottles and other useful stuff! “ So, if I do find a way to get digital copies of movies I already own as physical copies, Zumu might be the best place to go to make sure my DVDs are properly recycled.

The search will continue. I am trying to de-clutter my life of Stuff, which I believe is in line with green living: these DVDs could be recycled, or given new life with new owners. If you have any suggestions for legal ways of making my DVDs into digital copies, I’d appreciate it. I have a feeling this is something other greenies would want to do (especially if they live in New York apartments!) Thank you in advance for any help!

Stay well, greenies.

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Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.

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