Category Archives: Tips for Greener Living

My Gardening Project and Garlic Knots

So I told you all a while ago that I had an herb garden started to cut back on trips to the grocery store and to avoid huge transportation costs (I know my herbs and vegetables are locally grown 🙂 ). So here’s the update:

  • My mint keeps dying and I cut it back and then it dies again. It was doing very well for a while but it’s super water intensive and I went away for a couple of weekends in a row without getting someone to water it for me. I’m working on getting it back in shape but it’s taking a lot of work.
  • My tomato plant is successfully growing some tiny awesome looking tomatoes regardless of how cold it’s been in Santa Barbara recently.
  • My basil keeps getting eaten! Does anyone have any suggestions for how to keep the bugs away? It’s being devoured! 
  • My bell pepper plant hasn’t done much since I was forced to cut off its few leaves due to death. Any clues for this one?
  • My rosemary and thyme are doing well though it’s kinda hard to tell with these two whether they’re actually doing well or just look good.
  • And of course my succulent is thriving. They don’t need much work. Though the heavy rains we had a few weeks ago took away a lot of the soil covering the roots so I need to go out and get some more of that.

Ya. If anyone out there in internet land has a green thumb I’d love some thoughts and suggestions. I know I’ve always had a bit of a brown thumb unfortunately haha.

Keep up your good work on your own little gardens! The more things you can grow yourself, the less you have to depend on grocery stores and the less gas is being guzzled up to get the vegetables/herbs to you.

As for food, I had a huge craving for garlic knots a while ago, and stumbled upon this recipe from Food Mayhem

Garlic Knots



  • 3/4 cup +1 tablespoon Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup water at room temperature
  • 5 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 packed tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Parmesan Cheese, to taste

Instructions –

1. Whisk together flour, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk in salt last (preventing direct contact with yeast). Make a well in the center and pour in water. Stir together to moisten the flour, just until dough begins to form, about 20 seconds. The dough will look shaggy and bumpy, not smooth. If you do not want to make your own dough, ignore Steps 1 and 2, get Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, and continue with Step 3.

2. Pour 4 teaspoons oil in a 2-cup sized bowl or cup (bigger if you are increasing recipe size). Place dough in and turn to coat. Cover tightly and rest on the counter until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F at least 30 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, stir together 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, some parmesan, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

4. When the dough is ready, place it on a board and gently press into a rectangle. There will be left-over oil in the cup/bowl that the dough was rising in. Spread that oil over a baking sheet. If using pizza dough, just drizzle a little oil onto a baking sheet as there will not be any extras.

5. Spread half of the garlic mixture across the rectangle dough. Cut into 3/4″ strips (6″ long).

6. Tie any type of knot and lay on baking sheet with about 2″ space in between. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside (it will be doughy in the middle still). Meanwhile, add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and parsley to the garlic mixture. Stir.

7. When garlic knots are done baking, toss in the garlic, parmesan, and parsley mixture and serve immediately.

***My changes are in RED***

eco-benefits

  1. Whole wheat flour goes through less processing than bleached white flour.
  2. Parsley is a great and useful herb to grow!
  3. You can find garlic and parsley organic at any grocery store year round! But definitely check for where they are coming from. Remember, organic is good because it means no pesticides getting into our waterways and diets, however, local is better if coming from very far due to the fossil fuels used to get the food to your plate.
  4. Most to all of these ingredients should already be in your pantry so you don’t need to use fossil fuels to go to the store to get a great garlic knot.

 

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Environmental Studies 190

Hey guys! So I had a quick homework assignment for my Environmental Studies 190 class to write about my career path and how my major will help with it. I thought you may be interested in what I wrote (mom and dad:)). So, here it is:

My Career Path

I entered UC Santa Barbara in the Fall of 2008 having chosen to be an Environmental Studies B.A. major. I chose this major with limited reasoning. I saw it as an interesting subject matter and a way to get my bachelors degree so I could move on to receiving my teaching credentials. The day I stepped into Environmental Studies 1, everything changed. I no longer looked into my future and saw myself teaching first-graders. I saw myself in the Peace Corps teaching people the importance of the environment. I saw myself fighting for human rights such as clean air and water. I saw myself diving at the Great Barrier Reef and studying the impact of climate change on the coral and the aquatic species that inhabit it. I saw myself opening a restaurant to promote eco-friendly cooking and sustainable eating. I saw so many new career paths that I could take. The day I stepped into Environmental Studies 1, I realized that I had somehow ended up where I needed to be.

Since that day, I have changed my course to Environmental Studies B.S. with an emphasis in Aquatic Biology and I have realized that my whole life I have been on this path. I love hiking, surfing, and camping. I have been a vegetarian for five years. I have an addiction to animals of all types. And I have been studying the world and human interactions with it since I was born. For my tenth birthday, I asked my parents for a compound light microscope that I used for hours a day to look at sand, dead bugs, and plants. When I was seventeen, I went camping for the first time. Since then, I have gone around three times a year, including a two and a half week stint in Baja where I researched whale sharks.

In the future, I know only a few things for certain. I want to help people and I want to change the way people view the environment. Therefore, I will be applying for the Peace Corps next year in the field of Environmental Conservation. My major will help me achieve this dream by instilling me with the knowledge I will need to teach others about the environment. Once I have finished my time in the Peace Corps, I will decide whether I want to continue traveling and teaching others about environmental degradation or whether I will change my path to a more stable living situation. If I choose a more stable living situation, I intend to use my education to open a sustainable restaurant that will focus on using local, seasonal, organic ingredients and organic and sustainable meat and fish products. I believe that being a B.S. major will help with this because cooking is a lot like chemistry. You need to be okay with experimenting and failing with those experiments (which I did a lot of in General Chemistry lab).

Overall, I believe that my major has opened many doors that I did not even consider. I have always loved traveling but never really considered it as an option for my career. Now, I look into my future and see myself in South America fighting against deforestation. I see myself in Africa teaching people about the economic incentives for eco-tourism. I see myself all over the world. And when I finally decide to settle down (if that ever happens), I believe I will continue my environmental work at home helping businesses get “green”. I envision raising my family in a house that I helped to design to be completely sustainable. I picture myself camping with my family in a national park that has not been completely degraded due to overpopulation and resource use. I can only hope that my work with the environment will help that picture come true. The way things are going right now, there will not be a national park to camp with my family in. That image is why I am choosing the career path I described. Environmental Studies B.S. is the major that will help me get there.

The Compost Experiment Continued

This summer, my dad and I have been throwing all of our fruit peels, coffee, etc. into a tiny kitchen-top composter. It filled up pretty quickly and we kind of forgot that it existed at all. Recently, when we opened it up, not only were bugs thriving in there but we also realized just how fertile composters can be. In just a month everything seems to have melded into a great nutritious dirt that is actually growing plants! Check it out:

So if you didn’t believe me before when I told you that you HAVE to get a compost because there’s really no reason not to (it’s environmentally friendly and really is a great way to recycle–>your old gross products can be nutrition for your new yummy ones) you should believe me now. We didn’t plant whatever is sprouting up! And it was all covered up! Composts are just that magical :).

Farmers Market

So I was getting myself inspired yesterday so I stopped by the local farmers market for some inspiration… and totally found it! What other season offers yummies as good as watermelon, yellow peaches, yellow nectarines, and sweet corn? And where can you get such amazing local and often organic (just ask the farmers or look for a seal) products. The farmers are often very informative about their practices and will even help you pick out products to your specifications. Do you want to eat the item that day? They can help you find the ripest fruit. And if you’re determined to put it off for a little they can help you find fruit that is only days away from being ripe. What I’m saying is this: if you haven’t checked out your local farmers market lately (and I’m sure you have one somewhere close by) stop by the next one! You’ll be surprised at how much better the produce that you get there tastes.

I will be cooking up a storm starting today but I have a question for you guys. What would you like to see? Does anyone have a favorite food that they would like to learn how to make?

And for now I’ll leave you with a little something to think about:

The BP Coffee Spill-This made me giggle so I hope you appreciate it as well.

Hola!

First off: let me just say that I’m so sorry that I’ve taken such a long leave of absence. I got home from Baja and had culture shock for a couple of days and since then I’ve just had a bit of a block when it comes to food. I think that I’ve actually over-stimulated my brain with different cultures and food styles and it has made me question a lot about my cooking. BUT I’m back! And on the days that cooking doesn’t come to me (and I prefer to eat yummy summer fruit… watermelon and peaches anyone?) I’ll write some environmental tips for you to follow or look into.

Second: Baja was an amazing experience! Aside from the research I did on whale sharks, I learned a lot about invertebrates, dolphins, and other fish species. Further, we spent a lot of time looking into the way the ecosystem functions as a whole. It was an amazing trip and I would go back in a split second. It also allowed me to understand how little I really need to live on. Since we were in the ocean all day, we took very few showers (and luckily didn’t smell too bad) and we cooked on some iffy propane burners (talk about different from what I’m used to). I’m definitely off of PBJs and quesadillas for a while. 🙂 If you’re interested in any of the research we did or if you want to hear more about the trip just comment and I’ll give you some more info.

For now, however, here is your eco-tip for the day:

Reduce the amount of stuff you buy at the grocery store (and therefore your waste) by planning your weekly meals ahead of time. It helps you save money $$$ and it can help you stay healthy! A lot of times, the days you binge are the days you don’t really know what you’re in the mood for so you snack on a little of everything. If you have a plan already, you have to stick to it so that your food doesn’t go to waste. As in many other food endeavors, going green can keep you looking leaner :).

Stay tuned for some bomb recipes that I’ll be cooking up soon. I have my mojo back so they should be better than ever!

Showers

Starting today, I’m going to write a weekly post where I tell you about ways to “green” up common household activities. Since I just got done taking a much needed shower (I was at Catalina Island all day–>though by the time you’re reading this I’ll have been in Baja for a while–>and we snorkeled and had probably my favorite day yet this year celebrating Matt’s 21st b-day) I decided that I should figure out ways that I, and you guys, can use less energy and basically be more “green” with our showers.

Green: Take a faster shower (i.e. if you take 10 minutes, do the 5 minute challenge but if you take 30, try for 20–>I’m not trying to get everyone to a 5 minute shower because I realize some of you are starting farther away from that point). Personally I think challenges are fun. And this one will help save water. Try switching to organic shampoos and conditioners. Or do what I do and switch between organic and regular (if I use solely organic it dries out my hair, but switching between the two seems to be better than just using the chemical kind). I’ve even heard of people who save water by brushing their teeth in the shower (though it takes a bit to get used to brushing your teeth with warm water).
Greener: If you shave in the shower, try turning off the water while you do so. Your skin will have enough water on it already and it’ll save energy that it takes to heat up the water and it’ll save water itself. Or try turning down the heat of the shower. There’s really no reason you need to be showering in scalding hot water anyways :).
Greenest: While I was in India last summer, we were taking bucket showers. I’m not a huge fan (mostly because I’m the type of person who uses my time in the shower to de-stress and unwind, but they save a ton of water! If you’re super dedicated seriously check this out. Fill a bucket with water and use a smaller cup to dip into the bucket and pour the water over yourself. You can also try investing in showers that have lower water output.

Hope that gave you something to think about :). Like I’ve said, if you’re just getting into this eco-lifestyle don’t overdo it or you might burn out. That’s why I gave you the levels of “greenness”. Different levels for people with different eco-experience.

Baja

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Baja, Mexico. There, I will be researching (i.e. swimming with, photographing, and observing) whale sharks. Don’t worry though. They won’t be eating me because they are filter feeders (although they are the largest fish species)! They are also one of the least known about species in the world! They do not have regular migratory patterns (although they migrate through Baja every summer) which makes them really difficult to study. Even basic information such as growth, age at first reproduction, longevity and population size are unknown for the majority of populations.

While we’re there, we will be camping on the beach, getting out on a boat in the mornings to gather data and heading back to the research facility in the afternoons to analyze the data we gathered that morning. Hopefully, we will gather data that will help researchers learn more about whale sharks and how the environment (and human’s interactions with it) affect the species. There has been data suggesting that whale shark populations are declining due to factors such as biomagnification. Photos that we take while we’re in Baja will go through a spot-recognition program to identify individuals because they’re spots are like human fingerprints: none are exactly the same. We’ll also be collecting plankton samples to determine feeding patterns and amounts of food necessary for the whale sharks. Basically we’ll be trying to find out if human interaction with the oceanic ecosystem has caused a drop in life expectancy and reproduction of whale sharks. Which I’m really excited about…

I’m telling you this because I will be gone for the next two weeks camping and doing stuff with whale sharks. I’ve set up a bunch of recipes to pop up while I’m gone so keep checking the blog but if you have any questions for me or anything like that, it’ll take me a little bit to get back to you.

If you’re interested in whale sharks here are some sites you might find informative. And I have a ton of research articles I had to read for the trip so I can send you those if you’re REALLY interested in whale sharks :). I will be back soon and I hope you all have a great two weeks!