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The Papaya That Changed My Life

Alright. I have a confession to make.

I am a fruit addict.

You think I’m kidding. But this is serious. My whole life I have loved fruit more than anything. I chalk it up mainly to the fact that when I was young if we were hungry before dinner, my parents would allow us to eat fruit but nothing else or we would ruin our dinners. That and the fact that I think fruit is the universal tastiest thing in the world. As a child, I brought fruit in my lunches, ate fruit after school, was treated with fuji apples straight off of a tree in my backyard, have had mango trees, orange trees, grapefruit trees, etc. And if you made me give up fruit for more than a week, I’m pretty sure I’d die. In Mexico last summer, we went about a week without fruit and I started to buy canned fruit because I missed fruit so much. And believe me when I say I don’t like canned fruit.

As far as I’m concerned, fruit is the only thing I need to live off of. Which is why I was so surprised when I met a girl who hated all fruit. She didn’t discriminate. She really disliked it all. And I have to say, I’m pretty sure that’s a testament to our present day food system. I admit that when it comes to fruit, it is very difficult for me to wait for strawberry season (I love them). It’s even harder for me to wait for that precious time of the year when peaches are juicy and sweet since I tend to think of peaches as my favorite fruit (but only at this time of the year). There’s nothing better than a watermelon on a summer day (even though as I stated in my last post they don’t really belong on our plates until late summer). And living a life without bananas would be really difficult for me (since they almost solely come from Ecuador and surrounding countries). But the other thing I have learned from buying these fruits off-season is that they don’t taste the same. In fact, sometimes I ruin an entire fruit for myself by refusing to wait for the right time of the year to partake in it. And this is what I think my elementary school friend was going through.

I don’t think she hated all fruit. I think she thought she did because her parents had fed her fruit that was grown in a country far away with bug repellants, fertilizers, and weed killers;  picked when it was not ripe so that by the time it made it all the way to America it would look correct; and eventually fed to her tasting exactly as you would think given that it was more chemical than fruit. I can honestly say that I am lucky we had fruit trees in our backyard, that my dad would stop at a strawberry stand during strawberry season, and that in summer we would buy crates of peaches that were so delicious they would be gone in a day.

But here’s my secret: I have always disliked one fruit (and no I’m not talking about tomatoes). I couldn’t understand how this fruit was still for sale in markets. It was the papaya. My most dreaded enemy. Papaya in salsas, papaya juice, papaya by itself… I just wasn’t that into it. In fact, the only memory I have of actually enjoying a papaya was when my family vacationed in Hawaii and I had a papaya salsa there.

So imagine my thought process when my neighbor came by with the load of fruit and along with everything else was a papaya as big as my face.

I wasn't kidding. That is the world's largest papaya.

I honestly thought I’d have to give the thing away. Or hide it in something with a really strong taste. But I decided to give it another try… if not solely because I thought I owed a papaya that big some sort of recognition. And here’s the crazy thing… I didn’t hate it… I actually really liked it… And I ate an entire half of that papaya in one sitting (which is a feat I am quite proud of).

So I guess this is the lesson: not that papaya is the most amazing fruit (I still vote for peaches) but instead that the reason your kids, or your friends, or potentially you yourself don’t like a fruit may be that you’re trying to force it to be good in an environment in which it is not accustomed. Either that, or you’re eating it after being sprayed with every chemical you can think of and shipped thousands of miles to get to you. I know I don’t feel or smell so great after a long plane flight. If you do, props to you. But why do we expect any different of fruit?

I am lucky enough to be in a country that has every type of fruit you can imagine year round. But they also have the weather and soil for fruit. I’ve had so many bananas and plantains (the staple foods on the Ecuadorian coast) that I may even have to take a little break from them. But here’s the crazy thing: I really miss vegetables. And yes, I really like vegetables. It’s not like my palate has changed away from fruit. I am a happy little fruit fly in Ecuador. But it’s difficult to find vegetables down here (sometimes they’re even imported from America).

So I guess here’s the thing: we all want what we can’t have. It’s true of heights (I know. I’m 6’0 and would love to shrink a little), hair color, skin color, eye color, houses, and yes. Even fruit. But just as we’re forced to make due with the our skin, eye, and hair colors, we also need to learn to stop pushing fruit season. It’s not helping us rid ourselves of a craving. It’s making us a culture that doesn’t enjoy fruit the way we used to. And if you don’t know what season each fruit is available in… there’s always google OR (and I recommend this method) heading down to your local farmer’s market (where you keep money in your local economy and can talk to farmers about produce and make relationships with them). Chances are, if a fruit is not available at the farmers market, it’s not the correct season for that fruit.

So yes. Papaya did change my life a little. I think next winter I’ll stick to the winter apples that are available, and enjoy eating some vegetables for a change.

To stop you from being too jealous of my land of plenty, I will admit that the land of plentiful fruit is also the land of plentiful hormigas (ants) which I really hate and which daily find their way into my apartment. So don’t get too jealous. But here’s a tip I learned down here: they really really really really really hate white vinegar. 

UPDATE: I have also been having way too much fun making fruit juices. So far: watermelon, watermelon-mint, watermelon-cantaloupe-mint, papaya, papaya-cantaloupe, and the cantaloupe, cantaloupe-mint concoctions of last post.
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Thanksgivegetarian

I’ve finally done it. I am a full-blown vegetarian… and let me tell you: I definitely do miss sushi and fish tacos and salmon of any kind… I really really do. And I’m pretty sure any vegetarian or vegan that tells you they don’t is lying to you. It’s only been two days and I’ve definitely craved fish more often than I did when I ate fish… I think it’s one of those you want what you can’t have moments. To mark the occasion (not really but they happened on the same day), my hair is now auburn. Yes… I chose to become a ginger.

That was completely besides the point. Here’s the point: I know if you’ve read my blog you know these things, but if you’re new to the Green Bean, here are my reasons for going vegetarian.

  1. I was already a pescetarian. Cow flatulence is one of the leading causes of methane emissions. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20x as powerful as carbon dioxide. It takes more to feed one cow to be of size than it would to multiple people for a year. The steroids and antibiotics fed to the cows end up in our water sources, making them unsuitable for consumption. Check out this post for more on why the meat industry hurts the environment.
  2. Overfishing. It’s a huge problem affecting our waterways and farming fish is not yet a suitable alternative. There are some ways to be better about eating farmed fish, such as using US Raised fish, however, there are many kinks in the system that need to be worked out. Check out this post for more about that.
  3. I really eat mostly vegetarian these days anyways. I rarely eat fish, though I am a huge shrimp fan… but I will learn.
  4. I really needed a change. (Hence the hair). This is something I’ve been working towards for a long time so I figured I might as well do it already.
  5. I feel like I got worn out writing this blog and part of that was because I felt no one was really following what I said… but I wasn’t either. I need to practice what I preach and be a good example. Cutting back on fish is a good step, but the ocean is one of the most overused resources. As an Environmental Science major emphasizing in Aquatic Biology, I heard my professors talk about this all the time and I did not heed their advice. I didn’t know how to continue writing this blog without stopping eating fish.

So those are my reasons. If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to leave a comment about them. Other than that, I’m no longer going to discuss my eating habits. I’m just going to help you be more sustainable with yours. As always, if I ever make dinner for my family or friends, I’ll throw up those recipes (especially if they involve fish or meat) so don’t think it’ll be only bunny food from here on out.

As for Thanksgiving, I really hope you all had great ones! I hope you celebrated with your families, too much food, and too much laughter. If you’re looking for a great recipe, check out  from my friend Lauren’s blog, Whole Wheat or Bust! It’s for Pumpkin Pecan Muffins and they look delicious! I reviewed them for sustainability below.

As for my Thanksgiving, I spent it with my mom, dad, sister, two dogs, and three cats. We ate delicious mashed root veggies that my mom has passed me the recipe for (stay tuned), crab legs (my last meal), stuffing, butternut squash cubes, vegetarian gravy (stay tuned for this as well), and so much pie–> apple, pumpkin, pumpkin cheesecake, and cookies (my mom makes Christmas cookies over Thanksgiving every year). So basically, we had a delicious feast. And of course my parents had some turkey breast. Since my mom was the one who got me into cooking, it was obviously delicious. Happy Thanksgiving weekend! Keep relaxing and sleeping off the turkey :).

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

ECO-Benefits

  1. Whole wheat means no extra processing means less energy used. And of course healthier for you.
  2. Lauren adds tips to make these muffins vegan which means no animal production involved means less energy and less vegetation being used to feed these animals meaning more sustainable quality!
  3. This recipe includes mostly pantry staples meaning no extra car trips to the grocery store to make these. And anything you don’t have can probably be changed to something you do. Don’t have pecans? Use almonds! Don’t have pumpkin? Make them banana nut muffins and use this recipe for a base.

Back In Action

Hey everyone! It’s been forever… believe me I know… and I have a thousand excuses for why that is… but I’m not going to go through those. Instead, I’m going to try to make it up to you by giving you some awesome recipes over the next weeks, by giving you some good information on how to eat eco-friendly, and by telling you a little bit about my life outside of the blog world.

As for my life outside of the blog world… I have recently been hired as the Promotions Coordinator for Santa Barbara’s only community radio station, KCSB 91.9FM. That by itself has been a huge part of my life this year. I really live, eat, and breathe the station. I love my job, I love the people I work with, and I love the the people who program at the station. Everyone is beyond passionate about their music, public affairs, and sports programs. It’s really inspiring. My show, The Left Lane, airs every Sunday from 2-4pm (and live streams online at KCSB.org if you aren’t in the Santa Barbara area). It’s a surf and psychedelic rock show on which I tend to have themes or interviews with local bands. Everything about the radio station really is a de-stressor and when I’m having a bad day, it’s the only place I want to be.

As for the Environmental aspect of my life, I am taking two upper division ES classes this quarter, along with a Philosophy class (about ethics) and my last Physics course (thank goodness!). I’m inspired by my ES130A class which is Humans in the Environment. It’s a cross-listed course in both the Environmental and Anthropology disciplines. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about it in the near future.

As for the rest of my life, I finally feel like I’ve found my niche at UCSB. It was difficult at first with a lot of trial and error moments, but the radio station, my housemates last year, and this amazing open mic night known as Bean Night have really shown me a group of people that are not concerned with looks or views or gender… they’re real and only ask that you are too. In Santa Barbara that’s really a breath of fresh air (no hard feelings to my friends outside of that who are amazing and make my life wonderful as well…you guys rock too!).

As for recipes: get ready. I have some wonderful foods coming your way as soon as I charge my camera battery :). Talk to you all soon!

Right after being in a pie-eating contest (it was disgusting). I got third place!

Spring (Eli), Summer (me), Fall (Raisa). Happy belated Halloween!

 

Mini Cheesecakes

I know that I just made cheesecake but let me tell you why I’m posting about it again:

  1. I made it greener this time around.
  2. It was one of my best friend’s 21st birthday’s and he really likes my cheesecake (or so he tells me).
  3. I made all sorts of flavors so you can see some of the great things you can do with cheesecake :).

I made 21 mini cheesecakes (I know it seems like a lot–> it WAS –> but they were shared between a couple of us that went to Catalina to celebrate his 21st and he’s taking the rest home for the familia) in five different flavors: raspberry, chocolate, cookie dough, regular, and cookies n’ cream PLUS I used the extra for a pie-sized raspberry swirl cheesecake.

Mini Cheesecakes

(I cut the recipe for you so it makes 10 mini cheesecakes approximately)

  • Oreos, crushed and/or Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • Vegan Margarine, enough to coat oreos and/or grahams
  • 4 bars Neufchatel Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla
  • 3 Eggs

Mix the Oreos and/or Grahams with melted vegan margarine. Place into small ramekins (such as little pyrex bowls). Mix the rest of the ingredients together for the base of all of the cheesecakes. Then divide the batter into as many types as you want (I did 5). Add different ingredients to each: for raspberry, mix crushed raspberries with a little powdered sugar and mix into cheesecake batter, for cookies n’ cream, chop Oreos and mix into batter, for cookie dough, leave plain but place a ball of cookie dough on top of the crust in one of the ramekins and top with plain cheesecake mix, add melted chocolate to make chocolate cheesecake). Pour batter on top of crusts in the ramekins and bake for ~30 minutes at 400 degrees or until they do not wiggle in the middle when you shake them.

ECO-BENEFITS

  1. Smaller versions of cheesecake mean no waste! You don’t need to make a whole big cheesecake (just cut the recipe down for less), and if you do make more than you were expecting, you can freeze some of them! Plus, they’re easier to give away than a whole cheesecake–>no one will worry you’re trying to ruin their waistline.
  2. Vegan margarine instead of butter cuts back on the animal byproduct (though I know that cheesecake is full of it). Every little bit helps :).
  3. Organic neufchatel anyone? No pesticides go into the crops fed to the animals used to produce the cheese, and no growth hormones end up in you. A.k.a. you keep pesticides and growth hormones out of yourself and the water!
  4. I cut back on the eggs a little. You only need enough eggs to allow the binding to occur.
  5. If there is extra batter like there was for me, you can combine it to create cool flavors! I ended up with extra raspberry and extra regular but it made a great raspberry swirl! Try combining chocolate and cookies n’ cream. Or chocolate and cookie dough.

Ketchup

Alrighty. I’d just like to say that I am very sorry for my absence. My finals took over my life even more than I had been anticipating and moving out of my apartment was quite a chore. But, I’m back!!! And since I’m officially on summer lounging around at the beach, and traversing the South, I will be posting quite regularly and I’m hoping that the quality of the pictures and recipes will be improving. And I’ll definitely have time for research, so I’ll hopefully be avoiding anymore little mistakes.

Today, I’d like to talk about ketchup. A delicious condiment that’s good on everything from fries to Cheetos (a childhood favorite–>if you’re having a bad day some day definitely check it out if you don’t believe me). I realize that if you’re looking for healthy food to eat you may already be changing your ways from the normal Heinz (packed full of high fructose corn syrup) to some healthier version–>and more power to you if that’s your calling. For me, I’m more worried about the environmental risks of the high fructose corn syrup. Check out more on that here. Again, everything in moderation.

BUT one thing I cannot stand is what I encountered yesterday on my drive home from school. My dad and I had been stuck in traffic for two hours (through what should’ve taken 45 minutes) and we were hungry. We pulled off the road and all we could find was a fast food restaurant. And I really don’t like fast food. BUT just like the average American has realized: it’s cheaper, it’s faster, and it can taste good if you’re craving fats, salts, and oils. At this particular restaurant they didn’t have much in the way of vegetarian foods but I settled for a quesadilla (I’m positive one without organic cheese). And aside from the lack of vegetarian food, the abundance of wrappers (complete waste of resources), and the overall uneco-friendly vibe fast food restaurants have… I reached my limit with the ketchup. I’m going to say this once and only once. THERE IS NO REASON IN THE WORLD THAT WE SHOULD INDIVIDUALLY WRAP KETCHUP PACKETS (OR OTHER CONDIMENTS)! I get that ketchup on-the-go makes for a logical “let’s put it in a packet” sort of a thing. But let’s discuss these packets:

  • These are not single-serving packets. I’ve never known anyone who did not need at least two or three. That leads to excess packet waste.
  • These are not recyclable, not compostable, not anything like that. They’re going straight to landfills and are going to take until our children’s children’s children’s children’s…etc. life to maybe have decomposed.
  • If you’re eating inside a restaurant (like sitting down and not taking the stuff to go) there is no excuse for the packets. It’s probably even cheaper to have bottles rather than get thousands of packets and have them all individually labeled for your company.
  • Even bottled ketchup has its drawbacks in terms of packaging so I propose refillable glass bottles. Or something of the sort.
  • And for the consumer on-the-go I want to see at least recyclable packaging (though I’d prefer compostable).

If the majority of Americans are eating at fast-food-restaurants, if we’re actually worried about our planet at all, this should be the place to start our call for more environmentally friendly practices. It’s really not kosher that the place where most Americans eat have so much waste. They fly their food from wherever they can get it cheapest, they have excess packaging, and the STUPID ketchup packets are just the icing on top of the cake.

The Results Are In!

So today was the big competition. And when I say big I had NO idea how big it was really going to be. There were probably 40 contestants and about 50ish people came to eat and judge the entries. It was crazy!

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes people really surprise me. Today was one of those days. The contestants were all so friendly, so creative, and so knowledgeable about sustainable cooking. The majority of the recipes were vegan and all of them were at least vegetarian. There was everything from carrot sushi to carrot cake pancakes!

The recipes were judged based on four categories (with one winner in each category):

  1. Taste
  2. Appearance
  3. Creativity
  4. Use of Sustainable Ingredients

The judging process left me with no wins, however, I’m very proud of the work I, and my fellow contestants, did. I walked away with a lot of votes thrown in my direction, and the epitome of the night was when one of the people throwing the event came up to me and told me that my dish was hands down her favorite (she proceeded to scrape the bottom of my bowl and eat the remnants of the pasta). Other highlights of the night included being voted one of the top sustainable recipes and the fact that there was no pasta left after the competition was over.

Tonight gave me a taste of a sustainable cooking competition… and now I’m getting ready to enter many more.

How to “Green” Your Caffeine

Ok. So I have a confession… Between my roommate, A, and I I’m pretty sure we have every tea sold in the world. It’s a little bit of an obsession in our apartment.

So… when you have a physics midterm the next day (like I do tomorrow) how exactly do you make your caffeine addiction more environmentally friendly (without kicking it completely)?

  1. Loose leaf tea! You can get cool tea infusers (basically just wire mesh nets) so that the tea leaves don’t end up floating around in your tea. And you’re not wasting all of those one-use tea bags.
  2. When you’re on the go, bring your own mug or thermos instead of getting to-go cups.
  3. If you’re making your own tea or hot cocoa, the teapot does not need to be whistling for the tea to be boiling. By the time it’s whistling you wouldn’t be able to drink it anyways!
  4. Buy organic fair-trade brews! They’re out there and a lot of times are as or more delicious as other types. (More on why free-trade is more eco-friendly in another post).
  5. Choose sustainable products! They’re out there. Look for words like “Rainforest Alliance”, “Bird Friendly”, or “Shade Grown”. These may be more expensive, but if you’re avoiding the coffeehouse, you’ll have a bunch of extra money! Woohoo!
  6. Skip those bottled sodas, coffees, and teas.

The reason you should be worried about where your tea is coming from? How about saving the rainforests! That’s where most of the ingredients for your caffeine addictions come from. And those rainforests are what counter-act the effects of our greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation is leading to an inability to offset carbon dioxide and the harvesting process includes greenhouse gas emissions (Kate Geagan). Teas and coffees are grown in these locations (which should also make you worried about regulation), they are processed products (sorting, roasting, and grinding), and they have to be transported long distances. SO… really look into the “greener” varieties. It could do a lot!