With all the talk about oatmeal lately, I was so excited to hear from a friend about a fermented oatmeal recipe using miso paste. I know, you are probably asking yourself, what the heck are you doing adding miso to oatmeal? Similar to other fermented foods like the raw fermented sauerkraut, unpasturized miso contains lactobacillus, the “friendly” bacteria, and other microorganisms that help create a healthy digestive environment. So, in adding miso to oatmeal during the cooling process you began the fermentation and you end up getting the best of both worlds - all the good stuff of oatmeal and the digestive power of the miso.
To try a little fermentation at home, all you need to do is too cook the oats in the evening before bed about for about 5 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Let the oatmeal cool and when it reaches room temperature, add the miso, cover and let sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning warm and serve. I love South River Sweet White, pictured above, which is a little pricey but contains 60 servings! I tried it with steel cut oats and despite Rhaya’s creative ideas from yesterday, didn’t need to add anything. The original recipe found here, has other suggestions for various miso flavors and different grains, but it is imperative that you use unpasturized miso.
Banana Nut Oatmeal
I have yet to to taste a better bowl of oatmeal than the one my sister-in-law, Allison, makes. So as temperatures once again dropped below freezing this past weekend, I called on Allison for her recipe, and decided to warm up the weekend by celebrating National Oatmeal Month and making some oatmeal of my own.
Oatmeal is all about customization, and even though I ended up straying from Allison’s recipe (which includes dates, molasses and her favorite 9-grain cereal from Whole Foods), I did take her tip of substituting milk for some (or all) of the water that the recipe calls for.
I followed the instructions on the Organic Old-Fashioned Oats package from Trader Joe’s, but I opted for adding the oats right away rather than after the water is simmering, which results in a softer oatmeal. Then, while it was still on the stove top, I stirred in a little maple syrup and organic brown sugar. I scooped it into a bowl and then topped it off with organic bananas and walnut pieces.
Oatmeal can be as traditional or unique as you want it. Whether you add Molasses and Dates, or Goji Berries and Agave Nectar, or are like Renee, who eats her “ugly oatmeal” on the go, don’t overlook this hearty and wholesome breakfast that can be made just the way YOU like it.
Warm Up To a Bowl of Oats
Did you know that January is National Oatmeal Month? It’s a perfect time of year to start warming up to a bowl every morning. Just one bowl a day helps to lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and ward off cardiovascular disease. It’s low in fat, high in protein and delivers a hefty amount of soluble and insoluble fiber, manganese and selenium. And a warm and hearty bowl in the morning will take you right through till lunch.
Steer clear of the instant stuff though since it is often loaded with extra sugars and processed to the point that the good stuff mentioned above is nonexistent! Look for the rolled oats which are “groats” (the oat grain) that have been hulled, steamed and rolled flat into flakes. Or, for a little bit different texture, I love steel-cut oats which are natural, unrefined oat groats that have been cut into two or three small pieces by steel blades with a minimal amount of heat.
I like to have oats as a hot cereal for breakfast, but also you can also use them in baking cookies, breads, pancakes, and I often use oats in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf. Make sure to check back tomorrow for a healthy oatmeal breakfast recipe from Rhaya!
Smart cars, which have been popular in Europe for years, are starting to pop up around the U.S. — including here in the Midwest. (The dealership pictured above is only a few miles from my house.) They may look cute and cuddly, but how smart really are the new Smart cars? Here’s a run-down:
MPG: According to the Smart car web site the vehicle is designed to achieve 33 city/41 highway mpg (according to 2008 EPA standards). Even though the revised EPA standards are giving out lower, more realistic, numbers this one still surprised me. Compared to the Toyota Prius which is listed at 48 city/45 highway mpg and the Honda Civic Hybrid which is 40 city/45 highway mpg, I expected Smart car’s ratings to be higher given it’s size and weight.
Size: Anyone who has seen this car knows it looks tiny. It is only 8.8 feet long and the height and width both measure 5.1 feet. However, according to their site, it provides “as much headroom as most luxury vehicles, and can fit two six foot, five inch plus people side by side with plenty of shoulder room to spare.” There is obviously no back seat, though, which limits the ability to travel in groups greater than two.
Cost: Compared to the Prius, Smart cars definitely are more affordable. The fortwo pure will start at $11,590.
In conclusion, there are a lot of options as to how to lessen your environmental impact by the choice of car that you drive and MPGs are only part of the equation. Just remember that your greenest transportation available is always going to be riding a bike or taking your own two feet.
The Soup Loot
I ended up having such a great time celebrating National Soup Swap Day Wednesday! Pictured above is my contribution, a local Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup, frozen, labeled and all ready for the big swap. There were nine of us participating and after a little chatting and snacks we kicked it off with the telling of the soup and then drew numbers for the swap. I luckily drew the number one, and here is what I came home with:
- Tomato-Peanut Stew (sounds weird, I know, but it was my first pick and I have already tried it-delicious!!)
- Greens & Beans
- Vegetarian Chili
- Chickpea, Tomato & Spelt
You can see that there was a lot of variety and in addition to those listed above, there were also a few other yummy temptations like a Hungarian Mushroom and a Chicken Noodle Soup that had been passed down a few generations! Check out the “Almost Foodies” pictures.
Running on Empty?
Choose your gas station wisely. The U.S. consumes around 400 million gallons of gas per day. Even if you are driving a hybrid, you still need to fill up now and again, so why not choose a company that has an environmental conscience? The Sierra Club has updated their Pick Your Poison Guide, which lists a run down of the best (and the worst) places to fill your tank (shown below). Visit Pick Your Poison for more details on how this list was determined.
Top of the Barrel (Make it a habit to always fill up at these stations.)
Middle of the Barrel (When you can’t find a BP or Sunoco, choose one of these companies.)
– Royal Dutch Shell
– Valero Energy Corporation
Bottom of the Barrel (Avoid these stations at all costs.)
Today is National Soup Swap Day! I’ll be participating in my first swap tonight with a group called ”Almost Foodies.” It’s my first time, but here is what I am expecting: a group of people each make 6 quarts of soup, freeze it into 1 quart containers, bring it to the soup swap party, tell their soup’s story, then pick 6 new containers of different soups to take home for the freezer to enjoy for the rest of winter.
So, to prepare, Sunday I set out to find a freezable, “local,” soup that I could bring and I found this wonderful Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup (pictured above with a drizzle of maple syrup) by The Juniper Spoon, a whole foods catering service in central Indiana, courtesy of Victoria at Going-Local. The bulk of the soup was locally grown from the butternut squash, apples, to the garlic, and, of course, the maple syrup was harvested locally as well. I can’t say it was quick, since I had to triple it to get 6 quarts (which ends up being a lot of chopping!), but it was super-easy and really tasty.
I’ll be excited to see the other swapper’s creations and will be equally excited to tell the story of my soup, sharing all the good of “going local.” And, it’s not to late to organize your own, who says you have to have it on the official day?
Burt’s Bees Bought By Clorox
I have always been a big fan of Burt’s Bees products. We recommended them as gifts, and I received some for Christmas as well (thanks Allison!). It is hard to say no to a product that lists the percentage of natural ingredients (which is, on average, 99%) directly on the packaging (which is minimal, recycled and recyclable). They don’t test on animals and a good portion of their products score pretty well on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
So, what’s this about Clorox? As I was reading (online) the most recent issue of E/The Environmental Magazine, I was surprised to see that Burt’s Bees was sold to Clorox (yes, Clorox) for over $900 million in cash, leaving the former (and founding) owner without a financial stake or a formal role with the company. (More about Burt’s Bees somewhat soap-opera-like past can be found in this NYTimes article.)
So what does this mean for us consumers? According to the Burt’s Bees Blog the company “will continue, without compromise, to develop the best natural personal care formulas, environmentally sensitive packaging and nature-safe manufacturing processes.” Sound too good to be true? It seems that we will find out soon enough, since the CEO promises to give “an honest and transparent progress report in six months time.”
Most commonly known for its use in making tequila, the Blue Agave plant is just one of several species of the agave plant that can be harvested to produce agave nectar, a wonderful sugar alternative.
The proces is essentially this: juice is extracted from the core of the plant, heated, filtered, and then concentrated to form the agave nectar or syrup. Think honey, but with a thinner, less viscous, and an almost cleaner taste. It’s predominately made up of fructose, and while it has a very concentrated, sweet, flavor, it actually has a lower glycemic index rating than similar sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. This means that it is not so destructive on your blood sugar levels as it releases gradually into your bloodstream rather than the direct injection you get with regular sugar.
I use it to add a little sweetness in hot tea, salad dressings, smoothies and as a substitute to the processed stuff in other sweet treats like this one. Try substituting it into a few of your recipes, it’s sweeter than regular sugar, though, so start by cutting the amount called for in half and go from there. One of my favorites is the Organic Nectars Raw Agave Syrup, a local company in upstate NY, and I have also tried and liked this one.
And if you are a runner, triathlete, or other endurance sport enthusiast, the little travel size sticks are an awesome pick-me-up during your training or an event.
Joe To Go
I always carry my morning cup of coffee in a refillable mug, but lately, I have also been craving a small cup of joe after my evening workout. (I imagine this might have something to do with the complimentary coffee offered at my gym, and the cold temps outside.)
My reusable mug doesn’t quite fit in the coffee dispensing contraption at the gym, but I can’t bring myself to continue to use the little styrofoam cups they provide. According to the EPA, 25 billion polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) cups are thrown away every year in this country! (Need more reasons to carry your own mug? Check out this article on the Daily Green.)
After searching online, I found this great little reusable mug from Timolino. This thing is so tiny! It holds 7 oz. which is a perfect amount for my post-workout coffee. And by adding and cream or sweetener before I add my coffee, I eliminate the need for a stirrer.