Monthly Archives: October 2012

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How to feed the world – Sustainable Farming

Just wanted to share a great video on sustainable farming vs the conventional system and which is better adapted to feed the world.

Vegan, Vegetarian, Selective Omnivore, Eco-tarian.. A love/hate relationship with labels.

I’ve recently realized that I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to fit into a dietary label. For 10 years I was a vegetarian. A Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian to be precise. I can’t really remember why I decided to stop eating meat. My uncle was the only vegetarian I knew and maybe that had an impact on me. I can remember thinking that meat was gross and not wanting to eat it from early on. I know I was, and still am, disgusted my the texture of some meat, and I cannot handle running into a “nasty bit” of tendon or fat or gristle.  I remember battles with my parents and being forced to sit at the table for what seemed like hours until I finished my meal, a battle of wills, which I usually won. Eventually they gave up trying to make me eat meat.

Once I proclaimed I was a vegetarian it felt as if there were no turning back. To cheat and have a bite of a delicious smelling chicken finger would mean the end of the world.. To this day I can vividly remember a school outing where all they had for lunch was Hot Dogs so I gave in and took a bite. Seconds later a friend of mine declared “So much for being a vegetarian!”. I never ever wanted to feel that embarrassment and shame again. To be called out as not a true vegetarian. Didn’t every meal of all the other 365 days a year count for anything?? Because I wanted to live up to my vegetarian standards I denied myself so many experiences. Being from Nova Scotia that meant not participating in clam boils, lobster cook-outs, fresh caught fish or mussels on the beach. It also meant no chicken fingers. Honestly I don’t know what my obsession with homemade chicken fingers is, but it’s the one food that can break me.

Finally after years of always saying no to any meat people offered (and people like to offer meat to a vegetarian) I finally said yes. To a bite of chicken. I had a rocky non-vegetarian beginning sometimes chicken was ok and other times it was not. A piece of vein in a subway sandwich would traumatize me yet golden delicious chicken fingers would bring me back. I slowly started to add seafood and fish into my diet, experiencing all of them for the first time again. I felt sad for having missed out on these foods fresh from the ocean. Eventually I made my way back to red meat as well, slowly, cautiously. My first taste was a piece of pepperoni pizza. Then burgers, and bacon, and so forth until my very first bite of steak. I can still remember it clearly (3 years ago). Even though it smelled horrible, it was quite juicy and tasty and made me want more.

I carried on in this manner for a while, not really thinking too much about what I was eating. Shocking people by telling them I was a vegetarian for 10 years. And every time feeling a tinge of regret that that title was no longer mine. Even tho it deprived me of many experiences there was also always a sense of pride that came with the vegetarian title. A pride in being able to deny impulses or be able to stick with your conviction, will-power. I never fully ate meat like a normal person, I would eat this but not that, and most of my meals were vegetarian anyways just out of habit or preference. But I did develop a love of good meat.. not the cheap rubbery fake meat that you get most places but of a really good steak, or burger, or glazed salmon, or juicy BBQ’d chicken.

And then I watched Food Inc. and read Eating Animals and my meat eating carefree world came crashing down. I was traumatized and devastated by what I learned. I vowed to regain my vegetarian status! Or maybe I could pass as an Selective Omnivore.. Or maybe Eco-tarian would be a better title. I mean, I can still eat meat sometimes.. If it comes from a good source.. Right? So we bought and buy free range organic bison, elk from a farmer down the road, 2 chicken breasts from planet organic, organic free range eggs, sea choice fish filets.. We’re only buying responsibly raised, sustainable, organic meat so why do I still feel crappy about it. Why must I think of all the environmental reasons to not eat meat too. The fact  that it requires so much more land, water, and energy to produce 1 lb of meat compared to 1 lb of grain.. That there really are no sustainable fisheries.. That free range literally means access to the outdoors which can mean a window.. Why can’t I just enjoy this meal.. And if not, why can’t I stick to my vegetarian label..

So far this year I’ve dabbled in a few labels. I like to think of myself as currently a vegetarian. A vegetarian who falls off the wagon for a bite of fish or chicken or meat every few months and then I think of myself as a selective omnivore.. I like the idea of veganism as well.. If it weren’t for cheese, and yogurt, and eggs, and honey.. Really I’m just a little weirded out  that we collect the breast milk of another animal and drink it. I even bought vegan cheese the other day. I guess to show my support more than anything.

One day I strive to not let these labels control me. To be completely secure in who I am, what I eat, and how I live. To not feel guilty that one meal out of 100 I have something non-vegetarian therefore can no longer carry that title.. Until then I’ll continue my love/hate relationship with labels and label myself accordingly.

~EcoCouple

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Frosting and our Organic Box

Our cat Nuri is also smitten with fall, her first ever =)

So I seem to be completely smitten with fall! I don’t what it is.. Maybe it’s the crisp country air or the abundance of leaves blowing around our yard that rustle underfoot. Maybe it’s that distinct smell that only lasts until the first snowfall or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never really taken the time to notice these things before.. but whatever it is fall seems so magical this year!

Even though it was just Thanksgiving not long ago and we had just finished up the last of our homemade pumpkin pie I decided more pumpkin was in order! And I put in an order for another sweet cooking pumpkin from our Organic Box:

A perfect cooking pumpkin, not too big, not too small.

Which is what led to these pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese icing! I adapted the recipe from The Baker Chick’s Triple Pumpkin Cupcakes to use my fresh pumpkin and voila:

Pumpkin Cupcakes

So I’m not the best cake decorator.. But these little guys are delicious and I can’t wait for my boyfriend to get home so he can try them, and hopefully eat all of them before I can.. Best tip for cooking with a fresh pumpkin is to bake the pumpkin first!! Don’t even try peeling, chopping, scrapping anything before you cook that baby in the oven at 375 F for at least an hour. The stem will become wiggly and that’s when you know it’s fully cooked. I had to add some extra flour to compensate for not using the thick canned pumpkin but I think they still turned out great!
Along with sharing this great pumpkin recipe I’d also like to encourage everyone to see if their local community has a program such as The Organic Box that I mentioned earlier! Signing up for our weekly delivery of organic produce has made such a difference in my grocery shopping habits and taken so much stress out of trying to choose the best products from the grocery store. They do all the research for me, coordinate with local farmers, and ensure that anything not locally grown is certified organic and fair-trade. They also let me choose what I want in my box each week so I can plan our meals ahead of time and keep me trying new fruits and veggies that I would not normally try from the grocery store (kuri squash, sunchoke and rapini to name a few).

And if I’m feeling really lazy and not wanting to go to the grocery store at all they also carry milk, eggs, cheese, bread, sauces, spices, grains for cooking and cereals for breakfast and even a whole section dedicated to chocolate.. It’s kind of unreal the amount of stuff they have. Some weeks you may not be able to get everything you ordered due to the nature of organic farming but they always either substitute you something else or give you credit back on your account. It’s a pretty great deal. Plus all the sauces, mixes, and extras are made locally so you’re supporting other local businesses as well! I feel like I sound like a paid supporter/advertiser for the organic box.. I swear I’m not! It’s just really that great!

Our Organic Box

We get one singles box delivered every wednesday and it’s more than enough veggies and fruit for the week!

In the summer we like to go to the Farmers Market for fresh produce as well but that shuts down in the fall. I also like that the organic box I buy allows for transitional products as well. That is, produce from farms that are transitioning to organic methods. Did you know it takes 3 years using organic methods for full certification? It’s to ensure that all the pesticides and residues are removed from the soil but I like the idea of supporting these farmers during the transition period.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Frosting

**makes 28-30 cupcakes***

  • 2 cups all-purpose enriched flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • One med size cooking pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup milk

Pumpkin Frosting:

  • 1/2 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Cook pumpkin for at least an hour or until soft. Let cool for 1/2 hour. Gently peel off skin (a spoon works great for this!) and then slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Save seeds to roast later for a delicious snack.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
  3. In a large bowl beat the pumpkin flesh (save 1/4 C for icing), brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Beat in the oil and milk. Slowly add the flour and spice mixture, adding more flour if needed until you get the right cupcake batter consistency.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan- filling each tin 2/3 of the way. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool on a rack for a few minutes and then pop them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting:

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Add the 1/4 C cooked pumpkin and mix until well mixed.
  3. Add the powdered sugar gradually until fluffy. Mix in spices. (add more powdered sugar if needed for thickness.) Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

**recipe adapted from TheBakerChick

~EcoCouple

Trip to Jasper and Apple Cranberry White Chocolate Scones!

On the sixth bridge at the Maligne Canyon.

For our anniversary this year we planned a little getaway to Jasper, AB. The mountains in Alberta and British Columbia are absolutely stunning and we like to take every opportunity we can to spend time appreciating the Canadian wilderness. We picked the Tonquin Inn for our stay over the weekend mostly because it was in our price range and it had outdoor hot tubs which would be perfect for soaking in after a day of hiking. We planned to do one or two hikes during our stay and picked Mount Edith Cavell and Opal Hills which both had great reviews on a hiking forum but unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the Edith Cavell hike had been closed for a couple months due to a glacier falling and destroying the road in and the trail. This made me very sad to hear and see first hand the effects of global warming happening so close to home.

First thing Saturday morning we needed to find a good breakfast spot! I read some reviews on Yelp quickly since my phone was dying and we decided on Lou Lou’s Breakfast and Pizzeria. We both were pretty hungry and prepping for a day of hiking so I decided on waffles and fruit and my boyfriend chose french toast and fruit. Bad choice. Now when I think of waffles and fruit I think of berries or peaches or even cinnamon apple slices not Dole canned tropical fruit mix.. It was terrible and I swear the fruit was rotten too.. Shadoe said that fruit cocktail sometimes tastes like that but something was not right and neither of us ate it. Seeing how we don’t eat canned fruit anyways paying for it at a restaurant seemed ridiculous.

It had snowed overnight and when we got up in the morning the road to the Opal Hills hike was also closed.. So much for our two hikes. We decided to do the Maligne Canyon hike instead and spent the day trekking up and down the Canyon. It was so beautiful, especially with the fresh snow and ice!

For lunch we stopped at Coco’s Cafe a cute little cafe which caters to vegan and vegetarian diets, after some delicious paninis we did some wandering around town and stubbled upon the best chocolate/candy store of life! We stocked up on elk hooves, bear paws, and hazelnut dumplins, all insanely delicious!

After a nice long soak in the hot tub and swim in the pool we went for dinner at Fiddle River. It was pretty pricey but sooo worth every penny! They had lots of organic ingredients and the meat on their menu was organic beef, elk and bison. I ended up getting the phyllo wrapped arctic char and while I usually stick to vegetarian meals when eating out I was so glad I opted for the fish. It was the most delicious fish I’ve had in a very long time. I pretty much stopped eating all meat, chicken and fish during the past year after learning about the factory farming industry or all the environmental reasons to not eat meat but this piece of fish was a welcome treat! My boyfriend got the bison lasagna and said his was amazing as well. Definitely gets a thumbs up from us and if you are in Jasper you must stop here!!

After returning home I realized I hadn’t changed our order for our organic box and that we’d be getting another 5lb bag of apples. So I guess I’ll be making apple everything for the next couple weeks. To start things off I came up with a recipe for apple cranberry white chocolate scones. Yum!

All my add-ins – I like to add ground flax seed, quinoa flakes, chia seeds, hemp hearts (whatever I have on hand really) to give most recipes a health boost.

Delicious Jonagold apples from our organic box. These apples are now my new favorite!

Scones that are soft and moist on the inside but crisp on the outside – perfect.

I know I didn’t include any extra sugar, honey or other sweeteners to this recipe but it’s plenty sweet with all the white chocolate chunks!
Apple Cranberry White Chocolate Scones
*Makes 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 med apple shredded
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs quinoa flakes
  • 1 Tbs ground flax seed
  • 2/3 cup chopped white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F
  2. Mix flour, salt, nutmeg, baking power, and baking soda in large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Add the shredded apple, quinoa flakes, flax seed, chocolate and cranberries then slowly pour milk into mixture. Stir until just mixed.
  5. Knead mixture a few times just until it forms a ball (4-5 times). On a floured surface, pat out dough into a rectangular shape and slice into triangles or whatever shape you prefer.
  6. Place dough triangles on a prepared pan and cook for 15 mins.

*Recipe adapted from MyRecipes

Oh we also ran into a ton of Elk and Sheep on the drive back to Edmonton. Since we only had iphones for cameras these aren’t the best pics but I wanted to share the cute baby sheep!

Cute baby sheep, love the hair tufts on his head.

Sheep!

~EcoCouple

Introduction!

So this is my first attempt at blogging! I’m sure everyone’s first blog starts the exact same way.. AND since it is my first post I figured I’d say a little something about who we are and the purpose of this blog!

First off,  my name is Sara and my boyfriend is Shadoe (He’s actually got a real life hippie name! I’m a little jealous). A little over a year ago we were living and working up in the Yukon Territory of Canada, which is an extremely beautiful place, and I urge everyone to take a trip up north at some time in your life! Anyways up in the north there’s really not much else to do but go hiking, fishing, and other outdoorsey stuff, seeing how you’re in the middle of nowhere! So when the weather was crappy we used to stay inside and watch our  2-3 TV channels, one of which used to show all kinds of eco documentaries. Well we fell down the rabbit hole.. I couldn’t get enough and when we moved back to Edmonton, AB I started watching and reading everything I could over the next year. Food Inc., The Corporation, No Impact Man, Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer, just to name a few. We decided that we needed to change the way we were living. It started out very slowly and very difficultly. I remember so many arguments over who was doing more, or what was ok, what was not ok. It was and still is a tough process to go through. To try to live consciously but to also be happy and ok with the choices your making.

At that time I was studying Neuroscience at the University of Alberta, but it just did not feel right.. I felt I was trying to make myself be something I wasn’t and wasn’t sure who I wanted to be. I quit after that one semester back and got a job. I had a Biology degree from the U of A but I could not find a single job I was interested in (probably cause I did not know what my interests were) and like so many other grads found a job in an unrelated yet booming field.. Working for an oil company.. I lasted about 4 months there until I found I could not justify it any longer and I quit. My boyfriend started his own construction business which we are hoping to one day turn into building Eco-Friendly homes and I decided to stay home and start really trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Our new backyard! Much better than the cement slab behind our old apartment..

We moved from the city to the country. I started a garden in my yard, which for my first time turned out very sucessful! I even got a couple chickens from a neighbour and my landlord, who lives next door, let me clean out and use their old chicken coop which hadn’t been used in 10 years. I started baking and cooking everything from scratch (and using only organic ingredients of course!). I tried my hand at homemade pesticides, homemade laundry soap, homemade everything! I got an old sewing machine and started sewing my own clothes, mending old clothes, making rugs, and reusable sandwich bags!

The very first sprout to emerge in my garden. It’s a sunflower that will end up being 8′ tall! You can see our tiny house in the background too!

It’s been almost 3 months since I left my job and I couldn’t be happier. My boyfriends business is doing well, and although it’s a lot of work I love our new lifestyle! As the fall and winter approaches I am going to be looking for a part time job, since there won’t be as much to do around the house without the garden and chickens (I have to give them back for the winter so they don’t freeze). But I’ve discovered organic stores nearby that I’d feel proud to work at.

CHICKENS!! They were timid about going outside at first (they came from battery cages) and they walked a little funny but now they love it out there!

I wanted to start a blog to show others out there going through the process of making changes to become more sustainable that everyone struggles and to not give up because it gets so much easier over time! And it just feels so rewarding when you look back to see how far you’ve come! We still have a ways to go before obtaining our dream of living completely off the land and creating our own energy and harvesting our own food, water, etc.

Knowing that there are so many others out there willing to help and work together makes it a lot easier to see our dream one day becoming a reality!

~EcoCouple