Tag Archives: Organic

We’re going to South America!!

So I’ve been keeping a secret for the past little while but now that I’ve finally put in my notice at work I have some exciting news! We’re going to South America!!

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Mount Fitzroy, Patagonia. One of the hikes we have planned for while we are there. They say Patagonia is a real life Narnia. I can’t wait to see it in person! Photo credit: http://www.tcktcktck.org

Like the hippies at heart we are we both quit our jobs and are going backpacking again! This time with a proper backpack instead of a giant suitcase on my part.. As you can tell I am extremely excited! I’m also super excited about what we’re going to learn down there. We first heard of the wwoof organization (Willing Workers On Organic Farms or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) while in Australia 3 years ago. We actually just stumbled upon a membership book on the free bookshelf at our hostel and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We contacted a couple farms nearby and heard back from one with a kangaroo petting farm and eco-tourism style venue where they held parties and weddings and hummer tours through the rainforest. I know a hummer is not the most eco-friendly vehicle but it was pretty cool nonetheless. We had planned on wwoofing again while we were there but sudden flooding in the area forced our plans to change as the farms we contacted were now housing their neighbours.. It also cut off our route south so we stayed put at another farm planting watermelons and pruning mango trees.

Anyways before I get too side-tracked reminiscing.. This time around we knew we wanted to learn as much as possible about sustainable living and what better way than get some hands on experience in a place we can’t wait to visit.  Many of the organic farms are almost completely self-sufficient with water collection units, solar panels, woodstoves, and yes even composting toilets. Not only do they grow all their own food including animal husbandry for meat or wool they try to use their own water, heat, and energy sources. I’m hoping that after spending a few months living like that we will pick up on enough tips and tricks to put it in action back home.

If you haven’t heard of WWOOF I suggest checking them out. It’s an international organization with branches in many countries and probably has some farms enrolled close by to learn from if you don’t feel like traveling. Another awesome thing about the organization is that the only fee is your membership unlike some eco-tourism trips where you end up paying thousands of dollars just to go volunteer with them. In exchange for a few hours work a day (normally 4 or 5 with a day or two off a week depending on the farm) you get free accommodation and food. It’s really a perfect way to travel the world, learn about their culture, and for us hopefully learn some Spanish as well! We’re landing in Patagonia and will be working our way up Chile, then hopefully heading over to Argentina, Brazil and back through Bolivia and ending our trip in Peru or back in northern Chile. We’re hoping to do lots of hiking while we’re there as well. So far we’ve planned two hikes in Patagonia. The Torres del Paine “W” circuit in Chile and another 4-5 day one to Mount Fitzroy, Argentina. Maybe a little ambitious after only ever completing a 3-day hike lol.

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Stunning photo from the Torres del Paine hike in Patagonia! Photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.org

I’ll try to blog as often as possible while we’re there and share what I’m learning and probably a million pictures of cute animals since we’re both big animal lovers. Anyways that’s all for now! Hope any of you in the US are having a wonderful thanksgiving!

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From an article on wwoofing in Chile. Photo credit: http://www.oneearth.org

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Eco-Friendly Friday! – COFFEE

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Coffee time with my awesome Grumpy Cat mug 🙂

This is the first of a weekly series where every Friday I’ll share a tip for being eco-friendly or some environmental news. Whether it’s a DIY project or something you can do in your home I’m hoping these posts will help in simplifying and greening up your life.

Today’s eco-friendly tip:

Swap out your coffee maker to a non-electric appliance. I’m a huge fan of the French press! Most of us leave coffee makers plugged in and turned on all the time. Especially when they have a clock on them or a timer so that it makes coffee for you on schedule. I agree it does sound totally amaaaazing to wake up to fresh brewed coffee everyday but this can waste a lot of electricity. Electricity that’s not going into heating the water for your coffee. If you want to keep your old machine you could unplug it after every use. It would be better but traditional coffee makers also use paper filters and most have a heating pad underneath to keep coffee warm (another energy waster). Swapping it out completely, I think, is the most environmentally friendly choice.

Some people think that the single serving coffee makers are better since they only heat up enough for one cup but most models on the market are meant to be left on and do keep the water warm at all times. Plus don’t get me started on those disposable cups.. Worst invention ever. I recently read an article on Treehuger.com that showed that even when those little cups are recyclable (which most aren’t) most recycling centers aren’t equipped to keep them from going to the trash (due to their small size). As well as another more in depth article called Waste: The Dark Side of the New Coffee Craze. If you do opt for the single serving machines or already own one there are reusable cups available made out of wire mesh and if you always remember to turn off and unplug the machine it may be better than a regular coffee machine. 

Now onto my pick. The French Press. With a French Press the only energy required is to heat up the water, which can be done in a kettle or on the stove. It has a mesh wire strainer that separates the grinds from the coffee, no paper filters required. Plus they look so fancy! The only issue I’ve had with my French Press is due to the fact that I usually buy whole beans which means I grind them at home with my magic bullet.. A technique which is far from perfect at getting a consistent grind. I normally end up with sediment in my coffee due to some of the beans having a more fine powder-like grind than others. Once I run out of the coffee beans I have on stock I want to try grinding it at the store to see if that makes a difference.  

Tip: Only heat up the amount of water you need instead of wasting energy heating the full kettle.    

I own the Bodum Chambord. I bought it last year and it’s still going strong even after being knocked over a couple times.

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My French Press. You can see me and Shadoe in the reflection lol

There are also other options like this beautiful Chemex:

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photo from Chemexcoffeemaker.com

Also when selecting coffee beans try to buy as local as possible, even if that just means locally roasted and fair trade!  I love Kicking Horse coffee. They use fair-trade, organic, shade-grown and bird friendly (insert many other environmentally friendly sounding terms, just kidding..) sources for their beans. It’s roasted here in canada and they support the Nature Conservatory of Canada. Yay. Plus it’s delicious.

 

Hope you all have a wonderful Friday and pre-Halloween weekend!  

Preserving Adventures Pt 1 – Pickles and Tomato Sauce

I’m finally getting around to sharing my canning adventures! My past two weekends have been spent in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and attempting to make some preservatives for the winter. I ordered 10lbs of pickling cucumbers, dill, garlic, and 40lbs of canning tomatoes from my local organic box. The first weekend I did up my pickles. It was really pretty easy! I followed some online instructions and it literally only took about 30 mins for all my pickles (five 1L jars). I found a ton of different ways to make dill pickles from fermenting them first to super easy fridge pickles but I settled on a canning recipe. Maybe I’ll try a different method next year, depending on how these turn out.. The recipe/instructions I followed is here. Making pickles is definitely something I want to do every year, hopefully with my own home-grown cucumbers next year! I can’t wait to taste them. Seeing them sitting on the counter everyday yet having to wait a whole month to eat them is probably the worst part of doing it at home.

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All my cukes. Washed and ready!

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The jars looked so pretty with just the dill and garlic in them.

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Finished pickles! Waiting to be eaten..

Next up was homemade tomato sauce. My friend is Italian and every year at the end of the summer her mom, and pretty much entire neighborhood, spend days upon days making enough tomato sauce to last for the entire year. We got the recipe from her mom and set to work. This was much more labour intensive than the pickles.. We set up stations in her kitchen for each step. The first station was for rinsing the tomatoes and prepping them for blanching then the blanching station (a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water). Next was the peeling station where the skins were removed from all the tomatoes. After that came the blending station and finally the cooking station. It took us 5 hours the first night to finish cooking most of the tomato sauce and get about half of the sauce into jars and those jars processed. After about a half day total of work we finished with 12 500ml jars each. Not too bad for our first time! I tested out an unsealed jar that night on spaghetti and it was delicious. I can’t wait to try it out for pizza too!

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Finished tomato sauce. We also added fresh basil leaves to each jar. Yum.

Next on my list for home made food is salsa and vegan cheese. So far I’ve got some sprouted grains fermenting as a starter liquid for my cheese. Hopefully that will be ready to use either today or tomorrow. It’s such a satisfying feeling making everything from scratch. A lot of work but so worth it!

My AOPA newspaper article.

 Article I wrote about our last meeting. Should be in the newspaper this week! 

The Alberta Organic Producers Association is a non-profit locally run organization made up of producers, handlers, and consumers who are all committed to working together to build an ethical partnership with nature. By practicing environmentally friendly farming methods, growing non-genetically modified crops, and refraining from synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use they strive to protect our earth for future generations. Members of AOPA meet four times a year at the Namao Hall in Namao, Alberta to discus new topics, share information and plan future events.

At this year’s Winter AGMM, held on March 9th, talk was centered on seed cleaning methods and the distribution of organic beef. Cleaning their own seeds is a great way for organic farmers to remain independent of large seed manufacturing corporations and to maintain the genetic diversity found in organic seeds. With Monsanto steadily acquiring more and more types of seeds, even organic, seed cleaning has become a way to combat this large monopoly’s stake in the industry. Roy Ritchie from Flaman Sales and Rentals was on hand to speak about the different types of seed cleaners and what they can do for organic farmers. From sorting seeds and grain based on size, weight or length to detecting the slightest shade difference, there are now machines for just about any use.  

Ted Soudant, Manager of Field Gate Organics, flew in from Ontario to speak on behalf of his company about cultivating a relationship with Organic beef farmers in Alberta. What started as a small group of organic farmers in Ontario, sick of the treatment they and their livestock were receiving at the hands of large processing facilities has since turned into a growing business who supply organic meat to over 70 locations in Ontario including Sobeys. Being in charge of the production, transport, processing, and sale of their own product these farmers and the people supporting them have been able to create a strong foothold in the organic market in southern Ontario. The main difficulty they have faced in this market has been meeting consumer demand. Which is where Alberta beef producers come in. Alberta is easily one of the largest producers of organic beef, yet with no real market to speak of, many farmers forgo the certification process and sell their cattle in conventional markets. Hopefully by joining forces with a company, which has proven that environmentally friendly growing methods and humane slaughter can be a profitable endeavor, Alberta organic beef will also prosper and grow.

If you are interested in becoming organic, or would like more information on organics please contact Kathy @ 780-939-5808 or email aopa@cruzinternet.com and visit our website www.albertaorganicproducers.org

Green Smoothies

Green Smoothie aka Energy Boost!

Green Smoothie aka Energy Boost!

So unfortunately I have a coffee addiction.. I got hooked in college, like most people, and to this day I feel dead, tired and unmotivated before my first coffee. Some days I’ll be running errands with my boyfriend and all of a sudden become incredibly irritable and I’ll realize I forgot to have my morning coffee.. It’s really sad actually. I can remember being in Australia and even while backpacking always having to buy instant coffee to make in the kitchen in order to start the day. I’ve tried to quit over the years but it just seems impossible to do.  I’d start the days miserable, moping around at work until I’d finally cave grab a cup of joe and be back to my cheerful self. I tried switching to tea, many different kinds, but I always find tea makes me feel a little nauseous, especially when drinking 2-3 cups at a time or on an empty stomach. Recently I’ve noticed that if I forget to have a coffee throughout the day I get bad headaches. At first I had no idea what was causing them and I’d keep drinking gallons of water or taking Tylenol because the last thing you want when you have a headache is coffee. Finally I gave up and having nothing left to try I made a pot, instant headache relief.

One thing that does work as a coffee substitution is a green monster smoothie. I discovered these when a friend mentioned she was drinking green smoothies at work for breakfast and lunch. She explained that they were great for getting enough veggies as you literally drink your veggies yet mixed with fruit they taste delicious! I instantly went searching for recipes and for about a month I had green monsters for breakfast. I slowly got out of making them everyday but with the new job starting next week I decided it was the perfect time to get back into the habit. I switch up the ingredients depending on what I have, but for the most part it’s an apple, spinach, kale, celery, banana, yogurt(or honey), almond milk and hemp hearts. This combo gives me so much energy in the morning I don’t even think about having a coffee, until the afternoon that is.

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This week’s green smoothie ingredients.

Green Smoothie

Adapted from Oh She Glows Green Monster recipe. (I love ohsheglows.com! One of the best sources for vegan recipes I’ve found on the web. Plus the author is also Canadian so even better!)

  • 1 apple, de-cored but not peeled
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1-2 kale leaves chopped
  • handful spinach
  • 1/2 cup berry yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbs hemp hearts
  • 3-4 ice cubes
Throw everything in the blender (magic bullet) and blend away. Makes one large vitamin packed smoothie! Once you get over the initial skepticism of a vegetable smoothie it’s fun to experiment with all kinds of different veggies. I like to switch it up and have avocado smoothies one day, cucumber/celery the next and try out lots of different fruit-veggies combos. If they ever taste a little too “green” I’ll just throw in a Tbs of honey to sweeten things up. Lately I’ve been making them with chia seeds too!

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

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