Friday, 14 August 2009

Crustless Quiche, or: Using up Fresh Greens!

By Julie @ Towards Sustainability

One of the issues that faced me when I first began growing my own vegetables was meal planning: whereas once I would just buy whatever was on my grocery list for the week or fortnight, now I was able to incorporate lovely fresh garden produce, but what to do with it when I wasn't sure what I would get from day to day?

Many people love cooking, have long experience in the kitchen and feel very comfortable with making up their own recipes to incorporate their fresh goodies, however I am not one of them! Cooking is definitely not my forte, and I've only begun cooking from scratch in the past few years so up until relatively recently I felt the need to follow a recipe in order to produce something edible LOL. Which has meant that incorporating the sometimes large quantities of many of our vegetables into meals with enough variety to keep my family happy has been somewhat of a challenge! Particularly when you can only find so many recipes for the red mustard threatening to take over the entire vegie bed for example.

I've come to rely on two standard 'recipes' now which not only use up lots of vegies, but can be changed up with whatever you have on hand. The first is the classic vegie stir fry, the second is the quiche and - when I'm in a hurry - the crustless quiche.

I think most people have a handle on how to cook stir fries - have everything cut up before you go and make sure that everything is cut evenly and finely so that it cooks quickly (without stewing) and make sure your pan or wok is very hot (basic instructions can be found here).

The quiche is fabulous in both winter, served hot with steamed or baked vegies, or served cool in summer with fresh salad, so it's very versatile. I used to be scared of making pastry (don't ask me why, it just seemed like something that only "real" bakers make LOL), but it isn't hard at all, especially if you have access to a food processor - I use this basic shortcrust pastry recipe (metric measurements) - it's quick and easy and I often don't bother to blind bake it first (but do prick it all over with a fork before baking).



When I'm really in a hurry though, I like to make a crustless quiche, which is very, very simple - simple enough in fact for my seven year old to make.

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Crustless Quiche (also known as Impossible Pie)

Preheat your oven to 180'C/ 350'F.

Whisk together the following ingredients:

3 eggs
2 cups of milk
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup grated cheese of your choice.

This is the base of your quiche. To this basic mix you can add a mixture of whatever chopped vegetables and herbs you have to hand. Having made a few now, I usually eyeball the mixture, but it would be around 2 to 2½ cups of chopped vegetables. The quiche is also a great way to use up small amounts of leftover meat such as chicken, is delicious with salmon and dill as two of the ingredients and any greens with a little garlic and bacon is always a winner.

Add the chopped herbs and vegetables (and meat) to the batter and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased pie dish. Sprinkle with more grated cheese if desired (and topping with sliced tomatoes in season is wonderful), and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until set in the middle and nicely browned on top.

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So, next time you are cleaning out your crisper and need to use up a few vegies, receive CSA box with an enormous bunch of greens you don't know what to do with or come in from the garden with a basket of fresh vegies and want to cook something simple so you can fully appreciate the flavours of your fresh produce, have a go at this :-)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Shifting Towards Global Sustainability

by Gavin @ The Greening of Gavin

Some days I feel like a bit of a doomer and wonder if I have prepared for future events well enough. Let me give you some examples. Most people these days sense that our world is off balance and that we may be sliding towards some sort of dark abyss. I find it hard sometimes to keep a positive outlook when you consider these three looming events;

The record oil prices of last year may just be the beginning of a roller coaster ride of fluctuating oil prices as demand outstrips supply. Global oil supply has been relatively stagnant for the past few years and some believe that we have already past peak extraction (Heinberg). Oil is not just used for transportation, but for every thing in this modern era. I have written about it at 'We Are Oil Junkies' on my personal blog if you want to learn more about how oil permeates our way of living.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that even under the best case scenarios, indications are that escalating natural disasters amplified by changes in global climate may be enough to cause massive migrations of 100's of millions of climate refugees over the course of the next few decades. Can any country be practically prepared for an influx of these climate refugees on this massive scale?

Nearly 90% of the worlds large fish stocks have disappeared (more like over fished) from the oceans in the last five decades and it is projected that all commercial seafood fishing will collapse by the middle of this century. Many billions of humans rely on fish as a staple in their diet every day. You can imagine the impact, as I really don't need to explain the ramifications of this issue.

So, if business as usual behaviour by the human race is not working, what will it take to make the shift towards global sustainability? I personally think that changing a few light bulbs to compact fluros and changing your driving habits, albeit good personal steps in the right direction, are not enough to save society and the planet from collapse. Many books have been written about Plan B, which could be anything from transitioning back to a pre 18th century society not dependant on fossil fuels, or quickly seeking and developing a techno fix to solve all our problems. Maybe even some of the worlds military spending could be diverted to implement the radical changes required to divert our world's course from collapse to a sustainable future? Only a small fraction of this spending would be needed. Are we too stupid, arrogant, or selfish that we can't make the hard decisions required to save ourselves and the big blue/green marble we live on?

I don't believe that there is one single way to fix our future predicament. There is no single silver bullet in this case. Plan B will consist of many solutions that will all contribute to global sustainability. These Plan B solutions are my own personal thoughts, but may have been published by other commentators, so please excuse me if you have read or heard them before. Obviously there are many other ways towards global sustainability, so I have just picked those that are at the forefront of my thinking of late.


1. Tax carbon pollution. I don't care what scheme we use, as long as it is fair to the majority of people and penalises heavy polluting industries. We might then go some way towards changing the old polluting economy to a cleaner, more sustainable one as consumers vote with their dollars. The world oceans may even get a reprieve due to high fuel prices that would affect the cost efficiency of factory fishing ships.

2. Stop building suburbia. The current suburban model is unsustainable under a peak oil scenario. Suburbs are designed specifically for the motor car, not for people, and some don't even have foot paths (sidewalks). You can mainly get to them via car, however public transport systems are far and few between in some towns and cities. Even shopping centres are placed long distances from where some of us live in suburbia. Having said that, some of the worlds cities considered this long ago and have fantastic transport systems that even include facilities for cycling.

3. Rebuild or retrofit our homes, office spaces and factories. It is well known that energy efficiency is rarely thought of in the western world when it comes to whacking up 100 acre housing developments. The bigger the better, which also leads to bigger energy bills, bigger mortgages, and bigger maintenance bills. Big is not always better. Our building should be net energy producers that generate more power than they consume. This can be achieved via energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and combined heat & power systems (CHP). A global energy efficiency program including insulation and draft proofing will provide badly needed jobs and reduce GHG emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity.

4. Increased development and installation of renewable energy technologies. A global focus on a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy solutions like solar thermal, solar PV, wind, and geothermal (not a big fan of bio fuels). With a tax on carbon that raise the price of fossil fuel power, all of these renewable electricity sources would become cost effective for investors. I particularly like the potential of solar thermal using molten salt and geothermal which have excellent potential to provide our requirement for an electricity base load.

5. Reduce population growth. Probably not my most popular suggestion, but we need to level off our own growth. It has been estimated that the long term carrying capacity of the Earth is between 500 million and 2 billion people. We currently have about 6.7 billion people populating the earth and projected estimates of 9 billion by 2050. If we can't control our growth then I am afraid that nature will inevitably perform this task for us. Now, most of us would agree that it would more humane to achieve this via family planning and birth control than through starvation, plagues and resource wars. The choice is ours alone.

6. Reverse Globalisation with Global relocalisation. With the decline in cheap energy in the form of peak oil supply, all national economies will probably be forced to relocalise as transportation costs increase. This will force manufacturing and food production back onshore, benefiting the local economy and the environment. Local food production will increase, people would once again get in touch with the land like our forefathers, and not cooped up in some meaningless office job. By producing food, goods and service locally, dollars are not shipped offshore to multinational companies. Sure, there will still be some trade between nations, as there was before the age of oil, but certainly not to the scale that it is now.

7. All decisions must be sustainable ones. From national governments all the way down to the household hold budget, all decisions must be given serious consideration as to whether it contributes towards global sustainability or is subject to our current short term and business as usual thinking that only considers profits over people and harms the planet. If it is the latter, the decision should scrapped and rethought to ensure it complies with the sustainable vision and mission what should become the norm.

This post would have to be my most controversial so far, however I do believe that it fits well into the theme of this co-op. With all the simple, green and frugal tips that we write about daily, there must have a good reason to change our lifestyles in this manner. What I have described above are some very good reasons to change our behaviours towards a sustainable lifestyle, but I am afraid that I may already be preaching to an already converted audience!

Let me know your thoughts, am I way off the mark here?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Taking Refuge in the Moment


I just finished reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Art of Power", a wonderful book with a deliberately and cleverly misleading title, since the "power" he talks about is not the power that people are generally seeking, but rather the power to be calm and spread peace wherever you go and with whomever you meet.

Two of the practices he describes in this book (besides sitting meditation which most are familiar with) are a) general mindfulness, and b) walking meditation. I think he focuses on these practices in this book because they are very easy to incorporate into even the busiest of lives, but they help to centre you very effectively and quickly.

Mindfulness is the skill of bringing your mind into the present moment and not being taken away by thoughts, memories, worries, etc. Most buddhists do this through the breath. When you follow the breath you are drawn into your body, into the present moment, and you allow your thoughts and worries and regrets, etc. (as well as your plans, and desires, and nostalgic remembrances), to drop away, leaving you considerably less stressed and more focused.

Much is made of the power of sitting meditation where you watch the breath for extended periods, but Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that you can get some benefit by bringing mindfulness into your daily life in short snatches. For example, when the telephone rings, you can use that as a recall to the moment, and take one or two deep breaths to centre you before you answer. Or stopping at a red light, this can also be an opportunity to watch the breath.

He has a lovely poem that helps with this simple meditation. The word pairs are said silently with the in and out breath:

in, out
deep, slow
calm, ease
smile, release
present moment, wonderful moment

I've been watching my breath and reciting this poem regularly over the last few weeks and it has given me access to many moments of calm and peace, helping me cope with some of the stresses of being heavily pregnant and parenting a toddler in the heat of late summer!

Walking meditation is an expansion of this mindfulness practice, but instead of focusing on the breath, you focus on your feet as you walk. Whenever you walk, the author explains, you should make your steps gentle on the earth. You are free, you do not need to hurry: walk calmly and slowly as if the purpose of walking is simply to walk.

As you walk, you can say the poem in pace with your breath, which will be in pace with your footsteps, maybe one in-breath for every two steps, or more.

Walking to work every day is so often a blur for me. It's a short walk, but I usually spend the time thinking about work--sometimes bringing back some conflict from the day before, or worrying about what will be in my email inbox today. But since I've been practicing walking meditation, this time is so calm, such an island in my day, that I really feel that I can start taking refuge in the moment.

Now what does this have to do with a frugal or green mindset? I think plenty.

In terms of frugality, many of us turn to shopping and spending money when we are stressed. I am so guilty of this. And most of my stress-fuelled purchases have been big ones, undoing months of savings from baking my own bread and using baking soda for deodorant. The more tools I have to reduce stress and encourage a peaceful frame of mind, the less likely I am to go out shopping.

What's more, the more value I place on being mindful and present, the less likely I am to seek distractions like magazines or shiny electronics. Think about it: if everyone started practicing mindful breathing on the bus, Blackberries would cease to exist!

The more unmindful consumerism in our world, the more energy and resource waste, the more landfill produced, the more waterways polluted. When we make our footsteps gentle on the earth, we also tend to reduce our ecological footprint by reducing consumption, waste and pollution.

Try these mindfulness techniques and see where you can fit them into your day. And please refer to any book by Thich Nhat Hanh to get a deeper, richer explanation of these practices. Check out his 1996 book The Long Road Turns to Joy on Google Books--a Limited Preview release specifically about walking meditation.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Coming to Terms with Your Own Variety of Sustainability


by Melinda Briana Epler,
One Green Generation

I am writing this post on the rooftop deck of my brand new city apartment....

In the last four years, I have lived in four very distinct places, searching for sustainable living. In Los Angeles, I lived a rather unsustainable lifestyle - I working in the film industry (where electricity, goods, and resources are thrown away each day in ungodly amounts), driving thousands of miles each month, taking many medications so that I didn't die from the horrible air that made my asthma chronic.

We left that lifestyle three years ago, to live in the rural areas of Northern California wine country - it was beautiful, but we learned that trying to live self-suffiently was not necessarily personally nor environmentally sustainable. I think it can be, but it takes a particular place and a particular type of person to make that lifestyle sustainable. It was not right for me, nor my husband.

So we moved to Seattle, to a nice, old apartment in a dense area of town. We reduced our driving to nearly nil, we reduced our carbon footprint overall to nearly nil. But the building itself was old and not energy efficient, our apartment was too small, and our quality of life was not quite right. At times we felt personally unsafe in our neighborhood, and it truthfully was very loud and a bit unruly.

And so last week we moved to a new, LEED certified silver building, with super energy efficient appliances, bamboo flooring, a rooftop deck, a little balcony to grow greens and herbs, and a higher quality of life. We live in a neighborhood that has gone from light industrial parking lots and destitution, to a lively green community of people who are quite like us.

The truth is, that Matt and I could have made any of these four places sustainable. We could have found a way to live sustainably in our gritty LA apartment - we could have taken the bus or ridden our bikes everywhere - it would have meant more time spent traveling to and from each destination as well as a lot of inconvenience, but we could have made it work. We could have made it work, somehow, in our rural house in wine country - maybe by moving closer to Matt's job, and cutting down on our cost of living to make that lower rural income work. And we could have made the old 1920s apartment work, too - we could have continued living as we had, and redefined normal to make the tight, drafty apartment work for us.

But for me, sustainability is not just about reducing my carbon footprint, it is also about being personally content with my lifestyle. Sustainable living is not just simple living, not just frugal living, not just environmentally sustainable living - it is also contented living - it is allowing myself to be productive so that I can do more to change the world for the better.

As I sit on this rooftop, typing these words and watching the water-wise grasses blowing in the wind as the city bustles below, I feel content. I feel productive. I feel truly sustainable.

What variety of sustainability have you found works best for you?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

3 tips for reconstructing clothing

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Sometime ago I wrote here about how I learned how to sew. To save you clicking on to that post, basic summary is that I had taught myself (with some help from friends, youtube and various online tutorials), using second-hand equipment and old clothing. I learned by reconstructing clothing.

What is reconstructing clothing?

Basically its when you cut-up or cover-up all or parts of old clothing and turn it into "new" clothing.

Recently I turned up to a work function wearing one of my reconstructed dress. When some of my workmates admired the dress, I told them that the dress used to be an old jumper (I think called "sweater" in other countries) and several of them stated, "how could you even see a dress out of the jumper in the first place?"

I think some people are put off with the idea of reconstructed clothing because they don't know where to start and think it involves a tremendous amount of creativity and/or skill. The thing is that when I first reconstructed clothing, I did not have much skill. I also hadn't had much of a chance to nurture my creativity at that point. So I thought I'd share my top 3 tips for reconstructing clothing.

Tip 1: Don't be scared to cut it.

The thing is that old clothing is either CHEAP (if you bought it from an op shop) or TAKING UP SPACE (because its taking up space). I approached the whole thing as a learning adventure. If I ruined it then the $1-$5 I paid for it is worth the lessons I learned - including learning what DOESN'T work. After all, if you were paying to go to sewing classes, its a lot more expensive than $5!!

If its taking up space - then think of it as another way to declutter. This is especially true for those items not quite good enough to donate to charity but not quite bad enough to throw in the bin. And if you ruin it...well, then at least you won't feel so bad throwing it out and once again, you would've learned some valuable lessons.

Just do it!

Tip 2: Use the clothes you have (that you do wear) as a guide.

If you're unsure how to cut it or shape it, then just use your current clothing as a guide. I have a fitted jacket that I love. I love it 'cause the cut of the jacket is flattering for my body shape. So I use that jacket as a guide for cutting. Basically I just lie it over the top of what I'm going to cut. Use chalk (or pen) to draw and then cut.... just make sure you add a seam allowance as you cut!

Jacket that I used as my guide to cut the leather jacket (above) and to make my party dress
(below).




Tip 3: As you unpick or cut, make notes or take photos!

Not just for blogging purposes...but so that you can learn new techniques. The first time I unpicked a sleeve, I couldn't believe how ingenious the shape of it was! I would never have guessed that in order to make a sleeve, it had to be that particular shape. Now me, I made notes, but its only when I am writing this article that I realise that it would've actually been faster to take photos.

There are so many clothes/styles out there that are put together so cleverly. Use the deconstruction time as an opportunity to learn new techniques. You'll never know when you'll need them!

And those are my general tips. Anyone have any more?

Oh and if the thought of reconstructing clothing attracts you as a project, then you may want to check out these websites:

Reconstructed Clothing Discussion Board at Craftster.org

Threadbanger's Channel at Youtube.com

Wardrobe Refashion

Hope you are all having a great weekend!