Rice Cooker Party!

For this, the final installment of the How to use a Rice Cooker series, only two recipes remain.

I’ve saved the best for last, so I hope you’re ready for a Rice Cooker Party!

 

The first surprise is…. Popcorn!

Micro-pop is a staple in dorm rooms, but why suffer through too-tough pieces and fake butter flavor when you can make the real deal with hardly any extra effort? Traditional popcorn is tastier, healthier, and much cheaper than the micro-wave variety.

Simply pour a tablespoon or so of oil into the rice cooker along with a few kernels of unpopped popcorn. Tape down the ‘on’ switch so that the cooker will get the oil hot enough. When you hear the kernels you put in pop, CAREFULLY open the lid and pour in a few more – about enough to cover half the bottom of the rice cooker to a depth of one kernel. Close the lid again, and wait for the magic…

Warning: This is the most dangerous rice cooker application featured in Footprint Magazine. It involves heating oil to high temperatures. Spilling hot oil can cause severe injuries, and, if you’re not careful with the lid, the popcorn kernels can fly out at you as they pop and cause painful little burns. Using a rice cooker to make popcorn is no more dangerous than using any other oil based popcorn-popping method, however – just remember to exercise caution.

 

Or, you can go classy with Fondue!

The cooker will melt everything down into a perfect, gooey mess – and keep it that way throughout an evening of dipping, dripping gluttony

For chocolate fondue, just melt down a cup and a half of heavy cream, and stir in about 16 oz of chocolate chips until the mixture is smooth. Feel free to get creative with dark, milk, or white chocolate, peanut butter, toffee, vanilla, almond, orange or peppermint extract, alcoholic add ins, or whatever you can dream up!

Cheese or Broth fondues are a little trickier. But recipes such as this one for a simple cheddar fondue, this one for a classy three-cheese affair, and others abound on the internet. Bestfondue.com is a great resource for learning how to create dozens of unique fondues and hot pots.

So look at your humble little Rice Cooker in yet another new light, and let the party begin!

An Ode to the Potluck

Since August, the Sustainahouse has been hosting Community Potluck Dinners every other Wednesday. Each dinner takes on a different personality, whether it be dominated by delicious soup or seduced by sweet spiced muffins. Some dinners feed upwards of forty people, while others are only a humble fifteen. As the dishes vary from simple to complex, you can always count on rice and beans prepared by Sustainahouse residents.

In the spirit of the season (and in the spirit of loving food), Sustainahouse hosted a Thanksgiving themed potluck. In the midst of the potluck madness, I realized that this was my first “Thanksgiving” created outside of family obligations. It was a time to leave family traditions and forge new ones; incorporating new values, friends, and recipes. Our table was truly a hodgepodge of smells and colors. We were graced with chestnut stuffing, a buttery roasted turkey, cranberry salsa, pumpkin cookies, chocolate banana bread, fresh salads, and even a nostalgic “dirt bucket” dessert.

Without hesitation, I can say that it was one beautiful meal.

I am thankful for the nurturing powers food has on our bodies and friendships.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the potluck lovers out there!

The Thanksgiving Feast

Happy Folks -- Potluck Regulars
Pies, pies, and more pies

Who, me?

This week’s Who, me? challenge is to make something for someone.

Every day we have two choices: the sustainable way or…the other way. It’s easy to want to help the planet, but tricky part is the who, me? question (followed by the inevitable yes, you! response).  


We all want to show the ones we love just how much we love them this week, so why not make something for them? This morning I made a special batch of granola for my family. Why was it special? Because it screamed THANKS. So if you want to give thanks in the form of granola this holiday….don’t think twice about it. All the ingredients can be found in bulk bins at the grocery store too, so don’t forget your reusable bags!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sunflower/pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup raisins/blueberries
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Mix the oats, almonds, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, coconut and half of the brown sugar
2. Mix vegetable oil, honey, the other half of brown sugar and water on the stove until boiling
3. Mix boiling and dry mixture
4. Place on baking sheet then sprinkle honey and salt on top
5. Set the oven to 300 degrees
6. Check every 15 minutes until it has just the right crisp!

Bradford compost facility ribbon-cutting 11/18

The composting system pictured here should be fully operational in October after the walls and roof are constructed. Each of the structure's four bays will hold a week's worth of food waste to be composted during a month-long process. Photo by Meghan Eldridge.

Great news! Mizzou is about to start composting in a very big way. As previously reported, Tim Reinbott, the superintendent of Bradford Research and Extension Center will collaborate with University of Missouri students to create and run a closed-loop composting system.

The compost facility will be completed this week, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Friday!  Here are the details:

What: Ribbon-cutting for University of Missouri compost facility
Who: Everyone who loves compost
When: Friday, November 18 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Bradford Research and Extension Center, 4968 Rangeline Road

The inside look at Natural Grocers

By Wilson McNeary

Natural Grocers is much bigger than any other organic food spaces in Columbia, with the exception perhaps of the larger Clover's. This leaves plenty of room for options and brands you can't find elsewhere in town.

Natural Grocers, located at 400 N. Stadium Blvd. (out by the Hobby Lobby), is a brand new grocery store specializing in natural and organic foods.  Although it is part of a larger chain, with stores mostly in Colorado and other nearby western states, this is its first location in Missouri.  According to its mission statement, the grocers “sell only safe, quality products at prices the average family can afford.”

The business also claims to sell only natural and organic products; its definition of organic being USDA Certified Organic and natural being “[the products] don’t contain artificial ingredients used to color, preserve, dye, emulsify, stabilize, or solidify them.”

I was, of course, very encouraged by these statements before even setting foot in the store; however, I was rather skeptical of what the prices might be like.  After all, higher quality food is almost always more expensive than its typical grocery store counterpart, sometimes to the point of being impractical for your typical college student.

The first thing one will encounter when walking into the store is a sign on the door that says “B.Y.O.B.-Bring Your Own Bag”.  Every Natural Grocers store has eliminated the use of both paper and plastic disposable bags, though they save the boxes their products are delivered in just in case someone forgets.

Organic fruit and vegetables is a little more expensive than the regular grocery store, but Natural Grocers also runs produce specials.

The interior of the store itself is laid out similar to most typical small groceries stores: produce, dry goods, frozen foods, dairy and the like.  It is when one begins to closely look at the products on the shelves that they notice the difference:

  • There are great deals of gluten-free and vegan options in the dry goods section.
  • The frozen foods consist not only of naturally-raised meat, but also many vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
  • The dairy has a wide range of milk and yogurt that is split between many different sources, such as cow, goat, soy, and almond.

If any are familiar with the Health Market section of the local Hy-Vee stores, the types of products sold at Natural Grocers are very similar to those available at Health Market, though Natural Grocers has a much wider selection. Natural Grocers also has a very extensive vitamin and nutritional supplement section.

With raspberries on sale for $2.49 and an avacado on sale for $1, these three items rang up for under $10. Natural Grocers offers "Hot Line" items every week.

During my trip to this store, I was in need of a few basic groceries; I bought 2 bags of Beanitos chips (which I had never eaten before, but turned out to be delicious), 3 Annie Chun’s noodle bowls, 3 cups of Cascade Fresh yogurt, and 1 box of Nature’s Path organic toaster pastries and managed to get out of the store without paying over $20.  I found this to be a very reasonable price considering the quality of food I was buying.

In summary, I was very impressed with the extensive selection in Natural Grocers, as well as the way they seem to put their morals into their business practices.  Most of all, however, I was impressed with the prices in the store.  Though there may be some initial sticker shock for those accustomed to living off of Bagel Bites and other cheap microwavables in their dorm, I feel that the prices are reasonable enough that the average college student could go to Natural Grocers on a semi-regular basis and sneak at least a little bit of healthy, natural food into their diet.  I certainly won’t be able to do absolutely all of my grocery shopping there, but it’s certainly a start for those wishing to go beyond the Health Market at Hy-Vee.

Find it in town:

Find it online:

For more info on Natural Grocers’ business practices and products, visit the website: http://www.naturalgrocers.com.

You Can Never Fail at Gardening When There Are So Many Chances: An Amateur Gardener’s Experience With Cool Season Planting

            Many aspiring gardeners don’t realize the harvest doesn’t end when the weather becomes cooler and the days get shorter. Don’t abandon the garden just because fall is rolling around! Missouri does tend to have longer summers, which extends the production of peppers, tomatoes and other warm season vegetables well into September and even October. I had jalapeño plants producing through October. The mild fall season in Missouri also opens up a wide window to grow cool season plants, such as lettuce, broccoli and cabbage. The trick is to know when to plant, and proper care.

A jalapeño hiding among mint, a wonderful herb that grows voraciously. This is from a plant that I pulled out only a week and a half ago!

As an urban gardener in downtown Columbia, I had my first experience gardening on my own this spring, summer and fall. By sharing my experience with cool season planting, I hope to lead others to success next fall. The basic principles can also be applied to the spring, when cool season plants can be planted as early as the first frost-free date. As I have discovered as a first-time gardener on my own, experience is key.

The prime planting time for most cool season vegetables is early-mid August in order to allow enough time for the plants to mature and fruit for maximum harvests. University of Missouri Extension provides a wonderful resource for the proper dates to plant. But living in a climate as bizarre as Missouri’s, it can be too hot to plant even into September. If seeds must be in the ground when the temperature persists over 80 degrees, the most important rule is to keep the seeds evenly moist. Don’t be discouraged if the seedlings don’t show right away. I planted lettuce in mid-August, and it took almost four weeks for them to break through the ground. They still are not ready to harvest, unfortunately. I am undecided whether the lettuce seeds weren’t watered consistently in the beginning, or if the soil was not well drained enough, which also stunts growth.

Notice how the radish (forefront) looms over the lettuce. It should be the other way around by now.

Unfortunately, one can’t just wait until it is cool enough to plant. I did this, and waited until mid-September to plant spinach, beets, garlic mustard and a mesclun lettuce mix. The seeds that did sprout aren’t anywhere near ready for harvest. It is pertinent to give a plant enough time to mature before the threat of frost is present, usually around the end of October. Luckily, cold season vegetables are slightly frost resistant, so I am hoping for the possibility of a harvest by Thanksgiving Break.

This is a close up of a row of half garlic mustard and half mesclun lettuce mix. Notice the almost empty row to the right, with one baby spinach poking out near the back. A sad sight to see such a low germination rate, but that does not faze me! The joy of seeing just these little guys is enough.

But the main problem with those seeds is that most didn’t sprout. I believe this is because I made rows for the seeds about 4-6 inches tall to provide the soil good drainage. But my preparations were erroneous, because the rows are in the area of highest elevation in my garden, meaning that there is already fine drainage. So the rows became very dry and the seeds did not have enough moisture to sprout. I have deduced this by noticing new sprouts not long after it rains. This exemplifies dormancy; a seed can remain in the ground for a period of time with potential to sprout. So don’t give up on your seeds if they don’t sprout right away!

See how some of the garlic mustard sprouted in the trough between rows? I believe this happened when I tried to fix the rows being too high, and knocked some into the low area. Looks like they like it that way!

Watering often is still just as important during the fall as it is in the summer, although evaporation is lower with cooler temperatures and less sunlight. As the cloudy, cool days became more common, I realized that I did not water as consistently, because I figured the soil was retaining water better. This is true to an extent, but does not exactly apply because seedlings must be kept evenly moist until germination in order to be successful. The easiest way to monitor this is to put your finger about two inches deep in the ground near the seed. If any soil sticks to your finger, then the soil is moist enough, but if the soil is dry and crumbly, then water more often.

Ultimately, I feel my limited success with cold season planting has to do with the depth of the seed when planted. A seed should be planted in the soil at a depth approximately two times its’ diameter. Exact measurements are given on the back of seed packets, but the rule of two times diameter is easier to gauge.

This little guy just came up within the past week of rains! This is my only beet that sprouted, and I believe that is because I planted them too deep. But one came up, go beets!

In terms of success, radishes, collard greens, and snow peas worked best for me this fall. I had near 100% germination and development of plants. Radishes are great for the fall season because they grow very quickly and can be replanted and harvested several times throughout the whole season. Peas are not very heat tolerant, ones I planted last April fried up by late May, so the cooling climate is ideal for them. My collard greens are not quite developed enough to start harvesting yet, but they are looking great, and I am positive for a harvest before Thanksgiving break.

I highly recommend planting snow peas for fall gardens. They germinate very easily and quickly and are so much fun to watch grow! Note the kale growing in the top left corner, I've had that plant since mid-summer. Kale can be planted for a fall harvest as well. It is one the most nutritionally beneficial greens there is!

There are even more options to extend the growing season. Covering the plants at night will protect them from a frost, but be sure to remove the covering during the day so the plants can soak up the sun! A contraption called a cold frame with a glass hinged lid can be built with just a bit of wood and old windows, and cool season plants could be potentially grown well into the winter.

My first experience with fall gardening has taught me that above all, it is the experience of gardening that I value most. I may have only harvested about 25% of what I planted for this cool season, but learning from mistakes and through practice is even more valuable. My thumb may not be quite green yet, but it sure is fun getting there! So for those of us who just simply like to watch things grow, don’t ever stop trying.

The classic collard greens, joined by some lettuce sprouts behind.

Water: The Challenging Interface Between Scientific Understanding and Policy 11/9

Come see Gene Likens speak about The Challenging Interface Between Scientific Understanding and Policy at Monsanto Auditorium this Wednesday, November 10 at 7 p.m. The lecture is sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. To download the flier, click here.

photo courtesy /www.hubbardbrook.org

Here’s Dr. Likens’ biography from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies:

Dr. Likens’ research focuses on the ecology and biogeochemistry of forest and aquatic ecosystems, primarily through long-term studies at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was the co-founder of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study in 1963, which has shed light on critical links between ecosystem function and land-use practices. He and his colleagues were the first scientists to discover acid rain in North America and to document the link between the combustion of fossil fuels and an increase in the acidity of precipitation. His findings have influenced politicians and policy makers, guided and motivated scientific studies, and increased public awareness of human-accelerated environmental change.

Two environmental journalism classes for Spring 2012

Neff Hall at the University of Missouri. Photo by Jiaxi Lu.

It’s time to register for classes, and in the journalism school, that means it’s time for environmental reporters to check in with Bill Allen, the science and agricultural journalism professor.

Part two of professor Allen’s Readings in Science Journalism series (see “Four Great Books on the Environment”) is all about Food and Agriculture. Here’s what you’ll read:

1. Richard Rhodes, Farm
2. Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma
3. Mark Kramer, Three Farms
4. Duff Wilson, Fateful Harvest

It’s a one credit hour course that whizzes by in a whirlwind. Expect creative assignments (one from this semester involved writing a letter to Rachel Carson). As a bonus, you don’t have to be a journalism major to join!

Then, there’s “Covering Energy and Climate Change,” which answers the question, “What do journalists need to know to understand and cover our addiction to oil, our love affair with alternative energy and the politics of global climate change?”It’s a three credit class, but you learn a lot in those three hours.

For more information, download these fliers or e-mail Bill Allen at AllenWi@missouri.edu.

Add your voice to Footprint’s sustainability podcast!

This is Paige Pritchard. She wants to start a sustainability podcast, but she needs your help.

I would like to assemble a team of Footprint members to produce a monthly podcast. I personally don’t have any experience with creating a podcast, but I have edited video and audio through the Adobe systems. Hopefully the team will consist of a few people who have more experience with creating podcasts, and then we can all learn from each other. Anyone, of course, is welcome and encouraged to join!

Here’s my current layout of the program:

Length: 20-30 minutes

Sections:

Local Sustainastars – 10 minutes. This will be the largest segment. We would interview local community members who are adopting sustainable living techniques. This could include anyone from a sustainable architecture firm to a local farmer. We would ask them to explain what sustainable strategies they use and why.

Environment Abroad – 5 minutes. This will be a short round up of international environmental news. We can include links to the story we mention on the Footprint page that the podcast is posted.

Sustainable Products/Technology Review – 5 minutes. We will review a green product, such as sustainable cleaning supplies or Window Farms, and discuss the pros and cons. Hopefully we can have one of us buy or sample this product to get a first hand account, but if it’s something more expensive, like a self-contained composter, we can sift through other news articles and reviews and credit those (as well as provide the links).

Be Green Challenge – 5 minutes. This will be a challenge to listeners to adopt a single sustainable living technique for the month until the next podcast. This could range from starting a compost bin, recording a trash journal, or buying half of your groceries from local producers.

Toe Tappin’ Tunes – 5 minutes. We will round out the podcast by providing our listeners with a song from one of our favorite bands. Ideally, the band will have a connection to sustainability or folk heritage. We could showcase Guster and their green tour techniques, or The Carolina Chocolate Drops because of their involvement with continuing the tradition of jugband music.

Timeline:

Mid-November: Call together first meeting of team members and layout a plan for the first podcast. Brainstorm on content ideas.

December: Collect content and begin producing podcast.

January: Publish podcast to Footprint website for download.

Contact Tina Casagrand (tina.casagrand@gmail.com) or Paige Pritchard (paige.pritchard10@gmail.com) for more questions or to be part of the team!