Yes, I know we just talked about asparagus and mushrooms a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed that batch of pasta so much that I bought another round of ingredients with the intention of making more, only to realize I was out of linguine. Undaunted, I found some couscous in the cabinet and went another direction that’s probably a little more health-conscious. Consider this one a two-fer.
Ingredients For the asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. water
For the couscous:
1/2 lb. mushrooms, washed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. whole-wheat couscous
1 1/2 c. water
Butter to taste (optional)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used black walnuts, but pecans or English walnuts would work as well)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange asparagus in one end of a large baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and water and sprinkle with garlic.
Arrange mushrooms in the other end of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic as you did the asparagus.
Oven-roast until the asparagus is bright green and tender and the mushrooms turn dark and start to shrink a little. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
While vegetables cook, combine couscous and water in a microwavable dish with a lid and nuke, covered, for 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Toss with butter, chopped nuts and roasted mushrooms and serve with asparagus.
Makes about three big servings.
P.S.: Here are days 19-24 of my Lent project. I figured you were tired of T-shirt pictures, so I just stacked them all up in a single shot.
This week’s Eco-Saturday is less a suggestion than a rant masquerading as a question:
Why are razor companies going out of their way to trash the environment as fast as they can go?
I would like very much to minimize the amount of trash we generate around here, and I’ve taken many steps to that effect, most of which I’ve shared on this blog. But I shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage on the house to accomplish that.
A package of eight cartridges designed to fit Gillette Sensor razors retails at $22.29; two packages of four disposable Sensor razors will set you back $14.78. The same dynamic holds true for women’s razors, albeit usually in a less dramatic fashion: $17.49 will buy you five Venus replacement cartridges or six whole disposable Venus razors.
WTF, Gillette? You can’t tell me it costs less to make a whole razor than it costs to make a razor cartridge. Not when the design is virtually identical, and the cartridges use less material.
I thought I’d found a workaround a while back, when I picked up a package containing a Bic razor and several refills at a reasonable price. Then I got the damned thing home, opened it up, and found out Bic does not sell refills independently of the razors, so you’re still tossing it out and buying a new one way more often than necessary.
I’m not keen on trashing the planet or rewarding companies for implementing a price structure that actively discourages environmentally responsible behavior, so I did a little online research to see what it would take to tell Gillette to kiss my arse.
Note to subscribers: You may have gotten a notice early this morning about a password-protected post. Ignore it; I’m just using that post as a parking place for materials related to a mural project I’m doing this spring.
I’d grow a garden even if I didn’t care about the environment, because storebought tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs simply don’t taste as good as heirloom varieties harvested half an hour before the salad goes on the table. The fact that organic gardening is better for the planet is just a bonus.
From an environmental standpoint, homegrown vegetables eliminate three sources of waste: transportation, packaging and pesticides. From an economic standpoint, they also conserve cash, as produce from the grocery store tends to get rather expensive.
If you’re planning to grow tomatoes, peppers or other plants that require a little coddling to germinate, now is the time to start them. A few tips:
1. Use decent-sized pots. Peat pellets are convenient, but they’re also worthless; your plants will get rootbound and require repotting within a couple of weeks. Save yourself the hassle by starting the seeds in bigger containers to start with. Tin cans, yogurt cups and old disposable coffee cups all work well for this purpose, or you can recycle newspaper into biodegradable seed-starting cups.
2. Give them plenty of light. If you don’t have big south-facing windows, invest in a mini-greenhouse and as many growlights as you can afford. I gave $16 for a mini-greenhouse last year, and I spent another $75 or so on six small growlight fixtures, which I connected to a power strip and plugged into a timer to simulate night and day for the plants.
3. Don’t drown them. The soil should feel damp but not wet. Too much moisture can rot young plants at the root.
4. Find your planting zone, and DO NOT plant vegetables outside before the last frost date, or you’ll regret it.
5. Buy interesting heirloom varieties that are suited to your area. My favorite sources for heirloom seeds are Baker Creek and Seed Savers Exchange. Save seeds from the plants that grow well, and you can replant next year without having to buy more.
Day 7 of my giving-up-random-objects-for-Lent project:
I bought this to heat-set henna after I moved. I used it maybe three times before I discovered my gray was finally coming in at an acceptable rate, whereupon I stopped dyeing my hair, as I’d always promised myself I would do just as soon as I had enough gray to make it worth the effort of growing out a dye job.
I haven’t used this dryer in over a year, and I’m not planning to use it again. It needs a new home, where it will be loved and appreciated, and I think I know just the place. We have a terrific organization here in Cape called Safe House for Women. Safe House provides all kinds of services to victims of domestic violence — including, as the name suggests, temporary housing.
I feel fairly confident that an organization designed to serve women can put a barely used bonnet dryer to good use one way or the other. If the residents don’t need it, they can stick a price tag on it and sell it at the thrift store to raise a few bucks. Either way, it’s a good dryer that isn’t doing any good for anybody on a shelf in the basement, so away it goes.
This project really is a lot of fun. The total randomness of the objects I’m clearing out of here is amazing.
Day 6 of my giving-random-objects-up-for-Lent project:
Ignore the terrible photo quality; my iPhone was having a temper tantrum. Focus instead on the coolness of this find: Four unused CFLs I found under the kitchen sink. I think I bought these on sale several years ago and never used them because LED bulbs got a lot better and a lot cheaper before I had a chance to install the CFLs.
Although they pay for themselves over time, both LEDs and CFLs are still a bit out of reach for a lot of people, so these will go to a food pantry, where someone who can’t afford a $5 lightbulb can install them and see an immediate drop in the power bills.
I think this is my favorite of all the stuff I’ve put in the giveaway box so far.
Here’s Day 5 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I bought this hot pot when I worked at the hotel and had an office in a separate building. I have no idea why someone thought a hot pot needed to have Hello Kitty on it, but it was about 10 bucks cheaper than the less embarrassing models, so I took it to the office and used it to boil water for French press coffee, which I think I made about three times before I forgot to clean the press in a timely fashion and ended up with fuzzy white mold growing all over it. I think that was about the same time my boss decided it would be OK for hotel employees to use the coffeemaker in the lobby, so my penicillin-producing French press went into the trash, and my hot pot collected dust. I have no idea why I brought it with me when we moved. I don’t use it here any more than I used it in Tulsa.
Anyway, it’s going into the box with the other stuff.
By the way, I assume we’re all clear on this, but in case you’re just joining the fun: I’m not posting the random objects I’m giving up for Lent to make myself look sweet or generous or whatever. I live in a 730-square-foot house, so getting rid of things I don’t need is a largely self-serving proposition. My motives in posting the stuff I ditch are threefold:
1. To make sure I remember to put something in the giveaway box every day.
2. To give friends and family who live within a reasonable drive a chance to call dibs on anything they want.
3. To give myself a visual record of the diversity and ridiculousness of the largely unnecessary crap I buy — which, hopefully, will discourage me from accumulating more.
If seeing this project happens to inspire somebody else, so much the better; I imagine most of us could benefit from reducing our household inventory once in a while, and this is kind of a fun way to do it.
Last year, I showed you how to recycle Ro-Tel or enchilada sauce cans into planters for starting seeds. I’ve saved cans all year and have about three dozen to start the season — not bad, but not as many as I’d like. (I try to start at least a dozen of each tomato variety I intend to grow so I’ve got a good selection when it’s time to decide which plants go in the garden.)
To make up the slack, I’m recycling newspaper into biodegradable seed-starting cups.
I could do a step-by-step photo tutorial or a series of diagrams or some such, but the video embedded above is way better than anything I’m likely to come up with. What I particularly like is the simplicity of the design — you don’t need a background in origami to turn a sheet of newsprint into a neat little square planter. The size is also good; peat pellets and a lot of the commercially available planting flats are so small that your plants won’t have room to grow, and you’ll end up having to transplant them to keep them from getting leggy and rootbound long before the last frost date. These are big enough that your tomatoes shouldn’t outgrow them before Planting Day.
I’ll probably use two sheets of newsprint rather than one on mine to ensure they’re sturdy enough to hold up until April 15.
And yes, I know there have been some concerns about whether newsprint is safe to use in the garden, but Cornell University reports most newspapers have switched to soy- or water-based inks that won’t hurt your soil, your plants or you. I feel quite confident in saying heirloom tomatoes started in recycled newspaper pages and planted in your backyard are far better for the planet (and you) than Frankenfood grown on a factory farm 1,500 miles away and trucked all over creation.
In other news, here’s Day 4 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I love this skirt, but the “one size fits all” label in it is and always has been a lie. That drawstring is purely decorative; a wide elastic band holds up the top, and it’s much too tight for comfort. Too bad, because a solid black broomstick skirt is a handy thing to have. Maybe someday I’ll find one in my size. In the meantime, I’ll toss this one in the thrift-store box for a thinner person to enjoy.
From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.
This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.
Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles
Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)
Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.
In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)
On an unrelated note, here’s Day 2 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I bought this by mistake at the dollar store, forgetting I’d already bought the frame I needed for a picture I wanted to hang up. I don’t have anything else this size that needs to be framed, but I bet somebody else does. Into the giveaway box it goes.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Thanks to a quirk of the schedule, I’m now on Day 9 of a 10-day stretch with no days off, and on top of that, we’ve had several nights of subzero temperatures that forced me to move the quail into the garage; the better end of a foot of snow, which required quite a bit of digging out once the streets were cleared (and a 1.5-mile walk home from work in 5-degree weather while we waited, because getting a ride to the office at 2 p.m. is much easier than getting a ride home at 11 p.m.); and outrageously dry air that gave me terrible headaches two mornings in a row before I figured it out and plugged in the vaporizer. Anyway, here I am, and I’ve got an idea to share.
Today Yesterday was the first day of Lent, and somebody on Twitter started a thread asking people what they were giving up.
I’m not Catholic, so I don’t usually observe Lent, but as I was looking at another tiny-house website during some down time at the office, it occurred to me that I really need to start shrinking my inventory of unnecessary crap around here.
One thing led to another, and as I waited around for AP to send over a story I needed for the front page, I hatched a plan: Instead of giving up one thing for Lent, I’m going to take another positive step toward shrinking my environmental footprint by giving up one thing per day.
Once a day, probably right before bedtime, I’m going to go through the house, find one thing I don’t need and don’t use, and donate it to someone who can put it to good use.
For Ash Wednesday, I am giving up this:
Clock radios are nice. But I haven’t used this one since I got my iPhone, which has a perfectly reliable alarm clock built right in, and I’m not likely to use it again, so out it goes.