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Vegetarian already?  Here are 8 more ways you can help the Earth

24 Apr

The vegetarian lifestyle is better for the environment than eating meat.  There’s no question about that…  we’ve been saying that for years now.  But just because we’re already following a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean we can’t do more for the Planet.

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There used to be a time back in the 80s when the moniker was Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.   But now, we can incorporate more Rs into the mix – like Re-purpose, Restore, Repair, Replant and even Refuse.  Like Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, who believes you should feel free to refuse to buy something you don’t actually need in the means to simplify your life.

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Not all of you are vegetarians… but some of us are.  And even though we stress the impact a vegetarian lifestyle has on the environment, I want to share some ideas anyone can easily implement within their lifestyle to give the environment an added boost in the right direction.  We can be agents of change and example to others on how to live a more conscious and sustainable life without sacrificing any comforts.

REDUCE the amount of energy you use.  Some easy things we can do is turn off the lights in the rooms we’re not in, unplug the electronics we hardly use and even turn off the breakers you are not using at home.  For example, I have 220 electric plugs all over my house, but I only use one of them for my air conditioner, which I rarely use either.  When I turned off all those live 220 breakers, my electric bill came in at $25 less each month from then on.  That’s a savings of $300/year just for turning something off I wasn’t even using!!!!

REDUCE the amount of water you use.  Don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth, shave or when you do the dishes in the sink.  And if you’re lucky to have a dishwasher, run it only when it’s full. Repair leaky faucets and toilets.  Sweep away your driveway and sidewalks instead of cleaning them with a hose.  Take a shorter shower and install faucet aerators to cut down on water usage without any loss in pressure.

REDUCE your carbon footprint by supporting local organic farmers.  One way to support your local economy and help the planet as a whole is to support your local farmers, particularly local ORGANIC farmers.  If you know of a CSA farm near you, join.  Or even when you visit your regular supermarket, choose products grown locally.  They’ll usually be fresher, in season, their flavors stronger and you’ll be in tune with nature’s rhythm.   For example, lately I am buying arugula lettuces, mushrooms and sprouts grown locally in Puerto Rico.   Same goes with papayas, mangoes and pineapples.  Of course, I still buy strawberries and blackberries not grown in PR, but I try to make a point to show my demand for good products grown here.

REFUSE plastic bags and REUSE your eco-bags when you go grocery shopping.   Still grocery store people in PR look at you kinda weird when you bring in reusable bags to store your shopping, but it’s getting better each day.  I just now carry a bag filled with eco-bags in the trunk of my car and I use them every time I go to the grocery, specialty food or the health food store.    I still need to work on bringing one when I go to the mall…

REHOME clothes and things you no longer use or need.  Instead of throwing old stuff out, donate your older clothes to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or even give it to a friend who might find it useful.  I have a friend who used to give me all the clothes when she grew tired of them or no longer fit because we were almost the same size, and she had great taste when shopping.  I give most of the clothes I no longer wear to a family friend who takes them all to the Dominican Republic.   The idea is that what you might find no use for any more, might have extra few years in someone else’s hands.

REPLANT trees and grow your own garden, if you can. I have always lived in apartments, and the only reason why I would live in a house is to have trees.  I once had a ficus tree in a huge pot in one of my balconies. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide and refresh the environment.  If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, plant some local fruit trees or set of a vegetable garden and enjoy its bounties – papaya, breadfruit, mangoes, star fruit, avocados… these latter ones take about 7 years to bear fruit, but time flies.  And even in an apartment building you can grow your own herbs and even your own vegetables in pots.  I even looked into those contraptions where you can grow tomatoes hanging from the ceiling.  My next project, a lemon tree in a pot!!!

RECYCLE your electronics.  We’re running out of space to put garbage.   Landfills are now huuuuge mountains that have become part of our cities’ landscapes.  Do not pollute and contribute to the waste fields with electronics.  Instead, take them to places like Best Buy or the Microsoft Store for recycling.

RECYCLE your white paper, plastics, cardboard and glass.  This might sound so elementary, but people in Puerto Rico still do not have a recycling consciousness.   You see it in businesses where they pile all the garbage together and do not divide between recyclables and organic waste.  People throw their regular garbage in a recycling bin because they do not see the difference – to them is just a receptacle for me to get rid of whatever I have in my hand.  Maybe I should be grateful that at least the trash goes somewhere and not on the streets.   But if you are part of the group that do not actively recycle, PLEASE DO.  It’s not that difficult and most cities already pick up recyclable goods once a week.  Whenever I am eating out, I bring with me anything that’s recyclable to make sure it actually gets recycled.

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Bring protecting the planet to the next level… whether you’re 100% vegetarian, vegan, plant-based or not.  These are ideas you can implement within your current lifestyle and help even more to preserve our natural resources.

Would you share some other eco-friendly ideas you have easily implemented??  We would love to hear from you…

6 Ways Vegetarians Help the Environment

21 Apr

Global warming is a serious issue.  Our Planet needs our help and we must come to the rescue.  Even President Obama stated in a recent interview that global warming is not only affecting the environment itself, but it’s affecting our health.  Climate change is creating a longer pollen and allergy season, contributing to more asthma and upper respiratory problems.  Higher temperatures affect older people increasing risks for heat exhaustion and cardiovascular conditions.  Climate changes affect mosquitoes and that leads to increased exposure to diseases like malaria or dengue.  Increasingly variable rainfall patterns affect our water supply, so much that in places like California it is estimated they only have about 1 year of water left.  Doesn’t that shake you up in your pants??

Back when Earth Day started back in 1970… it was all about air and water pollution.  Then it evolved to Reduce, ReUse, Recycle… and now, 44 years after that initial Earth Day celebration, the same issues still apply.   Polluted air and water supplies, the need to reduce our waste, the need to use up less energy and use renewable resources…  Why are we still having the same conversation?  Have we not learned anything in the last 44 years?

My take… is that we forget the impact our own behavior can have on the whole planet.  We fail to see the changes in our lifestyles as triggers for global improvement.  We think so little of ourselves that believe that we can’t really make a difference.    We leave it up to government, up to corporations and we, as individuals, have great power in our hands.

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It is widely documented, how becoming a vegetarian, vegan or even reducing considerably the consumption of animal products is the cheapest and easiest way to have a positive impact on the environment.   I would like to recap some of those to help you understand the great power we have:

  1. Vegetarians help cool the Planet.  Raising and feeding animals for slaughter overheat the planet and use up a lot of resources.  If you take into consideration the methane from farting cattle, the gases released from their manure, the oil needed to take the carcasses to the market, the electricity needed to keep the meat cool…  at the end of the day, animals are poor converters of food to flesh.  Switching to a more plant-based diet minimizes greenhouse gases, which makes for a cooler planet, physically and figuratively.
  2. Vegetarians consume less water.  It might seem like a weird thing to say, when I always stress the importance of drinking water and its benefit to your health.  But hear me out…  Vegetarian author John Robbins calculated it takes 60, 108, 168 and 229 pounds of water to produce 1 pound of potatoes, wheat, corn and rice, respectively.   On the other hand, it takes approximately 15,000 pounds of water to produce one pound of beef.  Vegetarians consume less water in the sense people are consuming all the water it took to produce that piece of meat.  No wonder there are so many vegetarians in California, huh??
  3. Vegetarians reduce stress on the ozone layer.  If you’ve ever been close to a livestock farm, you know these are very, very smelly.  It’s said 2/3 of man-made ammonia, a major contributor to acid rain, is produced by livestock.  Seventy percent of the agricultural crops are grown for livestock feed and these are responsible for 37% of pesticide use in the US.  Even though pesticides and fertilizers are used in vegetable and fruit agriculture and there is a case to be built around the importance of organic farming, reducing demand on animals for slaughter would greatly improve the air and ozone layer quality.
  4. Vegetarians preserve ocean life.  Not only because vegans and most vegetarians do not consume seafood, but because vast quantities of excess nutrients from animal waste, factory farms, sewage and nitrogen compounds from animal factory farming pollute sea water taking up all oxygen in the sea water near the mouths of major rivers, to the point where little can live.  And these things do not get talked about on the news…  Certainly, oil spillage, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, is not the only cause of water pollution and threat to ocean life.
  5. Vegetarians enjoy variety and promote biodiversity.   For decades, tropical rainforests, one of the most diverse and rich ecosystems on our planet, have been destroyed to use for grazing cattle and growing soya for chicken feed.  The World Wildlife Fund calculates that about one third of the world’s diverse eco-regions are threatened by the sheer quantity of animals being raised for humans to eat.   And also, people with a plant-based diet are more open to try new foods, rethinking their dinner plate to see rice, pasta or quinoa as a main dish, not just as a side.
  6. Vegetarians promote life and health.  According to The Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian saves the lives of approximately 11,000 animals in his lifetime.  A vegetarian sees no difference in the life of a pig as the life of the family dog or cat.  And even though there are multiple factors involved in someone’s overall health, it is highly documented that people on a plant-based diet have a lower risk of developing obesity, cancers, heart disease and other illnesses.

The bottom line is, people eat less food, drink less water, produce less gas and require less land than large livestock animals.  Growing food for animals and raising those animals in farms involves cutting down forests, using more fresh water, damaging the atmosphere and employing more food to create less.  If you really care about the environment, going vegetarian is the most sustainable decision you can make.

If going vegan or vegetarian is too much for you, even just reducing significantly the amount of meat and other animal products in your diet can have a positive impact.  For example, how about instead of doing Meatless Mondays, make it “meaty Mondays” in which you consume a small portion of meat only once a week.  I can’t believe I suggested that…  but when I read it I thought it was a great idea for someone to not feel the pressure of the “vegetarian label” while still making a positive lifestyle and economic change.

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Help me spread the word on the advantages of the Vegetarian Lifestyle on our Environment.  We can be the change we want to see in our world.  Please comment and share with your circle of friends…

The food experience in Los Angeles it’s bigger and better than originally anticipated… #LBNC15

18 Feb

Yesterday, I mentioned all I wanted to munch on during my upcoming trip to Los Angeles… and my friends at the Lifestyle Bloggers National Conference #LBNC15, now in its 5th year, sent me a little note telling me – “Hey Madelyn!!!  There is MORE veggie-friendly goodness in your munching future.  Please check out these collaborators…”  And here they are:

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Amara Chocolate will be providing goodies in the form of Venezuelan Arepas with all the traditional fixin’s.  I hope they bring along some of their gluten-free corn-based arepas filled with cheese, black beans and sweet plantain.  To me that sounds like a great lunch!!!  And for a little something sweet, they’ll make churros with a variety of dipping sauces, like dulce de leche, condensed milk and my favorite, guava sauce!!!  Note to self – must bring exercise clothes because I might gain some pounds on this trip.

 

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And then… to appeal to my junk food side, Dirt Dog LA will be making their authentic hot dogs to our conference.  I’ve been told that if you’re in Los Angeles and you don’t eat a hot dog, you didn’t really visited Los Angeles.  And in true Cali form, Dirt Dogs LA has Veggie Dogs!!!!!  They serve them with grilled onions, red and green bell peppers over a variety of buns.  In all honesty, I like my veggie dogs with just a squirt of ketchup and mustard, but I am willing to give these LA veggie dogs a try.   And have you ever heard of Horchata Ice Cream? I haven’t and I hope one is in my near future…

 

And my friend Diana, now living in Sonoma County, is working as the pastry chef of Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga alongside Chef Kory Stewart.  We spoke yesterday and we already made plans to taste the great creations she and Chef Stewart are offering.  Let me tell you a bit of what I already have in mind – the house-made black truffle and white bean tortellini with rainbow carrots, cipollini onions and Piave Vecchio cheese sounds really good or the leek pancakes with avocado and jalapeno, hold the crab please!!!  And I would like to finish with Diana’s churros topped with dulce de leche whipped cream. Or just give me the dulce de leche and the whipped cream on the side and I’ll be a happy girl.  Can you believe the churros are also served as a breakfast menu item???  Decadent indeed…

Bueno people… I need to actually pack my bags now.  Will keep you posted as soon as I arrive on the West Coast.

I am going to Los Angeles!!!!!  To EAT!!! The Food Experience at the #LBNC15…

17 Feb

For years I’ve been meaning to travel again to California.  I have been there several times – once with my family when I was about 15 years old and then a few more times in Los Angeles and San Francisco for work.  But the last time I set foot in Cali soil was almost 10 years ago… and it’s just been way too long.

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For a few years now, California has been calling my name.  Reading magazine articles about the farmer’s markets in Los Angeles, looking at pictures on Pinterest on the latest and greatest veggie-centric restaurants in San Francisco, watching on TV about the vegetarian food trucks, chatting to other Cali-based bloggers on how many vegan options are there in menus and how knowledgeable the chefs and servers are about what a vegetarian is…  all those things and a few more is what has been luring me to visit.

When I learned about the Lifestyle Bloggers National Conference (#LLBNC15) in Los Angeles, organized by my online friend and blogger, Ana Lydia Ochoa-Monaco, I knew it was the perfect excuse to do some blog-related work, networking  and to live, even if for 10 days at least, the California experience.  And like I said to my friend Diana, now living in Sonoma Wine Country…  I am coming to California TO EAT!!!!  So let me tell you a little bit about the experience I am going into at the conference specifically:

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The Corner Bakery Café will supply the breakfast…  I am very much looking forward to trying their Chilled Oatmeal, or as they call it in Europe, Muesli. And I like that on their menu it’s labeled as Vegetarian, Gluten-Free and Low Fat.  Three pluses!!!

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Fresh Brother’s Pizza will be providing our lunch… and in true California fashion, their menu includes a MegaGrain Crust Pizza, which I am interpreting as an ultra, heavy duty whole grains crust; not the usual white, semolina flour crust here. And they also have a gluten-free crust made from rice, tapioca and potato crust.   Hello!!?!?!  Which pizzeria in Puerto Rico advertises openly they have gluten-free crust and are actually proud of it!?!?  They even have vegan cheese and sausages available… although I have a feeling, I will go for the real cheese one.  I am very much looking forward to this…

For the cocktail parties, Anepalco’s Café will be sharing their creations on the appetizer front.  Looking in advance at their menu, I hope they come up with some true vegetarian (as in no fish or seafood) options for me.  If they can bring an appetizer version of their salads – like the Colorada Beets or the Snow Arugula – I’ll be a happy camper.  Besides, I’ll be too busy talking and networking to be eating… NOT!! There’s always time to taste test!

I am also looking forward to visiting a few spots in LA, Sonoma and Napa:

I want to try chef Roy Choi’s new veggie-centric restaurant Commissary where my Puerto Rican friend Monti works sometimes…  maybe all the time.  I’ll learn more about it when we actually meet in person for a bite or two in the next few days.

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I was also dreaming to sit down and enjoy the fabulous Vegetable Tasting Menu at the French Laundry by chef Thomas Keller, but unfortunately for now, the kitchen is currently under renovation.  Chef Keller and I will have our rendez-vous on a future trip to Cali or maybe at Per Sé in NYC.  Time will tell… in the meantime, I’ll continue salivating over their menus online.

The rest… I am not planning too much.  I decided this would be a trip to “go with the flow”.  I will be in Los Angeles during the Oscars, so I may or may not be able to meet any celebrities or even a vegetarian/vegan Academy-Award winner. You know who you are…   It’s all up to Karma and the Universe.  But be certain, I will share as much as I can with you all.  Deal??

Are you familiar with Los Angeles and San Francisco and would like to recommend your favorite vegetarian fare or restaurant???  Please share with me in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter.  Gracias!!!

If I had a Valentine… what would I cook for him?

15 Feb

I love going out to dinner to a nice, fancy restaurant as much as the next girl… especially, if someone special is inviting.  But experience has taught me that on Valentine’s Day or around that date, it’s the WORST TIME to go out to dinner.  There may be some exceptions, of course…  but usually during this time, restaurants are extremely crowded, putting extra pressure on all the staff.

To me,  it’s more romantic to plan something special at home.  Make something you know you’re extremely good at and that you know your partner will love – for the awesome flavors, but also for the effort and care you put into it. Besides, when you have dinner at home… dress code is optional. ;)

Unfortunately, this year, I am spending Valentine’s weekend with a nice construction crew who’s remodeling my tiny, little kitchen into a very chic and modern tiny, little kitchen. And to top it all…  no romantic Valentine for me this year.

But… let’s play pretend.  If I had a romantic Valentine to invite over for dinner, what would I cook for him to let him know how much I care?

This is my menu…

Vegetarian Valentine 2015

Start with a Spinach, Arugula, Figs and Blue Cheese salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Main course would be the exquisite Baked Pasta with 4 Cheeses,  that usually floors anyone who has it for the first time.

On the side, and because we’re in Puerto Rico, I need to have sweet plantains with vanilla and cinnamon.

And for dessert, I would make a batch of Carob Syrup to dip some strawberries in…  I would even add a pinch of cayenne to keep things interesting.

 

Do you like my menu??  What are your go-to dishes if you want to show someone you care?

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