• Brooklyn,  Green is Gezellig,  Urban Gardening

    2011 vs. 2012

    Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post on how much gardening envy had taken over my life — and while the post closed with me saying, “I guess I’ll keep reading stuff and looking at stuff when I can and maybe next year…? No, definitely next year,” I didn’t really believe it.

    I said it because it sounded better than admitting I would probably forget all about it or just go through the same garden envy/lust combo again the next year (and probably for years to come, for all I knew).

    I did not —I could not — imagine that within a year I would be presenting a workshop on how to gain access to land for community gardening, which is exactly what I was doing this past Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Making Brooklyn Bloom conference.

    It was fun and frankly exhausting. For an introvert like me, meeting dozens of new people and giving a presentation and answering questions to a roomful of people is on a par with… maybe not a marathon, but at least a 10K run.

    But I did it — and I still got up the next day, went to the garden and hauled wheelbarrows full of topsoil around, finally filling in my garden plot and getting it ready to plant.

    Hello, spring.
  • Doing More With Less,  Green is Gezellig,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Tuna Salad (Minus The Mercury)

    I love tuna salad. Canned white tuna, with minced celery and pickle, some mayonnaise and maybe a few capers… if I could eat that as often as I’d like, I’d end up as mad as a hatter (or maybe just as mad as Jeremy Piven) due to the elevated levels of mercury in canned tuna.

    What’s a tuna-phile to do?

    fake tuna salad

    Fake it.

    Fake Tuna Salad

    Mash 2-3 cups of chickpeas with the tines of a fork. (You could trying using a food processor but one pulse too far and you’ve got hummus instead.) This can be a little tedious but the resulting texture is more appealing. To pass the time, I recommend Pandora’s Oldies Soul station, as pictured above. Add minced celery, pickle, mayonnaise, or whatever your mom added to tuna salad when you were a kid.

  • DIY,  Green is Gezellig,  Life in Maison Gezellig,  Make Your Life Gezellig

    Not exactly about food, but still pretty great.

    compulsive recycling

    I am a compulsive recycler. If something can possibly be used again, by god, I have to at least try — and if it keeps me from having to buy something new, I am equally delighted by my ingenuity and my single-handed environment-savingness.

    At the same time, I also really love a good household purge. When you live with another adult and a kid (as well as three cats) in less than 650 square feet, there is really no room for anything you not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

    So, what happens when you have something still beautiful but not useful? For example, what to do with a shirt that shrunk in the wash just enough to be too small on my husband while still too big for me?

    Recycle it and make it into something beautiful, like so:

    before: husband's old shirtafter: kid-sized dress



    More photos and details behind the jump…

  • DIY,  Doing More With Less,  Green is Gezellig,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Oh beans, I done you wrong and now I’m sorry.

    I have never been keen on the humble bean.

    I cook them because they’re cheap, they’re a good source of protein, they’re better for the environment, et cetera — but I’ve never cooked them because I like them. They’re either mealy or mushy and always completely bland.

    beans and rice

    Oh, how wrong I have been.

    Until recently, I was firmly under the impression that adding salt to beans as they cooked made them soften slower and therefore need to be cooked longer. As it turns out, cooking the beans in salted water makes them cook faster, and more importantly, it makes them taste better. I also found this batch was the first time I’d cooked beans that kept their skins on and didn’t disintegrate before they were cooked all the way through. Each bean remained its own discrete jewel of cumin-scented goodness.

    The recipe is based on the Cuban Black Beans recipe on CookForGood.com:

    1 pound of (picked over, washed and soaked) dried black beans
    8 cups water
    1 tablespoon salt
    5 bay leaves
    5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
    3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    I never remember to soak beans the night before so I boil them for about 2 minutes, then let them sit for 1-2 hours before cooking. After soaking, drain the beans and add all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer until done (usually about 2 hours, but depending on how long you soaked them and the age of the beans, it could vary).

    After eating them over rice and tossed in a salad, I took what was left and made it into black bean soup.

    black bean soup

    This was just one of those “throw stuff in from the fridge and hope it works out” soups, which could have been okay at best, but the beans… MY GOD, THE BEANS. I had added some garlic and some tomato paste into the soup pot and I wasn’t that impressed with the result, but as soon as I got the stick blender in there, all the flavor inside the beans came out — the cumin, the garlic — everything came out into the taste of the soup. I already wish I had more.

    Beans, can you ever forgive me for treating you so bad?

  • Green is Gezellig,  Life in Maison Gezellig

    Green is… kinda overwhelming

    Because I’m taking the summer off from school, my husband and I have decided that this is the summer we officially make our apartment into everything we’ve ever wanted it to be… starting with paint.

    Even if I wasn’t the self-proclaimed eco-nerd I am, I still border on freakishly chemically sensitive. Cigarette smoke, Lysol, almost all perfumes, the detergent aisle at Target — all these things give me a stabbing headache. And the worst of all? Paint. The super painted the halls in my building and it was like going on a free dive: deep breath in, then hold it… hold it… hold it… until (gasp!) I got outside and could breathe the delightful city air again.

    And after much searching (and sticker shock at how much some of these zero-VOC paints cost), I think we finally have a winner:

    freshaire from Home Depot

    The Freshaire Choice paint, available at Home Depot for only a few bucks more than regular paint.

    I’ll admit, I’m not exactly thrilled by their color palette; it’s a lot more muted than I would like, but I think that’s due to the no VOC1 colorants they use. I do like that it has a lifetime warranty and you can get three 2-ounce free samples in whatever colors you’d like. As for me, I just ordered Beckoning Sea, Delightful Daffodil, and Charted Voyage.

    1. I just realized I’ve used the VOC acronym twice now without explaining what it is. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds: basically, they’re the gases that give paint its paint smell. []