Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Easy Indian Food Iftar!

Finally a really easy Indian dish as far as time and effort goes. I love love love Indian food but I stopped cooking it some time ago, too much prep, too many steps. I'm sure if that is your main way of cooking you just fall into a rhythm and a system, but I just want it once and a while. So, I was so happy to find this slow cooker recipe.

This will be great for Ramadan, here on the east coast I think it will end up being a 18 hour fast, I am trying to rely on the freezer and crock pot more this time around

Crock Pot Chicken Vindaloo
Prep Time: 10 mins Total Time: 5 1/4 hrs min Serves: 3

Ingredients

          o 3 tablespoons vinegar
          o 3 garlic cloves, minced
          o 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger
          o 3/4 tablespoon curry powder
          o 1 tablespoon ground cumin
          o 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
          o 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
          o 1/4 teaspoon hot pepperground
          o 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
          o 2 tablespoons olive oil
          o 1 cup tomato sauce
          o 1 cinnamon sticks
          o 1 small onions, chopped
          o 3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, quartered
          o 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

   1. Puree first 10 ingredients in a blender.
   2. Pour into the crock pot, add tomato sauce, cinnamon stick and onion and mix well.
   3. Add chicken and turn to cover.
   4. Cook on low for 5 hours.
   5. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
   6. Serve with rice or rolls, enjoy

I made this on a day I was just  dragging my feet about cooking, being the lazy chef that I made some mods:
I used frozen chicken thighs instead, I didn't start it until 1pm so I turned it up to high for 5 hours instead of low. I didn't put anything in the blender, just dumped it all in the pot, I didn't have any more curry powder on hand so I subbed with garam masala, instead of using plain tomato sauce I just recycled some garden style veggie spaghetti sauce, and I subbed hot pepper for black pepper hoping the kids would try it (they didn't).

It came out great, mashaallah, I only had to step in a stir b/c the thighs were frozen, once they loosened up a bit I could coat them with the sauce. When they came out the meat was falling off the bone, the way I like it mashaallah! The only dh feedback I got was that breasts might be better b/c with the thighs you can get a lot of rubbery fat parts from the bone. Eh, I don't mind so much since the darker meat is so much cheaper, but I'll give it a go next time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Finished Reading: The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for ChangeWelcome to "Finished Reading!" Where I'm so darned happy to actually complete a book I'll go ahead and blog about it, hooray!

Annie Leonard, former Greenpeace activist, has traveled to over 40 countries researching where our waste goes. Her 20 minute film The Story of Stuff, is an internet sensation receiving over 10 million views. She now has several other films including the latest, The Story of Cosmetics. It explains what goes into making all the wonderful Stuff we consume and what happens along the way of the entire lifecycle of a product, from extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. The message is: Stuff is so cheap because the Earth and local communities (and the global community) pay the real the price, we are subsidizing our own future to buy cheap good and let industry get away with murder (sometimes literally).

I was excited to see The Story of Stuff in book form, even happier to see it at the library on the New Books shelf. I thought it was going to be a quick engaging read, but it is so jammed packed with information that I felt like I could get college credit for reading it. First you learn a little more about Annie Leonard and see that she is not just some fast talking hippie on a mission, she is very educated and experienced in her line of work. Next The Story of Stuff takes each piece of the video and expands on it greatly. It is a very eye opening read! Every item in your home, your cosmetic kit, your craft bin, and kids toy box will have you wondering how much damage did this one item cause just to land in my home and be used for a short time?? She also explores the issue of is all this Stuff even making us happier? Not surprisingly the answer is No. Human beings are most happiest when we return to what is important, a strong sense of community and a link with nature.

I have to admit at times it was hard to get through the whole book, 352 (100% recycled) pages, as it can make you feel that things are very bleak in this day and age. But Leonard, who buys nothing new and lives near friends in Berkley who pool resources, does offer alternative ways we could be going about doing things, highlighting groups, innovations, laws, simple lifestyle changes and choices that are better. Overall, I highly recommend The Story of Stuff, its going on all around us!


P.S. Check out out Virginia Sole-Smith's 6 Part Questions for Annie Leonard

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Company Letters

A little while ago I realized that making small steps to become more healthy, more green and closer to the Islamic principle of taking only what you need was good just for me and my household. Alhamdulillah, making lifestyle changes is still good to do, for the hasanat inshaallah, for the awareness, but on the larger scale me switching to organic fruit is not going to solve the problem of large scale destruction that business and industry gets away with. So I decided to add writing to companies as part of my going green toolbox along with trying to buy used and detoxing my home. I want to know what they have to say for themselves. Alhamdulilah the Story of Stuff and No Impact Man both helped me to understand that we cant buy our way to a healthy planet.

so heres a round up of my first installment of writing to companies, I hope by publishing these that I can help someone choose whats best for their family and health. didn't think to copy the forms I filled out online but will for next time

Rubbermaid, June 2010
I wrote Rubbermaid telling them that I was disappointed to discover my food storage containers were made from #7 plastic, which contains BPA. I asked if I would be getting a refund or exchange since I did not wish for my food to be stored in plastic that will leech this hormone disrupting chemical. I knew the answer would of course be no but was surprised to see a defense of this chemical as "safe". I will be replacing these with glass only inshaallah

Reply:
BPA has been used safely in the manufacture of thousands of products for
years and its use fully complies with U.S. Food and Drug Administration
and other historically stringent public health regulators in the
European Union and Japan.  There have been no reports of illness
connected to BPA. There have been no recalls on our products.
For information regarding Bisphenol-A and our products, please visit our
website, www.rubbermaid.com and click on the link located near the right hand corner, "Learn about BPA". Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concern.
my reply:
thank you for your reply. I will be avoiding your company's products from now on, since your company is clearly not up to date on researching the materials that go into its products, or on the concerns of your market:
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/2010/01/fda-expresses-some-concern-but-fails-to-ban-bpa-.html
the National Toxicology Program, concluded that BPA  was of “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures.” 
Material that leeches chemicals associated with these things are never "Safely used"?

Stop and Shop:
same issue, BPA, but different response. I wrote them saying I was concerned that the organic oranges I get from their store are in a #7 plastic bag and, hard as it is to give them up, I am considering no longer buying them if they can't offer a bulk option or switch to a less toxic plastic.

Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns about Bisphenol A in our products specifically the bag of our Nature's Promise oranges. We understand that concerns have been raised about the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA).   The Food and Drug Administration recently revised their assessment on BPA and have announced that they are working with the National Center for Toxicology Research to fund in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA.

Particular concern has been raised about the health implications for infants and very young children.  Stop & Shop no longer sells any baby bottles or sippy cups that contain BPA.  Please visit this link, http://www.hhs.gov/safety/bpa for the recommendations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services for parents of young children.

As to the use of BPA in the epoxy resin used to line aluminum cans, please know that we are working with our suppliers to transition from the use of BPA in can linings.   However, BPA has been used in small amounts in the epoxy resin used to line aluminum cans since the 1950s.  It is still the industry standard and it will take time for this transition to occur.

In the meantime, please be assured I have forwarded your comments to our Corporate Office and merchandisers for their consideration.

Thanks, again, for contacting us.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
Nubian Heritage:
I love these soaps and was so happy to find them on iHerb.com.
my email letter:
Hi, I would like to know what sources your palm oil in your soaps is  from. I am concerned with using palm oil that is not grown sustainably, like the palm oil that comes form Indonesia. What can  you tell me about your products
Thanks!

Reply:
Thank you for your inquiry. We purchase our Palm Oil from a supplier with organic farms in South America that specializes in sustainable agriculture. Thank you for contacting us.
This made me happy :D If you have never ordered from iherb.com check them out, you can use code SAK105 for $5 off your first purchase. 

Similac:
I called them to ask what their Sling Pack was made out of that I got as a freebie when I had my son in October of 2009. I took a while but they confirmed that it is PVC. I will be sending it back, along with another diaper bag from 2006 and  a letter explaining why I protest the use of PVC. I got this idea after reading the book The Story of Stuff in which Annie Leonard describes receiving a PVC freebie and getting a flack for protesting it.

Also I just mailed off some teethers I bought from Little Tikes that were made of PVC with the same letter.

Hope this wasnt too long, I hope to keep up the habit as its proving very enlightening and motivating to me, will share more inshaallah

Do you write companies? Why or why not?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A 7 Day Menu #1

When I make a menu for the week my life is soooo much simplier, when i fall off track and have nothign prepared we end up eating alot of pizza and junk, which is nice sometimes but not how I want it for a full week. Alhamdulillah My zawj volunteered to go veg two nights a week, instead of the one we had been trying before, Allahu Akbar!

Day 1 (Veg) Spinach Ricotta Pie with Feta, Chicpea Burgers on the side, no bun

Day 2 Balsamic Chicken Thighs side: rice and red lentils with cilantro and tomato if available seasonally. if not then lemon juice and salt

Day 3 (Veg) Soup and Sandwich night! Summer Squash Soup with leftover Chicpea Burgers from day one. Replace the combo of water and bullion with chicken stock, who needs the MSG?. Buy Squash organic as squash is a crop that is most likely to be GM.
Side for the soup: Basil Cheese Breadsticks (might make 2)

Day 4 Spaghetti with meat sauce, (easy for a break) use left over breadsticks for the side (if there are any!)
to make meat sauce I brown 1/2-1 pound ground beef with fennel seeds, then just dump in spaghetti sauce with veggies, if there is alot of grease i will drain it, but if a little or more I will just leave it in for flavor.

Day 5 BBQ Chicken Sandwiches in the Crockpot sorry lots of sandwiches, im in that mood.
with a salad before serving and oven baked sweet potato chips on the side.
will be throwing in some drumsticks to show up later

Day 6 - Whatever, usually we end up eating out of the house one day a week.

Day 7 Kid friendly- BBQ chicken drumsticks from day 5 spicy-sweet slaw and homemade mac n cheese (below). please use organic canola oil on the slaw or it will be GM.

Homemade Mac N Cheese

Category:   Pasta
Style:   American
Special Consideration:   Kids
Servings:   3-4

Description:
Here is an easy recipe for the kids.
Zubayr gives this the double thumbs up, the highest so far in his rating system. He says its better than the box mixes so that's what we are sticking to for now, one less thing to buy makes it easy
Easy Kids Meal or Side
no need for a box mix

Ingredients:
pasta, shells, wagon wheels, elbows
cheddar cheese, a handful or two grated (can wait to grate)
milk
2 T butter

Directions:
Make pasta according to package directions, drain but do not rinse, you need to keep the heat
while hot add in the butter and diver it with the pasta.
Grate the cheese while the butter melts then throw on top of pasta
while stirring add a small splash of milk