The first glimpses of fall settling in are showing up here in wine country. Today the sky is a light gray and everyone is finding themselves bundled in sweaters, coats, and scarves. Good bye summer.

I thought it would be appropriate to welcome the winter months with a local soup. I chose squash flower soup because of its Mexican origin and the fact that a farm just down the road sells squash flowers at $2/lb. No kidding!

Software:

1/2 stick of butter

1 medium onion

12 squash flowers

2 cloves garlic sliced

cayenne pepper (ground)

red chili flakes

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 cups vegetable broth

1 egg

Hardware:

1 spatula

1 ladle

1 good sized pot

Other:

white vinegar

salt

1. Start with washing your flowers.

I’ve found the best way for me is to fill up one side of my sink about half way with warm water, to which 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 of white vinegar are added.

Toss in the flowers and let them soak for a few minutes. Once they have soaked for about 5 minutes drain the sink and rinse each flower in warm water.

2. While your flowers are soaking, slice your onion and add the butter to a heated pot.

3. Once the butter has melted toss in your onions. And sauté until soft.

4. Add in your squash flowers and garlic. Sauté for two minutes.

5. Now is the time to add in your spices. Note: I did not set specific amounts for these because spices can be very dependent on personal preference.

If you do not care for spices you can choose to not use these, on the other hand if you love spicy foods like I do toss in a hefty pinch (or two) of your cayenne and red chili flakes.

6. Add your cinnamon and stir to combine.

7. Add your vegetable stock and bring the soup to a boil

8. Once at a boil crack your egg in the center of your soup pot. As soon as the egg hits the soup start whisking. This will thicken your soup and give it a great texture.

9. Once the egg is fully cooked serve the soup. You can serve this with tortillas, crunchy bread, or on its own.

From Coop America newsletter

http://www.coopamerica.org/pubs/caq/articles/21Things.cfm

1.  Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, http://www.goodwill.org, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN, http://www.recycle-steel.org.

2.  Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110, http://www.batteryrecycling.com.

3.  Cardboard boxes: cardboard boxContact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they can use them. Or, offer them up at your local Freecycle.org listserv or on Craigslist.org. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, UsedCardboardBoxes.com accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new: 888/454-3223, http://www.auraltech.com.

5.  Clothes: shirtsWearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. Donate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, http://www.dressforsuccess.org. Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes  – then donate the rest.

6.  Compact fluorescent bulbs:   Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling:  http://www.ikea.com.

7.  Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won’t be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at http://www.findacomposter.com.

8.  Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at http://www.ban.org/pledge/Locations.html

9.  Exercise videos: Swap them with others at http://www.videofitness.com.

10.   Eyeglasses: glassesYour local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need.

11.  Foam Packing peanuts: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept these for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340, http://www.epspackaging.org/info.html

12. Ink/toner cartridges: Recycleplace.com pays $1/each.

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org listserv, or try giving them away at Throwplace.com or giving or selling them at iReuse.com.  iReuse.com will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000, http://www.recycleoil.org.

15.  Phones: cell phoneDonate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell it to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, http://www.collectivegood.com. Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: http://www.donateaphone.com. Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927, http://www.reclamere.com.

16.  Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249, http://www.playitagainsports.com.

17.   “Technotrash”: Easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, cell phones, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK, http://www.greendisk.com.

18.  Tennis shoes: Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. http://www.nikereuseashoe.com. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. http://www.oneworldrunning.com.

19.  Toothbrushes and razors:toothbrush  Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from Recycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber.  Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms’ yogurt cups.  888/354-7296, http://www.recycline.com.

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866/33-TYVEK.

21.  Stuff you just can’t recycle:  When practical, send such items back to the manufacturer and tell them they need to manufacture products that close the waste loop responsibly.

For more information on Coop America check out: http://www.coopamerica.org/

Hi guys and gals

My partner, Jon and I are doing a walk for Leukemia & Lymphoma this October. I have a goal to raise $100 for this cause, if you’re interested in helping my fundraising efforts please check out the link below:

http://www.active.com/donate/ltnSanFr1/2126_bohemianink

Thanks for the support.

I’ll post about how the walk goes :)

Courtesy of everystockphoto

I first tried figs this summer when volunteering at our community garden. I enjoyed picking the fruit in the community garden’s large fig grove. The canopy the large trees left me under felt magical and what an adventure it was to search and high and low for figs.

At some point along the way I became hesitant. One of the volunteers was spreading her wisdom out for me. She said to be careful of the white sap that can dribble off the stem when harvesting figs, its irritating to sensitive skin, but a cure for worts. I examined the fruit closely. How odd this purple tear drop was… would it taste good?

I took some home and contemplated what to do with them. For some reason my instinct did not drive me straight to the internet for answers. I day dreamed. I came up with the idea of having figs with cheese. My partner thought I was loopy he’d never heard of anyone eating figs with cheese, but that night I got my way and set our table with an array of fruits: figs, pears, plums, and peaches from the community garden. A large salad with nuts and a homemade vinaigrette. Pieces of smoked salmon and of course a large slab of locally made brie.

We each took a bite and I found heaven. Sweet and creamy… I couldn’t get enough. My love for figs and cheese was found and the adventure had only just begun.

Later this summer I prepared breakfast for my father and siblings in Nevada. The breakfast was inspired by a recipe in a Jamie Oliver cookbook I had given my dad. We sat down at the table, piled high in the center were huge extra ripe figs and next to them? A sauce made of ricotta cheese and honey. Again, heaven.

As part of dinner last night Jon and I whipped together a fig salad. 2 figs each cut into quarters and set on top of baby greens. Drizzled on top I made a plum sauce dressing. Very tasty. I look forward to making it again.

And today for lunch I am eating figs drizzled with a little agave syrup, crunchy toast, and Mediterranean cheese yogurt (if you like cream cheese and you like yogurt you Must try this. I’ve only been able to find it at Trader Joe’s, but keep your eye out for it :))

Figs are a fruit that should not be feared. Beneath their smooth purple skin lies sweet, soft goodness that pairs well with soft cheeses like those described above as well as meats like prosciutto and Parma ham.

The figs used in the dishes above were all fresh, simply washed and cut into quarters, halves, or eighths depending on the size of the fruit and what it was used with. This is only the tip of the ice berg for cooking with figs.

If you are interested in picking up a fig cookbook try:

Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons

Local Sonoma Restaurant, The Girl and the fig (cookbook)

Or see what turns up in an internet search for figs:

Cornish hens stuffed with brandied figs

100 year old fig preserves

Grilled Figs

I highly recommend picking your own figs if possible, the hunt for figs makes the treat of eating them much more enjoyable I’ve found. I also think the fresher figs are the better they taste (I am also not a huge fan of dried figs). If you don’t have a fig grove in your community garden or if you don’t have a nice neighbor who likes to share :) maybe you should look into growing your own fig tree. After all, who can pass up on this Fitness fruit that is said to have come from the Tree of Life? Figs pack a powerful punch of fiber, minerals, and nutrients... no wonder Buddha sat down under a fig tree to find enlightenment.

What is your favorite fig recipe? Send me an email or leave a comment!

Image courtesy of everystockphoto

It could be with these easy tips for acquiring eco-friendly school supplies this year:

1. Dress for less

Shop for back to school duds at local thrift stores, save money and the environment through recycling. Also try shopping at fair trade stores or websites and buy sweatshop free products.
2. Bright Ideas

Pick up a Solar powered calculator to add up the money you save by going green

3. Green lunch ideas

Don’t store those local, organic veggies in a disposable snack bag! Check out these reusable lunch containers, utensils, and bags from Reusablebags.com

Parents get more information on reducing the waste in your child’s lunch here.

4. In the fine print
Print Projects on Processed Clorine Free (PCF) paper with high post consumer recycled content!

As recycled paper is becoming more mainstream you can find it at most office supply stores. Office Max and Staples both have recycled paper areas of their store with everything from card stock to colored papers to average multi-purpose printer paper.

To learn more about eco papers read the ecological guide to paper from Celerydesign.com

5. Are you an ecowriter?

Greenline paper company offer 90% PCW pencils and Green Earth Office supply provides refillable pens made of recycled tires.

6. Keeping it together

You can find recycled binders at Treecycle and the Office Depot offers a line of Oxford products that use recycled materials in their report and presentation covers.

7. Back Support

Support your environment by carrying your course load in packs made of hemp or recycled rubber. Want something a little different? Try a solar back pack or a bag made from recycled feed bags!

If these options are out of your budget try salvaging last year’s pack. Sometimes a thread and needle or a new zipper is all you need. Try a local luggage repair shop for replacing broken or damaged zippers.

8. Repeat: Epeat

If you’re in the market for a new computer look at the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (Epeat) for help. The system has rated has rated desktops, monitors, integrated systems, and notebooks to help you find green electronics more easily.

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