Each week, The Huffington Post presents a compelling topic to spark discussion at your dinner table.
Last week, the earth hit an environmental milestone that has climate scientists very concerned. One of the things that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory is responsible for is measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere. Its researchers in Hawaii found that we’ve passed the threshold of 400 parts per million — the highest carbon dioxide concentration in millions of years. It’s not just a number — this represents big changes for our environment. At the rate we’re going, the earth’s temperature could continue to rise, leading to more extreme weather and plants and animals going extinct.
But even in the face of all of this scary news, there are ways we can help to make our planet healthier. Simple things like walking or taking public transportation, being careful not to sit in a running car, eating less meat and buying groceries at the neighborhood farmers’ market are all ways to lend a hand — and everyone in the family can participate (get your parents involved!). Use social media to share articles about climate change (including this one!) and keep the conversation active. Tonight, let’s talk about what we can do to make an impact.
Questions for discussion:
* What have you learned about climate change at school?
* Does the news that we have surpassed the 400 ppm threshold scare you?
* What can people — including your family — do to make their lives more green?
Cupcake lasagnas are becoming quite fashionable here in my neck of the woods, they are so perfectly kid-sized.
In this recipe I use ravioli as the noodle, because if you think about it, a ravioli is already a mini layered lasagna. All it needs is some vegetable, sauce and cheese, and another layer of the same, then… tada, a ravioli cupcake lasagna!…
How do I cook my green vegetables like sugar snap peas and green beans so they keep their bright colors? — Kara
You want to shock them green! Throw the vegetables into a big pot of generously salted boiling water, a big pot because you want the water to stay boiling. You might need to cook your vegetables in several batches, because if you put too many in, the water will cool, and they will become sad, gray and dull. Do not put a lid on the pot. They won’t need to cook long, a minute or two for sugar snaps, a few more for beans. Just stand by them (the steam will give you a nice facial, a bonus) and pop one or two in your mouth. When you think they are perfectly cooked, fish them out and either cool them off quickly in an ice water bath, or serve them right away. And never add acid, like lemon juice or a vinaigrette, until the very last minute as it will make them sadly gray as well.
I am making your “Wheat Berry Salad” for a party, but I am using farro instead of wheat berries. The package says to soak for 8 hours, is that really necessary? — K. Swede
Farro, spelt, and wheat berries (also called red or white wheat), are all delicious, chewy and pop in your mouth grains. They can easily be exchanged for each other as you have done. Soaking grains softens their bran making them cook up a bit quicker and plumper, however you can skip this step, just be sure to use the cooking times on the packages as suggestions only. Italian farro has often been parboiled so it can be done in as little as 25 minutes, whereas wheat berries can take up to 90 minutes. So start by testing the grains long before you think they are done. And have a great party!
My family is trying to stay away from cream for cholesterol reasons, but I miss making creamy soups. Any suggestions? — Ruth
Sure! If you are making a pureed vegetable soup like broccoli or asparagus, cooking the vegetables with a tablespoon or two of white rice, or a potato cut up into cubes will add a velvety feel to your soup. I often add a bit of coconut milk to Asian soups like carrot ginger, or sugar snap pea soup. And a tablespoon or two of pureed almonds or cashews are great too. Either put a handful of hulled nuts into a blender with a bit of water and blend until very smooth, or stir a bit of store-bought almond/cashew butter into your soup, adding protein as well as that yummy creaminess.
I want to use brown rice more, but what is the difference between long and short rice? And is there a fool-proof way of cooking it? — Brian
We are lucky, there are so many types of rice in our stores today, brown, red and even the beautiful purple/black rices that look so beautiful on your plate. I recommend trying them all and getting to know the subtle differences in flavors. The quick difference between long and short is that long rice is light and fluffy and the short rice is plumper and moister or stickier. “Sweet brown rice” is not really sweet, but is the stickiest of all so it is often used in Asian dishes like rice bowls and sushi.
Here is a great brown rice cooking method adapted from Saveur magazine. First rinse your rice. Bring a big pot of lightly salted water to a boil, just like you would for pasta. Pour in the rice, and boil uncovered, for 30 minutes. Drain the rice. Then return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover the pot and set it aside and allow the rice to relax comfortably for 10 minutes. Done. Btw, I like to fold a bit of seasoned rice vinegar into my rice…just a little tasty trick.
Food Revolution Day on Friday May 17th is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It’s a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources.
Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.
Discover more about Food Revolution Dayand get involved.
Laurie David and I share a love for things on toast. I discovered my obsession with it as I realized that many of the recipes in my weekly videos (visit theperennialplate.com) were things on toast: I’ve done roadkill, morels, bison tartare, backyard eggs and pickled pike (that I had killed while spear/ice fishing). So when Laurie asked me to create a recipe using the mushrooms from Mycopia Organic Mushroom Farm (an impressive operation in Sonoma county) – I knew I had to make something on toast. Also, I’ve just moved out of my house, so there aren’t many options beyond things on toast…