Welcome to the Conscious Crusader's December Edition!
Las Vegas in Winter and Healthy Holiday Recipes
Winter has started in Las Vegas with temperatures almost as low as in Berlin, Germany, where I will travel for the holidays to visit family. This is bad news for me, as I am a summer and sunshine lover who could actually live without winter alltogether! OK I admit I like to watch beautiful Christmas lighting glistening in the snow, but I'd rather be somewhere warm by the fireplace and watch it through the window. I know what you are thinking: I should be used to cold weather having grown up in Germany. But that's one of the reasons that I came to Las Vegas: for its hot, sunny good-mood weather, as I believe that I had my fair share of winter in Germany for many years in advance.
Now, there are some advantages of the cold season, and in Germany it is drinking "Gluehwein", the seasoned hot mulled red wine that will chase the cold away and warm up your body from the toes up to your nose.
Latest Green Living Trends - Tips for Sustainable Holidays
Many of us are celebrating this holiday season again with Christmas trees and lots of lights, tinsel and ornaments around the house. These are all beautiful to look at, but they are often at the heart of a consumerism that does not consider their environmental impact.
During the American holiday season from late November through December we produce about 25% more trash than usual in the US, which equates to about 25 million extra tons of waste.
That's why I would like to recommend a few sustainable holiday tips, which could make your decoration and gift-giving more joyful for the planet too:
1.Are real Christmas trees better for the environment than artificial ones? This question has the holiday tree loving countries divided every single year, so let's take a look at some interesting stats and facts on this website. As you can see there, the real, living Christmas tree gets the environmental nod: it is not decimating our natural forests as some of us may believe, and it is often sourced locally, is renewable, recycable and biodegradable - none of which apply to the artificial trees, which are often made with PVC and lead and will never decompose on a landfill. Your best option of all, however, is to skip the Christmas tree and decorate a houseplant instead, or to opt for a smaller potted real tree that you can plant in your garden or keep around as houseplant after its use as holiday tree.
2.If you are hosting a holiday party, ask your guests to bring their favorite holiday mugs and plates along. This will go a long way to avoid using plastic cups and plates – and it will make a fun conversation starter as your guests admire each others' cute or quirky holiday tableware!
3.If you are planning to give electronic toys or goods as gifts, equip them with rechargeable batteries and add a charger to the package! Batteries are highly toxic and are often discarded thoughtlessly into the household trash. You can avoid this problem with rechargeable batteries.
4.How about opting for gift certificates or cash as presents instead of another dust-collector that may never be used or end up on landfills? It may not sound very inspired, but most recipients are delighted if they receive a gift that allows them to use it for whatever they need (or want) most. Plus it can save you a lot of fuel, time, energy, and nerves if you avoid the holiday shopping crowds by going the easier route of giving a gift certificate or cash.
5.Have you ever tried a second hand store or thrift store to find a great gift? Consider this as an option for truly unique, often brand-new looking items that have been surrendered by their former owners and can be awesome finds. On top of that, these stores are often run by local charities, so you would shop for a good cause and give back to your community – on top of finding that one great gift!
6.Get or keep recycled wrapping paper or holiday cards and repurpose them for this year's holiday cheer. Here is another idea: save the newspaper or a magazine from the holiday dates and use them as unique wrapper for next year’s gifts. It would not only be an original idea but also make an interesting read to remember what happened last year during this time.
Green Events & Vegan Events Calendar – December 2011 and January 2012
Featured recommended product of the month: A gift certificate from Mountain Rose Herbs
In the spirit of our green living tips above, my featured product this month is smaller than ever and gives so much more: a gift certificate from Mountain Rose Herbs – purveyor of certified organic and highest quality natural herbs, spices, teas, oils, natural health remedies, home and body care. This company is guided by the principles of sustainability and ethical stewardship and has an uncompromising commitment to organic agriculture.
I have used their products many times and am always amazed by the freshness and superior quality of the teas, spices and oils that I've tried.
Mountain Rose Herbs is also a zero waste company and runs their organic family farm in the beautiful mountains of Oregon, USA.
Click on the image below to see the gift certificates:
Health News of the Month: Food Dyes – The Colors of Deception
Wouldn't it be nice if our brightly colored red, yellow and green juices available on grocer shelves really get their vibrant colors from the fresh fruits they claim to maintain? The pictures of succulent berries and fruits on the labels let us presume that this is exactly what's in the bottles we purchase.
Unfortunately not. Most commercially available fruit juices contain only 10% real fruit juice concentrate and the bright color comes from petroleum-based dye. If your juice is red, then the color used is likely Red 40, a popular chemical dye that has been linked to aggressive behavior, irritability, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder, particularly in children.
The use of artificial colors in food is not new and goes far beyond just beverages. Food dyes are cheaper, more stable, and brighter than their natural counterparts. Originally made from coal tar and now from petroleum, food dyes can be found in everything from soft drinks, cereals, candies, and snack foods to baked goods, frozen desserts, pickles and salad dressings. Americans now eat five times as much food dye as in 1955 and manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year.
Take for example popular carrot cake mixes that often use "carrot flavored pieces" made from corn syrup, corn cereal, soybean oil, and artificial colors like Red 40 and Yellow 6.
A few green pickles brands look so fresh and green thanks to color substitute Yellow 5 and many salad dressings contain, once again, Red 40 to appear more vibrant.
Dye-enhanced foods and beverages pose a clear health risk, but there is no requirement to indicate artificial coloring anywhere on a product label today. These dyes are impure chemicals that may contain unregulated toxins and carcinogens.
Based on a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, some of the nine currently approved petroleum-based dyes have been found to increase the risk for allergic reactions and cancer, containing compounds like benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl that research has linked with cancer.
Europe has already banned Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 – the dye additives that can be found in 90% of all US food coloring. While major US companies like Mc Donald’s, PepsiCo, Mars or Kraft can sell their products with artificial dyes in the US, they cannot do so in the UK – there they must replace the color additives with natural ingredients.
The only benefit of food dyes is to make unhealthy junk food even more appealing to kids and adults, which is obviously counter-intuitive for battling the obesity epidemic and the many diseases linked to processed foods.
"The continued use of food dyes presents unnecessary risks to humans, especially young children" according to James Huff, associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' National Toxicology Program.
I couldn’t agree with him more. If the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not want to go down the route of a total ban like in Europe, at least a simple labeling requirement would allow consumers to make informed choices when picking up processed foods. But as so often, time constraints or deep entanglement with industry interests have prevented the FDA from acting on this. Should we be surprised?
As consumer you can take the matters into your own hands: simply pick unprocessed, natural produce and foods with recognized organic seals – they are healthier for you anyway and you can safely escape the risks from yet another hidden chemical food additive that the food industry pushes down your throat.
Hot New Recipe on Belsandia.com - Thai Penang Curry with Eggplant and Choy Sum
Thai Penang Curry with Eggplants and Choy Sum
This Thai penang curry comes with delectable Chinese vegetables, which you can get fresh in every Asian grocery store. The combination of eggplant and choy sum in delicious penang curry sauce is tasty and hearty and makes for a great winter curry.
Serves 8 / ready in 1 hour
2 cans of light coconut milk
2 tablespoons penang curry paste (available in Asian food stores. Look for brands without shrimp paste and fish sauce like Pantai or Aroy-D)
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon of ground brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 Chinese eggplants, sliced in half and then cut into 1-inch pieces
4 choy sums, the stems cut into 1-inch cubes and the leaves roughly chopped
5 fresh button mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 packet organic firm tofu, cut into small cubes
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Heat the coconut milk on medium heat in a wok or large sauce pan. Fill the can with water and add this to the coconut milk. Whisk in the curry paste until it is fully dissolved. Bring the curry to a slow simmer.
Stir in the vegetable broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Increase the heat to high and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the onions, mushrooms, and eggplants. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and choy sum stems. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for another 4 minutes. Now taste the eggplant, which should be cooked with a slight bite (continue cooking if you like your eggplant softer).
Reduce to low heat and add the tofu and choy sum leaves. Simmer on low for 2-3 minutes. Switch off the heat and stir the lime juice and cilantro leaves into the curry.
Serve your delicious Thai penang curry with brown rice, milled red rice, or whole wheat penne pasta for a healthy meal. Enjoy!
Global Veg Food Specialty: US Holiday Traditions the Healthy Way
The United States of America have many Christmas traditions, and the holiday meal favorites differ across the nation from the far Northwest to the low Southeast.
As a special holiday treat, I have picked three delicious holiday recipes from three different US regions for you to try out at home. As always I have adjusted my recipe versions to make them healthier and lower-calories than the traditional versions, so you can enjoy them without worrying about your heart health or waistline!
Butternut Squash Casserole – Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is often known as cool and rainy but with beautiful wide green landscapes, mountains, and rivers. People here traditionally have more Christmas trees than anywhere else in the country.
1 butternut squash, cut in half
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
3 tablespoons flaxmeal mixed with 6 tablespoons water (to replace 3 eggs)
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted (soy margarine available in health food stores)
1 pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Place the halved butternut squash in the microwave and cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Then take it out, remove the skin, scoop out the seeds, and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook until it is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain it and mash the squash with a fork or potato masher.
In a 9x13 inch casserole dish combine 3 cups of mashed butternut squash, brown sugar, vanilla extract, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, salt, flaxmeal/water mix, and the melted Earth Balance.
Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Then try if the squash mix is set, otherwise bake a little longer or until it is browned.
Mexican Rice – Southwest
American and Mexican cultures mix in tradition and food in the Southwest of the US. Chiles, beans and rice dishes that you would expect across the border are also a favorite main staple for Christmas down here.
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
3 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 green bell peppers, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup tomato puree
3 cups brown rice
3 tablespoons parsley, roughly chopped
Sea salt and ground black peppers to taste
Heat oil to medium heat in a large saucepan and add onions, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili flakes, and cayenne pepper.
Saute until the onions are glazed. Add the green peppers and saute for 1-2 minutes.
Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts – California
California has a warmer climate during the holiday season, and that is also reflected in their holiday meal traditions, which are often lighter.
4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 1/4 cups chestnuts, peeled and halved
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Combine Brussels sprouts and chestnuts in a large bowl. Add oil, salt, pepper, chili and mix well.
Place sprouts into a baking pan and pour the vegetable broth over all ingredients. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the sprouts are tender.
Amazing Animal Story of the Month: A Heartwarming Video for the Holidays
Why vegan? This is a question I am asked often. The video below answers this question better, faster, and with more impact than many words could do. Please watch and share your thoughts with me!
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