It’s the “grill battle”!… propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneThis coming Memorial Day weekend always seems to be the kickoff of grilling season in my neighborhood.  It’s the aroma that indicates that summer is on its way.  While some of you may be lucky enough to grill all year long, we’re just getting started… and once we get started, it doesn’t end until the snow flies. (It’s also a time for me to share cooking duties with my husband… BONUS!)

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever, go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really?

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoagrll chrcoall must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (My family will be right over!…)

Chicken nuggets… (what ARE they anyhow?)

chix nugThe idea of chicken nuggets turns my stomach. I know they have (somehow) become a staple of American kids’ diets, but for my entire life, I have found them disgusting.

Recently there has been a bunch of hub-bub about what’s really in those chicken nuggets… and patties too (and I really wonder if they are worth of having “chicken” in the name at all!).

My kids, like me, consider them fairly gross.  Have you SEEN this photo? Yes, that pink stuff right there (that looks like strawberry soft-serve ice cream) IS the stuff those nuggets are made of.chix nuggs

Want to know what’s in them? It’s called “mechanically separated chicken”.  A machine actually removes all of the disgusting leftovers after the quality parts are removed… it removes the tendons, tissue, cartilage, organs, and other chicken extras, and grinds them into a fine poultry paste. An ammonia wash is used to kill the bacteria and, because it looks (and now tastes!) horrible, artificial colors and flavors need to be added to make them edible.  In reality, with all of the other additives, only about 50% is even some chicken “part”… and that doesn’t even get into the nutritional side of the story. The sodium and fat content is appalling.

I tried to show this to my kids and my daughter said, emphatically, “No… Mom! I can’t watch!” If you want your kids to break-the-habit, try to get them to take a look. (I actually have two videos… this one shows the kids rejecting the nuggets, but I will warn you… the embedded video below shows kids STILL willing to eat the grossness they saw… a testament to how we’ve allowed this “food item” to become acceptable!)

Just like any other food item, not all chicken nuggets and patties are created equal.  There are some semi-decent products out there but, buyer beware. If it says “mechanically separated chicken” on the package, throw the box and RUN! … because that icky pink stuff is what you’re buying.

Instead, pack up some healthy food (in reusable containers!) when you’re on the go… or serve up a rainbow of healthy foods in a muffin pan when you’re at home.  Just reconsider chicken nuggets.

Truly, there are so many better, healthier, nutritious options… chicken nuggets are not really chicken nuggets.

It’s not too soon to think “Summer CSA!”

CSA basketYes, I know the snow is still flying for some of us, but my friends, it is NOT too soon to think “summer CSA”.  It’s just the right time, in fact, because many CSAs have already opened up reservations for summer participation.

But first things first!… you know about CSAs, right?

If not, here’s a little bit of explanation:  CSAs, or community supported agriculture, are the best way to share in the bounty of the freshest, organic, locally-grown produce and foods.  It’s a partnership between farms and community individuals who support the growing and production of food.  Members “purchase” a share of the harvest and are usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of fruits and vegetables (and sometimes even dairy, meats and grains).CSA harvest

It’s the perfect scenario… you get fresh and organic foods, support local growers and farms, AND avoid the CO2 emissions created to bring your food from other parts of the country… or world, for that matter!

Last year we participated in a CSA with Fresh Fork Market.  If you’re lucky enough to be in Cleveland, take a look because… yes, they’re taking reservations NOW!  Last year, during the 22 weeks of summer, our CSA participants sampled over 350 different products from 62 local farmers.  At year’s end, Fresh Fork proudly spent over $300K with local farmers! THAT gives me the warm fuzzies!  Not only was I serving my family fabulous, organic food but we ALSO helped generously support local farmers and the local economy.  Everyone wins in that scenario!

straw1If you aren’t in Cleveland but want to find a CSA in your area check out Local Harvest or Biodynamics to put you in the right direction.

Get on board, sign-up, eat organic and support your farmers… I promise, you won’t regret it!

(These are our strawberries from last year… NO methyl iodide included!)  🙂

Know (and admit!) when cookware needs to be replaced

ckware collFor me, that time is NOW! I’m embarrassed to say that I have yet to replace all of my cookware that is in DESPERATE need of replacing.  There are many pots and pans that have taken up permanent residence in my cabinet but I never use them.  I see them, and I know I wouldn’t dream of cooking with them but, there they sit.

The reason I don’t cook with them?… they’re non-stick and some of them are looking a bit unhealthy.  They have scrapes on the surface and I worry that their coating will end up in our food.  In actuality, the flakes are inert, but those non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot.

These aluminum pans, coated in polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE – also known as Teflon), emit fumes when subjected to high heat. Inhaling these fumes can actually cause flu-like symptoms. And although the long-term effects haven’t been studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, as well as weakened immune systems.

The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven.  Cast iron is another choice. I know there are more and more “green cookwares” becoming available and those will definitely be on my list of things to research too.

In the meanwhile, if you feel “stuck with your non-stick cookware”, there are a few tips to lessen your exposure to the fcast irn pnumes:

  • Cook at lower temperatures and don’t pre-heat your pans at high temps.  It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it.
  • Never bake at over 500 degrees.
  • Use your exhaust fan.
  • (A little side note too:  these fumes are highly toxic to birds, so keep your feathered friends far from the kitchen.)

Over the holidays, my family gifted me with more “cash than prizes”… and I think it’s due time Mom Goes Green uses that cash, makes good on her self-promise and kicks that nasty cookware to the curb!

(BTW… if you have recommendations, I would looove to hear them!)

Help stop the push for genetically modified salmon!

Food seems to be a hot topic for Mom Goes Green lately, but again it seems there’s good reason… food producers continue to want to alter our foods to make it more profitable for them, but are they risking our health in the process?

slmon filltQuite frankly, genetically modified food scares me.  When you mess with nature, it seems obvious that it opens the floodgates for unknown risks.  I want no part of that.

The latest concern?  Salmon.  It seems the FDA is on the verge of approving AquaBounty Technologies’s request to create mutant Atlantic salmon by artificially combining growth hormone genes from a Pacific salmon with DNA from an eelpout. This will make the salmon mature in 17 months (as opposed to 30 months) in “farm” settings (Note: this does not apply to wild-caught salmon).

Just as alarming is the fact that the FDA will NOT do its own testing but will rely on information provided by none other than AquaBounty Technologies themselves… the company that wants approval!!!  Adding insult to injury, this genetically modified salmon will NOT have to be labeled and identified as modified, so you will have no idea what you are consuming.slmon farm has posted a petition to speak out against this pending approval from the FDA… if you feel compelled to add your signature, please click here.

My recent post about the Seafood Watch Guide already indicated that our best choice (for both health and environmental concerns) is Wild Alaskan Salmon, but more than anything, I’m telling this story so my readers can be aware KNOW where your salmon comes from because, yes, … something smells fishy…