Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spinach with Beans, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Spinach with Beans, Raisins and Pine Nuts
Serves 4

(I know what you are thinking, this is weird. Just humor me, this is a good dish!)

2/3 cup haricot (navy) beans, soaked overnight, or 1 14-oz. can haricot beans, rinsed and drained.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 thick slice white (or wheat) bread
1 onion, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped (I left the skin on)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1 garlic clove, halved
generous 1/4 cup raisins
1/2 oz. pine nuts, toasted
salt & ground pepper to taste

1.) Cook the dried beans in a pan of boiling water for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

2.) Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the bread until golden all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3.) Cook the onion in 2 tsp. of the oil over gentle heat, until soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and cumin and continue cooking over gentle heat.

4.) Meanwhile, wash the spinach thoroughly, removing any tough stalks. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet, stir in paprika, then add the spinach and 3 Tbsp. of water. Cover and cook for a few minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

5.) Add the onion and tomato mixture to the spinach and stir in the haricot beans, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

6.) Place the garlic and fried bread in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Stir the bread mixture into the spinach and bean mixture, together with raisins. Add 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes, adding more water if necessary. (FYI: I cut the bread like croutons and skipped the blender/food processor part.)

7.) Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with dinner rolls or any fresh bread.

Per Serving: 11.4 grams prot.; 25.8 grams carbs.; 10.2 grams sugars; 9.8 grams fat (1.2 grams sat.); 0 mg chol.; 8.1 grams fiber; 209 mg sod.
Found in: Fat-Free Vegetarian

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fuel free flight promoted by Robert Hunt

The fuel free plane, aka the Gravity Plane, proposed by prolific inventor Robert Hunt would combine alternating helium lift and gravity powered propulsion.  Turbines rotated by air rushing past during the gliding phase of flight would compress air that would be used to power the process of compressing and decompressing the helium as well as controlling plane while in the helium lifting phase of its flight.

Among other inventions, Mr. Hunt is responsible for an engine that generates electricity from the excess pressure in natural gas, a closed cycle refrigeration and heat production system utilizing water and air and a thermo-electric generator which generates electricity from waste heat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6; Gluten Free; (Can be made Vegan)

Vegan: Omit the Parmesan cheese or use vegan Parmesan

Sweet Potato Topping

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (1/4 lb)
1/4 cup fat-free milk or plain soy milk
1 Tbs. non hydrogenated margarine or butter
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 leek, white part thinly sliced (1 cup)
2 turnips,diced (1 cup)
1 carrot, diced (1 cup)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (2 tsp.)
1/4 cup white wine or water
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 Tbs. shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.) To make the Sweet Potato Topping: Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potato, cover and boil 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, and return to pot. Mash with milk, margarine, cinnamon, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside.

2.) To make filling: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and leek, and saute 5 to 6 minutes, or until leek is soft. Add turnips, carrots, thyme, and rosemary; cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until carrots begin to soften.

3.) Add wine, and cook 30 seconds to deglaze the pan. Stir in beans and broth. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes, or until carrots and turnips are soft. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

4.) Remove thyme sprigs from Filling, and discard. Pour Filling into 2-or3-qt. casserole dish. Spread Sweet Potato Topping over Filling. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using.

5.) Place casserole dish on baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling bubbles and cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

6.) Frozen Cooking Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover casserole, and place on baking sheet. Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until filling bubbles and top is golden. Remove foil during last 10 minutes of baking. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Per 1 cup serving: 129 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 3 grams total fat (1 gram sat. fat); 20 grams carbs.; 1 mg chol.; 176 mg sod.; 5 grams fiber; 5 grams sugar
Vegetarian Times: January 2010

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SA Alternative Housing Corp, City of San Antonio and San Antonio River Authority begin construction of 1 mile of Westside Creeks revitalization

At a recent public meeting on the Westside Creeks planning project, someone asked former Mayor Garza why we should bother with imagining how Apache, Alazan, Martinez and San Pedro creek could be transformed before money had been authorized to do so.   But the questioner didn't realize that vision must precede funding.

Lo and behold, funding has been found to start a small part of the project!

From Rod Radle, San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation:
San Antonio, Texas December 16, 2009 — The San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation (SAAHC) is sponsoring a ground breaking ceremony to announce the start of construction for the first linear park to be created on the Zarzamora and Apache Creeks. The mile long park will provide a picture of what future public development will hold in store for San Antonio residents on four major creeks located on the Westside and inner city.

The linear park is being developed on a bank of constant level creek just north of Elmendorf Lake. The area has been for years a mass of overgrown vegetation, with lush plants, tress, numerous birds and animals. The park will open up this natural jewel for the first time for citizens to appreciate and utilize for their own physical and mental health. It is anticipated that the area will become active with school children and adults as its natural riches are discovered.

Eleven years ago, SAAHC, with participation of numerous public taxing entities, formed one of the first developer sponsored Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ) in San Antonio. The TIRZ was formed primarily in order to create sixty-five, affordable homes for families in the Rosedale Subdivision. This financing mechanism allowed lots to be developed and sold for 1/3 of their cost, thus allowing families to afford homeownership in one of San Antonio’s lowest economic neighborhoods. The TIRZ finance plan also envisioned the creation of a linear public park beginning at General McMullen and finishing at Commerce Street near Our Lady of the Lake University.

Needless to say, when the park was first thought of there was no major push for the development of the creeks on the city’s Westside. But the timing couldn’t have been better, with Roberto Rodriguez championing the cause with numerous citizens for strategies for creek development through the Westside Creeks Restoration Project. Committees are working on developing the Alazan, Apache, Martinez and San Pedro Creeks, working closely with the San Antonio River Authority, as well as the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. This linear park will provide a hands-on example of what will become a reality for public spaces on these creeks in the coming years.

The groundbreaking event will mark the start of construction on the park, which is being developed by SAAHC on land owned by the City of San Antonio (COSA). Once completed, the COSA will maintain the park, adding it as another linear park in its care. The park will be comprised of two paths, one concrete for bikes, skateboards and pedestrians, and a second cinder path for exercise. Lighting will be featured throughout the pathways. Benches, tables and exercise stations will also be strategically placed along the paths to take advantage of the views of the creek. The park is scheduled to be completed and opened to the public in spring of 2010. The $700,000 project will be fully funded through TIRZ proceeds, with interim financing provided by the San Antonio River Authority.

The San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation (SAAHC) is a nonprofit organization established in 1993. The mission of SAAHC is to provide decent rental and ownership housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income people in Texas; to provide housing education and ownership counseling through a community home ownership association; and to promote and create business development, job training, health and social services.
The start of the park will be at near the intersection of Matyear and Landa Street.

Meatless Monday Recipe-Artichoke-Potato Medley

Artichoke-Potato Medley
Serves 6; Gluten Free; 30 Minutes

For extra color, use a combination of potato varieties and serve on a bed of arugula or watercress.

1 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
2 10-oz. boxes frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, optional

1. Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Drain.

2. Return potatoes to saucepan; heat over high heat with artichokes and oil. Cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to brown, stirring occasionally. Add olives, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cook 5 minutes more, or until fragrant and heated through. Serve garnished with chopped eggs, if using.

Per 1-cup serving: 171 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 7 g total fat; 1 grams sat. fat; 24 grams carb.; 0 mg. chol.; 231 mg. sod.; 7 grams fiber; 1 grams sugars
Found in Vegetarian Times-June/July 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tumbleweed Tiny House workshops in Austin, January 16 and 17, 2010

Jay Shafer is bring his Tumbleweed Tiny House Company workshops to Austin, January 16 and 17, 2010 at the Airport Hampton Inn, 7712 E. Riverside, Austin 78744.

Of the various tiny home builders, Jay's Tumbleweed Homes are among the most handsome.  The workshops are for serious inquirers.  Together they cost $475, but you can bring a friend for free if you purchase your tickets by 12/31/2009.

These are not hands on workshops.  Saturday's Tiny House Building Workshop will cover how to build a tiny house including special attention to how to deal with the condensation to which small spaces are prone.

Sunday, the Small Space Design Workshop will cover how to design a tiny home and include seven principles for good design. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Popular Mechanics: Why Texans see green gold in renewable resources

Why Texans See Green Gold in Renewable Resources
As America's petroleum heartland, Texas isn't known for being environmentally sensitive. But its oil-boom, energy savvy attitude could put the state in a surprising position—leading the charge to alternative energy in the U.S.

By Jennifer Bogo, Photographs by Jason Fullford, Published in the December 2009 issue.

Paul Stamets Fungi Perfecti "Tree Life Box" as described in Ted Talk delivered!

At TED in February 2008, mycologist Paul Stamets delivered his talk entitled "Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World."  In that talk he described the "Life Box",  a box in which seeds and mycorrhizal fungi which would protect and nurture them would be embedded in recycled paper cardboard.   Torn up and planted the box would yield gardens, grasslands and forests.  He imagined life boxes used for mailers, hot beverage sleeves, pizza boxes and shoe boxes.

Many people went to Stamets website, and found their way to only to find out that the boxes were not yet fully available to the public. But recently people who had written them received a special offer that allowed them to receive a tree life box if they ordered any non-food item from them.   Apparently the life box is not yet approved for the shipping of food products.

I received my Tree Life Box today.  I'm waiting to open it.  But here are some pictures of it which are also freely available on Flickr.

Paul's TED Talk is below:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spaghetti with Vegetarian Sauce "Bolognese"

Spaghetti with Vegetarian Sauce "Bolognese"
Start to finish: 30 minutes; Serves 4

6 oz. dried spaghetti
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, snipped or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano crushed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 14 1/2 oz. can no salt added stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup Grape nuts cereal (I know this sounds weird, but this for the texture of ground meat. The cereal will soften as the sauce stands, so for a chewier texture, serve immediately)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese (optional)
Fresh oregano (optional)

1.) Cook spaghetti according to the package directions; drain. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, dried oregano (if using), salt and pepper; cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

2.) Add the un-drained stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cereal and fresh oregano (if using); return just to boiling. Remove from heat and serve. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese and garnish with additional fresh oregano.

Per Serving: 329 cal.; 5 grams total fat (1 gram sat. fat); 0 mg chol.; 677 mg sod.; 66 grams carbs.; 6 grams fiber; 10 grams prot.
Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Pub. Diabetic Recipes June 2003

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bountiful Sprout brings natural, organic and pesticide free beef, pork, chicken and more to Wimberly area

For folks in the Hill Country there's a viable alternative to grocery stores, Whole Foods and farmer's markets. The Bountiful Sprout LLC allows members to place a once a month order for natural, organic and pesticide free beef, chicken, pork, dairy and processed foods from a long list of Hill Country producers.

The community organized food buying co-op had its beginnings late in 2007. Members receive a list of available products every month. They place their order during a brief ordering window and pick up their purchases a few days later.

The December 2009 list of available products runs 44 pages and includes organic and natural beef, free range chicken lamb meat and pastured pork.

Prepard foods including pralines, sweet potato pies, bread pudding, banana nut bread, baked vegetable empanadas, meat loafs, cookies, pestos, brownies, yeast breads, bars, cakes and artisan bread are on the list. Kimchi and organic spelt and gmo free tortillas are sold too.  Locally grown vegetables and locally produced soaps, body care products, herbal remedies round out the list.

Membership in the co-op is $42.90 per year and 10% is added to each order to cover co-op expenses. There is no volunteer hour requirement and you can take a look at the ordering list before joining.

You can view the list of producers on their website as well.  The co-op welcomes new producers.

Houses of Straw: the rediscovery of Strawbale Building DVD

From Oliver Swan of comes a recommendation to watch, House of Straw: the rediscovery of Strawbale Building  a 2004 production of ÖKOFILM Heidi Snel, directed by Heidi Snel.

The clip below includes an interview with David Eisenberg,co-founder and Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT) in Tucson, AZ, and legendary diplomat from the natural building community to the building code community.

Unfortunately the film is not available in NTSC format, so the clip below is all that is available to us in the USA. 

The film is available for $24.95 from though if you want to show your copy to your friends they want a lot more money.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Climate Change Article Online

As a good introduction to their magazine, Ode is offering a free download of a recent article on climate change, and specifically what are some suggestion action items we can all do. It doesn't matter whether you believe climate change is a natural cycle or if human activity is speeding things along a bit. What cannot be denied is that climate change is happening. It's also quite daunting to consider what would have to be done on such a large scale to either retard the process or change all the things all 7 billion of us are collectively doing to make matters worse. Just put all that aside for right now and read what Ode has to say about it. We might learn something. Thank you. To go to the free offer, click on the title or go to

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Think outside the box! Hilarious but thought provoking sustainable designs by Tom Geisler

Tom Geisler has a knack for parody and for patent style drawing.  On his site, Reduce, Reuse, Reinvent he presents outlandish but professionally illustrated means of baby humanure disposal, electrical power generation by sleepers and the reduction of smog by containing exhaust in plant filled trailer terrariums.  These are chindogu but with a sustainable outlook.

What if NIMBY isn't NIMBY at all?

"Not in my backyard!" or NIMBY has become a pejorative label for opposition to any project.  It is often characterized as an impediment to the public good because neighbors of a proposed housing development, power, sewage plant or factory oppose the location of the project near them, though they acknowledge the need for the project itself.

At the level of individual sustainable living opposition to unusual building designs, high density housing, artificial wetlands, composting, rainwater catchment tanks, front-yard gardening, humanure composting, solar panels, roof top water heaters and home wind turbines among others could be characterized as NIMBY.

Maggie Koerth-Baker suggest in her article Rethinking NIMBY: Why Wind Power Could Lead To New Ways of Defining (and Dealing With) Public Naysaying on that opposition labeled as NIMBY is often "... national activism drawn to a specific place.."

She points to incidents specifically related to large wind turbines in which accepting that opposition may be more honest and nationally applicable than simply local opposition has led to more productive ways of dealing with shortcomings of the technology.  Otherwise, "If you write off the NIMBYists, you have to shout them down."

Koerth-Baker points to UC-SB professor Eric Smith's research that indicates that opposition is often based upon knowledge that is gained by people who will be living near a particular project. This insight into opponents may lead to changes in design that properly address concerns.

In my experience typical opposition to wind power projects have led to improvements in turbine design and location.   Turbines have been redesigned to reduce irritating noise. They have been made more attractive. They have been located away from major bird migration routes. 

To live sustainably we need to learn to live with all our neighbors if NIMBY isn't simply NIMBY perhaps we can more easily manage to do that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interview with Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage scientist Abraham van Luik

Build Blog has a profusely illustrated, magazine length piece, "One Million Years of Isolation: An Interview with Abraham Van Luik" by Geof Manaugh and Nicolla Twilley.  Luik, who works on the nuclear waste entombment site at Yucca Mountain, has the the task of finding a way to store the waste for 1 million years.

In the interview he goes into some of the history of the choosing of Yucca Mountain and the various approaches taken by other nations to disposal of their waste.  He notes that one of the other sites considered for the national depository was Texas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fredericksburg Eco-Mixer will feature Bountiful Sprout president, December 14, 2009

December's Eco-Mixer in Fredericksburg December 14, 2009 from 6 to 7:30 pm will feature appetizers, drinks and conversations as well as presentations by Heather Carter, president of Bountiful Sprout food purchasing co-op in Wimberley and Denise Holtz an advocate for biodegradable products. The theme is Greening the Holidays.

Green Living Hill Country hosts this month's mixer at Kelly's Cafe, 505 W. Main, Fredericksburg Tx  78264 (830) 997-8593.

Meatless Monday Recipe-Mixed Vegetable Masala

Mixed Vegetable Masala
Serves 4; Vegan; Gluten Free
Prep. Time 15 minutes; Cook Time 40 minutes

This Indian-style stew gets spicier as it sits, so if you prefer milder flavors, serve it immediately.

This will help keep you warm on a cold day (plus can help boost your immune system with the benefit of cayenne).

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups cauliflower florets (3/4 lb.)
1/2 cup light coconut milk

1.) Pulse ginger and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Add tomatoes with juice and cayenne pepper, and pulse until combined. Set aside.

2.) Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and saute for about 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, garam masala, and chili powder. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.) Add cauliflower, tomato mixture and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in coconut milk. Season with pepper.

Per serving: 200 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 10 grams total fat (2 grams sat.); 26 grams carbs.; 0 mg. chol.; 465 mg. sod.; 6 grams fiber; 10 grams sugar
Vegetarian Times: November/December 2008

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Engineered phase change materials (PCM's) an improvement and refinement of the priciples of Thermal Mass in construction

Over the past decades researchers and companies have been working on developing phase change materials (PCM's) that have the potential to regulate temperature within a home.

A phase change is when a material changes from a solid to liquid or from liquid to vapor.  We all are familiar with the cooling that results from sweat evaporating from our skin.  The phase change of evaporation requires energy.  It draws heat energy from your skin thus resulting in cooling.  John J. Morony has documented that a phase change of the moisture in compressed earth and adobe blocks results in significant cooling of rooms enclosed by adobe walls in the heat of the afternoon.

Many green and natural building techniques including cob, adobe, earthships, strawbale and SCIPS make use of thermal mass to stabilize temperatures within a building.  Typically thermal mass is warmed by the sun. The mass radiates heat when the room temperature is lower than the temperature of the thermal mass.  When the mass is cooler, heat flows from the room into the mass as nature tries to equalize the temperature of the two.

Natural thermal mass is very slowly warmed and it cools very slowly as well, so in climates such as south Texas where we have very hot nights during the summer and winter cold snaps mixed with warm days thermal mass can make for uncomfortable rooms as the mass heats rooms that are too hot already or absorbs heat when the room is too cold.

Engineered PCM's may be considered to be improved forms of thermal mass.  Phase changes add and remove much more energy than does the radiation from and into thermal masses such as stone which do not undergo a phase change.  What's more virtually the only natural phase change material is water.  The evaporation and condensation of water is limited to a narrow temperature range while artificial  PCM's can be designed to phase change at a variety of temperatures.

PCM's are frequently used inside cold boxes used for shipping medicines, food and live organs.  In India PCM Energy P. Ltd sells them for use as built in emergency backups to mitigate loss of power to telecommunication facilities that must be kept cool.  Their website "The University of PCM's" has many informative links.

BioPCM of North Carolina has products including mats which can be installed in walls and ceilings.  National Gypsum is working on a drywall substitute called Thermalcore which has BASF's Micronal PCM microcapsules embedded in it.  It was recently promoted at the Greenbuild 2009 conference though it is not yet on the market, so you will likely be hearing about it in the mainstream press.

The engineered PCM's have been tested through thousands of phase change cycles allowing the manufacturers to assure buyers that the materials will function for several decades.

The challenge for any PCM was outlined in a May 2001 brief, Phase Change Drywall from the Department of Energy.  In a heating dominated climate the transition temperature for the PCM must be near standard or suggested room temperatures (65°-72°F) while in a cooling dominated climate the transition must take place between 72°-79°F.  In climates where both heating and cooling is required getting the correct temperature for the transition will be difficult.  In addition manufactures will need to produce many variations of their product for various climates.

This same Department of Energy brief pointed out that residential PCM's could eliminate the need for air conditioning in a mild climate.

Robert Kennedy Jr tells Solar Energy Industry Association that green technology will overthrow and democratize the energy system in the USA

At the Solar Energy Industry Association, Solar Power 09 conference October 27,2009, Robert F. Kennedy Jr delivered the keynote in which he pointed out that he believes that green technology including solar power will overthrow the oil and coal industries and democratize the energy system in this country which has corrupted our system of government in many ways.

He says that we are now learning that we must protect nature not for the birds but because nature is the infrastructure of our communities. He connects pollution to bad government saying, ""Where ever you see the large scale destruction of the environment you will also see the subversion of American democracy."

RFK Jr's talk begins three minutes into the video below. His voice is affected by spasmodic dysphonia but it doesn't stop him from delivering a powerful and insightful fact filled speech that brings together environmentalism, history, political philosophy and economics.

Thanks to Time is Energy for pointing out this presentation.