back to the garden

a year of greener thinking

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Nick Kristof on “How Chemicals Change Us”

Nick Kristof is back with another column on the dangers of chemicals found in everyday materials, including canned foods, thermal receipts, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. In particular, Kristof notes the Endocrine Society’s recent censure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ban BPA in food packaging.

Kristof leaves us with a salient and disturbing question to consider: “Shouldn’t our government be as vigilant about threats in our grocery stores as in the mountains of Afghanistan?”



My Kind of Town: A new play about the Chicago police torture scandal

Picture courtesy of Timeline Theatre.

Chicago journalist John Conroy first exposed the torture and police brutality taking place in the bowels of Chicago area police stations in the pages of the Chicago Reader. Now, Conroy’s first theater piece, My Kind of Town, which is based on the torture scandal, is playing at Timeline Theatre in East Lakeview.

The play’s first preview took place last night, and I went with a friend. We both took a human rights class on the police torture cases last quarter and were fortunate to hear Conroy speak about his writing and upcoming play.

In a 2010 New York Times article, Conroy said that when he wrote the play, he “wanted to indict the whole city of Chicago [and]  to get at the public indifference, to go up the ladder and look at not only the cops who chose to torture but also at families and society that seemed to accept that some criminals constituted a tortureable class of people.”

In My Kind of Town, Conroy does just that. He has managed to convey the horror of what happened and to show how it came to be. He also demonstrates the complicity of players across the judicial system and the damning acquiescence of ordinary Chicagoans. None of the characters were easily categorized or static, from the condemned man and his family members to the police torturer and his friends and relatives, which made the play all the more compelling.

If you’re interested in seeing My Kind of Town (you should!), the play’s official opening is next week and it will run until July 29th, 2012. You can find an in-depth Chicago Reader article on the making of the play here and a Chicago Magazine interview with John Conroy here.


Vegetarian Fried Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms and Cashews

Big Girls Small Kitchen is one of my favorite sites, not least because its founders, Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine, were nice enough to give me advice when I was starting my first food blog a few years ago (a mutual friend connected us). I made this vegetarian fried rice dish last week and, as usual, they didn’t disappoint.

As Cara says, this recipe is a great meal for weeknights or whenever you’re pressed for time. I added a little extra garlic and soy (noted below), but otherwise I followed her recipe to the letter. If you’re cooking for one, the remaining portion reheated well on the stove the next day.

If you enjoy the dish, be sure to check out their cookbook, In the Small Kitchen!

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Mad Cow Disease discovered in the United States (again)

The mad cow disease story is a few days old  now, but this Chicago Tribune article provides some interesting insight into problems with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s testing restrictions.  Presently, the USDA only tests a very small percentage of animals killed each year and prohibits private companies from conducting their own testing. On what planet does that make sense?

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Mango Spinach Banana Chia Smoothie

I’ve continued my smoothie experiments post-vegan Lent (at least when I wake up early enough), occasionally switching up the kind of frozen fruit or greens I use. I’ve also begun soaking the chia seeds with a bit of water, which creates a clear jelly-like substance that can be added into the blender. (According to livestrong, however, chia seeds also can be eaten whole without soaking, so feel free to skip this step if you’re running short on time.) This smoothie, which includes frozen mango, is my favorite. Continue reading


Vegan Blueberry Muffins

I love this blueberry muffin recipe from Angela at Oh She Glows. Before vegan Lent started, I’d never baked muffins without eggs, so I was a little nervous about how these would turn out. Fortunately, they didn’t disappoint.  I recommend serving the muffins warm with a bit of Earth Balance spread, soy chai lattes and a Sunday paper.

(While the recipe recommends making mini-blueberry muffins, these also work in a regular-sized muffin pan. Just increase the baking time by about five minutes.)

Click here for Angela’s blueberry muffin recipe.

Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon