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July 2011

07/11/2011

Organic Eats Across the USA

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Cafe More often than not, summer road trips lead to hidden treasure - hole-in-the-wall finds that we stumble upon and immediately fall in love with. As July and August stretch out in front of you, consider hitting the open road and discovering your own new favorite spots, or check out some of these fun, organic dining finds that have us licking our lips:

Mighty-O Donut  - This delectable bakery in Seattle, Wash. serves up a dizzying array of donuts daily, using certified organic ingredients in small batches. Pick your poison (Cuckoo for Coconut, perhaps, or Cocoloco?) from behind the glass case.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream - With locations sprinkled throughout California, Tara's offers a pallate of pleasure no matter your taste. From flavors like Black Sesame to plain, old Pecan, the list is long and the end treat is always delicious!

Orlando Brewery - These "Fresh from Florida" craft beers are the best in the south and free tours of the brewery are offered Monday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Check out the taproom and sip on a sample of organic Red Ale or Blackwater Porter. 

Candle Cafe - This organic and vegan cafe fittingly calls the Big Apple home and focuses on delivering farm-to-table dining with a menu featuring specials like the Paradise Casserole and Minty Melon Cooler smoothie. Homecooked goodness with local appeal - and all available in the middle of NYC!

07/08/2011

Keep Your Garden Green Even While Away

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While you're enjoying that well deserved summer vacation, don't forget your garden will be home working hard - and hopefully offer up a bouty of fresh veggies upon your return! Here are some simple tips to keep your garden going strong while you're on the go this summer season.

A Good Soak – Give flower and vegetable gardens a good final soak before flying the coop. This is especially important if rainfall has been inadequate, or sparse precipitation is predicted. The good news is that further watering may not be a worry no matter what the weather. Established annuals can last for ten days without supplemental water. Most perennials can weather two weeks of dry conditions. Trees and shrubs won't feel the pinch for about a month. Lawns are the camels of the garden. A healthy lawn can go six weeks without extra water.  

Don't Feed and Leave – Don't fertilize plants before leaving. Slower growth is what you want while you are away.

Protect Containers – Container plants need water more often than border plants. If you ask a friend for a watering favor, group containers in a protected area with indirect sun, but access to rainfall.  This makes it easier to water and harder to miss a pot.  This lessens stress on plants and your watering chum.

Harvest Produce – Harvest produce before you leave. If you can't take it with you, or just have too much, donate to a food pantry or share with friends or family. If you'll be gone for more than two weeks, ask a friend to harvest produce. If you stop harvesting vegetables some stop producing.

Apply a Pre-emergent Garden Weed Preventer – Most people associate pre-emergent garden weed preventers with early spring, but mid-summer is another smart time to apply it. A second application atop mulch or soil stops weed seeds from sprouting while you're away and well into the fall. Remember that mulch and and a garden weed preventer prevent new weeds from happening, they don't kill the existing ones!

Source: www.preen.com

07/07/2011

The E-Bike Debate: Is It For You?

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This recent article in Sierra Magazine (Look, It's a Cheatercycle!) got us thinking about the pros and cons of electric bicycles, gaining in popularity - especially in urban areas - as fuel prices continue to climb. The power-assisted bikes, which store energy as you peddle and then return power to the rider as needed (cyclists can usually choose "low" or "high" assist settings) are a godsend when commuting to and from work on sticky, humid days, but to many cycling purists are known as lazy man's gear. 

We vote in favor of e-bikes, especially when they're used as an alternative to automotive transporation. Take, for instance, an urban professional who typically drives or rides the train into work. Switching to an e-bike, even two days a week, significantly cuts carbon emissions - and also gets you a decent work out at the same time (minus the sweat incurred on a traditional bike). In our eyes, it's a win-win! 

If you haven't considered an e-bike yet, now's the time to take a look at the latest technologies available. Companies like Pedego Electric Bikes offer a selection of electric options, or you can go straight to a manufacturer like Optibike (hand-crafted here in the USA) for a more limited, but custom selection. Prices range widely on current bikes, but expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 upward for a reliable and well-made bike. (Keep in mind the savings you'll reap if you're able to ditch your vehicle!)

Is an e-bike in your future? Or, have you already converted? Share your story or suggestions in the comments.

07/06/2011

Scary Food Facts and Tricks to Stay Healthy

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Food Could the food in your fridge be the stuff of nightmares? If you’re not paying close attention to the products you buy—and consume—there’s a chance that you’re overlooking the ugly truth when it comes to your grocery store haul.

While spinach, egg and peanut butter contaminations have all made the headlines recently, there’s plenty more scary stuff that doesn’t make the network news cut. Take, for instance, insect parts and toxic chemicals, which is actually allowed in some foods—um, yuck.

To ensure that your next trip to the market is as green, clean and safe as possible, ShopSmart shares the following tips:

Bugs in your food – It’s simply not possible to grow, harvest, and process food without a few tiny creepy-crawlies hitchhiking along, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets tolerance levels for what are termed "naturally occurring defects." For example a 24-ounce container of cornmeal can have up to 13 insects, 745 insect fragments, and 27 rodent hairs.

If you discover unwanted visitors in a newly purchased product, return it to the store or the manufacturer for a refund. If you're not sure whether a food is infested, freeze it for four days or heat it in the oven at 140-degree for an hour to kill insects and eggs.

Consuming clones - The FDA does not require labeling on most products that contain genetically engineered plant material or on meat and milk from cloned animals. Genetically modified versions of corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton are widely sold in the U.S.

If you'd prefer to avoid milk and meat from cloned cows and genetically modified plant ingredients, buy organic. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid consuming some genetically modified ingredients

Carnivore chicken - Livestock feed can include things like cow meat and bones, which might be fed to chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish. And cows might be fed processed feathers and waste from the floors of chicken coops. 

Look for beef or chicken certified organic by the USDA. Claims of "no additives," "no antibiotics," "no hormones," and "no steroids" are less reliable since they can't be verified.

Labels lie - Some labels can outsmart even careful shoppers. "Natural" products might contain high-fructose corn syrup; a food "made with" an ingredient often includes just a smidgen; and a "whole-grain" cereal could lack substantial fiber.

If you want the whole story, you still have to flip to the back label and scan the nutrition facts. Check not just the calories but also serving sizes. And scan the percent of daily values.

Fresh meat - Many supermarkets sell ground beef and steaks packaged with gas that keeps them looking fresh and red for a month or more, even if the meat has spoiled. In that process, used in factory-wrapped (or case-ready) meat, most of the oxygen in the package is replaced with other gases, including tiny amounts of carbon monoxide that react with pigment and keep the meat red.

Ask whether your grocer sells meat packed with carbon monoxide. For fruits, buy locally or at least what's in season. (Frozen fruits and veggies are a good option any time of year because they're usually flash frozen immediately after harvest.)

SOURCE ShopSmart Magazine

07/05/2011

Road-Trip-Ready Vehicles for Summer 2011

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American drivers love to spend their vacations hitting the open road. For those in the market for a new vehicle that they hope to log plenty of miles in while traveling, we've got your top vehicle picks for road trips.

"Since the invention of the automobile, Americans have enjoyed taking road trips. From wood-paneled station wagons to oversized conversion vans, most Americans have grown up taking road trips with their family and friends," said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying Services and Consumer Information. "Today's American road trips come in many different forms: family vacations, mancations, girlfriend getaways, romantic excursions and more. And the ideal vehicle for a road trip can come in as many different forms depending on where you want the road to take you and who will be joining you for the ride."

If you're about to embark on a cross-country trip, you'll want a set of wheels that's both economical and eco-friendly. Take a peek at the front-runners below, which offer plenty of cargo space, great mileage and most importantly, a fun driving experience:

Chevrolet Cruze Eco – From the Cavalier to the Cobalt to the Cruze, each generation of compact Chevrolet vehicles has been an improvement from the previous, and the Cruze is no exception. AAA Auto Buying experts tested the "Eco" version with a six-speed manual transmission, which is the non-hybrid gasoline fuel economy leader in its size category. It also received a five-star overall rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) more stringent new crash test program. AAA found the Cruze Eco to be a good value with impressive fuel economy, making it a smart pick for road trip lovers on a budget. For those looking to take more than two on their road trip, the Cruze lacks rear cup holders and a center armrest, and the rear seat may be cramped for tall passengers. 

Ford Focus – A definite improvement over the previous version, the new 2012 Ford Focus drives very nicely with above average ride and handling. Fuel economy and engine performance also are very good and highway cruising is impressively quiet for the small car field, making it a top pick for road trips. As with other cars in the category, it's ideal for two travelers as the backseat can be a bit cramped. 

Toyota Prius – The Toyota Prius is a road trip top pick because it's roomy, comfortable and economical. The hatchback design makes for exceptional flexibility, as well. The hybrid drivetrain sips fuel, and with careful driving, it can push fuel economy well past 50 mpg. However, for those who love engaging and sporty vehicles for their road trips, the Prius may not be the right choice. It's a secure and predictable ride, but not engaging to drive. 

Ford Escape Hybrid - For families with a bit more to tow, we can't leave the Escape Hybrid off this list. It's roomy cabin is perfect for a long ride and its expanded sun roof lets in lots of light. Driving in either pure electric mode, or with the gasoline-powered engine, fuel economy evens out to be great bang for the buck, and let's not forget the ability to tow a trailer or camper if needed. (Hey, sometimes a tent just isn't enough.)

Source: AAA, Road & Travel