I have been wanting to buy one of these mobile garden containers from Food Map Design for some time. The product is a few years old and has long been featured in Dwell Magazine, but the containers are finally coming down in price. And now with the holidays, you can get them for 20% off with free shipping.
The Food Map containers are environmentally friendly and made from all sorts of recycled material, but the design is top notch too. It looks sleek, is practical, works well in small spaces, and manages water efficiently. The growing container has a special rippled bottom that helps water drain evenly but also retains water to maintain soil moisture. You can see the design description here.
There are two versions of the this container for sale. One is the taller adult size, but there is also a shorter one that is great for kids. It stands a little over 23 inches tall, which is a perfect height for children. And that’s what I really like about this planter: kids can take ownership of it. They can plant things at their own height and move it around as they wish. Of course, being movable also lets you manage sunlight better too.
With the 20% discount, the planter will still cost $119, but when you consider that a good quality garden container will cost $50-60, it doesn’t seem that bad. There’s no better time to think about spring planting than in the dark of winter (that’s called optimism up north), and it is always good to plan ahead when getting kids involved with the garden.
I just got in a small de Buyer fry pan. I thought the 8-inch size would be good for my daughter’s cook set and wanted to try it out. The price was reasonable from CHEFs at $40, and I have heard several good reports about this French cookware brand.
Unfortunately, I have been so busy preparing for Thanksgiving that I haven’t yet had time to season the pan and put it to good use. My initial impressions are good, however, and I like the fact the pan is free of chemicals and has stay-cool handles. Both are nice features if a kid is going to be using the pan.
Reviews at Chefs and Amazon are very good too, and users report that after seasoning the pan, the non-stick quality is very good. I have high hopes it will perform well once I finally get mine fired up.
The only problem that I see so far is that the weight is pretty significant for a small pan. It isn’t as heavy as cast iron, but it is made out of iron so it has some heft to it. It seems to lie between cast iron and stainless steel in terms of weight.
Of course, a pan that needs to be seasoned and is at risk of rusting, should not be left totally to a young chef, but with that said, a nice de Buyer pan will be a legacy piece of cookware that will last a long time.
De Buyer pans are also competitively priced, and the 8-Inch mineral fry pan right now costs $32 on Amazon. As for other brand options, an All-Clad Stainless 8-Inch Fry Pan will cost about $75, and the All-Clad Master Chef 2 will cost $50. A bit cheaper is the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro 8-Inch Skillet at roughly $30, and the cheaper Cuisinart lines will cost even less at around $20.
In the end, the de Buyer pans will give a non-stick option without all the chemicals and can last a lifetime. Other options are out there, but why not try out a different type of material. You may become a de Buyer fanatic — and your child may too.
My pantry has a lot of smells in it: spices, oil, garlic, and a lot of others to include even dog food. But now I have decided to get a deodorizer to neutralize the air a bit, and after some research I am going to purchase some activated charcoal.
The Chikuno Cube of bamboo charcoal to the right has a honeycomb structure to give it more surface area to collect all of those unwanted odors. The cube supposedly lasts for a year and can be recharged by leaving it out in the sun for six hours.
The second option is a similar charcoal cube made from Korean oak called the Kuro Cube. It doesn’t have the micro-hive structure, but it basically does the same thing and can also be recharged outside. This product supposedly lasts for ‘years,’ though I am not exactly sure how long that is in product life.
Both cubes are billed as being green products as they can be crushed up and put in the garden once they are finished. They can also be used for a year or more so you will avoid buying all those other products to freshen your house.
Some people comment on the price being too high, but at $25+ I think it is a bargain considering how long these products last. As for using baking soda, that odor solution is over-hyped. Yes, it does absorb some odors, but it is not nearly as effective as claimed and doesn’t last as long. Food Network’s Ted Allen did a test a while back and found that baking soda does work but activated charcoal works better.
With that said, there are many different charcoal deodorizers on the market. One cheaper option is Fridge-It. The colorful cubes cost about $4 and are definitely worth a try. I might purchase all three products in this post to see which I like best.
I can’t say I use salt and pepper shakers much at all. I simply have a salt cellar and pepper grinder that I use at the table instead, but if I were to get a shaker set, I think this one designed by Domestic Aesthetic would be pretty high up on the list of possibilities.
The shakers are handmade from reclaimed poplar and walnut wood and have a natural cork stopper. The set is simple, elegant and environmentally friendly and was featured in the March 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.
You can purchase the set at branchhome.com for $56.
From Trudeau comes a set of 8 silicone multi-use ties for the kitchen. They were recently featured in the October 2009 Bon Appetit. I often use OXO clips, but those really don’t work that well on some packages, especially smaller cracker packages and bread bags. And I almost never have those throwaway wire twists on hand.
These multi-use ties, however, are non-slip and dishwasher safe. You can even use them for bunching stems of herbs or flowers together or anything else in the home for that matter.
Over the last few months, my favorite local restaurant has been featuring barramundi fish prepared different ways. I had never really heard of this fish before, but the October Bon Appétit also featured this seafood. Hearing about a new fish twice in a few months is enough for me to look into it.
First of all, barramundi originally comes from the waters of northern Australia, southeast Asia and southern China. It is especially popular in Thai cuisine and with Australian sport fisherman. Barramunid also goes by such names as barra, silver barramundi, giant perch, palmer perch, Asian seabass, Australian seabass, and white seabass. The name ‘barramundi’ though has Australian origins and comes from the aboriginal word meaning ‘large-scaled river fish’.
Barramundi is a healthy fish option, as it is an oily white fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a ‘green choice’ and Seafood Watch gives it the ‘Best Choice’ rating as do the other two sustainable seafood guides. Most of the fish consumed in the US are farmed domestically in closed ponds with recirculating water, and this means it is exposed less to pollutants. Barramundi from Asia are farmed differently, and those products are more prone to disease and contaminants than domestic-farmed fish.
But the barramundi market in the US is still relatively small with only one domestic supplier, Australis Aquaculture, in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. With that said, that operation is the largest fish farm in the US and produces about 800 tons a year. Another firm, Triar Seafoods in Hollywood, Florida, began supplying barramundi in 2002 by importing from Australia, and Australis Aquaculture also established farming operations in Vietnam in 2008.
But since 2007 barramundi has been called the ‘hot seafood trend’ by high-end chefs and food editors, and it is slowly making its way to other less-urban parts of the country and even to some grocery stores. This means that more remote fine restaurants such as the one I frequent are now featuring it — though it has taken a couple of years to migrate.
Barramundi is generally considered a high-end fish. It is sweet, buttery and has a delicate texture. According to Seafood Business Magazine, “…barramundi holds up well to a variety of flavors and ingredient combinations, lending itself generously to sauces and spices. It can be baked, broiled, fried, sautéed, steamed, poached, roasted whole or grilled — even the skin is edible. Its fat content keeps it from drying out and barramundi’s white flaky texture and taste prompted its use as an ingredient on ‘Iron Chef America’.”
When buying the fresh barramundi — if you get the chance — the flesh should be firm and white, with no dark spots, and there should be no odor. The eyes should be clear and shiny and the backbone should spring back when pressed with a finger.
Though I don’t think I will be able to buy it fresh for a while, the marketing blitz in conjunction with the health and green positives associated with barramundi probably mean it will be hitting it big in regional markets and local-fine restaurants soon. This fish is all the rage. It has been featured on NPR, in O magazine, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bon Appétit, and in many other publications. It is really quite ridiculous how well this fish has been marketed and risen so quickly; it’s the ‘rock star’ of all seafood. And to top it all off, folk legend has it that the fish is an aphrodisiac with some calling barramundi the ‘passion fish’.
Regardless of the hype and quick rise, barramundi is a good fish, good for you, and good for the environment. If you are a fish eater and care about sustainable fishing, you may want to replace your over-fished species like Chilean sea bass, red snapper and grouper with barramundi if this fish is offered. And if you have the fish available at your market, you might want to try Bon Appetit’s recipe for barramundi fillets with roasted sweet potato and brussels sprout chips. I probably can’t find the fish locally, but those spourt chips look fabulous.
Now with that said, there is some bad news. In January 2009, Australis Aquaculture found itself in significant financial difficulty and suspended trading on the Australian Securities Exchange. And in March 2009 it was sold to WM Capital of Houston, Texas. The company still goes under the Australis Aquaculture name, and according to Josh Goldman, it is a ‘move of necessity’ and gave the company the necessary growth capital to increase the fish’s presence in the retail market. Maybe that is why I saw the fish in central Minnesota, but I still have my worries. I would hate to see a great seafood operation ruined by the bad economy.
The Green Guide put out by National Geographic recommended the Preserve Food Storage containers when you need to store leftovers or other types of food. So if you worry about plastics and food storage, then you may want to refer to the Green Guide website as it gives a lot of information on this subject.
For instance, each type of plastic is given a number corresponding to the type of resin used in production. Most of your storage containers will have a number five on the bottom inside the recycling logo, which means it is polypropylene. Cling wrap and storage bags are number four, and milk jugs are number two. All of these types of plastic are recommended.
Plastic with a number four is PVC and is frequently used in cling wraps for meats at the supermarket and delis. This should generally be avoided according to the Green Guide, but I don’t know how many people would follow its recommendation of slicing off a thin layer where food came into contact with the plastic. I probably won’t go that far.
Preserve Food Storage also offers some square storage containers for sandwiches and leftovers that should inspire everyone who takes their lunch to work to upgrade. It is true that these product options are a bit more expensive, but the Green Guide also recommends Ziplock storage containers, which are affordable and easily found at supermarkets.
I recently visited a home store in Minneapolis called Twin Cities Green that features ecologically friendly products. They have a range of home and kitchen products that are easy on the environment. You can find their entire collection at their online shop.
Of special interest was a set of children’s plastic cookware. The company that produces it is called Green Toys, and they make their play sets using recycled milk jugs. But not only is environmentally conscious production, the sets are well-designed and look great. The Green Toys Chef Set seen above will be coming out on October 15th and you can pre-order it at Amazon.com.
Though Twin Cities Green didn’t have this item yet, they probably will in the future. I also liked the cookware and dining set. I enjoy shopping at this store, and recommend stopping by if you live in or near Minneapolis. Other items of interest were: salvaged barn wood dining tables, a compost tumbler, bio-degradable outdoor cups and utensils, recycled paper cutting boards, and locally made soaps among other items.