Eight tips to make family favorites healthier

By Mary Pat Baldauf
If you’re trying to cook healthier for your family, you don’t have to abandon their favorites or resort to tasteless tofu. There are many ways you can make your recipes healthier without dramatically changing the taste. Try these tips on for size:

  1. Decrease the fat: Cut back on the amount of oil, shortening or butter in a recipe by half the amount listed. Instead of cream or half-and-half, try one percent milk or skim milk. Low-fat and fat-free options are also available.
  2. Love the taste of real butter? Try butter flavored olive oil, available at most stores that specialize in premium olive oil, such as The Crescent Olive or The Classy Cruet. It’s not only healthier than other oils, it’s also delicious; I like to spritz it on air-popped popcorn for a treat.olive-oil-968657_1920
  3. Cut the cheese: I love cheese, so this always sounds so wrong to me, but you can usually reduce the amount of cheese in a recipe by up to half without significantly altering the taste. Strong flavored cheeses like sharp cheddar and parmesan are the best to try to cut back. Reduced-fat cheese varieties also are an option.
  4. Lower the salt: My sister-roommate has issues with salt, so I’m always trying to lower the salt in recipes. You can add flavor with citrus juices, vinegars, garlic, onion or pepper. Check your no-salt seasoning blends such as Dash. Also look for lower-sodium versions of your pantry staples, such as soups, sauces and such.
  5. Reduce the added sugar: You often can reduce the amount of sugar by one-half to one-third. You can also try using a sugar substitute suitable for cooking or make a subtle half and half mix. Spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg may also enhance the sweetness in a recipe and allow for less sugar.
  6. Get creative with fruits and veggies: Use pureed fruit, such as applesauce, in place of some of the butter or oil in a baked recipe. I learned how to use pureed vegetables to add flavor and nutrients to foods via my grandmother, who pureed celery for her Thanksgiving stuffing.  The Sneaky Chef series of books by Missy Chase Lupine also serves as a great source of information.
  7. Explore different cooking methods for veggies. Do you usually fry vegetables? zucchini-2340977_1920Try roasting squash, sweet potatoes, onions and zucchini for a tasty side dish. Steaming is a healthy and quick option, too. There are also many varieties of “veggie noodles” at local grocery stores; I personally like the zucchini noodles. You can also make your own with a spiralizer.
  8. Go for whole grain: Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and contain an assortment of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Use whole grains of cereals, breads and pasta in place of “regular” versions. Just remember to check the first ingredient on packaged foods for “whole grain.” When I first tried whole grain pasta, I didn’t like it one bit; now I can’t eat “regular” pasta because it’s so mushy in comparison.

 

 

When the teacher becomes a student: Motivated to action at the Richland Recycles Education Day

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Compost Day 3

Every May, Richland County hosts a Richland Recycles Education Day at the State Fairgrounds. Local environmental groups devise a short lesson and staff a table, which groups of invited students visit to learn more. In years past, I’ve led my own lesson, but limited now by the volume of my voice, I instead offered to assist as needed as a volunteer. I was assigned to the  Atlas Organics booth, where I learned more about composting and was even motivated to start an office vermi-composting bin.

I started composting at home about six years ago when I transitioned to a more plant-based way of eating. Using more veggies and fruits led to fruit flies in my house, and when I complained about it, one of my sustainability sidekicks recommended that I get it out of the trash via a compost bin. I’m what they call a lazy composter; I just toss my food scraps in the bin and add browns every so often, but I rarely turn it or add water. And neither of my bins are in the sun, so I don’t monitor the temperature either. According to Atlas educator Leslie Rodgers, that’s okay. I’m probably missing out on some great soil amendment material, but I’m diverting my food waste, and that is a good thing.Compost Day 2

For the event, Leslie brought a mini vermi-composting bin to explain the compost process to students. I was quite taken with the process and decided to make my own. I once tried to compost at work, but it created some issues with fruit flies and bugs. I wasn’t actually composting, but saving my fruit scraps to take to my home compost bin, thus the problem.

Compost Day 1

 

By the end of the day, I left with a new appreciation for composting as well as a scoop of red wiggler worms to start my own. I put them in a coffee tumbler and kept them inside until I could get them home. Three days later, the worms are still in the container on my night stand. I have good intentions to start a bin, but until I do, I’ll keep them moist and fed.

 

(To Be Continued)

 

Ways to Become More Resilient

By Mary Pat Baldauf

In my world, resilience is a new buzz word. Usually used in connection with climate change, resilience is defined as the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change. In simpler terms, it’s the ability to bounce back from adversity, whether it be climate change, disasters or other unfortunate incidents.

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It’s not only important for communities, but also for us as individuals to be resilient. Resilient people may encounter dark moods, bad days and adversity, but they have strategies to help them bounce back and move on.

From Psychology Today, here are ten tips to help build your personal resiliency:

  1. Get adequate restorative sleep. Poor sleep patterns and stress go hand-in-hand.
  2. Engage in adequate physical exercise daily. Exercise is a major buffer against stress, including stress from depression.
  3. Maintain a healthy diet and keep your weight within a desired range. You’ll have fewer health-related problems.
  4. Nourish your quality social support networks through reciprocally supporting others who support you. Quality social support correlates with higher levels of resiliency.
  5. Meet challenges as they occur. Avoid procrastination and the stresses that come from it and crises that arise from delays.
  6. Build tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. You are less likely to experience anxieties related to a need for certainty.
  7. Express higher-order values, such as responsibility and integrity. This gives you a compass for taking a sound direction.
  8. Work to build high frustration tolerance. High frustration tolerance, cognitive flexibility, and problem-solving actions are normally interconnected.
  9. Stretch to achieve realistic optimism. This is a belief that you can both self-improve and act to make things more workable for you. You exercise realistic optimism by acting to do and get better.
  10. Boost resilience with preventive actions where you reduce your risk for negative thinking and increase your chances for realistic thinking.

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Recycle Right: Closing the Lid on How to Recycle Right

By Mary Pat Baldauf

This week, I attended a “Women in Green” event with 40 participants, all of whom considered themselves to be “sustainable.” At the end of the event, I was surprised to see that the recycling bin, conveniently located inside a trash receptacle, was full of items that couldn’t be recycled, aka contamination. If a roomful of “green” women can’t get it right, we obviously need to do more education.Blog_Green Trash

Recycling is an eco-friendly thing to do – but it’s also a business.  Recycling facilities want clean paper and packaging, and curbside recycling program is primarily designed to collect those materials. So, other random objects, like scrap metal, electronics, dining ware, toys, food, textiles, yard waste, etc., should never be placed in a blue recycling cart or bin.

Here’s how YOU can help make recycling work:

  • Please visit scdhec.gov/recycleheresc to see what is recycled where you live. Follow that list to the letter. Most Midlands area recycling programs also have smart phone apps with lots of bells and whistles to make it easier to recycle, including reminders for your recycling day. Visit your local government website for details.
  • Learn what 12 items you should never put in your recycling bin or cart and commit to keeping the “dirty dozen” out for good.
  • Creativity is a wonderful thing, but not when it comes to recycling. If there’s any doubt, throw it out. Don’t waste space (and fuel and time) by filling up recycling collection trucks with trash. It’s difficult, inefficient and expensive for the sorting facility to deal with trash and it reduces the value of your recyclables. Blog Wrong info env
  • No bags, please. They slow down recycling sorting systems, drive up costs and hurt the quality of the materials being recycled.
  • Just because it has a recycling symbol on it, doesn’t mean it can be recycled in your area. Check the list for your area, and if it’s not on there, don’t recycle it.

For additional information on recycling, visit http://recyclemoresc.org/.

Berry Good Muffins

By Mary Pat Baldauf

We’re in the throes of Spring, and there is so much to do in the Midlands right now. If one of the things you’re doing is picking strawberries at a local farm, you’ll want to check out this recipe for strawberry muffins from my friend April Blake. These muffins are incredible and the perfect way to share your strawberries!

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STRAWBERRY MINI MUFFINS (from The April Blake)

INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 mini muffins

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced or diced
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour muffin tins (two large tins, or one large and two mini, or four or five mini muffin tins).
  2. Slice strawberries, and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing dough.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl and mix well. Pour oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Make sure all flour incorporates. Divide batter into pans.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins (or 25-30 if you’re going for large muffins), or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn muffins out, and cool completely.

April Officially Marks Start of Ozone Season

By Mary Pat Baldauf

LOGO_Clean Air Midlands

Ozone season in South Carolina begins in April, and now’s the time to start following the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s daily forecasts for ground-level ozone. High concentrations of ozone can create breathing problems, especially for children, people with asthma or other respiratory problems, and adults who work or exercise outdoors.  Here are some things to keep in mind during ozone season, which lasts through September 30:

Ground-level ozone affects everybody. At ground level, ozone is a health hazard for all of us, especially the young and elderly. Those who are active and exercising outdoors may experience breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may result in reduced resistance to lung infections and colds. Ozone can also trigger attacks and symptoms in individuals with pre-existing conditions, like asthma or other respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Stay alert. The highest ozone levels are typically found on days that reach the high 80s and 90s and when the wind is stagnant or light. Stay tuned to your local meteorologists, as they will be notifying the public of Ozone Action Alert days when ozone levels are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels.

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Know how to limit exposure without reducing healthy physical activity.

  • No matter how fit you are, cutting back on the level or duration of exertion when ozone levels are high will help protect you from ozone’s harmful effects.
  • Plan outdoor activities when ozone levels are lower, usually in the morning or evening.
  • Sign up for the ozone forecast so you can plan outdoor work or exercise during your day to avoid possible high levels of ozone.
  • Use these recommendations for schools and outdoor activities to modify plans for outdoor activities such as recess, lunch, and physical education class.
  • If you’re involved in an activity that requires heavy exertion, you can reduce the time you spend on this activity or substitute another activity that requires more moderate exertion (e.g., go for a walk rather than a jog).

Don’t just breathe, do something.  There are simple, easy steps you can take to reduce harmful emissions during ozone pollution season. Be a clean air warrior by:

  • Driving less by carpooling, walking or riding your bike or using alternative transportation.
  • Reducing idling – turn off your engine if you expect to be stopped for more than 30 seconds (except in traffic).
  • Observing the speed limit. It saves gas and reduces emissions, and may even save you a costly ticket.
  • Keeping your vehicle tuned up and your tires properly inflated. Both help save gasoline and improve air quality, as well as make your car safer.

For information on other ways you can make a difference, visit click Clean Air Midlands.

 

Pizza: My Favorite Veggie!

By Mary Pat Baldauf

I’m always on the lookout for good, healthy, easy meals, and I recently found a winner at my local Kroger store: CAULIPOWER, a ready-to-cook, cauliflower-crust frozen pizza.

Caulipowered

CAULIPOWER pizzas are made with real cauliflower, are nutrient-rich and gluten-free. While they taste like conventional recipes – my sister compares them to our mom’s homemade pizzas — they have less sodium, calories and sugar, and are higher in vitamins than most conventional and gluten-free frozen pizzas.

CAULIPOWER is the brainchild of Gail Becker who made the jump from a globally recognized corporate career at Edelman to the world of entrepreneurship. After both her sons were diagnosed with Celiac disease, she was frustrated by the poor nutritional value of today’s gluten-free options and wanted to create one product that could go beyond just ‘gluten-free’ to be craveable and delicious to anyone.

“I was really taken with the idea of bringing a concept that was born on the internet to life,” said Gail Becker, founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER. “I knew there was a large segment of the population that want to eat healthier, but may not have the time or resources to make those foods from scratch. My vision for CAULIPOWER is to advocate for accessible nutrition, that’s easy and even a bit unexpected.”

caulipower

Creating a vegetable-forward meal in under 15 minutes, CAULIPOWER pizzas are available in three guilt-free varieties:

  • Three-Cheese Pizza – a delicious mix of mozzarella, white cheddar and parmesan atop a signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • Veggie Pizza – features ripe red, yellow and green peppers atop a thick bed of mozzarella cheese and savory signature sauce
  • Margherita Pizza – honors the classic recipe with freshly diced vine-ripened tomatoes, abundant mozzarella cheese, and signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • And with there is a plain crust option, too, which is a blank canvas awaiting culinary artistry.

I found CAULIPOWER by glorious accident at Kroger on Forest Drive, and I’m hooked. They also sell at select Whole Foods and on Amazon.com, as well as other grocers throughout the country. To learn more about CAULIPOWER and where to buy it, visit CAULIPOWER.net or follow them on Facebook.

Grounds for a New Keurig?

By Mary Pat Baldauf

The last few weeks, I’ve noticed coffee grounds in my coveted cup of coffee at work from my desktop Keurig, which I’ve had for about five years.  First world problem, for sure, but annoying enough to investigate. Given the popularity of Keurigs these days – who doesn’t have one, right — I wanted to share the solution in case you, too, have grounds in your cup.

It turns out that the needle was clogged, and the fix was as easy as finding a paper clip. Lift the handle of your brewer to expose the brew basket (the area that you put the K-Cup® pod in). You’ll see the needle that punctures the bottom of the coffee pod.  Put the straightened end of the paper clip into the needle and gentle move it around and down to attempt to clear any debris.  For good measure, I also removed the brew basket and flushed it thoroughly with water.

While I’m on the subject of my Keurig, I also have to mention their recycling program, Grounds to Grow On. More than once, one of my green friends has chastised me for creating excess waste with those leftover pods. Grounds to Grow On offers workplaces an easy way to collect their brewed K-Cup pods to be recycled.IMG_20180209_165117_846

The process is simple: place your brewed pods in the Grounds to Grow On bin. Once the bin is full, present the bin with its pre-paid shipping label to UPS for pick-up, or drop it off at to any UPS location. Keurig takes it from there, turning the pods into recycled products – like aluminum cans and shipping pallets – and the coffee grounds into compost. There is a small fee for the boxes, but if you’re hard core tree-hugger like me, it’s a small price to pay for a guilt-free cup of coffee.

I heard about Grounds to Grow On from a member of the Midlands Green Business Program, Shealy Electrical. The Midlands Green Business program is a partnership between the City of Columbia, Lexington County, Richland County and Keep the Midlands Beautiful.  This free program recognizes businesses who adopt sustainable and eco-friendly business practices, thus keeping our community cleaner, greener and making it a more beautiful place to live. There are quarterly free networking breakfast meetings, which is more than worth the effort to complete the form and join the network. For information, visit Keep the Midlands Beautiful.

God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Every so often, I am reminded that there are no coincidences, just intriguing and earthly manifestations of God’s love. I got one such reminder this today, and I thought it would make for a timely blog post.

After an anxious Monday morning, while stopped at what has got to be Columbia’s longest traffic light, I did a quick search on my smart phone for books about faith and anxiety. One book in particular caught my eye, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado. I decided at lunch that I’d check Amazon to take a closer look at it and the other options listed.

The morning got away from me, and as it turns out, at lunch, I was asked to drop something off at church. As long as I was there, I decided to look at our church library. I walked in to find the volunteer librarian, who asked if she could help me. When I told her I was looking or a faith-based book on anxiety, she said that she’d just checked one in and scurried away to find it.coincidencealbert-e1504531764133-680x330

Imagine my surprise when she handed me Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. (And, wait, it gets better.) As I checked it out, she mentioned that there was a new small group starting to study the book. She gave me the details and promised to connect me with the group leader. Long story short, I’m now signed up for the small group. I have to miss the first class for an evening work event, but I’m going to read the first four chapters this week to be ready for next week’s class. (God is so awesome!)
Have you ever had a coincidence that you knew was really just God’s way of remaining anonymous? If so, and you’re the sharing type, please tell your story in the comments.

Shop Late, If You Must, But Don’t Forget to Shop Sustainable

By Mary Pat Baldauf

There are still a few days left for holiday gift shopping, and if you’re like me, you’ll be using every last hour. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper on the last few days of this holiday season.

Think local. Studies show that every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy, and who doesn’t like that? Because locally produced products are created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world – the footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner, healthier environment.  Working for the City of Columbia, I do a lot of shopping in the Main Street District. My favorites for local goods include Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market, and Uptown on Main, who also wraps gifts for free.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be eaten or experienced. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients. And don’t forget Blue Flour Bakery’s fat and fabulous sugar cookies; with locations in Columbia and Irmo, they’re always a convenient treat.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find Nickelodeon Marquissomething for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street. Experience gifts are true memory makers, and they don’t take up space on a shelf or need wrapping, either.

 

When you buy gifts, do you consider its impact on the environment and/or local community? Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there?