Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Okay... So I don't know what is more disturbing about this list of the Top Ten Most Unusual State Fair Foods: the foods themselves, the praising narratives or the bids for additional recipes. I had no idea that "State Fair Food" had evolved so very far beyond caramel apples and corn dogs. People in Texas are frying Coca-Cola batter!!! And bacon. But somehow the bacon seems conservative in comparison.

Anywho... below you will find a few particularly gross fair fare photos. See them all here. Can you guess which one is the Hot Beef Sundae?!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Love Frank's Fresh Seafood

We've had some requests for more recipes here on JustSaying and got to thinking about an incredible-yet-untapped-by-this-blogger resource right down the street: Frank's Fresh Seafood. Family owned and operated since 1946, Frank's offers dozens of unique recipes alongside more than 100 varieties of premium seafood.

Shop for whole fish, fillets, crabs, lobsters and more in their Jessup warehouse and you'll find a wall of recipe cards for delectable dishes like Herb Encrusted Salmon, Swordfish in OJ and Honey Marinade, and Chesapeake Clam Chowder.

They update their website with specials and coupons regularly and anyone behind the counter will be able to point your towards the most sustainable catch.


How great does this book sound?! Learn more here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nat Geo: The Water Issue

Great news, folks. National Geographic's single-topic issue about our most essential resource is available for free download through April 2, 2010. Find it here.

The interactive edition is fantastic and offers extra photo galleries, animated maps and time lines - however the print edition, on news stands Tuesday, comes with a poster about virtual water that I encourage everyone to hang up in classrooms, subway stops and shopping centers nationwide. Proportional droplets of water display the number of gallons of water required to produce various products we all comsume. A pound of beef : 1,857 gallons. A glass of milk: 53 gallons. And if you haven't gasped already... A pair of blue jeans: 2,900.

And not surprisingly, I highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver's contribution Water is Life.

Talkin' Garden

If you’ve been following our gardening posts, then you know we’ve been discussing the beginnings of a vegetable garden to provide fresh, local, organic foods and a great sense of satisfaction from even just a small bit of self-sufficiency. So far, I’ve been able to get a few things started: The onions were planted and basil and lettuce were started indoors. Now, my attention turns to deciding what else to grow and finding the right seeds for each variety.

There are two main sources for seeds: catalog/internet suppliers and local garden centers/stores. My recommendation is that whichever the source, be sure to choose varieties that have been bred for success in difficult conditions. In many ways, the mid-Atlantic area is a good gardening area with its long days and long growing season. But there are a few pitfalls to this region. Extreme heat and humidity causes mildew and plant stress. Typically moderate winters allow a lot of pests to survive from one season to the next. Rainfall is variable and temperature is a wild card. Spring can be warm, hot, cold or a mix of all in one week - causing problems for germination. Bugs not only eat the foliage, they carry pathogens that cause plant disease.

Still want to be a gardener?! If so, you have to be an optimist in spirit, a pragmatist in practice and a believer in the Zen of working with nature - not fighting against it. But if you're still here reading, that means you’re up to the task, right?

My suggestions for dealing with these challenges is to minimize them by looking for varieties that are disease resistant and tolerate heat and humidity. Resist the sales pitch that a variety is “the best tasting” because anything home-grown beats supermarket and the fact is, if it fails to grow, you won’t taste anything!

Also, don’t plant veggies that will never make it to the dining table. A few examples: Corn will be stolen by the squirrels long before its totally ripe; Summer squash/zucchini will succumb to a type of bug called the Squash Borer (I refuse and do not encourage pesticide use); Broccoli and cauliflower don’t tolerate heat; Carrots and beets need near-perfect, no-clay, no-stone soil; Potatoes, peas , winter squash and melons take a lot of space relative to their yield.

So, what’s left? Well as I said, the backyard garden is small so concentrate on just a handful of high-yield vegetables like:

Tomatoes. They are THE NUMBER ONE crop based on taste! However, be forewarned: Once you grow your own tomatoes, you may never want to eat a supermarket/restaurant tomato again. Use several different varieties assuming each may do better in one set of weather patterns than another. Plant at least ten plants because the squirrels love them too. These can either be started indoors from seed in little pots, or you can buy plants at a garden center that are ready to be put into the ground.

Green Beans. Nothing in the store can match green beans picked 20 minutes before eating. There are quite a few varieties available so I recommend the following: Contender, which are the fastest growing but produce most of their beans at one time. And Provider, which produces beans over a longer period. Both are disease resistant.

Swiss Chard. A spinach-like green but better-tasting. Swiss chard has been called the perfect green because of its incredible nutritional value. By the time it reaches the store however, it’s wilted and expensive. A variety called Fordhook Giant is one of the best.

Cucumber. Since it’s a vine, cucumbers can be grown vertically on a fence or trellis using very little ground space. It is efficient gardening and there are many varieties you can eat without peeling (the skin is where all the nutritional value resides).

Lettuce. In the mid-Atlantic this is an early-season crop since heat causes it to become bitter. Fresh lettuce is delicate and has a subtlety that dissipates by the time it reaches the produce section. It’s efficient because when the lettuce is finished you can then plant beans in the same space. The best varieties for tolerating late spring heat are leaf lettuces, although if a romaine-type lettuce is your thing look for seeds of Jericho - bred in Israel to grow in summer temperatures.

Basil. Obviously not a veggie but one of the most wonderful herbs. Pick fresh leaves and sprinkle on any pizza. It can turn that cardboard-box take-out pizza into something special.

Onions. Onion sets - those miniature, ready to grow onions - are both easy to plant and don’t take a lot of space. They can be planted around the perimeter of a bed where something else will be planted later on when it gets warmer.

Flowers. If you like cut flowers on your dining table, then Zinnias are your flower. Easy to grow and with a variety of colors, they can be cut for a table display and new stems will grow on the plant. Varieties range from tiny quarter-sized blooms to giant six-inch flowers, and with a wide range of petal shapes.

Just remember, right now it is too early to plant anything except lettuce and onions. The rest of the garden has to wait until warmer temperatures arrive, usually around April 15- May 15. Stay tuned to JustSaying for later planting dates and advice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour Tonight

Join the movement and turn off your lights tonight from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. Learn more here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Will Walmart save small farms and help Ameriica get healthy?

Corby Kummer tours Walmart's produce aisles.

Walmart may yet win over we greenies

Headlines are calling it The Great Grocery Smackdown. I'm just going to call it: the greatest green news I've heard in a while. Walmart is working pretty darn hard to do the right thing by local farmers as well as consumers.

Corby Kummer wrote a great piece for The Atlantic about the company's efforts to purchase and sell locally produced foods - which leads to a rather unexpected price and quality comparison to industry leader Whole Foods. Read the full article here.

To borrow a few words from the Environmental Defense Fund coordinator who is currently in charge of working with Walmart on agriculture programs, “It’s getting harder and harder to hate Walmart.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Do a lot of people eat moose? For some reason when I think of "wild game" I always imagine deer or duck or something... not that I love the thought of any of "God's creatures right next to mashed potatoes" but what can I say - hunting is natural, local and sustainable.

Billboard still gets a thumbs down from me though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Florida Pythons??

Oh boy. Where do we start?

Yesterday, perhaps around the same time we here at JustSaying were watching a fantastic NatGeo special about the burmese python invasion in the Florida Everglades, animal enforcement officers seized around a hundred deadly snakes - dead, alive, frozen and rotting pythons and rattlesnakes - from a home in Palm Bay, Florida. The homeowner is facing more than 122 counts of animal cruelty and the capacity for danger that has been lurking inside this home exemplifies out nation's need for a ban on exotic pet ownership.

I don't mean to belittle the horrors of hoarding and the unfair treatment of these snakes, but I think the bigger issue lies in the extraordinary strength and ecological impact of this particular invasive species - which unfortunately likely began with collectors unable to maintain the pythons (which can grow up to 200 lbs and 23 ft in length) and releasing them into the wild.

The snakes are carnivores and have no known predators in the Everglades. Holy dangerous. Even worse: scientists have learned that the snakes acclimate to their surroundings quickly, are devouring native mammals, gators, and birds, and are reproducing rapidly.

Just saying... The pictured python's body burst after swallowing an enormous gator. That could easily have been a child. Enough already, crazy collectors.

Learn more about the snakes and the invasion here.

(Thnx Neeks)

Monday, March 22, 2010

HFCS Update

For all you folks who have been on the fence about whether to trust those cheesy ads about poor, misunderstood high fructose corn syrup or jump into the camp that questions the syrup - debate no more! A research team at Princeton University had concluded that rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar (caloric intake was the same). Here's the complex explanation from ScienceDaily:

"...In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight...."

...The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.

High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars -- it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose -- but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.

This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles."

Read more about the study and history of HFCS in the US here.

*Note: The (very cute) fat rat pictured did not actually partake in the Princeton study. He is an actor and you may recognize him from his work with Disney-Pixar. And just saying... there is a good chance his diet is dangerously rich in HFCS. Celebrities... sigh... so reckless.

Chive Talkin'

This is just a quickie post pending a longer segment on the progress of the garden. For dinner tonight we made a mixed garden salad - one of the healthiest and easiest salads to make. Lettuce, bits of carrots, sliced mushrooms, onion slices, radishes, sweet red peppers and to top it off: Homemade Ranch Dressing.

Homemade sounds like work but I assure you that this recipe is easy and far healthier than the store-bought variety. Here's whatcha need:

1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of non-fat sour cream
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
A few tablespoons of milk or cream or half and half (almost any dairy product that you have on hand will work)
And one more important ingredient: Fresh Chives

Fresh chives are a terrific addition to many dishes and are the easiest - and I mean easiest seasoning to grow. Chives themselves are a sort of half and half - halfway between a veggie and an herb - since they grow and are flavored like onions but only the green shoots are used in cooking. Just snip some off the top and chop or dice. Not only is integrating them into your cooking easy, but the growing part is pretty easy too. Chives are a perennial meaning that once planted they will essentially grow forever. Even if you cut off all of the shoots to use (not that you would ever need that much) they will grow back rather quickly.

Mmmm... can't wait to dig into that salad!

Love Little Green Books

I had the pleasure of gifting and reading The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle to my little niece over the weekend and let me tell you, folks: it is adorably educational. The story about recycling follows the bottle from his beginnings as a blob of crude oil, through polymerization, construction, use, reuse, recycling and to his final form (spoiler alert) as a fleece sweatshirt. I mean, seriously... what's cuter than a spirited plastic bottle with googley eyes teaching our littlest generation important lessons about the processes that have become a huge part of our existence?

As you would expect, the books are printed on recycled paper and The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle is one of many in Simon & Schuster's Little Green Books series.

Other titles include:

Simon & Schuster have even created the Little Green Blog: Where Your Green Ideas Grow. The most current post of theirs talks about Earth Hour 2010 which is only a few short days away and another great, green activity to do with the kiddies!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

A sneak peek of Jamie Oliver's new television series set in Huntington, West Virginia: Food Revolution, will air tonight at 10:00pm EST on ABC. The show follows Oliver's efforts to get an entire community cooking again. Born and raised in the restaurant business and interested in fighting the obesity epidemic by getting  everyone back in the kitchen and cooking with fresh ingredients as opposed to flavor packets, Oliver will be preaching his methods and lessons to local families and school lunch staff.

The network news promoted the show on Friday night and although the clips of Jamie arguing with frustrated school lunch ladies seemed more like a reality show than an inspirational series, I have faith that his tough love will turn this community and their food system around for the better. Think of it as a slightly more aggressive, Michael Pollan-ated type of initiative.

Apart from tonight's preview/premiere, episodes will air on Friday nights at 9:00PM EST.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Clever Pete

JustSaying just discovered the fantastic blog from which this photo - displaying the greatest name for a pizza joint ever - was posted. Find it here. Thanks to Scott Lamb at Buzzfeed. A.Mazing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Love The Femivore's Dilema

Peggy Orenstein wrote a fabulous article for the NY Times about a new crop of women in Berkeley, California who are taking the kitchen and backyard garden to another level and raising their own chickens. It's about so much more than that though. The article explores the feminine predicament faced by so many educated stay-at-home moms who want to embrace their new positions outside of the "work force" without, as Orendstein put it, "becoming Betty Draper." The innate desire for self-sufficiency, autonomy, sustainability, fullfillment and a feeling that live is made - not merely purchased. My paraphrasing isn't doing it justice...

"...Hayes pointed out that the original “problem that had no name” was as much spiritual as economic: a malaise that overtook middle-class housewives trapped in a life of schlepping and shopping. A generation and many lawsuits later, some women found meaning and power through paid employment. Others merely found a new source of alienation. What to do? The wages of housewifery had not changed — an increased risk of depression, a niggling purposelessness, economic dependence on your husband — only now, bearing them was considered a “choice”: if you felt stuck, it was your own fault. What’s more, though today’s soccer moms may argue, quite rightly, that caretaking is undervalued in a society that measures success by a paycheck, their role is made possible by the size of their husband’s. In that way, they’ve been more of a pendulum swing than true game changers.

Enter the chicken coop.

Femivorism is grounded in the very principles of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment that drove women into the work force in the first place. Given how conscious (not to say obsessive) everyone has become about the source of their food — who these days can’t wax poetic about compost? — it also confers instant legitimacy. Rather than embodying the limits of one movement, femivores expand those of another: feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly. What could be more vital, more gratifying, more morally defensible?..."

Raising chickens for eggs alongside your tomatoes may not be for every mom, but it is certainly lovely to read and dream about. And I hope it is alright that I reposted a photo by Katherine Wolkoff from the article. It is such a perfect photo I couldn't resist.

Read the entire piece here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Get Started

Last time, we got you thinking about starting a garden. Since then, it has rained and rained and... you may have found you can't to a darn thing. Even if the rain has stopped the ground is still much too wet to till. However, you can keep your enthusiasm high by learning a few more gardening how-to's, understanding which varieties you can grow, and even giving some of those seeds a jumpstart indoors.

Previously, we pointed you to the resources on the University of Maryland's gardening site but today - to really get you going - it's time for Cornell University's Cooperative Extension Program. It's certainly one of the best gardening sites around.

A little diversion here for some bakground about and kudos to the Cooperative Extension Service. The program began in 1914 as a way of disseminating university research to farmers and families so they could apply the latest findings in life sciences and agricultural research to their lives and practices. It was literally an extension of the university that took place at UMD, Cornell, and almost all major state universities in the U.S. I'm a big fan because the Extension Service has helped so many farmers and regular folks improve their quality of life and crops despite, in many cases, having limited education and little chance to obtain this knowledge. The programs provided a critical independent source of gardening, nutrition, health, and child rearing guidance long before there was an internet, before corporate farming took over food production, and before we all had instant access to affordable food and health care services 24/7. And FYI, Extension Services ae still providing this service today.

So I urge you to visit Cornell's site (find it here) for user-friendly, easy-to-understand guides and info on veggies, flowers and lawns...

BTW, beyond just reading about gardening on these wet days, you can actually start some plants indoors right now. I've planted some basil and lettuce indoors to get a jump on outdoor planting and provide the opportunity to see progress with my garden daily (newly emerging basil seeds are pictured). In just a few more days, the lettuce should pop.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pick Peruvian!

If you oft enjoy a delicious Fair Trade Certified coffee from your local Starbucks, might I recommend an excellent seasonal blend - on shelves for a limited time - Peru Chanchamayo.

We here at JustSaying have a special family connection to a plantation on the eastern slopes of the Andes in central Peru where these beans are allowed to slowly ripen to their "lively flavor notes and subtle nuttiness" and can assure you that they will reach your refillable coffee mug with the utmost care and consideration of both people and earth.

(Gracias, Mónica)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Chikin 4 Brekfust"

Eww... (again). But the cow in her footie pajammies is quite cute, no?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein Recall

If you follow us on twitter, you'll know that we predicted a massive recall due to contamination just a few short days ago. Not only because contaminations are happening more and more often, but because founders, family, and friends of JustSaying have been hit with an awful stomach flu that has yet to be officially pinned on H1N1 or the restaurant a few of us recently dined in. The Washington Post reports:

"The company at the heart of a growing recall of processed foods knew that its plant was contaminated with salmonella but continued to make a flavoring and sell it to foodmakers around the country, according to inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration. Managers at Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas learned on Jan. 21 that samples taken a week earlier from their Nevada facility tested positive for salmonella, a potentially deadly bacterium, but they kept shipping their product to foodmakers, according to FDA inspection records. The company makes hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, a flavor enhancer used in a wide variety of processed foods, from potato chips to sweet and sour tofu. The additive, which comes as a powder or a paste, is mixed into foods to give them a meaty or savory flavor -- similar to the use of monosodium glutamate. Basic Food Flavors tested surfaces near food-processing equipment throughout its plant twice in January and once in February, and each time the samples showed salmonella contamination, according to FDA records. The company continued to ship products and to make more HVP without cleaning the plant or the equipment in a way that would have minimized contamination, the records said."

Take a moment to review the latest recalls and list of affected products found here, and read more here and here.

And please remember, we aren't doctors here folks. Just a couple of people trying to promote health and well-being for ourselves and our environment. Sure, I may have snacked on some potato chips while on a long car ride last week, but that doesn't mean I'm just going to sip on Alka Seltzer and skip tomorrow's doctor visit.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You Can Start Gardening Now...

Tired of the cold? Itching to get outside? Love fresh, organic food? You can get started on a garden right now. In fact, early spring is the best time to do all the prep work. As soon as you can take a shovel or garden fork and dig into the soil you can be on your way to totally healthy and tasty vegetables that beat anything you can buy, even at a farmer's market.

Any spot, no matter how small with at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day can be turned into a garden. You can also grow some vegetables in pots and planters on a patio or balcony.

There are plenty of websites to help get you started with easy step by step instructions. I recommend Grow It Eat It but you can Google many others. Also, there are many gardeners around who can lend advice, some are even recognized as "Master Gardeners" by local gardening groups. These experienced folks regularly volunteer their time to help others.

I've been working on my garden for a few years growing tomatoes, green beans, swiss chard (similar to spinach but stands the heat of summer), peppers and onions. This year, I've already tilled the areas to be planted and added more peat moss to help loosen the clay soil we have. This work is the most physically demanding part of gardening, especially if you're making a new garden, so take it slow. Just work a few minutes each day. If you have a large area you can most likely find someone with a roto-tiller to do the dig-up phase for you for a reasonable fee instead of doing the work by hand using a spade or garden fork.

The most exciting parts of having your own garden are.... all of them! Every part, from preparing the soil to harvesting fresh, organic vegetables is rewarding. There's nothing that comes close to the satisfaction of being able to raise some of what you eat.

So at the end of week one, the onions have been planted. They take up little space and are dual-purpose: when they form small bulbs they can be pulled from the garden and used as green onions (scallions). Those left to form regular sized onions will be ready in August. The easiest way to plant them is to buy what's called onion sets: miniature onions that will give you a head start time-wise and are easier to handle than actual onion seed (available at Wally-Mart, Meyer Seed Company in downtown Baltimore, and many garden centers).

Other vegetables that can be planted now include carrots, lettuce and radishes, since they grow best in cool weather. But between now and the end of April, there's not much else to be planted. So now I have some time to decide and buy the seeds of each vegetable to plant since in some cases there are 50 or more variations of a particular vegetable. And much as I'd like to plant every vegetable, I just don't have the space.

Stay tuned for my next post: My Choices.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Slow Motion Doggie Goodness

My bro-in-law sent me this awesomeness this morning. Love it.

(thnx Troy)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Uh oh... Jack's meaty pet food may have to go...

The inevitable has happened: Slate's Green Lantern has looked into the enviromental impact of puppy chow causing we pet owners concern about the enviromental impact of what they intake on top of what they output (click here to learn about the greenest doggie doodoo disposal methods).

It turns out that most of the food our pets eat (that includes meat) is made from the parts of livestock that we humans do not eat such as organs, scraps, and rendered bones and tissues. So on one hand, considering the fact that we raise livestock for human consumption and only the leftovers (about 15%) are purposed to pet food, little of the carbon footprint should really be assigned to the pet food. However, if you ask the pair of sustainable architecture experts from New Zealand, Robert and Brenda Vale (authors of Time To Eat the Dog?) "a medium-size dog has roughly twice the ecological footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser."

Thankfully, the Lantern is a lover of animals and suggests the following:

"...The way the Lantern sees it, there are two options worth exploring. The first is a variation on one of our cardinal rules for humans: Eat less meat. Some vegans and vegetarians put their cats and dogs on equally abstemious diets. The Lantern doesn't believe humans should be required to give up all meat, so she's not going to suggest that your pet should, either. But according to Marion Nestle—a public-health and nutrition expert who's recently been focusing her attention on pet food—the research clearly shows that dogs and cats can get all the nutrients they need from complete-and-balanced, all-veggie commercial foods. (No one has done any long-term clinical trials comparing various diet options, however.) Even if you don't want to take meat out of the equation entirely, you might be able to cut back, by replacing some of your pet's fleshy fare with grain-and-vegetable-based meals.... The other option is to enlist your pet in your own food recycling efforts. As we've noted before, one of the most straightforward ways to make your diet more eco-friendly is to consume everything you buy, whatever it is. We Americans waste a lot of food—around 30 percent to 40 percent, according to recent estimates—which means we also waste all the resources that went into producing that food. Now, the Lantern isn't advocating you treat your pet like a dumpster, filling its bowl with ossifying Oreos and rotting Chinese takeout. But if you have more meat or vegetables in your fridge than you know what to do with, consider turning that excess food into some pet chow. There are plenty of books on the market to show you how. Just make sure that any changes to your pet's diet are made gradually, and keep your vet apprised of your experimentation."

Read the full article here.