March 2010


Easter Sunday is fast approaching and when one thinks of traditional Easter food, eggs of course come to mind! But of course for vegans this is not an option. To read more about why vegans refrain from eating eggs, check out our previous blog titled The Truth About Eggs. Most vegans are used to traditional foods served for holidays including Deviled Eggs. We have put together a tasty alternative to traditional Deviled Eggs with our Eggless Deviled Bites. These are a terrific appetizer and wonderful to bring along to family events. Who knows you might encourage friends or family to eat vegan. Enjoy this tasty traditional recipe and Happy Easter from all of us at Autonomie.

Vegan Eggless Deviled Tofu Bites

Prep Time: 30 Minutes Makes: 16-20 Bites

1 lb Organic Firm Tofu
1/2 lb Organic Silken Tofu
2 Cups Warm Water
1/3 Cup Organic Vegenaise
2 Tbl Organic Yellow Mustard
2 Tbl Organic Relish (dill works best)
1 Tbl Onion, finely minced
1 Glove of Garlic, finely minced
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Tumeric
Paprika, for garnish
Organic Cherry Tomatoes, for garnish (optional)

Drain and rinse the firm tofu and slice in half vertically. You can then cut into 1 inch squares or if you are feeling creative, cut into oval shapes with a pairing knife. The ovals will give it more of an authentic “egg” look but the squares will do just fine. In a large bowl combine warm water and only 1 teaspoon salt. Place your tofu cubes or ovals into the water and allow them to marinate while you prepare the filling. Finely mince the onion and garlic and set aside. In a large bowl combine the silken tofu, vegenaise, mustard, relish, onion, garlic, remaining salt, pepper, and tumeric. Mix this thoroughly until smooth. Drain the tofu ovals or squares and arrange on a plate or serving platter. Use a paper towel or cloth to soak up any excess water on the ovals/squares. With a spoon or scoop, place a dollop of the filling mixture from the bowl on top of each bite. Sprinkle the bites with paprika and place a cherry tomato in the center, if you choose. Any left over filling can be used as a cracker dip or sandwich filling. You can serve immediately or keep in the fridge to harden.

The Easter season is upon us and has been since February 15th- , if the holiday aisle of our local chain pharmacy is to be used as a trusted marker of the passage of time. Just as Halloween’s orange and black are replaced by Christmas’ green and red on November 1st, the day after Valentine’s day sees romantic reds and pinks unceremoniously replaced by Easter’s sickeningly sweet pastel palette. It is as though these stores are giving us a visual aid to reveal just how disposable our consumerist driven society really can be- it would be more shocking if there were not so many cute fuzzy stuffed animal bunnies lining these aisle, distracting us from these harsher realities…aww this one sings “Here Comes Peter Cottontail“!

Luckily, once we leave these bear trap like displays-with their hypnotizing Spring inspired hues and themes- we can come back to our senses and plot how to make this Easter the one wherein we refuse to listen to the seductive siren song of these disposable holiday items once and for all. This will be the Easter that you, yes you- with your ravishing eyes and daredevil attitude- make conscientious decisions on how you choose to celebrate your holiday. Free yourself from the shackles of your Easter Bunny overlord and take heed to these easy to follow steps that will make you wonder why the heck you ever paid your hard earned cash on a gob of colored plastic grass ever before!

Easter Baskets:

I generally think back fondly on the Easter’s of my youth, but my memories take on a cringe worthy feel when I recall that part of my family’s Easter Sunday ritual involved my siblings and myself placing our Easter baskets from the previous year at the foot of our bed, only to awake and discover that the Easter Bunny had crept into our room while we slept overnight to replace these  baskets with new ones! Not only new baskets, but baskets wrapped in colorful cellophane and filled to the brim with candies and other treats! No, I am not cringing at the idea of a bunny rabbit the size of an adult male, who often sports an unfashionable vest coupled with an even more unfashionable bowtie, creeping in my bedroom at night- I am cringing at the wastefulness of brand new baskets wrapped in plastic (What up, Twin Peaks fans!?).

In my parent’s defense, it was the 80’s. People thought cigarettes were a healthy alternative to breast milk for babies in those days. Oh, they didn’t? Well, either way, we now know better. You should learn from history, or you will be doomed to repeat it- so,  step one: reuse your Easter Baskets!!!

If you are in need of a new basket for some reason, seek out baskets made from sustainable  items, such as these handsome Fair Trade bamboo baskets.

Better yet, make a project out if it for you an your youngin’s and make your own baskets with recyclable goods. Search online for a plethora of handy how-to guides, such as this one from funroom.com.

Other lessons you can learn from my parent’s mistakes (which crazily enough is the title of my upcoming self-help book) include: skipping the cellophane altogether and either forgoing the fake grass at the bottom of the basket  or opting  for shredded, recyclable papers or natural items; such as hay.

Easter Eggs:

A classic Easter activity for children is the dying of hard boiled eggs and distributing them to your disappointed family members. A hard boiled egg, no matter what color it may be, is not the most awesome gift on the planet, but as with many things in the world, it is really the journey that counts…in  this case the act of egg dying, that makes it an American favorite.

First up on your Easter activity Eco makeover is the eggs themselves. If  buying eggs, try to make your purchase  from a local organic farm.

If you are making this a vegan holiday, you may want to try obtaining wooden eggs that your child can paint and can be used year after year as a decoration. Even the White House is using wooden eggs for this years Easter Egg Hunt, way to send a sustainable message, Mr. President!

Now that you’ve decided on more ethical and eco-friendly eggs it is time to choose your palette. If you have decided to go the traditional egg dying route, check out this handy guide on crunchydomesticgodess.com that informs you how to dye your eggs using simply vinegar, fruits and vegetables.  For wooden eggs, use non-toxic paints and recycled supplies found around your home.

Candy:

Let’s face it, this is what the holiday basically boils down to for children and the young at heart alike: an excuse to receive and eat a basket of candy. Similarly, Halloween is an excuse to beg for candy and Valentine’s day is a time to enjoy assorted chocolates out of a heart shaped container. I am not here to judge or to tell you to enjoy your candy in moderation, I am here however to remind you to make ethical choices when choosing which sweet concoctions to gorge yourself on.

Fulfill your need to be on theme this holiday season without abandoning your ethics; Chocolates at Sjaacks.com and divinechocolateusa.com are available in Easter style shapes and packaging and are also 100 percent Fair Trade and organic!!!

You could also consider filling your loved ones Easter Baskets with homemade candies and treats. Check out this delicious vegan fudge recipe Autonomie Project posted for another holiday- that shall remained unnamed, as not to make Easter jealous.

When it is all said and done, the sap in me wants to say that holidays are about spending quality time with the ones you hold nearest and dearest to your heart. The chocolate lover in me, however, thinks it is all about the yummy treats. We’ll let those two sides of myself figure it out like any mature personality would: cage match style.

Until the results are available, remember to enjoy your holiday in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way you possibly can. Come April 5th, regardless of whether or not you buy every plastic egg or rapping Easter bunny available, your local chain store’s holiday aisle will be already sporting July 4th’s patriotic red, white and blue. This time you can smugly walk by, knowing that you have the ability to celebrate any holiday without pledging allegiance to the disposable trinkets they want you to believe make or break its success.  You can still feel free to set off all the dancing, animatronic doo dads on the shelf as you pass by- you know that you have a soft spot in your heart for that Santa that wears sunglasses and tears it up on the saxophone and all his robotic pals.

Happy Easter, everyone!

-Meghan Hurley

Everyday we turn on a faucet, open a bottle, flush a handle, or even stand around the cooler at work. Yes, everyday, without little thought, we have access to clean and safe water. What may seem as a simple pleasure to us here in the States, is a luxury for many around the world. Unfortunately, many, actually it is estimated that about 1 billion people do not have safe drinking water throughout the world. And even worse about 2.6 billion lack proper sanitation. In fact, many scientists and social workers refer to lack of clean water as an all out worldwide water crisis. It is estimated that by 2050 about a third of the world will not have access to fresh water.

Water is not often thought of as a resource or a commodity, but the truth is, it is both. Water is one of the most necessary natural resources, as we need it to not only sustain our lives, but for farming and sanitation. For some parts of the world, the lack of accessibility to such resource is a major problem. For instance in Africa some 40% or the continent’s population lack access and Asia is even worse at about 53%. These numbers are troubling and not surprisingly many of the water issues have to do with economics and politics, but some are just purely environmental. In many of the countries without proper access, the infrastructure just simply does not exist for plumbing or their lack of water is due to drought in the area, which are sure to get worse in the coming years. Another issue is that for many rural people, they must travel miles by foot to find water in faraway lakes and streams. And worst of all, some are surrendered to purchase bottled water at inflated and unattainable prices.

It is clear, we do have a serious water crisis on our hands. Luckily, there are many people out there awakening to this crisis. This last monday marked World Water Day, which drew the attention of the public and press to these issues. What is World Water Day? It is day to bring awareness to the water crisis from the government and the US public. This year, many major US corporations stepped up and got involved! On top of NGOs out there doing wonderful work to bring access to people, brands like Pepsi, Nestle, and Intel have made public commitments to help end the water crisis. Pepsi has actually pledged to help bring safe water to 3 million people by 2015! We say, way to step up your game Pepsi! Nestle is continuing their program of Project WET of water education for schools, including providing information kits. Ok, so giant corporations aren’t always evil. And even us, tiny, little, Autonomie Project has tried to help this crisis by directly funding water projects in the communities from which we work with.

So maybe you are thinking, “I am not a company, but what can I do to help the water crisis?” The answer is, you can do a lot! The Huffington Post, just recently posted an article on numerous ways to get involved including volunteer opportunities locally and abroad and donating money to NGOs such as Give a Drop and Give Clean Water, just to name a few. You can also contact your Senators and US Representatives and let them know your concerns about the water crisis and urge them to get involved with WASH efforts, an organization looking to bring all people safe water and sanitation. You can educate yourself on the crisis though many organizations listed above but also through this wonderful National Geographic guide, Freshwater 101. Also, don’t forget to spread the word about these issues, which is much easier now with the world of social networking and text messages! The more people educated and doing something about this crisis, the more we can avert the tremendous effects it may have on our world and people.

Safe water is becoming more and more scarce across the world and at home.  As mentioned above, in some places bottled water is sold at high prices to combat this issue. Bottled water is not the solution, in fact, it is part of the problem. A wonderful video, just released this week called “The Story of Bottled Water” points to this very issue. Plus it comes with cute animation and music. Check out the video below for more information and let’s help end this water crisis before it is too late.

Next Tuesday, March 30th, the traditional Jewish holiday, Passover will begin. Matzo is a large part of the Passover tradition and of course the Passover Seder. There are plenty of great Passover dishes out there, both that include Matzo and those without. This year we have put together a vegan recipe for Matzo-Potato Kugel. This makes a great vegan alternative to traditional Kugel made with noodles and eggs. Don’t forget to serve it along with our Vegan Matzo Ball Soup.  We wish you a wonderful passover and enjoy the food!

Vegan Matzo-Potato Kugel

Prep Time:  30 Minutes   Bake Time: 1 Hour
3 Cups Organic Potatoes, Grated
1 Cup Organic Carrots, Grated
3/4 Cup Organic Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Vegan Matzo Meal
1/4 Cup Organic Onions, Chopped
1/4 Cup Organic Earth Balance Margarine
3 Tbsp Water
2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 tsp Organic Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grate the carrots and potatoes and chop the onions finely. In a large saucepan combine the vegetable broth, 2 Tbs of water and Earth Balance. Cook the potatoes, carrots, and onion  until they are tender but not completely soft (10 minutes on medium heat). While these are cooking,  in a small mixing bowl beat the Ener-G Egg Replacer and 1 Tbs of warm Water until you have the consistency of an egg. When the vegetables have finished, add the vegetables and broth to the mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the Matzo Meal, Baking Powder, Pepper, Garlic and Salt. Slowly add the dry and wet ingredients into one bowl and mix together. Add the mixture to small oiled pan or casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Let stand for about 5 minutes and serve.

Today, it was unseasonably warm in our city of Boston.  70 degrees, on March 18th.  I am told that this time last year daffodils were struggling to push their buds up through heavy layers of snow.  But it feels great, and brings to mind all the awesome produce that will soon be grown around us, and heading our way from points beyond.  Yes, it is always preferable to grow your own food and purchase  from local farmers.  But here in Massachusetts, not all edibles are grown, even in spring and summer. Like most parts of the country, much of the produce we consume comes from the breadbasket of California, where wide fertile lands and appropriate climate conditions allow the wealth of farm activity we know it to have.

But as the days warm into Summer and the produce begins flowing in, keep California in mind, specifically the conditions on the ground, as it were.  For, year after year, farm workers have been suffering unbearable conditions under the hot sun, some of them dying, mostly due to a complete lack of competence and care for safety on the part of companies and the State.

The regulations which ensure the safe working conditions of farm-workers in California are enforced by its Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA), which has recently been taken to trial by the ACLU for failing to live up to its standards.  The workers in question provide 90 percent of the labor in California’s multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, and are routinely deprived of water, shade and rest, having to work outdoors in temperatures that commonly top 100 degrees F! This lawsuit is considered a landmark in that it is focused and comprehensive; California passed a law in 2005 to protect farm-workers from heat illness and death, and yet, according to the LA Times, at least ten individuals have lost their lives since, harvesting the produce that conveniently appears on our cool, climate-controlled grocery shelves.

The situations in which these people die are sad and, due to the need of income for often impoverished families, desperate.  In 2008, one man, Audon Felix Garcia of Bakersfield was found slumped over in his truck with a core body temperature of 108 degrees.  It is elsewhere reported that Garcia had been working on a day with a high of 112 degrees F, and had 15 years of fieldwork experience.  Even more tragic was the death of Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, only 17 at the time, who according to Time magazine, died after picking grapes for nine hours straight in 95-degree heat.    Perhaps one of the most surprising numbers is the staggering fact that out of roughly 35,000 farms in California, only 750 inspections were conducted by Cal/OSHA in a year, as of two summers ago.  There is no real way of telling how may abuses, both lethal and non, have occurred on farms statewide in the grueling summer months; only the stories of the workers themselves would do justice, if they had more means to be heard.

There is more that you can do beyond paying attention to your consumer habits at the market.  A good place to start would be with the United Farm Workers.  One of the main campaign focuses of the UFW, America’s largest farm worker union, founded by Cesar Chavez (whose birthday and California State holiday in his name is celebrated in a few weeks on March 31st) in 1962, is promoting the awareness of heat-related injuries and deaths of employees on company-owned farms.  They stand behind the ACLU lawsuit and are a strong voice of testimony and non-violent action in establishing the right to a safe agricultural workplace. You can easily sign petitions for the movement on their site which get sent to relevant politicians and manufacturers, as well as keep abreast of the issue and see how your own voice of protest affects the lives of those who work extremely hard hand-selecting the fruits and veggies that end up on your plate.

-Jeremy Pearson

Winter is almost over. Spring is so close we can almost imagine shedding  our multiple layers of sweaters, long johns and winter boots  to let that first  blessed ray of sunlight meet our vitamin D-deprived, pasty flesh.

See you next year ,Winter time blues! See you on  the flip side, dry, flaky skin! Smell you later, huge heating bills!

Hello, birds chirping, bees buzzing, sun shining and…Spring Cleaning?

I guess some aspects of Spring are more inspirational than others. Who are we to complain, though? After months of  hibernation and malaise, our homes have likely become musty pits wherein dust bunnies roam free without consequence. Well, listen here, dust bunnies of Earth! Spring has sprung and your days are numbered. Gone are the chilly nights wherein we as a people collectively shrug and think to ourselves, “Eh, why bother sweeping? It will just get dirty again sooner or later.”

You are history, my dusty friends! And that is not a threat, it is a promise!

Before you run off, inspired by my anti-dust bunny propaganda and ready to kick some dust’s unlucky buns, sit down for a moment or  two and read these handy tips on how to keep your Spring cleaning green. After all, the  Earth in all its Spring time splendor is to thank for all this burst  of cleaning energy, so you may as well fight the war of the clean with its happiness in mind.

Vinegar is Your New Best Friend:

Seriously, purchase as much white vinegar as you can get your hot little hands on. Vinegar is going to be your Junior Sheriff in this epic showdown with dirt you are about to face.

Use Vinegar’s awesome cleaning power on floors, cabinets and windows. All of these can be cleaned with a simple mixture of vinegar and water. For more difficult jobs, you may want to employ Vinegar’s on and off again partner, baking  soda. (Why these crazy kids just can’t work things out for good is beyond me.)

Microwaves, toilets, sinks, tubs and the refrigerator all call for a mix of vinegar,  baking powder and scrub a dub, dub, dub-ing (the extra dub really is where the oomph of the cleaning will come through).

Paper Towels, Your New Worst Enemy:

If dust bunnies are the apparent  face of evil in this war on dirt,  paper towels are a close second. Worse yet, these paper towels are not an obvious enemy; they infiltrate your side of the fight. They appear innocent enough, “Oh hey, let me help you wipe that down. No worries, when you are done, just toss me in the rubbish! It is so easy!!!” Paper towels are the devil on your shoulder tempting you to do things the easy way, when the right thing means putting forth a little more effort.

Luckily for you, using cleaning materials that aren’t just one use is not much of a hassle at all. Use reusable towels and rags, sometimes this means looking no further than an aging frayed towel and tearing it into smaller pieces.  Also, instead of using spray mops with replaceable pads, stick to the tried and true mops that require just a tad more elbow grease. Classics are classics for a reason.

Increase Energy Efficiency:

Spring cleaning is a great time to periodically check your smoke detectors. After doing this battery check, take the time to check other items around your home for ways in which you can make them function more efficiently.

Replace your old-fashioned incandescent  light bulbs with the more energy efficient CFL style bulb. Vacuum or dust your refrigerator’s coils to increase the efficiency of this kitchen titan. Check the filters of your hot water heater and your heating system and replace as necessary.

Hasta la vista, Heaters

The longer spans of daylight and the increasing temperatures should make the burgeoning Spring as good as a time as any to turn off your heat until next Winter. Open your shades (which you surely have already cleaned with a mixture of water and vinegar) and let the sun work its mojo on your home’s temperature. Being from New England, I know that Winter has a terrible habit of butting its ugly head in well into Spring, so I am not suggesting letting your pipes freeze if this becomes the case, just merely suggesting reevaluating your heating needs in the face of  warmer temperatures.

Junk in Your Trunk:

A thorough Spring cleaning will often involve an evaluation of certain belongings and questioning whether or not they have outlived their usefulness in your life.  Sure, that magic kit charmed the heck out of your older relatives a decade ago, but do you really need to keep in the bedroom closet of your adult home? The answer is a resounding no. The good news is that you do not have to unceremoniously throw this item in the garbage. You can donate this item to a local charity or thrift store. Some young tyke out there may be longing to pull a long strand of scarves out of their sleeve, help this child live that dream.

While your junk may not be stacked in a trunk- it is more likely in my experience to end up in a garbage bag while I decide each items fate- it needs to be dealt with in a calm and mature manner. Donate and reuse what you can. Heck, you could even get a group of friends together for a clothing or knick knack swap. Add cocktails and you could be in for a fun evening, because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all men (and ladies) love a reason to get together for a drink.

Bugging Out:

Spring sees many forms of life flourishing. Unfortunately for us,  many of these life forms are pests that would love nothing more than to come in our homes and snack upon the crumbs on our counters.  The best way to deal with this influx of insect nuisances in the warmer months is good dose of  old-fashioned prevention.

Pat yourself on the back, by performing a thorough Spring cleaning your job is going to be that much easier. If these little bugs still insist that your home is their home, there are green ways to fight back fairly.

Ants:
To deter ants from making your kitchen party central, wipe down surfaces of entry ways and other points of their interests with some vinegar – I swear to you I am not paid by some greedy Vinegar company, sure they send me a watch every now and then…but that is just for my customer loyalty.

If you want to steer clear of vinegar just this once based on an unfounded conspiracy theory about me being in the pocket of big business, try growing spearmint around your property. Ants are known to loathe the smell of fresh breath more than any other smell on the planet.

Flies:

Unlike vampires, flies do not need a verbal invitation to enter your abode.  To avoid the annoyance of hearing one of these pesky pests get trapped between a shade and a window, try scratching into the peel of and orange or hanging a cluster of cloves, both are said to act as deterrent to flies.

As you finish ridding your house of dust and clutter, be sure to sit down and celebrate Spring, making sure to pause to pour one out for your dearly departed friend, the dust bunny. You guys made it through a long and cold winter together, you may have even  grown a fondness for him -going so far as to name him Captain Ted- but you are better off without him. If you are fighting an urge to play Boyz II Men, “End of the Road”  as you empty the dust buster into the garbage can, you may want to think about taking a Vitamin D supplement next winter and head promptly outside where you can befriend a real bunny.

Happy Spring Cleaning, everyone!

-Meghan Hurley

This January, the world witnessed one of the worst tragedies in modern times. A 7.0 earthquake rocked the already struggling nation of Haiti and caused incredible amounts of death and destruction on a level not many had seen before, including myself. Before the earthquake, Haiti had its fair share of issues, ranging from infrastructure to the economy. And it is even worse off now, with a death toll of at least two hundred thousand and over a million homeless, not to mention the near destruction of the UN mission efforts and parts of the government. With such a grim outcome, it doesn’t seem like anything positive could come from this. However, in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, Haiti has a unique opportunity to rebuild.

Haiti not only has an opportunity to rebuild their capital city, but they have the chance to restructure their country in a sustainably: economically, socially, and environmentally.  Hundreds of conventional international aid groups have already made their way to the country; however, there are groups such as Global Green who are looking to help rebuild the country in a truly sustainable way. Global Green USA has been instrumental in the reconstruction of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Recently, Treehugger published an interview with Global Green’s CEO and President, Matt Petersen. Global Green has been constantly in contact with all parties including the Haitian government, local businesses, and several NGOs. The interview is a very insightful look at the struggles and opportunities Haiti will face in the coming years including some issues seen in Iraq and New Orleans, such as corporate leaps of power and some long-term investments like job creation. Global Green is looking to end these challenges as well as many others and begin assisting a sustainable future for Haiti.

So, is it possible for Haiti to emerge out of the destruction with a new lease on sustainablity? As Matt Peterson mentions in the interview, there are many challenges; however, there is hope. One can take a look at rebuilding New Orleans as an example. On a recent visit to the city, it still looked as if much of the 9th Ward and parts of downtown had yet to be rebuilt.  But upon researching as I returned home, it became clear that there is a movement to sustaibably rebuild the city, with organizations such as Global Green or Rebuild Green. Perhaps it is too early to tell whether Haiti can be rebuilt completely sustainable, but with organizations such as Global Green on their side, they do have a good chance. In his interview, Peterson mentioned their main focus was “four fold:”

1. To inform the codes and system for enforcing codes for rebuilding.

2. Identifying school(s) and partner groups to help ensure disaster-resistant, energy efficient/sufficient, and healthy construction.

3. Identifying partners to do the same with homes (we’re talking to Habitat about this).

4. Working with others to identify and support re-forestation, ideally via a network that supports women to lead the charge and supports job creation

Even with the massive challenges this country and the organizations involved in its reconstruction face, there is hope for a new Haiti. A Haiti that is self-sustaining in every sense of the word. If this can truly be accomplished it will be the only silver lining to one of the most destructive events of this century. And although we look to the future for hope, let us not forget the thousands that lost their lives.

-Gina Williams

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