Posts Tagged ‘Organic/Natural/Eco’

Hello Innocent Primate readers!  I know I have taken a serious hiatus from blogging, and I’m so glad that Sara has been working hard to pick up the slack and bring y’all great recipes over the last couple of months.  I have a couple of recipes in the hopper, myself, so hopefully I can get those posted soon.

In the mean time, I just had to bring your attention to an article in the New York Times entitled “To Cut Global Warming, Swedes Study Their Plates” (cue vegan amazement that a government would act independently of the cattle lobby to help the planet).  Over the last year or two, I have noticed the NYTimes running articles promoting meat-free diets as environmentally sound and others mentioning veganism as a perfectly valid life choice (which, hey, is a pretty new concept for most people).  Then there’s E. Coli tainted beef, which is a veganism ad that writes itself.  It wasn’t that long ago that every person I met had to be told what a vegan is.  Now, it’s only about half of the people I meet.  Ten years ago, when I became just a vegetarian, it was practically impossible to eat at a restaurant when I visited my parents in Texas.  Now, there are several entirely vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Houston, and vegan dishes available at many “ordinary” restaurants, too.  So, the word seems to be getting out, and hopefully people like us at the Primate are helping to show them that being a vegan is not martyrdom.  Vegan food can just be good food.

But, I digress.  Back to the article at hand.  “An estimated 25 percent of the emissions produced by people in industrialized nations can be traced to the food they eat, according to recent research [in Sweden].”  Accordingly, the Swedish government, with the cooperation of many food producers and restaurant owners, have started to calculate the carbon footprint of different foods, and then (here’s the critical part) put that information on the packaging or menu.  They have even changed the dietary recommendations (equivalent to our governments food pyramid) to give “equal weight to climate and health.”  So the government is telling people, instead of eating beef, it’s better to eat chicken or beans to get your protein (yes, beans are a legitimate protein source!).  And then when they go to the grocery store or restaurant, they can make immediate comparisons of carbon emissions for different foods.  Of course, just telling people that beef is terrible for the environment will not make everyone stop eating it.  At least not right away.  But as one man, after being asked about the hamburger he was eating, said, “You feel guilty choosing red meat.”  And I am certainly not above making people feel guilty about choosing meat.  They should feel guilty.  Although that guy was a eating a burger, I bet that guilt will at least decrease his consumption over time.

Anyway, give the article a read, and pass it around.  People are frequently flummoxed when I say that 1/3 of the reason why I’m a vegan is environmental.  News like this will hopefully help them understand.


On This Day In History: Peanut Butter Ganache Cups

pb cup: Reece's be damned!


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Rooibus loose teaIt’s latin name, Aspalanthus linearis. It’s common name, Rooibus (pronounced “ROY-boss”). It’s flavor, absolutely delicious! If you like black teas, you will love rooibus for those times when you don’t want something as bold. Rooibus, the red tea, is made from the leaves of the rooibostee (a shrub), which is native to the mountains near Capetown, South Africa. Traditionally, the stems and leaves are bruised with hammers, then left to ferment in the sun; resulting in a sweet flavor.

Rooibus is great on many levels. It’s perfect for a nighttime tea, when you don’t want something herbal, because it does not contain caffeine and has a very low tannin content. On the health front, it contains at least 37 natural antioxidant, minerals (including zinc), vit C, and alpha-hydroxy acids. It is naturally an antiviral, antianxiety, and antiallergy agent. Rooibus has been traditionally used to treat generalized inflammation and pain associated with syphilis (although not to treat syphilis itself). It has also been shown to have considerable antispasmodic activity – those with restless leg or suffer from insomnia, drink rooibus at night! It has been a bedtime favorite among South African herbalists, consumers, and even physicians. It’s likely that rooibos helps to induce sleep both directly, by affecting the metabolism of acetylcholine in the brain and preventing excessive firing of the neurons that cause wakefulness, and indirectly, by blocking hormonal reactions that cause inflammation and pain.

For allergies and stress, it’s been proposed that rooibus interferes with histamine (the thing which causes both nasal congestion and stomach upset during allergic reactions and times of stress). So it would especially be good for those with both food and/or respiratory allergies. It’s also suitable for use by children – it’s gentle and nontoxic (and don’t forget, caffeine-free). In addition to allergies, it’s antihistamine properties help reduce the risk of catching colds and flu. Mothers of the world, for your colicky babies, rooibus is often used as a milk substitute for infants who are prone to colic.

There is evidence that it contributes to a reduction in heart disease and other ailments associated with aging, including a beneficial effect on age-related mental decline. Recent studies performed by the Institute for Medical Science of Aging in Japan show that rooibus contains nearly 50 percent more skin-salvaging antioxidants than green tea. Because it’s packed with zinc, you’re giving your body a crucial mineral which, among other things, helps the body metabolize fatty acids and keeps cells plump. Grow old gracefully, intelligently, and easily…with tea!

**Of cautionary note: like black teas, rooibos inhibits the absorption of iron from food, therefore those with iron-deficient conditions should avoid both teas.Rooibus loose tea2

As you know, we love our tea here at the Primate, and rooibus can be subbed in for any black tea in any of our recipes. I have an upcoming Iced Chai recipe that I use rooibus – which makes a perfect nightcap on these hot summer nights!

Happy Teatime!

On This Day In History: French Breakfast Puffs!


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With the onset of summer, it’s the neverending story of activities. Going to the Farmer’s Market and the dog park, weekends at the lake/beach, tending the garden, attending the ballet, exercising to keep that bathing suit body, evening walks, not to mention the kids being out of school and constantly needing attention. It exhausts me just typing out all these items. So how can you keep your energy up without filling your body with unhealthy stimulates like caffeine or calorically damaging items like sugar? Here’s a list of fruits and veg that will keep your energy boosted, while keeping your wallet and waistline in check.fruit salad






kidney beans
sunflower seeds
brewer’s yeast
whole wheat flour
rice bran

When you’re on the go, carry a small snack baggie of almonds, hazelnuts, and/or sunflower seeds to nibble on throughout the day to keep yourself filled. (But beware of overconsumption of nuts can cross the fat-intake threshold.) Another good item that travels nicely in a small baggie in the purse: baby carrots or granola! And of course, nature’s original fast food: the apple 😉

italianquinoa2Start the day with filling, yet glycemic-index friendly items to avoid the sugar crash inducing a noshfest at lunch. Try dishes like Whole Wheat Waffles, Tender Chickpea Pancakes, Fruehstueck, or Oat Surprise Muffins. Eat meals like Roasted Veggies over brown rice, Spring Pasta Salad, or Italian Herb & Veg Quinoa for lunch; Replenish your body with dinners like Spinach and Chickpea Salad, Nacho Salad, or Minestrone. And of course, after all that activity, you definitely deserve a treat. Try a blueberry tart (but using raspberries), orange push-up sorbet, or Jamaican pineapple tango sorbet.

blueberry tart5

Have a fruit salad in between meals to keep you satisfied during those busy, action-filled days.eve's pink peach2

Smoothies are another great way to boost energy/fight fatigue and level out the blood sugar in one fail swoop. Try Eve’s Pink Peach or She’s my Cherry No-Pie juice.

Hope this helps your body keep up with your to-do lists!
Happy Summer!


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FeverfewTanaceetum parthenium
Originally, feverfew was a native plant of southeastern Europe, but is now common throughout Australia, Europe, and North America. It is a moisture-loving perennial, and in the photo is my personal plant in year 2 (so it can certainly survive a Midwest winter). It can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall, and white flowers with yellow centers that bloom all summer long – which makes it an attractive border plant. It is usually free from pests and diseases, and in fact is historically known as a plant that repels undesirable insects.

The aboveground parts (leaves, flowers, etc..not roots) that are used in herbal medicine. Since the first century, feverfew has been used in the treatment of headaches, as well as used for treating inflammation, arthritis, menstrual discomforts, fever, and other general aches and pains. It has been show that feverfew stops white blood cells from absorbing the amino acid thymidine, which reduce the rate of inflammatory chemical (leukotriene) production as well as fatty acid byproduct production which are essential to the production of those leukotrienes. This is a benefit to those suffering from lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

For those who suffer from migraines, feverfew is thought to reduce the production of seratonin. Seratonin is involved in the constriction of blood vessels and the release of pain-causing chemicals. A clinical trial in England found that taking feverfew for four months reduced the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, as well as reducing the accompanying vomiting and visual distortion. However, the duration of the migraine was not affected.

Human consumption: If you want to take feverfew as an herbal remedy, it should be consumed in a capsule form of the freeze-dried herb. People who are allergic to ragweed maybe be allergic to this herb as well. Pregnant women should avoid taking feverfew as it can cause uterine bleeding. Nursing mothers should also avoid taking feverfew because its active components can be transmitted through breast milk which may cause allergies in the child. If you are on any blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), you should not take feverfew. Though there are no reports of detrimental interaction with this class of drugs, it is theoretically possible. Fresh leaves may cause dermatitis and mouth ulcers if eaten, so be cautious.

On another note, the flowers are often used for crafts and in floral arrangements.

Happy Gardening!

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We’ve discussed growing several garden herbs (see Relaxing With Gnomes category), and the various health aspects associated with them..but what to do when you are overrun with fresh herbs? Here’s where we’ll talk about drying those delicious, fresh herbs you work so hard to grow. For the example photos here, I’ll use lemon balm..but the steps are the same for any herb you have. My lemon balm from last year is already ready for it’s first drying harvest! And we’re barely into May!! My returning oregano is almost ready for a drying harvest, but I’ll give it a few more weeks. I’ve already used oregano in cooking, and made some lemon balm tea – but here I’ll focus on harvests for drying instead of just a sprig or two for cooking..

1. Harvesting: Snip long primary stems just above a nodule (just above a leaf sprout). Continue snipping, but don’t take more than about 30% of the plant, unless you’re harvesting at the end of the season.

lemon balm herb
2. Rinse cut herbs thoroughly. You don’t want any remnants of dirt, unless you like that added flavor in your dishes drying herbs: lemon balmand tea. 😉
3. Tie the ends of all the stems together with twine or string of any kind. All I had was that thin ribbon used for presents, from which you can make those fun curly cues…

4. Hang anywhere that won’t bother you. I have hung them from cabinet knobs or nails in the wall – anywhere you can find. Depending on the herb, drying time varies. Larger leaf herbs, like basil, take longer. Oregano, for me, can dry fully within about 3-5 days. Basil, though I didn’t time it, I let dry for at least a week, maybe 8 days. Like I said, I didn’t check every day.
5. When herbs are thoroughly dry, remove herb leaves from the large/thick stems if you like (such as with basil or rosemary), then crumble or chop them into small bits and store in airtight containers. I use old spice/herb jars that I had previously bought said herb (before growing it). Example: When the dried basil I had bought a while back was empty, I filled it with my freshly dried garden basil.

drying herbs: lemon balmHappy Gardening!

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Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a great perennial herb to use as a natural pest-repellent. It is also commonly known as Common Tansy, Bitter Buttons, Cow Bitter, Mugwort, or Golden Buttons. Its leaves have a fernlike appearance, and the scent is similar to that of camphor with hints of rosemary. The leaves and flowers are said to be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. The plant’s volatile oil is high in thujone, a substance found in absinthe that can cause convulsions. Some insects, notably the tansy beetle, have evolved resistance to tansy and live almost exclusively on it.

Irish folklore of the mid-1800s suggests bathing in a solution of tansy and salt as a cure for joint pain. Bitter tea made with the blossoms of T. vulgare has been effectively used for centuries as an anthelmintic (vermifuge). Tansy cakes were traditionally served during Lent because of a superstition that eating fish during Lent caused intestinal worms. Note that only T. vulgare is used in medicinal preparations; all species of tansy are toxic, and an overdose can be fatal. The dried flowering herb of Tanacetum is used ethnomedically to treat migraine, neuralgia, and rheumatism, and as an antihelminthic, in conjunction with a competent herbalist to circumvent any possible toxicity. Formerly, tansy was often used for its emmenagogue effects, but rumors have implicated tansy in cases of miscarriage. Pregnant women should avoid this herb.

In England, bunches of tansy were traditionally placed at windows to keep out flies. Sprigs were placed in bedding and linen to drive away pests. Tansy can also be used as a companion plant in the garden, especially with cucurbits like cucumbers and squash, or with roses or various berries. It is thought to repel ants, cucumber beetles, japanese beetles, squash bugs, and some kinds of flying insects, among others.

It is also used by some traditional dyers to produce a golden-yellow pigment. The yellow flowers are dried for use in floral arrangements.

Happy Gardening!

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It’s no secret (or at least to those who know me) that I like to pamper and spoil myself. It’s not unheard of that I be accused of princess-like qualities. I like to say that I’m particular about certain things, others might say picky. I like to say that I like to pamper myself, others might say spoiled. I think of myself as delicate, others may think of me as..well, delicate..but not in the same way I think of it. So this trip to Vancouver was a test to see if I could cut it with Jo and her standard travel buddy, Hannah. They go to cool places like The Galapagos Islands and Guatamala, and I’ve never kept it a secret that I’m jealous of their adventures. In going to places like that, there is a certain ruggedness and flexible nature that is required – and being a princess, my ruggedness and flexibility was called into question. So Jo and Hannah thought that Vancouver – a place that speaks the same language, isn’t too desolate or foreign – would be the best place to test me out (of course, they say the true test will come when we are somewhere that has no vegan acceptable food and we have to go without food for a few days). I’m happy to announce that I passed the test upon kayaking twice, having certain items lost/stolen in the hostel (my first time at that) without complaint, the ability to STAY in the hostel without complaint, and leisurely hiking through Stanly Park. So I would like to share the tale of our “hike” through Stanley Park from the perspective of a “Princess.”

First on the trek was the Rose Garden. What a wonderful way to start a hike through a park! We stopped to literally smell the roses, and I took nice pics of the ones that smelled great – if only my camera had smell-o-vision! Oh, and they were all so pretty. And some were even as big as your face!

Next up, we walked around Beaver Lake. Along our walk, there were wild raspberry and blackberry bushes for which to nibble on. And I must say, they were quite tasty!

At Beaver Lake, aptly named, we spotted a log that had been gnawed on by a beaver! The lake was absolutely beautiful. A lake covered in lily pads and lotus flowers! Jo even spotted a cute little frog with his head barely poking out of the water…

Upon leaving Beaver Lake, we spotted a family o’ ducks! So cute!! And they didn’t even seem to be startled by us walking by them.

Finally, we made it around the bend to the open water..where we finally saw ‘Girl in a Wetsuit Statue’ – yes, it’s actually named that! Jo and I tried to find her when we were kayaking a few days before but failed. It was so great, she even had a birdie perched on her lap!

Lastly, we made it to the Totem Poles before ending our trek. By this time, both Hannah and Jo were impressed at my ability to hike for almost 2 hours. I don’t know why – we walked around shopping for a lot longer than that 😉 !

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Ok, so it’s no secret that I fell in love with Canada (I suppose more accurately, Vancouver BC). There’s only one other city that I’ve ever fallen in love with, and that is New York City (although Prague did tickle my fancy). I think NYC seduced me with all it’s intensity, fast paceness, unbelievable shopping and eating, but Vancouver gently courted me with wonderfully smelling flowers, laid-back nature, endless smiles, and vegan cake. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve been so seduced by a city that I’ve decided that, in addition to the upcoming reviews of all the wonderful places and food we experienced, I shall graciously post a top ten of my personal favorite things from Vancouver. Now, there were many things I loved, and some couldn’t make it to a top ten even though they were great (it could’ve easily been a top 20 or 30 list) – which just goes to show how great those that made it are! And when you get to the top 5, they are pretty much all #1’s..but somebody has to be #1. There is a very small standard error in calculating these top 10 since they were all so close in the running!

10. Granville Island Public Market (farmer’s market): such great breads, and the fruits were sublime. In the regular shopping area, there was a wonderful Hat Shop (Edie Hats) that Jo and I spent several hours in playing with hats… (This pic recognizes both mentions here: the hat, which was a bday present to me from Jo, which Jo is wearing, and the wonderful fruit seen by Jo eating from a basket of strawberries we got as part of a picnic lunch after another day of kayaking)
9. Chocolate Art (on 4th) – a chocolate shop with a plethora of vegan options!! Plus, they combined two of my favorite things: chocolate and shoes. They had a high heel shoe made of chocolate..filled with chocolate truffles!!! Sadly, not vegan 😦 .
8. South Main shopping area and Kitsilano Beach shopping area (various shops, but Receptive Earth on Main had a wonderful bamboo dress that Jo bought and I got some great rings, and Karma on 4th had some great sales on yogawear)
7. Jared Fontaine at Adrenaline Tattoo (on 4th) – He was mesmerizing – I think it might have been the way he looked at me with his big brown eyes and the straw fedora he was wearing was totally working for him…Mmm, yummy eye candy 😉
6. The Rose Garden in Stanley Park
5. Tie: The taxis are hybrids and Sesame fries from The Naam
4. Bliss Balls from Sejuiced (on 4th)
3. Aloo Chat Salad with Mango-Vinaigrette and Tamarind dressings (individually, of course) from Mysala Bistro
2. Tandoori fries from Mysala Bistro
1. Shakti cake from The Naam

Honorable mentions: The lack of fear for adding spice to the spicy dishes in any restaurant we ate in. The Noodle Box on 4th – great Japanese noodles, and they know what a vegan is. The cherry tomatoes in the black bean salad at Everybody Loves Veggies (healthy vegan fast food). The sale at Karma on 4th – lets just say I spent enough to get a free canvas tote bag. The cute guy (name unknown, not the same guy Jo thought was cute) at the kayak shop (EcoMarine) that helped me out of my kayak the first time… The Apple Crisp and the High C Tea (full of lemon balm, nettle, rosehips, cinnamon, and orange peel..so good) at The Naam. Canadians love of 80’s music and extremely happy demeanor. And finally, the seagulls aren’t nearly as ugly and annoying as they are in Corpus Christi!

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Ok, so I realize I’ve been on a tea/herb kick lately. But over the weekend, I did an experimental run on a sun tea that Dad requested. He wanted an easy sun tea, so I concocted a blend and here it is:


2 tsp Jasmine flowers
2 tsp Rose buds (dried, or fresh petals from your own rose bush)
1 tsp dried Chamomile
8-10 leaves fresh lemon balm, torn in half (or 2-3 tsp dried)


Place all ingredients in large pitcher. Fill with 2 quarts cold water. Place in direct sunlight for 2.5-3 hours. Strain and chill in fridge. This makes the perfect strength of tea, so you won’t need to add ice. If you want to serve it over ice, place same amount of tea into 1.5 quarts cold water, then steep in sun for same amount of time. I personally like it ‘not too cold’ so I didn’t add ice to my glass. It is so refreshing! You can sweeten with nectar if you so choose, but because of the floral aspect I didn’t need to sweeten, so taste it first.

The lemon balm is key. I tried making this once before, and I didn’t use lemon balm…let’s just say, some experiments are destined to fail. So this time, I added lemon balm and it turned out absolutely wonderful!

The ingredients can typically be found in any herbal store that also sells tea. Search for one in your local area, or purchase online at any herbal tea store (such as Mountain Rose herbs – just search for the ingredients and they’ll come up).

Happy Teatime!

Addendum: I made this tea over the weekend, and added 1 tsp of dried peppermint! It totally knocked my socks off! I made it on Saturday late afternoon and finished the entire pitcher by Sunday early evening!! Usually a pitcher of tea will last me a few more days than just 24 hours…this was simply too good to stop!

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Oh, this is one of my absolute favorites! I always had trouble sleeping, but was unaware that I was having trouble. You know, you go to bed..and it takes a while to fall asleep. Then when you do, even though you get about 7-8 hours you wake up feeling exhausted. That occurs when you’re not getting “restful and rejuvenating” sleep. Sure your body is lying there, and though you don’t realize it you could be snoring, or kicking your legs, or tossing & turning, among other situations that result in sub-par rest. It turns out I’m a kicker and toss-n-turner. Only I didn’t know it. So while I was sleeping, my body wasn’t getting the rest it needed – hence the waking up feeling like I could sleep another 10 hours, after the 10 I just had. Sometimes I would drink chamomile tea to help, and it would…for a while. Then I discovered Valerian Root! Oh man, the first time you have it, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever had before. It was so relaxing and wonderful. Of course, if you’re not fond of the taste of roots, mix with another tea like chamomile or some lemon balm leaves, perhaps even some nectar or sugar. After drinking it for so long, I can take it straight up! Randomly I’ll go without for a couple of nights (usually on a weekend), as you can build a tolerance to Valerian and you have to begin increasing the amount to see the same effect. This stuff will knock most of you out! It has been reported that in a select few, it has stimulatory properties..sorry. So try it out on a weekend in case it jolts you into an all-nighter!

I buy it already dried from the herb store, but I’ve also recently planted my own Valerian plant (the tall guy in the picture) – of which I shall harvest the roots in autumn. It is a perennial, so I think I’ll leave one to grow again the next season, since I have two plants. The leaves and buds are not useful in aiding sleep, just the roots.

For Sara’s Sleepytime tea:

1 tsp dried Valerian root
1 tsp dried (or fresh) chamomile
2-3 leaves fresh Lemon balm, torn in half

Steep all ingredients in 6 oz freshly boiled water 5 minutes (if using dried). Leave only the lemon balm leaves in the water another 10-15 minutes. What I typically do is just leave the lemon balm in there while I drink it (and this is the only situation I would allow for that), since fresh herbs aren’t as particular in extra steeping as dried herbs are.

Happy Sleeping!

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