More Ideas for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

-by Ronni Arno Blaisdell and Peter Minde The previous sustainable eating recipes were well received; thank you for reading!  So, we’re sharing more recipes for sustainable eating from Ronni and Peter.  For chocolate lovers, dessert is at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy! Wendy’s Sautéed Tofu
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • toasted sesame seed oil – 2-3 tsp
  • 2 tsp Bragg’s aminos
  • nutritional yeast
Drain tofu.  Grind fennel seeds with mortar and pestle.  Marinate tofu for 15 minutes in the next 6 ingredients (fennel seeds through Bragg’s). Remove tofu from marinade.  Dredge in yeast flakes and sauté at medium to medium high heat.   Cosmic Cashew, Kale and Chickpeas Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon or broth powder
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 bunch kale, central stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced 
  1. Soak the cashews for an hour in hot water or overnight in room-temperature water. Drain. Place them in a blender and add 3/4 cup water, 1 clove garlic, and 1 teaspoon of broth powder (or 1 bouillon cube). Blend at highest speed until completely smooth. Set aside until needed.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, cook the onion until it begins to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the chickpeas, kale, and two tablespoons water. Cover immediately and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved cashew sauce, oregano, and salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to thin. Add the fresh basil just before serving plain, or over rice or quinoa.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s) | Cooking time: 20 minute(s) Number of servings (yield): 4 Source:  Fat Free Vegan Kitchen   Sassy Southwestern Salad
  • 1/2 medium Vidalia or red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups corn (canned or frozen is fine)
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, or salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 bunch mixed lettuce
Instructions: Mix all ingredients (except for lettuce) together, and chill. When chilled, serve over bed of lettuce.   Swiss Chard Gratin
  • 1 lb Swiss Chard
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin on the vertical
  • 1 ounce grated non dairy cheese substitute (optional)
  • 2 tbs oat bran (or bread crumbs if you prefer)
  • 1 cup vegan béchamel (see below)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Clean Swiss chard and separate stalks from leaves.  Trim and slice the stalks, setting them aside.  Chop up the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the Swiss chard stalks, cooking for 5 minutes.  Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted. Turn up the heat and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until liquid is evaporated from the pan.  Otherwise, excess liquid will pool in the baking dish. Mix the chard and onion mixture and béchamel sauce in a bowl, then fold into a lightly oiled baking dish.  Sprinkle oat bran and cheese substitute, if using, on the top.  Bake for 15 minutes.   Vegan béchamel
  • 4 tsp safflower oil
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 cup unflavored oat, almond or soy milk
  • Salt, black pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, add the flour.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly.  Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.  The béchamel will reduce somewhat and have a thick, velvety consistency.  Remove from heat.  Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg.   Raw Choco-Cherry Pudding  Instructions:
  • 6 large pitted medjool dates, soaked for 2 hours and drained
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1 cup frozen cherries
Instructions: Put all ingredients in Vitamix or high-powered blender and serve.  

ronni arno blaisdell portraitRonni Arno Blaisdell is a Unity mom to a 7th grader and a 5th grader, a member of the Board of Trustees, and the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee.  Ronni is a Holistic Health Counselor and a writer and contributor to numerous health-related magazines, newsletters, websites, and blogs.


P_Minde headshot Peter Minde is a father of a UCS 4th grader and a member of Unity’s Board of Trustees.  He is a freelance writer and is studying to become a personal trainer.


Outdoor Learning Space Enhances Education

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Sustainability, Whole Child Education

by Jen Dowd Our hours of daylight are finally getting to be a little more each day as the Earth rotates closer to the sun. The spring equinox has begun, and now each day will grow a little brighter each morning and a little brighter each evening. Spring is a time of growth and movement. It is time to venture out to the garden, ride bikes around the neighborhood, and play outdoors.  In an era of high stakes standardized testing and accountability, successful schools maximize intuitive learning in a limited timeframe.  And outdoor learning is an essential part of education. Children spend about 50% of their waking hours at school five days per week. Teachers and administrators have to make decisions about how to spend that time in order to maximize student learning and growth. School infrastructure is the immediate place-based context where student learning and growth occurs.  Research in multidisciplinary fields shows the benefits of unmediated playtime and structured outdoor learning in healthy school environments on student learning (Stocklin,1998). School decision-making teams that include students, school board members, teachers, parents, and administrators that make decisions about school infrastructure and use it as an integrating context for learning form the basis of sustainable education. School infrastructure conditions impact student learning. School infrastructure includes the facility, equipment, and land. The impact of school infrastructure on student learning can be measured for on standardized tests. In 2001, Lewis found that building conditions accounted for 16% of the variation in student scores on the mathematics component and 14% of the science components of the WSAS, a standardized test (Crampton, Thompson, Vesely, 2004, 32). The conditions of the environment where children spend their time and what they spend that time doing matters. Children are at school in the sunlight hours of the Earth’s revolution in three full seasons of the most limited light. It is only natural for children to spend a lot of time in quality and varied outdoor activities. In an era of education marked by accountability and evaluation, schools need to focus their attention on creating healthy conditions for student growth and learning. Sustainable schools use decision-making teams to impact student achievement by prioritizing healthy infrastructure choices that create favorable conditions for both unmediated play and structured learning. Crampton, F.; Thompson, D.; Vesely, R. (2004). The Forgotten Side of School Finance Equity: The Role of Infrastructure Funding in Student Success. National Association of Secondary School Principals. 88, 640. 29- 51. White, R.; Stoecklin, V. (1998). Children’s outdoor play and learning environments: Returing to nature. Early Childhood News Magazine. White Hutchinson Leisure and Learning Group. March/ April issue. Last Accessed: February 26, 2013.   j-dowd-portrait    Originally from Michigan, Jennifer Dowd is currently the NJ Eco-School Coordinator. Prior to this, she spent the last two years as Teacher Naturalist at NJ Audubon’s Weis Ecology Center and as a guest Naturalist at Duke Farms. She created and designed summer camp curriculum to educate for sustainability by allowing children to creatively play and explore the Highlands region of New Jersey in the Wyanokie Mountains. She graduates from Seton Hall with her ED.S. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Management in December, 2013. This summer, she will launch an essential oil making service that allow home gardener to turn their plants in to oils, begin a community chicken coop, create a Newsletter on the impact of local, state and federal policies on our children, and spend lots of time out in the forests and rivers with her three children. In her free time, she gardens and makes medicinal tinctures, teas, and liniments in her home, plays with her children, and is an active community member.

Community Coffee: How to Pack a Healthy, Zero Waste Lunch

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

– by Tanya Seaward In February, the Unity Charter School communications committee had a case of writer’s block.  We couldn’t come up with an engaging topic for our March CommUnity Coffee meeting.  Finally, someone suggested “why not ask our commUnity what they would like to discuss?”  Great idea!  We put the idea out there, and got many suggestions in return.  We finally decided to go with Suzanne Dell’Orto’s suggestion of “How to pack a healthy, zero waste lunch.”  At this time of the year, enthusiasm for packed lunches is usually waning, so we thought it would be a great idea to brainstorm some new ideas. We started our discussion with a refresher about what exactly a zero waste lunch is: durable lunchbox, reusable food containers, refillable water bottle, reusable utensils (try a Spork!) and cloth napkins.  Stainless steel or BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic are good choices for containers and water bottles.  We also had some good discussion about the all-in-one and bento-box style lunch kits.   The website Growing a Green Family has some good resources for comparing the different brands available.  Also, thank you to Naomie Quirk and Morgan MacDougall who allowed us to peek inside their Planet Box and Laptop Lunch kits.  Both mom’s reported that these brands were functional, super durable and easy to clean.  The brand Lunch Bots also received honorable mention.  The Vegan Lunchbox, Greenraising, and the Frontier Coop are all great resources for inspirational ideas for a healthy lunch. After we went through the basics of the lunch kit, we turned the discussion to “what to put in it?”  We all agreed that fresh, seasonal, and organic and locally grown (if possible) produce tops the nutrition list, but how to get kids to eat it?  We discussed that keeping lunch fun was especially important for younger kids and picky eaters.  Consider packing foods that have attractive colors, appealing textures, pleasing shapes, manageable sizes, and don’t forget the dips, dressings and condiments.  Also, if your child is tired of sandwiches this time of year, try wraps, fried rice, baked beans, hard boiled eggs, pasta salad, quinoa salad, bean salad or tacos and burritos. I also shared my personal favorite lunch trick – leftovers for lunch!  I usually try to cook extra “thermos-friendly” dishes whose taste and texture don’t break down too much sitting in the lunch box all morning.  I have found that chili, lasagna, mac n’cheese, tortelli, stew, soups, curries, or stir-frys hold up well.  Stacy Havens shared that her friend always freezes these type of leftovers to bring out at a later date; that way they don’t even feel like leftovers! We ended our session with a taste test of one of my kids favorite fast/easy/healthy lunches: black beans, corn and peppers served over brown rice, with salsa and sour cream – Enjoy!   portrait of Tanya SeawardTanya Seaward is a Unity mom to three students; Jeremy, Abby and Theo.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Communications Committee.  Tanya is a Chartered Accountant who enjoys gardening and leisurely rides on her bike (no hills please!).

Recipes for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability, Uncategorized

[Following are Mindy and Ronni’s recipes from last week’s Community Coffee presentation on sustainable eating.  Below the recipes are URL’s for the cookbooks cited.  Enjoy!  -Ed.]   Recipes Potato Tofu Curry (modified from Diet for a Small Planet)  Ingredients  5 red potatoes, cubed 1 red onion, diced 1 cup greens, chopped (spinach or kale work well) 1 lb tofu 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp oil 2 tbsp soy sauce

The Stress of Mess

Written by Peter. Posted in Sustainability

– by Ronni Arno Blaisdell When my now seventh-grader was in fifth grade, her class watched a movie called The Story of Stuff.  Among other things, the movie shows where all our stuff comes from, why we feel the need to have so much stuff, and what happens to our stuff when we’re done with it. At the time, I was already in the “thinking about stuff” mode, as I had recently visited a friend’s home. Their house was about as big as mine, but it was spotless!  I instantly felt clearer and smarter and  happier just standing in it.  I was so impressed that everything was put away, and unlike my own house, I could actually see their floors! When I asked them how they accomplished this magical feat, they gave me a book on de-cluttering. Now, I had lots of books on de-cluttering. After I read them, they usually ended up as – you guessed it – clutter. My friends swore this book was different, so I borrowed it. The good news is that eventually I had to give it back, ensuring that it wouldn’t add to the clutter of my already cluttered de-clutter books. Both the video and the book happened in the same week, which made me wonder if somebody was trying to tell me something.  Not one to jinx juju, I decided to pay attention. I’d been a clutter-queen for as long as I could remember. As a kid, my sister didn’t want to share a room with me because I was such a slob. My college roommates, I’m sure, felt the same way.  My poor husband, who is one of the most organized people I know, cringed every time he walked past my clutter collections, which, to be honest, were hard to miss. What was worse, I was passing my rubbish routine on to my kids. Their bedroom looked like a department store threw up. It appears I wasn’t the only one with this problem. Along with the aforementioned de-cluttering books, there are TV shows teaching you how to organize, magazines showing you how to live more simply, and websites with step-by-step guides on how to manage your mess.
Mess? What mess?

Mess? What mess?

I thought about buying bins and shelves and hooks, but when I really looked around my house, I noticed that more than half of my stuff was useless to me. More than half of my stuff could be gone, and I wouldn’t miss any of it. Even better, I could donate this stuff to someone who just might actually need it. The point, I realized, was not necessarily to organize the stuff I already had; the point was to have less stuff. De-cluttering wasn’t just about cleaning up my house. It was about cleaning up my mind. External chaos leads to internal chaos, and chaos is never mojo-making. What’s more, having less stuff makes me feel like I’m doing my small part in saving the environment…. and it’s inhabitants. In our race to out-stuff our neighbor, we’re all stuffing ourselves to the point of ridiculousness. And for what? You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But really, he who dies with the most toys just leaves a lot of crap for someone else to clean up. Here are the steps I took on that fateful day two years ago.  Maybe it will help my fellow clutter-ites who may have the urge to purge:
  1. I donated all clothes not worn in the last year. I figured that, even if I someday managed to fit into my jeans from 1988, they would probably be a little out of style.
  2. I handled mail immediately.  Recycled papers got recycled, and if something needed to be handled, I handled it right then rather than put it in a pile that I never got to.
  3. I packed up all the clothes that were too small for the kids, and donated them.
  4. I decided not to buy stuff to replace the stuff I just got rid of. This point will hit home when you visit
  5. I own a Kindle. There is no need to purchase books. Unless I know the author.  Or, they have pretty pictures.
  6. I banned party favors, hoping the trend would catch on.  Every time my kids went to a birthday party, they came home with a bagful of plastic toys that they would maybe play with once.  My kids go to parties to help their friends celebrate.  They don’t need to return home with anything but a smile.
  7. I save projects from my kids that are truly heartfelt. I don’t need to save every spelling test they ever took.
  8. I threw away all my socks that had holes in them. That freed up half my sock drawer.
  9. Rather than buy new school supplies every September, on the last day of school, I put all leftover school supplies in a cabinet.  At the start of school, the kids pull out what they need.  We usually have at least half of the list already.
Good luck with clearing your clutter, and we’d love to hear your ideas on how you stay clutter-free! ronni arno blaisdell portrait   Ronni Arno Blaisdell is a Unity mom to a 7th grader and a 5th grader, a member of the Board of Trustees, and the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee.  Ronni is a Holistic Health Counselor and a writer and contributor to numerous health-related magazines, newsletters, websites, and blogs.