terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

Friday Recipe: Pasta and Bean Skillet November 30, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:00 am

Pasta and Bean Skillet

1 cup salsa
2/3 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
3/4 cup water
2 tsp chili powder
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar (or Soy Cheddar)

1. Heat all ingredients except cheese to boiling in 10-inch skillet; reduce heat to low.

2. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until macaroni is just tender. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 4. You could also substitute the elbow macaroni with small shells, farfalle (bow-tie), penne, or ziti.

- from a Betty Crocker Vegetarian cookbook that I got in a grocery line a few years ago

Question: Have you tried any of the polenta or cornmeal recipes? Do you like them? Should I keep posting them?


Look Who’s Here – The smart Car November 29, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — terra @ 1:43 pm


The Smart Car is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but starting in January, 2008, it will be seen on the roads of USA. The smart fortwo is based on the European model. It seats two, is street legal, goes up to 90mph, and gets 40+ mpg.

It was designed with safety and efficiency in mind, and utilizes a “tridion safety cell [which] is a “hard shell” that surrounds the smart fortwo’s occupants with an energy displacing system of longitudinal and transverse structural members.” It achieved a 4 star crash rating in the US.

The smart gets about 40 mpg. So, why would someone buy it, if it gets less than the best hybrid? Price. It only costs $11,000. (The convertible is $16,000). The Prius starts at $20,000, and doesn’t even include a sunroof. My hybrid was $10,000, but it’s an automatic, and I prefer a manual transmission, which the smart offers.

Reserve one now for $99, which is refundable at any time.

Smart is an independent car-maker, and is a “member of the Mercedes Car Group, a Daimler AG Company.”


Carbon neutral – Yahoo! November 29, 2007

Filed under: conserve, social consciousness — terra @ 7:00 am

Yahoo! has announced plans to operate carbon neutral. They will reduce their impact on the planet as much as possible, and offset the rest by investing in EcoSecurities and CantorCO2e. The cost of their offset is $2 million, a drop in the bucket of their $6.7 billion revenue.

They have also pledged to be transparent about the process.

I hope Yahoo!’s example will spread to its many partners, and other successful businesses. (I’ll write more about Google later)


Walk more, drive less November 28, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy, social consciousness — terra @ 7:15 am

bikesNo Impact Man points out the benefits of walking, cycling, and public transportation, and the dangers of one car per person. This New York City resident said he finally “snapped” and decided to go completely off the grid – no electricity at all – and he took his family with him. That means they have to eat fresh food, go to bed when it’s dark, and they gave up their car. The result: a happy, healthy family.

After 10 months, No Impact Man said they feel like “life as usual.” They’re just as happy as before, and don’t feel all that inconvenienced. They spend more time enjoying the company of friends and family. Positive psychologists find that the one thing that many people are lacking, that contributes to higher levels of depression, substance abuse, and suicide is community. The No Impact lifestyle allows for stronger ties to the community, because they can’t shut themselves in and watch TV or play video games. They have to connect. He concludes that if people spent less time worrying about “a booming economy” and more time thinking about how to build culture and increase ties to community, that we’d all be a lot happier. That idea doesn’t have to mean giving up electricity altogether. It’s simply a mindset change.

Are you ready for a Carectomy? No Impact Man shows a graphic of rates of public transportation use correlated to rates of obesity. The USA has the lowest rates of walking and public transportation, and the highest rates of obesity. That’s not the only factor, but it’s a big one. People who give up their car get a lot more exercise and are generally healthier.


Chevy Tahoe Hybrid earns “Green Car of the Year” November 27, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy, local — terra @ 7:00 am

tahoeThe Chevy Tahoe Hybrid gets 21/22 mpg, which is about the same as a Toyota Camry (not hybrid). That’s a 50% increase in fuel efficiency over the conventional Chevy Tahoe, which gets 14/19 mpg.

How can a 21 mpg car earn “green car of the year” at the LA Auto Show? That’s a good question. While I would suggest that there are “greener” cars on the road, the Prius can only win so many times. After a lot of reading, I’ve come across a possible reason that an SUV can be “green.” Here it is:

Next time you’re driving in traffic, look around at they types of cars that surround you. You can probably count the number of small cars on one hand, swimming amongst the many SUVs. So, if 5 small cars increase their efficiency by 50%, the result is minimal. If the 15 SUVs increase efficiency by 50%, that can make an impact.

Another theory – SUV drivers aren’t likely to switch to a compact car to save gas, so SUVs have to become more efficient. This is the first step.

(Reality check: EPA gas mileage estimates are generally a lot higher than the car’s actual performance. Oh, and you can’t buy the Tahoe Hybrid yet.)

Speaking of American car makers, Ford is converting some of its factories to be more environmentally responsible. The Dearborn, MI, plant will use a green roof to keep the factory’s temperature regulated. It’s also built to be more flexible – able to produce 9 different models to meet customer demand. Way to reuse existing space, and use nature’s design.


Black Friday goes Green (the terra not terror gift guide) November 23, 2007

Filed under: gifts, social consciousness — terra @ 11:33 am

treeI wrote about Green Giving a few weeks ago, and since today is “Black Friday,” I thought I’d review some perspectives on giving green gifts.

What Would Jesus Buy? is a new movie warning about the over-commercialization of America. Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping suggests a few ways to save Christmas. Choose Fair Trade gifts for your green friends. Remember to visit The Market Path in Highland Square for some beautiful, inexpensive Fair Trade merchandise.

If you’re looking to go green this holiday season, check out TreeHugger’s How to Go Green gift guide. There are ideas for new parents, DIYers, gardeners, fashionistas, and just about everyone else. Don’t miss the Holiday Tips, which will help you save energy and money by buying local, what kind of Christmas tree to get, and how to decorate with green in mind.

Ideal Bite also has some excellent gift ideas. Use the search box at the top to find green gifts of all shapes and sizes.

A gift of “experience” is always nice – give your loved ones a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant, tickets to a play, or think outside the box and buy them a day at a “paint your pottery shop.” Experience gifts are special because people don’t often treat themselves to a good time, so now’s your chance to show them they’re special and deserve the best.

Everyone in my family can look forward to Fair Trade gifts, or things that will help them reduce and reuse! Give something your loved one will enjoy, and that will be kind to the planet at the same time.


Let’s take a week off November 19, 2007

Filed under: conserve, social consciousness — terra @ 10:33 am

I’m super busy lately, so I’m going to take a week off from writing. This is a good week to spend time with our families, and to relax and think about ways we can live a more peaceful existence. I hope you’ll come back and continue reading after the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the meantime, I will be considering the philosophy of “do no harm.” This philosophy encourages us to think of the ways we can reduce harm on ourselves, each other, and the planet. Consider our existence, and what impact we have through our actions and behaviors. In the idea of “do no harm,” we can think about our impact on the planet, and the things we can do to reduce the harmful impact. Here’s a simple website with more information about the idea of “do no harm.”

Enjoy the holiday! Eat good food and remember to reduce and reuse.


Alternative energy: Onions November 16, 2007

Filed under: alternative, energy — terra @ 1:52 pm

Some guys at Household Hacker have figured out how to charge your iPod using an onion and electrolytes. It’s not exactly practical, but at least they’re thinking outside the box!

Check out Household Hacker for more crazy videos, such as How to Power a TV using AAA Batteries. Be sure you read the disclaimer before you go poking onions or polishing pennies.


Friday Recipe: Mexicali Pie November 16, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:00 am

Mexicali Pie

2 TBS oil
1 med onion, chopped
1 chile, seeded, chopped (I don’t use the chile)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 12-oz pkg. soy crumbles
28 oz can tomatoes

Cornbread Topping
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 TBS light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, separated (try 1/2 cup tofu as replacement)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped (I don’t use this either)

1. Make filling. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 5-6 minutes. Add chile and cook 2 minutes. Stir in corn, flour, and soy crumbles, breaking up with wooden spoon. Stir in tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, cook 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

2. Transfer mixture to greased 1 1/2 qt baking dish. Preheat oven to 400F. (the dish seems too small, but it works. if you want, you can use a larger dish)

3. Cornbread Topping: Combine cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl, and mix well; set aside. Wish egg yolks (or tofu) in separate bowl. Whisk in buttermilk and oil. Set aside. Beat egg whites in separate bowl until soft peaks form. (We’ve never done this step and it works fine)

4. Make well in dry ingredients and pour in buttermilk mixture. Mix just until combined. Add green onions and jalapeno. Fold in egg whites. Pour over vegetable mixture.

5. Bake until topping is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

- Vegetarian Times, Feb 2006

This is an all-time favorite recipe of ours. It looks like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. Even the meat-eaters will love it.

Here are some modifications we’ve done:
*instead of 12 oz soy crumbles,  use 1/2 soy crumbles and a can of black beans
*instead of chile and jalapeno, I use a green pepper
*when something calls for 2 cans of tomatoes, I always use 1 can, and 2 fresh tomatoes
*Buttermilk substitution: 1 tsp vinegar + 1 cup milk (or soymilk)


Living without water November 14, 2007

Filed under: conserve, reduce, water — terra @ 7:00 am

waterThe drought in the southern US has hit one town particularly hard. In Orme, Tennessee, people only have water for 3 hours per day – from 6-9pm. The water is literally trucked in from Alabama. Some guy drives an old truck two hours into Alabama, fills up at a fire hydrant, and drives back to TN to fill the town’s water tank. He makes the trip about 7 times per day, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The town used to get its water from local streams, but they’ve dried up.

“All of these people that are on the river systems better take note, because once your streams and tributaries to the river start drying up, the river isn’t far behind,” Mayor Tony Reames said.

Orme has been living like this since August 1. That’s over 92 days.

What can we do to save water and prevent a disaster like the one hitting the South? Here are a few things to try at home:

  • Take shorter showers
  • Fix leaky toilets and faucets
  • Use your rain barrel instead of running water to quench your plants
  • Install low-flow showerheads
  • Fill a water bottle and put it in your toilet tank to save water with each flush
  • Do full loads of dishes and laundry (saves 1,000 gallons a month)
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, wash your face, and shave. Doing so saves 4 gallons per minute.
  • Don’t buy bottled water

Check out these resources:


How to help with the San Francisco Oil Spill November 12, 2007

Filed under: environment — terra @ 8:33 pm

spillIf news of yet another oil spill breaks your heart, like it does mine, here are a few organizations you can support. Unfortunately, they aren’t taking volunteers because oil is so dangerous (which is why we all drive around with it every day). The San Francisco oil spill is larger than the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska. It’s shameful that this keeps happening. Along with supporting these organizations, let’s encourage the media to keep this story in the headlines. We can’t keep ignoring the effects of oil on our environment. This spill, along with the spill in Russia demonstrate how harmful oil is to our planet. Not just birds, but people too.


International Bird rescue Research Center

UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network

-about.com how to help


Hybridology November 12, 2007

Filed under: alternative — terra @ 8:28 pm

There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about hybrid cars, so I’ll clear some of that up for you. Disclaimer: I drive a Civic Hybrid. It’s nice, but I want alternative energy, so I’m not entirely pleased that I still have to fill up with gas every 500 miles.

Here’s how it works: as the car slows, the “regenerative braking” charges a large battery in the backseat. That battery is then used to assist the engine when the car accelerates. Also, when it stops, the car shuts off, and then effortlessly restarts when you take you foot off the brake. My hybrid (most, I think) also uses variable speed transmission, which means there is one continuous gear.  I don’t plug it in.

Hybrids get better gas mileage than all other cars – all the time. They are more effective than conventional cars in the city because of the regenerative braking / charging the engine function. My car’s optimum speed is 50-60 mph, at which point it gets over 50 mpg. In my normal, city commute with several stops, it averages 42 mpg in the summer, and so far 40 mpg when it’s cold.


  • Regular cars do better on the highway -> Not true. Hybrids are more effective in the city, but they still get much better mileage than regular cars on the highway. It’s not like they get 45 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway (which would still be better than a lot of cars). They get over 45 mpg on the highway and about 40 mpg in the city. The Prius is more efficient than the Civic, getting up into the 50-60 mpg range.
  • They drive like golf carts -> Nope. They drive like any other testy automatic (I prefer a stick shift). They’re actually very smooth, and super quiet.
  • You have to plug it in -> I wish! If I could plug my hybrid in, I would pay about $15 a month for my daily commute, which is better than $30 a month for gas.
  • They aren’t economically feasible -> I got mine used on cars.com for less than $10,000. I bought a regular Civic for about the same price a few years ago. The Hybrid gets 100 more miles per tank than the regular, so I save quite a bit of money.
  • They don’t have air conditioning -> That’s crazy. They have excellent a/c and heat. The a/c shuts off when the car shuts off at a full stop, but the fan still runs to keep air circulating. The heat always works.

Any other questions? I’ll answer them in the comments.


Time to Winterize November 12, 2007

Filed under: energy, local, reduce — terra @ 12:16 pm

Now that it’s actually cold, it’s time to talk about winterizing your home. Here are some simple ways to stay warm and save money (and energy).

  • Caulk your windows and doors.
  • Use window shrink wrap – you can see through it!
  • Get a programmable thermostat, and set your home to be colder when you’re away or sleeping
  • Protect against drafts by putting a door draft blocker under your doors
  • Dress warmer and use a blanket to stay warm
  • Wear some cozy slippers
  • Wrap your hot water heater in insulation
  • Close the doors of rooms you don’t use often
  • Close the basement door, or hang a curtain to block cold air from coming up from the basement
  • Keep your vents clear of dust and pet hair for more efficient heating
  • Replace furnace filters monthly

Saving energy and staying warm is easy, but it takes a little work. It’s also important to stay moving – I’m cold at work because I sit at a desk all day. My house starts at 60F but it feels warmer because I’m moving around. We use our fireplace to heat the house, and since we’ve sealed our windows and doors, it gets up to 68 quickly, and stays cozy warm until we go to bed.

- tips from NewDream.org


Friday Recipe: Spanish Bean Stew November 9, 2007

Filed under: food — terra @ 7:00 am

I found this recipe in a wonderful cookbook I got for my birthday. I’m surprised at how easy the recipes are.

Spanish Bean Stew

olive oil
yellow onion, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth (we used 1/2 broth, 1/2 water)
1 carrot, chopped
1 leek, white part only, halved, rinsed, and coarsely chopped (leeks are like onions)
2 tsp Spanish or Hungarian paprika
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cans kidney or pinto beans

1. Prepare the onions. In a large saucepan, saute onions until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer 1/2 of the onion to a blender. Add the broth, process until smooth, and set aside.

2. Finish the stew. Return the pan to medium-high heat and heat the remaining 1 TBL oil. Add the carrot and leek to the remaining onion and saute until the leek is tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the paprika and garlic, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the green beans, kidney beans, and pureed onion broth, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender-crisp, 8-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (which we never have to use, divide among soup bowls and enjoy.

- Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Vegetarian