What do you use water for?

My husband and I own many apartment buildings. All the units have modern low flow toilets and shower heads which cut our bills in half when we installed them. On average, they currently use about 50 gallons of water/person every day. Not 50 gallons per apartment, but 50 per person! That seems incredibly high to me but it is the average in all the buildings so it’s not like one building is using more than others unless there is a leak.  Nor do we water lawns.  So this is all domestic use by the tenants.

I have 4 people in my family. Even when doing laundry and we all have a bath, we won’t use 200 gallons in a day. We have a 1000 tank which lasts us about 3 weeks. So I’d like to know a few things about your water use. For you homeschoolers, this may make a good conservation project or discussion starter.

1. How much water does your family use averaged per person each day?
2. What do you do to use all the water?
3. Are you trying to cut back on your water usage and if so how?

Please leave me a comment letting me know. Thanks!

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Climbing the ladder

A few years ago when I first became interested in healthy eating, I stumbled across Michi’s Ladder. It looked neat so I printed it off for reference. Unfortunately, I lost the link where I found it, so I could only share paper copies. Tonight I found it again at Team BeachBody! It’s been updated with more foods since I originally printed it so it’s now even more helpful.

Michi’s Ladder isn’t a diet plan. Instead, it’s a 5 tiered ladder to show how healthy foods are. The first tier are the healthiest foods (mostly fruits, grains, and vegetables). There are a few meats like broiled fish on level 1 also. Level 5 has all the junk: fried foods, sweets, gravy, creamy dressing. Everything else falls somewhere in between.

You can use it to design healthier meals and snacks. Making substitutions of higher tiered foods in place of those lower down will make a healthier dish. The idea is to have as many of your foods up as high up as possible. Looking at Michi’s Ladder (instead of the traditional food pyramid) shows that it is possible to eat vegetarian and still not eat healthy, it just takes more effort. This is from using canned instead of fresh, frying or adding sauces.

Starting tonight, except for maybe Monday (my birthday), we are going to eat all vegetarian for at least the next week. My family is very supportive of this decision. Happily, most of the ingredients for the vegetarian meals I have in mind (except the quiche) are from tiers 1 or 2. The meals I planned for this week so far include a spinach pie with Feta cheese, spaghetti, lentil bake, vegetarian sloppy joes (uses lentils instead of meat), and broccoli quiche.

To partly make up for Monday’s planned splurge, tonight I made homemade Falafel with yogurt based dill cucumber sauce in whole wheat pitas. These garbanzo bean (aka chick pea) mush balls are traditionally fried, but I baked them after a quick spray with Pam so they would brown in the oven. They were a hit! Yummy and filling. I made the mush last night. I don’t have a real food processor, just a hand crank chopper so it took awhile. I made enough balls to freeze for a quick meal another night.

Breakfasts will be either toast and jam (both homemade) or oatmeal with fruit. Lunch probably pb&j. I need to stock up on fruits and snack veggies like baby carrots and celery. Some sunflower seeds and nuts would be good snacks too, especially for the kids who need more (good) fat and calories.

One great thing about higher tiered foods is they tend to be easier to clean up since they are low fat. I also found if I must fry, using olive oil instead of butter, canola or other vegetable oils will make clean up easier. I’m not sure why, just know it is. Plus, it’s on tier 2 whereas butter and canola oil are tier 3, and vegetable oil is way down on tier 5.

If you are interested in eating more healthy or even just curious how your favorite foods fit in, I urge you to check out Michi’s Ladder. I’ve seen a lot of food lists, and this one is the best and easiest to understand I’ve seen.

12 cups of rice!

Can we say oops? I accidentally made 12 cups of rice tonight instead of 3. I was making vegetarian stuffed peppers (green peppers stuffed with rice mixed with spaghetti sauce, sauted mushrooms and onion). The kids were playing in the kitchen making lots of noise and I got distracted.

It was supposed to be 6 cups water and 3 cups rice in the medium pot. First I didn’t have enough rice. Then too much so I added more water but miscounted so I added more rice. Transfer now to bigger pot. Then my husband realized I (again) miscalculated so had to add still more water. In the end, I wound up with my biggest pot full to the brim with rice, 12 cups to be exact.

My husband has been wanting me to make bigger pots of rice, but this was too much. Needless to say, we’re going to have rice this week. Tonight was stuffed peppers. There’s still rice in sauce left over from that  so we’ll have it tomorrow for lunch with shredded cheese and sour cream as usual. For dinner, I’ll get some tofu for stir fried rice. Then what? I’m open for suggestions, preferable vegetarian and simple.

Natural eating

I’ve been reading blogs lately about healthy eating. Most are like me, trying to eat a balanced diet with less processed junk and more homemade with fruits and veggies. A few are vegetarians. I don’t mind most of these as they seem pretty balanced with real food. Then there’s the eco-vegans.

Those are different. Some of them are completely unbalanced. No, not mentally, but diet wise. It’s not the vegan diet itself. Vegan is not only no meat but also no animal products like dairy and eggs. They have all organic foods and rail against processed foods. On the surface that sounds fine.

However, I’m not sure what they seem to be eating could be real food either. From what I’ve seen, it’s mostly just a different form of processed food. Bags of organic, baked sweet potato crisps (instead of potato chips). Luna bars. Amy’s makes an entire line of organic, vegetarian convenience foods.

I don’t have anything against organic. I prefer it for some of the foods I buy. Nor do I have anything against vegetarian. We eat vegetarian more frequently than meat based meals. What I do have a problem with is packaging processed veggies as health foods with a fancy label. They are still TV dinners, just with a vegan twist. I’m all for more healthy substitutions, but I don’t know what many of these people would do if they had to really cook for themselves from scratch.

It isn’t cheap either. I have bought a few of them myself. They are pretty good, but I don’t think they are worth the extra cost. Nor should they be the primary staple of your diet.

My view is unless it’s homemade, it’s processed food. If you can cook it totally in the microwave, it’s probably processed food. I’m not saying to eat raw foods only, however they should be a primary ingredient. Pre-made sauces like spaghetti sauce, save time but are still semi-processed. Don’t buy into the hype that just because a package is labeled organic or vegan, it’s not processed food.

So call a spade a spade and admit you’re eating processed food. Granted, it’s probably more healthy than traditional processed foods, but it’s still processed food. Don’t rely on a box, can, or package for most of your meals. Learn to cook real food. Make 2010 the year you really go natural.

Cleaning the microwave

This is a subject I don’t post about very often, basic household cleaning. However, I do come across a tip from time to time that works so well I just have to share. Today is such an occasion. This tip relates to cleaning the microwave.

I don’t like harsh cleaners. I use them to clean apartments between tenants because they are quick and effective for thoroughly cleaning unknown crud. But at home, I prefer mild soaps and hot water. In my bathroom I do use a bleach cleaner in the toilet. For the sinks and tub though, I use a powder without bleach, perfume, phosphorus, or dye called Bon Ami (works just as well as Comet or Ajax but without all the harsh ingredients). Usually just a wet cloth is enough to clean the counters. In the kitchen I use a bleach cleaner occasionally inside the refrigerator to keep away mold, but usually just warm water.

I use regular dish soap on my dishes, but not bleach or antibacterial. I can understand the need to bleach dishes in a commercial setting such as a daycare or restaurant when you don’t know what kinds of germs are on them. At home, I know who’s sick and with what. The germs are in the air and from coming into contact with the person most of the day. Chances are if one of us will catch it, the dishes aren’t the most likely reason.

Also, recent studies have shown that children in homes where antibacterial products are used (including dish and hand soaps), the chances of getting asthma and other respiratory illness increases. The homes are actually too clean so that the kids can’t build up immunity. Plus, the small percentage of germs left become super germs resistant to antibiotics and therefore are more dangerous. So anyway, that’s why in a nutshell I don’t use them.

A side note here since it’s flue season. Along with regular cleaning, vacuum more often when someone is sick. A recent study shown that germs are killed as you vacuum due to the harsh action, especially upright ones.

Still, I like a clean kitchen. After washing the dishes, I use the rinse water to wash my counters and stove. Sometimes I have to let water sit on a stubborn spot for a few minutes, (especially applesauce or oatmeal) but it will eventually rinse off. A friend occasionally washes my counters. She smears dish soap on the rag then washes them. Unfortunately, she doesn’t rinse them, so we have soap residue left on the counters. Ugh. She does the same at her house only she uses the antibacterial soap.

Often I forget to wash inside the microwave, or only do a quick wipe to the tray. Especially since we don’t use it very often other than heating water to make bread. On Saturdays, I try to do an extra good job cleaning the house. Today that included cleaning the microwave. While the bottom tray was clean, there was a lot of bits of dried on food stuck to the sides and top. (It’s amazing how many people never clean the sides and top inside.) A hard wiping with a wet dish rag got off about half of it. Now, I can’t exactly soak the sides or top like I do the table to get off the stuck on bits.

Instead, I filled a shallow dish about half full of water then turned the microwave on high for 5 minutes. This got the water to boil for awhile and filled the inside with steam. After a few minutes, I opened the door and wiped it clean including around the bottom edge under the tray. Finally, I left the door open for it to dry. Easy and clean with no harsh cleaners.

Fresh cucumber salad

Today I picked our first cucumbers from the garden. Rather than using them as garnish for lettuce salad or in a sandwich, I decided to make them into a salad. The internet has lots of cucumber salad recipes.  I wanted something simple and light. I found one that sounded good and modified it a bit to use what we had. Here’s what I finally came up with. My family really enjoyed it so I thought I’d share the recipe since it’s garden season.

2 medium cucumbers sliced then cut in halves

1/2 large tomato chopped

1/4 onion chopped

3/4 cup sour cream

1 Tbs  lemon juice

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp salt

fresh dill

Slice cucumbers then cut slices in half. Add vinegar and salt. Toss to mix. Set in fridge half hour.

Chop 2 Tbs fresh dill. Mix lemon juice with sour cream. Add dill and a dash of black pepper.  After half hour remove cucumbers from fridge. Drain and discard liquid. Stir cucumber, tomato, and onion into sauce. That’s it. Easy and yummy.

Falfel

I had this can of garbanzo beans (AKA chick peas) in my pantry forever. I don’t even remember where it came from or if I was even the one who got it. It’s just been living in my pantry.

Today the kids were hungry and we are out of thawed peanut butter (we still have about a quarter of a bucket in the freezer). I looked through a bean cookbook for something I could make from this can. Most of the recipes in the book are of Middle East or Mediterranean origin and therefore spicier than we prefer (like curries). However, I found a recipe for falfel that I thought could be modified without ending up too bland. Then I looked at the other ingredients and found that indeed I had almost everything on hand to make it. Several of them call for unusual spices or ingredients we don’t normally use. This one called for a spice called coriander which we don’t have, so  left it out.

Falfel is basically a garbanzo bean mush with garlic, minced onion, chili pepper and cumin (plus the missing coriander) that is fried. It called for an entire onion. Normally that doesn’t sound like a lot but when mixed with only slightly more than a cup of mushed beans, it would have been too much. I put in just 3 thin slices. After mixing everything well, you make small patties and cover them with whole wheat flour then fry them until both sides are brown. We ate them on homemade bread. It made just enough for the 3 of us.

Dried garbanzo beans are cheap. It uses (at least the way I make it) little spices. So the meal was very cheap, probably less than $1 for all of us. The kids wanted seconds so next time I should make more. It is rather filling since it is made with beans. I served it on homemade bread but would probably be good on rice with a little lemon.