Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Six ideas for fast, healthy, real food

this may be fast, but it's not real or healthy
Today's post was inspired by a photo our friend shared on Facebook from the Food, Inc. page. We've become so indoctrinated into the idea that food needs to be quick, fast, and easy that we'll buy a tube of vegetarian ham, flavored like chicken, which couldn't be further from what it is supposed to be in the first place.

We got to thinking how we've fooled ourselves into thinking that the only fast food available is the kind in a bag that we grab through our car window, without even considering how quickly we could fix simple, healthy, real food at home.

Inspired by the discussion, Our Daily Green wanted to share a few ideas for quick meals or snacks, that are healthy and don't rely on processed food.

  • Fresh fruit is about as easy as it gets. Wash and eat. Apples, peaches, berries, bananas, plums... all are simple and come in a ready to serve package. Stock up on them today. My daughter, who is studying abroad this summer, actually sent me a message to tell me, "I just took a bite of the best peach of my life... I was walking from the kitchen, and stopped dead in my tracks when it hit my taste buds. It was awesome. I just had to share/document this."
  • Eggs. They are not the bad guy. They are healthy, chock full of protein, and scrambling an egg takes minutes, tops. Throw in a handful or two of chopped veggies & some cheese, and you have a quick breakfast. If you need to take it on the road, put it in a tortilla and you've got a scrambled egg wrap.  On a similar note, my friend and writing colleague Dee Dee, mentioned how easy a meal a frittata can be. 
  • Pasta. The whole grain kind. It's a great base for the rest of the other things you want to eat in a hurry. Cook up a pound or two and keep it in the fridge for a quick start to a simple meal.
  • Alternative grains. Quinoa and amaranth cook up quickly, adding depth and protein to any fast meal.
  • Canned beans. No not the mushy chopped, salty green things. Cannellini, black beans, garbanzo, kidney beans. They are healthy, high in fiber and EASY. Purists may cringe at not soaking them overnight and cooking them from dry, but remember, the key here is fast and easy. This is about getting the healthiest foods in our system in a minimal amount of time.
  • Frozen veggies. Keep a variety on hand and be ready to toss them in with the beans, pasta, grains, or eggs. Healthy and quick. 
We also discussed a few important tools, including a slow cooker and a Foreman grill, as well as a rice cooker. These tools save valuable time and should become part of a kitchen with a cook who is short of time.

The first step to healthier eating is the desire to do so. The next step is preparation. Choose healthy foods and the tools that make them easy to prepare. Fast food doesn't have to come from a place you drive thru. It's just as quick to have it on hand and ready to fix. You don't have to be a chef or a foodie to eat well, just committed to your health.

What are some of your favorite fast cooking tips?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What soda companies really mean by "sugar" (infographic)

What Soda Companies Really Mean By "Sugar"

Going green with your home improvement projects

Advancements in technology have provided us with conveniences many of us would not know what to do without. While these innovations have provided us with the tools to become more efficient and enjoy time with our loved ones, they are negatively impacting our environment. If you are embarking on home improvement projects, there are products available to help you stay green and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Proper Sealing and Insulation
There is a great way to both increase your home's environmental compatibility while also lower your monthly utility bills. Around your walls, windows, doors, and floors are often gaps, and these provide perfect outlets for the temperature-controlled air in your home to escape. This causes your heater and air conditioner to work overtime. With a minimal investment, you can seal these openings as well as better insulate your home.

Another way to reduce this problem is to install energy-efficient windows and doors throughout your home. While the upfront cost for this measure is higher, you will quickly get those dollars back and more as you watch your energy bills go down for years to come. For many more tips on how to reduce your energy consumption, visit this page.
  • Lighting
Home improvement projects are meant to increase both the aesthetic and financial value of your home, and proper lighting can do both. The right lighting can transform a room, and, if you purchase energy-efficient products during this project, you can also do your part in helping the environment. For access to products that can help you achieve this goal, visit the Energy Star website.
  • Hot Water System
You use hot water every day. From washing your dishes to taking a shower at the end of a long day, it is a commodity that you can both enjoy and optimize to better the environment for future generations. Making the investment in systems such as the Dux Airoheat Heat Pump allows you to use heat from the air to increase the temperature of your water, allowing you to reduce the stress on the environment by giving your water heater a much needed break.
  • Roofing
image courtesy of wikimedia commons
Around every ten years, it becomes necessary to replace your shingles to ensure your home is protected from the outside elements. However, the resources used to produce quality shingles can put a serious strain on the environment. To do your part to reduce this is to purchase shingles produced using recycled material. Innovations are being made to make these shingles aesthetically pleasing without sacrificing on quality. Products matching these specifications can be found at GreenHome Improvement.
  • Planning for Expansion
Whether you family is growing or your income has increased, you may be considering making additions to your home. If so, you should seriously consider the square footage you actually need to live comfortably. Extra rooms require more strain on your heater and air conditioner, and the materials used to make these additions put even more strain on the environment. Your home is likely your largest investment, and these changes can add to its value. However, don't go overboard when making additions. More great advice on renovations can be found here.
  • Doing Your Part
Global warming is everyone's problem. If you are planning a home improvement project, following these tips can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

A special thank you to today's blog sponsor for sharing so many environmentally responsible home improvement tips!

Cutting costs using reflective coatings

Applying a reflective coating of paint or a similar substance to your roof is a great way to cut energy costs that most people don't even think about. Reflective coatings come in a wide variety of options. There are different paints, textures and membranes that can be applied to your rooftop to reflect solar and ultraviolet heat. Applying a reflective coating can reduce the temperature of the roof by up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

A few of the many different uses for heat resistant paints and coatings are listed below:

They are used in the construction of "green" buildings; the application of the coating gives "green credit points" to the project.
They are used in livestock and poultry sheds, to help reduce heat stress on the animals.
They are used in hospitals, schools and malls to help provide a more comfortable work environment.
They are used in residential homes, villas and office buildings to lower the cost of air conditioning.
They are used in some military defense vehicles as well.

Applying a light or reflective coating on your roof is a great way to lower your cooling costs and to extend roof life. The right type of reflective roof coatings will provide a waterproof surface, along with reflecting heat and preventing heat transfer to the interior of the building. This, in its turn, extends the life of your HVAC system and reduces maintenance fees.

Reflective coatings are measured by their albedo. The higher the albedo of a product is, the more heat it is able to reflect. Roofing such as bitumen, gravel or tar has albedos from 0.1 to 0.2. This means that these products absorb nearly 80 percent of the heat they receive. The heat they absorb is conducted into the home where the inhabitants, in order to remain comfortable, must turn up the air conditioning several notches. The albedos of heat reflective materials tends to be significantly higher, around 0.9.

Kelly Moore Paints offers a reflective paint designed to reflect radiant heat away from the surface to which it was applied. The 1545 Enviro Coat Reflective paint is designed for commercial and residential use. This paint uses advanced infrared-reflective technology to prevent infrared rays from penetrating through the coating and into the wall, even if the wall has been painted a medium or dark color.

High-performance heat-reflective paint offers high opacity and is quite inhospitable to mold and mildew. In addition, the paint is strongly resistant to ultraviolet damage due to its light-reflecting capabilities.

The process of applying the heat-reflective coating of paint to a roof is quite simple. The first step is to sweep the roof clean of any debris and to pressure wash it. The next step involves the application of a sealant, which prevents the next coat of paint from penetrating into porous materials. This cures for two days before the next coat is applied. The third step is the application of a base coat. The fourth and final step is the application of a topcoat of the same product as the basecoat. The topcoat is available in an almost endless variety of colors to match the exterior color scheme of your home. You can find out more about the different steps involved with the application of this special paint at this website.

There you have it - everything about applying heat-reflective materials to the roof of your home. Getting a heat-reflective coating applied to your roof is a smart way to go green. And it also saves you money in the long run.

Today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor. Our Daily Green regularly shares information that we think will be useful and help our readers save money and energy. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is bamboo a type of artificial grass?

"Bamboo Feb09".
Licensed under 
GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons
Bamboo isn't a type of artificial grass, but it's a grass that looks and behaves very much like hardwood after it's been processed. Indeed, bamboo is harder than some hardwoods.

One of the selling points of bamboo is that it grows quickly, like most grasses, but some species can grow to 100 feet tall within a few years. After it's harvested, it can be reharvested after about five or six years. Contrast this to the decades it takes for a hardwood tree like an oak or maple to be ready for harvesting.

Most types of bamboo that are used for flooring come from China and Vietnam.

For flooring, bamboo can be strandwoven, end grain, flat grain or vertical grain. End grain and strand woven bamboo are tougher and denser, but flat and vertical grain bamboo planks are less expensive. Like hardwood, bamboo can be solid or engineered. Solid means that the floor planks are bamboo all the way through, while engineered planks are made of layers, sometimes of plywood, that have been pressed together under great pressure and heat. The top layer is made out of quality bamboo.

One caveat about bamboo is that it's become so popular that bamboo plantations are replacing the native flora in some places. Also, the way some bamboo is processed might require chemicals that make it not as eco-friendly as it appears, and the energy that it takes to transport bamboo planks from Asia to the mainland United States makes its carbon footprint larger than it might otherwise be. Customers should check with the manufacturer to make sure that their bamboo flooring has been prepared as naturally as possible.

Bamboo flooring
By Pbroks13 (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons
The natural color of a bamboo floor is light brown or tan, but it can be treated to make it darker. Bamboo is attractive because the pattern of the grain shows the nodes of the grass stalks, especially if the planks have been constructed horizontally. Like hardwood, bamboo needs to be finished and sanded, but it shouldn't be sanded across the grain or diagonally to the grain. Like wood floors, bamboo can be floated, glued or nailed.

Bamboo floor care is also easy. Like wood, bamboo should never be cleaned with a soaking wet mop. It should be damped mopped and broom swept, and any spills should be wiped up right away. Pads should be placed under the feet of especially heavy furniture, and the floor shouldn't be walked upon with high heels to prevent dings and dents.

Tell your friends!