Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Car Sharing - Do You REALLY Need a Car?

Hope is not what we find in evidence, it’s what we become in action.
~Frances Moore Lappe
Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay (Photo Credit davepolaschek on Flickr)

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was 26 before I went to Yosemite, 30 before I set foot on the island of Alcatraz; both trips happened because friends from out of town were visiting. Lesson learned: it often takes guests with fresh eyes to help us appreciate where and how we live.

We experienced this recently with a visit from our friends Sharon and Dennis; seeing Dancing Rabbit through their eyes was a chance for us to revisit what we have accomplished, how some of our ideals have manifested into reality, and how by working together we can make a difference. Here’s an example:What separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the truly eco-concerned from the cotton-headed ninny-muggins? Car use. While Dancing Rabbit receives a lot of attention for using biodiesel rather than petroleum, it seems to me that the way we utilize resources (i.e. cars) makes a much bigger impression, both socially and ecologically.

One of the stipulations when becoming a member of Dancing Rabbit is that we agree to, no, choose to give up individual ownership of vehicles. For some this is not that much of a stretch – many Rabbits are avid cyclists, and have been getting around solely by bike for years. But for others, it is often a leap of faith; our American car culture is deep and wide, and for those accustomed to having a car available every second of every day it can initially be daunting.It takes a bit of planning to divide car use for 45 people among three shared vehicles (two Jettas and a big ol’ Ford truck). Each Sunday we gather in the Common House to do the “WIP,” which stands for Week In Preview. Part of the WIP is scheduling the DRVC (Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Cooperative –yes, we are truly the land of acronyms!). Going through the week day by day, we figure out how best to utilize our vehicles. Who has a doctor appointment, who needs to go to Kirksville for a conference, does the recycling need to go into Truman State?

Here’s a perfect example: this last week, Cob and his son Duncan were taking the morning train from LaPlata to Chicago, and Maikwe was taking the evening train. They all needed to be dropped off at the LaPlata station, albeit at vastly different times. Rather than make two trips, Kurt and I volunteered to drive, knowing that we both needed an eye exam in Kirksville. Sparky needed an eye exam too, so she signed up to come along. And what the heck – since her train didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m., Maikwe called and got an appointment, too. Monday afternoon a group of Rabbits gathered to load the recycling into the back of the truck, and Tuesday morning the six of us piled into the front. We drove to the LaPlata train station, dropped off Cob and a sleepy Duncan. Our friend Rory, who is house-sitting in LaPlata, met us there and we delivered a few surprises that Nathan had picked up for him at the last Dog & Gun Flea Market (it was neither a dog nor agun, btw). We then drove up to Kirksville and dropped off the recycling at Truman’s Recycling Center. Next, Kurt and I had our eyes examined while Sparky and Maikwe did a little shopping on the square. We all met up for lunch, and then Kurt and I dropped M & S at the eye doc’s while we did errands for a number of Rabbits: electrical supplies for Ted, custom cut glass for Jeff’s windows, returning something to the Farm & Home for Rachel, picking up Sunflower Food Coop’s order at HyVee, paintbrushes at the hardware store…At 4:00 Sparky and I reconvened at Washington Street Java Co. while Kurt and Maikwe hightailed it to Bayview Supply to scope out supplies for the home she will be building next summer. With still a couple of hours before having to drop M off at the station, we all had a delicious and relaxing dinner at Il Spazio. After dinner, we stopped at HyVee so that M could get a few traveling treats. After dropping her at the trainstation, we had the truck back at DR by 8:00 p.m. when Dan needed it to pick up another group of travelers at the Quincy train station, and were able to join the group celebrating Matt’s birthday with games of charades and celebrity.

So what does all this running around prove? After living here for years, one tends to take it for granted; it’s just how we do things. We do errands for one another, share rides, and cooperate the best we can. Yes, it sometimes is a pain in the, um, neck. But there is a certain comfort knowing that we can count on one another. We are all able to reduce our footprints just a bit – if each of us were to drive in our own cars on separate trips, we would use several times the petroleum used by the single trip. Additionally, we not only save petroleum, we also save cold hard cash. By sharing the cost of car payment, maintenance, fuel and insurance our costs are startlingly less than when we each owned a car and each paid for our own.

Austin Car Share Credit HeadOvMetal on Flickr)

What if you are interested in car sharing and do not live at Dancing Rabbit? Why, what a GREAT question! has info on US and Canadian cities with car sharing ( Zipcar ( provides cars on demand by the hour or day and are available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC. Dave Brook in Portland has a blog all about car sharing ( with lots more information for those wanting to learn more, and for those who are not in big cities. Change is in the air, and to make it work we all need to participate. What are you willing to do to help with the solution?

Ithica Car share: (Photo credit arimoore on Flickr)

Philly Car Share (Photo Credit glokbell on Flickr)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Vegan Baking - Yes You Can!

But first, a cute photo of my dog, taken a few days ago when we took a walk after the first snowfall of the season:

OK. Now that we have THAT out of the way...there are many vegans here at Dancing Rabbit, and what used to seem like a foreign language has become almost second nature.

Here are a few of my favorite tips covering the major hurdles of vegan cooking.

Cooking without eggs info from the Post Punk Kitchen website by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Vegan with a Vengence and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. She's not only funny, she's a great cook. Highly recommended!

"Replacing eggs is the most challenging aspects of vegan baking. Those suckers bind, they leaven and they give structure to our baked goods. However, like a bad boyfriend, they can be replaced, and with pleasing results. Here some info on replacements I have tried.

Flax Seeds How to use it: 1 Tablespoon flax seeds plus 3 Tablespoons water replaces one egg. Finely grind 1 tablespoon whole flaxseeds in a blender or coffee grinder, or use 2 1/2 tablespoons pre-ground flaxseeds. Transfer to a bowl and beat in 3 tablespoons of water using a whisk or fork. It will become very gooey and gelatinous, much like an egg white. In some recipes, you can leave the ground flax in the blender and add the other wet ingredients to it, thus saving you the extra step of the bowl.

When it works best: Flax seeds have a distinct earthy granola taste. It tastes best and works very well in things like pancakes, and whole grain items, such as bran muffins and corn muffins. It is perfect for oatmeal cookies, and the texture works for cookies in general, although the taste may be too pronounced for some. Chocolate cake-y recipes have mixed results, I would recommend only using one portion flax-egg in those, because the taste can be overpowering.

Tips:Always store ground flaxseeds in the freezer because they are highly perishable. This mixture is not only an excellent replacement for eggs, it also contributes vital omega-3 fatty acids.

Silken Tofu How to use it: 1/4 cup blended silken tofu = 1 egg. Whiz in a blender until completely smooth and creamy, leaving no graininess or chunks. You will want to add other wet ingredients to this mixture to get it to blend properly. I recommend vacuum packed extra firm silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu.

When it works best: Dense cakes and brownies, and in smaller quantites for lighter cakes and fluffy things (if the recipe calls for 3 eggs only use 2 "tofu" eggs"). Whizzed tofu leaves virtually no taste, so it is an excellent replacer in cake recipes. In cookie recipes, it may make the cookie more cake-y and fluffy than anticipated, add 1 teaspoon of starch to the recipe (such as arrowroot or corn starch) to combat that. It may make pancakes a little heavy, so it is not recommended as a quick replacement for eggs in pancakes, although it could work well with a little experimentation.

Ener-G Egg Replacer How to use it: 1 1/2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons water mixed well = 1 egg Many people swear by this egg replacer. I think it is good to use in a pinch, in all baking that requires a few eggs. However, I can definitely taste it in cakes and cookies (tastes chalk-y), and I'm not crazy about the dense texture it turns out.

When it works best: It seems to work best in cookies, or things that are supposed to be a little crispy.

Where to get it:Health food stores, some supermarkets in the baking or ethnic food section

Bananas How to use it: 1/2 banana blended until smooth or mashed well= 1 egg. Bananas work wonders as an egg replacer in baking, which is the reason many banana bread recipes don't require eggs. They hold the air bubbles well, make things nice and moist, and impart a nice flavor. However, you don't want everything tasting like banana, so use in things where the taste won't be intrusive. I've also noticed that baked goods using banana brown very nicely. When it works best: Quick breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes

Tip: Make sure bananas are nice and ripe and have started to brown.

Soy yogurt How to use it: 1/4 cup soy yogurt = 1 egg. Soy yogurt works a lot like whizzed tofu as an egg replacer. It makes things moist and yummy. When it works best: Quick breads, muffins, cakes Lose the milkThis is a no-brainer. Use soy, rice or almond milk.

Buttermilk? Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to your milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. (Alline's note: this really works!)

It's like buttah...

Instead of butter try unsalted margarine or go ahead and use salted but reduce the amount of salt in the recipe. Lose 1/4 teaspoon per 1/2 stick of butter. But try to use the non-hydrogented kind, I dunno', for your health? My favorite thing to use instead of butter is canola oil, but you can use any vegetable oil, just reduce the amount. If a recipe calls for one stick of butter, which is a half cup, I use 1/3 cup of oil. You can also try prune puree which will also obviously reduce the amount of fat. To use, puree 1/2 cup of pitted prunes with 1/4 cup of water. You will want to reduce the amount used, or the final product may be too moist. If the recipe calls for a half cup use 1/3 cup instead. You may also want to add a little oil, maybe a tablespoon per cup of fat needed, because a little fat goes a long way in taste and texture.

In Review: Get rid of the eggs

1 egg =
2 tsp ground flaxseeds + 2 Tb warm water
OR 2 Tb – ¼ cup applesauce or apple butter
ORCommercial egg replacer: 1-1 ½ tsp egg replacer + 2 Tb water
OR 2 Tb mashed banana + ½ tsp baking powder
OR 1 banana"

(End of Post Punk Kitchen info)

Other recommended cookbooks that just happen to be vegan, and contain GREAT recipes:
The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook - from The Farm in Tennessee, this is a flashback to good old hippie days. The photos are a bit scary, but man oh man, the recipes are fantastic! Not only do they taste great, they are fairly easy, and use ingredients that you probably already have. I'll post some in the next few weeks, just to give you a little sample.
The Zen Monastery Cookbook: Stories and Recipes from a Zen Kitchen. This cookbook is absolutely lovely. Written by anonymous Zen monks, it has humor, charm, humility and encouragement in addition to the delicious recipes.

And now, for one of my favorite recipes - quick, easy, vegan.

Italian Cornmeal Cake
Vegan, No Oil

Serves 8-9

1 cup soymilk
¼ cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 cup slivered or chopped almonds
2 Tb. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a nine-inch cake pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a small bowl, combine soymilk, applesauce, and extracts.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder. Add wet ingredients and mix until moistened.
4. Place batter in the pan.
5. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and almonds and sprinkle evenly over cake.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

From the Monastery Cookbook (Cheri Huber)

Can also be made in a square “brownie” pan
For community dinners I double the recipe and bake it in a half-sheet pan. This makes about 36 good-sized pieces, although they aren’t as ‘high’ as when the cake is baked in a smaller pan.