Friday, August 29, 2008

Food Friday Brings You Double Dippers

© Carrie Boyko
Low Fat and Low Cost
Organic Sausage Recipes

No, this isn't an ice cream recipe; today we're double dipping with saving you money and fat, and bringing you two recipes to do this with.

Growing up, the only sausage I remember eating was the breakfast types--patties and links. I've always been curious about different sausages and on the lookout for those that aren't so high in fat. Since my organic journey began, I became aware of an organic Italian chicken sausage, made at a local store, which is quite economical and tasty. And even more important, it has only 4.5 grams of fat per serving--a very low fat count for sausage. It is offered in mild and hot versions. I haven't gotten brave enough to try the spicier type yet, but the mild is wonderful. Since trying this, I have discovered many other brands of Italian sausage are widely available; some are all-chicken or turkey and others are made of pork. Nevertheless, I'm confident you will be able to find organic Italian sausage somewhere in your area. I've chosen the chicken primarily because it is low-fat, but also for its reasonable cost.Today, I'll share a couple of simple and flavorful recipes. Both are delightful when served with a fresh fruit salad, to balance the spicy kick from the sausage. The first is quick and easy, making it a good choice for a weekend lunch or quick dinner. It stores and reheats well, so make some extra. It will save you some time in the kitchen preparing more food for the starving teenagers, or for a quick meal when you're the only one home.

Grilled Organic Italian Sausage Sandwiches

  • 1 package Organic Italian sausage (mild or hot, usually packaged in 5-6 large links)
  • 2 large organic yellow onions, chilled
  • Organic cooking spray
  • French rolls, Hoagie rolls, Baguette rolls, organic if available, or make your own and freeze the extras to stay fresh
Cut the onions in half and peel, then slice each half in 1/4 inch wide slices. Spray a shallow saucepan with cooking spray and heat pan to medium heat. Place the sausages in the middle of the pan, and distribute the onions around the sausage. Every few minutes, stir the onions, incorporating the juices from the sausage. Cook each of the 4 sides of the sausage until well-grilled in appearance to assure it is well-cooked. Continue until sausage and onions are all well-browned. When the sausages are on their last side, slice the rolls and toast them, placing open on plates for serving. Serves 5-6.

A brightly-colored fresh, organic fruit salad will be the perfect complement to this sandwich, adding color and cold sweetness to balance the spicy, warm sandwich.

Organic Pasta with Italian Sausage and Vegetables

This recipe is wonderful for family nights and just as delightful for company. As usual with my recipes, all the ingredients can be prepared in advance, to minimize time in the kitchen when you have company.
  • 1 package organic Penne pasta
  • 1/2 head of organic broccoli, washed and cut into small pieces
  • 6 organic carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 package organic Italian sausage (mild or hot), sliced into 3/4 inch pieces, then halved, browned well.
  • 1 organic leek, sliced thin, including most of the greens, browned along with the sausage, OR
  • 1 medium organic yellow onion, cut small and browned with sausage
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded
  • Sea salt
First let me give you a tip regarding the preparation of the sausage. If you're in a time pinch, cook the sausage whole and then cut it up. That is the fastest method. It reheats easily in the microwave when you are ready to put it into the pasta. However, if you have time, cut it up first, pulling off the skin, and the sausage will crumble easier into small pieces, which distributes the flavor well throughout the dish. This is preferable, but the first method is fine also.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, setting a timer to test at the minimum time recommended. When it is near boiling, place the broccoli in 1 inch of purified water, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and bring to a boil. Add the carrots to the pot and remove from heat, stir and cover. When the pasta is done, strain it well and return to pot. Stir in all the sausage, leeks and cooked vegetables, making sure to strain the broccoli and carrots well. Finally, pour into a large serving bowl and sprinkle generously with Parmesan Cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

Again, a cold, organic fruit salad is a great accompaniment, adding color to your meal and cooling the palate.

If you have a favorite recipe made with Italian sausage, I'd love to share it on my blog, and I'll be sure to give you credit. Feel free to drop me a comment and tell me about it.

Join me Monday when I'm back at the juicer, this time with apples. I'll be making homemade organic apple juice, and there is no waste when I juice apples. The pulp, including the peel, makes a wonderful, nutritious applesauce that is quick and easy. I'll show you how to freeze it is small amounts for school lunches that will stay cold until lunch time.

If you're looking for Labor Day cookout recipes, see my post from August 18 entitled Lazy Cook's Labor Day Organic Cookout for a complete cookout plan with recipes. Have fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday's Green Tip-Toe: Bento Boxes meet Target

© Carrie Boyko

On Thursday, September 14, I wrote a post entitled Green Up Your Back to School Lunches, in which I introduced, and included a photo of the popular Bento boxes. They are truly awesome, but unfortunately, they don't come cheap. With many Americans living on tight budgets during these uncertain economic times, shelling out $30+ for a lunchbox that your kid might lose (mine lost more than a few) can be a tough decision--no matter how committed you are to living more green. Enter Target. I found this wonderful reusable, 3-compartment box, with utensils included for less than $10. At this price, your kid can lose 3 and you are still ahead, as you won't have to pay any shipping if you buy it at the store.

At the Target link above, you'll find an assortment of other similar boxes for salads, etc. and sets of Bento-type boxes, as well--all bargain priced.

The box is called a Frooshi and is made by a company called Bramli, out of Israel--not exactly local. That is one strike against it if you're trying to keep American dollars at home and save the fuel of getting it shipped here, but at least it is a more affordable option.

I was also impressed by the minimal packaging. I'm including a photo of the Frooshi I purchased for myself, and want to share with you one detail you cannot tell by the picture. Inside the container, the sections are fairly well sealed into a lid which is shaped to close itself in at the compartment walls. In other words, your food won't get all mixed up. On the flip side, though, I wouldn't put 3 kinds of liquid items in the compartments and turn the thing upside down. Lucky for me, I have an insulated lunch bag that fits this box perfectly, leaving room for an ice pack and a reusable drink bottle. It is a great set up to eliminate paper and plastic packaging for my take-along lunches when I'm working out of town. As I have seen them described on other sites: the garbage free lunchbox. How clever!

Today's 10-minute tip is to stop in at your nearest Target, or visit the link above, and check out the Frooshi assortment of reusable, garbage-free lunch containers. Your green lunchbox choice may be waiting there for you, just like mine. I'd love to hear from you. What kind of green lunch boxes do you have for your family?

Tomorrow's post will bring you two money-saving recipes for organic sausage. No, we're not talking about pork sausage for breakfast. This is the stuff great, healthy, low-fat dinners are made of. So join me to find out how wonderful sausage can be at dinner. Also, on Monday, I'll be getting back to juicing again, this time making delicious organic apple juice, and using the pulp to make homemade organic applesauce. This will be wonderful in those great new lunchboxes we've been looking at over the past week. And for this treat you won't even need a freezer pack. What's my secret? Join me Monday to find out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Woofing Wednesday: Enjoying My Rainy Days

Today (I am writing this post a bit early for its publication date) I am marveling that, after a year-long drought, which has left our lake in a shriveled state, we finally have begun to emerge into puddledom (translation: land of puddles), thanks to Tropical Storm Fay. For nearly 3 days now, Fay has been raining on us, while she sits just off the coast of Daytona Beach, slowly edging toward the North Northwest.

Considering our need for water, the rain is welcome, although my dogs have not enjoyed their outings to “take care of business.” Well, actually, Tanner, the Golden Retriever, has enjoyed the showers immensely. I can hardly get him to come inside, as he would rather play in the puddles than hang out in the house. Oliver and Xena, on the other hand, have rushed through their job outside, and drug me back into the house, begging to be dried off. Toweling off my dogs is rather akin to a massage. If they could Ooo and Ahhh they would, as they press their bodies into the towel, enjoying every bit of the game we call Dry the Doggie. And thus the picture of a very wet Tanner leads off my Woofing Wednesday post, followed by one in which he is pleading with me to allow him to play in the puddle.
The good news is that Fay has reestablished some of Florida’s dry waterways and thirsty landscape, which will also help our Florida crops reap healthier harvests. So, hurray for Fay!

Only recently my post, Thursday's Green Tip-Toe: 10-Minute Water Saving Ideas, offered many simple options for reducing the use of the wet stuff. Right now I wish I had more than one rain barrel, as my one was filled in the first ½ hour of rain, which has continued for days. I could have saved enough to water all the potted plants in my suburban town, if only I had enough rain barrels. Tisk! I urge you all to think about adding one to your garden. To this end, I’m including some links to websites where you can check out the options. It appears that you can spend as little at $50 or, well, the sky's the limit. Have fun shopping:

In my post for Monday, August 25, you'll find a photograph of my rain barrel. It is hand painted (thanks to my sister-in-law, Jan) with a garden scene that is quite pleasant and fits nicely into the garden-like porch area where it is located. It is plastic and I believe many of those you find in the sites above can also be hand painted, if you are so inclined.

One tip I’d like to share is that many rain barrel makers/sellers suggest you attach a downspout to your rain barrel. This might drive potential customers away, as it starts to sound like a lot of work to install one. My approach was simpler. I placed it underneath a gutter and drilled a 1-inch hole in the bottom of the gutter, directly above the screened top of the rain barrel. Viola! No installation necessary.

One final tweek you might choose to do (optional, of course) is to drill a small hole just below the top of the rain barrel lid attachment. This hole will serve as an overflow. This way the overflow doesn’t come over the top, possibly lifting the screen out with it. That screen is important to keeping bugs from breeding in the water you collect. Since I live in Florida and our state bird is the mosquito, this is an important consideration. Those of you who reside out West may not be as concerned. Good luck in your rain barrel hunting, and PLEASE leave a comment if you find out anything interesting.
Tomorrow I have a surprise bargain-basement lunchbox to share with you, in the wake of concerns about the cost of the Bento-boxes, which are all the rage now. I found this and many other varieties of compartmented lunchboxes at Target, for less than a third of the cost of the popular Bentos I found online. Let's see what's out there that is within your budget.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Save Money with Over-Ripe Organic Fruit

Making Fresh Organic Fruit Sorbet

Sometimes when I go to the organic market,my eyes are bigger than our appetites for fruit. Don't get me wrong; we love fruit and eat a fair amount of it. But when I buy too much, it is painful to have it go bad, as much as it costs. Well, I've found the solution. I never ever throw away over-ripe fruit now. I make fresh fruit sorbet with it. Stay with me here. The great thing about it is that you don't have to eat it immediately, and it is loved by children and adults alike. Here's how it works:

  1. Juice your over-ripe fruit, each type individually, and place the juice in containers in the freezer. For bananas, switch from the screen filter to the solid plate, and save the pulp for recipes and baby food. If you like to use bananas for bread or muffins, just throw them in the freezer in their skins, and take them out as needed for baking. They come already wrapped up in nature's biodegradable packaging, and can mash easily when thawed.

  2. When frozen, you can retrieve the container if you need it, simply by removing the juice and wrapping it securely for the freezer. The juice will pop right out of most containers by simply running some water over the bottom of the container. Always be sure to label your frozen juices. They change color as they "age", so you may not recognize them later.

  3. Now you're ready to serve a fabulous, healthy dessert on a special occasion. Collect all the packages of fruit and make a menu list, if you're having a party.

  4. Offer all the flavors and take orders. You can serve each alone, or make mixtures, depending on the amounts of each that you have on hand. You can keep all your frozen juices stored in one large trash bag in order to keep track of the many containers of various frozen juices in your deep freezer.

  5. To make sorbet, slice frozen juice into 4-inch long, carrot-sized pieces and put the frozen juice through the juicer again. If you get orders for blends, such as raspberry-apple, mix appropriate amounts of those fruits ordered and make up bowls according to your orders.

  6. Serve immediately and soak up the compliments, while you pat yourself on the back for serving a tasty, healthy dessert at no extra cost. You used leftovers and it tasted great. Congratulations!

Tomorrow is Woofing Wednesday and, as always, I'll be sharing a couple of pup photos, this time of my wet Golden Retriever, Tanner, who loves tropical storm Fay and the rainy playground outside.

Back to business, I'll be sharing some websites where you can shop for rain barrels to collect and reuse the excess rain that falls from your roof during your rainy season. I have included quite a selection, so join me for some shopping and see how little effort it takes to collect and reuse rain water.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Always Room for Improvement

In my new-found quest to live more green, I have begun to occasionally have a defeated feeling in my gut when I look around at all that I have done in the past that is most certainly not GREEN, and cannot easily be undone. Today, it struck me that I was looking at the glass half-empty, rather than half-full, and I strolled around making a quick, mental list of the things we have done right, admittedly not even knowing it:

1. Our nearly 4-foot deep roof overhang protects our home from the Florida heat, helping us to use less energy to cool the house. This depth also provides refuge for the bushes around the home from some of the beating sun each day.

2. Following an energy audit, I did all of the improvements that were suggested, such as caulking windows, adding more insulation (the maximum), and insulating certain pipes for the air conditioner.

3. Rather than replacing our small hot water heater with a larger one for our family of 5, I chose to better manage our hot-water usage by scheduling its use throughout the day in order to make a smaller amount of hot water go further. At the time, I merely thought I was saving the cost of a hot water heater, but now I realize that I have saved much in electric cost to heat the extra water we would have used, had we continued to do laundry, dishes and showers all at night, as previously.

4. I have a rain barrel positioned at the rear corner of my house underneath a gutter downspout. That's it pictured above. Each time it rains, the barrel fills with rainwater, which I use to quench the thirst of my potted plants. My plants prefer the rainwater to tap (yucky chlorine!) and I save lots of water. (Yes, I have LOTS of potted plants) My rain barrel is painted with a beautiful nature scene and a picket fence—most adorable. I am often asked what it is and rarely have I met anyone who knew of them.

5. We have a Hot Tap installed near our air conditioner, which somehow (I’m clueless!) collects the hot water circulating out of the air handler and places it into the hot water heater to remain hot. This saves us the electrical expense of heating the water.

6. A few years ago when we did some work on the house, we added additional roof vents and a roof ventilation fan. This sucks hot air out of the attic and expels it through a vent, thereby maintaining a cooler attic which extends the life of the roof.

If you are interested in any of these ideas, I’ll be glad to tell you what I know. Feel free to comment below.

I feel better just finding a few things around here that don’t appear to be sucking the life out of our Earth. It does trouble me, though, that my list of goals to correct previous faux pas is soooo long. Such is life; there is always room for improvement. I'll work harder at seeing the glass half full.

Tomorrow's tips on eating organic are all about saving money by making use of your over-ripe fruit. I'll be making organic fresh-fruit sorbet. It's awesome; hope you'll join me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lazy Cook's Labor Day Organic Cookout

Toni's Favorite Organic

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

I have one great big problem with parties; I hate spending the whole time in the kitchen and missing out on all the fun. So, when I plan a party menu, I always design it around foods I can prepare ahead of time. Except for grilling, of course; that is the staple of the cookout. For that very reason, everything except the meat is prepared in the couple of days before the party, to assure that I get to enjoy the company, too. Here's my menu and my plan:

  • Barbecued Organic Chicken BreastsGrilled Applegate Farms Organic All-Beef Hot dogs (don't forget the buns, mustard, ketchup, etc.)
  • Organic Baked Beans
  • Cold Organic Vegetable Tray with Organic Ranch Dip
  • Iced Cold Organic Watermelon, Cantaloupe or Honey Dew Melon
  • Toni's Favorite Homemade Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • Homemade Organic Lemonade
  • Caledonaian Golden Promise Original Organic Beer

Shop for all ingredients 3 days prior to your cookout, to give you time to scout out anything that isn't available at your first or second favorite markets. My best tip for shopping before a party: Don't wait the weekend of the event; shoot for Thursday evening, if possible. Produce gets picked over on Friday evening and Saturday, so the early bird gets the worm. I always leave time to pick up a backup if something fresh or imperative is out of stock. Organic melons are probably the biggest challenge on this menu, but you can always substitute other fresh fruits and make a fruit salad. Mangoes, berries and peaches are plentiful in organic form right now in my area, so this will be my fruit salad if melons are a no-show. Last weekend I bought fabulous watermelon and cantaloupe at my local Whole Foods Market--mouth watering delicious!

Finally, my husband, the beer conniseur, did a taste test of several nationally-available organic beers, and the decision was a clear one. Hands down, he loved the Caledonian Golden Promise. I also found this at Whole Foods Market. Let us know what you think of his choice.

At least 2 days prior to my cookout, I prepare the baked beans and clean all the vegetables to create a tray or array of bowls of colorful finger veggies. Another small bowl of organic ranch dip will be placed in the middle. I'll share my baked beans recipe for serving 6; you can double or triple it if needed.

Carrie's Easy Organic Baked Beans

  • 2 15-oz. cans of organic baked beans, drained
  • 1/8 cup minced organic yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons organic brown sugar, OR
  • 1 tablespoon organic molasses
  • 1 tablespoon organic BBQ sauce
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon organic pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together well in an 8X8 Pyrex or Corning type glass pan, for refrigerator to oven without more dishes. Cover and refrigerate until the morning of the cookout. Remove from the refrigerator and bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees, uncovered.

On the day before the cookout, it's time to bake the cookies. Make a double batch because I'll guarantee you a lot will disappear that afternoon. I usually pack up enough for the party and store them hidden in my closet to keep from losing my whole dessert for a party. With 3 kids, I've had that happen before. They love the desserts!

Toni's Favorite Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 2 sticks organic butter
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup organic brown sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cups all purpose organic flour
  • 1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups organic oats
  • 1-1/2 cups jumbo raisins (I like Earthbound Farms Jumbo Premium Gourmet Raisins)
  • 1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place organic raisins in a heat resistant bowl and pour boiling water over them. Set aside. Cream the sugars and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs and beat well. Drain raisins and set aside in strainer or colander to continue draining. Combine all dry ingredients and add slowly to the bowl as you continue mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl inward. Stir the oats in by hand, combining well. Add raisins and continue to stir until evenly distributed. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes for medium large cookies in center of oven. Remove when bottom of cookies is golden brown and edges begin to crisp. Place the tray on a cooling rack for one minute, then remove cookies to the tray or to cool on several layers of newspaper spread on the counter. (Tip: Reusing newspaper saves you from having to buy lots of cooling racks for baking large batches of cookies; it helps absorb excess fat and heat--makes a good cooling medium).

NOTE: If you are pressed for time, you can substitute Better Bakes 100% Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They're not bad in a pinch.

Also on the day before the big event, cut up your fruit, with the exception of any that tend to discolor (peaches, nectarines, bananas,) and make a colorful bowl of fruit wedges or a fruit salad. Finally, make the lemonade tonight so it will be ice cold for tomorrow:

Carrie's Homemade Organic Lemonade

  • 1/3 cup organic lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best, but bottled will do)
  • 2/3 cup organic sugar
  • Filtered or bottled water to make 1/2 gallon (1 pitcher)

Stir together well and cover in refrigerator. Add a slice of lemon to the pitcher, or better yet to each glass, when you serve. You're almost ready...

On the morning of the cookout all you have to do is set up, bake the beans and find a volunteer grill tender. You can keep an eye on him occasionally, while still tending to your guests. Grill the chicken breasts on low heat, turning often, and basting them each turn with organic Italian dressing until they are nearly ready. Then slather them with yummy organic BBQ sauce a few times before serving. The hot dogs can go on the grill well after the chicken is started, as they won't take long.

Don't forget to bring out the cookies on a nice platter after the cookout. They are a perfect, healthy end to a delicious organic cookout. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Green Up Your Back to School Lunches with Creative Choices

Laptop Lunch Photo
Photo courtesy of

I'm going to give away my age here. When I was a young kid, lunch boxes were aluminum and came with an aluminum thermos. Sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper and placed inside with a bag of chips and an apple. We've come full circle now, sort of, and reusable lunch boxes are back in vogue. While brown bags are still a greener choice than plastic bags, since they are a renewable resource and don't pollute the environment like plastic, they don't protect our lunches, and so limit our choices. Those unpainted aluminum lunchboxes of the 1950's may not have been colorful, but they brought with them no lead paint worries. Checking out the lunchbox choices on the internet today, it appears that this is a concern for today's buyers, after a flurry of Chinese-made products have turned up with lead in them. I did find many, though, that were advertised as having been "verified" as lead-free. I know I'm being skeptical, but with no knowledge of how that was accomplished, I would be careful.

A particularly popular option is the space-saving Bento Box type lunch containers called Lunchopolis and Laptop Lunches, which provide tightly packed reusable containers of various sizes and boasts that it is "garbage-free". Some come with reusable drink containers, either made of BPA-free plastic or aluminum. These are now available in colorful reusable insulated bags which allow for a freezer pack to keep your lunch cold.

Another useful tool, for those of us who are trying to work toward more reusable products, is the Wrap N Mat, by Nubius Organics. This sandwich wrap is self-sealing, washable and reusable, which offers to save you and the environment much in discarded plastic wrap, zippy bags and even the waxed paper bags. Enough about the tools, let's get to the food.

With my kids' lunches, boredom was always a problem. Since they were generally picky eaters, my selection was limited and boredom was the result. If only I had the ideas then that I've learned recently. Let's break down a nutritious lunch into categories: protein sources, fruits and vegetables, dairy, snack items and beverages. The lunch box is looking pretty full already, but the key here is to think smaller portions and more variety in the box. This makes lunch look more like a feast, while your kids are getting more nutrition from the variety of selections you offer over the course of a week. Check these out:

Protein Sources

Organic lunch meats like those offered by Applegate Farms are in abundance. You can create a cool finger food by rolling 2 slices of organic salami or turkey up with a slice of organic provolone or Swiss. Not only does this look like fun to eat, but it smells enticing, which goes a long way toward killing that boredom. Wraps filled with organic meats and cheeses are also a fun replacement for the sandwich-doldrums and you can sneak in some organic lettuce and tomatoes to add to this nutritious and low-fat main course. Leftover grilled chicken strips are a money-saving leftover and tasty eaten cold, and can even be enjoyed with a dip of BBQ or honey-mustard sauce. Finally, organic beef jerky is high in protein and low in fat, and once again provides that much-needed variety to packed lunches.

Organic or natural nuts of all kinds are available in bulk at most healthier food stores, and can be packed in small quantities to add to the protein punch of a kid's lunch. Other things we often forget are easy-to-make and inexpensive, such as organic boiled eggs, organic yogurt (the drinkable kind is handy for lunches), and granola, which is great when sprinkled in the yogurt. A variety of organic cheese sticks and string cheese make a colorful, calcium and protein-rich lunch choice that is much healthier than the grilled cheese they might buy at the school cafeteria.

Finally, lest I forget, is the most popular sandwich of them all--peanut butter. In one of my earliest posts on this blog I made an all-call for a spreadable organic peanut butter. Since organic pb has to be refrigerated, it tends to become so rigid that spreading it on a slice of bread is nearly impossible. One creative idea was to warm the pb in the microwave for a few seconds before spreading, but this extra step when you're in a rush to make the bus, may be a concern for some. I have found a choice that works for us--Costco Organic Peanut Butter is extra soft to allow it to still be spreadable, even right out of the refrigerator. Last weekend's picnic finally was complete with organic peanut butter and I felt like a success. That had been one of my greatest challenges in turning my kitchen over to organic foods.

Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Organic apples and bananas are widely available now, even in many traditional supermarkets, but remember, we're working on variety, so weave in some other colorful and tasty vitamin-packed possibilities. Organic grapes, too, are becoming more available, in season, and are the ideal finger food for a kid's lunchbox. Organic melons are tougher to find in organic varieties, but when you do, the flavor will astound you. A small container of melon chunks is always a favorite sweet treat.

Organic or all natural dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, dates, and mango not only pack a lot of nutrients, but they are great to keep on hand for days when you're out of fresh items. Other similar choices are fruit leathers, individual apple sauces and the new Fruitabu Smooshed Fruit. Dried fruits and nuts in many varieties make a great trail mix, providing fiber, vitamins, protein and essential fatty acids--the good fat--for energy.

Vegetable sticks are most attractive to the picky eater when you can pack them in a colorful array, such a 1 or 2 french fry sized slices of organic carrot, celery, sweet peppers, cucumber, etc. Provide a ranch dip and they'll eat them "all gone". Of course, we can't forget the old standard peanut butter on celery and dill pickles.

On cold Winter days a wide-mouthed thermos of hot organic soup or stew might be a welcome change, or try putting a stuffed organic baked potato into one. This works well when the thermos has been warmed with hot water first, dried, and the potato is packed inside piping hot, with all its yummy broccoli, ham and cheese toppings--or whatever your youngster likes on his potato.

Crackers, Pretzels and Snack Items

No lunch for my kids was ever complete without the flour-based snack stuff, no matter how hard I tried to slip them an extra piece of fruit, they insisted on a Snyder's pretzel to eat after school on their way to sports practice. Snyder's now makes some organic pretzels; we like the honey wheat flavor the best. Fortunately there are more and more natural and organic choices in our healthy food shops today. I've even found a few better options I can share with you here.

Chunky pieces of granola, eaten as finger food, are popular with my clan, and one of my personal favorites for snacking while I work. Cereal and granola bars are popping up in organic form everywhere; there are dozens of choices in this category.

If you're watching your budget you might keep an eye on the leftovers for muffins, pancakes (roll them up with jelly spread on them), or other homemade breads. If you have a bread maker, this is a great tool to experiment with different organic recipes and provide you with more variety for the lunchbox snacks. I have a great recipe for House Special Organic Cinnamon Raisin Bread that can be found at Blake Bakes, where I am the official Organic Baker. This is an extra-special lunchbox treat for a special occasion like a birthday or an A on test.


This used to be a tough category when I was a child, but now we have freezer packs and wide-mouthed Thermoses, so the sky's the limit. Organic Yogurt, cheese slices and sticks, string cheese, cream cheese spread for muffins and breads, cheese dips and ranch dips for vegetables, kefir for a fruit dip, and even puddings and custard. All of these choices add extra Calcium for your child's growing bones and are high in protein. If you are watching your child's weight, this is the area for extra precaution. Choose low fat or reduced fat items, as dairy can pack a lot of grams of fat in a small serving. Watch the servings; one slice of cheese in a lunch is enough dairy. Save the yogurt for tomorrow when you pack the peanut butter and banana sandwich.


Thermos in hand, all you really need is some iced cold filtered water. I know, I kids weren't always big water drinkers either, except for at sports practice, when they guzzled the stuff like crazy. Tasty and healthy substitutions in the Thermos include juices, lemonade and milk, although the latter can be a tougher clean up. I'd suggest using milk packaged in "juice boxes", if your kids insist on milk, and of course, be sure there is a freezer pack inside the box to keep it cold.

Homemade organic lemonade is so quick and easy to make that even my kids mastered this at a young age. Recipe: Add 1/3 cup of organic sugar and, 1/3 cup of organic lemon juice to a 2 quart pitcher. Add filtered water to the top and stir. If your kids like lemonade varieties, try adding other juices for different flavors like raspberry or cranberry.

In the winter, if the kids complain about the cold drinks, switch it up to hot cider, hot herbal teas or even hot cocoa. Just be prepared with a bottle brush to get the Thermos extra clean.

Have a great school year, and remember: variety is the spice of life!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Woofing Wednesday Gets Purring

Woofing Wednesday is going in a little different direction today as my cat and rabbit have been left out of the photo ops. They're tougher to catch up with, but here they are: Patches the cat and Robby the Rabbit.

And speaking of left out, I haven't made much mention of my husband. This whole blog thing was actually his idea, although right now he may be wishing he had kept it under his hat. I'm living virtually, or virtually living on the computer...take your pick. Anyway, he called me from out of town today to give me a heads up on an article in USA Today , which turned out to hold a plethora of good stuff, the best of which I'll share here. Click this link to go to a wonderful, interactive visual of how you can save energy and live greener in each area of your home. They did a fabulous job with this and it really drives the point home with the great visuals. I'd love to hear from some of you on how you like this USA Today interactive thing. I'm getting a little geeky in how excited I get about some of this stuff, so keep me on track. Was it as cool as I thought? Leave me a comment, please.

Tomorrow is my Back to School lunch post. If you're into packing lunch for work or for the kids, join me for some ideas on making your lunches greener, healthier, more balanced and easier to pack up. Friday the Labor Day Cookout goes Organic when I'll bring you a traditional array of cookout foods in a healthier form. Hope to see you then.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Let's Save on Organics... the Warehouse Clubs!

While warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's and BJ's have always offered better than average prices on most products, organics are relatively new to their selection. I have found that my local Costco beats the prices of organics in most products they carry, though, so it is becoming worthwhile to make an occasional visit. That is, unless I have a GOOD coupon for the same product. Costco doesn't accept coupons.

The pro and the con of shopping warehouse clubs is buying larger quantities. By doing this, you reduce your need to shop for each item for a longer period of time. On the other hand, you have to store the extra product. So keeping this in mind, I've played with the various products that I prefer to buy at my local Costco, and here are my suggestions for making it work, even when the quantities are too large for your needs.

For starters, talk to your friends and find someone who has similar shopping size and desire to find cheaper organics. Most of us can find one friend who would like to save some money on their grocery bill by splitting some large portions of organic products. If you have a large family, and using up these quantities isn't an issue, this will be much easier for you. Now you can appreciate that big crew you get to cook for--no wasted food.

If you have a friend along to split some purchases, take a few extra minutes to cruise through all the aisles, looking for items you might both need, but not in such large amounts. For instance, on the non-organic list would be things like computer and school/office supplies: CD's, DVDR's, printer ink, printer paper, office pads, notebook filler paper, pens, pencils, markers, batteries, etc. While you have a friend or family member who is willing to share, go ahead and get stocked up for the new school year.

At this point, the pickings are still slim in organic foods and green products at my local Costco. So far there is just enough to encourage me to go in occasionally and stock up on the few items they have. I understand they are planning to expand their selections, so keep watching the aisles for more choices. Meanwhile, here are the types of foods I have been able to find, and how I handle the larger quantities.

As you probably know, when you buy a package of a dozen chicken breasts, unless you have a really large family, you can't just toss it in the freezer or eat it before it spoils. You must freeze the food in packages that work for your family. I borrowed this idea from Costco's own freezer section: They have frozen chicken breasts that aren't stuck together, so you can take the number you need out of a bag and leave the rest in the freezer. I accomplish this with minimal extra packaging (Goal #1: Create as little additional waste packaging as possible in order to save paper and reduce plastic use, and Goal #2: Save money by reducing repackaging) by placing pieces of meat on a cookie tray to freeze separately. After frozen I put them all into a large, reusable container, from which I can periodically take out whatever amounts I need. This way I haven't spent anything extra in packaging all that meat again. Another savings in using this method is that I don't overcook just because a package has an extra chicken breast in it that is frozen with the ones I need. Some foods get eaten as leftovers, and other don't. Let your family's eating habits guide your packaging.

Costco's whole organic chickens tend to run a bit small for most families. They come in bags of 2, separately wrapped, so you can use them one at a time if you have a small family, or cook two or more, if needed. This is great, actually--gives you more flexibility.

Be sure to visit the dry goods, canned goods, cereal and snack aisles for cereal, dry fruits and nuts, granola bars, etc. They do have some all natural versions. When you open the large bags, repackage in airtight, reusable containers so they'll stay fresh. Large bags of crackers, nuts, etc. go stale so easily that it can be a huge waste when one bag goes bad. That blows all the saving you earned with this shopping trip.

Here's a time saving storage tip. For those items that will be used primarily for school lunches and on-the-go snacks, go ahead and package them in small, reusable containers or waxed paper bags. Most organic food stores carry Natural Value waxed paper bags, pictured above. These are a much greener choice than Zipper bags or plastic wrap. Roll the opening shut and either tape or rubber band them shut to stay fresh. Then, for added shelf life, place all the bags in a large reusable container (dare I say Tupperware?).

I am pleased to see all the organic fruits and vegetables that are trickling in to my Costco. The only problem is the large quantities you have to buy. Can your friend split some of these with you? Especially the vegetables that you will only eat fresh, that can't be frozen or cooked (like Romaine, for instance).

There is one really great solution for those items you can't share--juicing. I bought a juicer and found that this is a great way to use up over-ripe vegetables and fruits. More on this in a later post.

I know that all of you out there probably have more ideas on making the big-volume purchases work at the warehouse clubs. Share with us, please! I'd love to hear your tips, so please drop me a comment. Maybe you'll be lucky and win the free reusable Chicobag that I'm giving away in a drawing for comments.

Thursday's tips will focus on organic and all-natural choices for packing those back-to-school lunches. Labor Day is just around the corner, so Friday I'll be planning an organic Labor Day cookout. Entertaining my way has one very important criteria. I have to be able to prepare almost everything in advance so I can enjoy the party too. If you're with me on that, check in on Friday and see what I have in store for you--recipes and all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Part II: Organic Journey Online Visitor's Tour

Become a
Certified Blog Navigator

with Organic Journey Online's

Visitor's Tour

Welcome back to my blog tour. Today we'll have some fun playing with my toys. Just to the right of the headline above, in the narrow column we call a sidebar, you'll see an orange square with curved lines in it and the words "Subscribe to my feed". This is the RSS icon, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. If you have already set up an RSS Reader, you know how much this widget can help you. RSS Readers are internet tools that bring a synopsis of your own selected news, blogs, and web content right to your e-mail each day. No more typing in website addresses or looking through your favorites for the links. We'll call these commercials for news because they just give you a couple of lines to tell you enough to know whether you want to read the rest. You simply click to expand the post and read it. I've written a post on how to set this up at Free and Easy Subscribing to Organic Journey Online. Just click this link and follow my instructions. It takes about 10 minutes or so to set up, and then you can explore what else you'd like to receive in your Reader, or come back and do this later. Everyone should do this; it is so awesome!

Below the RSS icon are some more widgets, and I'll be adding more as time goes along. There are more that should be there, but not enough time to get it all set up. You're patient, right? Since this tour is for beginners, I'll simply explain the Blog Catalog button. This is another search engine, which only searches blogs, for whatever content you ask for. They can crawl the web finding eco-friendly, environment and green blogs, or any other theme or subject you happen to be interested in. Clicking this button will take you there to search for whatever you're looking for in a blog. You should test it sometime to see what you can turn up. Surely there is something you're interested in, and no doubt there is someone writing a blog about that topic. It is a great way to get information and ask questions from someone with experience in your particular interest.

If you're involved with Technorati or Digg (news/social networks), you'll know what to do with these buttons. If not, don't worry about them. Underneath them is the blog author identification--my profile (About Me)--which just tells you a tidbit or two about me. No mysteries here, except maybe my age. I don't want any comments about that. Got it?!

Underneath my profile is another widget called the Eat Well Guide. I love this one because it does a lot in just a few seconds. Type your zip code in the white box and click submit. You'll be given a list of organic stores, farmers markets, restaurants, caterers, etc. in your immediate area within seconds. If you like this and want to send it to a friend, just click the little envelope icon underneath it and you can type in their e-mail address.

My Blog List is pretty self explanatory. Each listing is a blog--duh--and a link. Click the link to visit that blog. Under the link is the title of the most recent post on that blog. This title will give you a hint as to the theme of the blog, although I think you already know they are all organic and green themes. Some are a bit more techhie than I need, but I always find some sort of fun gadget to learn about, so they're sort of like playtime to visit. This is what I do when I'm tired of writing and researching. My true Blog List is in my RSS Reader and it is much longer, so I suppose I should put some more of those in this list. After all, you deserve to see what I'm reading that might interest you. I'll put that on my To Do List....for January. Meanwhile, each time you stop in, try to find a minute to peruse this Blog List to see what's playing. Sometimes I see something I've been meaning to look up and I save a lot of time in sorting through searches. Try it now if you have time.

Now you get to have some fun. Under My Blog List is a bank of videos (they rotate occasionally), provided by Youtube on organic and green topics. Just point your mouse at the video and you'll be able to view the title clearly. I get a kick out of the guy in the Organic A to Z video on apples. For those of you who know me personally, you know I have the worlds' largest collection of apples. Gregory Shafer makes organic videos and shows you how to cook a couple of recipes on each video he does. He is highly energetic; some of you might turn him off while watching because of that, but he is rather funny.

To watch a video, simply click and your video viewer will load it and play. The videos aren't long, and you can click the "I'm done watching this" button anytime you are ready. I'm working on getting a video in here that talks about organic farmers, farming and such. The farmer gives the presentation and I love to hear his simple, down-to-earth explanation of the whole process. I suppose I'll get it on there eventually. I think that is on my February To Do List.

The next item in the sidebar is my Recommended Reading list. These are books I have read or have purchased and plan to read soon, soon being relative to the infamous To Do List. My favorite is The Hundred Year Lie, by R. Fitzgerald. This book will enlighten you to my cause and give you plenty of motivation to join in the journey.It's a quick and smooth read--not too techhie--and you'll learn a TON. Put that on YOUR To Do List.

Just two more elements and we're done. This next item is the Archive of my previously written posts. The easiest way to access a topic you'd like to hear more about is to use the next and final element in the sidebar, the Label list. Labels are alphabetized, and are links that will take you to posts that include that topic. Just click and it will locate a post on your chosen subject and bring it up on the screen in the post column. Cool, huh? The number in the parentheses tells you how many posts have this topic.

Before I wrap up I want to include a typical posting schedule (Monday-Friday), as promised in Part I of the tour:

  • Mondays: Misceallaneous organic and green topics and blog stuff (like this tour)
  • Tuesdays: Organic food tips
  • Wednesdays: Woofing Wednesday opens with a photo of one of my furry family members and a link to a particularly worthy website that I'd like to share with you.
  • Thursdays: Green Tip-Toes ae simple, 10-minute things that you can do to live greener.
  • Fridays: Food Fridays are just that--all about organic food

If you've read this whole post and tried the various widgets and buttons, subscribed to Organic Journey Online on your Reader, then you are officially a Certified Blog Navigator. Congratulations! If you have any questions about any of this, no matter how minor, PLEASE write to me and ask. Just click that COMMENT button just under this post and leave me a message. I'll be happy to explain anything that didn't make sense. Remember, every time you leave a comment, your name is placed in a drawing for a free Chicobag reusable shopping bag. So think up a question or simply introduce yourself and fire away. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The All American Organic Hot Dog Contest

And the Winner Is...

Applegate Farms
Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

Labor Day is coming up and this is the first one since I've been hard at work on eating organic. Hot dogs are part and parcel of a cookout for me, so the search has been on for a while. I've gathered opinions and suggestions from others and been all over town trying the brands I could get locally.

I wanted an all-beef hot dog that would grill without the skin separating and getting all bubbly, like so many I have tried. And of course, there is flavor. It needed to taste like my all-time favorite Oscar Mayer all-beef hot dog. That was a tall order. I was a motivated taste tester, though, and dedicated, too. I tasted many different brands personally, and got lots of yays and nays from other testers who were willing to help. All the votes were tallied and the results are in. The majority vote went to Applegate Farms, and I have found them at Whole Foods Market. They aren't as close to me as I'd like, but I'll deal with that. Taste and grill-ability (have I coined a new phrase?)are paramount.

Another motivation is that with Labor Day around the corner, I need to pull together a Labor Day Cookout post. This cookout has to be organic and healthy, yet also be the essence of the celebration cookout. And there is one more criteria: I have to be able to prepare most of the food ahead, in order to enjoy socializing with the cookout guests. Here is the menu; hope you'll join me for some cookout recipes, starting Friday, August 22.

  • Grilled Organic BBQ Chicken
  • Grilled All Beef Organic Hot Dogs
  • Organic Baked Beans
  • Cold Organic Vegetable Tray with Organic Ranch Dressing
  • Organic Watermelon, Cantaloupe or Honeydew Melon
  • Homemade Organic Lemonade
  • Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I suppose my husband would say this menu is missing some brew. I'll put him in charge of scaring up some local organic beer. I'm clueless and not really a fan. Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Official Organic Journey Online Visitors' Tour: Part I

Toni and Oliver (see him peeking out of her purse?) are here to help you along the way through this blog tour. They are your destination. Here is how it works: I'll point you to a few places in the blog to check out, so you'll know what they are and how to use them. When you get to the very bottom of the blog, you'll find this photo of Toni and Oliver. That's when you know you're just about to the bottom. Just about.

Before I begin, let me apologize for neglecting my usual Thursday Green Tip-Toe post: Things you can do in 10 minutes to live more green. I've been hearing from a few of you that blogs are a foreign concept and needed some explaining, so I decided to educate you a bit. That will make following my posts and using my site much easier. After all, you can live more green ONLY if you can read more about it, so I guess this qualifies as a green tip-toe.

Let's get started. Our first stop is the home page where you arrive when you type in our name, . You'll notice that the date of each post is located at the left, so you can see when it landed there. For those of you who are really beginners, a post is simply an article, much like a newspaper column. Most posts within one blog are themed to the blog's content, although there may be an occasional variation. My blog's theme is eating organic and living more green, but I wander a bit by including photos of my furry family just to lighten things up a bit--increase the fun factor.

At the end of each an every post on Organic Journey Online, you will find 2 lines that say the following:

Posted by Carrie Boyko at 6:00AM 2 COMMENTS (an icon of a white envelope)Labels: organic, green, green living,

In the middle of the first line of the above is a key word: COMMENTS. This is where you can have your say about this post. Send me a message on your thoughts or questions. Whatever you have to say about this post's topic, this is the place to do it. Just click the word COMMENTS and you're off to the horses. A magical box will appear. Put your cursor inside it and talk to me. I really want to hear from you. One person told me that their COMMENT link doesn't show up in purple on their computer. It doesn't really matter what color your computer displays the link in; just click it. The white envelope icon which appears next to the comment link is exactly what you think it is. Click this and you can send my post to whomever you like. Just type in your e-mail address and theirs, and there is even a place to include a note to them. Again, it is very easy to share my posts this way, so please spread the word if you read something you know someone else would enjoy reading.

The second line at the bottom of each post begins with the word Labels. These are there partly to help search engines locate content for searches. They can also be a magic carpet ride for you, the reader, straight to the topic you click. Again, I'll cover this in Part II when I talk more about labels.

A basic rule of format for blogs is that the first post in any blog is the most recent. Just like newspaper columnists, bloggers usually follow a schedule. Some post weekly, some daily--anything goes. Following the final post that appears in the post column there is a link to Older Posts. If you click this it will recall posts written just prior to those you have just viewed and you can read a new batch. This is sort of like picking up a stack of older newspapers and playing catch up on your favorite column. A complete Blog Archive (sometimes called a Library or another similar name), which contains blogs written before those shown, appears in the right sidebar. We'll get to that is Part 2 of the tour.

As you scroll downward through the various posts, they will have earlier and earlier dates on them, and finally you will come to the last one. That is where you will find the link to Older Posts.

Something standard with my blog provider is the link for a subscription to my posts through Atom. Atom is another "reader" which provides you with my posts in your e-mail. I have never used Atom, so you're on your own if you decide to use this instead of the one that follows it:

Subscribe to RSS


All Comments

We'll cover RSS Monday in Part II of this tour, where I will show you how to use the fun widgets and links in the right sidebar of the blog. This is much more fun than simply reading my posts; you get to play with the toys in my toy box. Now you have arrived at your destination--Toni and Oliver's photo. Just under this photo is a list of my Upcoming Posts. This is just for promo, to let readers know what's coming up soon. The visit counter, as of this writing, says I've had 525 visitors since I launched Organic Journey Online on July 4, 2008. If you're really hard core you can read my disclaimer, but I warn you it is thoroughly boring, although I would guess that my eldest son, an attorney, would say it is not thorough. I'll just make this very clear; he did not write the disclaimer. It basically says I don't claim to be an expert and if you need an expert, go ask one. Due diligence done.
Please join me tomorrow when we tour the really fun stuff, and leave me a comment, now that you know how. For each comment, I'll enter you in the drawing for a free reusable Chicobag. The drawing will be September 1.
Monday I'll wrap up the blog tour and include a schedule. Tuesday I'll be offering some ways to get the most out of your warehouse shopping trips (Costco, Sam's, BJ's) for organic products. Grab a friend to shop with and don't forget the reusable shopping bags.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tanner and the Green Maven

Tanner in Fabulous Fetching Form

Fascinating information in over the weekend: My theme for Wednesday is called "Woofin" Wednesday because I open with a photo of one of my dogs (or other pets; I know. It's a menagerie here) Now it seems there could be a tie in to my site's focus of organic eating and green living. One of my sons just returned from backpacking Europe and during his travels he met some young ladies who were headed for Canada to do some "woofin". Turns out this is an acronym for Working On an Organic Farm. Amazing the things I'm learning in passing. I wish I could tell you more, but I got few details. Apparently, though, there is an interest in summer internships in WOOFIN for agriculture majors at universities. I guess that makes sense, and it does my heart good to know there are students out there thinking about farming in better, more sustainable ways. I'll see what I can find out and report back later.

Recently, I've been having some fun toddling around Green Maven, a green search engine with much to offer. Click the link and have a look. As I mentioned yesterday, I discovered there that there is such a thing as a composter for dog poop. That may seem an unsavory subject, yet at my house this could be quite useful. I put this on my "To be Investigated List", which is getting quite long.

Thank you to those of you who commented on recent posts. I enjoy hearing from you and hope that in the future you will find time to give me some real feedback. I'd like to get some conversations going here among the readers and see a Forum emerge. We'll make that a long term goal, and I'll need lots of help from you to do it. Take a stab at it; I'll respond.

Join me tomorrow for a mini tour of the blog. I hope to show you around rather like a home tour--peek in the closets and figure out where the water heater is. After reading tomorrow's post you will all be experts in navigating most blogs. I hope you'll drop in for the tour.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Organic Coupons, Coupons, Coupons....and Raisin Bread

Are you drooling over this picture? If you're a raisin bread lover, this is the ultimate. I made it over the weekend for a post on another blog, Blake Bakes, where I have been invited to contribute monthly organic recipes. I guess you could say that I'm the official organic baker for the blog. If you're interested in the recipe, just click the link and you'll be there.

Sample Coupon from Organic Valley Farms

My last coupon post was one of my most popular, so here it comes again. A number of these listings have more than just food, so have some fun, while saving some money. You can do a little good for the economy with that tax rebate you got; go for it!

Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt

Organic Valley Farms - Coupons
(also their sister company, Organic Prairie Meats has coupons on this site)

The Organic Wine Company Coupons
Receive 20% off your order of organic wine

Tees for Change 40% off organic cotton tee shirts and jewelry; Their site says "You buy a tee; we plant a tree"

Organic Coupons(Includes MANY national brands like Seventh Generation Household Products)

Savings Coupons for Natural or Organic Foods - ...

How to Find Coupons for Organic Food: CoolSavin...

Organic Food Coupons - Blog

Green Coupons for Just about everything to live green

Hot Coupon World - Threads Tagged with organic

Printable Coupons for Organic Products - Wise B...

Free Organic Coupon Codes Online

If these coupon collections are as useful to you as they have been to me, I could make this a regular post, maybe once a month or more. Give me some input on what you'd like to find savings on and I'll get my "search engines" going. The purple COMMENT link is just under the last line of the post, so PLEASE leave me a comment or two on your thoughts. I would really like to get some dialogue going, but first we need some comments to kick start the conversation. Who's up for the challenge?
What's up next? Tanner, my Golden Retriever, will be heading up the post tomorrow, showing off his jumping prowess. He is quite the pool "fetcher". Following Tanner's photo I'll share a green search engine with you, so you can do some of your own poking around. I really enjoy some of the fascinating things that I come upon. Last week's biggest find was a composter for dog poop. I got a charge out of that, since I have 3 dogs, so I'll have to investigate.
Friday I'm thinking about giving you a little blog primer, a sort of tour of what's typically found on a blog and where. There are some components of this blog that you may not have noticed, and this mini-tour will help you locate some fun things to explore. Mind you, I'm really new at this. I've read a couple of books and just launched Organic Journey Online on July 4, so you'll be patient if I leave out any pertinent details, right?!! Comments, comments, comments!
In case you are wondering, the peanut butter reviews, as well as the great American organic hot dog search are all still in motion. So stay with me to see which products come out on top. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Part V: 1 Organic Hen = 3 Family Meals

Hearty Organic Chicken & Vegetable Soup

with Corn Muffins

Skip your Multi-Vitamin today

There's a ton of nutrients in this soup

Lots of Vegetables to Shop for

Welcome to Organic Journey Online and our fifth and final episode of 1 Organic Hen = 3 Family Meals. This has been an exercise in stretching our food budgets to allow us to eat healthier; I call it organic math. So far, we have made 2 meals with the 1 organic hen; this will be the third and final meal. We roasted a whole hen with vegetables and made chicken and rice with some of the leftover chicken meat, and broth that was made from the carcass. Today, with the remaining 2 cups of chicken meat, and the homemade organic broth (thawed) , we are going to make the heartiest chicken and vegetable soup you've ever tasted. I guarantee it!
You know how the story goes. A neighbor or family members gets sick and Mom or Grandma makes chicken soup for them. Well, this is my version of a hearty chicken and vegetable soup. There are so many vitamins and antioxidants in this stuff, it ought to kill just about anything that ails you.

In my effort to cut time out of the cooking process, I have tried 2 organic corn muffin mixes from my local organic stores. You can play with their directions if you like, by adding a little cooked corn to the batter, extra sugar for muffins, or a few minced jalapeno peppers, for those of you who like your cornbread with a kick. Our favorite brand so far has been Dr. Oetker Organics. Preheat your oven and get your cornbread mixed up and ready to go in the oven before you turn on the soup. This should make your timing just about right to have warm bread with hot soup. Mmm Mmm good. Oops, did I say that? Campbell's soup probably has a voodoo doll made up to look just like me. Ha!

Here are the ingredients that I am using. Don't forget to soak and wash them well before cutting and cooking. (You can select other favorite vegetables, if you like):

  • 1 head organic celery hearts, sliced thin

  • About 2 quarts of organic chicken broth (more if you made more)

  • Remaining cut up chicken, about 2 cups

  • 2 medium organic yellow onions, chopped

  • 1 small head of organic cauliflower, stems removed and all separated into small pieces

  • 1/2 pound organic green beans or pole beans, snapped into small pieces for soup

  • 4 ears organic corn, cut off the cob

  • 1 small head organic cabbage, shredded or chopped fine

  • 4-6 organic carrots, cleaned and shredded

Place the broth in a large pot and heat to a boil. Add the chicken and all the vegetables, except the cabbage and lower the heat to medium low for 3-5 minutes. Finally stir in the finely shredded cabbage and replace the cover. Turn off the heat. The objective is to keep some crispness in the vegetables and not cook all the vitamins out of them.

Serve with warm cornbread or corn muffins for a wonderful comfort-food type meal, especially on a rainy or cold day. Leftovers make a easy lunch for tomorrow, even packed in a thermos for work or school. I hope you have enjoyed this money-saving series on making 3 meals with 1 hen. There is a bonus in this for you; you will probably have about a half dozen bowls of soup left over. I like to put some in the freezer and some in the refrig for quick lunches or easy dinners on those crazy nights when you have a meeting or other event. Either way, you'll come out way ahead.

Your comments in the COMMENT link below would be helpful and appreciated. Remember that every comment puts your name in a drawing for a free cloth shopping bag. The drawing will be held on September 1. Good luck!

I don't normally post on the weekends, but this weekend was special. I was invited to post an organic recipe on a cooking blog called Blake Bakes. My HOUSE SPECIAL Organic Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread is a special occasion recipe for holidays, company, gifts, etc. If you are a lover of raisin bread, this stuff is definitely for you; it can be likened to a cinnamon roll--so rich and delicious it is almost sinful. I hope you'll click the recipe link to this post and check it out.

Join me tomorrow for a Colossal Coupon Collection. I've been trolling the web for deals, steals and free meals for you. I trust you will find something useful in the collection I'll post tomorrow. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Part IV: Organic Math: 1 Hen = 3 Family Meals

Organic Chicken & Rice with Broccoli and Mango Raspberry Fruit Salad

Welcome back to all of you have been following this series on how to make 3 meals with one organic chicken. With budgets getting tighter and organic foods being a bit more expensive, money-saving techniques like this can help your food budget go just a bit farther. So far, we have roasted a hen with yummy vegetables and made homemade organic broth. Just click the links find the recipes. Today we are using half of the leftover chicken from the hen to make chicken and rice. I got 4 cups of chicken, so I am using 2 cups for this recipe, and saving 2 cups for the soup. I have selected broccoli as a vegetable and a simple fruit salad of mango and raspberries. They are a wonderful combination.

My old chicken and rice recipe included garlic, salt, minced carrots, onions and a tiny bit of sugar to inspire the flavors. Today I decided to continue with my time-saving cooking mode of late and use a USDA Organic packaged seasoned rice mix. I am finding my days getting longer and my time for cooking getting shorter since I started this blog, so I'll be exploring ways to reduce the time in the kitchen and still come up with tasty, healthy meals. You can use any chicken and rice recipe that you like, just substitute the broth for the water in the recipe. The flavor will improve tenfold.

This experiment went well. I picked up Rice Select's Organic Texmati Light Brown Rice Mix in Roasted Chicken & Herb flavor at my local Whole Foods Market. The ingredient list sounded similar to my old, more time-consuming recipe, so I took the plunge. It definitely did not taste like our old favorite, but my family all cleaned their plates and liked it, so I consider that a success. I can best describe it as rich in herb flavor--quite tasty and equally as easy. Just add the provided rice and seasoning to 1 1/2 cups of the homemade broth and a tablespoon of butter or oil. After it boils, simmer for 20 minutes, stir in the chicken after warming it up (are you up for using the microwave?) and let sit a few minutes to thicken. It was great, and a nice complement to the broccoli and fruit salad, all of which I found easily in the organic section of my neighborhood grocery store. This enjoyable dinner took only 35 minutes from start to finish; that's my kind of cooking!

I visited the Rice Select's website and found quite a surprising selection of recipes and products. Unfortunately their coupon offerings were "shut down", but I have sent an e-mail requesting that they put some coupons on the site. Let's hope it works.

Monday I'll be making Chicken and vegetable soup. Once again, I am going to test an organic version of a packaged corn muffin mix, rather than from scratch. I'll be your guinea pig and test them, if you like, and you can make the homemade bread. If you have a good recipe, send it to me; I love corn bread and corn muffins.

We like a hearty soup, so I use LOTS of vegetables. My shopping list for this entire 3-meal series is on my post dated August 1, so if you missed it and would like to join in, this is where you will find it: Organic Math: 1 Hen = 3 Family Meals.

Finally, next Tuesday's post will be a Coupon Collection. The last time I did this, the post was quite popular, so I've searched the web again and have another bunch for you to print and save with. If you have any suggestions or questions, please click the purple COMMENT link just below this and leave me a message. Making a comment will put your name in a drawing to be held on September 1 for a free Chicobag cloth shopping bag. Thanks for commenting!
I don't normally post on Saturdays, but this weekend is different. I've been invited to feature an organic recipe on BlakeBakes. This first post will be a recipe for my favorite organic cinnamon raisin swirl bread. This is a special occasion recipe for holidays, company, gifts, etc. If you are a lover of raisin bread, this stuff is definitely for you; it is positively decadant. The recipe will appear on Saturday. Hope you will drop by and see it; just click the raisin bread link above. Have a great weekend.
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