Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Green New Year

Ahhh! It's New Year's Eve and I'm celebrating. Not in the way you might think, though. We finally got around to teaching Tanner to catch a Frisbee. Notice his great vertical form. We should call him Air Tanner!

Tomorrow starts a new year and I've got a list of far too many resolutions. I'm having trouble deciding which to put off until next year. Perhaps I'll pare them down by making each goal a bit less lofty. Yes; I think that strategy has promise. Instead of trying to live 100% green by next month, I'll work at baby steps each week. Rather than eating 21 meals a week that are totally organic, I'll shoot for eating 90% organic when I eat at home.

Okay, now I'm on a roll. I'd like to continually improve each of my goals, but stress is an issue I can't ignore. It plays heavily into my health. I need to consider this when I think about bigger goals. There is always a trade off.

I once wrote a post about diluted organics. The short version is that I coined a term, diluted organics, to mean roughly the same as all-natural foods--those which aren't grown organically, but do not contain the synthetic additives I loathe. Many such foods and personal care products are available when I cannot find true organics to take their places. I'll be keeping a sharper eye out for these possibilities this New Year, as I ease my standards, while still looking for healthier options. Diluted organics are better than traditionally grown foods by a long shot.
I feel better now that I've let go of some of my mandatory organics goals. I guess sometimes we just need to be a little less anal about our goals, in order to give ourselves a chance to be successful with less-difficult-to-achieve ones. Like Tanner, I need to kick up my heels and have some fun. Now there's a good goal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recycle Your Holiday Packaging & Cards

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Have you got a mound of wrapping paper and other materials like mine? Here's a few ways you can reuse or recycle that mountain, instead of sending it to the landfill:
  • Place acceptable recyclable paper in your recycle bin for pickup.
  • Compost your paper and paperboard boxes that do not have glossy print on them.
  • Place bows and ribbons in one box to reuse for future packages. Store this with your wrapping supplies so you'll remember that you have them.
  • Save, and nest for storage, all reusable boxes and gift bags.
  • Fold and reuse tissue paper that isn't crumpled beyond use.
  • Save Christmas cards to use for gift tags next year; you probably won't need to buy any more ever again, if you use this idea each year. Here's what I do. Find a suitable box or basket to hold all your supplies. Place inside all your holiday cards, a hole puncher, some string or leftover ribbon pieces, tape and scissors. Keep this near your TV viewing area. Whenever you are watching your favorite programs (Lost, anyone?) you can clip and tie your labels for next year. Check out some samples above.
  • Save all bubble wrap, foam peanuts or popcorn and other protective wrapping that can be reused for mailing or packaging breakables.
  • If you have too much leftover foam peanuts or popcorn, check with nearby pack-n-ship stores. They often will take bags of it for reuse.
  • Place your Christmas tree out at curbside for pickup in time to become post-Christmas mulch.
  • If you strung popcorn, this can be composted also. Pat yourself on the back. This is a very eco-friendly decoration.
  • I've saved a large stack of boxes to be used in place of a counter top compost container. With all these boxes, why buy a $70 container that cannot be composted along with the food inside? When I fill each box, I just drop it into the compost pile. The box serves as brown matter, so my balance is maintained. I hate to admit it, but from Christmas alone, I probably have enough boxes to last me a couple of months. Wow!
  • One last idea that kind of a sidebar: Check your envelopes and packages from overseas for foreign postage stamps. Children often love to save these. You can easily remove them with a razor knife and glue them into an album. Don't forget to date them and label them with the country they came from. It also might be fun to include the card on the same album page.

Got more ideas? I'd love to hear them. Drop me a COMMENT below at the link. See you tomorrow to talk about your green New Year's goals. Got those resolutions written yet?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Helping Those Less Fortunate

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

One of the holiday activities of years past that most affected our children was taking them to feed the homeless during Christmas week. It was cold and damp. The floor where the homeless people had to sleep was cold and hard, even with the thin mats to insulate them. There did not appear to be any heat.


When we arrived, the line of people waiting to get in for a meal was around the whole building. There was security to watch us go in, yet I soon learned it seemed unnecessary. What we saw there surprised us all. A group of 400 plus men and women, all waiting in line quietly, and then taking their plates with joy. Not just for their own full stomachs. They were wishing US a Happy New Year. Their pleasure in receiving a warm meal and a safe place to sleep was just as joyous as ours would have been to stay at the Ritz Carlton. To them, their needs were met for this one night, and that was their goal.


Yesterday I wrote a bit about goals, actually New Year's Resolutions, which are basically goals in with a fancy name. That doesn't often give them more priority, though. Thinking about my Resolutions and about the times we have gone to feed the homeless, I realized how different their goals would be, if written on paper. I can envision:


The Short Term Goal List:


Find the energy to look for daily work

Get a warm coat from Salvation Army

Save enough of daily laboring income to take the bus back to the homeless center to sleep and eat.

The Long Term List:


Get a job, any regular job

Find a place to live that is within walking distance of a bus stop


Do you see a Wii, Hollister jeans or Gucci handbags on this list? No, you don't even see health insurance or dental care there, because most homeless Americans cannot even dream of having these luxuries. If you do, count yourself among the lucky. Count your blessings and do something--anything--to help.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Before You Hit the Sales...

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

...make your New Year's Resolutions. I have found in the last couple of years, that the deep discounts on the day after Christmas brought a crazy person out of me--one who wanted to snag too many good buys. Sure, I saved money. But I ended up with some things that did not necessarily fit into my goals for the New Year. Especially last year, when I was just beginning to move toward living a bit greener. I was wet behind the ears, and hadn't yet had the lesson on simplifying my life and minimizing my purchases. I wasn't composting my trash or working harder at Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

This year, I'm already drafting that New Year's Resolution list. It is getting a bit long, though. I'll have to prioritize and limit the list to things that are more do-able. Reducing pressure is part of my health management plan, so I can justify limiting the things on my Resolutions list. I encourage you to do the same; think before you shop.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Live and Let Live

© photo copyright Save the Children, copied from wrapping paper

I have to admit that I really hate politics. Is there a genuine politician out there anywhere? Probably, but I am not sure how to recognize one, so that complicates things. I am glad that the Presidential election is over, and hopeful that our new President will be able to begin to move us toward prosperity again.

So, why am I writing today? Christmas Day, such a significant holiday for much of the world, is supposed to be all about peace and harmony. Politics is all about conflict, and I suppose that is why I hate it. I am a live and let live sort of person. I respect your beliefs, values and opinions, and in turn hope that you will respect mine. I'll admit I may not always be right (ask my kids!), but my heart is in the right place.

We are all different. Watch any Jerry Springer show, or one of the TV judge shows and you'll quickly see how different we all are. Yet if you look deep into almost anyone's soul, there is always something redeeming lingering there. Give everyone a chance to earn your respect, if only for one small part of who they are. That's enough to start. We all need to give each other a chance to live and let live. Respect--this will bring harmony to the world. Merry Christmas to you and your families.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Operation Christmas Turkey Roast


It's Woofing Wednesday, and as usual I'm including a pup photo. This is my day to share the antics of my furry family, and along with it a website that offers lot of info on something useful to those of us who are trying to live more green or cook and eat organic. Today's photo is not one of my own, but another yellow lab. The photo is appropriately captioned for Christmas Eve, so I couldn't resist using it.


It's Christmas Eve and I'm busy making last minute preparations for the big day. Below I'll include some links from my Thanksgiving Turkey preparation, as well as another great website for you to get answers to any remaining turkey questions. This other website doesn't necessarily focus on organic, but certainly has a lot of information on various cooking methods, etc. If you're looking for details, this is this place.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I am taking the time to write an essay for Christmas Day. If you get a chance, pop in and read it. Comments are welcome, as always. I hope to see you after Christmas for a brief discussion on New Year's Resolutions. Have a great holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Dinner Recipes to Make Ahead


Last Minute Shopping for Christmas Dinner

As you may already know, I'm all about getting the preparation done before the company arrives. I like to have time to talk and catch up with everyone. It is hard to do that if they all have to follow me into the kitchen. And then there's the other little problem. When I get talking and cooking at the same time, I get ADD, and make a mistake. Oops! I can't afford to do that when I'm cooking for 12 or more.
Tomorrow I will bring you some Turkey preparation links, but for today, I'm following through with a full supply of side dishes you can prepare in advance. I'm also including the tart recipe, although I don't recommend that you make that ahead. My suggestion is put the pies/tarts in the oven just before you start prepping the turkey. You want that crust to be nice and crispy, not soft, when you serve it later.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning: Sounds like a typo, huh? I'm just throwing this in to get your grocery list started. Everyone loved the Caledonian Golden Promise Organic Beer. It was a big hit. Our most popular wine choice was the Sustainable Red, a California wine from 2005. You can check them out at Sustainable Red. Our understanding from the wine clerk was that this is winery is basically organic, but without the official certification. He highly recommended it, so we tried it. Everyone loved it.
As for other wines, we tried Sterling Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay. It wasn't stellar, but definitely enjoyable. We're still exploring the organic wines and would love to hear from you if you have a favorite. Please drop me a COMMENT at the end of the post, by clicking the COMMENT link. Thanks for your input.

Green Dinnerware: If you're short on dishes, these are some options that are eco-friendly.

Organic Mashed Potatoes Go Garlic

Organic Banana Bread/Muffin recipe posted on Blake Bakes

Organic Apple and Pumpkin Tarts: I'm changing it up a bit for Christmas and making Cherry Tarts. No problem. Just make the fruit the way you would for any other cherry pie, and spoon it into the mini tart crusts. It's as easy as pie...and some canned organic cherries.
Does Christmas feel like a race to you? After that meal is made, I'm taking a vacation from my job as a food writer--too much pressure! I'm looking forward to getting back to my old routine in January. I miss my living green topics, and have quite a slate of new things to talk about. I look forward to sharing some of my newest tips, so be sure to find time to stop in during January. Better yet, get me delivered by free subscription. Just put in your e-mail address in the box at the top right and my headlines will come to your e-mail box. It's that easy. As Nike says: Just do it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Organic Pineapple and Orange Sweet Potatoes


© photo copyright Carrie Boyko


As is often the case with my recipes for special occasions, this one is meant to be prepared in advance. Allowing it to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days before baking will give the flavors time to mingle well. When you read the ingredients, you'll probably think they will taste like you're at a Hawaian feast, but the flavors complement one another well and it is simply delicious.

Holiday Organic Pineapple and Orange Sweet Potatoes (serves 8)
  • 4 Large Organic Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 Large Can Organic Crushed Pineapple, undrained
  • 2 Large Organic Oranges
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Brown Sugar

Instructions:

  1. Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 1-1/4 hours, until soft when squeezed.
  2. While baking, wash and grate oranges finely. Blend to make more fine.
    Combine pineapple, juice, oranges and sugar, and stir well. Set aside.
  3. When potatoes are done, slice in quarters lengthwise, allowing to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Peel potatoes when cool enough to handle, and mash while warm, in a large bowl.
  5. When well mashed, add fruit mixture and stir well or blend together with a mixer.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  7. Cover and refrigerate, at least overnight, but best a couple of days.
  8. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
  9. Take out and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  10. Continue to bake for a total of 1 hour.

Tomorrow I'll be bringing you the links for all the basic turkey fixings from Thanksgiving. You can pick and choose which items you'd like to have on Christmas. Every family has their own traditions, but at my house we always have turkey. If you are more about the Leg of Lamb or some other specialty, more power to you. Would you like to share a recipe with us for next year? I'd love to hear from you. Just click the COMMENT link below and drop me a note.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carrie's Organic Bruschetta

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko


Carrie's Organic Bruschetta ( serves 6-8)
  • 1 Medium loaf of Organic French Bread or Organic Baguette, sliced thin
  • 2-3 Ounces Organic Olive Oil
  • 2 Heads Organic Garlic, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Organic Pepper
  • 2 Large Organic Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Cup Fresh Organic Basil, finely sliced finely
  • 1 Cup Grated Organic Cheese; I use mozzarella or parmesan or a combination of the two

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.At least 24 hours ahead of time, place minced garlic in a glass container and cover with olive oil. Refrigerate.


  2. Remove oil and garlic mixture from the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before preparation is to begin, to allow it to soften.


  3. Strain 3 Tablespoons of this oil into a Ziploc bag.


  4. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.


  5. Add about half a loaf of the bread at a time; seal and toss the bread around in the oil mixture, coating all pieces of bread as evenly as possible.


  6. Lay coated bread slices on a cookie sheet. Bake 5-8 minutes.


  7. You can either continue with the recipe here or cool and store for later use.


  8. Strain the minced garlic out of the oil and distribute the garlic on the pieces of bread. Use some or all, depending on your taste. (I use it all!)


  9. Top each piece of bread with sliced Basil and diced tomatoes.


  10. Sprinkle cheese over the top.


  11. If desired, drizzle a small amount of the leftover oil over the bread.


  12. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes, just until cheese is melting.


  13. Serve immediately.

The garlic-infused oil in this recipe creation of mine makes all the difference in the flavor of the bruschetta. This is a perfect appetizer for your New Year's Eve party, Christmas Day, or even game day.

To balance the types of food you offer at a party, include at least two other offerings--one sweet, like my Pecan Crescent cookies, and one fresh and fruity. Fresh fruit kabobs would be perfect and quite festive. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Christmas Decorations on the Cheap

Happy Birthday, Alan!

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

_______________________________________________________________

Getting tired of your same old decorations year after year? Sometimes I feel that way. This past year I've developed a list of a few ideas for revamping things without spending much. Perhaps one or more of these ideas will work for you. Check it out:

Thanks to Darrel and Pam for providing the first Christmas card of the season. I used it to make these 3 paper ornaments, joined by 2 of my Christmas tree creations. I had a lot of help with these from the squirrel. I'll tell you about that below.


  • Have a Christmas Decoration Exchange party. You know the drill. Everyone comes with one or more decorations that they are willing to part with. All decorations are displayed while everyone enjoys some holiday refreshments. When everyone leaves, they may take one decoration with them for each one they brought. No fighting, ladies!
  • Catch a sale on some brightly printed Christmas cotton fabric. Cut it into strips and tie bows all over your tree, instead of using your ornaments. These are also great to decorate table-top trees that require smaller decorations.
  • This list wouldn't be complete without the old favorite--popcorn strings. They look great on a Christmas tree.
  • Children love to make paper chains, and this could be their opportunity to get involved in your decoration makeover. You can use gift wrap or construction paper--whatever you have available in the colors of your choice. Cut strips and give the kids a glue stick. In no time, they'll have that tree wrapped in chains, and they'll be so proud to have done it.
  • I once visited a friend whose annual tree decor was quite simple. They attached gold cord (any ribbon or cord will do) to the top left and right of each Christmas card received. These actually made quite lovely and unique tree decorations. One modification of this idea might be to cut out the photo or picture on the front of the card, making each ornament a different shape.
  • Remember those Christmas trees we made out of phone books when we were kids? Allow me to refresh your memory, as they haven't made an appearance in a few years. Take last year's phone book and fold every (yup, no getting around this!) page in it so that the top lines up with the spine. When done, you'll have a 3-dimensional tree-shaped phone book. Tape the cover pages together to hold it open. Now you can spray paint it and add glitter or sequins--whatever you can attach. These trees make a nice table decoration. Top with an origami star, if you like.
  • Are your squirrels busy preparing for Winter? Mine drop the cores of the pine cones they have eaten, and they look just like little Christmas trees. I spray paint them and then add glitter or fabric paint "lights", tying a loop on top. They make wonderful Christmas tree ornaments and package decorations.

This ought to get you started. Got some ideas you are willing to share. Hit that COMMENT button and give me a shout.

Tomorrow I'll be cooking up my version of Bruschetta for a holiday appetizer. Join me for my recipe as I get cooking for the holidays. Next week will be food, food, and more food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cheap Stuff for Stockings



Does Santa need some help filling those stockings with treasures that don't break the bank? Here's a few ideas to get you going:
  1. Check out your local Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, etc. They always have some fun little things in multipacks that delight youngsters.
  2. The other favorite stores for such small items are craft shops (Michael's, JoAnn's, etc.) and party stores, where favors are sold in multi-packs.
  3. Check out some of the non-food ideas from Green Halloween's website. I know; it seems strange going to a Halloween website for stocking stuffer ideas, but there are a few gems in there that would work equally well for a Christmas stocking.

Some things to watch for are:

  • stickers
  • holiday pencils
  • finger puppets
  • holiday themed organic and all-natural candy
  • Santa hats (I found mine at Dollar Tree)
  • marbles, skipping rocks, gemstones, bouncy balls
  • mini puzzles
  • small word game books
  • hair ribbons, clips an scrunchies
  • foreign coins
  • coin purses
  • pet toys to share with Rover and Fluffy
  • small storybooks
  • small 3D puzzles
  • craft items to make over the holidays
  • crayons and colored pencils
  • natural lip gloss
  • holiday themed bandages
  • sun catchers or dream catchers to hang
  • pipe cleaners to make creations out of
  • organic or all natural granola bars
  • whistles
  • harmonicas
  • post cards to send to friends and cousins
  • mini photo album of a favorite pet(s)
  • coupon for a magazine subscription
  • bicycle decorations (beads, streamers, striping, etc.)
  • kazoos
  • vinyl window stickers--holiday themed
  • alphabet stamps
  • a diary or journal
  • mini wind chimes
  • activity books
  • silly putty
  • modeling clay
  • bubbles

By now your stockings should be overflowing, with a bit of green still in your wallet. I hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear some of your ideas. Please COMMENT below! Tomorrow I will be exploring a few ideas for jazzing up your Christmas tree and decorations in green style. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Hope you can join me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kids Going Green!

© photo courtesy of Scholastic Inc.

Moving toward living more green in my daily life at first seemed like a daunting task. The most helpful thing I have done to create the right mind set is to read, read and read some more. The more I read the more I learn of ways to leave a smaller carbon footprint, that fits easily into my lifestyle. I suppose like my blog's name, this is a journey. Each step lays the ground work for the next.

Kids' actions are less habitual and more pliable than we adults. I'd like to share with you a book that shows how even young children really can take the lead, if we just let them. OUR CLASS IS GOING GREEN, written and illustrated by kindergarten students of the Oak Park Elementary School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and published by Scholastic, is a great example of how children are able to take an idea and run with it. The effort and attitudes of these young kids plays out in the pages, adorably illustrated using things from their recycling bins. This book is a charming introduction to living green, suitable for even the youngest children. It is the 2008 winner of Scholastic's Kids Are Authors Competition.

Like all good authors, these kids have stayed focused on their audience, while dropping in some information for the parents as well. Here are a few facts I learned about paper from the inside covers of their book:
  • More than 900 million trees are cut down each year to provide material for paper mills.
  • Paper products make up almost half of all our trash.
  • People in the United States use more than 65 million tons of paper every year.
  • One tree can filter about 60 pounds of pollutants from the air in a year.
  • Every day, businesses in the United States use enough paper to go around the Earth 20 times.

I recently began adding a note to the end of my e-mails that reads, "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail." You may have seen this on other e-mails. By reading Our Class is Going Green, I was reminded of just how important it is to think about each piece of paper I thoughtlessly use, throw away or don't recycle.

If you have a young child on your gift list, I hope you will consider this fun and educational book. It is a wonderful thing to support the work of such conscientious youngsters. Thanks much to the children and staff at Oak Park Elementary School for their efforts. I hope to hear from them, and if I do, I will share some of their questions and comments with you in January.

Some of my other posts about saving paper and recycling include:

Treehuggers Unite: Let's Save Paper!

Woofing Wednesday Goes to Earth 911

Let's Plant Trees

Woofing Wednesday Brings You Another Great Website

Thank You Notes in the Electronic Age

You can also check out some great Green Reads from Green Living Online. I'm looking forward to hearing your comments and suggestions on other good green books for both the young and the young-at-heart. Please COMMENT below by clicking the purple COMMENT link. If you have any trouble with that, you can write to me at CarrieLeaJohnson@gmail.com. I hope to hear from you soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Breakfast Made Easy, and Organic

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko



Every night at dinner, I hear the same question from my husband, "So, is this organic, too?"
"Yup," I reply. It sure is.

And today's recipe for Pam's Overnight Organic French Toast is also. This tasty version of our old favorite is a handy way to serve up a wonderful, warm breakfast to a house full of hungry company. Pair it with Aunt Sarah's Organic Sausage and Egg Casserole and you'll have yourself a feast fit for...well, for company.

Pam's Overnight Organic French Toast


  • 1/2 Cup Organic Butter, melted
  • 1 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
  • 1 Large Loaf Organic French Bread, cut into 1-inch slices (I use my bread machine for this)
  • 6 Organic Eggs
  • 1-1/2 Cups Organic Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Organic Vanilla
  • Dash of Organic Cinnamon
  • Organic Powdered Sugar
Instructions:
  1. Mix butter and brown sugar together.
  2. Spread sugar mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  3. Place bread slices on top of sugar mixture.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread slices.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

I hope you enjoy this breakfast menu over the holidays. It is especially nice to have recipes that you can simply pop in the oven while visiting with your guests. No fuss. Bake and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Will You Leave Out for Santa?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Don't forget the carrots for the Reindeer!

I suppose it wouldn't be Christmas without cookies. This favorite childhood cookie recipe has been in my family so long, I don't know who to give credit for it. Oh well. We can all enjoy them just the same. I highly recommend you make a double batch, even if just for your own family. If you're looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves to eat, these cookies will fill the bill. I'm serving mine up in cute little chinese take-out style boxes with Christmas print on them.

Santa will enjoy a plate of these beauties also, and don't forget a small glass of yummy organic milk and a few organic carrots for the reindeer. They have a long night ahead and need their energy.


Organic Pecan Crescent Holiday Cookies (makes 2 dozen)
  • 1 Cup Organic Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Powdered Sugar for recipe
  • 2 Cups Organic Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Organic Vanilla
  • 2 Cups Organic (or all natural) Pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Powdered Sugar for topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and powdered sugar together.
  3. Add vanilla and 1 Tablespoon filtered water.
  4. Gradually add flour.
  5. Fold in nuts, mixing carefully and evenly.
  6. Break off small pieces of dough and shape into oblong crescents.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bottom edges begin to show light golden brown.
  8. Remove trays to cooling racks.
  9. Gently place cookies on thick layers of newspaper for cooling. The newspaper absorbs excess fat and keeps the bottom of the cookies crisp. Dust liberally with powdered sugar.

Newspaper is a wonderful medium for cooling all of your cookies after baking. It will save you having to collect lots of cooling racks, and reuses newspaper. You can still recycle the paper afterwards. Place another tick mark on your "I did something green today" tab. Good job. Enjoy your reward.

If you're looking for more organic cookies, check out my oatmeal raisin cookie recipe at this link.

Stop in Monday for a great french toast recipe that you can make ahead. This is the perfect breakfast recipe for those mornings when you have company and want to spend your time with them, not your kitchen stove.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wrapping Up Your Wine Gifts without Paper Bags

© copyright Carrie Boyko



As promised, I am showing you another way to package your hostess gift wine bottles and homemade organic Kahlua. These Santa hats came from the dollar store (Yup! $1) and are tied up with reused ribbon. You can easily add a tag when tying on the ribbon. The best part is that this gift packaging is definitely reusable. Try it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Traveling Healthy

© copyright Carrie Boyko
Happy 12th Birthday, Xena!
_______________________________________________________________




If you're headed out to visit family for the holidays, you may be wondering where you'll eat along the way. Or perhaps you'd like to find the local organic shops so you can pick up some goodies to bring when you arrive. I have your ticket, and it has been right here all along.




Scroll down just a bit till you see the yellow Search Widget in the right sidebar. It looks like a smaller version of what is shown at left here. This is the coolest thing since sliced bread; it is called the Eat Well Guide--a search engine for healthy eating. Just fill in your zip code and it will give you a list of organic and all-natural restaurants, stores, farmers' markets and even caterers. You can put in zips for any area you plan to stop in along the way, and this widget will find all the places that serve up healthy food choices.




The search takes only seconds and you can then pop the addresses into Mapquest and get directions to the locations of your choice. I hope this helps with your planning. Drive safely and have a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chic Chicobags Make Great Gifts and Gift Wrap


© copyright Carrie Boyko



If you have been following my blog, you know I love the Chicobags. They aren't the strongest or largest of the reusable bags on the market, but I love the little sewn-in pouch that it tucks into for safekeeping in your handbag. This way I always have a reusable bag with me.
This year I decided to share the idea with most everyone. So, if you're on my Christmas list, sorry...I just dropped the bomb. I hit a local shop that carries the Chicobags and cleaned them out. Then I hit the sales on some of my favorite Organic foods, like pasta sauces, jellies, candies, etc. I've filled the Chicobags for a number of my family and friends as gifts. Tie the handles together with a piece of ribbon and you've got a great looking gift, and no wasted paper. I hear the landfills saying "Hallelujah!"

Tomorrow I plan to help you with your holiday travel planning. Stop in for a tip or two on how to find places that are healthier to eat and shop.

Happy wrapping!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Aunt Sarah's Organic Sausage and Egg Casserole


© copyright Carrie Boyko

Company's coming to town for the holidays? Putting on a hot breakfast on Christmas morning, when you have house guests and a bunch of kids foaming at the mouth to open their gifts....well, let's just say this is no time to be cooking. You want to be in the mix, and not missing the fun. That's why I'm bringing you two of my favorite make-ahead recipes for breakfast. Today's recipe is a delicious, high-protein main dish. On Monday, December 15 I'll bring you a great accompaniment--French Toast-- which can also be made ahead. You can make them both the day before and just pop them in the oven while the festivities continue under the Christmas tree.

Of course, this recipe works for any breakfast gathering, holiday, or even just a Sunday morning. No special occasion is really needed to make a yummy breakfast for your family. Thanks to my old friend Pam and her Aunt Sarah for sharing it with us. Let's get started:

Aunt Sarah's Organic Sausage and Egg Casserole

  • 8 Slices of Organic White Bread with crusts trimmed off
  • 6 Organic Eggs, beaten
  • 1 pound of organic pork, chicken or turkey sausage, skinless or skin removed
  • 1-1/2 Cups Organic Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 2 Cups Organic Milk
  • Organic Butter
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt, if desired

Instructions:

  1. Spread bread slices with butter. Place in a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Cook sausage until brown, stirring to crumble.
  3. Drain well and spoon over bread slices.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese.
  5. Combine eggs, milk, salt. Mix well.
  6. Pour egg mixture over bread and cheese. Cover and chill overnight.
  7. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

This casserole will hold nicely in a warm oven, if waiting on guests to arrive. It serves about 8.

Tomorrow's post is a no-brainer, yet one which I just have to share. This year I have some fun wrapping ideas, and tomorrow is one of my favorites. Join me for a gift idea to spread the use of reusable shopping bags.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Creating Labels for Homemade Organic Food Gifts


© copyright Carrie Boyko

These are the gifts that work for everyone--children and adults alike. Give them a bag or box of cookies, fudge or other goodies and most anyone will be happy. The extra time and love you put into the packaging makes the gift look festive, as well as being tasty.
Labeling your gift should answer lots of questions:
  • What is it?
  • What's in it?
  • Who made it?
  • What can I do with it?
  • How should I store it?

Obviously, all of these questions won't apply to every food gift, but some will need to be identified as "Please Refrigerate" or "Contains Nuts".

In addition to making Organic Kahlua this year, I'll be baking some of my favorites to give to friends and family. Kahlua is one that definitely needs a little extra info. Lots of people have never tried it and don't know how to serve it. Sure, you can drink it straight, but that's not the usual method, and could turn out badly. So, my label, shown above, gives a few tips on using Kahlua.

Most packages of sticker labels give instructions for formatting your labels, or if you have a graphics program, the formatting is built right in. Just select the sticker and manufacturer information and off you go. This label above took me about 5 minutes to create, for 20 bottles of Kahlua. Print and stick. It's done.

Sticker labels are great for hard surfaces like bottles, aluminum tins, boxes and paper bags. If you are using cotton bags to deliver your gifts, like I will be for my organic breads, try this. Leave your sticker label on the backing and cut it out. Using a hole puncher, put a hole in one corner and tie a ribbon to your cloth bag, attaching the label. Another option is to peel back the sticker enough to put the ribbon between the backing and the sticker, then re-stick them to hold onto the ribbon. Viola'!

Short on bows? Try curling ribbon, yarn or my personal favorite--2-3 leftover Halloween lollipops with their sticks crossed, taped together and then tied on with anything handly--even string looks cute with colorful lollipops in tow. This makes an adorable and eatable package decoration. Candy canes also work great. I was pleased to find an organic version of these traditional treats at Whole Foods last weekend. Use your imagination and have fun wrapping your creations.

Check back on Thursday, December 11, when I will be wrapping my wine and Kahlua gifts in an inexpensive new Dollar Store creation. $1 for a unique and reusable wrap that is also fun to WEAR! See you then.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Woofing Wednesday's Gifting Tips

© copyright Carrie Boyko


The Pack Leader at work...Watch Out Cesar Milan!

I'm busy planning my gift list, and thinking about my options. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Think socially responsible when buying gifts.


  2. Think local; what can I buy or make with local raw materials? This year I'll be doing a lot of baking. Perhaps you are artsy and can paint, sew or craft some clever gifts. These kinds of offerings have more personal appeal and gift the gift of your precious time--a meaningful gift to most.


  3. Think budget-minded. In these uneasy economic times, we are all considering our options for spending less this holiday season. Homemade gifts often can fill that bill, but watching the sales can also be a great way to save. Try my Organic Banana Bread recipe at Blake Bakes, where I am the organic baker.


  4. Purchase items from charity websites like Save the Children. Do your own search to find charities of your choice. In most cases, all of your money goes to a good cause and you get a creative gift. My husband loves the neckties from Save the Children. They have cute multi-cultural children on one style, that is his personal favorite.


  5. Try organizing a re-gifting trade (kind of like a cookie exchange) with your friends. Everyone brings an unwrapped gift that was received previously by any family member, and never used. Gifts are all displayed while refreshments are served, and then each guest chooses a gift to take home.


  6. Got a toddler on your gift list? A couple of times over the years, I've used this idea and found it to be loads of fun. I collected scraps of 2 x 4's in many shapes from building sites. These were the basis for little neighborhood blocks. I painted each block to look like a different object or building: trees, schools, houses, pets, stores, banks, etc. They make a nice setting for doll play and are loads of fun to stack and knock over--the favorite game of a toddler. One tip: Be sure to take pictures. You'll treasure these.


  7. Elementary and middle school aged kids love this idea, which we used a few times when my kids were growing up. Give 2 plain pillow cases or T-shirts, along with a few small tubes of fabric paint or permanent fabric markers. Your child and a friend can make their pillow cases together, helping each to decorate their creations with fun doodles, drawings and clever sayings.


  8. Smaller children will enjoy making a pillowcase or T-shirt with you as their assistant. One idea I've used is to write their name on the shirt in large block letters before giving it to them, and then allow them to decorate the rest with their own artwork.


  9. Now for my favorite. You can get hours of creative playtime for your kids with this free gift. Yes, you read that right. I did say it is free. Check it out: Start collecting boxes of all different sizes, concentrating on large ones. Tape them shut so you have cubes or rectangles. When you have enough to build a small fort, you're ready to give this gift that your young children will play with for years. I think my kids were still building sleepover forts in their early teens. Need help finding enough boxes? Check with all your friends who are buying electronics, stop by the grocer to ask for boxes, and don't miss your local U-Haul's box exchange. Leave a box (any size) and pick up one that you'd prefer. This is a great place to get some larger boxes in exchange for smaller ones you don't need for this project.


  10. Finally, think about ways your kids can decorate their fort-making boxes after you've given the boxes to them. The possibilities are endless, so use your imagination: contact paper, paint, construction paper, plain cardboard liners from packaging, magazine picture collages, markers, and the list goes on. This, too, will keep them busy for hours--much better than video games.

I hope I gave you each even just one idea that you can use. If you have an idea to share, please click the COMMENT button just below this post and let me hear about it. Maybe I'll share it with my readers. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Great Gifts: Green and Organic Magazines










Organic Chef Monthly
Chef Al Rosas is Cordon D'Or Gold Ribbon Culinary Entrepreneur of the Year!
(888)353-9912

National Geographic Green Guide , 6 issues, $15.00

Organic Gardening, 2 years, 12 issues, $23.94

Natural Life Magazine; The original frugal, green living magazine, founded in 1976. Natural Life is trustedby readers around the world who want to learn how to create a greener,healthier, more sustainable lifestyle for themselves and for their families. 1 year, 6 issues, $30.00

Organic Shopper Magazine, Phone: (828)337-6114, 16 Lookout Dr. Asheville , NC 28804

National Green Pages, For a $20.00 minimum annual donation, you get:

A FREE copy of Co-op America's National Green Pages™
A FREE one-year subscription to Real Money, our popular green living newsletter
A FREE subscription to our award-winning magazine, the Co-op America Quarterly
A FREE copy of our Guide to Socially Responsible Investing
Regular email alert with news about our latest campaigns, special offers from green businesses, and discounts to events such as Green Festival
The satisfaction of knowing you are helping to create a more just and sustainable future for us all.

Organic Lifestyle Magazine

Mother Earth News, The original guide to living a healthier, better balanced, more meaningful life.

E: The Environmental Magazine, The leading resource for people concerned about the environment.

Earth Island Journal, Environmental storeis that mainstream media often fail to cover

Mother Jones, The best in independent, investigative reporting

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homemade Organic Kahlua


If you have hard to gift adults on your holiday shopping list, this may be your answer. Homemade liqueurs, such as Kahlua, are fun for the holidays and make thoughtful, personal gifts. They're also great when served at your holiday parties, and are a perfect hostess gift when you attend a party. I've been making this Kahlua for years, and it always gets rave reviews. First, here are a few tips, and then we'll move on to the recipe.
© copyright Carrie Boyko
  • Save smaller, attractive bottles to use for Kahlua gift bottles, ones that hold about 8-12 ounces. Many salad dressings, cooking wines and other such small bottles make nice gift-sized bottles for co-workers, hairdressers, and others whom you would like to give a small gift that is special nonetheless.
  • Larger bottles are fine if you're giving to special friends or family members, but keep in mind this is not one of the inexpensive holiday gifts which I will be talking about later. This one is pricey, but VERY special for those special people on your gift list. Here are a few more tips:
  • Shop sales and watch the paper for coupons for the organic ingredients.
  • Watch for my upcoming post on labeling your bottles attractively.
  • Also, I'll be talking about reusable wrapping for your Kahlua gifts.
  • If you like, you can include a card with the Kahlua beverage recipes I'm offering. After all, not everyone knows what to do with it when they get it. So help them out.
  • Allow 3 weeks for the Kahlua to be ready, so get your engine rolling. We've got to get started!

Homemade Organic Kahlua (1 batch makes about 46 oz. of Kahlua)

  • 4 Cups Filtered Water
  • 4 Cups Organic Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Organic Instant Coffee ( I used Mount Hagen Organic-Cafe freeze dried instant)
  • 23 Ounces of Organic Vodka, the cheapest is fine. I chose Rain, because the bottles were beautiful for gift giving, but there were cheaper options. Be careful not to purchase flavored Vodka.
  • 1 long dry Organic Vanilla Bean, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Boil water and sugar for 10 minutes.
  2. Cool for about 10 minutes and stir in coffee until evenly blended.
  3. Add Vodka and stir well.
  4. Divide the chopped vanilla bean up among the bottles proportionately to the size of the bottles.
  5. Pour liquid into bottles, leaving at least a couple of inches above the liquid.
  6. Shake daily for 3 weeks before serving.

Kahlua is a delicious topping for your favorite organic ice cream or frozen yogurt, and a delightful addition to a cup of hot coffee or cocoa, topped with whipped cream. Of course, it is most notably the primary ingredient in a Kahlua and Creme after dinner beverage. Make this delicious drink by adding 1 oz. Kahlua to 3 oz. organic milk. Serve over ice.


Homemade labels, covering any non-removable labels on the bottles, will add a special touch and allow you to identify your special creation. I'll be posting on label ideas Friday, December 5, and on Thursday, December 11 I'll bring you some ideas for inexpensive, reusable gift packaging.

Tomorrow I'll have magazine subscription ideas for you to give to your green living friends. Come see the selection.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Topics for Everyone!

© copyright Carrie Boyko

I hope that photo of leftover Halloween candy got your attention. December is a month of many holidays, both religious and celebratory. New Year's Eve is certainly a nice way to blow off some steam after the rush, rush, rush of preparation for the other holidays. December's posts will cover a variety of topics, hopefully giving each of you something to find useful. Here is a sampling, not necessarily in correct order, of what you will be seeing here on Organic Journey Online in December:
  1. Making labels for homemade organic food gifts
  2. Green and Organic Magazine subscriptions; pick one for your favorite readers
  3. Green gift ideas, both homemade and purchased
  4. Homemade Organic Kahlua, with recipes for yummy New Year's Eve beverages
  5. Creative reusable wrapping ideas
  6. Organic gift basket ideas
  7. Traveling organic; help with finding restaurants to keep your healthy diet on track
  8. Cookie recipes that make great gifts and good desserts for parties
  9. Special-occasion, make-ahead breakfast recipes
  10. A few good go green or organic books to read or give as gifts
  11. My dog's favorite organic treat selections. Tanner fetched these himself!
  12. Tight Budget? Check out my free and low-cost gift ideas for children
  13. Stocking stuffer ideas that won't break the bank
  14. Decorating green, recycling decorations
  15. Organic appetizers
  16. Christmas Dinner Organic Sweet Potatoes
  17. Recipe links to my most popular Thanksgiving dinner recipes; they're just as good on Christmas.
  18. Organic desserts and breads such as cherry tarts and pumpkin muffins
  19. My Christmas Message to You: Live and Let Live
  20. Considering your New Year's resolutions
  21. Shopping sensibly
  22. Feeding the homeless is not just for the holidays; give generously to your local food banks
  23. Holiday wrapping: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
  24. Green your New Year's party

That sounds like a lot of posts, doesn't it? Don't worry, one of my New Year's resolutions is to try to write more succinctly. I am a work in progress. Although I may still be a bit off-track on my original daily posting themes, I'll get back to that after the first of January. One exception, Woofing Wednesday is always my trademark post of the week. I consistently get more e-mails about my pups than my posts. Should I be getting a message from that? COMMENT!


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