Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stretching Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Don't Waste Those Sweet Potatoes!

There are most certainly dozens of ways to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers. I'm no expert in the kitchen, but I can take it a bit further than turkey sandwiches and reheated Thanksgiving dishes. One of my favorites from my childhood was a layered casserole; we'll call it the No Name Thanksgiving Casserole! Here's how I would do it:

  1. Get out all your leftovers and a 13 X 9 dish to create your casserole in. Each will be different, so enjoy your creative control.
  2. My favorite is to place sweet potato casserole on the bottom, layering turkey slices over it.
  3. Then I slice chilled stuffing like meatloaf and layer this on top of the turkey.
  4. Mashed potatoes go on the next layer with gravy garnishing the top.
  5. If you're missing any of these traditional ingredients, no problem. Just skip them and include anything that sounds good to you.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Test before serving.
Serve your leftover salad and cranberry sauce to round out your menu and you're in business.

Are you a soup lover? Me too! Here's my favorite turkey soup recipe at last year's post: Organic Turkey and Rice Soup. I'm making this right now. Mmmmm! It smells so good!

Don't forget to pair it with some homemade organic bread. With winter looming, I am sooo glad to have my breadmaker around. Soup needs warm bread to be complete--good comfort food. Enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guilt and Staying the Course during the Holidays

(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

My Inspiration
Parties, New Years galas, office holiday events and Thanksgiving celebrations all lead to one emotion for those of us who try to stay on organic foods--GUILT!

A wise person once told me that guilt is a useless emotion. As a mother of three, I have learned that all too well. So many times when I could not be at three children's events all at once, I have felt the guilty pangs and wondered if I had any options.

I now know that the solution is in accepting the inevitable. I will go to holiday parties--more than I can count on one hand--and I will, of course, partake of the goodies. The key is, as my sister-in-law, Jan, always says: "All things in moderation".

It is sort of like the verse you may have seen on many a cross-stitch:

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

the courage to change the things I can, and 

the wisdom to know the difference." 

This Thanksgiving holiday I find myself having to read and re-read this wise verse. Having just lost my father two days ago, it will be easy to drown my sorrows in junk food. I will try to stay the course, but not scold myself for an occasional cookie or piece of pie that is not organic.

I'll draw strength from the many flowers and baskets that are flowing in today, a testament to the wonderful man that my father was. Thank you all for your well wishes.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Dedicated to my father, Roger Johnson:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grandma's Apple Filled Crumb Cake: Organic and Yummy!

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

Grandma's Organic 
Apple Filled Crumb Cake

It’s finally fall here is hot, humid Florida. While it is almost Halloween, we’re still in the upper 80’s; but even so I still find myself thinking of orange and gold leaves and my favorite fall fruit--apples. I bake with them often, always adding extra fiber for good measure. I’ve made this recipe with all organic ingredients—a change I made a couple of years ago following a cancer scare. The interesting thing about baking organic is that you feel less guilty when indulging in desserts. Try it; you’ll see what I mean.

This cake recipe came down through my mom, from Grandma C, and was always one of my favorites, especially warm. The crumb topping has a crunch that really leaves me wanting seconds. This nice, big pan will serve at least 12 people, so it’s a great dessert to prepare when you have company coming.

Apple Ingredients:

·         4 Cups Organic Apples, peeled, cored, sliced, and cut into small pieces
·         ½ Cup Organic Sugar
·         1 Teaspoon Organic Cinnamon
·         1 Tablespoon Organic Butter
·         1 Tablespoon Organic Lemon Juice

Batter Ingredients:

·         1 ½ Cups Organic All-Purpose Flour, sifted
·         ¾ Cup Organic Sugar
·         1 Teaspoon Double-Acting Baking Powder
·         ¾ Teaspoon Sea Salt
·         ¼ Teaspoon Organic Cloves
·         1/3 Cup Organic Butter, softened
·         ½ Cup Organic Milk
·         2 Organic Eggs, unbeaten
·         ½ Teaspoon Organic Vanilla

Topping Ingredients:

·         ¾ Cup Organic Brown Sugar, firmly packed
·         ½ Cup Organic All-Purpose Flour, sifted
·         ¼ Cup Organic Butter, softened
·         ½ Cup Organic (or All-Natural) Pecans, chopped

  1. Combine all apple ingredients in a saucepan (or microwave dish) and simmer just until apples are tender. Drain and cool while you prepare the remainder of the cake.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Sift together into a medium large bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cloves. I toss in a couple of tablespoons of Benefiber here for the extra health benefit.
  4. Add butter and milk. Beat for 1 ½ minutes.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 1 ½ minutes.
  6. Prepare a 13 x 9” pan by rubbing with butter and lightly flour it.
  7. Spread ½ of the batter into the bottom of the pan, spreading evenly.
  8. Spoon ½ of the apples over the batter.
  9. Now pour the remaining batter over the apple layer.
  10. Finally, top with remaining apples.
  11. Prepare the topping by combining the brown sugar, flour, butter and pecans into a crumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the top, covering all of the cake batter and apples.
  12. Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown and crispy looking on top.
  13. Cool on a rack.

The crumb topping on this cake makes for a delicious, crispy complement to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, an addition that many enjoy. It is especially good served this way when warm. I hope you enjoy this tasty family favorite from my grandmother’s kitchen.

Oh! I almost forgot. Do you have one of these nifty apple peeler/corer/slicer gadgets? Three seconds to peel, core and slice up a whole apple. Wow!

One more thing........I just popped out a new guest post at the Central Florida Green Guide: Salvaging Your Over-Ripe Fruit--8 Ways to Enjoy It Rather than Trash It. Stop in and check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Kid on the Green Block: The Carpenters are Almost Through....

My new blog, New Kid on the Green Block, is a step up from this Journey.  Officially a DOT COM, and with a bold new name and a cool look, I hope to reach a wider crowd.

I invite you to visit and see the construction zone. I still have a ways to go to get the decorating all done, but you'll get the idea. While I continue working in the background, I will begin writing articles slowly, giving you all time to visit and get your free subscription set up. A few seconds to type in your email address or hit the RSS button, and you'll be all set.

Organic Journey Online will remain here, and I will continue to use it as its name intended--a platform for discussing organics. You will continue to find articles on food, recipes, ingredients, shopping, coupons, money saving ideas, cooking methods and equipment, and more--all related to all-natural and organic food.

If you have a topic you would like me to hit in this genre, please let me know. I look forward to continuing to broaden the Journey, within its same theme.

Green Living More Affordably...

$ $ $

Ever since Day One when I began this blog, I have found information on Mambo Sprouts everywhere on the Internet. I've mentioned it a few times, but here I go again. When you sign up online, you can receive regular booklets of coupons (good ones!), coupons by email, and all sorts of other goodies.

Mambo Sprouts is a site that covers many topics in the area of living green and eating organic, much like Organic Journey Online. However, they are known for their wide assortment of coupons, both printable online, and the booklets. Either way, you'll find the savings to be substantial. If saving money is on your To Do List, Mambo Sprouts is the place to go for coupons.

Before you head off looking for savings, allow me to pop in a little commercial. Organic Journey Online is branching out--well, sort of. I'm creating a spin-off with a brand new look and a new name to go with it. I hope you'll stick with me, reading a few posts here, that will continue with Organic Journey Online. But I also want to invite you to watch for my new site's announcement, coming up shortly. You'll find a big link to my new site on the day I "open for business", so to speak. Can't wait to see you there....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coming Soon: New Kid on the Green Block

Organic Journey Online has been a great way for me to get back into writing, after a long break. I am enjoying sharing information and tips for living green, eating healthy and pulling it all together to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

I'm busy constructing a new blog to continue this journey. While I will still post here at Organic Journey Online, posts will be less frequent. New Kid on the Green Block is almost ready. You can take a sneak peak now, if you like.

If you are an Organic Journey subscriber, you may wish to subscribe to New Kid on the Green Block. Even if you don't already subscribe, my free email subscriptions and RSS feed are there for the taking. There I will take up the same green staff and journey on. Come join me, fill out the subscription form and don't miss a beat of the New Kid's song. I hope to see you there soon.

Dinner Food Choices: Your Healthiest Processed Foods Options

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

All Natural Chorizo and Potatoes

This is the fourth and final post in a series that has an odd angle. First, allow me to bring you up to speed on what my goal is with this series. While the fact is that your healthiest food choices are fresh, unprocessed foods from the outside edges of the supermarket, fresh is not always an option. These articles were written for those times when you just simply cannot serve organic roasted chicken, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, along with homemade organic bread.

If you have missed the earlier parts of this series, you may wonder where the other meals are. Good question. You can find the whole picture at these links: Parts I, II, and III. Now let's move on to your dinner options and pick a few that will prove healthiest:

Main Dishes
  • Organic pasta and sauce can be a quick dinner on a busy night. We love Walnut Acres Garlic-Garlic-Garlic sauce for both pasta and as a pizza sauce. If you have onions, try my recipe for Pomodoro sauce at this link.
  • Using a packaged organic pizza crust from Whole Foods, I add olive oil, canned sauce, mozarella cheese and top it off with whatever odds and ends I can find in the fridge or in cans. This is a great meal that helps clean up my leftovers. Never, no never, forget the onions!
  • Two other favorites for taking care of those odds and ends in the produce bin are quesadillas and stir fry. I apply the same rule here. Never, no never, forget the onions!
  • And still more: Using canned or packaged organic broth, create a quick soup using all your leftover bits of various veggies, rice, and even bitesize pieces of meat. Serve with bread or muffins and you've got a good comfort-food kind of meal for a chilly day.
  • Chicken leftovers make a great addition to rice dishes, such as chicken and yellow rice.
  • Chorizo, a Spanish sausage with a long shelf life in your refrig, makes a wonderful dinner with potatoes, onions, and garlic. My son brought home a fabulous recipe for Chorizo and Potatoes, that you can find at this link.
Fruits and Veggies

Tomorrow is grocery shopping day and your cupboard is bare, at least of a selection of fresh produce. I try to keep a few longer life produce items in stock at all times: onions, garlic, potatoes, apples, broccoli. There are a million ways to prepare potatoes and apples. When all else fails, though, try these:
  • Packaged, organic apple sauce has a long shelf life for those days when nothing else is left.
  • packaged fruit pieces or canned veggies
  • Use canned juice and unflavored gelatin to make a fresh, gelatin or gelatin salad, if you have some canned fruit to add.
  • Make a small fruit salad of dried fruits, adding a few drops of juice to soften, or topping with fruit yogurt.
  • Add canned corn to your cornbread or corn muffins for extra fiber and flavor.
  • For that matter, pack all your muffins full of fruit, adding tons of vitamins and fiber. With fall here, my favorite is pumpkin muffins. I add 1/2 can of organic pumpkin to every batch and they taste fabulous!
  • Make fruit smoothies with frozen, over-ripened fruit.
  • Use your Halloween pumpkin to cook up a pumpkin soup or the filling for a delicious, homemade pumpkin pie. The kids will never know they're actually eating vegetables!! We should call this Jack-o-Lantern pie (or soup).
Dairy Products
  • Dairy products are tough to come by without getting them fresh, but there are a few choices. Pudding is available in store shelves, although it probably has preservatives. Read the label to know what you're getting.
  • Some cheeses can be stored on a shelf for a while.
  • Milk is available in dried, canned and in "juice boxes", for use in making custards, puddings, and as many things as your imagination can cook up.
  • If you happen to have a product like Egg Beaters on hand, you can create quite a few dishes with these: omelettes, quiche, souffles, and more.
Whenever possible, shoot for trying to eat fresh. Every good cook knows you need to have a Plan B. As a back up plan, keep some of your family's favorites from above in stock, for those nights when fresh just isn't happening. As long as you don't serve spaghetti twice a week, it will always be good!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Golf Resorts vs. the Water Shortage: What Can be Done?

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Surprisingly, even the flagship publication of the golfing industry, Gof Digest, recognizes their precarious position. While more and more of the population is becoming concerned about our water supply, golf courses continue to be built. Cities give out permits for golf courses to be built, apparently, because they support tourism, which brings income to municipalities. It isn't just the water use that is a problem. Unused land means little tax dollars in the coffers of starving local government accounts. But a golf course generally means there will soon be more tax-paying development nearby, as upscale neighborhoods and shopping will follow. All this is gold to our struggling economy, even as we seek solutions to our water resource problems. Seems like a LOSE-LOSE, doesn't it? 

The USGA knows they have a social problem. But between you and me, they also know they have money on their side. Golf is no cheap sport. Golfers generally have money to spare, and that means water is not as big a concern to them.

One token attempt, begun this year by Golf Digest to soothe the ruffled feathers of environmentalists, is the Green Star Award, an annual award for America's Best Environmental Resorts. As stated in their article on this first year's awards, they seek to "honor golf resorts that best demonstrate the industry's efforts to do no harm to the environment." You have to give them credit for not strictly going after water use in their effort to make light of resorts who are trying to improve their relationship with the Eco-friendly folks who disagree with their resource consumption.

I'll admit I envisioned a group of USGA board members with a short checklist of criteria on which to give this award. I was impressed to learn that the panel of judges all come with exceptional experience in and knowledge of environmental issues.

As I read about the winners and their practices which earned them this honor, I have to say I began to soften. Some of the environmentally sound efforts in motion include:
  • irrigation with effluent water
  • on-site water treatment plants to reduce transit expense
  • landscaping with natural plants, native to the area
  • purchase of wind-generated electricity
  • integrated pest management programs that include use of organic products
  • use of ozone water treatment to reduce water use
  • stepped up efforts at recycling, one that produces enough revenue to pay for itself
  • use of landscape compost as soil enhancement
  • protection of certain natural habitats and ancient live oaks
  • sea turtle sanctuaries are protected by guidelines invoked by resort management
  • drainage recapture systems that collect course drainage, not allowing chemicals to reach our waterways or wetlands
  • employment of  naturalists who educate guests on all areas of nature-preservation
  • organization of beach clean ups
  • Increased effort to use locally caught fishes
  • microfiltered excess water is expelled from one facility into nearby rivers, enhancing the water quality there, and protecting endangered species
  • banning of styrofoam use
  • a dedication to tree replacement in duplicate
  • purchase of local organic flowers, produce and wine, thereby supporting local agriculture
  • use of biodegradable personal care and cleaning products and recycled products
  • use of recycled tissues and organic sheets and towels
While most of the initiatives of these exemplary resorts are far too expensive for the average local course, it is acknowledged that these winners are four of the premier resorts in the country. I suppose it is a given that their income and their clientèle make it possible for all these actions to be funded. You may recognize some of them: Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas; Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey, California; and Sunriver Resort in central Oregon.

Even these winning resorts "admit there is still much to be accomplished before their operations can be considered totally sustainable, but all are making strides." As Golf Digest put it, "At least the game of golf is somewhere on the front nine of the environmental movement. These Green Star resorts are the leadoff foursome." Cute wordplay, but as an industry, golf has a very long way to go. Let's just hope they keep finding ways to do more.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Healthy Lunches: When Fresh is Not an Option

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Prosciutto and Provolone Rolls
with Dried Fruit and Baked Pita Chips

This post is part of a series on eating healthier. While shopping the exterior of our supermarkets where we find the freshest and most nutritious foods, shelf life and cost can become issues. The objective of this post is to assist you with ideas for healthier eating, when avoiding processed foods is not an option. My goal is to give you some inspiration for making healthier lunches, even when you cannot go with the fresh stuff. If you'd like to get the full picture, check out the first two parts:

Breakfast Foods: Your Healthiest Processed Food Options

Processed foods are located throughout the interior of the store. Because refrigeration is required for most meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables, processed foods have an obvious edge. Additionally, their much longer shelf life and already prepared status makes them a good match for our convenience-driven lives.

It is hard for some of us to think in terms of getting back to natural. Processed foods lose much of their nutritional value and often have preservatives and other no-nos on their ingredients lists. Yet, fixing fresh foods can become a habit with a little work on your technique. More on that in another post. Let's talk about some of the processed foods that are better choices, when ready-to-go is more of a must:

Protein Sources
  • Slices of lunch meat from the all-natural section can include ham, turkey, prosciutto, roast beef and pepperoni. Perhaps you will find others in your own natural foods store. My favorite indulgence at lunchtime is to take a couple of large slices of pepperoni or prosciutto (full sized) and place a slice of organic provolone cheese between them like a sandwich. Then I roll this us up and wrap it for lunch. Mmmm.....mmmm....good.
  • Take the above and add organic bread to make a healthy sandwich without the nitrates of many packaged lunch meats, and lots of fiber. Lettuce and tomato add vitamins, as well.
  • All kinds of nuts are now available at natural food stores in the bulk foods area. You can select the amounts and types of nuts you like and package them in small amounts to augment your protein for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Granola is a similar, crunchy treat that is delicious when stirred into a container of organic yogurt. You get the combination of creamy, fruity yogurt, along with the crunchy granola. Don't forget to pack a spoon if you are taking it with you.
  • Edamame, steamed and salted, is a wonderful finger food with loads of protein, healthy fats and fiber. These can be eaten warm or cold. Packaged, roasted Edamame is also available.
  • Bean soups, as well as those made with chicken, turkey, beef or other meats, all make for healthy lunches, even if canned and heated up. Thermoses made with wide mouths are perfect for these takealong lunches. 
  • Assorted cheese and nut platters are a nice lunch, with a little flair. Add some dried apricots for a good balance and it will take on a Mediterranean feel, if you  are packing lunch on-the-go for yourself.
Toss in Some vitamins...the tasty kind:
  • Adding vitamins to your meals usually means fruits and vegetables. When choosing processed foods from the middle of the store, your choices are limited. Start with soups--preferably the ones that are full of veggies.
  • Dried fruits have a longer shelf life and add a nice variety to lunch. The ones in the photo above are Organic Dried Mango and Organic Dried Tart Cherries, both from The Healthy Edge.
  • Containers of jello, apple sauce, fruit salad, and diced fruit (peaches and pears); try to find the fruits that are packed in their own juices, rather than the sweetened ones. Unsweetened apple sauce is also available.
  • Vegetable and fruit juices are available in so many varieties and blends these days; there is no excuse for skipping juices, except cost. If the price tag puts your brakes on, simply add a bit of water to make the bottle go a bit further (about 1 part water to 3 parts juice will hardly be noticed). One more note: Don't forget the reusable bottles; you can do your part to help save the landfills, when packing your take along lunches.
Dairy Products
  • If dairy products are not on your no-no list, you certainly can derive a great deal of Calcium and protein from adding these to your lunches.
  • Yogurt, cheese slices, milk, cottage cheese, kefir or drinkable yogurt all have much to offer in nutrition. Watch the sugar content in yogurt, kefir and drinkable yogurt; some are higher than others.
Side Snacks
  • Try to avoid fried chips and shoot for baked ones, also watching for baked Pita chips and bagel slices. There are many seasoned varieties available now, some made with vegetables for extra vitamins and fiber.
  • Pretzels are generally lowfat, but I would suggest you watch the salt for anyone who may be advised to limit their intake.
  • Air popped corn is a high-fiber munchie that is also quite filling.
  • Baked tortilla chips add extra vitamins when paired with a small container of salsa or guacamole.
Before I put this all in my lunchbox, I should mention that water is king when it comes to beverages. Although I mentioned juices, they should never replace water. When fruit is not available, juice is your next best choice. Just don't forget the water.

I'll be back soon with my dinner ideas. Be sure to check back to read up on selecting healthier dinner options from the processed foods available.

Keep an eye out, too, for upcoming changes in the site. I have big surprises in store for you. Curious? Check back regularly. I don't exactly have a target date yet, but there will be a super duper DOT COM dipper happening here, along with a salon-style makeover. Don't worry guys, it's not a girly thing. Actually, it's so main stream you will probably ALL like it. Keep checking in. Feel free to send questions and comments.

One last thing. Do you like my cheap version of a Bento Box in the photo? I got that at Target for about $10 a couple of years ago. It has a fork and knife in the lid, for handy takealong lunches. You can learn more about it at an earlier article, Bento Boxes meet Target.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Big Changes Coming...

Organic Journey Online will soon be joining the ranks of the DOT COMS. Yes, that's right! And I have all of you to thank for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In addition to my soon-to-be status as a full fledged website, Organic Journey Online will be getting a major makeover. Stay tuned for more information and surprises, coming soon.
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