Monday, December 20, 2010

Lauren's Vermont Brown Bread

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© Carrie Boyko
Lauren's Vermont Brown Bread
Not every holiday can I say that someone gave me something homemade. These gifts have a special something that says "I cared enough to spend some of my valuable time on YOU." Today I received two beautiful gifts from a new friend. When she entered my life just a couple of months ago, we were perfect strangers. Yet in that short time I believe we have already become friends. I am all the luckier for that gift alone.

When she arrived at my home today with the gifts, one was this delicious bread. Luckily I got the recipe as well. You'll definitely want to add this recipe to your To Do list. It's a must do!

Lauren's Vermont Brown Bread

  • 2 cups of organic buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup organic molasses
  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cups organic white flour

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Blend buttermilk, soda, salt, and molasses for 2 minutes
  3. Add flours and mix for 2 minutes.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour

For maximum enjoyment, serve with your favorite soup or stew.  Thanks, Lauren!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lemon Oh So Good Organic Cookie that's Very Low in Fat!

(c) Carrie Boyko
Thanks Samantha! We love Them.
Well, I suppose you've all been wondering where I am. It seems that there is a dog blog out there that has sniffed me out, fetched me over there, and hounded me into full time service. Along the way that dog blog has managed to climb into the Top 100 Pet Blogs and get quite a bit of attention. So, alas, I have left my poor OJO quiet and lonely. 

Today we can celebrate a new organic cookie recipe. And that party should be even more hearty because this cookie has a whopping 1 gram of fat. How's that for healthy? Maybe you're a skeptic and certain they'll be awful. Think again.

I nabbed this recipe from a new friend at our family reunion. I should have told her I'd make her famous, but then that might have been a little over the top. Now that I've found all the ingredients in organic form, I just had to tackle them. Here goes:

Lemon Cloud Cookies
  • 1 organic egg
  • 2 cups TruWhip, all natural Cool Whip substitute (yes; it's terrific!) You'll find this in the freezer section of many natural food stores.
  • 1 box organic lemon cake mix
  • 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray 2 large cookie sheets.
  2. Now that you're done gagging over that long list of ingredients (LOL) let's get to work. Stir egg, TruWhip and Cake Mix together until well mixed. It will be a sticky mixture.
  3. Place the powdered sugar in a bowl.
  4. Using 2 spoons, scoop up a rounded teaspoonful and roll it in the sugar, using the spoons. Fingers will get too sticky!
  5. Place on cookie sheet.
  6. Oven variations and personal preference being what they are, bake the cookies for roughly 13-14 minutes.
  7. Cool on rack and store in airtight containers when completely cool. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies. Yippee!
Now that you have a low fat cookie recipe that is totally yummy, you have license to bake them for everyone you know this holiday season. Who can complain about those fattening treats you gave them when these are incredibly healthy? Let the baking begin...

NOTE #1: Feel free to leave comments thanking Samantha for the recipe. We love her!

NOTE #2: If you miss seeing me and my silliness, feel free to stop in at All Things Dog Blog (my completely serious doggie bloggie) or 5 Minutes for Fido, where silliness is an art form with my pack being the bloggers. And don't forget to enjoy your journey.

© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Organic Furniture and Mattresses for a Healthier Home Environment

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(c) image courtesy of

Choosing American-made furniture is just one of the many things you can do to reduce your family's carbon footprint. The considerable difference in shipping makes for less environmental impact, getting you off to a good start.

There's more you can do to improve your home's air quality, as a result of toxins that off-gas and accumulate in your house. For instance, natural, solid wood that is not treated with a lengthy list of no-nos such as formaldehyde and glues, saves you from the health hazards of plastics and pressed woods or laminates, that often contain added amounts of these materials.

Purchasing furniture that is not made with pine will save you from the out-gases of terpenes that cause allergic reactions and are irritating.

Upholstery materials can now be obtained in organic or all-natural forms, and vinyls can be replaced with natural latex. These choices mean less off-gasing from vinyls and no residues of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in the fabrics you spend hours sitting or laying on.

Speaking of sitting and laying for hours, think about what you spend 8 hours doing every night. Can you guess why your mattress, sheets and pajamas are the most important items you can purchase made from organic or natural materials? This is 1/3 of your life we're talking about, so give this one serious consideration.

Mattresses are made from polyurethane foam. This material is treated with flame retardants. Most mattresses made before 2005 used PDBEs, highly toxic material that puts you at great risk when spending your entire night lying on it. PDBEs have been linked in research to multiple health hazards such as cancer, thyroid hormone interruption, memory impairment and much more. Nasty stuff! 

You're probably thinking there are loads of alternatives, but sadly, the other materials used as flame retardants all have their issues. Only a natural latex mattress core will protect you from this stuff.

Have I got you thinking about replacing your mattress? I visited Green America, and their National Green Pages, a massive listing of companies that offer products and services that support a sustainable lifestyle. You'll find lots of companies to pick from at this link. Want a place to start? I learned a lot at one particular site, Erik Organic, a company that offers natural and organic furniture of all types. There are many others as well, so do your research. As you already no doubt know, buying a mattress is no small purchase. Sleep healthy.
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quick Organic Stuffed Baked Potatoes--Luscious for Lunch

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(c) Carrie Boyko
Stuffed Baked Potato
Makes a Luscious Lunch
It's not uncommon for me to get a letter from a reader looking for recipes, but this latest one asked for lunch ideas. Why had I not thought of that unique problem before? When we're away from home, we're often surrounded by restaurants and fast food joints. How are we to eat healthy, much less organic?

Here's a quick idea that you can pull off with the office microwave. It's one of my favorite quick lunch at home solutions, but works well away too. You can pack the ingredients (some of which may be leftovers, so you're saving more money too) in a small cooler or lunch box and prepare this quickly at work.

Organic Stuffed Baked Potatoes

  • 1 med. Organic potato, leftover baked or raw
  • 1/2 cup cooked, leftover organic broccoli (or other veggies of your choice)
  • 1 whole organic green onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoon organic butter, sliced into thin slivers (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slices of organic sharp cheddar cheese
  1. If your potato is raw, wash, pierce each end, and bake for 5 minutes in the microwave, adding one minute at a time until tender.
  2. Slice potato in half lengthwise, lay open, and use a fork to score the insides.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Layer the slivers of butter over the potato.
  5. Add broccoli and green onions.
  6. Cover with slices of cheddar.
  7. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, depending on whether your potato is already hot. Check for temp and add an additional minute if needed.
  8. Enjoy!
Don't forget to eat the skin, as it is highly nutritious and adds extra fiber to your diet. Happy lunching.

Did you know: Potatoes are one of the vegetables known to absorb and hold more toxins, making it extra important that you choose organic for this vegetable. 

The more you know, 
the more you eat organic.
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Thursday, August 19, 2010

All Natural Éclair Cake: Decadent and Delightful

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(c) Carrie Boyko
All Natural Eclair Cake:
Decadent and Delightful
"Mom, grab a pen and write this down", my son said hurriedly, as I answered the phone. Thinking there was some emergency, my heart began to pound. 

"What's wrong", I asked.

"Nothing. I just have the most amazing recipe that I just got from Mawmaw, my friend's grandmother. I want  you to make it when I come home. It's awesome!" I giggled, in spite of myself, realizing that my son had inherited my sweet tooth. Turns out Mawmaw's recipe is spot on. I've converted it to nearly 100% organic with great success, and I believe you will be thanking me till the cows come home.....Is that the saying? I'm not really sure what it means, but here's the recipe:

Mawmaw's Eclair Cake, All Natural Style

  • 1 box organic Graham Crackers
  • 2 packages organic vanilla pudding, prepared and cooled in large bowl (place plastic on pudding to discourage a film)
  • 1 10 oz. container Truwhip all natural whipped topping
  • 1 box organic chocolate frosting mix, prepared
  1. Line the bottom of a 9 X 12 pan with graham crackers.
  2. Mix the pudding and Truwhip together completely.
  3. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the top of the graham crackers and spread evenly.
  4. Layer the top with another lining of graham crackers.
  5. Cover this with the remaining pudding mixture.
  6. Place a final layer of graham crackers on top.
  7. Microwave the prepared frosting for 1 minute on high.
  8. Stir and pour evenly over the top.
  9. Cover securely and refrigerate overnight before serving. 
  10. Cut into squares and serve with spoon or fork.
(c) Carrie Boyko

Serves 12. Don't dally; it will be gone in a flash. This stuff is to die for. I'll take a bow now, but no credit. It's Mawmaw's recipe. Thank her!
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Friday, August 6, 2010

Greening Up Your Summer Cookout isn't Just About Paper Products

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Colorful Tablecloth Adds 
Atmosphere to Your Cookout
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal was brought to my attention by a reader. While there was nothing new in the article except attitude, you might find this topic of interest. Playing up the natural options, this article made frequent mention of the lack of color, yet solved this problem themselves with their photo layouts. Go figure!

When using sugar cane or corn starch-based cutlery, plates and cups, adding color to this otherwise bland tableware is as easy as tossing a colorful, reusable table cloth on the table and serving some colorful foods.

Grilled veggies, including red, yellow and orange peppers with broccoli, cauliflower and yellow squash make a wonderful grilled dish.

 Another way to add color is the entertainer's old standard--flowers. Cut an assortment from your yard and arrange them in a vase or pitcher of water.Viola'! 

The final point made by WSJ was that the goal of a cookout is to have fun. Keep that in mind and don't worry so much about every detail. Just keep the food healthy and you're good to go. How many of your guests will really care if you use white, corn starch-based paper plates instead of bright red plastic?

One interesting parallel, found among a number of the companies interviewed about their greener products for WSJ's article, is that the companies' anticipated sales were lower than actual revenue. Several companies found products, that they believed to have small niches, to be more widely accepted and revered as Eco-chic. To my ears, that's great news--a trend in the right direction.

The cost of organic meats was barely touched on, and therefore merits some mention here. While I, like the retired farmer in the article, purchase some organic or grass fed beef from the likes of Whole Foods, there are cheaper sources. Whole fryers, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and ground beef are among the many organic meats I am able to purchase from my local Costco at a significant savings over smaller markets. 

Do I consider the cost of the petroleum used for transporting these products? Sure. We all have to weigh the benefits of eating local versus saving dollars. In my home, our solution is one that many consumers are choosing today; we eat less meat. More meatless meals and smaller portions help keep our budget in line with our comfort zone. When it comes to your own comfort zone and budget, it's your call. Make it carefully.

Related Reading:

© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Organic Gardening and Lawncare Working Well Here

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(c) Carrie Boyko
Container-Grown Basil has Jumped Ship
 and Taken Root in the Ground Also
My tomato crop is just about spent for this summer. With every day in the upper 90s, no self-respecting tomato can survive. I have managed to help a few pull through by placing a large length of window screen over them. This helped with scavenging deer also; they enjoy nibbling at the fruit as they pass through our neighborhood during the night.

My Basil is a whole different story. As expensive as this stuff is to buy fresh in the grocery store, it's surprising that I can't give it all away. I've let neighbors know, told friends, and still I've got more than we can eat. I probably use basil three times a week, in large quantities. Suffice it to say, I have a ton of the stuff.

We've been enjoying caprese, bruschetta, roasted chicken, and much more, on a regular basis. I add it to pizzas, sauces, soups, and just about everything I can think of. And I still have a garden full, and it continues to pop up all over my nearby areas. It's like a weed!

A few days ago, while mentioning this 'problem' to a friend, she asked how I was growing it. I told her about my organic approach, and that I had started the seeds in organic compost. She looked at me quizzically and I quickly knew I had lost her.

Starting from square one, I explained about rooting vegetables from seeds, making compost, the benefits of compost, and why my Basil is so healthy. We also talked about pest control, or more accurately, the lack of it. She was shocked, baffled that it is so easy to grow premium Basil that sells in the store at $4 for a small package. 

I explained that one of the primary reasons I chose to grow Basil and Tomatoes is their excessive cost, especially when we eat so much of them. To bad I can't successfully grow Broccoli here. We eat it 5 times a week.

So, what's my message? It's compost. This stuff is the healthiest, best way you can grow vigorous flowers, vegetables and houseplants.  What's more it helps the soil hold moisture, so you won't have to irrigate as often. Want to try it? Here's some articles to get you started:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Organic Journey Online Named to Top 30 Organic Blogs

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Top Organic Blog
Online Nursing Degree

Partnering with Awarding the Web, a group of online nursing schools have researched and analyzed feedback to present the Top 30 Organic Blogs with the above award. Thanks to all of you who read my blog. This award really belongs to you for supporting my efforts.

Move to Bamboo for All-Natural, Sustainable Linens

photo courtesy Amazon
Gaia Offers a Wide Variety of 

Natural Home Linens

Given the serious concerns over toxins in conventional cotton, cotton producers are scrambling to get more organic cotton on the market. Their timing is bad, though. With the economy in the toilet, many buyers are not ready, just now, to spend the extra bucks for organic cotton. It's simply too expensive.

Cotton, being a difficult crop to grow organically, is a very costly way to go, when looking for all-natural sleeping digs. Yet, knowing that cotton retains the pesticides that are sprayed on it during growth, it makes me squeamish just to think about sleeping on it. What are the options?

Your best way to go is bamboo. It is generally less costly, more Eco-friendly, and because of it's naturally easy-to-grow, drought and pest resistant nature, it is cheaper to produce.

Even non-organic Bamboo is less toxic, because it requires little or no chemicals to produce. What's more, Bamboo has anti-microbial properties, an added benefit when you're spending so many hours hunkering down on it. Just one caveat: 

If you decide to go this route, keep in mind to consider the brands that are made with all-natural colors, rather than petroleum based dyes. As long as you're looking out for your long term health, you might as well go that extra mile. You can also read a bit more about pesticides in cotton over at New Kid on the Green Block. Enjoy the journey!
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rooftop Organic Gardening Takes off in the Big Apple

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While gardening on the rooftops of skyscrapers is no new concept, running a business in this venue certainly is. The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is more than a farm that supplies local restaurants. They also operate a CSA (community supported agriculture) operation on top of their warehouse location, offering the opportunity for citizens wishing to exercise their green thumbs, a place to do it. The Eagle Street Farm Market is open 10-4 on Sundays during the NYC growing season.

 They frequently host movies such as the recent presentation of What's Organic About Organic, offering answers to questions about the process, policing and management of organic farming.The Unfancy Food Show offers a wide variety of organic produce, as well as an urban environment in which to learn about the art of gardening.

Wish I were closer--sounds like loads of fun. Anybody out there visited this place? I'd love to hear more.

© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Monday, June 21, 2010

Easy Does it on our Earth

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I recently found a new website that I am having loads of fun exploring. I'd like to share it with you, as there is so much to offer there. Aside from sustainable products, I'm particularly enjoying the guides to various topics like organic gardening, living off-grid ( that's a big dream for me, although not terribly likely to happen), and much more. The site is called Earth Easy.

My favorite article so far is entitled What it's Like Living Off Grid. This brief story of how one family handled some of life's electricity-driven tasks without electricity, is an interesting and light-hearted starter for those of us thinking about taking the plunge. Reading books like Living Like Ed got my engine running on this topic earlier, and Ed has clearly gotten the ball rolling full speed ahead. His approach is well-capitalized and extremely research-intensive, something that is probably easier said than done.

If you're looking for other sustainable places to shop online, try the Happy Hippie.

Enjoy these sites and let me know what you find there. I hope to find more time to peruse. Enjoy the journey!

Related Reading:

Tips from Living Like Ed
Keeping up with the Begleys: A Book Review
Living Like Ed
Ed Begley Jr.'s Guide to Sustainable Living

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Worst of the Worst--the Produce You MUST Buy Organic

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Image from OCA website

Some produce is more susceptible to pesticides and other toxins. Root vegetables are particularly at risk because of runoff waters and the toxins collected in soil that do not dissipate. Then there are the treeborn fruits that seem to catch all the sprays that travel with the wind.

Dutiful organic farmers are careful about spraying even the safest of horticultural oils in any wind. They often use biodegradable products in their own homes to assure no toxic run off from their home water use. Unfortunately, we don't all eat 100% organic fruits and vegetables. Some try, but few succeed. Many desirable varieties are not available. I'm a huge fan of melons, but rarely find them in organic form. Since few cantelope and honeydew are grown in Florida, organic melons are extremely hard to find. And then there are the watermelon. These heavy, expensive melons just balloon in price when grown organically, and are almost never found in my markets in organic form. Tisk!

I eat what I can find that is toxin free and hope for the best in terms of variety. Here's a bit of info to help you understand those fruits and vegetables that are known to have the largest pesticide residues. Print this out; take it with you to the market. Live by it for your family's sake: Organic Consumers Association
© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Friday, June 4, 2010

Understanding the Benefits of Eating Organic: Taking the Bad with the Good

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Not a day goes by that someone doesn't bust my chops about the produce that slips through the system, labeled as USDA organic, but not truly in that league. I see this problem as akin to politics. You have a few bad apples in every barrel--the ones that seem to make every apple look bad. They even draw in their comrades with bribes and deals. One bad apple in a barrel emits chemicals that can make the whole bushel rot quicker than it should. Not a bad analogy, even though it doesn't solve the problem.

What we have to accept is that eating a few non-organic veggies, even though we thought they were the purist of pure, is not nearly as bad as knowingly buying all conventional produce, heavily laden with pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. The latter gives us no chance at all of keeping our livers clear and our lives free of diseases and other health woes.

This reminds me of the famous quote that goes something like this:

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.

My goal is simply to help you change those things that you can. Join me next week for a look at the most toxic of all produce--the ones you need, absolutely MUST, try to buy organic. Think about it. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Organic Chicken Kabobs My Way

(c) Carrie Boyko
Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Memorial Day is sort of the unofficial kick off of Summer, even though the calendar tells us than June 21 is the true first day of the season. Honestly, summer here in Florida, begins on the day that Winter ends--Winter being that season between Thanksgiving and February 15 when the weather is spectacularly comfortable and less humid. One of the things I give thanks for every Thanksgiving is the weather--we are always able to be outside doing active things, and most often in shorts. Sorry northerners, but I couldn't resist.

Back to the real topic at hand--cookout season. Whether you call it cooking out, grilling, barbecuing, or the Aussie version,  "the Barbie", it's pretty much the same thing--outdoor cooking on some sort of grill or open fire.

It seems, when I research the health of the subject, there is no way of getting around the fact that cooking out is not great for the environment. Charcoal--nasty stuff for the ozone; natural gas--made from fossil fuel; burning wood--releases all sorts of nasties into the atmosphere. I'll admit I'm not extremely well-read on this topic, but I sure do love the taste of food cooked outside. So giving up my green badge for a day occasionally is just going to have to do. Here's one of my favorite recipes for grilling out for.

Carrie's Organic Chicken Kabobs and Grilled Vegetables
served over rice, with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables of the season

Ingredients: (to serve 4, multiply per your requirements)

  • 3-4 organic chicken breasts, washed and dried 
  • 1 medium to large organic yellow onion, sliced 1" wide at the circumference.
  • 1 each--Organic red, yellow and orange peppers, sliced about 1" wide
  • 1-1 1/2 cups white cooking wine or leftover white table wine
  • 1 cup organic Italian salad dressing (I use fat free)
  • Organic rice, your choice (I like Texmati)
  • 2 large organic carrots, grated
  • 1 cup organic green vegetables (beans, broccoli, snap peas, etc), chopped or grated fine
  • Sea salt

  1. Stir wine and salad dressing together in a shallow container with a lid.
  2. Beat the chicken breasts with a tenderizing mallet and then stab repeatedly with a fork, creating punctures through the meat.
  3. Cube the chicken to roughly 1-1/2" square.
  4. Add the meat to the marinade mixture and stir in well. 
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days, stirring and turning meat daily. Try not to skimp on the 3 days much, as the extra time makes for a more flavorful, tender chicken.
  6. Prepare one dish of your choice of summer veggies to serve as a side.
  7. Also, create a fruit salad from the many summer fruits and berries available, choosing local whenever possible.
  8. On the big day, skewer the chicken cubes, alternating them with onions and peppers to create a colorful array. 
  9. If you have any vegetarians joining you, they will no doubt prefer a skewer of just veggies, and I would add some of the beans, broccoli, snap peas, etc to this to offer more variety for this choice.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate until grilling time.
  11. Before time for the grill, start your rice, adding the vegetables during the last few minutes to keep them colorful and not overcooked.
  12. Grilling your kabobs won't take long, once the grill is heated up, so be prepared to turn them frequently and remove quickly--probably about 10 mintues total, depending on the size of the cubes.
  13. Serve your kabobs hot off the grill and enjoy.
If you say 'grace', be sure to give thanks for the variety of vegetables in this healthy meal. Can you count how many colorful veggies you're eating? They contain generous amounts of Lycopene and antioxidants that are great cancer fighters, making them a regular guest at my table.

Need an organic dessert recipe? Here's a few from my archives:

Organic Irish Apple Cake (no frosting, much healthier than traditional cake)
Toni's Favorite Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Organic Cinnamon Raisin Bread

You say it's raining? 
Cook your kabobs in the broiler or on your indoor grill. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ADHD Linked to Exposure to Pesticides: Will this Drive a Move to Organic Food Production?

© Carrie Boyko

A study just released in the Journal of Pediatrics found increased levels of pesticides in the urine of children in an ADHD study. In addition, the study determined that a greater risk of ADHD is evident when pesticides are present in the child's body. This study will most certainly churn up some anger in parents and hopefully encourage more use of natural fertilizers and pest control. It's safer for our pets and us.

Anyone who has ever read The Hundred Year Lie will not be surprised. Randall Fitzgerald explains the history of our food system and its woes so graphically, you may not want to eat again. Yet, there are things you can do to minimize your risk, such as selectively choosing the produce you buy ORGANIC. More on this in my next post. Meanwhile, buy the book. Devour it. Read on...

The hazards of synthetic pesticides have long been known, yet ignored by the big agriculture companies. Today's Internet reports on this topic give credibility to the concern. Here are links to  just a few of the major news sites with their reports on this study:

The Daily Green
Los Angeles Times
NBC Today Show
The Atlantic

Okay, I think you get the idea now. This is major news for the health of the children in our country. Conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are laden with pesticides, and organically produced veggies are more expensive due to the extra labor and guidelines they must endure. This means that most families cannot afford to eat organically-grown produce.

Many people I talk with hear the occasional concern about whether organic is really organic, and they can't lose that thought. Sure; there are going to be some organic farmers whose slips don't get inspected and who will get away with it. This is nothing new; it happens in every  industry.

As for me and my family, I'll take that small chance that one apple I eat may have slipped through the cracks, and hope that the rest got the clean, green treatment and are pesticide-free. 

When I garden at home, I see the effort it takes to hand-remove pests and stir compost into the soil for enhancement. I also taste the difference, and know the health benefits are there for me. It's worth it. My family is worth it. Please read The Hundred Year Lie for your family:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homespun Pork Chops Simmer Up Tender In Soup

(c) Carrie Boyko
Braised Pork Chops Cooked Up Interest
At the end of a family dinner a while back, my son announced that his guest had just enjoyed her first pork chop. I was delighted to have provided her initiation experience with this down-home dinner choice. I had served a pork chop dinner that I make regularly, served with mashed potatoes, cinnamon apples and salad. Nothing Earth-shattering, but it was tasty, nutritious and filling.

I mentioned this pork chop dish back in March, in a completely different framework--and without a recipe. Much to my surprise, I received emails from two readers asking for it!

The only thing unique about this particular dinner was the not terribly noticable absence of gluten. I sure didn't miss it, but our guest was pleased to be able to eat everything on the table. That was my goal.

Braised Pork Chops (The Other White Meat!)
  1. Spray a frying pan with organic cooking spray and turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When heated, add all natural pork chops and brown on both sides.
  3. When browned, add 1 can (for every 3-4 pork chops) of organic chicken and rice soup, pouring the rice and veggies on top of the chops. I chose a gluten-free brand of soup especially for our guest.
  4. Lower the heat to medium low and cover.
  5. Simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.
  6. The remaining soup makes a nice, light gravy for the mashed potatoes, if desired.
  7. Serve with the rice and veggies on top of the chops.
If I peaked your curiosity with the mention of cinnamon apples, you can find that recipe at this link. Hope you enjoy your healthy, organic dinner.

Related Reading:

Crockpot Leg of Lamb: Fabulous and Super Easy
Organic Banana Bread and Muffins
Let's Get Cooking: Organic Recipe Sites Galore

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Composting Organic Food Wastes Makes for Healthier Plants Next Year

(c) Carrie Boyko 2010
Basil Sprung from Hearty Compost
and Last Year's Seeds

claim token BJ35WMVNUW2T
Last year's organic gardening efforts were my first ever, and what a thrill it was. There is truly a 'one with the earth' feeling you get when you grow something that you can eat. Here's how my journey started, and now continues. Perhaps you can derive a lesson or two from my experiences.

After nearly a year of composting, I harvested a nice crop of rich, organic compost to use for soil enhancement. Before my toxin free days of eating organic foods and using natural products,  I had enjoyed flower gardening. Never had I experienced the joy of harvesting a vegetable that could be savored in my dinner that very evening. What a thrill those first clippings of Basil and fresh-picked tomatoes were. Last year was truly a blessing for me in terms of new experiences.

The journey, this year, is continuing quite without my help--big surprise! As an exceptionally busy winter and spring had delayed my planned sowing of seeds, one day I made a discovery. I had basil growing out of the cracks in my driveway, and tomatoes popping up out of my compost pile.
Basil growing in a driveway crack!

While the latter was no surprise, as compost is supposed to be a terrific medium for starting seedlings, the basil in the cracks appeared to be nothing short of miraculous.

Scouting the area to see what other seedlings I might find, I discovered dozens of basil sprigs all around my yard. The wind and the bees had clearly done their job. I grabbed my yard gloves and tools and began to carefully harvest these precious little darlings into a bucket, to be transplanted into the container I grew basil in last year.

This container has been stowed under my overhang for the winter, after a freeze killed the last of the remaining basil. Before storing it there, I stirred in a bountiful bucketful of fresh compost, to enrich the soil for next year's seeds. When I slid it back across my yard to the sunlight, I discovered another surprise--more basil growing in the big pot--lots of it!

I gasped at the amount of little basil seedlings that filled the container, marveling at the miracles of nature. The picture at the top of this post is what I found. I had not even ordered my organic basil seeds yet, and here I already had nearly 5 dozen little plants started, after I added the ones I dug up around my yard. 

After transplanting all the driveway harvested basil, I grabbed another pot and headed back to the compost pile to dig up the tomatoes and pot them. Again I was in for a shock. I found not just the three plants in the compost pile, that I had seen originally, but also more growing around the area. It took nearly every pot I could find to locate a home for each plant. I blew a kiss to my organic compost pile as I potted the last of the tomato plants and whispered to myself, "Never again will I need traditional fertilizer; I have the gardener's secret." Bruschetta, here we come!
Tomatoes Growing in My Compost Pile
Imagine That!
Related Reading:
What Can I Put in my Compost
More on Naturally Enhancing Your Compost
Lighting a Fire Under My Compost

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© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simply Healthy, Simply Quick, Simply Low Cal: Two Weeks in My Kitchen

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(c) photos copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Boy, did I labor over this title. I'm back to the rule #1 thing--no diet guru stuff for me. This is simply a labor of love. I'm sharing my favorite quick and simple meals that are also friendly to our waistlines. After that, I'm back to my regular gig. Deal?

Before I lay out my top 14 dinners, I have one point to make; you may think it a bit silly, but it's important to me. I have offered my top favorite family meals, along with my most common vegetable accompaniments. What I am leaving out is the fruit that often graces our meals. Sticking to organic fruit is a little tougher than vegetables, so I often need to take what I can get. The point is, I generally slice up a bowl of fruit, berries or fruit salad--a mixture--as our dessert wanna-be.

Here's the top two weeks of organic menu favorites at our house; links will take you to recipes:
I suppose you'll notice the lack of red meat.  We're trying to avoid it, although it creeps in occasionally in the form of tacos, garlic-infused hamburgers, filet mignon, a rare pot roast or  marinated kabobs. There's also an occasional pork loin roast or center cut pork chops for variety. We're definitely omnivores.

Out of 14 meals, two are fish, one includes an option for beef, three are vegetarian, 8 include rice or pasta, and 8 include chicken. All are heavy on the vegetables, except 'sandwich night'. Not a bad balance for low-fat, low-carb, high veggies in our heart-healthy meal choices.

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