November 8th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The traditional Sweet Potato Bake, topped with gooey browned marshmallows, has become a Thanksgiving tradition—especially if you have kids.
But recipes are now geared toward more adult tastes, be it Creamy Vanilla Sweet Potatoes or Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Streusel Topping.
Bananas add a touch of the exotic—and a nutritional boost—to today’s Caribbean-inspired recipe. Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
Read More:Caribbean Sweet Potato Bake
November 7th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Hosting a formal holiday dinner with multiple courses?
Follow these place-setting rules from the pros:
- Always work from the outside in. The fork on the extreme outside is the one used for the first course. The same applies to glassware and cutlery.
Read More:How to Set a Formal Holiday Table
January 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
By Dawn Burden Bates
Happy New Year!
It’s not too late to make your recycling resolutions. The holidays are finally over, and we can all hopefully begin slowing down and getting our lives back to normal.
If your home is like mine, the holidays left you with a huge mess. Empty boxes and torn wrapping paper littered the floor after the kids excitedly opened their gifts. It’s so tempting to gather it all up and throw it in the outside garbage bin.
But this is a great opportunity to not only recycle, but to reuse. Almost all of the wrapping paper and boxes can be recycled, so consider keeping your contribution out of the landfill. And for the reuse possibilities, they are practically endless.
I’m pretty sure that most of the ribbons I use have been used for several years. And many of the boxes that hold the gifts are great to use for packaging gifts next year. Do you realize that many stores now charge you for a gift box? Sheesh, I’ll save mine for next year, thank you—not to mention the gift bags. I love getting my gifts in those pretty little bags, especially since I know I will be using one for someone else’s gift somewhere down the road. Do you know how much those things cost? They are outrageous. No way would I throw them away. They are too valuable.
Now, what are we to do with the tree? If you use an artificial tree, it’s a pretty easy decision. You fold it up and store it for next year. Simple. And if you are lucky enough to live in a warm environment and purchased a live tree, including the root ball, you can get to work planting it in your yard to enjoy for years to come.
But what about cut trees? Most communities offer some sort of Christmas-tree recycling. The lucky ones have curbside pickup to recycle their trees. The rest of us need to decide what to do.
What convinces me to haul the tree to the recycling facility? I was willing to haul it home after I purchased it, so I can just as easily take it to be recycled.
Some communities use the old trees to shred and cover pathways and trails through parks. This helps repair and reduce the damage we create as we enjoy our hikes.
Some communities turn the old trees into mulch and then provide it to the public for free. What a deal!
Here are some additional resolutions to consider:
- Resolve to begin recycling if you don’t already do so. You can start small. My website, A Recycling Revolution, offers a wealth of information on how to get your recycling efforts off the ground.
- If you already recycle, step it up a notch. If your curbside recycling service doesn’t accept a particular item (like glass or cardboard), resolve to begin taking that item to the drop-off facility in your area.
- Resolve to purchase more products packaged with postconsumer recycled materials. The higher the percentage listed on the package, the better.
- Resolve to purchase more items made from recycled materials. Paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and many other paper products fall into this category.
- Resolve to purchase more items in bulk. This reduces packaging waste.
- Resolve to create at least one craft item using something you might otherwise throw away. This is fun, gets your creative juices flowing, can reduce stress and is a great way to spend some quality time with your family.
Dawn Bates is a busy wife, mother, environmentalist and webmaster of the highly informative recycling website, A Recycling Revolution. Visit the site for both basic and extensive information on recycling, composting, reusing and reducing. You may also sign up for Dawn’s recycling newsletter, Trash Talk, to gain access to freebies like downloadable recycling stickers and recycling cheat sheets.
Read More:Recycling Resolutions
December 24th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
While lovely holiday symbols, poinsettias and mistletoe have long been thought to be gravely poisonous.
But while ingesting these holiday plants can cause discomfort, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) indicates they’re not quite the deadly hazards experts once thought.
“Treating a poinsettia exposure is a glass of milk for the child and a tincture of reassurance for the parent,” says Dr. Ed Krenzelok, managing director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. “That’s it.”
Having authored studies on both mistletoe and poinsettias, Dr. Krenzelok has found that both plants are less deadly than the lore about them would indicate. His 1996 study on poinsettias, which involved 22,793 exposures and no fatalities, found that most patients can be treated at home, without requiring a trip to a healthcare facility.
Last year, U.S. poison centers received 1,174 calls about human exposures to poinsettias, with only one resulting in a moderate medical effect and 27 with minor effects. No deaths or major effects were reported.
In 2007, poison centers received 1,373 calls about poinsettia exposures, with only three resulting in moderate medical effects and 36 with minor effects.
Last year, poison centers took 277 calls regarding animal exposures to poinsettias (and 326 in 2007). Again, no deaths or major medical outcomes were reported.
“Other than a little bit of vomiting, we don’t expect any problems from poinsettias,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, a veterinary toxicologist for the Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL. While poison centers field plenty of calls about animals, she has never seen a serious effect.
That said, Dr. Krenzelok cautions that consuming anything in excess can be hazardous.
Mistletoe, too, has suffered from a bad reputation, Dr. Krenzelok says.
Last year, U.S. poison centers took 132 calls about human exposures (and 131 in 2007). During both years, only one person experienced a moderate medical outcome.
If you have questions about holiday plants or any other holiday-related products, call the AAPCC at (800) 222-1222. Free, confidential counseling is available 24/7 all year.
Read More:Have an Organic Poinsettia or Mistletoe?
December 18th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
I’ve been on a vanilla kick this week, posting stories on my must-have extract brand and a holiday recipe for Creamy Vanilla Sweet Potatoes.
My final vanilla-themed entry is today’s wonderfully wintry cocktail recipe. Add Vanilla Peppermint Pattitinis—a vodka-infused peppermint pattie on ice—to your Christmas or New Year’s Eve bar menu. Trust me, your guests will swoon.
All of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store. Bottom’s up!
Vanilla Peppermint Pattitini
Makes 2 servings
- 2 ounces vodka
- 2 ounces half-and-half or cream
- 1 heaping tablespoon hot cocoa mix
- 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure chocolate extract
- 1/2 teaspoon Tahitian vanilla extract (or Madagascar or Mexican extract, if preferred)
- Chocolate syrup
- Mini candy canes
- Add all ingredients, except the syrup and candy canes, to a shaker, and shake vigorously.
- Pour into chilled martini glasses.
- Garnish with a swirl of chocolate syrup and a candy cane.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Nielsen-Massey/ARA
Read More:Vanilla Peppermint Pattitini
December 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Sweet potatoes and vanilla are a perfect pairing, as demonstrated by:
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch
- Sweet Potato Pie Smoothies
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Streusel Topping
- Sweet Potato Bundt Cake
In each recipe, vanilla enhances the orange veggie’s inherent sweetness.
I’m adding a new recipe to the oeuvre: a smooth, creamy holiday side dish that incorporates the richness of cream cheese and butter, the sweetness of maple syrup, and the decadence of smoky bacon. (Vegetarians can easily omit the bacon.)
All of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store.
Creamy Vanilla Sweet Potatoes
Makes 6 servings
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- Canola oil
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 5 strips bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash sweet potatoes, and lightly coat skins with canola oil. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until fork-tender.
- Cut the hot potatoes into halves. Scoop the pulp into a mixing bowl, discarding the skins. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute using an electric mixer.
- Add cream cheese, butter, syrup, vanilla extract, salt and pepper. Whip until creamy.
- Spoon whipped potatoes into six ramekins coated with nonstick cooking spray, and top with the bacon. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until heated through.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Nielsen-Massey
Read More:Creamy Vanilla Sweet Potatoes
December 10th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Christmas in Napa Valley, Calif., is a wine-centric time. The new vintage has already been crushed and pressed, and bottles are making their way to holiday tables everywhere.
“This is my favorite time of the year in Napa,” says Colin Crowley, executive chef at Terlato Wines International. “The pace has slowed down, and everyone turns their attention to celebrating the bounty of the season in a very relaxed, yet elegant, way.”
December dining in Napa “is about classic recipes with contemporary updates that give the food an exciting, enticing vibrancy,” he says.
Here is Chef Crowley’s recipe for a five-star entrée that pairs beautifully with a chardonnay. All of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store.
Halibut with Tomatoes, Capers and Olives
For the Fish
- 1 halibut filet (about 4 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Coat halibut filet with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast in a 350°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 135°F.
For the Tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans (28 ounces each) premium tomatoes
- 8 ounces Kalamata olives, halved
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- In a 12-inch skillet, over medium-low flame, heat the olive oil; add garlic. Cook for 1 minute; do not let the garlic brown.
- Add tomatoes (undrained), olives, capers and red pepper. Bring sauce to a brisk simmer, and cook about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Spoon sauce over fish, and garnish with basil.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Terlato Wines International
Read More:A Very Napa Holiday
December 3rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
By Kathie Bond-Borie, Guest Columnist
If you’re looking for a plant with year-round appeal, holly belongs near the top.
No matter where you live, hollies offer shiny red, orange or yellow berries, and many varieties have characteristic waxy leaves that clothe the plant in all seasons.
There are thousands of different varieties, the main distinctions being either evergreen or deciduous. They all prefer similar growing conditions.
Here are some tips to keeping hollies healthy and full of fruit:
- Hollies need a neutral to slightly acidic soil that’s well drained and loamy to sandy.
- If you have clay soil, amend it with compost or composted organic matter.
- Full sun will promote the best fruiting, but hollies will grow reasonably well in partial shade.
- All hollies are tolerant of air pollution and road salts.
There’s still time to plant hollies this fall. In northern areas, the best time is after the plant has gone dormant but before the soil freezes. In southern areas, you can plant anytime.
Dig a hole that’s deep enough to allow the root ball to sit slightly above the soil line. Make the hole twice as wide as it is deep. After planting, spread mulch to keep the roots cool and moist, but keep it about 6 inches away from the trunk to prevent nibbling by mice during the winter.
If you want to cut some branches of berries this fall for holiday decorating (they last about two weeks indoors), make cuts with an eye to the plant’s shape. Most shrubby hollies grow naturally into an attractive shape. The taller, tree-like hollies, such as English and American hollies, look best if trained when young into a pyramidal shape with a dominant central stem.
Hollies with small leaves tolerate shearing. Selective hand-pruning will give your plants the best overall shape and the best crop of berries. Save this type of extensive pruning for the spring, just before new growth begins.
Spring is also the best time to fertilize. Spread a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, on the soil surface. The roots are shallow and can be damaged if you try to dig it in. Apply one-third of the fertilizer inside the branch canopy and the rest outside the drip line.
A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathie Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants, and spends more time playing in the garden—planting and trying new combinations—than sitting and appreciating it.
Photo courtesy of the National Gardening Association
Read More:Decorative Hollies
November 29th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Almost 43 million families will be making their own holiday gifts, cards and decorations this year, according to the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA).
“Crafting provides an opportunity to spend time with friends and family while creating unique, one-of-a-kind gifts that don’t need to cost a lot of money,” says CHA President and CEO Steve Berger.
The following project makes a great holiday decoration or gift. Organic wreaths are available at your local nursery and some natural/organic food stores. The remaining supplies can be found at your local craft store.
My favorite craft store, Joann, is offering OrganicAuthority readers free shipping on orders totaling $50 or more. Click here to take advantage of this holiday promotion.
Family Holiday Wreath
- Organic wreath
- Chipboard words
- Alphabet rub-ons
- Favorite family photos or holiday-themed stock photographs
- Heavy cardboard
- Metal saying
- Wire cutter
- Glue gun
- Attach metal saying with wire to center of wreath.
- Print or download photos. Those in this craft were printed in sepia.
- Adhere photos to heavy cardboard (same size as photos).
- Add rub-ons to photos (create names, messages).
- Glue chipboard words to wreath.
Project courtesy of www.terriocraftprojects.com. Photo courtesy of the Craft & Hobby Association.
Read More:Decorate an Organic Wreath
November 25th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Starbucks and other coffeehouses are trotting out their high-calorie winter beverage menu.
A 12-oz. (Tall) Starbucks Peppermint Mocha made with soy milk has 250 calories, not counting whipped cream (add another 70 calories). A 12-oz. Gingerbread Latte, even with nonfat milk, has 150 calories—220 with whipped cream. You really don’t want to know the calorie count in the full-fat versions. Trust me.
Save money and calories with today’s Pumpkin Latte, which has only 80 calories per serving.
The key is smart substitutions, says Jenny Harper, senior culinary specialist for the Nestlé Test Kitchens. In today’s recipe, she blends low-fat dairy with a nutrient-dense ingredient like pumpkin.
Best of all, the ingredients should be readily available at your local natural and organic food store. Enjoy!
Makes 2 servings (8 ounces each)
1 cup strong coffee
2/3 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (or other sweetener)
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
- Combine coffee, evaporated milk, pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a 2-cup microwave-safe glass measure or small saucepan.
- Heat until very hot. (If using the stove, select medium-low heat and stir occasionally.)
- Carefully pour into mugs.
Want a Foamy Top?
Prepare recipe as directed. Then, carefully transfer the hot mixture into a blender container. Cover with lid, and hold it down with a folded towel or potholder. Blend for 1 minute.
Nutrition Facts per Serving: 80 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 5 g protein, 80% vitamin A, 20% calcium
Recipe and photo courtesy of Nestlé
Read More:Pumpkin Latte