Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Nutrient-Dense Chocolate For Valentine’s Day!

Red HeartThis Valentine’s Day, indulge in a bit of nutrient-dense chocolate. Hailed as a super food as scientists begin to identify all the benefits of the cacao bean, it’s loaded with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can help ward off many common lifestyle diseases. The key is consuming the right chocolate – raw, unprocessed cacoa beans or nibs, or at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Not your typical candy bar loaded with fat, sugar and other fillers!

Some of the potential benefits of eating chocolate are:

  • Lowering cholesterol levels and relaxing blood pressure
  • Preventing cognitive decline – Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate “can help preserve blood flow in working areas of the brain”. Compounds in chocolate may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways in the brain.
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems
  • Protecting against type-2 diabetes – due to the high levels of flavonoids in chocolate (also found in tea, berries and wine)
  • Preventing obesity – certain antioxidants in chocolate are said to lower blood sugar levels and possibly prevent weight gain

As most people instinctively realize, chocolate also releases certain feel good chemicals, or endorphins naturally produced by the brain “that generate feelings of pleasure and promote a sense of well being.”

On Valentine’s Day, promote well-being and buy your loved ones some healthy chocolates! And, when you next crave a cup of steaming hot chocolate on a snowy day or a piece of chocolate to boost your mood, go for it. Your body knows what it needs. Just make sure it’s a moderate amount of the right kind. Moderate amount?  That’s not always easy for chocoholics like me!

Watch this short video on the amazing benefits of eating a little chocolate everyday!

Information compiled from: http://www.medicalwellnessassociation.com/, http://www.organicauthority.com/, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Celebrate with a “Green” Thanksgiving!

As we give thanks for family, friends and delicious and abundant food this Thanksgiving, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful earth we live on too.  Why not make your Thanksgiving a “green” one and try the ideas below.

Image by Ilrena Flickr.com
  • For your holiday dinner, support local farmers who grow organic produce. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Local food by contrast is usually transported 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe.  It is obviously fresher and better.  Farm stands and supermarkets have an abundance of local winter squash, carrots, potatoes, greens, herbs, apples, and pumpkin. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
  • Try a locally grown, free range organic turkey available at local farms and Whole Foods.  Fresh turkeys are unbelievably moist and delicious and not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.  You won’t believe the difference.  For the vegetarians at your table, try a Tofurkey (available from Trader Joe’s).  It come with its own vegetarian gravy and is really good!  If possible, use organic cranberries for your cranberry sauce – cranberries are a heavily sprayed crop.  Heart healthy salmon makes a delicious Thanksgiving dinner too!
  • Add freshly baked local artisan bread and rolls.
  • Consider serving organic wine along with your meal. Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, meaning grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.
  • China, silver and cloth napkins are obviously better for the environment than paper plates and plastic utensils.  They look better too!  If you are expecting a big crowd and need to opt for disposable, get the biodegradable and compostable plates and utensils.
  • Thanksgiving dinner generates a lot of leftovers and food waste.   According to earth911.com, “at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person.” Careful planning and portion control is a good way to avoid waste. Leftovers are inevitable however, so consider donating them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.                                                                                                                                                                   Use Less Stuff created a handy list of approximate per person food portions for Thanksgiving dinner:
    • Turkey- 1 pound
    • Stuffing- ¼ pound
    • Sweet potato casserole- ¼ pound
    • Green beans- ¼ pound
    • Cranberry relish- 3 tablespoons
    • Pumpkin pie- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie
  • After the big feast, don’t forget to recycle cans, cartons, plastics and bottles and compost kitchen scraps.

With your healthy and “green” holiday feast, you won’t feel so badly about overindulging!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Celebrate Earth Day!

 

 

Mark your calendars for Earth Day next Tuesday, April 22, a day to commemorate the earth, celebrate green acts, raise awareness and work towards a more sustainable future.  If you read my blog regularly, I imagine you already practice green acts.  Earth Day is a good time to commit to adding new green habits.

 

What else can you do?

 

  • Adopt “meatless Mondays”. The meat industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Spring is a good time to start composting your kitchen waste.  This time next year your compost pile will have turned into dark, rich compost with which to pot your spring plants or to spread on trouble spots on your lawn. By contrast, when food goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • In addition to your reusable water bottle, bring along a reusable mug when you buy a coffee or tea (Many coffee shops charge you a reduced price when you do so.)  Paper cups are less toxic than polystyrene cups, but they still use a significant amount of resources.  Twenty million trees (a renewable resource) are cut down annually to manufacture paper cups, most of which are coated with a fossil fuel-derived plastic, and 8,095 gallons of water are used to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves.
  • Think about the amount of electricity you use every day – the coffee maker, blender, hair dryer, hair straightener, electric toothbrush, iron, computer,  printer, tv,  air conditioning, lights, etc.  Try and reduce your usage by unplugging your appliances when not in use; consider power strips to help control  vampire energy.  Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • Test drive a hybrid or electric car when you are next in the market for a new car. I drive an electric car and feel so good driving my carbon emission free car and love not paying those high gas prices!  (It doesn’t significantly increase your electricity bill.)
  • Start an Earth Dinner tradition serving local, organic foods, using real cutlery and cloth napkins, and eating by candlelight to save energy.  Find out who grew your food and the history of the recipes you are cooking from.  Connecting to your food makes the experience more meaningful.  Of course you will be washing your dishes with non-toxic detergent, right?

 

With every passing year, I notice greener living  becoming the new way of life.  That’s encouraging!

 

Want to know your ecological footprint?  Click here to find out (and how to reduce it).

 

http://www.earthday.org/footprint-calculator

 

Some information compiled from earthday.org.

 

A Holiday Thought…..

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Dr. Seuss 

photo-1

This year, slow down and take pleasure in the simple beauty of the season – baking holiday treats and meals, listening to Christmas carols in front of a roaring fire, decorating your home with special ornaments and lots of winter greens and berries, “green” wrapping your gifts, reaching out to those in need, and of course spending precious time with family and friends.  Celebrate with old traditions, embrace new ones and be grateful for your blessings.

I’m definitely taking pleasure in my kids’ visits who come from far and wide, and as much as I love blogging, I don’t want to miss a minute with them.  So, I’ll resume sending you exciting new green tips after the New Year.  For green holiday ideas, check out last year’s Green Your Holidays. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and look forward to a green and healthy 2014.

Go Greener with Your Cleaner!

‘Tis the season of non-stop holiday gatherings with family, friends and co-workers when we bring out the “party” clothes.   Perhaps you spill sticky holiday punch on your new black velour pants or your husband’s silk tie dangles in the smoked bluefish pate and they need dry cleaning.  I go to an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, one that uses a safer alternative to perchloroethylene or perc. (Eighty-five percent of dry cleaners use the solvent perc classified by the EPA as a toxic air contaminant and possible to probable human carcinogen.)  I reuse some of the plastic bags the clothes are returned in when I travel and wrap nice pants or a dress in them.  Or I return the bags to my cleaners for recycling.  But there are so many!    I’ve always wondered about a better alternative to all that plastic!  Well here it is…

English: Many dry cleaners place cleaned cloth...

It’s called the Green Garmento, an eco-friendly, recyclable, breathable laundry bag that can be a hamper, duffel to carry your clothes to the cleaner and a garment bag in which your dry cleaner can return your clothes instead of plastic!  It holds 10 – 14 garments with a full-length side zipper for easy access.  It is machine washable and has a clear window for an ID or a dry cleaning ticket.  What’s more, it’s only $17 for two (or $9.99 for one) so that you can rotate them between home and the cleaners.  The green garmento makes a perfect holiday gift. You can order it online at thegreengarmento.com.

There are an estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning bags that unless recycled end up in landfills, leaching chemicals and threatening marine and wildlife, every year.

It’s time to make a change to safer and more eco-friendly dry cleaning , don’t you think?


 

Healthier Holiday Baking

 

What’s the holiday season without cookies, cakes, candies and other unhealthy treats!  Baking holiday goodies is part of the tradition, and a perfect family activity. While I totally believe in a little splurging, there are healthy baking substitutes where no one will know the difference.  I’ll skip the tip about substituting black beans and dates in place of chocolate when making brownies!  (However, if it sounds appealing, email me and I’ll send you the recipe – my husband loves them!)

 

Supermoist banana and almond cake.

  • Use coconut oil in all recipes calling for butter, shortening or vegetable oil.   It’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil and has 100% less cholesterol than butter.   It contains the same medium-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk essential to optimum health and disease prevention.
  • Olive oil is a good cooking oil too and makes a delicious, guilt-free dessert.
  • Substitute flours made from nuts and healthy whole grains, like almond meal walnut meal or quinoa, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods due to its high nutritive value, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Nuts are super high in Omega 3’s, the right fats your body and brain needs.
  • For recipes calling for peanut butter, try healthier almond butter instead.
  • For a more nutritious sweetener, use honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses or organic cane sugar instead of refined white sugar.
  • Use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
  • When baking with chocolate, try chocolate with at least 60% cocoa powder– it’s healthier and rich in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.  Organic is preferable too!  (Cocoa powder is chocolate pressed free of the fat of cocoa butter.)
  • Moisten cakes and cookies with applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed pumpkin for extra nutrition.  Add nuts, dates, and other dried fruits to your baked goods.
  • Nutrient-rich chia seeds are a good thickener and make a yummy pudding!

Feel a little better indulging this holiday season with some of these baking tips.  Email me your healthy ideas too!  Have fun!

 

Listed below are three simple recipes for healthier holiday treats.

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing (don’t use extra virgin)

6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons best vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal (flour) or 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

1 cup superfine sugar (or organic can sugar)

eggs

1 X 9-inch springform cake pan

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the pan with a little oil and line the base with parchment paper.

Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or pitcher and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, just runny, paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.

In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) with the baking soda and pinch of salt.

Put the sugar, olive oil, and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes, until you have a pale-primrose, aerated, and thickened cream.

Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very center, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.

Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its pan, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the pan. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm. Delicious with ice cream too!

 

Coconut Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded coconut, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  Blend coconut oil, eggs, sugar, and almond extract.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Flatten balls to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until pale tan. Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Each cookie contains 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil.

 

Date Balls

Simple to make and just as satisfying as a usual holiday cookie, date balls are perfect to bring to a party.  They are a great energizing snack too!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups raw almonds
6  dates
1 – 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (add 1 tsp at a time until there is a light vanilla flavor)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional to roll balls in after; sesame seeds are good too)

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor outfitted with an “S” blade, or a heavy-duty blender, process almonds until coarsely ground. Add the dates and extract and process until mixture sticks together. Form the mixture into tablespoon size balls and roll in coconut or sesame seeds.

From deliciouslivingnutrition.com.

For more green living tips, go to greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

Prepare your Thanksgiving Feast with Safer Cookware

 

As you start your Thanksgiving preparations, pull out your grandmother’s old cast iron skillets you found in the attic!  They are much safer than non-stick cookware, and when seasoned properly, cast iron pans are as nonstick as other coated pans.  Conventional non-stick pans can off-gas toxic fumes over high heat.  Even if the pans have labels claiming  “green” or “not non-stick”, chances are they are still coated with toxic chemicals; manufacturers do not have to release their safety data.

English: A cast-iron pan.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cast iron pans have other benefits too.  They are an ideal heat conductor, cook evenly and consistently, and are better able to withstand high heat.    They go easily from stove to oven, don’t warp and are easy to clean.  Simply wash with a mild detergent and dry thoroughly.  Foods cooked in a cast iron pan also absorb iron, a valuable mineral that the body needs to produce red blood cells.

To season your cast iron pan, brush the surface evenly with a vegetable oil; bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour, then cool in the oven.   Repeat occasionally and your cast iron pans will last for generations.  In fact, they will just get better with age.  You can purchase new ones pre-seasoned and ready-to-use however.

If you don’t have any cast iron pans (but hoping to get some for Christmas) and are still using non-stick pans, follow these simple tips to reduce the possibility of toxic fumes:

  • Never heat an empty pan
  • Don’t put it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees
  • Use your exhaust fan over the stove

Oven safe glass and stainless steel are other safe alternatives to non-stick pans. Be greener this Thanksgiving – click here for more green holiday ideas.

Enjoy your family and friends this Thanksgiving and remember this Native American saying, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” 

Information compiled from ewg.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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