Celebrate Earth Day

This Friday will mark the 46th year of the Earth Day movement!  Earth Day continues to inspire and ignite passion to motivate people into action to help protect our planet. There are many ways we can start incorporating eco-friendly ideas into our lives to lessen our impact on the globe. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Volunteer to pick up litter at your neighborhood park, beach, hiking trail, etc.
  2. Help evaluate the recycling system in your home and office to ensure you are using the best system possible.6881231757_3cb80f7652_b
  3. Be conscious of your energy and water usage. Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use, shorten showers, wash laundry in cold water, etc.
  4. Evaluate your home’s efficiency, ensure you have energy-efficient light bulbs, lower water temperature, and adjust your thermostat at least one degree lower during cold days and one degree higher on hotter days to help conserve energy.15114147602_fb7e282435_o
  5. Use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs rather than paper to-go cups or plastic bottles.DSC_0741
  6. Bring your own reusable shopping bags for groceries.
  7. Plan an unplugged night – turn off the TV, computers, laptops, cell phones,and tablets, hang out with family or friends, play games, talk, laugh, and enjoy an electronic-free night.
  8. Get outside and enjoy our planet: have a picnic, play games, garden, etc.1292399_ebf67c05

These simple ideas may not seem like they will make a big impact, but if we all incorporate them in our lives they can add up to big changes.

What changes are you planning on implementing in your life this Earth Day? Tell us in the comments below.

Eco-Conscious New Year’s Resolutions

2016 is almost here, and with the New Year come New Year’s resolutions!  Many people opt for popular resolutions like losing weight or traveling more. But what if this year you tried something a little different and tried to incorporate some eco-conscious resolutions?

Here are 15 resolutions to help get you started on becoming more eco-conscious:

  1. Implement a recycling system, or ensure that your current system is the best it can be
  2. Stop buying water bottles and use a reusable bottle bottles-774466_960_720
  3. Add some indoor plants for better air qualitySpider_Plant_Blades
  4. Unplug unused appliances and turn off unused lights
  5. Make your home more efficient by switching out old bulbs for longer-lasting energy-efficient light bulbs, or install a new digital thermostat for more accuracy and to better regulate the temperature while using less energy4473348751_55a915d276_o
  6. Go Paperless – stop paper bills
  7. Pay bills online
  8. Lower water temperature to conserve energy
  9. Repair, restore, and reuse items, when possible
  10. Use rechargeable batteriesbattery-1071317_960_720
  11. Adjust your thermostat one degree lower in the winter and one degree higher in the summer to help conserve energy15114147602_fb7e282435_o
  12. Buy local produce to reduce your carbon footprintFarmers_Market_and_Occupy_Eugene
  13. Take shorter showers
  14. Try to include a vegetarian meal in your weekly menu6933047123_ddefeb7037_o
  15. Enjoy the outdoors

This is only a short list of ideas. However, there are hundreds of ways we can make our lives more eco-conscious.

May your 2016 be a happy and healthy year!

Don’t Forget Breakfast This Thanksgiving

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, we have the turkeys prepped and the menu planned. If you’re like me, breakfast is the last thing on my mind. Breakfast shouldn’t be too complicated, because from the moment the coffee is brewing, I am busy.

To help make the morning more enjoyable and less stressful, here are several recipes that are quick, easy and delicious. Some of these recipes you can make the night before and reheat that morning. They can even become a new yearly tradition.

Crustless Zucchini and Basil Mini-Quiches

2995536015_3a950ae2e4_oMakes 4 Dozen

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small zucchini, grated
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped

Heat oven to 450°F.

Prepare Batter: Put the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisking steadily, slowly pour in a 1/2 cup of milk, mixing until quite smooth. Whisk in the whole eggs and egg yolks, mixing again until smooth, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, the cream, the salt, and the nutmeg. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to one day. If using the next day, be sure to re-whisk.

Prepare Zucchini Mixture: In a nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add grated zucchini and stir until just softened, another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Oil mini muffin tins well. Put a pinch of grated cheese, a teaspoon of zucchini mixture, and a pinch of chopped fresh basil, into each muffin cup. Pour 1 tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup.

Bake until the quiches puff and start to turn golden, 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then carefully run a paring knife around the rim of each muffin cup. Carefully lift each quiche out of its cup.

Mini quiches freeze very well. Let cool, then freeze in a single layer in a covered container. Reheat on a cookie sheet in a 400° oven for about 5-10 minutes.

Spiced Crock-Pot Porridge

img_1555Makes about eight 1-cup servings; recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped apricots
  • ½ cup chopped dates
  • ½ cup chopped figs or raisins
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Toppings: Chopped roasted nuts, jam, fresh fruit, more dried fruit, milk, yogurt, leftover eggnog

Combine everything except the orange zest and toppings in the bowl of a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Set the cooker on its lowest cook setting (“LOW” or 8-10 hours), and leave overnight.

If you happen to get up during the night, give the porridge a stir as you pass by. If not, no worries.

In the morning, break up the thin film that forms over the top of the porridge and stir it in. Scrape the sides and bottom. Stir in the orange zest.

Serve with toppings. Leftover porridge will keep refrigerated for at least a week. Reheat with a little milk or water to make creamy again.

Lemon Scones

6849616359_e1952942a5_oIngredients

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 egg, plus enough milk to make 3/4 cup

  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven 425° F

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and pinch of salt in a bowl.

Add butter and mix in a processor on “pulse,” or rub together with your fingertips until it looks like a crumble or bread crumbs.

Break an egg in to a measuring cup and add milk up to the 3/4 cup mark, and lightly beat with a fork.

Add the egg/milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix just until well combined. (Do not overmix).

Feel free to add extras at this step, such as lemon zest, cranberries, blueberries, chocolate chips, raisins, pieces of apple, or currants. There are unlimited possibilities!

Place spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Tip: Keep on eye on them, because depending on the size you make, they may cook more quickly. Also, leave some space in between the scones because they grow. Serve plain or with butter or jam.

Eat up and enjoy!

Healthy, Delicious, and Fresh Packed Lunch Ideas

8459976360_3c160f881d_bNow that the kids in back and school, the routines can begin again. In my house we prepare for school the night before by making sure the homework is checked, clothes are picked out, and lunch is packed. Often times, I find that we get stuck in food ruts and pack the usual sandwich and carrot sticks. To battle the food rut I look to the internet to search for new and healthy ideas, and I get overloaded with options.

Here are a few new favorite foods that are loved in our house so far:

Whole-wheat “Pita Pizza” (toasted in the toaster oven and then served cold)Pita_pizza_(17188259486)Organic Ham and Cheese Rolls

Whole-wheat waffle sandwich stuffed with fresh fruit or jelly

6995490557_690963d7ff_oPlain yogurt with a variety of delicious add ins

  • Granola
  • Peanut or Almond Butter
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Vanilla Extract and Coconut Flakes
  • Honey
  • Vanilla Extract and Mini Chocolate Chips

food-healthy-meal-grain

Popcorn

Frozen Smoothie

Apple with Peanut Butter

8466410432_65a56dbe8a_oWhole-wheat carrot applesauce muffins

Carrot_Cake_Muffins_(4135137580)Grilled Cheese with Pesto on Whole-wheat (served cold)

Whole-wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Organic Cream Cheese

BLT on Whole-wheat

15169375890_5b513e327cAn other great choice that allows your child to have fun is packing lunches themselves. Here are two really terrific and yummy packed lunches from the Blog 100 Days of Real Food:

Build a Taco Lunch

  • Corn Tortilla
  • Shredded Pork Taco Meat with Bell Peppers
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • and other desired sides100 Days of Real FoodConstruct a Pizza
  • Whole-wheat Pita
  • Organic Tomato Sauce
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Additional Desired Toppings such as Vegetables and Pepperoni, etc.

100 Days of Real FoodDon’t get stuck in a rut because there are a lot of great sources that help you to expand the food options you can pack in the lunches. Whatever you choose to pack, make sure it is delicious and nutritious!

Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You?

surf-677782_640

Many people think that exposing their skin to the sun will give them skin cancer. So to combat it, they either slather on sunscreen when going outdoors or try to avoid the sun as much as possible. Sadly, neither of these is a good solution.

Smaller amounts of sunlight can be healthy, but overexposure is what can be harmful. In modern times, most people do not get enough sun as a result of spending large amounts of time indoors. Many people actually become Vitamin D deficient, which can cause more problems than having too much sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiencies have been connected to several types of cancers and problems during pregnancy.

17076-a-woman-applying-sunscreen-to-her-face-pv

As for covering yourself in sunscreen for protection, what people don’t realize is that most sunscreens contain toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can actually promote skin cancer and free-radical production in the body. They may protect against sunburn, but do very little to prevent skin cancer and signs of aging.

4745425727_a9ee9a4a10_o_d

The best solution is to get limited daily sunshine to ensure that you are producing enough Vitamin D, but no so much that you risk getting sunburned. If you are planning on being outdoors for the entire day, you should consider loose clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, as well as locating shady spots to minimize the amount of time you’re in direct sunlight.

sun-protection-224274_640

If you are in a situation where you feel it is necessary to use sunscreen (rather than get burned), the best thing to do is try a natural recipe for homemade sunscreen. Below I’ve listed a recipe by Wellness Mama, as well as her personal notes for preparation.

Next time you go out in the sun, be prepared and informed about the proper ways to protect your skin.

Natural Homemade Sunscreen

Homemade natural sunscreen with beneficial oils, zinc oxide and beeswax for water protection.

Author: Wellness Mama

Recipe type: Remedy

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives, or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.

Additional Notes:

  • This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming.
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 15, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF.
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen.
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance.
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!