No Plans for New Year’s Eve?

New Year 2017

Whether you are with your family, with a loved one, or on your own, here are some simple ideas to ring in the new year.

Keeping it simple is always a favorite when you have a larger family. Host a dinner for friends with young ones so the adults can enjoy some adult time while the kids watch movies. Make it a pajama night so if the kids fall asleep, it’s easier to transport them home and put them to bed when the night is through.

Silvester Feuerwerk

Most towns offer some kind of outdoor party to ring in the new year. From live music to fireworks at midnight, it can be fun for the whole family or just you and your significant other.

If you’re kidless, make it a pot luck so everyone can enjoy a little bit of something while playing cards or games or watching TV for the ball to drop. A nice dinner out with your significant other followed by a walk in the park can be romantic.

Ski, snow, sun and winter fun - happy family ski team

Enjoy a family activity like bowling, skiing, going to the movies, or going for a midnight (late-night) hike. There is nothing like being outdoors enjoying the air to start a new year. Not a nighthawk? Then get up early to see the sunrise in the new year.

Regardless of how you spend your New Year’s Eve, we wish you a safe and happy new beginning to 2017.

Don’t Light Those Scented Candles!

Still life with candle and a stick of cranberry

As the holiday season is in full swing, many people pull out their wonderful holiday decorations of candelabras, votives and candles in wreaths. But many of those candles are scented to smell like cinnamon spice, apple, or even pine tree or more. As tempting as burning those scented candles may be, they may be causing more harm than good.

Many candles are made from paraffin wax, and when this wax is heated, the toxic chemicals benzene and toluene are released – the same chemicals that can be found in diesel fumes! These toxins are also known as phthalates , which can cause major health effects if inhaled and have been linked to cancer, asthma and common allergies.

The wicks of the candles can also contain heavy metals, most commonly lead. Inhaling lead can cause hormone disruption and behavior problems.

Not all candles are harmful. Be sure to read all labels fully to see what materials are used in the creation of the candle.

There are many alternatives to achieving the beautiful aromas of the season without the use of candles, such as:

  • Soy-based candles with wooden wicks
  • Essential oils
  • Beeswax candles with wooden wicks
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • A small live tree in a pot
  • Wreaths made from fresh branches

My favorite solution for a natural holiday scent is this Holiday Stove-top Potpourri:

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 sprig of rosemary (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 cups of water and toss in all ingredients. Simmer on low. Add water as needed to freshen up.

Don’t Forget About Your Pets This Holiday Season

 

pet_bed_with_bunnies

First and foremost, your fur-friends should have a comfortable place to lay their heads. They may be exhausted from all the family that visits and need a place of their own. Consider our certified organic pet bed. Made with a certified organic cotton cover and an organic buckwheat-hull bladder, it makes the perfect pet bed to cuddle up on. Sizes available are small round, small square, and large square. Your local retailer will help with availability and pricing.

cat

Whether you have a dog, cat, ferret, or other furry friend, they all have one thing in common: they love their toys. It can be a simple ball, an empty box, or a small stuffed animal. Regardless of your pet’s favorite toy, the simple gesture of handing over that toy can make a pet’s day. If you celebrate the spirt of giving this holiday season, remember to give a little something to your four-legged friends. They’re celebrating too!

Treats can provide another quick way to their hearts, through their stomachs of course. There is a wide range of healthy, organic foods out there for them. Everything is covered from treats to main meals to special dinners. Much like humans though, you don’t want to overdo it.

Sleeping dog and owner. Man and dog sleeping together

 

Love comes in many forms including four-legged, kissable, snuggable, and lovable forms. Cherish every moment you have with your fur-friends and family this holiday season.

Need a Little Inspiration for Halloween Goodies?

With Halloween just around the corner (less than a week away), it’s always nice to have some fun food ideas to share with the kids. Why not start the Halloween weekend off with some goodies to get everyone in the Halloween spirit? Check out a few ideas listed below that will have everyone begging for more.

Homemade Cheese Balls

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-3-21-08-pm

Picture Credit: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes

Ingredients

  • 4 large green tortillas or wraps
  • 2 c. Cheetos, finely crushed into crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (4-oz.) package goat cheese, at room temperature
  • black pepper
  • black and green olives

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the tortillas into 24 bat-shaped wings. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, but not browned, about 15 minutes: let cool. Line a second large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the Cheetos crumbs and seeds in separate small bowls.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, and pepper to taste. Using a 1 oz cookie scoop, scoop balls of cheese and round out, gently molding with your hands.
  4. Coat the cheese balls in the crumbs or seeds. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Once the tortilla wings are cool, gently press into the sides of each cheese ball. Thinly slice olives and place on top of each ball for eyes.

 

Jack O’Lantern Sandwich Bites

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Picture Credit: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts
  • 8 oz. Thinly sliced black forest ham or Virginia ham
  • 8 oz. Thinly sliced Cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 1 large egg

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil.
  2. Unroll pie crusts. Cut each crust into 24 pumpkin shapes with a 3” pumpkin cookie cutter. Using a 1/2” triangular cookie (aspic) cutter or a sharp knife, cut out eyes and a nose from 12 of the cutouts.
  3. Using a 2” round cutter, cut 24 rounds from the sliced ham and 24 rounds from the sliced Cheddar.
  4. Place 2 slices Cheddar in the center of each of the 12 solid pumpkins; top each with 2 slices of ham. With a small brush, brush beaten egg around edges. Top with remaining pumpkins with cut-out faces, carefully pressing on the edges to seal.
  5. Place on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg. Bake 12 – 15 minutes until light golden. Let cool on rack 5 minutes before serving.

 

Meat Mummy Loaves

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Picture Credit: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb. white or yellow potatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 large egs
  • 2 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c. panko or plain bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 12 grape tomatoes
  • ¾ c. lowfat sour cream
  • 24 oz. Peas

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners. Place the potatoes in a pot, add enough cold water to cover, and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt, reduce heat, and simmer until just tender, 15 – 18 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper; stir in the bread crumbs. Add the garlic and carrot and mix to combine. Add the beef and pork and mix just until incorporated. Divide the meat mixture among the foil liners and push a tomato into the center of each one. Transfer to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the meat registers 155 F., 14-16 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the sour cream and ¼ tsp. salt and mash until very smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2” ribbon tip (Wilton 104). Transfer the meat loaves to a platter and pipe the potatoes back and forth over each top to resemble a mummy’s wrapping. Place 2 peas on each for eyes.

Little Ghost Sandwiches

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Picture Credit: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes

Ingredients

  • 24 slices firm white bread
  • 3 c. chicken or tuna salad
  • 1 tub whipped cream cheese
  • Sliced black olives, for ghost face
  • You’ll need: 3.5 to 4.5” ghost-shaped cookie cutter

Directions

  1. Cut out ghost shapes from bread slices using the cookie cutter. Make 12 sandwiches, using a scant ¼ cup of chicken or tuna salad per sandwich.
  2. Thinly spread surface of top bread slice of each sandwich with cream cheese (about 1 Tbsp. per sandwich). Decorate with sliced olive eyes and mouths.
  3. You can make salads up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate. Short on time? Instead of making our delicious tuna or chicken salad from scratch, pick up your favorite prepared version from the deli.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

Check out all these recipes and more HERE

Perfect End-of-Summer Recipes

It is the last weekend of summer and time for one last BBQ before we put the grills back into storage. If summer has to end we might as well make good food to send it off right. Here are some great recipes to help make the perfect Summer’s end feast!

Watermelon “CAPRESE” with Balsamic Glaze

Photo Courtesy: www.skinnytaste.com
Photo Credit: http://www.skinnytaste.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 red seedless watermelon, sliced 1/2 inch thick (calculated with 16 oz)
  • 8 – 1 oz thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 loose cup baby arugula
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic glaze

DIRECTIONS

Use a 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter (or any shape) and cut 16 stars out of the watermelon (about 1 oz each). Save the excess watermelon for another use.

Arrange the watermelon on a platter, then layer with cheese, arugula, 1/4 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt on each. Top with a final star, drizzle each with balsamic glaze and serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Turkey Burgers with Orange Mustard Glaze

Photo Credit: www.foodnetwork.com
Photo Credit: http://www.foodnetwork.com

INGREDIENTS

Burgers:

  • 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3 lbs ground turkey (white and dark meat)

Glaze:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers, with seeds
  • 1 9 oz jar orange marmalade (with peel)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder

DIRECTIONS

Prep the burgers: Combine the salt, paprika, pepper and granulated garlic in a small bowl. Form 6 turkey patties and sprinkle on both sides with the seasoning mixture.

Make the glaze: Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the marmalade, mustard, black pepper and chili powder and cook about 2 minutes, until fully combined. Reserve until ready to use.

Preheat a grill to high. Grill the patties until nice markings are shown, about 5 minutes per side, then reduce the flame to medium and cook until well done, 12 more minutes, flipping after 5 minutes. At the same time, toast the buns on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the buns; top with the glaze, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Serve with pickles.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Banana Split Kebobs

Photo Credit: www.delish.com
Photo Credit: http://www.delish.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bananas, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 24 1″ pieces pineapple
  • 12 large strawberries, rinsed, dried, and halved
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Assemble the kebobs: thread two pieces of banana, pineapple, and strawberry onto skewer. Repeat process to assemble 23 more skewers. Place all on parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate in microwave using 30-second intervals and stirring in between until completely smooth.

Drizzle chocolate over fruit kebobs and top with chopped peanuts.

Freeze until ready to serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Father’s Day gift ideas

Great last minute Father’s Day gift ideas:AdobeStock_106425785(2).jpeg

Don’t forget your dad this Father’s Day.

Here are some great gift ideas for your special dad.

 

  1. Plan an Outing:  Take your dad to his favorite restaurant or plan a family fishing trip, hike with a picnic, movie, concert, or sporting event that he would enjoy.Family fishing
  2. Plan a special at-home treat: Make him breakfast in bed, or plan a night in you can make his favorite dinner, then watch a video and relax.
  3.  Build him an eco-inspired bird house out of a recycled bottle – HERE 
  4. Get dad some new items for the barbecue to inspire more summer night barbecues.Grill, bbq area with tools hanging on the wall
  5. Show dad how much he’s appreciated by making a homemade picture frame. Here’s a link for some creatives ways to make a frame – HERE
  6. Create a gift basket and fill it with some of his favorite things. Maybe pick a theme based on his hobbies or favorite treats and fill the basket based on the theme. Some great examples of theme ideas: sportsman, coffee lover, sweet-tooth fanatic, bookworm, Mr. Fix It, film buff or outdoorsman, to name just a few.
  7. Get him a digital magazine subscription or pick out some books by his favorite author at a used bookstore.

This Father’s Day, show dad how important he is and how much he’s loved.

 

Great Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Colorful_spring_gardenMother’s day is only days away. Show your mom how much you love her with a thoughtful gift straight from the heart.

  1. Plan an Outing:  Take your mom to her favorite restaurant, museum, play, movie, concert, or some other event she would enjoy
  2. Plan a Special At-Home Treat:  Make her breakfast in bed, or plan a night in, make her a delicious dinner, then watch a video and relax.morgan-making-smoothie-273x300
  3. Create a gift from things you have around the house, such as this no-sew t-shirt pillow:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDVcStxBINs
  4. Make Her Kitchen Mason-Jar Herb Garden:mason-jar-planter-board-747x1024Use a piece of wood and affix the quart-size mason jars using heavy-duty stainless hose clamps, adding chalkboard strips for labeling. Place gravel or clay shards at the bottom of the jars to avoid rot.Click HERE for the full tutorial. 
  5. Paint a Tin-Can Mini Flower Pot: Transform tin cans into elegant containers for potted roses with a can of spray paint in a bright and stylish color.
  6. Give Her the Gift of Relaxation: Gift your mom a relaxing gift basket filled with assorted “tub teas.” pampering items, lotions, etc., to help with sleepless nights.
  7. Glass Vase Centerpiece:Shanty2Chic-Bottle-VaseUse recycled glass wine bottles in a pine or whitewood frame and with fresh flowers.   For a full tutorial on creating this gift, visit Shanty 2 Chic
  8. Recipe Ring:
    DIY-Recipe-Ring
    A great easy gift to help keep your mom’s special recipes. Type out recipes with 6” long and 4” tall dimensions so you are able to glue them onto note cards. Print the recipes onto different-colored paper. You can even color code them according to side dish, entree, dessert, etc. Cut out and glue to note cards; laminate if possible. Hole-punch the top left corner and add a ring. You can even attach a new bright spatula or whisk to the ring for a fun extra addition.  
    Click HERE for the full tutorial. 
  9. Head Outdoors:
    family-walking-through-the-woods1
    Enjoy the great outdoors with a trip to the park for a picnic, or plan a hike to a favorite outdoor area.
  10. Framed Memory: A picture can be worth a thousand words, so give your mom a favorite picture of you or your siblings, or even the two of you together.
  11. Send a Thoughtful Card: Skip the funny card from the card aisle at the grocery store and make your own. Include a note about how special your mom is to you.

This Mother’s Day, make sure to do a little something extra special!