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!

Ways to Start the School Year Off Eco-Friendly

7327146800_b2e65d6bf3_oSummer is coming to a close. That means it is time to prep for the new school year. which means back to school shopping for supplies, backpacks, lunch pails, clothes, and the list can go on and on. Before you head out to the store to purchase everything, here are some great tips to keep those back-to-school purchases as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.

  1. Take Inventory

    4588535631_486542047c_oClean out those desk drawers, dressers, and closets and you may find hiding treasures like packs of pencils, notebooks, or clothes you bought on sale that haven’t even been worn yet. Now that you have gone through all that you have, you can make a list of what items are needed. The list will guide you. When you hit the stores, so you won’t buy duplicate items or spur or the moment purchases.

  2. Reuse What You Can

    5093615082_3df15d285f_oLook through what you have to see if any items can be reused. Often there are many items that are still in good condition and can be used for another year. The backpack from last year may be in great shape and just need a quick cleaning to be school-worthy.

  3. Healthy Lunch Options!

    9350757417_4bf3167767_oA bento box makes a great reusable and waste free lunchbox option- no plastic baggies required! Many bento boxes have multiple dividers or containers that allow you to pack a healthy and fresh lunch. If a bento box doesn’t suit your needs, there are many other great reusable containers that allow you to pack delicious and nutritious options.

  4. Reusable Bottles

    6959989243_b5a94e95a5_oRather than packing bottles of water or juice boxes daily, send your child to school with the healthy drink of choice in a reusable bottle. There are many great designs; no need for juice boxes!

    There are many great options when it comes to reusable containers, bbut be sure to check that they are made with recycled material and are BPA-free.

  5. Buy Recycled or Sustainable When Possible

    creative-desk-pens-schoolMake your list so you know the school supplies you need, now it is time to buy. Most retailers now offer many options of recycled and sustainable materials, such as pencils made from certified sustainable-harvest wood or pens, paper and notebooks. made from recycled materials. Every little bit helps eliminate waste!

  6. Eliminate Paper Waste

    apple-desk-working-technologyRather than having many pieces of paper float around ask to be emailed important notices from the school. Every bit helps and this will save many sheets of paper that get lost in the bottom of backpacks. This also allows you to put important dates in your digital calendars rather than keeping stacks of paper around the house.

Here’s to another great school year!

Fried Greens Meatlessballs, a Delicious and Healthy Summer Snack

Photo Courtesy of food52.com
Photo Courtesy of food52.com

Summer is a fantastic time to visit the farmer’s market and buy all fresh and in-season produce! When I go to the farmer’s market, I will leave with armloads of delicious, fresh produce. Sometimes, I purchase more than I can use. To fix the problem of excess produce, I have taken to the internet in my search for recipes as to not let them go to waste. I stumbled upon a fantastic recipe from Food52, Fried Greens Meatlessballs. This recipe is great for using any leftover greens and turning them into a yummy snack or appetizer.

Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 bunch greens
  • 3
 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1
small yellow onion, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2
 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 
cup cilantro
  • 1 
tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1
 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 
cup crumbled feta
  • 1 or 2
eggs
  • oil for frying

Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds.

Add greens to pan and sauté for a 1-2 minutes, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.

Let cool for five minutes, then add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture and if it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If the balls do not hold together well, add another egg.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden In Limited Space

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With Summer approaching and fresh vegetables coming into season, we begin to plan yummy veggie dishes to share with our family and friends. Farmer’s markets begin to open, and many people will venture there to pick up their produce. However, there is another option available: growing your own vegetables. There are many ways to grow your own veggies, even if you do not have a large yard for a garden. Here are several great places you can start a garden with limited space:

Walls 

outdoor-pallet-furniture-28Hanging organizers or up-cycling pallets can create vertical garden planters that can be hung on exterior walls or fences. These hanging gardens can help keep your outdoor area clear, and can also brighten up your outdoor space with a lush look.

garden-gardening-garden-ideas-painted-garden-pots-cans-hanging-garden-pots-cans-via-pinterest

Patios or Steps

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If you have a small outdoor space such as a patio, terrace, porch, or steps, you can use the space by planting your vegetables in pots. Almost any vegetable can be planted in a pot. Some even do particularly well in pots, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, and herbs. There are even varieties of berries that thrive in pots.

Indoors

WindowSillGarden

Vegetable gardens don’t need to be planted outside. Many vegetables will grow happily in a sunny window. Use long plant boxes that fit in the window to create a small veggie garden. When doing an indoor garden, stay away from vegetables like squash, since they spread as they grow and they can take over the planter. Vegetables that work best in small planters are vertically growing veggies, such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and herbs.

Community Garden

2007_Comella_community_garden_ClevelandOH_1353039387

Many people want to grow their own vegetables, but don’t have the space to do so. To accommodate the growing demand for fresh produce, community gardens have been created. These gardens are typically on public plots of land, and you can rent a plot in the garden to plant and care for yourself. To find a community garden near you, visit the American Community Garden Association.

Enjoy all of the yummy produce, whether it’s home-grown or from a local farmer’s market!

5039444393_00b3d223cf_o

The Organic Effect

What would happen if you only ate organic food? To answer just that the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL conducted a study on the effects of eating only organics. Watch this short video, The Organic Effect, to see the results.

The decrease in the amounts of pesticides present in the body after eating only organics is astonishing. Buying organic when possible is a great way to have less exposure to chemicals and pesticides used in conventional items. “There were a whole number of chemical removed from my kids’ bodies and I don’t want them back.”

For more information on the study and the full report, click HERE.

26 Eco-Conscious Ideas for Earth Day

With Earth Day fast approaching, now is the time to start incorporating some eco-friendly ideas into your everyday life. In my search for fun ideas I came across several great ways to not only celebrate Earth Day, but keep the eco-friendly ideas going throughout the year.

  1. Plant a tree
  2. Clean up a park, lake, trail, river, beach, or other natural site 
    538px-U.S._Navy_Master-at-Arms_2nd_Class_Justin_Sosa_and_his_daughter_pick_up_trash_at_Truman_Annex_at_Naval_Air_Station_Key_West,_Fla.,_Sept_130921-N-YB753-026
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Plant a garden 12035372145_d495f33afc_z
  5. Start a compost pile
  6. Make an indoor herb garden
  7. Implement a recycling system, or ensure that your current system is the best it can be 6881231757_3cb80f7652_b
  8. Pay bills online
  9. Stop paper bills and bank statements
  10. Limit your water usage
  11. Reduce energy consumption
  12. Lower your water-heater temperature to save energy
  13. Visit a farmers’ market vegetables-353926_640
  14. When shopping, bring your own reusable bags
  15. Ditch the plastic water bottles and use a reusable bottle instead
  16. Bring your own coffee mug when visiting a coffee shop DSC_0741
  17. Check your home for water leaks
  18. Plan a vegetarian meal once a week pizza-442058_640
  19. Skip the baths and take a shower
  20. Take a shorter shower
  21. Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree lower in the winter to save energy
  22. Eliminate excess junk mail by removing yourself from unnecessary lists Pile_of_junk_mail
  23. Use rechargeable batteries
  24. Unplug appliances when not in use
  25. Wash laundry in cold or warm water
  26. Have a picnic

However you decide to spend Earth Day, be sure to try to lessen your impact on the planet by changing one thing you do. Be sure to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature!

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The Problem with the K-Cup

k-cupsIf you work in an office, have a busy schedule and drink coffee everyday… then there is a good chance that you used a share of the 9 billion Keurig K-Cups that were sold last year! And who could blame you? In our fast-paced society, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to have hundreds of beverages available at the touch of a button (and without all the hassle of cleaning out yesterday’s pot of coffee).

A few weeks ago I came across an article on The Atlantic website that confirmed the fear that had slowly begun to creep in as I brewed my coffee every morning: eventually these K-Cups are going to take over! I had already noticed the waste building up in our office, but James Hablin’s article, A Brewing Problem, really opened my eyes to just how big this issue is becoming. If we were to line up all of the K-Cups that were sold in the past year alone, they would circle the earth at least 10.5 times! Not only that, but the K-Cups are made using a type of plastic that is not recyclable in the US…which means that the only home for those 9 billion K-Cups is the landfill.

This knowledge is worsened by the fact that several competitors have successfully designed a recyclable or biodegradable version of the K-Cup…and instead of embracing it, Keurig has trumped the competition by launching a second-generation machine that only works with Keurig-brand cups. Last year, Keurig promised to come up with a fully-recyclable version of its K-Cup by 2020. However, that promise was not enough to stop Egg Studios from producing a theater-quality horror movie about the impending “K-Cup Apocalypse.” While it may be a little far-fetched, this video has certainly gotten people thinking and has lead to the #KillTheKCup movement on Twitter.

By the end of this article, you may find yourself considering giving up coffee entirely (I know I was), but wait — there’s still hope! Somewhere in the course of the past few weeks, a lovely little box (like the one below) showed up in our kitchen. Turns out, there is a way to recycle these things after all! Click here for more information about Keurig’s Grounds to Grow On program.

There may still be room for improvement, but I can honestly say that my Keurig-brewed coffee takes a little sweeter now that I know that the K-Cup can be converted into something useful!

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