Green Cleaning with Help from the Queen of Green

clean

image by mag3737, from Flickr

When I think of the colour green, I think of green cleaning.  I have always liked the idea of using cleaners that are not hazardous to our health and good for the environment.  That being said, I would rather buy a product that I think is a green cleaner than create my own concoction.  There is one product that most of us should have in our cupboards that many consider a miracle cleaner.  That, ladies and gents, is white vinegar.

The Queen of Green writes that vinegar removes 99% of surface bacteria, 80% of germs and 82% of molds.  I don’t know about you but I’m impressed!  Many of you may be familiar with some of the more common uses for vinegar.  Here are some that you may already know about.

1.  To clean and deodorize drain, pour one cup baking soda followed by one cup vinegar.   Wait 5 minutes and then pour hot water down the drain.

2.  To clean your microwave, combine 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a glass container and bring to a boil.  Wipe inside of the microwave with cloth.

3. To clean cloudy glassware, soak paper towels in full strength vinegar, wrap around the inside and outside of glass, let stand, then rinse clean.

4. To remove odours from a lunchbox, leave a piece a bread soaked in vinegar overnight.

Did you know that you can remove persistent room odours by leaving vinegar in a bowl overnight?

I love picking up these tips.  My favourite use for vinegar is one I haven’t yet tried but would be very interested in finding out if it actually works.  Those of you who have dogs who had an encounter with a skunk know how difficult it is to get rid of that pungent odour.

Apparently, you dilute vinegar with 50% water, rub into your dog’s fur and rinse with warm water.  May need to repeated a couple of times.  Would love to know if this actually works.

You may want to take a look at www.springbreakup.ca and see what other green cleaning advice is available.  It is easier than ever to be green!

Happy spring cleaning,

Laurie

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Go Green with Kale

One of my New Year’s resolutions (although, as you know, I don’t really make them) is to add more diversity to my diet.  I tend to eat the way I do for two reasons: one, I like the taste of a particular food item; or two, it is nutritious.  I’ve never been one to worry if there are too many calories or too much fat.  That being said, I am a creature of habit when it comes to including vegetables in my diet.  Although I do consume the suggested amount of veggies from Canada’s Food Guide, I do tend to eat a lot of the same ones.

Broccoli is always number one in my books.  I eat it every day (along with my ice cream although not at the same time).  Not only do I love the taste of broccoli (served with my roasted garlic hummus), it is one of the most nutritional veggies around.

Kale

photo by Farmanac, from Flickr

My new, fairly frequent addition to my vegetable repertoire is kale.  Kale is a form of cabbage and is high in beta carotene, vit K, lutein, not bad fibre for a green vegetable and reasonable in the calcium department.  It has been credited with lowering cholesterol and possessing a whole host of anti-cancer properties.  Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and has more flavour when it has been frozen.

I wanted to share a couple of recipes with you from a cookbook entitled Cooking Vegetarian (healthy, delicious and easy vegetarian cuisine) by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina.

Here are two of my favourite kale recipes:

AFRICAN CHICKPEA STEW

Makes 6 cups enough for 4 servings.

1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoes or yams
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup brown rice
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup peanut butter
2 cups thinly sliced kale
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp black pepper
Tamari
Hot chili pepper sauce

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes more.  Add stock, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, rice, and salt; bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked.  In a small bowl, blend peanut butter with enough liquid from the stew to make a smooth paste.  Stir this paste into the stew along with kale, lemon juice, pepper, tamari and chili pepper sauce to taste and cook for another 5 minutes.   Adjust the seasonings.

This nutrition-packed stew has a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate.

One of the reasons I enjoy this cookbook is the mix and match approach the authors take to putting together a meal.  Under the entrees section of the book, the authors have a section called International Roll-Ups where they provide recipes for six possible fillings based on various cultures.  This recipe includes many of the same ingredients of the first recipe.  The nice thing about this recipe, is that you can make the sauce (keeps for a couple of weeks) separately and your family can add the sauce and other items as they like.  I often poach chicken and add to recipe (did I just say that?) for the boys in the family.

Here’s the recipe for African Style Roll-Ups

1/3 cup cooked brown rice
1/3 cup mashed yam
1/3 cup sliced kale, lightly steamed
¼ cup alfalfa sprouts (yeah new ingredient)
2 tbsp spicy peanut sauce (recipe below)
Dash of hot pepper sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce

½ cup unsweetened, unsalted peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup chopped ginger
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili paste
2 gloves garlic

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender for one minute.  Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!  Think green!

Laurie

Creatively Yours: Connecting the Dots

Heart us

image by amountofcoffee, from Flickr

You may have noticed something new about our blog in 2012. We are connecting the dots! Laurie, Elizabeth and I have decided to build upon each other’s ideas, and so when Laurie asked if you are grateful for your slow cooker, she was connecting to the idea of gratitude. Clever! And that is how conversation goes; we start off talking about one thing and end up talking about something completely different. As I don’t have any good recipes to share, I will let the slow cooker cook, and begin a new conversation on some upcoming events in February.

First off, February is heart month. That is a nice way to get us thinking about Valentine’s Day. Believe it or not, I heard a radio announcer the other day reminding men to remember the date (not once but twice in the same day).  Having just been to the grocery store, I don’t know how anyone could forget.  And then last but not least, there is Family Day, which is that nice extra holiday we get to spend with our families in Ontario. To my way of thinking, these three events cover some very important aspects of our lives: health, love and sense of belonging.

What will you do this February for your health, love and family?

LOVE to hear from you!

Creatively yours,

Angela

Slow Easy!

owl crockpot

image by daftgirly, from Flickr

Are you grateful for your slow cooker?

I was out walking in the woods with a friend a week or so ago and began discussing the topic of gratitude.  Somehow we ended up talking about slow cookers.  Aeron is often out at the barn prior to dinner and finds it very convenient to start dinner before she and her daughter Emily leave for the barn.  A warm dinner is ready to eat when they return.  Aeron says that she finds it easier to eat well balanced meals when she is using her slow cooker.  She will be sharing her best slow cooker recipes with us shortly.

Do you remember having a slow cooker or crock-pot in your home when you were growing up?  The modern day slow cooker was developed by a company called Rival Industries using the trademark name Crock-Pot. The Crock-Pot was designed in the early 1970s based on the design of a bean pot called the Beanery.

With the emphasis on conserving energy, slow cookers became popular during the energy crisis.  The slow cookers were also a good choice for the record number of women who re-entered the workforce or began to pursue interests outside the home.

The motto for the Crock-Pot was “cooks all day while the cook’s away.”

I personally do not use my slow cooker to prepare my evening meals on a regular basis.  I do however use it frequently to prepare hot cereals overnight.  Here are two of my favourites:

This first recipe is based on a porridge recipe in The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook.

Crock-Pot Porridge

½ cup cracked wheat or bulgur 
1 ½ cup steel-cut oats

½ cup rye flakes

½ cup brown rice

¼ cup wheat germ7 ½ cups water or combination of liquids (rice milk, soya milk, almond milk)

4 ½ tsp vanilla

It is possible to add any dried fruit or nuts to this recipe.  I serve mine with ice cream!

Preparation:

Place all ingredients in a large crock-pot.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.  Cover.  Set on lowest cooking temperature and cook overnight.

The second recipe is not really a recipe per se.  This one is taken from Cooking Vegetarian.

Hearty Whole-Grain Cereal

Makes 4 cups

1 cup uncooked grain (such as amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kamut berries, millet, oat groats, spelt berries, wheat berries or wild rice)

4 cups water

Put grains in slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours until the water has been absorbed.

Try the recipe first with 2 or 3 grains.  Later, you can experiment and create your own!  Both recipes can be served cold as a pudding (again especially delicious with ice cream) or refrigerated and reheated as needed.

Do you have a favourite slow cooker recipe or website that you would like to share?  Let us know!

Laurie

New Year’s Resolutions After the Fact

stalled resolutions

Stalled Resolutions by ruffin_ready, from Flickr

As we move into the third week of January, I’m thinking it is time to address the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year’s resolutions were first recorded by the Babylonians about 4000 years ago.  The focus of these resolutions was to ensure the return of farm equipment as the new year coincided with the start of a new farming season.  The New Year was moved from March to January by the Romans who spent their time counting stock from the previous year so that more ambitious goals could be set in the following year.  The Chinese equated New Year’s resolutions with house cleaning, viewing the new year as a time to clean the house from top to bottom.

Modern day resolutions can be defined as “a formal expression of intent” or “commitment to a personal goal.”  Resolutions almost always focus on self-improvement by making changes in habits and lifestyles.

At the end of the Depression, about ¼ of American adults made New Year’s resolutions.  By the start of the 21st century, about 40 per cent made resolutions.  Only about 10 percent of those that make resolutions actually keep them.

I’m personally not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Any of my “bad habits” that I should change, I am really not that interested in changing.

The problem with most people who make resolutions is that they set goals that are not sustainable.  Let me give you an example.  One of the goals that most people make is to exercise more.  First of all, the goal needs to be tangible.  What does exercise more look like?  The more tangible the goal, the easier it is to attain.  So say your goal is to exercise three times a week.  What kind of exercise will you do?  Often people will choose an exercise that they hear is great to lose weight (running?) or a place to exercise (because apparently the Club has good equipment).  If you don’t like a particular form of exercise, DO NOT DO IT!  If you are not a runner but perhaps you love to dance, then dance!  Don’t join a club because your friend enjoys it.  People are Club exercisers or they are not.  Find out what you like to do, where you like to do it, and set a tangible, measurable, realistic goal.

Same thing for diet!  As most of you know, I love wine, broccoli and ice cream.  I probably consume too much of all three but if that’s my biggest food and drink issue, oh well!

Rather than taking away things from your diet, try to add.  For example, try to add more veggies to your diet (or in my case, variety of vegetables).  Try to drink more water (one glass every time I brush my teeth) and never be hungry (carry nuts with you at all times).

So my external goals are simple:  eat more kale and swiss chard, drink more green tea and add those dead lifts to your weight lifting routine at least three times a week.

How’s that for setting goals?  Internal goals to follow!

Laurie

p.s.  Resolutions are more sustainable if you share!

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution by mikecogh, from Flickr

Creatively Yours: In Communion with Nature

Jessie

After a week of connecting with the quiet and solitude of nature, I am ready to reacquaint myself with the hustle and bustle of the city. It was an interesting, though very quiet time spent at my cottage with just Jessie and me.  Jessie is our family dog, a black goldenpoo and one of the best swimmers I know. From a dog’s perspective this is the perfect place to be – no fences, no traffic, no noise and an abundance of water to swim in, sunshine to laze around in and animal life to entertain you when things get slow.  For a type “A” personality it provides a bit of a challenge. What do you do by yourself for a week in communion with nature?

One of the definitions of “commune” according to Webster’s is to communicate intimately – with nature. I decided that this week I would draw on the inspiration of nature to spark my creativity and hopefully create some landscape paintings. My early morning kayak rides with Jessie presented some new perspectives and points of view. Sitting on the dock, I used to think the lake was peaceful, but from the view point in the kayak, the land looked very peaceful. Why is it that “peace” is always somewhere else?

I tried to practice meditation every day with limited success. Somehow the noise of nature distracted me and called me back to its’ presence. I read somewhere recently if you want to feel happy, go outside with nature. It is alive and calling you to notice it.  As I write this, I hear a bird noisily chirping in the background. That may be what mindfulness is all about – noticing.  And from my limited understanding of meditation, we can notice thoughts, feelings, sensations, and then let them go without judgment.

I have heard that painting and drawing can be meditative because you have a single focus, forget about your daily worries, lose your sense of time, and become one with the process. As with meditation, it is possible to find a sense of inner peace provided that our inner critic doesn’t take over. But for the moment, let’s just say that if we don’t give in to our need for perfection, creating art can be a peaceful and enjoyable experience. And like meditation, it takes practice and intention.

Though I didn’t accomplish nearly as much art making as I set out to do, I read some beautiful poetry from Roger Housden’s Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime.  I swam and played Frisbee with Jessie and enjoyed her company as we watched the sun rise and set together. I noticed the beauty of nature in the sparkle of the sun on the lake in the day and the reflection of the moon on the water at night. I noticed the warm air of summer days, and the cooling breeze at night. I noticed the songs of the birds and insects and the whispering of the trees. I noticed the summer flowers blooming and the bees buzzing all around. I spent a week in communion with nature and felt at peace.

p.s. I received this in an email today from Laurie and think it fits, so here goes….

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without alcohol,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then you are probably the family dog!

Creatively Yours,

Angela and Jessie
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Mindfulness vs Meditation: Is it the same thing?

life

image by mindfulness, from Flickr

One of the solutions that is often suggested to cope with our hectic lifestyles is meditation.  When I think of meditation in the traditional sense of the word, I think of sitting cross legged perhaps at the beginning or end of a yoga session and focusing your mind on the present.  Although meditation can have many interpretations, I would assume that this is the definition that comes to mind for the majority of us.

If then asked what is the definition of mindfulness, I am not sure what the response would be.  Mindfulness takes the concept of meditation and extends it a step further.  In Mindfulness, A Contemplative Approach to Living in the Moment, mindfulness is defined as the “quality of dwelling in harmony with the present moment.  Mindfulness is more than a technique—rather a way of being in the world.”  It is about not only an awareness of what is taking place in the present moment, but an acceptance of whatever it is that may be taking place.

The intent of mindfulness is not to focus on only good thoughts or change those that are bad but rather to simply observe and accept all present thoughts and then let them go their way.

Do you think there is a difference between meditation and mindfulness?  Why do we hear the term mindfulness so infrequently?  Love to hear your thoughts on this….

Laurie

(e)scapegoat

image by mindfulness, from Flickr