Gifts from Bend, OR

Live in Bend, Oregon and want to give a gift from Bend, Oregon? Follow my local gift giving series!

Green your coffee routine

Save 23 lbs of waste this year and start using a reusable coffee cup to keep you caffeinated.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meatless Monday: Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas

courtesy of FoodNetwork.com
I'm back with another recipe from Giada's New Italian Favorites and I have to say, exploring my cookbooks was one of the best New Years resolutions I have ever come up with. My family and I discovered some tasty new dishes, none of which contained lemon zest (something I thought ever Giada dish contained). We'll be adding a couple to our rotation.

This time around, I made baked orzo and fontina with peas. I was following the directions and couldn't figure out why the recipe didn't look as robust as it should. Turns out, I read the directions wrong ... I was supposed to use a POUND of orzo NOT a cup. Oops. While the recipe baked, I boiled up more orzo and added in the end. The recipe tasted good but not as "baked" (if that makes sense) as it should. Guess I will try it again. I made sure to highlight the pound part of the recipe in my cookbook so I don't make that mistake again.

Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas

Ingredients
4 cups chicken broth (used veggie broth)
1 pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme


Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until the Marsala has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and driedthyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Proud to be part of Midnight Manic Meatless Mondays

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What do you do with your kids' artwork? Have an art show!

Lil B's first preschool art
TODAYMoms asked the question: What do you do with your kids' artwork? With a child in preschool, I'm facing this dilemma as we speak.

Back in June, my son started a new daycare/preschool program and I was told that he'd bring home artwork each day. Part of me didn't believe this but lo and behold, he did start bringing home something each day. And I started saving everything and ended up with a very large stack in his closet.

The little learning books they make, I put on his nightstand and we use them as "books" to review colors, shapes, letters and numbers.

At Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I used them as decorations around the house. It was a nice personal touch and I packed those items away in the bins for next year.

Just recently, my son has decided to be stubborn and not take part in craft time during preschool time. Oh yea, the terrible twos HAVE BEGUN! Yes, my son is only 32 months old and yes, that might be a little young for preschool so he has days/weeks when he just doesn't want to do it. He's two! The preschool teachers feel bad for me when there are days like this.

As part of my New Year's resolutions I made it one of my goals to do one crafty project a month, so this month I decided to make an "art show" in my son's room to get him motivated to participate in craft time at school.
Lil B's rotating art show
What do you need? clothes pins or clips, yarn, ribbon or some sort of string, thumbtacks. Easy enough for the uncrafty types like me. I promise next month I will dazzle you with my crafty skills (I have the stuff for glitter shoes -- just have to do it).

What do you do with your kids' artwork? I want to know.
I think he likes it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Make your own deodorant in your Kitchen Aid mixer

Throw it all in there and MIX!
It's Saturday and I'm glad. My son has reached the terrible twos and as much as I love the guy, nighttime has been a little hellish around here. Nighttime is when I catch up on reading blogs, blog and engage with social media for my blog. That has been lacking all week. I cherish the weekends because mostly my son is the best kid ever until about 6 pm at night.

If you didn't know, I was advised by my new friend Sarah to start just have a twitter account for my blog. She didn't come out and say it but I think she didn't really care for my Jeff Tweedy twitter posts. It really made sense from a branding stand point that mixing my love for the all mighty voice of JT and my going green gradually didn't exactly go together. So, you can still follow my personal account which mixes my day job, green, JT quotes and stuff about Bend or just the greenie in me. It's your choice, I won't take it personally. Not everyone shares the same love of Jeff Tweedy's voice/musing as much as I do.

Back to it being Saturday! Yesterday I noticed I was out of homemade deodorant so I checked and I had all the ingredients I needed ... coconut oil (5-6 tablespoons), baking soda (1/4 cup) and arrowroot (1/4 cup). The last time I made it, mixing up was a challenge so I threw everything in the Kitchen Aid mixer and combined the elements with the paddle attachement.

Viola, perfectly blended homemade deodorant as you can see! I put half in my old deodorant container and the rest in a small tub!

Who knew my mixer was so versatile? Now, if only if it could get my son to bed at night, it was be the best invention ever.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How being a natural mother didn't work for me (in the beginning)

Photo courtesy of Jen Floyd
We have this amazing community event called Ignite Bend that I have taken part in twice in the past two years. The format: If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds?

This is my first presentation from June 2009 entitled "How being a natural mother doesn't work for everyone." I had all these visions of being an awesome natural mom but I wanted to do so much that in the end, I failed miserably. I'm actually pretty proud today of all the wonderful progress I have made since then. Enjoy!



For good measure, here's my Visit Nebraska presentation from February 2010 too! Yes, Nebraska is a great vacation destination. I know this because I lived there for 28 years and have spent 60% of my paid time off going back and visiting family.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No one complained or even knew

image courtesy of No More Dirty Looks
For five days last week, I didn't use soap on my body in the shower. I saw this awesome challenge on one of my favorite blogs called the No Soap Challenge and decided to take the plunge.
"The rules: No soap, no body wash, nada. This one isn’t about hair though, so you can totally shampoo—just don’t be cheating with those suds. (And yes, for the sake of basic human decency, we encourage you to continue to wash your hands and private parts, obviously.)"
I decided to go under the radar with this challenge. I didn't tell anyone -- not my husband, co-workers or friends -- to see if anyone would notice. And guess what, no one did notice. I even asked my husband after the challenge was over  and he swears I smelled the same (and swears he is being honest about it).

What I did notice? My skin was not dry and flakey and I used less lotion. My armpits didn't smell. And my skin was softer. I also used hot water and jojoba oil to wash my face because it wasn't until I read the comments on the No Dirty Looks blog today that I read I could use facial cleanser.

The verdict? I will try to be less dependent on soap. For the sake of my skin. But I'll leave how much soap I use a mystery so I don't have random people sniffing me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meatless Monday: Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup

Courtesy of the Food Network
I never used to be adventurous with my soup. It was until recently I discovered the tasty Bend food cart sensation Soupcon, that I branched out and tried something besides my old standby -- chicken soup. My favorite from his cart has to be roasted cauliflower bisque with gorgonzola. I just wanted to lick the bowl clean.

Continuing on with making recipes out of Giada's New Italian Favorites, I decided to try her Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup. My key to Meatless Monday dishes has to be quick and easy and on the table by 6 pm which made this soup a perfect candidate along with the fact I also get to use my super cool, best 2009 Christmas present ... my hand blender!

My husband raved about the dish, that was until the middle of the night well, when -- you know. Beans and my husband don't mix but guess what ... his memory must have been short because he ate the leftovers for lunch.

Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup
from Giada's New Italian Favorites

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 sage leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used veggie)
4 cloves garlic, cut in 1/2
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Directions
Place a medium, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter, olive oil, and shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and beans and stir to combine. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the garlic and simmer until the garlic is softened, about 10 minutes. Pour the soup into a large bowl. Carefully ladle 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Be careful to hold the top of the blender tightly, as hot liquids expand when they are blended. Pour the blended soup back into the souppan. Puree the remaining soup. Once all the soup is blended and back in the soup pan, add the cream and the pepper Keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

Proud to be part of Midnight Manic Meatless Mondays
”Midnight

Sunday, January 23, 2011

$3 wine at Whole Food

I don't usually like chardonnay but Three Wishes sold at Whole Foods for $3 is going to give Charles Shaw a run for the money. If you're not into oaked chards, this one is for you. Plus, it is made from lighter glass, making for a smaller carbon footprint.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The magic weight loss trick ... water?

image via FYIliving.com
In high school, my friend Heather swore by drinking a glass of water before all of her meals. She claimed it helped fill her stomach up so she wouldn't over eat. I thought it was a great idea but have never really done this until recently.

FYI Living reminded me of my high school bestie this week when they posted an awesome post about how drinking water is the magic weight loss trick. The suggestion, drink 2 cups of water before each meal


They suggest: follow these tips:
  • Make sure that it is water you’re drinking before the meals. Sodas, sports drinks and juice add calories to your intake and slow or stop you from reaching your goals. Diet drinks are not as good an option as water because some evidence indicates they trick our brain into wanting more sweets and other studies show they might contribute to bone loss.
  • Get a 16-oz. bottle, keep it full and in plain sight. Have it on your office desk, by the refrigerator, or anywhere else where it will remind you to drink before you eat.
  • If you don’t like the taste of water, add a 2 tbsp. of lemon or lime juice to add flavor. If that doesn’t work, you could add a splash of juice; just make sure you are only splashing, not pouring. If you’re a fan of the bubbly, you could try seltzer water instead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I promise you won't smell like a salad all day

Friday while shopping for groceries, I was reminded that being eco-friendly doesn't mean going broke. I used to spend $10 on conditioner at Costco but instead, I spent $1.93 for a 32 ounces of plain label apple cider vinegar. I have been using vinegar since August to condition my hair once a week and I have had so many compliments on how shiny it is, it's been unbelievable.

I went back to giving baking soda again another try as I've gone from using it every other day along with Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle on the other days. I will say, my favorite shampoo by far has been Bubble and Bee's Peppermint and Tea Tree shampoo. If  I can't end up using baking soda to clean my hair, then when I'm done with the TJ's stuff, it's back to Bubble and Bee.

How do I use the apple cider vinegar for conditioner? I put  a couple tablespoons in a plastic cup and fill the rest with water, pour on my head, work it in and rinse it out really well.

And no, I don't smell like a salad the rest of the day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Green plan: Sign up for green power from my utility

Still working on my green plan! A few years ago at Earth Day, I thought I had signed up for Pacific Power's Blue Sky Renewable Energy program but in checking my statement, I had not so I went on to their website to find out what I could do to get the ball rolling.

Why sign up? You're purchasing renewable energy and if you're not able to purchase a renewable energy source for your home (such as solar), this is an affordable option that tells your power company you support their renewable efforts. (Thanks Practically Green! I never thought about it that way).

So how do you do this? Call your utility company or visit their website. In Oregon, I see the Blue Sky crew often at local events.

The options Blue Sky? You can buy blocks of power at $1.95 per block or calculate your usage and pay $.012 per kilowatt (with my usage, it would be around $5). They had these cute little graphics that explained the options without confusing me. Gotta love a user friendly website for the mathematically challenged.

Block option with Blue Sky:
image courtesy of PacificPower.net

Usage option:
image courtesy of PacificPower.net
I went with buying one block for $1.95.  Yes, just one block. We're taking baby steps, folks and anyway helps out, right?  This is the impact of my $1.95 a month block over the course of a year.
Image courtesy of PacificPower.net
Checked it off at Practically Green and guess what ...
image courtesy of PracticallyGreen.com

I am now superbly green! Woo hoo!
Start your own green plan at Practically Green! They help your family go green gradually and make it easy with suggestions and ideas to get your motivated, you can earn badges, point and compete against your friends!




Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Manicotti

Courtesy of Food Network
My favorite dish as a child my mother would make would be marinara manicotti. I would beg her often to make it and for my birthdays as a teen, she would make it. Her recipe wasn't exactly a secret, use the recipe on the back of the box (this was the secret to a few of her fabulous recipes).

As part of my resolutions, I'm exploring the recipes I have not tried in my cookbook collection and I found this little gem in Giada's New Italian Favorites.

My friends know I am not a big fan of Swiss Chard or kale. I have found that I can tolerate eating kale like a Caesar Salad if I have the right dressing and a little bit of lemon juice to cut the bitterness but I really haven't found anything that makes Swiss Chard tolerable to eat ... well, that is until now.

The dish had my husband calling for seconds and I can't wait to eat it for lunch as leftovers. A friend of mine had an extra box of stuffed shells so I used them manicotti noodles this time. Next time, I will make sure I don't forget manicotti noodles when I go shopping. Oops.

Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Manicotti
from Giada's New Italian Favorites

Butter, for greasing the pan
12 manicotti or cannelloni pasta shells

Filling
1 head (about 12 ounces) red or white Swiss chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1 cup shredded mozzarella (4 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (used dried Italian herbs)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Fontina Fonduta Sauce
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups (6 ounces) fontina cheese, grated
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (used dried Italian herbs)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) mozzarella, shredded

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish liberally with butter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

For the Filling:
Using kitchen scissors or a knife, remove the leaves from the stems of the chard. Discard the stems. Chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the chard and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Place the ricotta cheese, peas, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cooled chard mixture and blend until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry bag and fill each manicotti shell with the filling. Place the stuffed manicotti in the prepared baking dish
For the Fontina Fonduta Sauce:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring milk and cream to asimmer, over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add the fontina cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and basil.

Pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The many uses for beer bottles

Image courtesy of BottleHood
My friend Fawn posted a link on my Facebook page to 50 awesome ways to reuse a beer bottle.

Some of them are pretty amazing: clocks, vases, drinking glasses, counter tops and many other awesome ideas!

But I agree with her that some are pretty hilarious like the beer bottle Christmas tree.

How would you re-use your beer bottles?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warm up your car without the emissions

Lots of snow here in Oregon
Winter has come to Central Oregon and my husband has also lost his practice space meaning we have a car always on the driveway.  Granted, it's the car he mostly drives there are some days when I do drive it and have to scrap winter off it's windshield.

I was super excited to see local green blogger Peachy Green post tips on warming your car with out wasting emissions. I think I have a piece of cardboard big enough to put over my Civic's windshield.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Green plan: What items contain high fructose corn syrup in my pantry

Dr. Pepper contains HFCS
A few years ago, I watched an episode of Oprah (used to watch it every night before I had my son) where Dr. Oz talked about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Dr. Oz gave a tip that anyone who wanted to get healthy and lose weight needed to eliminate HFCS from their diet. I ended up buying the current Dr. Oz book at the time and read through the tips are started to watch and read labels. Along the way (and a baby later) we got out of practice and fell back into our bad fructose loving ways.

As part of my green plan for 2011 courtesy of Practically Green, my first goal was to tackle my pantry and discover what items contain HFCS and switch them out for items that don't contain it.

Why should we avoid HFCS? This is the answer that Practically Green gives:
Reducing your intake of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may reduce your chances of weight gain and corresponding health problems. A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
Because high-fructose corn syrup is a cheaper alternative to other sweeteners and used as a preservative, it is prevalent in many foods ranging from sodas to cereals to snack bars. Just do a quick audit to see what you have that has high-fructose corn syrup -- you may be surprised.

Enough reason for me to go through my pantry and try to eliminate it from my family diet. One of the most important things to do for your family is to read labels. If HFCS if in the top six, don't buy the item. I am so extreme that I won't buy any items with HFCS in it.

What I found over a few weeks was astonishing! The following items in our pantry/refrigerator contained this nasty substance: yogurt, jelly/jams, soda, graham crackers, bread, cereal, cereal bars, ketchup, instant oatmeal and pancake mix.

I'm happy to say, I have found healthier options to these items but it always has not been easy.


  • Graham crackers are a toddler staple so I was pretty sad when I read the label and saw it contained HFCS. No joke, I spent 20 minutes looking at the labels on graham crackers only to give up and buy some at Whole Foods. 
  • We switched our ketchup from Heinz to Hunts because Hunts doesn't contain HFCS. 
  • Last summer I used organic produce to make homemade freezer jam
  • When I don't have time to make my own bread, I read the labels carefully at the store. This will take time and will be frustrating but I found some at Costco that is on our regular buying rotation.
  • Trader Joe's is a great resource for cereal, cereal bars, instant oatmeal and pancake mix. In their private line, they have pledged not to use HFCS
  • What I haven't found at Trader Joe's, I have found something at Whole Foods or the local natural foods store to replace it. Whole Foods has a line of sodas made from Stevia.  
Do yourself and your family a favor and go through your pantry and refrigerator. Start looking at labels if you haven't. It's a gradual process but it's the little things in life like reading labels that will help you sleep easier at night.

UPDATE: I discovered there was HFCS on Thursday evening in my son's no name Ibuprofen. Why is there HFCS in that item?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meatless Monday: Portabella mushroom sandwich

portabella, get in my belly
I love hamburgers so when I tried to find a meatless "burger" option to test out on my family, portabella mushrooms were the first option that came to mind. I realize that some folks just aren't into eating fungi. I have this co-worker that I eat lunch on a regular basis with that will avoid our favorite lunch spot if the specials that day include mushrooms. I just want to buy my co-worker a sticker that says "embrace the fungi." They are good!

When I started my search for a recipes,  I contemplated grilling whole portabella caps but then I thought that maybe sauteing would add more flavor. In the end, I modified a South Beach Diet recipe with my own little additions. The marriage of balsamic, red onion and a little gorganzola ... yum!

Balsamic Portabella Mushroom Burgers
modified from South Beach Diet Plan

Ingredients
1 shallot or red onion diced
3 cups of Portabella mushrooms (two large caps)
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Spirtz of Olive oil
1 tb Italian seasoning
gorganzola
pinch salt/pepper
hamburger buns, (we use the sandwich thins)

Directions:
Sprits non stick fry/sauté pan with olive oil.
Sauté shallots/onions for 2 minutes. Add Garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.
Add Portobello mushrooms, Balsamic vinegar, spices. Lower heat and cover pan.
Cook for 7-12 minutes until mushrooms have turned a brownish color and become flexible.
If the pan gets dry you can add a splash of water, broth, or red wine.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Post holiday gluttony

Image courtesy of
HealthyChild.org
Raise your hand if the main staple of your December diet included cookies (RAISING HAND!!!)? Healthy World, Healthy Child is here to help with your January cleanse.

The articles offers tips on de-stressing and re-energizing this month.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thift is the new black? Awesome!

One of my favorite new websites, Go Gingham, featured an awesome story about how Thrift is the New Black.

The basic message of the article is to eliminate debt and save money, something we're working on as a family.

Thanks Go Gingham for sharing the article!

Down with the phone book?

Image via State of Oregon
In the age of the Internet, I've asked myself for years "Why are phone books still in existence?" They show up on my doorstep and I immediately recycle the darn thing.

When one shows up at work, I use it for a monitor stand. Since working in marketing over the years, I've had to buy from the various yellow page folks that come around. This year, one met with me and noticed my fancy monitor stand phone book and wasn't too please. I wasn't embarrassed at all either. I haven't looked in the phone book since the 90s for information just only to verify the information I placed was correct. I have used my smartphone and google for years to do this! I don't need a book.

I was SO SO SO happy when I came across opting out to receive phone books via fellow Oregonian's EnviroMom.

Oregon DEQ has a web page devoted to opting out of receiving phone books. Happy dance! Happy dance! Yes, it is the little things that get me through the day.

Thanks Oregon DEQ! Thanks EnviroMom!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Greening cosmetics: concealer

Jane Iredale Dream Tint
Remember when I said I was looking to green the last two products in my make-up bag: mascara and concealer?  Well, I did some digging and found my perfect concealer/foundation match with Jane Iredale. When I visited my friend, the derm PA, because I was allergic to the moisturizer and facial cleanser I was using, she suggested I try Jane Iredale as they rate pretty well on the Skin Deep database.

The good thing about Jane Iredale is that the company I work for sells it in their cosmetic services department (and we get a great employee discount) so I made an appointment on my lunch break to get a color match with the esthetician.

I had a product in mind but when I met with the esthetician, she suggested two different products. I pulled out my phone and checked and they both rated with a two (ok, why isn't there an app for this?)! I walked out with JI Dream Tint and JI Active Light Under Eye Concealer. Now, when I whipped out my phone, I had to explain that I needed to check it's rating as I was trying to detoxify my make-up bag. She did suggest and give me a sample of SkinCeuticals Phoyto Corrective Gel for my rosacea but the score of 4 kinda freaked me out. I guess 4 is better than 8-10.

In the end, I use the Under Eye Concealer for more than my under eye area. I use it on the side of my nose and a little in the cheek area. I do use the Dream Tint but not everyday. This team is a regular part of my Mon- Fri 8-5 beauty regimen.

Now, to find a new mascara that will blow me away.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Clueless: recycle your batteries

courtesy of MNN.com
A couple weeks ago, something ran out of batteries and I was replacing them in the kitchen. My husband came in and said "oh, let me take those to work and put them in our recycle bin." Then it downed on me, I throw away batteries. Green FAIL!

How did I not know that we're supposed to recycle batteries? It makes total sense that we don't want the toxins in batteries, leaching into the soil. I am happy to say we don't use a lot of items that require batteries as we try to stay away from items that require them (but boy, let me tell you, baby items take a ton of batteries! Glad we are past that stage).

Have no fear, through the powers of google,  I found Call2Recycle and found many places in my area that take dead batteries and MNN.com has a great guide to recycling batteries. Yay for the interwebs.

Now, recycle those batteries!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Meatless Monday: Orzo Stuffed Peppers

This month, I'm taking a few recipes from Giada's Kitchen and making them for my family. A friend said to me, the woman (Giada) can not cook/bake without parmesan or lemon and I'm almost half tempted to go through the book and see where she doesn't use one or the other in a recipe.

Growing up, my mother was famous for her stuffed green peppers. They take some time but are so so good. I have only made them a handful of time but they always transport me back to sitting in our old house in Omaha, eating dinner as a family. When I ran across orzo stuffed peppers in the cookbook, I thought it would make an awesome Meatless Monday dish.

How does it taste? Amazing. Just ask my husband who ate seconds and even at the leftovers. The marriage of tomatoes, mint, garlic and orzo -- yum.

image courtesy of FoodNetwork.com
Orzo Stuffed Peppers From Giada's Kitchen (recipe from FoodNetwork.com)

Ingredients
1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for sprinkling (used parmesan)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth (for true meatless monday use veggie)
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)


Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your finger tips. Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepanover high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the large bowl with the other vegetables. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.

Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Brioche French Toast

Toddler approved.
Last weekend, on a rare occasion, we had a loaf of white bread in our house as I made a breakfast casserole that called for it.

With the leftovers, I remembered Orangette's famous French toast recipe. I first read about it in her autobiography cookbook (what a genius idea) and the secret, frying the bread in oil. The French Toast was a success and I had a toddler and husband begging for more.

For Christmas, my in-laws sent me a variety of bread making supplies which go great with one of my many New Year's Resolutions -- the attempting a variety of homemade breads throughout the year.

French Toast can be made from a variety of breads - white, wheat, challah, brioche and I've even had it with baguette. I thumbed through my new bread book and decided that Poor Man's Brioche (this is a various of what I used) would be the French Toast victim.

I'm horrible at shaping and I think my house wasn't warm enough so it exactly didn't ferment the greatest but upon looking at other's Brioche photos, I think mine actually was shaped how it was supposed to be. I think I need to get some other tools, a rising bucket or very large proofing bags.

Anyway, I put one loaf in the freezer for later and sliced the other one up for French Toast ala Orangette.

French Toast ala Orangette (Burg's French Toast)

1 cup milk (used 2%)
4 large eggs
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
Mild-tasting vegetable oil, such as canola
6 slices bread (a bias-cut country French loaf, or challah, preferably), about ¾ to 1 inch thick (used Poor Man's Brioche)
Pure maple syrup, for serving (never, ever use Mrs. Butterworth - it's full of high fructose corn syrup)

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a wide, shallow bowl.

Place a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over low to medium heat, and add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the skillet.

Two or three at a time, add the bread slices to the egg mixture in the bowl, allowing them to rest for a minute or two on each side. They should feel heavy and thoroughly saturated, but they should not be falling apart. When the oil is hot, place the slices in the skillet. They should sizzle a bit, and the oil should bubble lightly around the edges of the bread; take care, however, that the oil is not too hot, lest the egg mixture burn. Cook until the underside of each slice is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the bread, and cook until the second side is golden, another 2 minutes or so. Remove the bread from the skillet to a plate lined with a paper towel, allow to rest for 30 seconds or so, and serve immediately—with maple syrup, of course.

Yield: 6 slices, serving 2 or 3.






Saturday, January 1, 2011

Natural hangover cures

Happy 2011! Did you drink too much bubbly last night? Well, the Mother Nature Network has some natural hangover tips for those in need this morning who don't want to grab for the ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet.

Hopefully you have some of them laying around to help you out this morning. They include: water, bananas, soup and others.

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