“Mudardara” is a traditional vegetarian Lebanese dish made with lentils and rice, and garnished with caramelized onions. It is delicious, healthy, simple to make and not to forget, frugal.

Lentils With Rice and Caramelized Onions – Mudardara

Ingredients

2 cups of lentils
1 and 1/4 cups of long grain rice
4 medium onions, caramelized
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 cups of water
1/3 cup of oil for frying (coconut or vegetable)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Preparation

1. Rinse the lentils with cold water and remove any apparent debris.
2. Add the lentils to a pot filled with 5 cups of water, bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
3. Add rice, salt and the olive oil to the pot and stir well. You may need to add 1/2 cup of water if a lot of water had evaporated already. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, peel and chop the onions lengthwise and fry them in 1/4 cup of coconut or vegetable oil, for about 20 minutes or until they’re caramelized (dark brown). Strain onions to remove excess oil once done and set aside.
5. Once rice has fully cooked, mix it well, then pour it in your serving plate and garnish it with the caramelized onions. Please note that you could also mix the caramelized onions with the rice and lentils while they have about 10 minutes left in cooking.
6. Serve cold (preferably) with an optional side of plain/Greek yogurt.

Makes 4 servings.
Copyright © Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen.*

Save Money and the Earth by Driving Less

Most people are aware of the impact that driving has on the environment. Reducing the time you spend in your car helps to lower your carbon footprint and protects the environment from carbon emissions; it also saves money on expensive fuel prices. What you might not know is that driving less also saves money on your car insurance premiums.

Because insurance companies determine rates based on how likely a driver is to be involved in an accident, drivers who spend a lot of time on the road pay more for auto insurance. The more you drive, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident. Insurance companies base their rates on 10,000 miles driven each year; if you drive substantially less than that, you can receive a noticeable discount.

Here are a few ways to reduce the time you spend driving:

1. Adjust your work schedule

Some jobs aren’t flexible, but many companies are offering more flexibility. If you work fewer shifts during the week, you can dramatically reduce your commute. See if your employer has an option to work four 10-hour days rather than the usual five-day work week. You may also be able to take advantage of telecommuting options in order to cut down your gas consumption even more.

2. Commit to walking or biking

You can start by finding places near your home that you visit frequently. If you’d like, you can use a map program to determine where frequent destinations lie in relation to your home; if they’re within a mile or two of your house, walk or bike to them instead of driving. You can also start taking public transit. Most accidents occur within a few miles of your house, so walking can really improve your insurance premiums. It also helps keep you in shape.

3. Pick the best route

Shorter distances aren’t always the most fuel-efficient choices. If you have to stop frequently or spend a lot of time idling in traffic, you will consume much more gas than if you drove a little bit further on an open road. Congested traffic is also a major contributor to auto accidents, so avoiding busy streets can help your chance of avoiding accidents.

4. Combine trips

Instead of leaving the house every time you have an errand to run, maximize your efficiency by doing multiple errands on a single journey. Any time you need to do several things on the same side of town, try to complete all tasks in one trip.

5. Carpool

In addition to carpooling to work, you can save money on your errands by teaming up with a friend or neighbor. You can both go to the grocery store together and trade off between who drives each time. This saves you money and gives you a shopping buddy.

Saving money on gas and car insurance while saving the environment is a wise choice; it’s really a win-win situation. To take advantage of the lower insurance premiums, be sure to contact your insurance company to discuss your driving habits.

About the Author

Lisa Tulley is a stay at home blogger and writes for www.Kanetix.ca, a site where you can compare car insurance rates. She knows you can get a better rate by getting quotes on car insurance at Kanetix!

*Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

 

Yes, it is simple to make your own hemp milk right at home! Certified Holistic Health Coach Marissa Vicario shows us how!

Make Your Own Hemp Milk

Ingredients

1 c hemp seeds
3 c water
3 Tbsps green stevia or other alternative sweetener
1 Tbsps vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Preparation

Blend for two minutes. Serve chilled if drinking straight as a snack or in smoothies. Add it to oatmeal at room temperature.

To store, place in a tightly sealed mason jar in the refrigerator – it usually lasts up 3-4 days.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Marissa Vicario, AADP, Certified Holistic Health Coach.*

Marissa’s Well-being and Health (MWAH!)

web: www.mwahonline.com
blog: www.whereineedtobe.com
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If you and your little ones enjoyed reading Kristi Yamaguchi’s debut children’s picture book, Dream Big, Little Pig, then get ready to cozy up before bed with a new adventure for the adorable Poppy the Pig as she continues her ice skating escapades in Kristi’s forthcoming sequel, It’s a Big World, Little Pig!

It’s a Big World, Little Pig! follows the precocious Poppy as she travels to Paris to compete in the World Games. At first, Poppy is nervous about meeting so many new people in a new place. But, ever courageous and supported by her family (and best friend Emma, too!), Poppy begins to realize that although these animals look different, act different, and are from different places, they are all the same at heart. They all smile in the same language!

Like the first book in the series, It’s a Big World, Little Pig! is a beautifully illustrated book with an important message, and your children will love to read this one over and over again with Mom or Dad! Hitting bookstores on March 6th, 2012, It’s a Big World, Little Pig! is a must-read this Spring!

To learn more, or to order, visit www.kristiyamaguchi.com.

*Company generously provided a review copy and cover image for this piece.*

Building a Greenhouse for a Greener Lifestyle

If you cast a critical eye around the produce section of your local grocery store and think to yourself, as you see the lifeless, commercially-grown fruits and vegetables, “I can do better than that,” then maybe you should. Many homeowners’ landscaping provides a corner of the lawn for the family vegetable garden, but those gardens are typically only summer projects.

Increasingly, families are turning to their own greenhouse to grown their own produce and to take a step closer to a self-sustainable lifestyle.

Depending on the size if your lawn and your landscaping preferences, there are a variety of greenhouse options in which to grow your own organic veggies. Clearly, placing your greenhouse on a section of property that gets the most sun is ideal. Typically the best location for a greenhouse is on the east side of your home and of any tall trees, so the morning sun will get the plants growing early.

A greenhouse does not have to be an expensive landscaping feature. A good, understated choice of greenhouse can be the lean-to style, which is attached to the house and thus close to electricity and plumbing. Only the wall adjacent to the house will not be open for light, so make sure the external walls face the most sun. Lean-to greenhouses are usually small, and sometimes need to be placed carefully against the house so excessive water, snow, and ice don’t run off the main roof onto the more fragile glass-work of the structure.

An even smaller greenhouse, which is more of an architectural element than a landscaping one, is simply the window greenhouse. Bumping out a window to enclose chosen plants, often in the kitchen, can be an easy way to offer fresh, ripe pickings to anyone who is cooking.

On the other end of the size scale, a large greenhouse which is a separate structure from the home is a major landscaping feature and requires as much space as you can devote to it, if you truly want to reap as many edibles from the space as possible. The bonus of the freestanding greenhouse is the sun can penetrate all of the sides, and is not limited by the wall of a house.

The larger the greenhouse, the more sustainable the inside temperature. Smaller greenhouses tend to fluctuate in temperature, because the volume of air inside them is smaller. If you want to start small, place your greenhouse in a part of your landscaping where there is room for expansion. Chances are, once you see small success, you’ll be able to take on more and more types of plants to cultivate.

The freestanding greenhouse can have a center aisle, shelving, benches, a nearby workshop for trowels, potting soil, fertilizer, and spritzer bottles. The more you learn about the types of plants you want to grow, the more you’ll be able to organize them and care for them, being as heedful of the different amounts of light, water, and heat each type will thrive best in, as you are when planting decorative gardens as part of your home’s landscaping.

Many do-it-yourself greenhouse kits are available on the market, if building the greenhouse is a project you’d like to take on. The materials differ, so investigate your options before you simply pick the cheapest one. Materials for the frame can range from plastic to wood to steel. Materials for the walls range from glass to fiberglass to plastic. The floor can be anything from gravel to stone to concrete. Be sure to take drainage into account when you plan your floor – greenhouses are wet places. Just as a low-lying part of your lawn may be a landscaping headache if rainwater pools there without draining, your greenhouse also might end up becoming swampy if you do not have adequate drainage.

About the Author

For professional landscaping in the Maryland area, please contact Carroll-landscaping services for Maryland landscaping, or consult your local landscaping professional. If you are a D.I.Y’er please also consider the Landscaping Wizard for more landscaping ideas.

Shake up your typical salad with this nutrient dense and extremely tasty kale salad, courtesy of Registered Dietician and busy mom of twin toddlers, Lauren O’Connor!

Raw Kale Salad with Lemon Tamari Dressing

Ingredients

4-6 cups loose, chopped, fresh kale
1 clove garlic, chopped coarse1y
1 TBS low sodium tamari (soy sauce or Ponzu marinade)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS brown rice flour
2 TBS sliced, toasted almonds
2 TBS olive tapenade

Preparation

Rinse, stem* and chop kale (or buy pre-chopped). Set aside. In a blender, place garlic, lemon, tamari and flour. Blend on variable speed from low to high until well blended. (Note: VitaMix highly recommended, but not necessary). Slowly drizzle in olive oil at low-speed and continue to blend for another 3-5 minutes.

Pour onto kale and mix in well to coat each piece. In a non-stick pan or in toaster oven, toast sliced almonds until light brown. Toss in almonds and olive tapenade. Enjoy!

*Since kale is chopped, stemming is optional, but may be preferred.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian, Nutri-Savvy.*

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Get Rid of That Cell Phone Without Any Casualties

Because technology changes so quickly, and more and more people are dropping their landlines, it’s not uncommon to have a drawer full of used, outdated cell phones. Millions of people use cell phones and most of those people, on average, get a new phone every two years. Throwing your cell phones in the trash is incredibly harmful to the environment and, with the ease of cell phone recycling, should be avoided at all costs.

Cell phones on the market today contain arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Whether the cell phones are tossed in a landfill or thrown into an incinerator, these dangerous toxins are leached into the environment. When the toxins are introduced to our water supply, we, as humans, are put at higher risk for various types of cancers.

It has been approximated that only 12 percent of used cell phones are properly recycled each year. The rest end up in junk drawers and landfills. If you’ve got discarded phones taking up space in your desk drawer, here are five ways you can put them to good use:

1. Cell Phone for Soldiers: this group collects used cell phones, sells them to a recycling center and uses the proceeds to purchase calling cards for soldiers serving overseas.

2. Donate them: many shelters will accept gently used cell phones, activate them and hand them out to residents. This is particularly true of domestic violence shelters as these phones can help survivors get back on their feet.

3. Sell them: why not take those old cell phones and turn them into cold, hard cash? You can have a go at selling them on your own or trade them in into a site like Amazon.com for store credit.

4. Fundraise: many buy-back websites will help you set up a fundraiser for your school or organization. Send out a flyer and ask that people bring their used cell phones for donation. Once you’ve collected several, send them in and earn money for your program.

5. Recycle: you can directly recycle your used cell phones. Many localities have electronics recycling days or you can simply find a site online who will dispose of your cell phone, once received, in an environmentally responsible manner.

Toxins in cell phones are not only hazardous for humans, they are hazardous for the environment as well. From soil damage to water pollution, the toxins leached into our environment can have far-reaching, detrimental effects. Gather up your used cell phones and recycle them; it’s the green thing to do.

About the Author

Author Stephanie Sanders is a communications consultant and writes for a mobile phone site in the UK, offering all the latest phones and plans.

*Image: chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Ribbons of fresh zucchini are used in place of traditional lasagna noodles, making this a lighter vegetarian dish that everyone will enjoy, courtesy of CHOW.com!

Noodleless Zucchini Lasagne

Ingredients

For the sauce:

•1 tablespoon olive oil
•1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
•1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
•1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
•1 tablespoon capers
•1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

For the filling:

•1 pound large-curd cottage cheese
•1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
•1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables:

•1 1/2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
•3 tablespoons olive oil
•1 3/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
•Kosher salt
•Freshly ground black pepper
•8 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, patted dry with paper towels, and coarsely chopped
•1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

To assemble:

•1 pound shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 4 cups)

Preparation

For the sauce:

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange the racks to divide it into thirds.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, capers, and measured salt, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the flavors meld and the sauce has slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, make the filling and cook the vegetables.

For the filling:

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

For the vegetables:

Place the zucchini slices in a single layer on 2 baking sheets, overlapping the slices slightly as needed. Roast until softened and pliable, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the baking sheets on wire racks and set aside to cool. Move the upper rack to the middle of the oven.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring rarely, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add another tablespoon of the oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the artichoke hearts, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and toss to evenly coat.

To assemble:

Add 1 1/4 cups of the sauce to the mushroom-artichoke mixture and toss to evenly coat; set aside.

Spread the remaining tomato sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Scatter a quarter of the mushroom-artichoke mixture over the sauce in an even layer. Evenly place a quarter of the zucchini slices in a single layer over the mixture. Using a small spoon, dollop a third of the cottage cheese filling evenly over the zucchini and flatten the dollops with the back of the spoon (the filling will spread out more as it cooks). Evenly sprinkle a quarter of the mozzarella over the cottage cheese filling.

Make 2 more layers of the mushroom-artichoke mixture, zucchini slices, cottage cheese filling, and mozzarella.
Make a final layer with the remaining zucchini slices, then the mushroom-artichoke mixture, and finally the mozzarella (switching up the order keeps the zucchini from burning under the cheese).

Bake uncovered until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the top is browned, about 40 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

*Recipe and image courtesy of CHOW.com.*

Easy Ways to Shrink your Carbon Footprint

With global warming a constant concern, and carbon emissions still being the main culprit for rising temperatures, reducing your carbon footprint has never been as important as it is right now. While simply driving less may be a great way to reduce the amount of carbon you consume, there are a number of other, less obvious ways that you can drop your carbon consumption.

Recycling Closet

Let’s face it: Everyone recycles these days. But is that enough? Instead of just going with the herd and tossing your plastic into a separate container, why not set up a small recycling center in one of your closets? Now, you can not only recycle your plastic, but your paper and glass as well. This helps ensure that as much of your used material as possible gets recycled back into production and stays out of a landfill.

Online Education

Going to school can be one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it certainly doesn’t help your carbon footprint. When you add up all the books, the gas spent driving back and forth to class and the facilities costs of those large lecture halls, it can wind up adding a ton of carbon to the atmosphere. Instead, consider going online to get your education. With online schools growing all the time, and many now offering advanced programs, like an online MBA program, this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while advancing yourself.

Unplug

Modern technology is now an indispensable fact of life, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to reduce how much energy those technological devices use. Even if you turn these devices off, many of them continue to draw a small amount of power while they are plugged in. This power may be tiny, but when you add up all the devices in your life it could wind up being a serious waste of energy. Take the extra time to unplug devices when you are done with them and help save the planet.

Use Cold Water

It takes quite a bit of energy to heat up the water in your house, and while no one can really advocate for cold showers, there are plenty of water uses where the temperature of the water doesn’t really matter. For things like washing your hands, rinsing dishes and doing laundry, cold water works just as well as warm and by choosing to use cold you wind up spending a lot less energy heating up your water.

Focus on Local Solutions

One of the largest contributors to our carbon problem is the transportation infrastructure that is required to move goods from their place of manufacture to your doorstep. To help alleviate this issue, try to purchase goods, like foods, that are local in origin. Not only does this provide a boost to your local economy, but it significantly reduces the amount of energy that is wasted in bringing the products to you.

In today’s world it is everyone’s job to reduce the impact that their life has on the planet. Not everyone can simply walk off into the wilderness and live a life off of the grid, but there are plenty of small steps that everyone can take. These steps may not seem like they have a large impact, but when extrapolated across the entire population, they could represent a serious reduction in the global carbon footprint.

*Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

This lovely, fresh soup will warm you up on a chilly day! Goat cheese lovers, like “Mom,” will love this savory soup topped with a dollop of fresh goat cheese!

Curried Apple Soup with Chavrie® Goat Cheese

Ingredients

2 ea Leeks (chopped and washed)
1 C Sliced white mushrooms
2 oz. Vegetable oil
2 ea Granny Smith apples (cut in wedges)
24 oz. Apple cider or juice
7 oz. Coconut milk
2 tsp. Curry powder
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
2 pkg. Chavrie® (reserve 1 pkg. for garnishing)

Preparation

Sweat leeks and mushrooms in vegetable oil until tender (without color) in a heavy gauge sauce pot.
Add apples, apple cider, coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the Chavrie® and season with salt and pepper.
Pour entire contents in a blender and puree or puree with a hand held mixer.
Strain through a fine chinois. And keep warm.
Serve hot .
Garnish with slices of apple or a dollop of Chavrie®.

Serves 4.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Chavrie.*