The marinade used in this recipe is simple to make yet very flavorful!

Grilled Vegetable and Beef Skewers

Ingredients

¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1½ tsp dried oregano leaves (or dried rosemary)

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 lb (454 g) sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes (“Mom” prefers organic)

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

Preparation

To make marinade, in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, tomato paste, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Place beef in a large resealable plastic bag. Add marinade. Seal bag and turn several times until beef is coated with marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Alternately thread the marinated beef, red peppers, green peppers, zucchini and onions onto metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water.

Preheat grill to high setting. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with leftover marinade, until beef is cooked to desired degree of doneness.

Remove skewers from grill and cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Brent Garell, author of The Cook-a-Palooza Experience. Visit Cookapalooza.com.*

Eco-Friendly Clothing Trends to Keep You Cool This Summer

Eco-friendly clothing is quickly becoming all the rage. Kiss synthetic fabrics and stiff material goodbye! The new trend in summer cool is natural fabrics made out of organic materials. The focus this season is also turning to free trade practices, ensuring that clothing is made by people who are treated not only humanely, but fairly.

Before you go shopping for your new summer wardrobe, check out these trends in eco-friendly clothing:

Organic Materials

In order to produce a single T-shirt, cotton crops must be treated with one third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers. Stop and think what this means for an entire crop of cotton! Cotton crops have one of the highest needs for toxic chemicals. While this is terrible for the environment, it can also lead to skin irritations for those who suffer with sensitive skin or allergies. You can find clothing made of five percent organic cotton, 100 percent organic cotton and percentages in between!

Sustainable Materials

In addition to organic materials, sustainable materials are becoming much more popular in the fashion industry. Clothing made from hemp and bamboo is a better option for the environment because these crops can be replanted and replenished without damage to the eco-system. Clothing made out of these fibers is incredibly strong; retaining its color and shape wash after wash. You can find hemp and bamboo options in virtually every type of garment you desire! These fabrics are becoming increasingly popular in baby and children’s clothing because they are less irritating to sensitive skin.

Recycled Materials

Have you ever wondered what happens to that plastic that you toss into the recycling bin? It’s often made into clothing and accessories. T-shirts made out of recycled plastic bottles can be found, as can gloves, scarves, hats and umbrellas. Look for items that have been made out of recycled materials to complete your green circle!

Plant-Based Dyes

If you take the time to seek out organic clothing, make sure that it is dyed or screen-printed with healthy, plant-based dyes. Dyes of old contain heavy metals and synthetics, both of which are hazardous to the earth. These dyes also pose a hazard to the workers who must breathe in their fumes in order to produce your garment. By choosing clothing that is dyed with plant-based options, you are not only helping to ensure the safety of the earth, but to its human occupants as well.

Free-Trade Practices

It’s the rare person who hasn’t heard of sweat shops. These horrible manufacturing plants employ children, men and women and pay them ridiculously low wages, taking advantage of their desperation. The environment in these factories is often unhealthy, substandard and even hazardous. If your organic garment is made by people who are underage or making only pennies an hour, you’re organic T-shirt simply cannot be considered eco-conscious ware. Look for clothes that are made locally or by companies who participate in free and fair trade agreements.

Dressing in an environmentally-friendly manner means far more than grabbing an organic T-shirt and heading for the check-out line. Make sure the clothing that you are choosing is not only organic, but is made under fair conditions and with healthy dyes. By becoming a conscious shopper, you’re not only helping to keep the earth healthy, you’re helping to keep its inhabitants healthy, too!

About the Author

Michelle Isbell is a freelance blogger for tshirtprinting.net where you can find services for T shirt printing in Manchester. She loves finding ways to customize eco-friendly clothing!

*Image provided by GAIAM.*

This recipe, like many of Wendy Perry’s, doesn’t require exact measurements. Ingredients can vary depending on what is the freshest, preferably locally seasonal from an area farmers’ market, and is simply a menagerie of your preferences. These are great hot off the grill, safe on a buffet at room temp, or even right out of the fridge.

Mix and match any or all of the following. The key is to make sure they areall about the same size pieces for even cooking.

Garden Candy

Ingredients

Bell peppers, assorted colors
Onions (red, sweet, green/scallion)
Eggplant
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Summer squash (yellow/zucchini)
Mushrooms
Few cloves garlic
Oil (choose your favorite – Wendy prefers grapeseed or garlic oil)
Fresh or dried herbs of choice (these can vary to complement what you are serving the vegetables with – Italian, Mexican, etc.)

Preparation

Wash and drain vegetables. Cut into similar size pieces. Place all in large bowl and drizzle with oil, herbs and seasonings; toss to coat evenly. Put the veggies into a non-stick grill basket. Cook over medium-high direct heat on gas or charcoal grill, stirring to allow a bit of char but to prevent burning. When done, pour into pretty serving bowl for guests to nibble on or as a side dish for grilled meat, poultry or fish!

*Recipe and image courtesy of Wendy L. Perry, Culinary Adventurist & Home Economist. Visit ThrowCooking.com.*

It’s not a thick Belgian waffle, but a light and crispy organic wafer that satisfies snack attacks anytime! Originally created in the Netherlands over two hundred years ago and called a stroopwafel, which was two thin wafers filled with syrup, the waffles have now had a healthy makeover by Honey Stinger! Instead of calorie-laden syrup, the wafers are filled with organic honey as well as other organic ingredients, and are available in three yummy flavors – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.

At 160 calories per serving, “Mom” is loving these airy chocolate waffles that help combat the mid-afternoon slump when you may be tempted to eat a candy bar! Chocolate is the newest flavor to the Honey Stinger family of Stinger Waffles, and we think it may be their best yet!

To learn more about Chocolate Stinger Waffles, to locate a reatiler near you, or to order, please visit HoneyStinger.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Are you designing a bedroom for two siblings to share? “Mom’s” most recent article on SheKnows.com highlights key points to remember when creating a shared space. You can view the full article here.

*Image provided by Pottery Barn Kids.*

3 Tips For Planning An Eco-Friendly Luau

Hosting a luau is a great way to enjoy the beautiful summer weather with friends. Anyone who has ever hosted one of these Hawaiian parties knows just how much waste is collected while cleaning up. There are some ways to minimize waste or substitute more eco-friendly items for traditional decorations.

1. Use Grass Skirts Liberally

Plenty of party supply companies sell natural grass skirts. These items can be handed out to party guests to wear. They can also be used as decorations. Tack them up along the sides of tables or even a stage. Or create the look of a tiki hut by hanging long strands of them between poles.

The best thing about natural grass skirts is that they are biodegradable. Many cities have green waste cans. If this is the case, put the used grass skirts in those cans. Even if they are disposed of in landfills, they do not create the same toxic fumes that plastic imitation grass skirts do. People who live in farm communities may want to offer used natural grass to local farmers.

2. Use Tiki Torches For Lighting

Most luaus are held during the evening hours. This creates one major issue: Party hosts need ample lighting. The first thing most people think of is to rent party lights or fake tiki torches that do not actually burn. However, there are tiki torches that are designed to be environmentally friendly. Many of them also have citronella, which helps keep pesky bugs away from the party. Renting lights can consume plenty of electricity, and the rental fees often exceed the cost of tiki torches. In addition to this, regular lights are an invitation for bugs to snack on the food and the party guests. Just be sure to put the torches in areas where they will not set other greenery or belongings on fire.

3. Use Bamboo & Real Flowers For Decorating

In most areas, it is expensive to order real hibiscus flowers. Although they add plenty of color, fake hibiscus flowers create unnecessary waste. Check with flower shops or neighbors to see if they have any fresh flowers they are willing to part with. Some flower shops sell imperfect items for reduced prices. Although the shapes of the flowers may look different from traditional Hawaiian blooms, it is possible to create a similar look by using multiple bright colors. Another option is to purchase biodegradable fake flowers. They may be slightly more expensive than regular fake flowers or fresh flowers.

Bamboo is fairly inexpensive, and it can be used in many different ways. Party hosts can weave bamboo mats or buy them already made. Shoots of bamboo can also be used to line the walls. When the party is over, hosts may send home bamboo shoots with guests as party favors. Bamboo mats can be saved and reused or sent home with party guests. If they must be disposed of, they will not harm the environment.

When planning a luau, be sure to think of other ways to make eco-friendly changes. It is also important to provide good entertainment. Fire dancing is one excellent option. A good fire dancer will captivate the attention of guests, and party hosts can rest assured their friends will not forget the experience.

About the Author

Beverly McCrary is a content contributor for Zen Arts and a mother of three. In her free time, Beverly collaborates with other neighborhood moms to plan their children’s birthday parties.

*Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Using Guy Parker’s BBQ Sauce, which is all-natural, gluten-free, and made in North Carolina by the Parker family, chicken on the barbecue becomes succulent and tender!

Guy Parker’s BBQ Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken split or4 boneless chicken breasts

½ cup of Guy Parker’s BBQ Sauce

Preparation

Place chicken in a baking dish or pan, and marinade for 30 minutes to an hour rotating chicken halfway through the time allowed. Cook chicken until juice runs clear.

Guy Parker’s Glaze

Combine 1 jar of your favorite preserve (apricot or peach may work best) and mix ¼ cup Guy Parker’s BBQ Sauce together and glaze your Ribs or Chicken 10 minutes before taking off the grill.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Guy Parker’s BBQ Sauce.*

How to Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Environmental sustainability is a phrase on everyone’s minds these days, especially with the debate over fracking on the news and rising prices at the gas pumps. But if you’re honest, chances are those saved dollars are much more important to you than whatever the future of the planet may be. In the end, one person can only do so much to help the environment on a grand scale, but a single individual can consider the environment in ways that will make a huge difference to a family’s financial bottom line. One of the biggest monthly expenses on the ledger tends to be household utilities. Luckily you can do a lot to impact your gas and electric bill that will save the planet and your wallet. Here are a few ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency rating starting today.

All of the changes you make must start with a shift of mindset. Becoming more energy efficient at home generally means instilling some new practices, and it will take conscious effort to succeed. Make a list of any home habits you have that could be considered wasteful. One of the most obvious is leaving too many lights on. Make it a part of your routine to shut off the lights in any room that’s not being used, and you’ll see a real difference in your monthly electric bill. Additionally, switch out your standard light bulbs with long-lasting energy efficient ones. You’ll go through far fewer bulbs a year, and the light they give off is fantastic. Pick up a couple of energy efficient power strips and plug all of your electronics and appliances (except the refrigerator) in, so you can easily shut them down when they’re not being used.

Any appliance that generates heat is a big energy user and waster. Do regular maintenance on the oven to insure it heats up as swiftly as possible, or replace it with a modern, energy efficient model. If you’re heating water on the stove, try not to overfill the kettle and you’ll cut down on the amount of gas or electric you use.

The largest part of your expenses will involve heating and cooling the house. Regrettably, you could be spending a significant percentage of that money heating and cooling the neighborhood, if your home isn’t sufficiently sealed and insulated. Check out the doors and windows, and look for gaps or leaky spots. If you own the house and will be staying for a while, consider replacing old windows with new ones that are better sealed. Pick up blinds and curtains designed to keep the house’s temperature consistent. And if you can, raise your standard thermostat temperature a degree or two in the summer, and lower in the winter. Shedding that extra layer of clothing or grabbing a blanket will pay off at the end of the month.

Consider more significant ways to impact your home’s energy efficiency. If you can afford to trade in your old boiler, washer/dryer and other appliances for green certified models, you’ll be doing your part not just for the family, but for environmental sustainability. And as a longer term plan, look into greener energy sources for your home. Adding solar or wind power to your home will drastically reduce your energy requirement over time. And it could add to the value of your home. Check out some tracker mortgage sites to see how you can increase the value of your home through improved energy efficiency.

This quick and easy recipe is perfect the grill throughout the summer!

Salt Lick Barbecue Sirloin

Dry Rub Ingredients

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Ingredients

1 pound Laura’s Lean Beef sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chipotle barbecue sauce
1 sheet (18 x24-inches) Reynolds WrapC Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips

Preparation

1. Preheat grill to medium-high indirect heat. For indirect heat, the heat source (coals or gas burner) is on one side of the grill. Place the food on the opposite side with no coals or flame underneath.

2. Combine ingredients for Dry Rub. In a large bowl, combine the rub mixture with the beef strips. Stir in barbecue sauce; set aside.

3. Center onion slices on sheet of foil. Top with pepper strips. Arrange beef mixture over onion and pepper in an even layer.

4. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to form one large foil packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

5. Grill 20 to 25 minutes in covered grill over indirect heat.

Makes 4 servings.

Cooking Tip: To make your own Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, combine 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Laura’s Lean Beef.*

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