Creamy and spicy, this spread tastes great with grilled or roasted vegetables, grilled or roasted chicken, roasted turkey, or veggie tacos.

Jalapeño-Cilantro Yogurt Spread

Ingredients

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper (could substitute serrano pepper)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Generous pinch kosher salt

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a small, nonreactive bowl and stir until smooth.

*Recipe and image courtesy of CHOW.com.*

What Happens When You Don’t Change Your Refrigerator Water Filter?

Have you been putting off changing the filter in your refrigerator? While this may not be the most exciting chore on your to-do list, it is an absolute necessity. The water filter in your fridge is designed to keep drinking water tasty and clear of particles like chlorine but, if not changed regularly, it will fail at this mission.

The usual recommendation is for water filters to be replaced at least once every six months. Some advanced filters are designed to last a full year before requiring a replacement. Others, however, may require replacing more frequently. This is especially true of older models.

The following are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy after changing your water filter:

Better-tasting water

Is your water starting to taste a bit foul? If your filter hasn’t been changed in awhile, it is not in optimal shape to do its job correctly, leaving you with water that doesn’t taste so great. If your water tastes bad, you may be less inclined to reach that goal of eight glasses of H20 a day. In this way, the failure to change your water filters regularly could actually impact your overall health without you fully recognizing it. Drink to your health by making it more pleasant for you and your family to drink delicious water.

Save money

The potential for savings may be one of the reasons you invested in a filtering system in the first place. After all, drinking filtered water costs signficantly less than purchasing the bottled version. According to TLC, the annual cost of drinking bottled water in a family of four is well over $3,000! Compare this to refrigerator filters, which can be replaced for a fraction of the cost. Maintain your initial investment by keeping up with the maintenance of your refrigerator.

Save the environment

Not only are filters far less expensive than bottled water, they are also a whole lot better for the environment. Millions of plastic bottles end up in trash dumps every year. Despite a push for recycling, research suggests that 75 percent of water bottles are trashed rather than recycled. Even when recycling does enter the equation, it doesn’t make up for the vast amounts of energy required to produce water bottles. In the midst of an energy crisis, we really don’t need to be throwing precious resources away on bottled water.

Remove contaminants

Tap water is supposed to be treated, but unfortunately, not all city purification centers are up to par. Poorly-treated tap water may contain traces of mercury, lead or benzene, all of which constitute major health risks. An up-to-date water filter can easily clear out such contaminants. As the filter ages, it loses its ability to keep your water safe. If you value your health, make sure you replace your refrigerator filter on a regular basis.

As the cost of bottled water continues to rise, more and more drinkers are expected to switch over to refrigerator filters. If replaced regularly, these filters can truly improve one’s health and well-being.

About the Author

Danielle has never been a fan of bottled water and prefers to filter her own at home. Read her work at eatbreatheblog.com.

CeeLo’s GreenHouse Foundation to Spread Eco-Education in Atlanta

Many celebrities have thrown the considerable weight of their social status and the contents of their sizable bank accounts behind charitable causes. Bill and Melinda Gates started their own foundation to promote health, education, and equal opportunity across the globe, George Lucas started the Lucas Film Foundation to help youngsters grow into the responsible leaders of tomorrow, and Oprah Winfrey has at least two charities in her name (the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy and Oprah’s Angel Network). You might be starting to see a pattern here. Apparently musician CeeLo Green is eager to join the ranks of his philanthropic celebrity colleagues, because he, too, has stated a foundation with plans to give to others in need.

The GreenHouse Foundation, launched in partnership with Green’s sister, Shedonna Alexander, aims to “empower children with the knowledge, attitude, and desire to positively influence their futures, their communities and the long-term sustainability of their planet.” Based in Atlanta, the Foundation has already teamed up with area schools (public, private, and charter) to provide outreach to disadvantaged youth by way of the Green Garden Education Program. The schools involved will receive resources from the program (including tools, supplies, and even a curriculum) that will allow students to participate in outdoor “teaching” gardens on campus.

The idea behind this is to offer kids a green education in more ways than one. Not only will the program teach kids the valuable skills associated with planting and growing greenery; it will also help to build their confidence through success and hopefully inspire them to greatness in their own lives, within their communities, and beyond. In addition, students will receive a “green” education that includes lessons in sustainability, as well as the ability to share their efforts with the community by providing fresh produce to other impoverished groups like the elderly and homeless populations.

But that’s not all this organization is seeking to do. In order to create a youth populace that is responsible, informed, and forward-thinking when it comes to the environment and community organization, the GreenHouse Foundation plans to sponsor other programs, as well. Already slated for inception is a continuation of the Green Garden program that will locate and utilize land around Atlanta to create community gardens for volunteers to grow organic goods. Then there is the School Waste Diversion Initiative, a program that will teach students how to stop campus waste (of the non-biodegradable variety) from making its way to local landfills. And these are just short-term plans of CeeLo’s organization.

In the long-term the Foundation is seeking to give children the means and initiative to adopt greener practices for life, as well as show them a future in which their efforts can have a real impact. For kids that are underprivileged, the real-world skills and self-confidence that can be gained from such a program are immeasurable. For some, it could make the difference between reaching graduation and dropping out, while others will take the lessons with them all the way to mba programs online or even Ivy League universities. CeeLo may have adopted the conceit of putting his name on the Foundation (although the use of “Green” is a clever play on words, considering the eco-friendly nature of the program), but his money and his celebrity status will serve to make a big difference in the lives of Atlanta youth.

Awesome new toy alert! If you have a child who is musically inclined or loves to sing and dance, the new Symphony in B from B. Toys will be their favorite before long. This new musical toy lets your child be the conductor while learning all about 13 different instruments as they orchestrate their own inspired musical combinations.

To play, your child can choose up to 5 different instruments to place in the orchestra pit, which will be played together. Your little one can choose from 15 songs and classical symphonies and even change the tempo as the instruments play. Instruments include the clarinet, flute, tuba, trumpet, xylophone, drums, cymbals, piano, accordion, koto, guitar, violin and sitar, and each instrument is labeled with its proper name. Plus, each instrument has a distinct shape on the bottom so your child can also reinforce their knowledge of shapes as they place each instrument back into place after playing.

Unique features of Symphony in B include:

Lights teach the sections of an orchestra
Beautiful, rich, professionally recorded sounds
Included playbill teaches composers, writers and lyrics
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Mom’s” toddler absolutely adores Symphony in B, and has already gone through one set of batteries as she composes symphony after symphony. The music is not cheesy or annoying, as some children’s toys can be, but beautiful and classic. We could listen to the various symphonies for hours, and even older children will enjoy it. (yes, parents too!) This is one fabulous musical learning toy!

To learn more about Symphony in B, or to locate a Target retailer near you, please visit justb-byou.com.

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

Breakfast is served! These hearty yet healthy Apple Oat Cakes courtesy of the The Beach Rose Inn located in Falmouth, MA, will become a Fall favorite!

Apple Oat Cakes

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs beaten

1 apple, cored and minced

¼ cup vegetable oil

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Preparation

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg

Add the buttermilk, eggs, apple, and vegetable oil and mix well. Cover tightty and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, spray the griddle with nonstick vegetable oil. Pre-heat griddle to medium high. Pour batter by ¼ cupfuls and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightly brown (will bubble). Flip and cook until firm on the other side.

Makes 24 Oat Cakes

Recipe courtesy of BNBFinder.com. Photo credit: The Beach Rose Inn

What to Put in Green Gift Bags for An Eco Friendly Birthday Party

So, you’re preparing for your child’s birthday party and you’ve decided that this year, you’re going to go with a “green theme”. You’re having the party outside, you’re serving the food on recyclable plates, you’ve opted for having them play in the pool and/or do arts and crafts rather than use video games and the birthday cake is going to be made with 100% organic ingredients.

Now, all you need to do is figure out what to put into the “green gift bags.”

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, we’ve provided five ideas below that are green, good and a great memory for all of your child’s guests to go home with:

Seeds. A special thing that all of us can do for the environment is to plant a garden or grow a tree, so by sending the kids home with a pack or two of seeds, it’s a nice reminder that a little thing can go a long way. Plus, they are easy to find (you can get them at a local nursery or you can put “buy seeds” into your favorite search engine), plus they are very inexpensive to purchase.

Books. Can you ever go wrong with a book? Definitely not. It encourages a child to develop their reading and comprehension skills as it helps them to nurture their own creativity and imagination. And what’s the “green angle” with this concept? There are many companies that now sell children’s books on recyclable paper. FreeSpirit.com and SunBearPublishing.com are just two of the many ones that do it.

Homemade bubble bath. Here’s something else that’s cool, quick and fun. In order to make some of your own “signature” bubble bath, all that you need is 2 cups of baby shampoo (unscented), 1 ½ cups of water, 2 teaspoons of glycerin and a few drops of the essential oils of your choice (consult with the place where you are purchasing them about which ones are the best for a young child’s skin). This will make enough for one child’s serving. You can even go to your local Whole Foods store to pick up some organic food coloring and a Pottery Barn or Joanne’s to get some little bottles to put the finished product in.

Wooden puzzles or blocks. Let’s put wood to good use by utilizing it to educate our children. Target or Wal-Mart should have some wooden toys that are fairly easy to find and are reasonably priced. Or, you can go searching online. One great starting place would be MelissaandDoug.com. They even have a section with toys that are under $10.

Eco-friendly party favors. Or, if you would like to strictly put eco-friendly party favors in your wholesale gift bags, there are companies that specialize in “green” party favors for kids. One cute one that has everything from non-toxic silicone bracelets and decorative drinking straws, to LED sound activated T-shirts and eco-friendly plastic finger rings is Alibaba.com. All you have to do is go to the website and put “eco-friendly party favors for kids” in the search engine. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by all of the options that will pop up to make your child’s party a “go green” blast!

Here’s a brilliant high protein snack in the under 200-calorie range. It’s a great post-workout recovery snack that won’t undo your burn, and a safe choice for people trying to keep steady blood sugar levels for weight management or diabetes. It’s also a great way to ease your way into plain yogurt if you’re trying to wean yourself from those fruity flavors that push you over the edge on your daily sugar budget.

Lactose-Free, Low-Glycemic Peanut Butter Chocolate Parfait

By Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN (www.TamaraDuker.com), June 2012

Ingredients

1 6oz container PLAIN Green Valley Organics® Lactose Free yogurt
2 TBSPs PB2® Powdered Peanut Butter (available at Amazon.com/grocery and health food stores nationwide; visit BellPlantation.com/locator to find PB2 at a store near you)
2 tsps dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 tsp agave nectar
Optional: sliced banana and/or crushed peanuts for garnish

Preparation

1. Using two small bowls, divide the yogurt into two equal parts.
2. In one half, mix in the PB2 until well-combined, and smooth out surface so that it is even
3. In the other half, mix in the cocoa powder and agave nectar
4. Layer the chocolate half atop the peanut butter half. (If using sliced banana, you can first place a layer of sliced bananas atop the peanut butter yogurt before adding the chocolate yogurt.
5. Garnish with crushed peanuts if desired, and enjoy!

*Recipe and image courtesy of Green Valley Organics.*

Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics are available at Whole Foods Markets, natural food stores and specialty grocers nationwide. To find a store near you, go to redwoodhill.com/store and greenvalleylactosefree.com/stores/

Is it me, or have movie theaters hiked prices up monthly? With more movie lovers opting to stay home to cut costs, enjoying fresh, warm movie theater popcorn while watching a favorite flick might be missed! Not anymore! Popcorn, Indiana has debuted Warm Your Corn, the very first ready-to-eat Movie Theater popcorn that comes in a microwave safe bag. It’s simple – just follow the instructions on the bag to heat up buttery popcorn in no time!

If you are a fan of Popcorn, Indiana varieties, like “Mom,” Warm Your Corn is only of many tantalizing all-natural, gluten-free flavors offered. Choose from 15 distinct and downright delicious options, including:

Kettlecorn
Aged White Cheddar Kettlecorn
Cinnamon Sugar
Sea Salt
Bacon Ranch
Caramel Corn
Almont Biscotti
Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn
Wasabi
Cocoa Kettlecorn
Dark Fudge Chocolate Chip Kettlecorn
Drizzled Black & White Kettlecorn
Drizzled Cinnamon Sugar Kettlecorn
Chocolate Peanut Butter Kettlecorn
Dark Fudge Peppermint Kettlecorn

In addition to the new Warm Your Corn, “Mom” has truly enjoyed the Kettlecorn and Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn varieties!

For more information on Popcorn, Indiana, such as nutritional information, or to locate a retailer near you, visit PopcornIndiana.com.

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

This smoothie tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass — without the guilt of buttery pastry and whipped cream. Its cinnamon goodness is just that: a boost that’s anti-inflammatory and getting kudos for lessening the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Kefir adds just the right amount of creamy indulgence with the benefit of belly-friendly bacteria for easy digestibility.

Pumpkin Pie In The Sky Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup Green Valley Organics or Redwood Hill Farm Plain Kefir
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice or cider
1/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 medium fresh or frozen banana or 2 pitted dates
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbs. sweetener of choice (we like maple syrup)
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1/2 cup ice cubes (adjust to reach desired consistency)

Preparation

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Top It Off: Add a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon granola (and a bit of candied ginger) to the top, grab a spoon, close your eyes and you’ll swear you’re enjoying Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics are available at Whole Foods Markets, natural food stores and specialty grocers nationwide. To find a store near you, go to redwoodhill.com/store and greenvalleylactosefree.com/stores/.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Green Valley Organics.*

Inexpensive Vs. Expensive Green Home Improvements

For those who own homes, an occasional trip to the hardware store is inevitable. From burnt-out light bulbs to broken rain gutters, the items on your to do list are constantly multiplying. Next time you revise your list, consider green solutions for your home improvement needs, as there are a variety of options that fit any budget. Whether small or large, these measures are environmentally conscious and can help you save money on your energy bills.

Least expensive:

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to improve your home is with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). These cost more upfront than a regular light bulb, but since they require less energy to operate, you will actually save money on your electricity bill over time. Energy efficient bulbs last longer than their incandescent counterparts, so using them will cut down on the growing waste disposal epidemic.

Lower your heating and air conditioning bills by treating cracks in doors and windows. Weather strips for doors leading outside prevent drafts and can be made from scratch or purchased from the hardware store. Caulk the edges of all your windows to eliminate additional air leakage.

Reduce your home’s water usage by replacing your showerheads with low flow alternatives. These efficient devices use less than half the water for an average shower. Plus, your furnace will have less work to do in heating water. While you are at it, wrap the furnace and water pipes with insulated covers to prevent further heat loss. You can also add water aerators to the faucets to cut back on the amount of water used without reducing the pressure.

Most expensive:

One of the most obvious ways to decrease your home’s carbon footprint is with solar energy. This home improvement tactic is costly, yet it has substantial payoff. View adding solar panels or tiles to your roof as an investment, as you could receive payback from the utility company for excess electricity supplied to your community’s grid. You may also be eligible for government tax credits for installing this renewable energy source.

If your plans for home improvement include an interior paint job, look for paints labeled “low VOC” (volatile organic compounds). This option costs more but is considered less toxic than standard paint, as it contains little to none of the harmful fumes that have been linked to respiratory illnesses.

Replace old appliances with new energy efficient ones. Whether you are shopping for a refrigerator, dishwasher or air conditioner, finding these items built with environmental awareness is easier than ever. Purchasing a whole set is expensive, but you can add these pieces to your home gradually and watch your energy bills decrease in the meantime.

Save on your heating bills by insulating your home’s attic. This will keep the warm air inside when it rises. An experienced individual can take a crack at this project, but consider hiring a contractor if you have never installed insulation before.

All of these home improvements are green and well worth every dollar spent. Making these changes will increase the value of your home, which is beneficial if you ever plan on moving. If so, head over to www.myonlineestateagent.com to get started.