The holidays are upon us! Here’s a straightforward, easy-to-prepare meal the whole family can enjoy!

Roast Turkey with Sweet Potato, Apples & Brown Rice

Ingredients

1/2 pound boneless turkey breast
1/2 large sweet potato, scrubbed and halved
1 Gala, golden delicious (or any fresh in-season apple)
1/2 small yellow onion, halved with layers separated
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cooked brown rice (or wild rice), warm or at room temperature

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange the turkey, sweet potato, apple, and onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil.

Roast uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 155°F when tested at its thickest point with an instant-read thermometer. Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the meal into adult and child-friendly portions. For the kid portions, shred the turkey into small pieces and scoop the sweet potato flesh and apple from the skin. Place in a food processor along with some of the onion. Add a few tablespoons of brown rice. Drizzle in the remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons of oil and pulse on and off until coarsely chopped. Serve warm.

Makes 3 to 4 adult servings or 6 kid servings.

Note: You can use additional ingredients or swap out others to create variety and add nutrients, such as cranberries, brussel sprouts, cinnamon, rosemary, ground pepper and salt (for flavor if preferred).

*Recipe and image courtesy of Sprout Foods.*

How to Make Recycled Material Christmas Ornaments With Kids

One of the true pleasures of the holiday season for many parents is taking the time to sit down with kids and create cards and gifts for family and friends, as well as ornaments to hang on the tree and treasure in the years to come. And for many families, the craft store can provide nearly unlimited options. But if you’ve decided that it’s high time you started living more sensibly and doing your part to protect the planet for your tiny tots, then perhaps you’re on the prowl for craft materials that do less harm this year. In other words, you might be looking for a few good ways to create Christmas ornaments using recycled materials. And here are some cool ideas to get you started.

If the majority of your crafts tend to be of the paper variety, you’re in luck. You can find all different kinds of recycled paper products to make your Christmas crafts more eco-friendly this year. For one thing, you could start by using the scrap paper in your own home. Have the kids color on it to cover any print and then fold and cut to create unique snowflakes to hang on the windows, walls, or even the Christmas tree. Even old magazines can provide you with fun paper options here. You might also look online for recycled card stock if you need something stiffer for ornaments like holiday theme photo frames to hang on the tree or seasonal cutouts (snowmen, reindeer, etc.) that the kids can decorate.

Of course, you might want to do something a bit more three-dimensional. Popsicle sticks are one handy craft item that can be used in a number of ways and if you are the planning type you might save them from the kids’ summer obsession with frozen treats. This way you’ll have them on hand to create God’s eyes or even a miniature manger for your nativity scene. Another fun and easy craft that kids of all ages can do involves using leftover twist ties that comes with your trash bags or recycled ones from your bread bags. All you have to do is make a bunch of about twenty, tie one around the middle, and then fan them out in all directions to make a starburst. Add a string and you can hang them on the tree or mantle. You might also put them in a hurricane glass with some tinsel for a table centerpiece.

And if you save spaghetti and jam jars, these can also be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can throw in pine cones and small pine branches that you pick up outside your house to create rustic, decorations to place around the house. Or if you’re looking for a little extra illumination (but you’re not quite ready for solar power from Brisbane to Boston), you can use a little decoupage glue and colored tissue paper salvaged from presents throughout the year to make opaque designs on your glass jars. Then all you have to do is place tea light candles inside for festive, custom lighting. As you can see, there are all kinds of crafts you can do with the kids to create holiday ornaments and décor with recycled materials. You’re pretty much only limited by the scope of your imagination.

This is a beautiful dish which can be made several days in advance. Keep pears in poaching liquid until ready to serve.

Poached Pears with Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients

For Pears:

1 pear per person
1/2 cup sugar (“Mom” chose to use Stevia in the Raw)
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (lemon juice prevents pears from turning brown)

For Raspberry Coulis:

1 pkg. (12 oz.) frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preparation

Peel pears. With a melon baller, remove core from the bottom.

Add sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon to water and bring enough water to cover pears to a gentle boil (a slotted spoon works best when adding pears.)

Gently add pears to water and cook until pears are slightly soft. Allow to cool.

For coulis:

Place raspberries in a blender and process until you have a puree. Pour raspberries into a fine sieve placed over a bowl and using a rubber spatula, press the pureed raspberries through to remove seeds. Stir powdered sugar (you can add more or less sugar depending on your taste).

To serve:

Pool a little coulis on a small plate. Stand pear in center of plate. You may need to slice off part of the bottom so that pears stand upright. Spoon a little coulis over the top so it spills down the sides a little. Place a sprig of mint at top of pear and serve.

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com and Hamanassett B&B Inn – Chester Heights, PA.*

Comfort food for the holidays from the Westby House Inn in Westby, WI – let the aroma of the fruit and spices linger in the kitchen! Fresh fruit can also be substituted for the canned varieties below, as well.

Holiday Baked Fruit

Ingredients

8 oz. can apricot halves, drained
15 oz. can whole plums, drained, sliced and pitted
8 oz. can pear halves, drained
15 oz. can peach halves, drained
4 oz. can pineapple slices or chucks, undrained
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon soft margarine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
Garnish: 2 oz. whole fresh cranberries
2 1/4″ thick orange slices

Preparation

As this dish bakes the robust aroma of the spices fill the air with holiday cheer!

Arrange fruit, except pineapple, as desired (can be placed in rows in the pan or mixed all together) in a greased 9-by-13 inch baking pan. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Lay pineapple over the fruit in the pan.

In a saucepan, combine the pineapple juice, brown sugar, margarine, and spices. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and margarine is melted. Pour over the fruit. Bake uncovered at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

While fruit is baking, prepare garnish. Combine the cranberries and orange slices in a food processer and chop fine. Serve warm in compote dishes. Garnish with cranberry orange confetti.

Makes about 8 servings.

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com.*

Stop! Don’t reach for that second sugar cookie this holiday season! Instead, choose a protein-rich and all-natural snack that is just under 200 calories! Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bars makes it easy to curb your sweet tooth and stay energized through the season and into the 2013 without compromising on nutrition and great flavor!

Lighter on the waistline, “Mom’s” family found the bars to be quite tasty! Our favorites included Strawberry and Cherry Almond, but truly each bar is quite delicious. The toddler in the family gobbled hers up so that was the real taste test!

Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bars are the first shelf-stable Greek Yogurt product, and combine all-natural ingredients (fruit, Greek Yogurt, nuts and granola) to create a delicious and nutritious on-the-go snack, making it the perfect healthy holiday snack for busy parents, excited children, stressed-out students and anyone attempting to stay healthy during the holidays. They are easy to throw in a purse, lunchbox, gym bag or car – offering everyone a mess-free and portable way to snack. Need a taste of the tropics this winter? Try the Toasted Coconut flavor!

Layered with the finest granola, real fruit and nuts, and authentic Greek yogurt, the bars are available in eight distinct flavors, including:

Blueberry Acai
Cherry Almond
Toasted Coconut
Cranberry Almond
Apple & Honey
Orchard Peach
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter
Strawberry

Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bars contain all-natural ingredients, 5g of fiber, 7g of protein (except for Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter which offers 10g of protein), and probiotics. The best part? Each bar is under 200 calories!

To learn more about Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bars, visit RicklandOrchards.com.

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

Eat Natural

For the majority of people, their modern diets dictate excessive consumption of both fatty meats and cheese. Even if they are vegetarian, a vast proportion of meat substitutes in meals are various cheeses – not exactly heart friendly. Furthermore, when people eat vegetables they tend to boil them for far too long – thus decreasing their nutritional value. So, everybody knows that a healthy diet involves eating less meat and cheese, but not everyone realizes that overcooking vegetables can make this so called healthy diet completely void!

So what is the best way to eat your vegetables?

Raw is a great way to ensure that you get all the nutritional value from your vegetables – and some of them taste great raw. Imagine a primitive man foraging for vegetables; do you think he would be looking to sauté them before eating? I think not, raw vegetables would be a regular addition. Admittedly, eating raw vegetables is much easier in the summer when it is warm. Some could even be considered refreshing.

For example:

Celery
Cucumber
Carrot
Mushrooms
Mange tout

However, some vegetables simply do not taste very nice at all when eaten raw (or take a little getting used to) and we are no longer primitive man. One prime example is being broccoli. I do know people that enjoy the raw taste of broccoli but on the whole, I do not think that people enjoy the raw taste if broccoli. So if you have to cook certain vegetables, what is the best way?

Boiling

Avoid boiling vegetables at all costs. Boiling results in the vegetables losing many of their nutrients, and let’s be honest, there is nothing worse than trying to eat an over boiled vegetable. It is limp and tasteless.

Roasting

Roasting vegetables can result in food that tastes far different to boiling. However, due to the high heats involved and the amount of time it takes to roast vegetables, the final product is low in nutrients.

Steaming

A much less aggressive way to cook vegetables and can produce some really fantastic tasting food. Put some spices in the water to gently infuse the vegetables with whichever taste is your preference.

Fry

There are two main variables that you have to consider when frying. How much oil you use, and how long you cook them for. If you have a decent non stick pan then you should be able to get away with using very little oil. It is important to make sure your pan is very hot before frying the vegetables. In this way, you should only fry them for a couple of minutes to cook them – the inside will not be overcooked and the outside should be lightly singed.

So, where possible experiment with raw vegetables. If you can identify vegetables that you like raw (maybe with a dipping sauce) you can then try to incorporate them into your diet. It is the only way to ensure a healthy diet, the way nature intended. However, if you do have to cook your vegetables, try not to cook for them for very long and use the steamer or frying pan instead of roasting or boiling.

Introducing healthy organic fruit or vegetable purees and more complex foods to babies and toddlers just became a breeze with Sprout Baby Foods! “Mom” loves that each simple puree or food combination is available in a convenient eco-friendly pouch for families on-the-go. Toddlers love how independent they can be when eating successfully from the pouch, and parents love that their busy little one is eating a nutritious meal or snack. We are big fans of “squeeze packs” as “Mom’s” daughter calls them around here. Each wholesome pouch can be tucked away into a diaper bag or purse for a healthy, organic snack while out and about with your children.

Not just fruit or vegetable purees, Sprout Foods offers chef-created dishes to their line, including single ingredient purees in Stage 1 (the youngest age group), combination purees in Stage 2, more complex recipes that feature multiple flavors and textures in Stage 3, plus more meals for toddlers. They are also adding to its line of snacks new Superfruit flavors – acai, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry – to complement the meals.

Pouches are available in the following:

•Veggie-only blends
•Veggie & grain blends
•Fruit blends
•Fruit & veggie blends
•Fruit & grain blends

Mom” loves the flavors that are antioxidant-rich, including Acai Berry Superfruit, Peach, Berry, Oatmea & Quinoa, and Apple & Blueberry!

Plus, little ones can enjoy holiday-inspired flavors, as well, including Peach Pumpkin Pie, Holiday Vegetable Dinner, Peach Pumpkin Pie with Graham and Holiday Vegetables with Roasted Turkey!

For a complete listing of the extensive organic pouches available, visit SproutBabyFood.com. The foods can be found online, as well as grocery stores nationwide.

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

Peanut butter and chocolate is always a favorite pairing at the holidays, and these flourless goodies are delightful!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (“Mom” prefers organic)
1 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (“Mom” prefers organic or natural peanut butter)
1 large egg (“Mom” prefers organic, cage-free eggs)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or morsels)

Preparation

1. Stir together first five ingredients in medium bowl, using wooden spoon. Stir in chocolate chips/morsels

2. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet

3. Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes or until puffed and golden (Cookies will be soft in the center). Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, remove to wire rack.

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com, and the Brewster House Bed & Breakfast in Freeport, ME.*

Instead of giving in to tasty but troublesome temptations, why not enjoy a seasonal favorite without adding on the unnecessary calories or sugars. This healthy Almond Eggnog recipe from USANA Health Sciences substitutes almond milk which only contains 30 calories per cup and is also high in magnesium, potassium and vitamin E. Yum!

Almond Eggnog

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons French Vanilla Nutrimeal
1 tablespoon 100 percent pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup ice

Preparation

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately, and enjoy staying healthy this season!

Serves one…two if you feel like sharing, but you won’t!

*Recipe and image courtesy of USANA.*

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that the brand new Tom’s of Maine Naturally Clean Toothbrush would soon be placed in there! Looking for healthier stocking stuffers this year? Alongside all those goodies and sweetss, consider adding Tom’s of Maine new Naturally Clean Toothbrush, a chemical-free option that’s good for your smile and for your world. “Mom” is a longtime fan of Tom’s of Maine products, and her young daughter only uses the Children’s Silly Strawberry to brush her teeth! The toothpaste is flouride-free, dye-free and all-natural, making it an excellent choice for little ones!

Why choose Tom’s of Maine new Naturally Clean Toothbrush?

•Natural benefits include a BPA-free and dye-free plant-based handle made from renewable castor oil plants and colored with mineral-based pigments.

•The toothbrush also performs with multi-height bristles to clean between teeth and along the gum line and an angled neck for accessing hard-to-reach areas.

•Consumers can recycle the toothbrush through the Natural Care Brigade created by Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle, which recycles packaging that may otherwise end up in a landfill into useful products like picnic tables and park benches.

This season, give the gift of good dental hygiene – a welcome present for any age!

The Tom’s of Maine Naturally Clean Toothbrush can be found at TomsofMainestore.com and will be available at health and specialty retailers nationwide in January.

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