Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cre8 Green Lentils Spicy-Style

During the season of lent, many Catholics and other Christians abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Even outside of lent, we try to have at least 3 meat-free dinners a week in order to conserve energy and to lower our grocery bills. This is one of our favorite meat-free meals - and it makes great left-overs to bring to work the next day. I will say it is "inspired" by Indian Daal, in flavors.

  • 2 Tbsp. of butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. dry green lentils
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. turneric
  • 4 finely chopped cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on your heat preference)
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • ~2 c. water
Melt butter in skillet on med-high. Add garlic and onion. Saute until onion becomes translucent. Add the dry lentils and toss until lightly coated with butter. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the lentils. Add cumin, turmeric, cardamom, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook until all the broth is absorbed stirring frequently. Add more broth about 1/2 cup at a time until absorbed. When all the broth is used up, continue the process using water. Cook until the lentils have reached the desired texture ~45 min. Using a wooden spoon, press some of the lentils against the bottom of the pan, "smushing them", to add thickness to the sauce. Serve over rice.

To find more green-themed ideas, head over to "The Little Green Project" hosted by


Friday, February 27, 2009

ReCre8 Frosting Jar: Crayon Holder

This is a very simple project I did for my boys' birthday party. It was useful and I had to assuage my plastic guilt for buying the Betty Crocker frosting. Here's how I did it (as if directions are required):
  • All I did was wash the frosting containers
  • Cut a strip of card stock to fit around the container and tape it in place
  • Add the crayons
At the party, I used Kraft paper as the tablecloths (like you'd find at a crab shack) and put the crayon containers in the center so the kids could just color on the tablecloth. Now I am enjoying having these on-the-go crayon containers for the car, church, or visiting a friend.

Any other uses for frosting jars?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ReCre8 Printer Paper Box Lids: Cupcake Carrier

So, I was looking at how to transport the 60 cupcakes to pre-school for my twin boys birthday. Clearly something more experienced mothers have already thought through. My husband announced the conundrum at his office and all the moms in the room immediately directed him to use lids from the office printer paper. After we were done, they could just be recycled. It worked like a charm. Now, I have to admit, I did not make these cupcakes and frosting from scratch. It was box mix and Betty Crocker this year. I find that I'm having plastic guilt, but I did find a way to re-use the frosting containers (more on that later).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cre8 an Eco-Friendly Pre-School Birthday Party

I've been struggling this year with putting together a birthday party for my three boys that is simple, fun, and a minimal impact on the environment. This year, no cheap plastic goody bags from Oriental Traders and the like. But, I have been struggling with what to do as an alternative.

In the end, I think I'll only partially meet my goal, but I'll document the party on the blog and let you know how it goes.

In the mean time, I found a great resource over at Kiwi which provided some good ideas - some of which I think I'll use.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Any ideas to share?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cre8 Little Environmentalists

with Family Nature Traditions and Nature Routines

As Richard Louv asks in his fabulous book “Last Child in the Woods”, how can we expect our children to be stewards of the environment when they have never experienced nature? In a manufactured world suburban world, where television, video games, Chuck E Cheese’s, and Jump Zones are pulling your children inside to play and veg, how do you push them back outside to experience the glory of the natural world?

When I look back at my own childhood, it is those simple experiences with nature shared with my friends and family that have had the biggest impact on my desire to preserve and care for the world. So, to instill a passion for protecting the earth in my own children, I turn to family traditions and outings – building positive experiences and memories of the natural world with my boys.

Camping Adventures
Our family tradition that we’ve done for 6 years now is to go camping in the mountains every Memorial Day Weekend. Sometimes we have a ton of friends go with us, sometimes it is just the family, but we go every year. – And yes, you can camp with little babies – even twin babies!
If you are camping a National or State Park, make sure to take advantage of all those great learning opportunities: guided nature walks, presentations by naturalists, hands-on activities at a nature center.

Nature Walks and Picnics
I love exploring nature with my children. They notice so many little things that I don’t see myself. When we go out for a hike, we always bring our picnic lunch. It’s a great opportunity to teach my boys about not leaving anything behind and making as little impact as possible. We pack up the lunch in reusable bags, use our Klean Kanteens for drinks, bring along our cloth napkins (made from old cloths), and include a bag to carry home the compostable material. We talk with the kids about each of these choices we make so they understand the impact of these choices versus the alternative on the environment. And if they see trash on the trail along the way and want to bring it home with us, I try to be supportive rather than grossed out.

I think it is important to celebrate all the nature we see in the local ecosystem along the way. It’s almost like a scavenger hunt. We try to find interesting plants, bugs, birds, and reptiles. We search for animal poop and try to discover what kind of animal made it (see a great resource “Who Pooped in the Park” series to find a local National Park version ) . Most of all, my boys like to look for bones. A little disturbing? Maybe. But, I think it makes them feel like little paleontologists.

Family Rock Climbing
I love Rock Climbing as a family. It is such a great way to experience nature together. It always involves a hike to our climbing location and a day outside with the rocks, the trees, and the dirt. We always go home tired, dirty, and happy. You can’t get that experience by going to the gym.

Gardening and Composting
One of our family routines that we started in 2008 was gardening and composting. These are two things even toddlers can help out with. They see the waste (like their banana peel) turn into fertilizer for their garden which helps the herbs and vegetables grow which ends up in their spaghetti and pizza sauce. The kids love to care for and harvest the herbs, vegetables, and flowers. They beam with pride when they can present their Nana with a sunflower that they grew themselves from seed.

And so much more….
There are so many other ways we can build positive nature experiences with our families. Pick-Your-Own berries, a trip to the pumpkin patch, a visit to the nature center, the botanical gardens, even the beach can build a greater appreciation for the natural world in our children and ourselves. This is the foundation upon which caring for the earth is built.

How do you build your own positive experiences in the natural world?

This is my submission for the February APLS Carnival on “Nature and the Environment”. The carnival will be posted February 20th at The Green Phone Booth.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What to Do with Old Pants: Sketchbook Pouch

I saw this great project over at Fun In the Making. Make a protective pouch for your sketchbook or journal using an old pair of jeans. This one looks SUPER easy. I love the idea of reusing that button. The approach is so cleverly simple. You know I'll be making my own and posting up the results... It would look great with a little patch or even some beading.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ReCre8 Bread Crusts: Bread Crust Casserole

I don't know about you, but my kids do not like bread crusts. Especially not the bread crusts from the homemade bread machine bread we make (it tends to be just a little hard on the crusts). I could battle it out and try to force them to eat it, but I like a peaceful meal time.

Since I am taking part in Crunchy Chicken's Food Waste Reduction Challenge, I got to thinking, how can I use these bread crusts rather than just throw them in the composting bin as I have been doing? (Because, to be honest with you, I don't really like eating the crusts either!)

So, I tried out this bread crust casserole and I think it was a pretty good success. (BTW, I count it a success if all the adults eat it and at least one of the kids - so I don't set the bar TOO high!)

So, here's how I did it...

First, I saved all the bread crusts and ends of loaves that got dry in the freezer for a few weeks. I also saved leftover chicken, broccoli, onion, and other vegetables.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
  • 3 cup bread crusts
  • 1 Tbsp. bread crumbs (you can make these by blending up some of the bread crusts)
  • 1-2 cup vegetable leftovers (I used celery, broccoli, and onions)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. First, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese (save the 2 Tbsp. for later). Cut up the bread crusts to about 1-inch. lengths. Spread out the bread crusts, chicken, vegetables, and cheddar cheese in a casserole dish. Pour on the wet ingredients. Let everything soak in for 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and the remaining parmesan cheese.

Put in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes (until the top turns a golden, crispy brown).

Remember, it's casserole, so, in my opinion, all the ingredients are negotiable! I'm not the best recipe writer, so if you have any ways to improve the directions, please let me know!

P.S. I didn't get a picture, but next time I make it, I'll update this post.