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Eco-Friendly Clothing Brands to Try

The fashion industry is second only to big oil when it comes to environmental waste and pollutants, according to industry insiders. Each step of the garment industry’s procession leaves a large carbon footprint that is decimating the environment. From cotton fields and petroleum plants to textile buildings and all the way to store racks, the clothing industry makes a wake in the waters of the environment that is upsetting the balance of nature. Even the EPA considers numerous textile facilities to be hazardous waste generators.

Polyester, which most garments are at least partially constructed with, is made with petroleum. Polyester and similar man-made fabrics such as rayon are some of the most energy-consumptive products that civilization produces. Cotton, which most people would consider an eco-friendly material since it’s made from a naturally occurring plant, accounts for a quarter of all the world’s pesticide use on its crops.

What does Eco-Friendly Actually Mean?

In this article, eco-friendly means taking the environment into consideration when manufacturing. That might mean using natural or sustainable materials that don’t obliterate natural resources. Eco-friendly can mean having a production facility, assembly line or manufacturing process that doesn’t harm the environment, or blight the land where it exists. Eco-friendly can also mean renewing and replenishing used, limited resources so they don’t run out.

The Power of Your Consumer Dollar

Every dollar you spend has more value than the daily currency rate. When you spend, you are essentially voting for that item that you are purchasing. The supply and demand chain is controlled by you; the consumer. One of the most effortless ways to change the world is by “voting” with your dollar every time you shop. When you purchase more from eco-friendly brands, you give voice to your opinion that the health of the Earth is important to you as a consumer. You give money and power to companies that care about the environment and its people. Make your voice heard by shopping from the following eco-friendly brands, and others like them.

Now, the eco-friendly clothing brands you want to start wearing.

Patagonia

You might not know, but for over 20 years Patagonia has been making fleece apparel largely from recycled plastic soda bottles. They purchase the plastic bottles, melt them down, and make fibers that they weave into fabric. Patagonia was a leader in this concept, and since 1993, they estimate that they’ve prevented about 86 million plastic bottles from our landfills. The resulting apparel is both fashionable and functional. Patagonia fleece jackets are among the warmest and softest fleece apparel in the world, and it is one of the most popular brands not only in New Englander, where it was founded, but around the world.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher began her apparel company with a goal toward building a brand that would work with the Earth, not against it. Her line of fashion incorporates sustainable and organic materials and natural dyes. From women’s clothing in petite and plus sizes, shoes and accessories, there is everything a woman would need to look her best. Though her modest Eileen Fisher brand and company has evolved into a large empire with factories and partnerships around the globe, the brand still stays true to its roots as much as possible.

Amarras

This artisan brand is small in comparison to larger, globally recognized brands, but its goals are just as praiseworthy. Amarras brand of belts are made by hand in Colombia by local men and women who needed work. Started by a humanitarian named Alvaro Sanint, Amarras brand not only provides work and steady income to local citizens, the company profits go toward supporting a charity for single mothers and their children. The belts are stamped out of local leather, and the workers use naturally-dyed heavy thread to sew designs along the length of the belts. Not only that, but you won’t find a factory or smoke stack in sight. The entire work area is flooded with natural light in a clean facility with access to fresh air. The child-friendly, relaxed working environment is one we should all envy.

 

The rise of awareness about the state of the Earth has empowered individuals and companies both large and small to create options for those who champion the environment. These eco-friendly brands are proof that change for the better can be accomplished.

Celebrate National Cherry Day

Life really is a bowl of cherries if you want it to be. Why not enjoy everything that this delicious fruit has to offer? One cup of cherries has just 77 calories, and is packed with Vitamins A and C. And did you know that the Romans discovered cherries all the way back in 70 BC? Since then, people around the world have been developing new recipes to take advantage of this amazing little delight. Here are some for you to try.

Cherry Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherries, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 small red onion, rough chopped
  • ¼ fresh basil, rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled over fish such as tilapia.

Frozen Cherrytini

Ingredients:

  • 6 cherries, pitted
  • 2 ounces vodka, chilled
  • ice

Blend all the ingredients together and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry, if desired.

Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk

In a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, cherries, sugar, and flour until thoroughly blended. Turn the mixer to a low speed and add the vanilla extract, eggs, and milk.

Pour into a graham cracker crust and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Add extra time if the center does not appear to be set. Chill before serving.

Cherry-Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with both sugars until smooth and creamy. Turn to low speed and add egg and almond extract until smooth. Add the flour baking powder and salt until a dough is formed. Stir in cherries and almonds. Form the dough into two rolls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Heat oven to 375°F. Slice the dough rolls into ¼ inch slices. Bake in 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet. When the edges start to turn brown, they are done. Allow cookies to cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Cherry-Walnut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped

In large mixing bowl, mix 1 cup of the flour, all the sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and the salt until thoroughly blended. Turn the speed to low and add the butter, the milk and the cherries. Add the eggs and the rest of the flour until blended. Finally, add the nuts. Bake in a greased 8 x 4 x 2 loaf pan for 55 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It’s done when an inserted toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from the loaf pan.

Now you have several cherry recipes from which to choose from. So next time you want your life to be a bowl of cherries, or at least have a beautiful bowl of cherries on your kitchen counter, you’ll have your pick of uses.

3 Personality Types to Avoid at All Cost

There are all kinds of people in the world, and for the most part, diversity is a good thing. After all, how boring would the world be if everyone were the same? We all have our differences, and we all need to be tolerant of others’ unique personalities. Until and unless, those other personalities infringe on us, or our state of being. I’m talking about those people who—intentionally or not—cause us to feel a certain negative way, or act in ways that are not in accordance with our own value system. These are personality types that have the potential to sabotage our growth and our self-esteem. They should be avoided at all cost.

The Victim

The Victim is the person to whom everything bad always happens. It’s never their fault, though. In their eyes, everyone else is always picking on them, and they are never, ever to blame. The Victim walks around with a self-righteous chip on their shoulder, feeling somehow secure in the knowledge that no one can blame them for feeling glum.

Beware the Victim personality. When something goes wrong in the room—and it will—it won’t be the Victim’s fault. That leaves just one person to blame—you. You’ll be blamed from everything from the bad weather to the Internet outage, mark my words. Somehow, someway, The Victim finds a way not only to blame others, but also to make it look like they were personally attacked.

The Antisocial Loner

The Antisocial Loner is the person who doesn’t seem to need any outside human interaction at all. They will come up with an assortment of excuses for not wanting to socialize: crowds are too dangerous, people are just sheep, there’s no intelligent person left on Earth, they’re too busy doing their own thing, they don’t need the “trappings” of civilization, they enjoy being home, etc. The list goes on and on. There’s no problem with a person choosing to be an antisocial loner, until they force you to be one, too. When you’re with an Antisocial Loner for any length of time, you’ll notice your friends dropping off, one by one. Pretty soon, your own mother will start leaving frantic messages on your cell phone asking why you haven’t called her in six months and should she call the police.

You may not recognize the Antisocial Loner at first. If you just met someone and you’ve decided to hole up in his apartment for a marathon bed session, it will seem perfectly normal that the two of you haven’t set foot outdoors in four days. But eventually you’ll need to show up to work, and get back to a normal routine. When you notice that the Antisocial Loner doesn’t have a normal routine—that’s when it’s time to walk away for good.

The Underhander

The Underhander always has something nice to say—along with an underhanded insult. The Underhander is very exceptionally clever, because they always disguise their insults and zingers with a wrapping of sugary-sweet niceties. They may say, “Oh, you look so beautiful today! I almost didn’t recognize you!” Zing! Or how about this one: “Gosh, your daughter must be a really good eater!” Zing! That’s a great dress you’re wearing! I almost bought one just like it a few years ago.” Zing!

It’s impossible to get ahead with the Underhander tossing underhanded insults at you like this. You’d look like a crazy person if you take offense at someone telling you how beautiful you look, or how much they like your dress, right? And yet, the zingers will haunt you in bed at night while you’re trying to get some sleep.

Like I mentioned, there are lots of different personality types in the world. Most of them are quite lovely and interesting. Life is too short to spend with toxic personality types. Disassociate yourselves from those who drain you or make you feel bad. Surround yourself with people who don’t feel the need to keep you down.

This post was inspired by the book, “Emotional Vampires,” by Albert Bernstein.

4 Things You Forgot to Recycle

You’re freaking awesome. You are a dedicated friend of the Earth, self-appointed conservationist and a total advocate for natural living. You recycle (obviously!), and it was your idea to start the neighborhood swap shop.

But it’s possible that you forgot to recycle some things. Well, not forgot, exactly. More like, didn’t think you could, or didn’t think of it at all. That’s okay, nobody’s perfect. Here’s a list of things you might not have thought to recycle, as well as some ideas for repurposing before you recycle!

Styrofoam Peanuts

These little peanuts are both a nuisance for the Earth and a blessing for people who like to online shop. People give away free bags full of Styrofoam peanuts on Craigslist because no one’s quite sure what to do with them.

To Recycle: Enter the Plastic Loose Fill Council (yes, this is a real thing). Go online and enter your state and zip code, and you’ll get a list of shipping services stores near you that will gladly accept your Styrofoam peanuts and make sure they are reused or recycled appropriately.

To Repurpose: Does your youngster have any home economics projects coming up? Her schoolteacher may appreciate a donation of Styrofoam peanuts for the kids to stuff handmade beanbag chairs, teddy bears or other soft craft projects.

Broken Crayons

If you’re a parent, chances are there’s a shoebox somewhere in your house filled with broken crayons that “certain people” refuse to use. When every gift occasion includes a fresh new box of Crayolas, how can you expect Timothy to use the broken crayons first?

To Recycle: Local charities might be interested in taking your broken crayons off your hands. Look for after-school programs, half-way houses and women’s shelters, each of which is bound to have access to needy children who would love to use those crayons, broken or not. If you are still at a loss, mail them in to Crazy Crayons, an organization that will recycle the crayons for you.

To Repurpose: Melt the crayon wax down and make homemade votive-style candles, like these DIY color block crayon candles.

Buttons From Discarded Clothing

Some clothes end up so worn, stained and tattered that they aren’t even suitable for donating. In that case, you might be able to turn them into rags. But what about the buttons? Don’t just throw those into the trash. Plastic and metal buttons can be recycled or repurposed.

To Recycle: Just cut them off the garment with scissors and toss plastic and metal buttons, snaps, zippers and other clothing hardware right into your regular plastic and metal recycling bin. Recycling companies can use these items just as they do empty plastic and metal bottles and cans.

To Repurpose: Used buttons can be sewn onto kitchen towels for added functionality. Sew a button on a corner of the cloth. Wrap a loop of twine or pretty ribbon around the button. Now you have a way to hang the towel off a drawer knob or kitchen hook without having to install a grommet. More ideas to repurpose buttons can be found here.

Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes

People often forget to recycle paper towel and toilet paper cardboard tubes. But these are ideal for recycling, and it’s worth it to make the trip from the bathroom to the recycling bin to deposit these cardboard rolls.

To Recycle: Place a second wastebasket in the bathroom dedicated to bathroom tissue roll tubes. You can also throw used facial tissues, hair dye boxes and toothpaste boxes in there, to be included with the household’s regular recycling.

To Reuse: Cardboard tubes from paper towels and bathroom tissue are ideal for many uses:

  • Inside cardboard tubes with the ends folded in, safely pack away sharp knives and scissors for moving
  • Store horizontally in a box and keep electrical cords organized and handy.
  • Place over wrapping paper rolls to keep the paper from unrolling.
  • Decorate with your child and make a pretend pirate’s telescope.

Remember, you’re doing a great job already. Now, just think twice before you and your family throws anything away. Is there one more possible use for it? Could another organization make use of it or dispose of it in a more environmentally friendly way? Almost everything can be recycled or repurposed. We all just have to figure out how to do it.

How Geeky Became the New Sexy (And the Women We Can Thank For It)

Gone are the days of the stereotypical male geek with masking taped eyeglasses and ill-fitting plaid shirts. These days, geeky is the new sexy, and we have some very gorgeous and smart women to thank for it.

Elizabeth Holmes

When Elizabeth Holmes was a young girl, she exhibited signs of brilliance early on. Whereas many kids fall behind when their families move around a lot, Elizabeth seemed to thrive on experiencing different cultures in places like China, Texas, and Washington D.C. She followed in her ancestor’s footsteps and studied medicine and engineering at Stamford University, where she discovered her fear of needles.

Elizabeth Holmes went on to invent a new test that uses a few drops of blood from a finger prick instead of a needle injection to diagnose certain diseases. Ms. Holmes has altered the way we look at geeks, and we’re thankful for it.

Amal Clooney

When you think of a barrister, you probably picture an old man in a white wig shedding dust in a dark courtroom in London. What you can picture now, thanks to Amal Clooney, is a strong, beautiful woman who rules the London legal scene with just a hint of leg showing. Amal Clooney is a lawyer, activist and author who just happens to be married to the most handsome leading man in Hollywood, George Clooney. Amal is just as likely to be found listening to a litany of human rights violations as she is sipping champagne at a movie premiere in La-La Land. If this is what it means to be a geek now, sign me up.

Angela Ahrendts

With piercing blue eyes and silky ash blonde hair, Angela Ahrendts could be a model. But the only runway you’ll find her walking is the corridor of the Apple computer company. Ms. Ahrendts is Senior VP of the Retail and Online Stores of Apple. How did she get there? It wasn’t her looks, although she could have cashed in on those had she wanted to. She worked her way up through the ranks from ordinary Ball State University in Indiana, where she obtained her Marketing and Merchandising degree. She parlayed that into a position with Donna Karan, then Liz Claiborne and then Burberry, before bringing her savvy and beauty to the doors of Apple. It makes sense that someone as chic and elegant as Angela Ahrendts would represent a company as chic and elegant as Apple.

To all the women out there who used to feel that you had to hide your intellect behind a sexy façade, now you can have both. Make a statement like these amazingly intelligent women who have turned geeky into the new sexy.

4 Tactics to Keep Back to School Spending in Check

When parents and kids are both excited to shop for back to school, it can turn into a textbook case of out of control spending. Who can resist those rows of fresh new pencils, fat empty notebooks just waiting to be filled with ideas bordering on genius, and the array of dazzling organizers that promise that this, this year is going to so much better than last year!

Back to school equals new beginnings, fresh starts and do-overs. Back to school means back to serious business, where new friends await, old mistakes are forgotten and the future is wide open. It’s a time when the coolest teen magazines Instagram is filled with filtered photos of perfect little coeds, jumping and laughing together with friends, all the while sporting the latest backpacks, hair bands and fall skirts and shoes.

The thing about back to school spending, is someone’s got to keep a level head. Because if you don’t, there won’t be any money left in the budget for new sports equipment, that cheerleading outfit, the school trips or the endless pizza parties, not to mention that adorable new winter coat that hasn’t even been advertised yet. The fact is, school spending goes on for the entire year, so it’s better to keep tabs on the back to school spending so you’ll have more than a small fraction to spend the rest of the year.

Make a Budget

Boring? Yes, but it’s also good practice for the scholar in the home. Talk about what activities the student might want to join this year, figure in an allowance for shopping trips with friends, and remember to factor in the over-priced, “Oh, my God, I’ll never ask you for another thing as long as I live if you just let me get these boots!” boots. If you make a budget and stick with it, it really will be a good school year, at least financially.

Dig for Coupons

Before you go shopping, arm yourself with as many coupons as you can lay your hands on. Think about that jumbo coupon book you bought off the Boy Scout outside the grocery store earlier this year. Dig that out and see if there are any coupons for the usual teen beloved stores like Forever 21 or H&M. Go online and sign up for their newsletters so you can get coupons delivered to your inbox. Consider a club membership at Sam’s Club or BJs, where you might find school supplies with a hefty bulk discount.

Consolidate

Each year, teachers make long lists of supplies for their classes. But for one reason or another, half the stuff ends up not getting used. And teachers don’t really have the time to coordinate with other teachers to make sure they aren’t accidentally asking parents to buy double the amount of supplies they really need. But you can make sure. One 3-subject notebook will cover three classes. Your youngster doesn’t need three separate notebooks. They also don’t need a pack of eight ball point pens. They only need one, and they can probably find a perfectly good one in the kitchen junk drawer. When they lose that one—and they will—there’s probably another one underneath the pile of clothes on the floor in their bedroom. The point is, consolidate the list and the existing supplies in the household, and save money. Every penny counts.

Communicate

Parents often feel guilted into buying back to school things that their kids don’t really need. It’s okay to say, “I have a budget, and we’re sticking to it.” It’s okay to say no. Saying no to buying more school supplies doesn’t mean you’re dooming your eager student to failure in middle school.

Let your kids know that there will be plenty more opportunities to bond over shopping during the year. Most important of all, let them know that buying new stuff won’t make life improve. A new sweater won’t get them a date for homecoming, and gel nails won’t get them into the popular girls’ club. Shopping for back to school items is the perfect opportunity to get your kids excited about learning, but the first lesson should be how to spend money responsibly.

How to Start Eating Healthier

You may want to start eating healthier, but getting the ball rolling can be an uphill endeavor. These little ideas will help get you motivated to start eating healthier.

Make a List

When you get hungry, the last thing you feel like doing is running down a mental list of available healthy foods to eat. That’s why you probably end up grabbing whatever is closest to you and chowing down, vowing to start eating healthy tomorrow.

Instead, sit down and make a list of foods that you determine to be healthiest for you and your goals. Don’t just write a shopping list. Make a list of actual meals that you can prepare and eat. Include what day you’re going to have them, and what time. The more prepared you are when hunger strikes, the more likely you will be to have something ready without having to think too hard about it.

Buy a Cookbook

Flipping through a cookbook with enticing photographs of healthy food will get you inspired to start eating healthy. Buy a cookbook or two that has nothing but healthy food recipes. Make sure it has a photo for every recipe, so you can visualize yourself dining on the healthy options. Put bookmarks on pages that really make you want to get up and start cooking. These are the dishes that will offer you the best motivation to start your new healthy eating plan.

Buy Some New Clothes

Wearing the same clothes everyday when you already feel unattractive can keep you in a negative rut that’s hard to get out of. Put on your best outfit and go shopping for some new clothes. Buy a few that fit you now, and something special that you can work toward fitting into after you’ve achieved your weight goal. The change will help you to see yourself as someone new and fresh who is capable of switching eating habits for the better.

Stop Looking in the Mirror

If your appearance really gets you down, stop obsessing over your flaws in the mirror. Seriously, you don’t need a visual examination over every wrinkle or bulge. Just stop looking in the mirror, get dressed, and be on your merry way. Wait at least a month before you give yourself a once over again. This time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, instead of walking away thinking how bad you look.

Buy a Cool Scale

If you’re trying to lose weight (or even gain weight), having a cool scale will make the process easier to measure progress. Get yourself a digital scale that measures ounces as well as pounds. They even have scales that speak your weight, if that’s what you need to keep motivated to eat healthier. Just don’t weigh yourself everyday, because daily fluctuations in weight are normal, and have little to do with your eating habits. If you gain a couple ounces after eating healthy all day, you could lose motivation to continue to eat healthy. Every three days or so is sufficient to track your progress and measure your results.

Choose Restaurants

If cooking isn’t your thing, choose some local restaurants that serve healthy foods with wholesome ingredients. Keep a list of these restaurants at hand so that when you come home late from work and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll have a backup plan that doesn’t involve Domino’s Pizza.

Invest in Partitioned Storage Containers

If you’re short on time like most of us, you need some quick options for meals every now and then. Invest in some portioned storage containers so you can make your own version of TV dinners. Instead of pudding and mashed potatoes, fill them with things like brown rice, steamed broccoli and turkey breast. Prepare them ahead of time and stack in your refrigerator or freezer. Just pop one in the microwave when all you can think about is flopping on the couch in front of the television.

The key to getting the ball rolling to start eating healthier is to be prepared. When you stock up on the tools that will help you reach your goals, get ready for instances when there’s no time to cook, and be kind to yourself by not obsessing over your image, you stand a pretty good chance of improving your eating habits for good.

6 Waffle Iron Hacks

Break out the waffle iron! Here are six awesome ways you can get more use out of a kitchen appliance you haven’t paid enough attention to!

1. The Waffle Iron Baconator

What if I told you there’s an easier way to make bacon? What if I said you already have everything you need to make tasty, perfectly cooked bacon without getting grease on your clothes and countertops?

Yes, that’s right. You can make bacon in your waffle iron. Say goodbye to grease splatters and sloppy stovetops. Just slap on a few strips of your preferred bacon variety and press. (Thick cut bacon works heaps better than the see-through stringy stuff, though.) Now you can enjoy your two favorite breakfast treats with one gadget. If you really want to be clever, and you have one of those twin waffle makers, cook the bacon on one side of the iron and and the waffle on the other side, at the same time. Now you’re cookin’!

2. Waffled Panini

You really love paninis. If you only had a panini maker, you would start bringing your lunch to work everyday, and that would save huge bucks, right? You could probably save enough money to actually go on a real vacation next year, and not just dog sit in your brother’s condo for the weekend. Well, start packing, because you are about to find out how to make paninis in your waffle iron!

Turn on your waffle iron to medium high and let it warm up. Butter one side of two slices of bread (wheat, if you’re feeling healthy). Put one piece of bread butter side down on the bottom of the waffle iron. Put your filling of choice on top, then layer on the second slice of bread, butter side up. Close the iron and cook for about three minutes; longer if you like darker bread.

3. Buffalo Chicken Waffles

There’s really no reason why any occasion should not celebrated with a fine feast that includes Buffalo chicken in some form. Don’t let the lack of a deep fryer stop you from enjoying the taste of Buffalo chicken. Not you. Here’s what to do.

Give your waffle iron a healthy spritz of non-stick spray. Heat it up to medium-high. Lay down some strips of chicken tenders that have been marinating in Buffalo wing sauce overnight. Close the iron and cook for at approximately four minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce, such as Ranch dressing. (Note: While chicken tenders are thin enough to cook through on a waffle iron, other poultry cuts might not be thin enough. Wash iron thoroughly before cooking again with it.)

4. Mozzarella Waffle Sticks

If you have kids, you already know how popular mozzarella sticks are. This convenient snack makes them happy and you feel good because it’s protein-packed. The only problem is, those commercial mozzarella sticks may or may not have added ingredients in the breading that don’t spell healthy with a capital H.

Mozzarella waffle sticks are easy to make at home. Buy a block of mozzarella cheese and slice it into sticks. Substitute fontina or provolone if you want. Dip the sticks in milk and roll them sticks in breadcrumbs. Place in a pre-heated and greased waffle iron for just about one minute, or until the breading is golden brown. Great for your kid’s lunch box, or even your own bagged office lunch. Hey, it’s healthier than a vending machine candy bar, right?

5. Mexican Waffles

One of the best things about Mexican cuisine (in my humble opinion), is that cheese usually plays a big role in every dish. Luckily, waffle irons are perfect for melting cheese to that perfect warm and creamy consistency that we all know and love.

To make Mexican waffles (okay, quesadillas with a waffle iron pattern), just butter and pre-heat your iron to medium. Lay down a flour tortilla, and spread some shredded cheese on top of that. Get all fancy with it by adding chopped scallions or maybe even some pre-cooked shredded chicken. Place a second flour tortilla on top of the filling. Close the iron and cook for between 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

6. Waffled Cookies

It’s late. You’re kicking back in the arms of your best friend and lover watching a movie that he let you pick out. The lights are off and you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, wondering how you ever got this lucky. Suddenly, he says he has a craving. No prob, you think. I’ve got plenty of chips on hand. No, he says. It’s cookies he’s craving. Can you mix up a quick batch? (Queue needle scratching on vinyl.) How can you refuse, when your hunk has agreed to watch The English Patient—again? No worries, darling. Just slip into the kitchen and heat up the waffle iron….

Open up that tube of cookie dough you were saving. Slice off bits about ¼ inch wide. Cook in waffle iron for about 3 minutes. (Your waffle iron might cook them faster or longer, so keep checking them.) You’ll be back on the couch with a warm plate of cookies before the opening credits are over, trust me!

Now that you know that the waffle iron isn’t just for making waffles, you’ll want to keep it handy. A good place for it is in the kitchen. Or in the office kitchenette. Or on your nightstand. Or in the dorm. Or at your boyfriend’s house. Actually, it might make sense to pick up an extra waffle iron. You know, in case you ever just want to make waffles with one of them.

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Cooking Without Cleanup

Even passionate cooks often dislike the part where you have to clean up after cooking. The dirty countertops, the sink full of dirty dishes, and the soiled pots and pans can be a real deterrent to cooking. Yet, you want to make homemade meals so you and your family can eat healthy. What’s a lovely home cook to do?

What if I told you that there are ways to enjoy cooking at home in your kitchen without having to deal with a ton of cleanup? You can cut your cleanup time in half with these kitchen tricks.

I wish I could say that I thought of these ideas all by myself, but that’s not so. Hundreds or even thousands of years ago, people cooked using a variety of creative means that didn’t entail the use of pots and pans. Cuisinart wasn’t even invented yet, so they had to make do. These recipes are a blending of old ideas with new ones. Thanks in advance to the talented chefs who shared these techniques.

Here are our favorites recipes for cooking without cleanup.

Baked Potato

If you’ve been tempted to buy those cellophane-wrapped baked potatoes at the supermarket that are supposedly microwave-ready, don’t bother. You’ll pay a premium price for something you don’t even need. First of all, if you want to bake a potato in your microwave, you can cover it with regular plastic wrap—there’s no “special” microwave wrap. But this method that I’m going to tell you about is much better than any microwaved baked potato, anyway.

Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one or more washed and dried potatoes on the paper, and bake for approximately one hour. When the potato is done, you’ll be able to easily insert a knife. Take it out, and while it’s still warm, slam it down on your kitchen counter (go ahead—it feels good!) to break up the insides and flatten the bottom. Serve with fixings of your choice, such as: chopped chives, sour cream, butter, bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese or salsa.

Recipe inspired by “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,” by Martha Stewart

Bagged Chicken

You can sometimes find whole chickens on sale for 99 cents a pound at supermarkets. But you may regretfully pass up this bargain because you know that roasting a chicken can be a bit of an ordeal, and you just don’t have time for the rigamarole of getting out your chicken roasting pan and basting the bird. If so, this recipe is going to change your life. You can also use this recipe with Cornish game hens and small whole turkeys in place of chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry (this recipe figures for a 3-lb. chicken)
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put all the ingredients (except the bird) in a coffee mug (or paper cup if you want zero dirty dishes) and stir thoroughly with a spoon.
  3. Tear off about an 18-inch sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Wrap up the chicken in the parchment paper, folding the paper according to the method on the box.
  5. (If you can’t fold the paper so it stays closed, used masking tape to keep it sealed.)
  6. Place the wrapped bird in a paper bag, and fold that closed, too.
  7. Now wrap the whole shebang in aluminum foil.
  8. Place the package in the oven and bake for about an hour and 15 minutes.

Recipe inspired by “The Frugal Gourmet,” by Jeff Smith

Salmon with Pesto Sauce

Salmon has so many health benefits that it’s a shame to skip this dish just because it’s a pain to cook. Home cooks often complain that it sticks to the bottom of the skillet, and that the fishy smell permeates the house. Not any more. This simple recipe will have you eating fish at least three times a week. Now, this recipe uses pesto, but if you dislike pesto for some reason, or you want to change things up, you can substitute garlic butter, or another sauce you prefer. By the way, you can buy small jars of pre-made pesto that aren’t half bad at most large supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 salmon fillet, skin on, boneless
  • 1 Tablespoon pesto sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Coat the salmon with the cooking oil.
  3. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to encase the filet.
  4. Lay the salmon on top of the foil.
  5. Drizzle the lemon juice on the salmon.
  6. Spoon the pesto sauce on the salmon.
  7. Fold and seal the foil around the salmon.
  8. Place the bundle on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes.

Recipe inspired by JamiesHomeCookingSkills.com (Jamie Oliver)

These are three recipes that you can make with hardly any cleanup at all. What are some ways that you try to avoid cleanup in the kitchen? Let us know your favorite cooking without cleanup methods in the comments below.

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Make Your Own Healthy Trail Mix

“Trail mix” is a general term that is essentially anything you’re bringing with you while you hike. There are lots of commercial varieties of trail mix, but a lot of them are more candy than healthy treat. In addition, the price per pound of store bought mix is fairly hefty. You can save a lot of money and make a healthier version of trail mix if you make it yourself. For the best savings, try to buy ingredients in bulk, although you’ll still save money on trail mix with standard size ingredient packages.

The next thing to do is consider what you actually like in your mix. When you buy commercial varieties, for the most part you’re stuck with what they give you. You usually end up eating fattening ingredients you would never have put in there yourself, or you throw away and waste ingredients you dislike. So really think about the ingredients listed below and decide if you want them in your trail mix.

Possible Trail Mix Ingredients:

Peanuts

Peanuts are not really nuts, so if you do have a nut allergy, you may still be able to eat peanuts. On the other hand, if you have a peanut allergy specifically, you might want to avoid all nuts in your trail mix, since many of the manufacturing facilities that process nuts, also process peanuts.

Cashews

If you want to have cashews in your trail mix, toast them lightly before adding them in. Raw cashews contain urushiol, which is the same chemical that causes severe itching from poison ivy. Since you hike, I don’t need to tell you twice to avoid urushiol. There is some debate about the issues with raw cashews, but it only takes a minute to toast raw cashews on a dry cast iron skillet at 350 degrees in the oven, so why not do it?

Almonds

Slivered almonds make the best shape and size for inclusion in your trail mix, but it’s extremely time consuming to sliver whole almonds without a special tool. (Trust me, I’ve done it.) It’s worth it to pay a little extra for processed slivered almonds for your trail mix. Alternatively, you could take whole blanched almonds and just chop them gently with a mallet. The shapes won’t be consistent, but if that’s not a concern, go for it.

Raisins or Craisins

Raisins or Craisins are a great addition to homemade trail mix. They add sweetness and moisture. To keep your raisins or Craisins from sticking together, toss them in a separate bowl with a tablespoon or so of ground flax seed. The flax will coat the raisins and Craisins so they are more evenly distributed inside your trail mix bag.

Dried Fruit

Besides raisins and Craisins, you can get dried peaches, plums, mangos, apricots and more. Most of the time, these dried fruits are too big to go straight into your trail mix. You’ll have to chop them into smaller bits so they conform better to the other ingredient sizes in your trail mix.

Chocolate

M&Ms sure are tasty, but that colored coating is loaded with artificial dyes. If that’s a concern, opt for natural chocolate. Since the word on chocolate lately is that a little bit is good for you, there are many more options for dark and white chocolate that is short of being bitter, without being cloyingly sweet. Just break the bar of chocolate up with a chef’s knife to create bite sized pieces to add to your trail mix.

Once you have all your ingredients selected from the list above, get out a huge bowl, and add the items. Use a wooden spoon to mix them all up. (Don’t use your hands because you don’t want to add germs to the mix. Wheat germ is okay. Hand germ is not.) Store in plastic bags or sealed glass or plastic jars. Nuts stay fresh longer in the refrigerator, so if you make a big batch, avoid storing your trail mix in the cupboard where it may go rancid. Label the containers and lace up your hiking boots, because now you’re ready to hit the trail!

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