theCOZYgreenCOCOON

Headed towards back to the basics living.


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Living Green AND Eating Well: ‘Food,Inc.’ provides` Food for Thought

This last Thursday DH and I sat down for dinner and what do you think I put on for us to watch? A romantic comedy sure to inspire love? A dark suspense thriller destined for heart pounding with  DH doing his best to scare me at opportune moments? No, those seem rather predictable at the moment. Yours truly, put on a rather shocking and eye-opening documentary that caused spoonfuls of food to stop mid-air.

Food, Inc. showcases the not so glorious path your food travels before it gets to your plate. The information seems unusually protected. If I am a consumer-and I’m  spending my money-then I think I have the right to ask legitimate questions. I was rather surprised I had not seen more eco-minded blogs discussing this movie-perhaps I just missed the big original release date but I don’t think this type of information every becomes irrelevant. After I viewed the last 20 minutes or so of the film, I am rather hesitant to discuss this movie myself hoping the plug doesn’t get pulled on my fledgling blog barely testing its wings.

BUT there’s a part of me that knows I have to talk about this movie. I can’t urge you to watch it enough! If you think you pretty much know where your food comes from-I challenge you to watch this movie. It was originally released last summer and now you can watch it on DVD-we watched it on instant play through Netflix. There’s also an interesting 20+ minute interview/excerpt of the film on PBS.

Please don’t misunderstand me-this is not about being kind or feeling sorry for an animal (although I do love animals). I’ve never had illusions about the fact that eating an animal means a life has ended. I’m thankful for all the various things animals provide to help sustain us. I’m thankful for all the food on my plate-for nourishing vegetables and delicious fruits. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with some of the means used to get it there.  You just have to watch the movie for yourself and make your own decision.

I’m not sure really what else to say-I don’t actually see DH and I giving up animals products altogether and growing every single last bit of our food. But I think we both now understand why we keep hearing the phrase: “Eat locally and know where your food comes from by supporting your local farmers and ranchers. Get to know them and how their operations work.”  Believe me, I plan on it!  (I’ll be posting more on this as we work on it.)

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Eating Well: (You gotta try it!!!) 3 Bean Chili

With all the recent weather here (10 inches yesterday) and the weather I have heard headed across the country I just had to share this really healthy, really delicious and  easy recipe we had last night. Mmmm, it’s so good! You have to try!!!!I think it would make a really good hearty meal for the Super Bowl if you planning on watching that. With all the unhealthy chips and soft drinks out there this might make a good hearty alternative if served with some homemade crackers/bread.
The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger, a nutritionist on Food Network with a show called Healthy Eating (in case you don’t know). I just love the variety of beans incorporated into the recipe and if you wanted to make it meatless I think that would totally work. I have made this recipe about a dozen times since I found the recipe a few months ago. Seriously-it’s that good!!! And not very spicy at all -a good bet if you have kids. If your kids aren’t into any sort of heat just leave out the adobo chili and if you want to amp up the heat factor try adding some jalapenos. You could also try the infamous red or green chile New Mexico is known for to increase the heat if you’re feeling brave.

**It freezes extremely well. Just add a cup or two of water when thawing-tastes just as good and helps your dollar go that much further!

Here’s the recipe as seen on the Food Network below:

The Goods:

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 onion, diced (1 cup)
* 1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
* 2 carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (90 percent lean)
* 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
* 2 cups water
* 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
* 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can of chipotles
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

The Grind:

Heat the oil in large pot  over moderate heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the ground beef; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano and salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Happy eating! And stay warm out there!


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Loving Every Day: Sanity Saver-Let it go

So I’m a big reader. I read everything from magazines, books, blogs, emails, billboards…well I guess we all read those. Amid all those words I came across this  fabulous “Permission Slip” in the  January edition of Redbook-so simple and yet when I read it I felt a certain sense of peace come over me. Someone had given me permission to NOT read every single thing that comes across my path. (sigh) “….permission to allow chain emails to die with you. Redbook assumes responsibility for any curse or hex associated with ignoring such emails.”  How freeing! Truth be told I am not a superstitious person and I stopped reading 95% of the chain emails I  receive several years ago (although thankfully most people I know have let them go or at least taken me off that list).

The thought occurred to me though: Why couldn’t this apply a bunch of different areas of life? Why not give yourself permission to not answer every single phone call. Let your voicemail do it’s job now and then. I guarantee you if it’s really important  and you are the only one that can help they’ll leave a message or keep calling back.  It isn’t necessary reply to every text.  Really people aren’t going to know. They cannot see you through air waves and into the text and see you choosing to just not reply. You don’t have to watch Every TV show  just because you recorded it on Tivo or your DVR. Just because the bigger size is a better value doesn’t mean you need to get it. Sometimes spending less money really is more money in your pocket.

I have talked to  and seen so many around me succumb to these types of obligations. I am so guilty myself. But  sometimes you just have to say no. NNNOOOOO!  Try it-you’ll like it! Let…it…go……awwwwww.  And now you’ve got your permission slip and someone (or something) willing to take the responsibility. Woohooo! I just might not  answer my door the next time my house is a mess and no one calls ahead of time. (So sorry, I didn’t hear you-I was in the back room taking my twentieth phone call for the day while checking my email again.)


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Living Green: Tossing out the ol’ Paper Towels

They're all gone!

I recently wrote about my ever diminishing supply of paper towels and my goal of not replacing them with more.  That’s when I realized that if I actually plan on doing this for real I need to get more practical and figure out specific alternatives. That way, when the times comes I don’t cave and have some paper towels ‘accidentally’ find their way into my cart at the store. (You’re not buying the accidental part are you???)

So I was really excited when I came across an article on Planet Green. It gives seven daily tasks that most people normally grab a paper towel for and provides specific alternative ideas for each one. Aha! This was an article I needed to jump start the process. I listed my version of the tasks and alternatives below. But if you’ve got the time and the interest, click here, for the original article.

1.Countertop Cleaning. Easy Alternative: Sponges. Sponges are notorious for harboring germs but if you nuke them in the microwave, you nuke the germs-IF you can get the whole thing to boil for at least 2-3 minutes. Otherwise you end up with pockets that didn’t get completely cleansed. I prefer a different method (it’s cheaper and easier)  and promise to share more in a coming soon post, stay tuned.

2. Soaking up Spills. Easy Alternative: Cloth Towels (again). For stuff you really don’t want spreading everywhere (like raw meat liquids)  you could  keep these separate from regular clean up towels.  I like the idea of using a separate color or patterned towel that way you could avoid any possible confusion and thus cross contamination. I think this will be one of my biggest changes. I have always used paper towels for sanitary reasons on this one.

3. Cleaning mirrors or windows. Easy Alternative: Microfiber Towels and newspaper.Easy enough.

4. Bathroom Cleaning. Easy Alternative: Reusable sponges and towels. Just be sure to  use a different color/ type of sponge and towels and keep these separate from the ones used in the kitchen.

5. Drying your hands. Easy Alternative: Terrycloth Towels. No surprise here really. Most people have this covered at home but I have actually seen paper towels in more and more home bathrooms lately. I think it has to do with the idea that they seem more sanitary somehow. But actually if you only use a small towel/washcloth once or twice and then throw it in the wash its the same idea.

**I’ve tried to start this idea using washcloths in my guest bath but I haven’t had too much success. The stack never seems to go down. I think people don’t understand the idea. Either that or they don’t know where to put the washcloth when they are done so they are afraid to grab a new one. My plan was to eventually put a pretty basket with a lid  next to the stack with a cute little sign that explains the idea.

Kind of like the ones they post in hotels about their towel policy. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pretty baskets available so posted the note referencing a  small laundry basket beneath the sink for the dirty towels.

6. Food prep. Easy Alternative: Cloth Towels (yes, again-they really are so useful). I’ve used cloth towels for drying off rinsed produce (as suggested in the article I read). I have also used them to stand in as a cutting board and also when cutting up produce as a place to put all the inedible parts headed for the trash (or compost bin if you are so lucky to have one). It works great for this purpose because you just gather up the corners and give it a shake over the trash can.

7. Blowing your nose. (Sort of ) Easy Alternative: A Handkerchief. Okay, I have to admit this is almost where I draw the line. When I was little, I always hated when grown-ups whipped these out and asked me if I needed to use it. Ew, no I don’t want to use your crusty old handkerchief. I would rather use my sleeve, thank you very much. BUT, the new idea behind handkerchiefs is to use them only once and then toss them in a pile to be washed. Now this idea, MAYBE I can handle  it. Just remind me to wear gloves when I toss these in the wash, please!

And to add a couple more of my own:

8. A place to rest your drink and hand/face cleaners at social functions. Easy Alternative: Coasters aplenty and a plentiful supply of fabric napkins on hand.  (A good excuse to work on my sewing skills-yay!)

9. Moisture Absorber in food storage. Easy Alternative: Reusable (and dare I say cheaper, over the long haul) lettuce/produce bags. I always store my rinsed lettuce between sheets of paper towels in a large gallon sized baggie. It works relatively well for preserving the lettuce. However it’s not so good for the environment or the pocket book. I’ve seen them suggested somewhere but just wasn’t motivated enough to get them until now. This is going on my shopping list for next time!  (Thinking of ordering these from Amazon. They’ve gotten good reviews. Anyone tried these? Or have another good one???)

Looking at this list gives me hope that maybe a paper towel free life is actually possible. What do you think? Does it seem realistic to you? Would love to hear your thoughts and any paper towel alternative ideas you’ve got.


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Eating Well: Chocolate Chip Cookies!

MMMMM….Valentine’s Day is getting closer and closer everyday. Like one of Pavlov’s trained doggies my mouth is salivating already when I think of those big heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate-y goodness. I can almost taste those soft chocolate cupcakes with the pink sugary fluff on top and those colorful festive sprinkles. But  that takes some planning, and a trip to the grocery store for supplies. Both of which I had no intention of doing at 9 o’clock at night. So I convinced myself to eat a piece of juicy fruit and call it good.

DH wasn’t buying it. Before I knew it he was in kitchen quietly pouring over our stash of cookbooks just seeing what he could come up with. I honestly think if I hadn’t gone back in the kitchen for a glass of water he probably would have had them mixed, baked and cooling on a plate before I knew what was coming. Now DH being in the kitchen was not the surprising part. He loves baking and actually is very good at it. What was surprising though, was when he asked me, “Do you think I could use whole wheat flour instead of regular flour for these cookies?”

Excuse me, what?!? Wow, I guess sometimes we do influence people even when we think we don’t  think so. After I picked my jaw up off the floor I managed a rather high pitched and curious affirmative answer. Then I pretended no further interest in his endeavor until he brought me a plate of  relatively healthy chocolate chip cookies that you see on the right.

And they we’re so delicious! Especially served with a tall glass of cold milk. I would share them with you if I could. But since I can’t, I did copy the recipe down below. It’s from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that we have had forever. I marked through the original ingredients where DH made healthier substitutions. Honestly, you could not tell the difference-except I think they may have tasted a little bit better-just more natural somehow and I’ve heard that whole wheat lends a slightly nutty taste to things. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much-I do tend to be a little nutty sometimes (=

The Goods:
1/2 c. shortening vegetable/canola

1/2 c. butter,softened

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (DH used 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. all-purpose)

1 12.oz pkg. (2 c.)  semisweet chocolate pieces

1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts because of their Omega 3 content)

The Grind:

In a large mixing bowl beat oil & butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar,granulated sugar, and baking soda.Beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.  Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded tsp. 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. (If you can wait that long!)


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Loving Everyday: Soak it all in

“Buzzzzz!” I stopped my nightly reading to look up in wonder. Across the room Cooper perked up, his eyes in search of the source of a sound not heard in months.

“Buzzz!” There it was again. A fly-yep you read right-a fly was buzzing around my room in mid-January. It’s been unseasonably warm here the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen birds come out of the wood work and a coyote made it’s way down to our fence line in the early morning hours yipping and wailing and causing a ruckus. And now, a fly was buzzing around my room. (Can you say Spring Fever?) I’ve enjoyed it, it’s that peace that’s needed so desperately after all the merry making at the end of December.

But the weather man says a new batch of storms are coming. Predicted to snow all week. The clouds are a rollin’ in and the recent events of Haiti and some sad news more close to home have me thinking how thankful I am for my life. Life is good, really good most days, and you’ve got to remember to take the little blessings that come everyday, and just soak it all in.
You know, things like winter sunshine with a promise of spring, plenty of room to stretch your legs

and last but not least,

a comfy place to lay your head. So thankful!


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Mod Podge Heaven

So just got my first bottle of Mod Podge a couple of weeks ago. Well, let me tell you-I love it!!! Yes, it’s a little smelly but it’s also vaguely comforting in that it reminds me of using glue and scissors to cut and paste in elementary. Ah, those were the days: when your biggest problem was whether or not your ‘s’ looked like an ‘s’ and not a ‘g.’ Or was that just me? Well, anyhoo, I posted some pics of a cedar chest/storage chest that I just finished up.

Basically, I just started with a quick light sanding to create a rough surface for the paint to adhere to. I used 320 grit sandpaper since the chest was some type of fiberboard with a thin real wood laminate on top and I didn’t want to strip the poor thing all the way down too far. I had some deep bluish gray paint leftover from a previous project  so I just used that as my base color. Thank goodness it was zero VOC paint so I had all my brain cells left afterwards. (At least until the Mod Podge that is.)  The painting only took me about an hour with about an hour drying time in between coats.

After that, I took some coordinating scrapbook paper and applied it to the front with some handy dandy Mod Podge. I honestly don’t know if Mod Podge would really be considered green-but it does say it’s non-toxic on the bottle. I have yet to come across anything that is so easy to work with and gives as good a  result. It’s awesome because you can take inexpensive paper or fabric and give things a custom finish. And it’s sooo easy to apply. The key seems to be continous smoothing of any air bubbles that form until its almost dry. I began by using a small paint brush to  paint a thin layer of the modge podge all over the surface I was going to cover.

Then I put another thin layer on the back of the paper I chose. The two Mod Podged surfaces are put  together, then any air bubbles are smoothed out and finally another thin coat is painted on top of the paper to act as a sealant. Wa-La!  I threw some cheery red pillows on top to give some cushioning as we walk in the door and take off our shoes. It’s a rule I’m still trying to get DH to go along with, but I have to try.  Have you ever thought about all the grody stuff that you track in from outside? But I guess that’s another day,another post.

***Would love to hear about /see pics of any furniture redos you’ve done or creative ways you’ve used Mod Podge. I got a lot of my inspiration for this redo from Mod Podge Rocks. It’s a fun blog  filled with tons of ways to use Mod Podge just in case your creatively challenged at the moment. May just have to head on over there myself….