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Healthier Holiday Baking

What’s the holiday season without cookies, cakes, candies and other unhealthy treats! Baking holiday goodies is part of the tradition, and a perfect family activity. While I totally believe in a little splurging, there are healthy baking substitutes where no one will know the difference. I’ll skip the tip about substituting black beans and dates in place of chocolate when making brownies! (However, if it sounds appealing, email me and I’ll send you the recipe – my husband loves them!)

• Use coconut oil in all recipes calling for butter, shortening or vegetable oil. It’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil and has 100% less cholesterol than butter. It contains the same medium-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk essential to optimum health and disease prevention.
• Olive oil is a good cooking oil too and makes a delicious, guilt-free dessert.
• Substitute flours made from nuts and healthy whole grains, like almond meal walnut meal or quinoa, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods due to its high nutritive value, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts are super high in Omega 3’s, the right fats your body and brain needs.
• For recipes calling for peanut butter, try healthier almond butter instead.
• For a more nutritious sweetener, use honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses or organic cane sugar instead of refined white sugar.
• Use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
• When baking with chocolate, try chocolate with at least 60% cocoa powder– it’s healthier and rich in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants. Organic is preferable too! (Cocoa powder is chocolate pressed free of the fat of cocoa butter.)
• Moisten cakes and cookies with applesauce and pureed pumpkin for extra nutrition. Add nuts, dates, and other dried fruits to your baked goods.
• Nutrient-rich chia seeds are a good thickener and make a yummy pudding!

Feel a little better indulging this holiday season with some of these baking tips. Email me your healthy ideas too! Have fun!

Listed below are three simple recipes for healthier holiday treats.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing (don’t use extra virgin)
6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups almond meal (flour) or 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup superfine sugar (or organic can sugar)
3 eggs
1 X 9-inch spring form cake pan

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the pan with a little oil and line the base with parchment paper.
Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or pitcher and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, just runny, paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.
In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) with the baking soda and pinch of salt.
Put the sugar, olive oil, and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes, until you have a pale-primrose, aerated, and thickened cream.
Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very center, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its pan, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the pan. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm. Delicious with ice cream too!


Coconut Cookies

3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded coconut, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Blend coconut oil, eggs, sugar, and almond extract. Mix wet and dry ingredients together. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Flatten balls to about 1/2 inch thickness. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until pale tan. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Each cookie contains 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil.

Date Balls

Simple to make and just as satisfying as a usual holiday cookie, date balls are perfect to bring to a party. They are a great energizing snack too!

2 cups raw almonds
6 dates
1 – 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (add 1 tsp at a time until there is a light vanilla flavor)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional to roll balls in after; sesame seeds are good too)\


In a food processor outfitted with an “S” blade, or a heavy duty blender, process almonds until coarsely ground. Add the dates and extract and process until mixture sticks together. Form the mixture into tablespoon size balls and roll in coconut or sesame seeds.


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Prepare your Thanksgiving Feast with Safer Cookware


As you start your Thanksgiving preparations, don’t forget about those old cast iron skillets you found in the attic! They are much safer than non-stick cookware, and when seasoned properly, cast iron pans are as nonstick as other coated pans. Conventional non-stick pans can off-gas toxic fumes over high heat. Even if the pans have labels claiming “green” or “not non-stick”, chances are they are still coated with toxic chemicals; manufacturers do not have to release their safety data.

Cast iron pans have other benefits too. They are an ideal heat conductor, cook evenly and consistently, and are better able to withstand high heat. They go easily from stove to oven, don’t warp and are easy to clean. Simply wash with a mild detergent and dry thoroughly. Foods cooked in a cast iron pan also absorb iron, a valuable mineral that the body needs to produce red blood cells.

To season your cast iron pan, brush the surface evenly with a vegetable oil; bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour, then cool in the oven. Repeat occasionally and your cast iron pans will last for generations. In fact, they will just get better with age. You can purchase new ones pre-seasoned and ready-to-use however.

If you don’t have any cast iron pans (but hoping to get some for Christmas) and are still using non-stick pans, follow these simple tips to reduce the possibility of toxic fumes:

• Never heat an empty pan
• Don’t put it in an oven hotter than 500 degrees
• Use your exhaust fan over the stove

Oven safe glass and stainless steel are other safe alternatives to non-stick pans.
Be greener this Thanksgiving. Click here for more green holiday ideas.

Enjoy your family and friends this Thanksgiving and remember this Native American saying, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”

Information compiled from

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Swiffer vs An Old Fashion Dust Mop

Below is a question from a reader about Swiffer.

Dear Betsy:

I just got the latest issue of Vermont Country Store catalog and inside is an old fashioned wool dust mop, which up to 10 years ago I used and used to shake outside like my Mom used to do!

This made me think about all the Swiffer products I use. Hmmm – I’m wondering if anyone has compared cleaning efficiency of an old fashioned dust mop vs Swiffer – certainly one is more economical. The Swiffer products are expensive!

Thanks -

Jennifer M.
Winchester, MA

Hi Jennifer:

Great question! I don’t know of any actual studies about the cleaning efficiency of an old fashioned dust mop vs. Swiffer, but I know I prefer an old fashioned dust mop. Swiffer dry cloths are made of polyester and polypropylene and work well to pick up dust and grime from most surfaces, but so does an old-fashioned wool dust mop. The natural lanolin in wool attracts and holds dust. Wool won't scratch floors and gets better every time you wash it. I try and avoid single use products that go directly into the landfill, as well as products made from petroleum like polypropylene.

The Swiffer wet cloths are treated with propylene glycol and though categorized by the FDA as “generally regarded as safe”, that’s not assurance enough for me. According to Swiffer, the wet cloths may irritate skin and aggravate known skin conditions.” Considering that concentrations of toxic compounds are higher inside than outside, it’s best to avoid them when you can. Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies. Additionally, the chemically treated, single use wet cloths end up in the landfill leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water table.

There is no question that Swiffer is easier than an old fashioned mop, but what happened to cleaning with natural and safe ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax? All it takes is a little elbow grease and a good sponge mop.

If you insist on the convenience of a Swiffer, there are similar, more eco-friendly options.

Method Home floor cleaning mop with non-toxic compostable sweeping cloths.
Gaiam’s Spray Mop Kit where you add your own cleaner or nontoxic vinegar and water, spray the fine mist and mop up with a microfiber cleaning cloth (the eco-friendly cleaning rage today). The set includes five washable MicroTech Cleaning Cloths.
Amazon also sells a microfiber mop called E-cloth microfiber mop, as do Bed, Bath and Beyond and Whole Foods.

I hope this helps Jennifer– let me know what you decide. Safe cleaning!


Information compiled from,,,,

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Have You Heard About the Health Benefits of This Ancient Spice?

Turmeric is finally getting the attention it deserves. A member of the ginger family, this orange colored spice is the main ingredient in curry and has been used for centuries in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking. It’s also a remedy in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines and, along with ginger, is now recognized as one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available.

Turmeric’s main healthful ingredient is curcumin and Western practitioners
acknowledge its possible healing properties with the following:

• Relieves inflammatory conditions like arthritis and joint pain
• Promotes a healthy immune system
• Supports overall brain health and memory function, helping to remove plaque and improve oxygen flow
• Improves digestion and stomach aches
• Powerful antioxidant properties which fight cancer-causing free radicals, reducing or preventing some of the damage
• Kills parasites
• Dissolves gallstones
• Alleviates menstrual problems
• Helps detoxify the liver
• Helps promote healthy skin
• Natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent and can clear infections

For non-medicinal uses, its potent orange color makes turmeric a great all natural dye. Try it for tie-dyeing or dyeing Easter eggs! Ironically, it’s also used to whiten teeth.

Though it comes in supplement form (consult your doctor before consuming supplements), it’s best to use it as a spice. I try to add it daily to my diet, which is easy now that I discovered this delicious recipe for turmeric tea from 101 Cookbooks. You’ll be surprised how good it is.

Turmeric Tea

Turmeric tends to stain anything it comes into contact with, so be careful.
1/3 cup / 80 ml good, raw honey
2 1/2 teaspoons dried turmeric
lots of freshly ground black pepper (helps with absorption)

Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. You can keep this on hand, in a jar, for whenever you'd like a cup.
For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot (but not boiling water) into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Add a big squeeze of juice from a lemon, and a good amount of black pepper. Enjoy! Stir now and then as you drink so all the good stuff doesn't settle to the bottom, or top off with more hot water as you drink it.

Sprinkling turmeric onto vegetables or into dressings is another good way to add this versatile and healthy spice to your diet. Make sure you buy organic turmeric free from pesticides, heavy metals, artificial colors and lead. The USDA recently recalled the brand Pran due to high lead content

Get healthy and stay healthy with turmeric!

Information compiled from,,,and The Okinawa Program by Bradley J. Willcox M.D.,D. Craig Willcox, Ph.D & Makoto Suzuki, M.D.

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From Ghoulies
And Ghosties

Long Leggitie

And Things That
Go Bump In The

 Good Lord Deliver

Old Scottish Proverb


Make your Halloween greener this year!

Click here to find out how.


Eating Locally Through The Winter

It’s getting easier to eat fresh, local produce long after gardens have been put to bed.  Many farmers’ markets and CSA’s have extended their season into winter and early spring instead of closing down at the end of October. Green houses and hoop houses allow them to offer even more produce options. Restaurants also feature locally grown and produced food all year long. 

Local produce choices depend on where you live, but in the northeast, farmers’ markets continue to sell root vegetables, onions, peppers, pumpkins, winter squash, kale and other hardy greens, apples, and cranberries. Additionally you can also find local organic meat and poultry, freshly caught seafood, homemade baked goods, local organic chocolates, fresh spice blends, maple syrup and more. Yum!

Most gardeners have already made and canned fresh tomato sauce, jellies and jams enabling them to eat the bounties from their harvest well into the winter, but with a basement or a root cellar and a freezer you can also stock up on vegetables, fruits, and herbs from the markets. Easily frozen or dried, you’ve got “fresh” herbs when your recipe calls for it.

So what’s so important about eating locally?

The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value. With locally grown food there is less chance for spoilage or contamination since it doesn’t travel great distances.

Local food is grown using organic or IPM (integrated pest management) farming practices, with little or no petroleum-based fertilizers or toxic pesticides. Picked at peak freshness, local produce is tastier and more nutritious.

Farmers’ markets support local farmers and the local economy. Because the farmer sells directly to the customer, he can eliminate the middleman and keep more of his profits. Farming is hard work and a precarious business. Their yield is totally weather-dependent and it’s important to help sustain them.

Farmers’ markets create a sense of community, a place where friends and neighbors can gather. They are a way for farmers and consumers to connect with each other, a rarity in this era. They also offer a venue for musicians and artists. In cold climates when hibernating sets in, this extension of summer is a welcome respite.

Check out the winter farmers’ market schedule in your town!

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Boxed Water is Better!

This past weekend I attended a delicious local food truck festival and discovered boxed water! Not luxury, specialty or flavored water, but plain, purified water in a boldly printed box that says, “Boxed Water is Better”. What a great idea – in the growing water bottle market, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been boxed before.

Boxed Water is Better, LLC, started in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan with the mission of creating a new water company with simple, sustainable packaging, one that gives back to foundations and one with a lower carbon footprint than traditional bottled water.

About 76% of the box is manufactured from trees grown in certified, well-managed forests where new ones are constantly grown to replace those harvested. Using this renewable resource, trees, which also sequester carbon dioxide, makes it one of the most sustainable beverage packages available.

The water is carbon-filtered, purified drinking water from the municipal source in each of their major markets. The boxes are shipped flat to the local filling company, a significantly more energy efficient way to ship, where they are then filled. The boxes are easily recycled and can be flattened to take up less space.

I love the look of the boxed water. The no nonsense black and white printing on the box simply says what it is “Boxed Water is Better” with a water drop. One panel on the box explains their environmentally friendly, sustainable, give back philosophy. 10% of their profits are donated to world water relief foundations and another 10% donated to reforestation foundations.

Boxed Water is Better is currently working on US and international distribution in both small and large retailers. In the Boston area, Boxed Water is Better is carried at Bloomingdale’s. You can also order a carton of 12 or 24 online. One 500 ml box cost $1.00.

While I still think it is better to use a BPA-free, stainless steel water bottle, there are definitely times when you need to buy one. This is the solution for me! I’d much rather drink out of a water box than a plastic water bottle. Look for Boxed Water is Better in your area!

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More Green Entrepreneurs


Last week I focused on Cape Cod entrepreneurs. This week I am highlighting off Cape green companies.

Where Clothes – I have to put a plug in for my industrious daughter Amy Wild who runs this earth friendly clothing line. Each one of a kind piece of clothing is designed, repurposed and constructed by Amy who uses vintage, antique and recycled materials. (Many of her designs feature antique lace.). She also has an adorable line of children’s clothes, accessories and takes custom orders as well. Amy’s passion for protecting the environment and humanity along with her artistic flair and creativity is what drives her business. All of these clever and unique upcycled items are available on line. 

Soluna Garden Farm – From her one-acre farm in Winchester, MA, Amy Hirschberg sustainably grows herbs and flowers, specializing in unusual herbs like Mexican oregano, lemon verbena, and caraway scented thyme. She offers CSAs for both the herbs and flowers, all grown without chemical fertilizers, preservatives and pesticides. Soluna Farms participates in several farmers’ markets in the area selling her tea, herb and spice blends, nutritional and medicinal tea and power food blends, and interesting salts, all grown with certified organic ingredients from companies with fair business practices. Now you can find Soluna Farm’s great selection of teas, tea flowers, accessories and other specialty items at their storefront location in Winchester. You can also get tea by the cup, served of course in compostable cups. If you are in the Boston area, visit this unique herb, spice and tea emporium or go online to purchase most products.

gohspa – Beth Gaudette’s green, organic and holistic (hence the name gohspa) day spa and beauty salon is a treat for the skin, the body and the mind. Beth has been a dedicated green cosmetologist for over two decades, well before it became fashionable. She sees GOHSPA as a place to relax with a focus on wellness and healthful beauty. Services in this warm and inviting green spa include organic manicures and pedicures, holistic facials, makeovers, hair removal, body care treatments and massages. GOHSPA also offers alternative services like Tui Na, a cross between acupressure and Shiatsu and tuning forks. I highly recommend the gohAGE-with-grace Facial, a preventative procedure that uses gentle machine assisted rhythmic action to encourage improved lymph flow and the release of toxins, along with carefully chosen organic products. Your skin will look younger and more radiant! If you are in the Boston area, it’s definitely worth a visit to gohspa for an exceptional, ultra relaxing and healthy spa experience.

With their passion and conscientious approach to all things “green”, these hard-working green entrepreneurs are making a difference. Check out the unusual and creative things the green entrepreneurs are doing in your area!  

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Green Entrepreneurs

I have recently met some impressive eco-conscious entrepreneurs who are making a real difference by the earth and our health as they try and squeak out a living. In this 2-part blog, I will share with you some of the green businesses these creative people are running.

FarmFare Market - A registered dietitian, Nicole Cormier is a green go-getter who has her hands in everything related to organic, food and local. She runs her nutritional counseling office out of a cute little store in Sandwich, MA where you can buy seasonal fresh vegetables, farm fresh eggs, fresh cold-pressed juices, bulk items like nuts, berries, and beans, specialty food items such as locally made cheeses and organic vanilla, and environmentally friendly products. She also started a farmer’s market in Mashpee, MA, does organic catering, runs wellness workshops for businesses, schools or any group, and hosts a radio show with “nutritionally sustainable topics.” Whew!

Edible Landscapes -A talented musician and gardener, Dave Scandurro’s goal is to make the local food movement even more local by bringing it to you. How? He creates (installs and maintains) low-maintenance perennial edible landscapes on Cape Cod that will feed you and your friends or family for years to come. He specializes in herbs, perennial vegetables, fruits, nuts, beneficial flowers, trees and edible water gardens. Using raised beds, cold frames or interesting swirl designs, Dave’s gardens are fabulous. He also consults and is a whiz at plant identification, finding obscure but beneficial plants like St. John’s wort among your “weeds”. 

The Optimist Company – A young mother of two, Devin Donaldson's strong interest in green living led her to make and sell pure cleaning and laundry products. Her powerful, but gentle and of course non-toxic products are made from simple (and pronounceable) ingredients like baking soda, coconut oil soap, Epsom salts and other household ingredients. I use her “Loads of Laughs” natural laundry suds and softener and love it. The attractive packaging is basic and naturally recyclable, reusable, compostable, and biodegradable. Along with the finished products, The Optimist Company provides DIY (do it yourself) kits. You can order her products online.

Each of these young entrepreneurs has a similar mission and a passion for protecting the earth and our health. Each exhibits drive and ambition in a socially responsible way.

Next blog I’ll highlight a few more conscientious green entrepreneurs.

Congratulations to the winner of the advanced power strip from MassSave, Nancy Yardley of Houston, Texas!

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A Question from a Reader - Buying an Organic Bed

Dear Betsy:

We're looking to buy an "organic bed". I've done a fair amount of research, which, frankly is overwhelming. So just wondered if you've had any experience with this part of the "green marketplace".

Thanks –

East Sandwich, MA


Hi Carole:

Thank you for contacting me. We spend approximately 1/3 of our life sleeping, (that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 – wow!), which makes choosing a mattress an important decision. I’m glad you are considering non-toxic materials; conventional mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, toxic flame-retardants, and water or stain-resistant chemicals. You don’t have to be chemically sensitive to reap the benefits of an organic bed. I think everyone should sleep on one!

I’ve been sleeping on an organic mattress for 6 or 7 years and I love it!!! It’s definitely the most comfortable mattress I’ve slept on. It’s made of natural rubber (latex) with the following features:

• Extremely durable, flexible and resilient
• No toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress
• No synthetic rubber or other fibers used
• Warm in winter, cool in summer
• Resistant to moisture buildup
• Naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
• Mold and dust free

There are three layers of rubber – soft, medium and firm. Based on your weight and preference, you can custom design the layers. You and your spouse or partner can each choose your own layers. There is an organic wool or cotton casing (meaning it is grown without pesticides) that surrounds the rubber layers. Wool provides great dust mite protection, making it ideal for allergy sufferers. Wool is also naturally fire resistant.

I suggest you look around and try different organic mattresses. There are many choices, designed for all preferences and all budgets – those made from a combination of natural latex and cocofibers, those with only one or two layers of natural rubber, organic cotton innerspring mattresses or mattresses made with wool and coils.

I bought my mattress from Furnature in Watertown, Mass (they also have a complete line of chemical free furniture with certified organic textiles). Organic Mattress in Sudbury, Mass and The Clean Bedroom in Wellesley, Mass also carry toxic-free mattresses, as well as bed frames made from sustainable, renewable and biodegradable hardwoods and organic pillows, bedding and toppers.

Check out my post on “The Green Bedroom” for additional information on organic bedding.

Good luck Carole - let me know how you like your organic mattress. Sleep well!



Don’t forget to send me your saving energy tip to win an advanced power strip from Mass Save! Contest is over next week.

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