5 Winter Herbs to Grow Indoors (Plus: How to Cook with Them!)

Green Your Halloween

Put Smiles on Everyone's Faces—A Seasonal Act of Kindness!

Coffee Bags Upcycled by Artist Alison Seiler

Thinking Outside the Orchard: Millstone Cellars

WikiHow to Reuse Tea Bags

The Guilt-Free Guide to Greening Your Holidays

nature conserve

5 Winter Herbs to Grow Indoors
(Plus: How to Cook with Them!)

Thank you Kimberley Stakal from Organic Authority and Better Homes and Garden who shared this great info, giving us inspiration for the coming seasons.

Summer has come to a close, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your green thumb. If you’re already ruing the day that you’ll lose your beloved herbs in the garden, read on! You can keep growing your herbs during the cold-season months—you just need to know which ones will survive inside during the season. Here are 5 winter herbs to grow indoors, and how to cook with them.

Once the weather turns cold, you can’t simply transplant your entire garden into your house. That would be lovely! But it just isn’t possible. Many plants, in fact, don’t fare well inside where they face less sunlight and less damp/warm temperatures.

Better Homes and Garden recommends five choices as the best winter herbs for planting and growing indoors. Here’s what they are, along with cooking tips and recipe ideas for each.
Oregano: Fresh oregano extends beyond the usual “pizza shaker” typecast—it’s a key ingredient for traditional dishes spanning Mexico, Greece, Turkey, and, yes, the U.S.! Its leaves are incredibly aromatic and can be used to give a zesty flare to all sorts of dishes. Add to:

  • Popcorn made from scratch. (Combine with sea salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and perhaps grated parmesan and sprinkle over buttered fresh popcorn.)

  • Shrimp of any persuasion. (Grilled, baked, broiled, pan-fried, you name it—oregano is delicious with shrimp, olive oil, and lemon!)

  • Mediterranean recipes with ingredients like olives, orange, and fish. (Oregano and these key Mediterranean flavors are great together, so add the herb to any recipes calling for those!)

  • Roasted or baked chicken dishes. (Or even chicken soups! Lemon, oregano, and chicken tend to pair particularly well together.)

Chives: Not to be confused with green onions (aka scallions), chive greens are thinner, rounder, and look more like tiny hollow reeds than their onion relatives. Chives have a soft yet pronounced onion flavor, and are best when used fresh and added to recipes at the end of cooking. Chives can be snipped with kitchen shears and sliced with a sharp knife and added to:

  • Creamy dips, dressings, or sauces

  • Grain pilaf or stir-fry

  • Omelet, quiche, or egg-based dish

  • Any cold chopped salad, such as potato salad, egg salad, or salmon salad

Mint: There are many varieties of mint out there! Chocolate mint, lavender mint, spearmint, apple mint, pineapple mint, … the list goes on! These unique mint varieties actually taste and smell like the thing they’re named after, so you can plant various mint types for both savory and sweet recipes. Mint is best when added at the end of cooking, as its delicate flavor can be lost if cooked. Depending on the type of mint you’re growing, add it to:

  • Fruit smoothies, green juices, and indulgent shakes

  • Pesto sauce from scratch (Use in place of/in addition to other greens and herbs like basil.)

  • Green peas sautéed in olive oil and finished off with feta cheese crumbles

  • Chutney, compote, or fruit sauce (This is one case where you can simmer a bit of fresh mint leaves in the recipe to infuse the liquid with the minty flavor, then remove the cooked mint leaves before serving.)

  • Cold-weather citrus salad with sliced citrus fruits, chopped nuts, and a light vinaigrette

Rosemary: Rosemary has a wonderful piney aroma, and it’s used in aromatherapy for its many healing properties. It brings a warming, wintry touch to any cold-weather recipe. When using fresh rosemary, run your fingers down the sprigs of the herb to remove the leaves. Unlike soft leafy herbs, rosemary is hardy and releases more essential oils once it cooks down with heat and fat (butter or oil)—so it often works best when added to recipes before the main cooking stage. Add to:

  • A savory or slightly sweet batter for scones, shortbread, or biscuits. (Rosemary is wonderful in baked dishes when paired with ingredients like sea salt, dried fruits, chocolate, or orange.)

  • Roasted meats and vegetables. (If using on meat, rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper over raw meat before roasting. For vegetables, toss together with vegetables, olive oil, and other desired spices in a bowl, then arrange on a baking sheet and cook.)

  • Any wintry soup. (Rosemary is great in most soups, but works especially well with beef or chicken, white beans, root vegetables, and shellfish.)

  • Hot tea or cider. (Fall means hot food, but also hot drinks. If you’re steeping an herbal tea or fresh cider (especially if making mulled cider!), add a bit of rosemary top the brew for an aromatic touch of soothing winter pine.)

Thyme: Not unlike mint, there are several varieties of thyme out there—lemon thyme is one of the most aromatic and invigorating of the bunch. Thyme is a leafy herb that’s also a bit woody, so it works well in either raw or cooked dishes. Just be aware that cooking thyme over extremely high heat or for extended periods of time will eventually cause its flavor/aroma to fade. Add it to:

  • The filling for tarts or galettes, both savory and sweet

  • Roasted root vegetables like potatoes and carrots

  • Cheesy, creamy gratins and casseroles

  • Sautéed or roasted apples (Add honey for a sweet touch, or butter and salt for savory.)



Green Your Halloween

Scarier than a goblin or a toddler with a sugar high is the amount of waste that is produced during the holiday season. Celebrating Halloween does not have to break the bank or be celebrated at the expense of our beloved planet. Those looking to have some eco-friendly fun this Halloween will take delight in this top-ten list

Top 10 Ways to Green Your Halloween

  • Schedule a costume swap night-bring costumes and accessories your kids have outgrown and trade with other parents.

  • Replace traditional paper party invitations with online invites.

  • Make your own costumes by reusing items found around the home, at local thrift stores, or at yard sales.

  • Walk the streets of your neighborhood, don't drive! The exercise is heart-healthy and eco-friendly.

  • Avoid the plastic trick or treat bags-try decorating an old pillowcase, a tote bag, or a recycled shopping tote.

  • Treat the kids to organic and fair-trade goodies.

  • Shop for locally grown holiday treats and decorations-apples, pumpkin, gourds.

  • Find alternatives to candy treats-try soy crayons or packets of seeds that can be planted in the spring.

  • Fill your flashlight with rechargeable batteries instead of conventional batteries.

  • Host a pumpkin pie bakeoff in your town-a great way to use the post-halloween pumpkins.


Put Smiles on Everyone's Faces—A Seasonal Act of Kindness!

Goblins, ghosts, and candy, oh my! The most ghoulish day of year, Halloween, is about to arrive. Why not save your children’s teeth and help a good cause? Teaching a child to give back is essential, and this Halloween will be a perfect opportunity to do so!

The annual Halloween Candy Buy Back program is back to shine for another year. In 2005, the organization was founded as a way to get kids’ excess Halloween candy “off the streets.” The program has since teamed up with Spry and Operation Gratitude; together they will partner with dentist offices nationwide to collect children’s Halloween candy to send to the troops overseas along with toothbrushes and necessary oral care items. This simple act of kindness not only gives soldiers a “Halloween away from home,” but it enables children to exchange their Halloween candy and receive a token in return, whether it be a new toothbrush, a dollar per pound of candy exchanged, or other small prizes provided by participating dental practices.

For the first time this year, the Halloween Candy Buy Back program will be sponsored by Spry Dental Defense System. Spry products, which include gums, mints and other oral care products, utilize the ingredient xylitol, which is a naturally-occurring sugar alternative that has amazing dental health benefits. This year, Spry will be teaming up with participating dental practices to offer their healthy Halloween treats and other oral care products to give children as an incentive in exchange for their extra Halloween candy.

There is nothing more exciting to a child than putting on a costume and collecting candy every October. This Halloween, it would be great for your family to experience the same excitement, but with an even more fulfilling aftermath! With that said, I would love to work with you to spread the word on the Halloween Candy Buy Back program teaming up with Spry. I would be happy to provide additional information as well as Spry product samples for you to try out with your family this Halloween.



Coffee Bags Upcycled by Artist Alison Seiler

Coffee and upcycling…good for you and good for the environment. Thanks to Back Alley Chic artist and designer Alison Seiler, now it is oh, so stylish too!

“I stumbled into my business by surprise,” states Ms. Seiler, owner of Back Alley Chic.  It was her daughter's request for Costa Rican beach totes for her destination wedding guests that sparked her interest in upcycling burlap sacks. “After I made her 36 unique totes, I wanted to make more. I was hooked on burlap.”

Today Back Alley Chic offers large totes, handbags, crossbody bags, aprons, pillows and placemats. Most of her designs are based on the best use of the graphics on the burlap. “When I sort thru a new batch of coffee sacks, I'm inspired by the possibilities of what they'll turn into. I love pairing them with vibrant fabrics, giving each item I create its own personality,” shared Seiler.

By upcycling, she keeps cool coffee sacks from being tossed in the trash, reducing environmental impact, saving trash from the landfill.   She designs, cuts, and makes all the products in her South Jersey studio. The name "Back Alley Chic" is a nod to my hometown where backyard alleys were filled with treasures that were always reused and repurposed.

Seiler also donates a portion from every item sold to the ALS Association to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease. Donations are made in memory of her mother who instilled her passion for sewing at the young age of 7.   When you purchase a Back Alley Chic product, you help reduce landfill waste and join Alison and her family's fight against this devastating disease.

Because burlap looks better on YOU than in a landfill.  See all the amazing products offered at http://www.backalleychic.com.

Thinking Outside the Orchard: Millstone Cellars

As the hard cider industry continues to flourish, many cidermakers are constantly looking for new ways to make their craft stand out from the rest. The father-son tandem of Curt Sherrer and Kyle Sherrer from Millstone Cellars located in Monkton, Maryland are aiming to set them apart by implementing Old World methods to their creative juices. Curt went to UC Davis for Viticulture and Winemaking and is the head fermentologist, while Kyle studied finance and takes care of all the business and marketing for Millstone.  

“I was inspired by the creativity ciders and meads offer. We experiment with a wide variety of ingredients crafting unique flavors and tastes to explore,” said Curt on the process that goes into cider and mead making. The Sherrers’ both saw cider as a growing industry, and being only one of three cideries in Maryland, they knew they could make a great local beverage stand out.

The cidery is based out of the refurbished Monkton Mill, and is considered a ‘farmhouse cidery’ as they bring in all of their juice unpasteurized. They ferment and age in oak barrels, and do not sulfite until bottling. This allows the native yeast and bacteria to influence the cider.

“We like to think we are pushing the craft forward by looking to the past for a process but then adding our own signature taking cues from the craft beer industry, international cidermaking, and winemaking,” said Kyle.

All of Millstone’s ingredients are sourced within 150 miles so the majority of their products are seasonal based on what the local farms can produce.

Millstone’s staple ciders include:

  • Farmgate (8.0% ABV) – An American Traditional Cider with a blend of six American heirloom apple varietals aged in oak for eight months and bottle-conditioned using freeze-distilled apple juice from our ice house. The Farmgate pairs well with lobster bisque, funky cheeses, and braised pork shoulder.

  • Hopvine (8.0% ABV) – Dry hopped for two months using cascade hops from a local hop farm before bottle conditioning with wildflower honey. This tastes excellent with an artichoke and pepper pizza.

  • Gingeroot (8.0% ABV) – Organic baby ginger is aged for three months in a barrel over the winter months with the cider before bottle conditioning with blueberry honey. Feel free to enjoy this with Thai curry, sushi, or vindaloo chicken.

Through trial and error with a varietal of apples and other ingredients, Millstone offers a number of delicious and envelope-pushing flavors to the growing industry as well, including:

  • Peach Cyser – Has 100% pressed peaches blended with 50% cider, and buckwheat and cranberry honey. It has nice, acidic qualities and is more of the Spanish variety, as opposed to British, which is more common. It pairs well with grilled or roasted chicken.

  • Blossom – A champagne style cider blended with honey carrying hints of floral that make it perfect for a nice, spring day and goes well with a fresh garden salad.

  • Springhouse – An aged cider in ginger and lavender springs which adds a nice touch of spice that can be enjoyed with a sushi roll.

Millstone is continuously growing as they are located in over 200 stores around the Maryland and D.C. area; and they hope to hit the New York market shortly. This year alone, they have produced over 250 oak barrels. While they may be one of the youngest cideries in the area, they are proving that with hard work, creativity, and risk-taking, anything is possible.

Try a Millstone cider out at the Millstone Cellars tasting room located at 2029 Monktown Rd. in Monktown, MD. Their tasting room hours are 12pm-6pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit their website at MillstoneCellars.com or call 443-470-9818. Photos courtesy of Millstone Cellars and Starfish Junction Productions.

Contributed by: Patrick Esposito

WikiHow to Reuse Tea Bags

You can get extra use out of teabags after your cup of tea - but only if you are willing to do so. You can reuse the teabag, but after the first cup it will start to lose it's flavor and strength. But if you think teabags are only used in the drink, there's plenty of other uses for them!

  • Use teabags on your puffy eyes. Warm or cold teabags can help refresh your eyes whether they're achy, tired or puffy.

  • Reduce plantar warts. Plantar warts can be treated with teabags because of the tannin in the tea. On the affected area, place a warm wet teabag for 10-20 minutes, and then leave it to dry naturally. If you repeat this for a couple of days, hopefully the wart will go.

  • Give yourself a facial. Facials can be expensive, but you can make one at home... using tea. Place a brewed tea bag into a bowl of hot water. Then position your head over the bowl, and then put a towel over your head to keep the steam in. It will leave your face glowing and radiant!

  • Soothe burns and nicks from razors by applying a wet teabag to the skin.

  • If you have sunburn, a bruise, stings or bites, or a cold sore you can put a damp tea bag onto the area and it will help to soothe the skin.

  • If you have a big, dirty, greasy dish that seems impossible to clean, leave it overnight with hot water and a few brewed teabags. They will help break down the grease.

  • Clean dark leather shoes by wiping a wet, brewed teabag onto the surface of the shoe.

  • Control odors around the house with teabags. Put some used teabags in a bowl and place inside a smelly fridge. Leave overnight, remove the teabags and be left with the much nicer smell of tea!

The Guilt-Free Guide to Greening Your Holidays

Get ready to save money, reduce stress and increase family connection! This e-book digs beneath surface traditions to the heart of a holiday and offers eco-friendly ideas for celebration from January through December.

Did you ever wonder why we wear Halloween costumes, decorate eggs or put up a Christmas tree? Do you ever feel guilty for not being green enough? Do you want to raise eco-conscious children without sacrificing holiday cheer? This book can help.

You will learn:

• Why it’s best to dump the eco guilt.
• The history and meaning behind major American holidays.
• Eco-friendly tips and alternative celebration ideas.
• How to spend less, stress less and use less of the earth’s resources.

Each chapter lists ways to green typical American holiday traditions and offers out-of-the-box ideas for celebration. Many of these ideas will also save you money and keep your family healthier. Go “guilt-free” by choosing only those actions that feel good to you, because that’s the recipe for lasting ecological change.   Download for your Kindle ($7.95 at amazon.com)

Donna DeForbes has been writing about natural parenting and green living at Eco-Mothering.com since 2008. She is an online contributor to Earth911 and The Green Mama as well as a member of The Green Sisterhood, a powerful group of passionate women who blog about environmental issues and their impact on society. Donna lives with her husband and daughter in New England. You can also purchase this book in PDF format at Eco-Mothering.com.