EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

How to get off the grid and live rent-free

February 7, 2017 by  
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Many people dream of living off the grid, rent-free — and a select few have turned that dream into a reality. It takes more than just a stack of solar panels and a tiny house though – you need a plan that provides for all of the necessities of daily life. If you’ve ever wanted to make the leap to off-grid living but weren’t sure where to start, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to transitioning to a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. READ MORE: Greenmoxie Tiny House lets you live mortgage-free and off-grid in a luxurious 340 sq. ft. on wheels 1. Decide on your living space You can’t live off-grid if you have nowhere to live. How you acquire this living space is dependent on your resources and style. Those who seek the thrill of the open road would do best in a self-sufficient mobile home. For the DIY type, building your own, as Elizabeth Pearson did in Spain , might be the challenge you need. For those who are not particularly crafty, a prefabricated model like those sold by Big World Homes or Green Moxie would be more your speed. READ MORE: Luxurious tiny home lets owner live off-grid and rent-free If you seek to settle down, think about where you would like to live and why. Are you seeking to abandon civilization entirely or do you simply want to live a more self-sufficient life? Are you willing to pay more for an ideal location near family and friends or are you flexible with your location? If money is not an issue, there are open plots of land even in the world’s most expensive real estate markets . If you seek dirt for dirt cheap, you have options. READ MORE: World’s first off-grid Ecocapsule home to hit the market this year, shipping in 2016 Do you want to support the growth of a new community or do you want to join one that already exists? If you are of the apocalyptic mindset, there are plenty of places to hunker down with those who also feel the end is nigh. If you wish to learn from the cutting edge of off-grid experimentation before you dive in, check out communities like the Off-Grid Experimentation Village . Of course, there are always the Earthship communities to learn from and join. READ MORE: Tiny Off-Grid Hawk House has Soaring Views of the California Mountains If you want to start your own off-grid community, do some research into establishing a land trust. This institution allows for greater community control and provides protection from the encroachment of commercial interests onto the land. If you can’t wait to navigate the red tape, you, like this tiny-house building Australian couple , may find landowners willing to let you use their land in exchange for your time and energy. 2. Harvest and harness water OK, you have your living space. All that hard work planning for and acquiring somewhere to live off-grid has made you thirsty. Living off-grid requires you to harvest and harness the most out of the limited, invaluable resource that is water. This can be achieved through low-tech methods such as the installation of rain barrels, the cultivation of living mulch, and the construction of swales. Water capture can also be facilitated via the design of your living space, as demonstrated by the stepped roofs of Bermuda or bowl-shaped roofs in Iran. If you are hoping to live on the cutting edge of the 21st century, try integrating water saving technologies like the hydroponic systems used by Farm 360 in Indianapolis . Similarly, if your off-grid adventures brings you close to the ocean, modern desalinization methods like that pioneered by SAROS can achieve water self-sufficiency for far less cost than was once imagined. 3. Grow your own food Thirst quenched, time for some grub. If you are living on the road, off the grid, you likely do not have much space to grow your own food. As you meander around the world, it would be worth it to park your home on an idyllic organic farm . In exchange for your labor, you may acquire some nourishing produce, new friends, and a beautiful place to enjoy your tiny porch. READ MORE: Stunning Moon Dragon is a fairytale-like tiny house that goes off-grid If you are settling down in one space, planting perennials will provide you with consistent, nutritious food for years to come. Typical perennial plants include fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and even mushroom patches . A less common but a nonetheless important component of an off-grid diet is perennial vegetables , like sorrel, asparagus, and sylvetta arugula. Although it’s not quite ready yet, perennial wheat may soon find its way to an off-grid homestead near you. 4. Gather your tools and materials You’re satiated. Now it’s time to get to work. If you are living off-grid, you need a well-equipped tool shed and workshop. Open Source Ecology , a project that aims to create open blueprints for the essential tools to build civilization, is an excellent resource to guide the construction of a community toolbox. You will still need to acquire raw materials and a 3D printer, but once the initial investment has been made, you can support others in the establishment of new off-grid communities. READ MORE: Luxurious tiny home in New Zealand is off-grid and 100% self-sustaining 5. Install alternative energy Tending your garden, helping your neighbors, and living the life can be hard work. After a productive day, it’s time to settle in for the evening to enjoy a book or some Netflix. To illuminate your sanctuary and power your viewing, you will need a source of energy. Fortunately, there is no shortage of means for you to acquire that which you need. Solar energy, becoming cheaper by the day, is well suited for mobile off-grid living and that rooted in one place. The wind has got your back, providing power for your vehicle and your village . Even jellyfish are pitching in to support your off-grid dreams. Essentially, the resources are there. There are many paths towards the off-grid lifestyle of your dreams; all you have to do is take that first step and the rest will likely fall in place. Images via Greenmoxie Tiny House, , Walden Studio , Tomas Manina , Image via Alex Wyndham , Zyl Vardos , Living Big in a Tiny House , Wikimedia, J Wynia , Steve Johnson , Flickr/Jules , Flickr/Lisa at Sierra Tierra, and Sean Church

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How to get off the grid and live rent-free

6 Super common food additives that you need to avoid

January 14, 2017 by  
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It’s difficult for even the most dedicated person to make all of the daily meals from scratch and that often means relying on store-bought foods for condiments and other must-have kitchen items. But lurking in those kitchen staples are some food additives that can wreak havoc with the human body. Even worse, some of these pesky additives are hard to avoid because they are used in so many foods. Learn where they are hiding and how to avoid them with this handy guide.

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6 Super common food additives that you need to avoid

INTERVIEW: Dorothy Neagle of the Good Food Jobs "gastro-job" search tool

January 12, 2017 by  
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In 2004, friends Dorothy Neagle and Taylor Cocalis Suazez created Good Food Jobs , an innovative “gastro-job” search tool, with the compelling tagline “satisfying the hunger for meaningful work.” The site offers a highly personalized support system to both employers and job seekers in every aspect of the food industry – from agriculture to education. We spoke to Dorothy Neagle, one half of Good Food Jobs, about taking a stand against unpaid internships, the vulnerability associated with job-hunting, and revolution in the food industry . Good Food Jobs is a two-woman show. The co-founders are not only good friends but also ice-cream aficionados. INHABITAT: At first glance, Good Food Jobs is a job site where people can post and find work opportunities involving food (whether it be service, production or other) in some way. Yet it is also much more than that. Can you describe the mission behind the endeavor? DOROTHY: When we started Good Food Jobs, we were creating something that we ourselves had a need for: a one-stop-shop for job opportunities that were not just related to food but were also personally fulfilling. One of our fundamental goals was to expand awareness around what a good food job was, and how working in the food industry went beyond the kitchen – that’s why we created eight categories for the jobs (Agriculture, Business, Culinary, Education, Media, Nonprofit, Production, and Other). INHABITAT: What is each of your own career trajectories? How did food, design, and values-driven initiatives intersect in each of your own paths? DOROTHY: My background is in Interior Design, and I spent my early years out of university working for an architecture firm in New York City. But I had a secondary goal in life that began to creep forward over time, a strong desire to merge environmental activism with my daily work. I quickly became unsatisfied with the client-driven goals of working in design and architecture, and I turned to food because agriculture and food culture are inherently planet-driven. Having met Taylor while studying at Cornell, we ultimately put our heads together and took the leap to start GFJ. INHABITAT: We are in an era where both the traditional workplace and the expectations of workers are changing (seeking meaningfulness in what they do, flexibility, user-friendly and collaborative, open workspaces, for example). How is Good Food Jobs disrupting the traditional job listings site and offering members (who sign up for free) more? DOROTHY: Good Food Jobs is a community space. When people find us through word-of-mouth or Google searching, they often remark that they feel as if they’ve been welcomed by something they had always yearned for but didn’t know existed. We personally answer every email in our business inbox, and we frequently catch typos and errors in job postings because we’re personally reviewing each one before we publish. We also took a stand against unpaid internships in 2014 (we no longer post them) and this year we’ve required that all employers be more transparent about the wages offered in their jobs. We make these changes incrementally as a result of feedback from our users. INHABITAT: GFJ primarily serves not only job-seekers, but also companies, institutions, restaurants and farms – to name a few. When it comes to the website design, imagery, newsletters and social media channels of GFJ, how do you reach and engage your target demographic? DOROTHY: I’m not sure what our target demographic is…human beings? Since we’ve never conducted a formal PR campaign, or placed more than an occasional advertisement, we rely on human connection to help us spread the word organically. Our daily work is basically customer service, and we take it very seriously (but not too seriously). When GFJ resonates with people, it’s because we’re identifying and opening up real conversation about some of our most vulnerable human experiences – and what makes you feel more vulnerable than looking for a job? INHABITAT: There is the perception that a GFJ job applicant likely exhibits a certain set of qualities and values. Can you speak more about your mission and your definition of a “good food job” – “a pursuit involving the efforts to nourish one’s own life, and the lives of others?” DOROTHY: Our tag line really says it all: satisfying the hunger for meaningful work. When you feel compelled to align your daily life with your deepest need for connection and fulfillment, it’s either because you are personally craving that change, or you experienced an event or situation or interaction outside of yourself that prompted the craving. Either way, doing work that is helpful to your own mind and body and spirit is inherently helpful to the mind and body and spirit of others, and vice versa. GFJ recognizes and acknowledges that need, and hopefully provides some possible avenues for meeting it. Good Food Jobs features weekly “Words of Wisdom” in its newsletters, which are downloadable via the Good Food Jobs site. INHABITAT: GFJ posts jobs from around the country and even international postings. How do you work with employers that are looking to find, via GFJ, talent with not only specific skills but maybe also a certain mindset or approach? DOROTHY: Our job posting form has built-in advice for crafting a job description that will help you to reach the kind of folks that are truly passionate and love – or want to love – what they do for a living. We offer free trials and discounted job packages, as well as standard discounts for nonprofits, small farms, and other budget-challenged businesses. We’re constantly striving to bridge the employer/employee divide by offering honest, supportive advice. INHABITAT: In recent years, in the United States there has been a huge interest in how things are made, by who, where, and by what standards-whether it be what we eat, or the textiles that we wear against our skin. Magazines like Kinfolk, Good Food Jobs, “artisanal” shops, the campaign Small Business Saturday-all seem to speak to this growing nationwide interest. What is your take on this, and how do you see this evolving, not only in places like Brooklyn, but in small towns and cities across the country? DOROTHY: I think it’s fantastic. It comes from a real place. Many businesses will jump on the marketing bandwagon, and try to ‘identify the trends’ and adjust their ‘branding’, and that can feel false at times. But regardless of the motive for increasing the sustainability of the products that affect our daily lives, the end result is positive change. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s my hope that establishing these kinds of practices will become habitual, and create a new standard of quality that we all strive for and come to expect. INHABITAT: What are some recent trends you see in the fields of agriculture and the service industry? DOROTHY: There’s an increasing need that we continue to encounter, and that is for respect and courtesy on all sides of the hiring process, in spite of the shortcuts that technology affords. I also see a tremendous opportunity to create healthier, more supportive work environments, especially with service-oriented positions that have traditionally been viewed as entry level or low/no-skill. Educating our employees through their daily work, and recognizing that we can learn from them, as well, is the key to continued growth. Agricultural work continues to be a growing field, and there are now so many more ways to get involved in fresh, local food – from urban farms to grocery delivery services to creating links between farms and restaurants, it hasn’t even begun to answer the demand that exists. INHABITAT: At a time of rapid change in the country, how do you think this will impact how we grow, market and enjoy our food? DOROTHY: It’s really hard to say, but I can tell you that in spite of the change swirling around us, our focus at GFJ remains the same: bringing people together around the shared hunger for meaningful work. I think that what we all hold constant in uncertain times is what will ultimately make the biggest personal and professional impact. + Dorothy Neagle + Good Food Jobs Photos courtesy of Good Food Jobs This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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INTERVIEW: Dorothy Neagle of the Good Food Jobs "gastro-job" search tool

Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

December 28, 2016 by  
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Two acres of land is enough to farm a sustainable food supply for as many as 150 people, and now a San Francisco startup is making it even easier to get that farm growing. Farm From a Box is a shipping container kit that holds all the essentials for setting up a two-acre farm (except the land, of course). Founders Brandi DeCarli and Scott Thompson got the idea after working on a youth center in Kenya where shipping containers were being used to substitute where infrastructure lacked. That project didn’t address food insecurity , though, which led DeCarli and Thompson to found their own venture specifically for that purpose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlcijvWRJGU Farm From a Box is a kit designed to make it easier for all types of organizations to start growing sustainable food . Nonprofit humanitarian agencies, schools, community groups, and even individuals can buy a $50,000 kit, which comes with a complete water system including a solar-powered pump and drip irrigation system. Together, those features help conserve water by using it more efficiently, delivering water directly to the roots of growing plants. All of the kit’s components are solar-powered, so the kit also includes 3 kW of solar energy capacity which is enough to power the water pump as well as WiFi connectivity that makes it possible to monitor the farm conditions remotely. Because the built-in solar power technology generates more than enough energy to power the farm’s equipment, the farm is suitable to run completely off the grid. Related: Top 10 cities in the US for urban farming All the prospective farmer needs to have is viable land, of course, and seeds. Luckily, the Farm From a Box team realizes that farming is largely about skill and science, so the kit also includes three stages of training materials on sustainable farming, farm technology and maintenance, as well as the business of farming. In a recent interview with Smithsonian Magazine, DiCarli explained that the farm kit was designed to “act as a template” and that it’s possible to “plug in” components that specifically fit the farm’s local climate and the farmers’ needs. Those options include internal cold storage, to help preserve crops between harvest and consumption or sale, and a water purification system, if needed. So far, Farm From a Box has deployed one prototype at Shone Farm in Sonoma County, California. A project of Santa Rosa Junior College, the farm is part of a larger outdoor laboratory in which students learn how to cultivate crops in drought conditions, and then the harvest is used to supply the farm’s own community-supported agriculture (CSA) program as well as the college’s culinary arts program. DiCarli said the Shone Farm prototype turned out to be “more efficient than we had even planned,” with “really high” production and energy output. Farm From a Box has a number of other potential sites lined up already, in Ethiopia, Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, as well as additional test farms in California and a veteran-partnered site in Virginia. Via Smithsonian Magazine Images via Farm From a Box

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Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

Mexican winery built from recycled wood and rammed earth blends into the valley landscape

December 28, 2016 by  
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Mexico’s booming wine country of Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California recently welcomed the chic BRUMA winery , a large complex constructed with a natural materials palette to blend beautifully into its surroundings. TAC Taller de Arquitectura Contextual designed the BRUMA winery as part of a 75-acre masterplan that includes a bed and breakfast, pool, spa, event space, and restaurant. Rammed earth and recycled wood feature prominently in the rustic winery building. Despite its 22,000-square-meter size, the BRUMA winery visually disappears in the dusty red and green landscape of Valle de Guadalupe. Part of the winery is tucked underground to take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass that protects against volatile temperature changes. A large reflecting pool nearby also serves as a natural heat insulator. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier Recycled wood and steel are the primary materials used to construct the winery. The timber slats are naturally weathered and are of varying shades to give the building an interesting and earthy texture and parts of the wooden walls are punctuated by small glass openings for beautiful effect. Pieces of natural unmilled wood are used as seating or decorative objects. Native plants cover the roof of the winery. Curving rammed earth walls also make up part of the complex, further integrating the building into the landscape. + TAC Taller de Arquitectura Contextual Via ArchDaily Images © Humberto Romero

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Mexican winery built from recycled wood and rammed earth blends into the valley landscape

An old Swiss farmhouse gets a striking wooden extension that juxtaposes past and present

December 28, 2016 by  
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Studio Marazzi Reinhardt recently updated an old farmhouse in the quiet Swiss village of Löhningen  with a striking wooden extension that seamlessly melds modern and classic architecture. ‘Haus Zur Blume’ ads extra living space to an existing home while juxtaposing the past against the present. The modern structure is wrapped in a wooden slat facade that filters natural light.

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An old Swiss farmhouse gets a striking wooden extension that juxtaposes past and present

7 new micro-cabins in Colorado provide superior insulation in extreme weather

December 28, 2016 by  
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These seven rustic cabins designed and built by students at the University of Colorado Denver function as base camp for a non-profit focused on wilderness education. Clad in hot-rolled steel, the COBS Year-Round Micro Cabins blend with the surrounding pine forest and remain comfortable even in extremely cold weather. https://youtu.be/HwwYRDhGRxc The structures were built by 28 students as part of a design-build program called the Colorado Building Workshop . Organized by the architecture school at the University of Colorado Denver, the workshop produced 14 similar structures in 2015. Related: Modern low-maintenance cabin is a seamless extension of the Puget Sound landscape The cabins, each offering around 200 square feet of interior space and 100 square feet of deck, are elevated and supported by metal columns with concrete footings. Sheets of hot-rolled steel, which form low-maintenance rainscreens , envelop structurally insulated panels (SIPs) used for the walls and flat roofs, providing a high degree of thermal insulation . Birch plywood line the interior walls to create a warm, cozy atmosphere. All the electrical appliances, including lighting, heating and refrigerators within each structure are powered by a single electrical circuit. + Colorado Building Workshop + University of Colorado Denver Via Dezeen Photos by Jesse Kuroiwa

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7 new micro-cabins in Colorado provide superior insulation in extreme weather

Researchers want new protections for cheetahs amid race to extinction

December 28, 2016 by  
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Cheetahs are racing towards extinction a lot faster than previously thought, according to the BBC. Because the magnificent cats are far-ranging, often straying outside protected areas, they face dramatic habitat loss and there are only around 7,100 left in the wild. Researchers are now arguing cheetahs should no longer be classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, but as endangered . Around the world, diminishing cheetah populations are raising alarm among researchers. Cheetah populations plummeted from 1,200 to only 170 during 16 years in Zimbabwe. In Iran, it’s thought a group of less than 50 cheetahs survives. Asian cheetahs are nearly gone, according to the BBC. Related: Illegal Wild Cheetah Trade for Luxury Pets is Pushing Species to Extinction, CITES Report Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London, lead author on a study cited by BBC published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the cheetah’s dilemma, said , “Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked. Our findings show that the large space requirements for the cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought.” As 77 percent of the cheetah’s habitat is outside protected reserves and parks, they’ve suffered from habitat loss and prey loss. They clash with humans who are developing the land on which the animals used to live. Illegal cheetah cub trafficking isn’t helping either. The Cheetah Conservation Fund says 1,200 cheetah cubs have been trafficked during the last 10 years from Africa, but a heartbreaking 85 percent perished during the voyage. The study authors called for the IUCN to categorize the cheetah as endangered, instead of vulnerable, and for a “paradigm shift in conservation”. They argued for “incentive-based approaches” to encourage local people to protect cheetahs beyond setting aside protected areas. Another study author, Kim Young-Overton of Panthera, said, “The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough.” Via the BBC Images via Wikimedia Commons and Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

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Researchers want new protections for cheetahs amid race to extinction

Six delicious ways to reuse your Thanksgiving leftovers

November 25, 2016 by  
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©seriouseats Thanksgiving Breakfast Hash What better way to spend the morning after Thanksgiving than with more of your favorite ingredients? This hash made from brussel sprouts, potatoes, and turkey turns last night’s yummy ingredients into this morning’s breakfast. All you need is vegetable oil, an onion, hot sauce, eggs, and your leftovers. Throw them in a skillet and you’re good to go! Check out the full recipe on   SeriousEats . ©chowballa Stuffing Pancakes Who says pancakes always have to be sweet? This awesome recipe from Chowballa makes breakfast savory with stuffing pancakes topped with eggs and bacon. Just add a beaten egg to 1 1/2 to 2 cups of stuffing, form a couple pancakes and let them sit for a few minutes to absorb the moisture. Melt butter in a pan and let the pancakes cook until golden brown on each side. ©seriouseats Mashed Potato Doughnuts If you’re in the mood for something sweet for breakfast, why not try these super fluffy mashed potato doughnuts. These delicious and easy to make doughnuts can be cooked in a dutch oven or a large cast iron skillet, and they’re sure to be a family favorite. The detailed recipe is available at SeriousEats . ©foodnetwork Day After Dip This day after dip is a great way to feed the family or guests without having to cook. Simply puree a can of white beans in a food processor with 1 or 2 leftover sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and salt and pepper. Serve with crackers and garnish with roasted almonds. ©creative commons Cranberry Relish This leftover cranberry relish is another great no-fuss dish. Just combine 1 can of cranberries with 1 can of drained crushed pineapple, 1/4 teaspoon of apple pie spice, 1 pinch of ground cloves, and 1/4 cup of chopped pecans. This new twist on a classic side dish will have everyone wanting more leftovers! ©videojug Turkey Casserole A good way to make the best of your biggest Thanksgiving leftovers is to make a turkey and stuffing casserole. You will need 1 egg, 3/13 ounces of cream, 6 tablespoons of leftover gravy, and of course turkey and stuffing. This hearty casserole cooks in 35 minutes and it can feed a whole family all over again. The full recipe and a how-to video are available here .

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Six delicious ways to reuse your Thanksgiving leftovers

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