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Karen Sealy and Anna Olson

November 10, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

Eco-Friendly Holiday Decorating and a Tasty Gingerbread Treat!

Karen Sealy

Award-Winning Design and Renovation Expert Karen Sealy is equally at ease in a hardhat or heels, and her passion and deep-rooted knowledge of the two distinct sides of design set her apart in her field. Below, Karen shares her tips for making your holiday season one that lights up your life and the lives of others, all without harming the environment:

Christmas lights, on and off the tree:

  • Choose solar or LED lights instead of traditional incandescent bulbs. They use less energy and cost less to run, plus they’re more durable.
  • LED lights are safer than glass bulbs because they stay cool to the touch.
  • If you’re set on incandescent bulbs consider plugging them into a dimmer to save electricity.

Gift-giving:

  • Try to minimize packaging by giving gift cards, making a charity donation on someone’s behalf, or giving homemade food gifts such as baked goods, jams or sauces in reuseable jars, or a gift basket of organic and local treats.
  • Fair Trade consumables make great ethical gifts — go for chocolate, coffee or other Fair Trade goods.
  • Head to a vintage or second-hand shop for unique and sustainable gift ideas.
    Consider giving an ‘experience’ gift — tickets to a show, treating someone to dinner, or a spa gift card.

Choose the right tree:

  • Real or artificial Christmas trees can be environmentally friendly.
  • Real trees grown on tree farms are regularly replanted, and nearly 90 per cent are recycled into mulch.
  • Live trees are also usually locally grown and sold, minimizing transportation costs.
    Artificial trees can be reused for several years.

Holiday ornaments: 

  • Create your own decorations instead of buying new and over-packaged decorations.
  • Make a centrepiece out of holly and pine-cones, or hang evergreen boughs over entrance-ways.
  • Create paper and or knitted/crocheted decorations for the tree.
  • Decorate with edible ornaments such as popcorn strings or cranberry wreaths.
  • Make your own felt from old wool sweaters for ornaments or patchwork stockings. Place-mats can be fashioned from old fabrics.
  • Use twigs and branches from your yard for rustic wreaths or centrepieces.

Gift wrapping:

  • Recycle different materials and use them as wrapping paper, for example: newspaper, old maps, comics, magazines, wallpaper.
  • Shiny, metallic and plastic-coated wrapping paper can’t be reused or recycled, so go for wrapping papers and ribbons that are made of 100 percent recycled waste.
  • Gift bags are a great reusable option.

Anna Olson

Celebrity chef Anna Olson is most recognized as the host of Food Network Canada’s Bake with Anna Olson, which followed on the heels of her successful other programs, Sugar and Fresh with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach to cooking and baking, respecting the ingredients and the technique, and enjoying sharing with others through food. For the tastiest gingerbread men recipe this holiday season, look no further:

Decorated Gingerbread Cookies

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fancy molasses
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ⅛ tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda
  • ⅛ tsp salt
Royal Icing:
  • 1 ½ tbsp meringue powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 3-5 tbsp warm water
  • food colour pastes (optional)
  • coloured sugars or other edible décor

1. Beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Shape the dough into two disks, wrap and chill for about an hour up to two days (the dough will still be soft, even once chilled).

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two or three baking trays with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first disk of dough until just over ⅛-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter of your choosing to cut out desired shapes. Lift the cookies carefully to the prepared trays, leaving about ½-inch between them. Any scraps can be stored chilled and then re-rolled until it has all been used.

4. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes until you see them brown a little just around the edges. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the tray before removing to cool completely.

5. For the royal icing, beat the meringue powder, icing sugar and warm water with an electric mixer until peaks form (approximately 10-12 minutes). Divide the icing into bowls and stir in colour, if desired.

6. To assemble, spoon the royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe desired patterns, lines or dots on the cookies and sprinkle with coloured sugars or other edible décor. Let the cookies dry for two hours before packing.

The cookies will keep up to a week in an airtight container.