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3/27/2012
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If you are looking to eat less sugar, I have got an alternative that might be a good fit for your family. Since going sugar-free (for the most part) our families main go-to sweetener has been stevia. Here’s the lowdown on stevia and how to use it:

stevia

First the bad news about stevia:

• It does NOT taste just like sugar. It’s sweet and very concentrated, but it has a somewhat, faintly-licorice aftertaste. When baking with it, the aftertaste can easily be masked and you will only pick up the “sweetness” of stevia. But when putting it directly in a cup of tea or coffee, you will notice the aftertaste. So it’s best to use it when the flavor can be covered with other ingredients.  

• It is expensive compared to sugar. A good quality stevia (and only buy good quality brands!) such as Sweet Leaf, Now & Kal will cost approximately $6-$12.

Now the good news:

• It is an herb (a member of the of the chrysanthemum family). If you have a green thumb, try adding this herb to your garden.

• It has a zero glycemic index and zero calories. Personally, I am not concerned about calories but I am about the glycemic index (I would rather experience a low glycemic response from food).

• Stevia is very concentrated and much sweeter than table sugar (when baking, it is estimated that you need 1 teaspoon of stevia to replace 1 cup of sugar. When it comes to replacing stevia with sugar, you will need to fidget with your favorite recipes to get it just right).

• It is heat stable and can easily be used for cooking and baking. It takes some time to adjust to the reduced volume compared to sugar and to the taste difference. I try to bake primarily with stevia (and/or honey — I sometimes use 1/2 stevia and 1/2 honey). I now consider this my go-to sweetener in our household.

• Stevia companies such as Sweet Leaf are making flavored liquid stevia drops to use in everything from your morning coffee to baking. The drops come in flavors such as chocolate, chocolate raspberry, lemon drop, peppermint, root beer, vanilla crème and hazelnut.Sold at your local co op, whole foods or natural food store.



3/27/2012
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 Our children’s easy, go-to breakfast on weekday mornings are organic cereal bars. They love them and request them every day. After a little label reading it became very clear why they love them so much! They are LOADED with sugar. I am trying to reduce our family’s sugar intake, so I decided to come up with a cereal bar alternative that was low in sugar and high in protein and nutrition (and of course, deliciousness!). This breakfast cookie fits the bill! It is so scrumptious that they are almost addictive. They also are far more nutritious than the average cereal bar sold everywhere. Made with almond flour, oats, walnuts, cherries and chunks of dark chocolate, this recipe will quickly become a family favorite! Feel free to tinker with your families personal preferences! Replace the cherries with cranberries, dates, raisins or banana chips, or the chia seeds with flax, pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds.  

 
Who knew that a breakfast bar alternative could be this tasty and good for you! 
 
½ cup butter, melted 
2-3 Tablespoons honey 
2 organic eggs 
½ teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup almond flour 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
¼ teaspoon ginger 
¼ teaspoon cloves 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon baking powder 
1 cup oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free) 
¾ cup dark chocolate chips 
1/3 cup dried cherries 
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut 
1/3 cup walnuts, broken in half or quarters (I like them chunky, but cut to your preference) 
2 teaspoons chia seeds 
 
1.) Preheat oven to 350°. 
2.) In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, honey, eggs and vanilla. Add the almond flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda and baking powder until just combined. Add the oats and stir until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, cherries, coconut, walnuts and chia seeds until just combined. 
3.) Using a small scooper, drop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten the dough. 
4.) Bake for 11-12 minutes. Once cooled, store in an air-tight container. I pop most of these in an air-tight freezer container. 12 seconds in our microwave will thaw and warm them.  
 


3/19/2012
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 Chocolate trumps every dessert in our household. So I know that this apple crisp recipe is a winner because every time that I make it (which is pretty frequently because it’s super easy & delicious!), I hear “ooh”, “awe” and “awesome”!  

 
Granny smith apples get topped with a brown sugar crumb topping… it’s scrumptious and extra tasty served warm with vanilla ice cream. 

 

6 cups peeled apples, thinly sliced*
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1.) Preheat oven to 350°.
2.) Place apples in a lightly buttered 8x8 glass baking dish.
3.) Combine brown sugar, oats, flour, butter and cinnamon; blend together with fingers until crumbly. Evenly top apples with oat mixture.
4.) Bake for 35 minutes.

* we use granny smith apples, but any apple will do :)
 


3/19/2012

Faith MoserFaith Moser is the creator of eco ike {organic baby t’s + cookbooks full of yummy, healthy and quick recipes for kids and grown-ups}! If you want your kids to grow, live, eat & play green, visit ecoike.com.  

Have you ever looked at your toothpaste and read the “warning label"? Probably not. Why would consumers? We trust tooth paste companies to provide us with safe products. Fluoride toothpastes carry a warning that says something like, “Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.” Hmm… contact a Poison Control Center? Something isn’t right with traditional toothpaste if you need to contact a poison control center if ingested!  
 
natural toothpasteOnce considered a beneficial additive, fluoride is now turning out to be a potentially scary chemical. We were raised believing that fluoride fights cavities, keeps teeth strong and fights tooth decay—but it turns out that fluoride could possibly damage the tooth-forming cells which lead to defects in tooth enamel! Really?!? Worst of all, ingesting fluoride can detrimentally affect the pineal gland, thyroid, brain, kidneys and bones! The information on fluoride is not pretty. To read more about the dangers of fluoride, please check out the Fluoride Action Network

It’s disconcerting to have a “warning label” on your toothpaste (I think it is!), but it’s not the only thing that’s wrong with traditional toothpastes! They are also loaded with: 
 
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): This chemical is a foaming agent and skin and eye irritant. 
 
Triclosan is an antibacterial property that can possibly disrupt the endocrine system and liver. 
 
Cocamidopropyl Betaine: It provides a lathering property. It’s a known skin, eye and lung irritant. 
 
Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate: Listed on the CDC’s "Guide to Chemical Hazards," this chemical is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant. 
 
FD&C Blue #1: This food dye is synthesized from petroleum. It can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea and nervousness.
 
Our household brushes our teeth with natural toothpastes! I see first-hand how my kids swallow the toothpaste (despite telling them to spit it out), and even if they don’t swallow it, the mucus membranes in the mouth absorb the chemicals! Go natural in the tooth care department. There are some great and refreshing toothpaste options on the natural market.



3/11/2012

Faith MoserFaith Moser is the creator of eco ike {organic baby t’s + cookbooks full of yummy, healthy and quick recipes for kids and grown-ups}! If you want your kids to grow, live, eat & play green, visit ecoike.com 

I will admit it, in winter I have cheated on my "green" fabric softeners with traditional ones. I LOVE my green fabric softener sheets, but during the winter our laundry sometimes has a lot of static. And static cling clothing makes me cringe (it’s like nails on a chalk board to me)! But, after hearing all of the bad news (again) associated with conventional fabric softeners, I have decided to go completely green and not look back.
 
Conventional fabric softener sheets can contain some really nasty chemicals—chemicals that I DO NOT want touching my children’s skin. Remember skin is the largest organ in the human body! It’s safe to say that bypassing traditional softeners will also avoid the possible exposure to ugly ingredients like:

• A-Terpineol: Associated with central nervous system disorders
• Benzyl Acetate: A carcinogen linked to pancreatic cancer
• Benzyl Alcohol: An upper respiratory tract irritant
• Camphor: It’s listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list (enough said)
• Ethyl Acetate: Another culprit on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and an irritant to the eyes and respiratory tract

dryer balls 

So what can you do to dry your laundry and keep your clothing from sticking together (and the dreaded electrical charge if you have to pull them apart)? Try these 5 tips for cling-free and chemical-free laundry:

1. Line dry when possible! It’s the best choice.

2. Safety pins! Who would have thunk it? Place two to three safety pins on a cloth or rag and dry with your clothes. I am not sure how this works, but it does work!

3. Add ¼ cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser of the washing machine for a natural fabric softener.

4. Wool dryer balls! This is a fun new discovery. The balls bounce around in the dryer and keep the laundry fluffed, static at bay, and it reduces the drying time! They last for a long time, too.  After an initial investment of $20+, you will be good to go for years! 

5. Avoid over-drying. Additional (and unnecessary) drying time typically leads to additional static cling. If your dryer has a sensor to automatically turn off when clothes are dry (rather than a set time), use that option!

Photo Courtesy CleanSypria   



3/11/2012
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I love chia seeds!  Lately, I have been throwing them in baked goods, cereal and sometimes savory dishes.
                 
When you hear chia, you’re probably thinking chia pets… and you would be right… these little seeds are nutritional gems and help your clay pet grow hair (but please, only buy your seeds from a health food store!).
 
Chia seeds look like poppy seeds and have almost no taste.  They are a member of the mint family and pack a lot of nutritional punch!  One ounce of seeds (approximately 2 Tablespoons) has:
  • 4.9 grams of omega 3 fatty acids 
  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 4 grams of protein
  • Calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3
They are gluten free and vegan.  The seeds are a great alternative to flax seed.  They have a longer shelf life than flax seed and do not have to be ground to release the omega 3’s (and, they actually have more omega 3’s than flax seed!). 
 
I find chia seeds to have no taste… which makes them the perfect addition to any dish.  Throw them into salads, yogurt, smoothies or a pasta dish.
 
They pack a crunch and are loaded with health benefits.  What are you waiting for?  Grab some ch- ch-ch- chia seeds! 

 



2/17/2012

Sarah Lozanova is a mother of two, a holistic parenting coach, and a freelance environmental writer. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and has an MBA in sustainable development. View her natural parenting blog at RawMama.org.  

"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living." - Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”

Most children are captivated by watching and helping things grow, making great little helpers in the garden. Fostering a sense of wonder and enjoyment in gardening can lead to a life-long hobby that supports a sustainable lifestyle, healthy eating and greater awareness of the cycles of nature.

toddler gardening 

Here are five fun activities to get your little helper excited about the garden this year.

1. Read books about gardening together. 

Numerous books explore topics related to gardening. Some of our favorites that are ideal for a pre-school or an early elementary school-age audience are The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, and Mrs. Sptizer’s Garden by Edith Pattou.

2. Involve your children in garden planning. 

Most children are visionaries and enjoy sharing their opinion. Getting buy-in at the beginning can help motivate them later for less desirable tasks, such as weeding. It also helps ensure that the vegetable garden is stocked with veggies they will enjoy eating.

If space allows, themed gardens packed with the veggies for some of your favorite foods can be fun, such as a pizza garden or a salsa patch. If you have some seed catalogs lying around the house, your children can make a collage or garden map using the enclosed photos.

3. Give children their own plot. 

For young children, it can be helpful to give them a very small plot. Set them up for success by providing a sunny plot with good soil.

Some of the crops that are most suitable for young gardeners are sunflowers, pumpkins, radishes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, carrots, green beans and potatoes, because they are easy to grow and fun to harvest. 

When my daughter was two years old, she planted and maintained six pots with sunflowers that were located right next to the rain barrel. She really enjoyed filling the watering can herself and sprinkling the flowers every day or two.

4. Create a photo journal of the garden. 

Even if there is still snow on the ground, now is a great time to get started. It can be insightful and fun to document the changes in the garden throughout the course of the year.

5. Start a compost pile. 

If you don’t have a compost pile or bin already, now is a great time to get one started. Children may be particularly interested in a worm compost bin, which can be store indoors. 

Image: Photo By barneyboogles/Courtesy Fotolia 



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