Friday, March 20, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

Kids will eat their veggies when prepared properly, offered regularly, and abundantly set in a great colorful variety.

Children will go through a fussy phase. Sometimes it starts when they see another child (older sibling, friend, cousin, classmate) give the puke face to a certain food. But other times it seems to just come out of nowhere. This is to be expected. We have to remember that children have a a much finer palate than we do as adults. They have twice as many taste buds (or taste bugs, as we call them in our family) so sour tastes sourer and sweet that much sweeter. When you think about it, this evolution in our bodies makes sense. As children, a new plant that might cause severe stomach cramps in an adult could kill a child.

We're told to introduce them as infants to veggies first so they don't get a taste for sweet first, but that is not really true. After all, their first food, breastmilk, is very sweet. It is supposed to be like that. So don't despair if you offered your child fruits before vegetables as an infant. It's never too late. You can (and I feel must) teach your child good eating habits as early as possible but it is never too late.

Children are instinctively curious. If they see you enjoying something, they will enjoy it too. So the first and best way to get veggies into your child is to enjoy and eat them regularly in front of your child. They learn by example.

Kids will often be more apt to try something that they chose. Have them shop for something in your refrigerator or with you online or in the grocery store or farmer's market. Have them help prepare it with you. "I did it!" can help instill a sense of pride in their food; with rave reviews on their cooking, they may willingly give it go.

Some kids grow out of their finicky phase gracefully, but some may never grow out of it so don't wait for it to just happen. We need to insist that they try new foods and we have to try new foods too. Be patient, extremely patient for your must stubborn child, and absolutely lovingly yet firmly insist they must try it. Be prepared. They will make gagging noises, cry, scream, threaten, even all out puke, oh gosh, I've been through it myself too. Just be calm, and be ready to sit there for a half an hour if need be, until they take a bite. It starts small but eventually they will start eating their vegetables and actually enjoy them! Your patience and persistence will impact their future so take a deep breath and do it now, no matter their age.

The day they ASK for a certain vegetable will be a gracious reward for all those painful hours that you will finally be able to look back upon and laugh.

How to get your kids to eat their veggies:
  1. set a good example
  2. offer a colorful variety
  3. offer vegetables at (virtually) every meal and for snacks
  4. let your child choose what to try
  5. cook with your kids
  6. prepare them deliciously - do not overcook
  7. put it on their plate, at least one tiny piece to start
  8. be patient, insist that they take a bite, you have all night
  9. next step is to insist they take at least three bites
  10. offer it again at another meal maybe prepared differently. Insist that they try a new food at least ten times before they express their displeasure (this is ten times over weeks or months, not all in one day.)
It may not be easy. It may be close to impossible. I promise, they will not starve. Eventually they will see that you mean business and they will take a bite without any fuss. But they are clever and know how to push your buttons and they will try and avoid it. Stand your ground. You are doing the right thing. Have them try the new vegetable first or after two bites of another food that they like on the plate but don't wait until the end of the meal. Be patient. Be persistent. It is worth this aggravation.

Roasting vegetables is such a simple and delicious way to prepare vegetables.

Here I have some yellow cauliflower and asparagus.

Just put in a pan, don't crowd it, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt, and roast in a preheated 425F oven until it begins to caramelize and brown and until tender, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending upon what you're roasting and how thick it is.

Roasting with oil and salt intensifies the sweet flavors and, as you can see, the colors, of the vegetable.

Any vegetable can be prepared this way: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, leafy greens, really any vegetable, give it a try!

I sometimes sprinkle on some dry spices, like the curry powder I added to the green beans, before tossing it with the olive oil. I think it's important that children try a variety of flavors from spicy to sweet, all within reason of course, and I ask them to try it and give their review (while certain words like gross, disgusting, foul, are off-limits) of that food empowering them in their decision. Yet, they know they will have to try it again one day too. We've talked about how their taste bugs change as they grow up.

Other ways to get veggies into the kids:
  • have them available in the fridge: have cleaned carrot and celery sticks in the fridge ready for dipping in a nut butter or ranch dip
  • add veggies (even pureed) to breakfast frittatas (we love spinach basil pesto and even my fussiest pickiest worst vegetable eater now loves it! Believe me, I have one and I DO understand. See most post on greens for the recipe.)
  • You can add a kale leaf to the breakfast smoothie and they won't even notice. If you add 2 (remove the tough stalk) then it will take on an enticing pale green color.
  • Juice with your kids! Kale and Apple are a great combo - have them do a blind taste test at first or use a shot glass to have them gobble it quickly until they realize, hey, this is delicious (because it tastes like sweet apple juice - only it's green! I've even said how they can freak out their friends with their green food the next time they're over.)
  • Use veggies to decorate the plate - better yet, have your child do that. Use carrots as legs of animals, make a face with different vegetables.
  • Add pureed greens to soups, stews, even baked goods if you want. Add pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Add pureed butternut squash to macaroni and cheese. Make a sauce from pureed veggies. Add pureed veggies to your egg base before making chicken fingers or fish sticks. Add pureed leafy greens to pasta sauce. Casseroles and stews can hide a multitude of healthy veggies. Add tomato paste to ground beef for tacos or meatloaf. Offer a selection of veggies for homemade pizza.
  • Get some dried veggies and have fun sampling those.
  • Kids may actually eat FROZEN peas cold as a fun treat. (btw, frozen grapes are fun too!)
  • Top with melted cheese - melted cheese makes everything delicious.
  • Add crunchy bits of bacon - everything is better with bacon.
  • Cook in a tablespoon of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
  • Teach good nutrition lessons so they know why vegetables are so important. Explain how many we should eat and why. They will eventually hear you and understand it better.
  • Play like an animal and have fun eating leaves like a giraffe or a baboon and act them out.
  • Include fruits and vegetables in their lunch box.
  • Eat dinner as a family, have a good selection of fresh vegetables available, set a good example by eating and enjoying your vegetables yourself.
Instilling healthy eating habits that last a lifetime, teaching and setting a good example, the rewards for this patient lesson (even when you're ready to pull your hair out and give up) is the best thing we can do for their good health and future.

I am a Food RENEGADE!This is part of Food Renegade's FIGHT BACK FRIDAYS where people who are fighting back against the dominate food culture blog about our adventures in real food including:
  • updates & stories about our Real Food journey,
  • tips,
  • recipes,
  • anything we think others might find useful, helpful, encouraging, or inspiring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's Clear the Air

I love to travel and explore with my family. At the same time I dread it - being out of my comfort zone, being away from my kitchen where I prepare meals that nourish our bodies with good food and our souls with tradition, and stepping into the unknown of chemicals and cleaners used at the place where we will rest our heads.

Since we've stopped using chemicals and have been eating real food, we notice it, even the kids do. Walking into a shoe or toy store makes our eyes water with all the off-gassing. It's amazing what we can subject our bodies to, lack of nutrition, bombarding it with chemicals and disease, and our lovely bodies continue to function. Our family, thankfully, is more in tune so we can make better decisions knowing what's good and not.

We realize this and are more accepting of the outside world when we travel but there is one thing we cannot tolerate. And you shouldn't either. When you think about it, it's an amazing invention that never existed and now has become a necessary element in making a house a home.

Sprays, plug-ins, plug-ins that self-spray, odor neutralizers, air sanitizers, and aromatherapy candles in just the right scent are all there, something for everyone. Air fresheners seem to work to help erase the smells in the room and clean the air, but actually they work on us. The chemicals coat our nasal passages with a film that deadens the nerve endings. They mask the problem and fool us into thinking the room is fresh, the smell we have learned to mean clean.

The ingredients are toxic and may include things like formaldehyde, fragrance, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, and naphthalene, among others. Aside from causing asthma and allergies, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens that lead to cancer and birth defects. Many attack the central nervous system which can lead to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, or SIDs in infants. Children are particularly susceptible to poor air quality which can lead to a host of diseases and premature death. Sound clean to you?

Air fresheners and room deodorizers actually create air pollution. When used in a confined area, like our homes, places of work, or cars, they create an intense amount of toxins in a small area. The EPA ranks poor indoor air quality among the top five environmental health risks to the public. Pollution indoors is oftentimes worse (sometimes up to 500 times worse!) than the pollution outdoors! Sure, tobacco smoke indoors is a horrible contributor to that, but aside from that, indoor pollution is primarily the cause of all the things we use to clean our homes and make our homes smell good. In aerosol form the dangers are multiplied because of the micro-particles that are created of the chemicals that can then enter our bloodstream.

Many natural and health food stores sell aromatherapy candles. Traditional candles are made of paraffin wax, a by-product of the gasoline industry, a petrochemical. The fragrance is either artificial, once again a petro-chemical and many not suited for combustion, or a pure essential oil which, when burned, no longer offers the therapeutic effect and actually converts into unhealthy byproducts. Scented paraffin candles usually contain metal or lead core wicks creating unsafe lead concentrations when burned. 100% of the lead that is inhaled when the candle is burned ends up in the bloodstream which can be particularly damaging to, you guessed it, growing children. What is not inhaled immediately attaches to furniture and walls to be inhaled or ingested later. The black soot created from burning traditional, and especially scented, candles is toxic. According to the American Lung Association - "scented, paraffin candles cause lead poisoning and using slow burning paraffin candles cause poor indoor air quality, and a serious health concern." Once again, instead of freshening the air, they work to mask the odor while adding poisons to the air we breathe in the comfort of our own homes.

Unplug them, stop buying them, save your money and instead, really freshen your air:
  • clean instead of masking the odor, use nontoxic cleaners
  • open the windows for real fresh air (if you're not in a high rise with smokers on the patio above or below you, or up against a busy street, of course)
  • empty the garbage frequently and get rid of rotting meats and vegetables
  • burn 100% pure UNSCENTED beeswax candles with 100% cotton wicks - not only is it the best alternative to traditional paraffin candles, but pure beeswax candles actually do purify and clean the air and add a warm golden glow
  • use the box of open baking soda trick from your fridge in closets and bathrooms or put a half a cup of vinegar in the smelly room to absorb the odor
  • use a drop or two of pure essential oils in a mister filled with distilled water and spritz
  • simmer spices like cinnamon and cloves in a little water on the stovetop
  • simmer 3 - 5 organic lemons cut in fourths in clean water for 30 minutes to an hour
  • simmer crushed or cut fresh ginger in some water
  • simmer herbs like rosemary or basil
  • boil some water and then add a drop or two of your favorite pure essential oil(s)
  • dab pure organic cotton balls with orange, vanilla, lavender, or lemon extracts or essential oils and place them around the house
  • use organic herbal sachets and potpourris or run your fingers against pots of fresh herbs that you keep in the house to release their scent
  • add potted plants to your room to clear carbon dioxide and other toxins naturally
  • use volcanic rocks to absorb the odors
  • get freshly cut fragrant organic flowers
  • cook or bake, toast up dried spices in a pan, put something in the oven - create a delicious meal and you'll make the house smell good and fill happy tummies with something delicious -it's amazing how aromas of food can fill the air and create memories for our children.
This is part of Natural Body Care Products for Real Foodies for

Join at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Your Biggest Organ

This is usually one of the last things we change. We get attached to name brands, the smells, and how they make us look and feel. But the fact is that more chemicals get into our body through our skin, our biggest organ, than through eating or what we breathe.

Children and teens are especially susceptible to chemicals. While the FDA does test chemicals and additives to see if they cause cancer, they do not look at the effects these chemicals may have on our growing children. In fact, children products are notoriously toxic. They do not test how it may accumulate in children. They do not test the hormonal effects or potential learning disabilities associated with additives. And then there is the potential problems missed from mixing chemicals by exposure to a variety over a short period of time.

The list of chemicals in any one product is staggering, just look at an ingredient list and try and pronounce them all. Most ingredients that are listed are harmful chemicals proven to cause cancer and birth defects. According to the Environmental Defense Group, some 78% of the chemicals in personal care products have not even been tested for toxicity. While Europe has stricter standards, the U.S. government does not police all chemical ingredients in personal care items. Companies are allowed to do it because it's only a "minute amount" of this or that bad chemical. The theory is that a little bit can't hurt. But the reality is that all those minute amounts are compounded into all the luscious creams, lotions, shampoos, perfumes, sprays, deodorants, cosmetics. On top of that, we use these products daily, thus compounding the cocktail of chemicals into our body on a regular basis. And, unbeknownst to us, the ingredient list doesn't include everything because many combinations are protected as "trade secret."

But we can take steps to safeguard ourselves. Choose companies that take an interest in our health, not just their bottom line in creating effective yet safe products:
Tips to remember when shopping:
  1. Labels on the front are for sales purposes when it comes to personal care items. Organic does not necessarily mean safe for personal care products. It's a marketing ploy. There are currently no certifications for personal care products to be organic, though it is in the works. Choose companies that truly offer organic ingredients not just an organic smattering so they can highlight that on their label or, my favorite, when they say it's 90% organic because it's, oh, 90% water infused with organic essential oil.
  2. Make sure your hair coloring is lead-free free and read to avoid other harmful chemicals.
  3. Personal care items should be free of Sodium-Laureth/Lauryl Sufite or SLS and Parabens, and other harmful chemicals.
  4. Lipstick does indeed get ingested as we eat, drink, kiss, and lick our lips . Many lipsticks contain lead. Choose lipstick with ingredients that you would eat since after all, you are going to eat it.
  5. Choose nail polish that is formaldehyde and toluene free.
  6. Perfumes can include a laundry list of items not on the label. Most include hormone disrupters, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. Phthlates are known hormone disrupters leading to issues in fertility; they have been linked to birth defects. Once you understand what's in there, the aroma won't be as alluring. Choose pure essential oils instead.
  7. If pregnant, you are sharing what you spray and put on your skin so choose carefully for the health and safety of your wee one.
Or try doing without commercial products altogether. One Generation has great posts on making your own homemade safe and effective:
Recently, a friend of ours commented that my family's hair looked great. I laughed. We recently started no-pooing and me with my very curly hair always had frizzy in the humid south Florida climate and now no extra products and no frizz - just simple baking soda/water combo and rinse with vinegar/water/vanilla bean solution. The kids are doing it too and some are happy not to have to wash their hair anymore.

Link for more information:

This post is part of two Carnivals:

Getting Human is the topic for today at


Join the Real Food Wednesday Carnival by heading over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop for Natural Body Care Products for Real Foodies and Join the Works For Me Wednesday Carnival by going to We Are That Family.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alphabet Soup: GMO (archive for FBF)

Link to my previous post on Genetically Modified Foods, how and why to avoid them for FBF.

I am a Food RENEGADE!This is part of Food Renegade's FIGHT BACK FRIDAYS where people who are fighting back against the dominate food culture blog about our adventures in real food including:
  • updates & stories about our Real Food journey,
  • tips,
  • recipes,
  • anything we think others might find useful, helpful, encouraging, or inspiring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wowee, my first Award

Carolyn from Taste a Beet chose me for the Kreativ Blogger Award and I am ever so grateful! This is what she wrote about my blog: "Annie is amazingly versed in organic foods, green cleaning, how to buy local, and mostly how to live with principle when there isn’t any around you." Thank you, Carolyn! I am honored to be one of your picks and appreciate your kind words very much.

Be sure to head over to Taste a Beet (don't you love the name of that blog! I mean, even if you don't like beets, and if you don't then I believe you haven't had them prepared properly, you gotta love the bold title.) and check out her creative ways to include the eleven best foods you’re not eating.

The way this award works is to pay it forward to 10 other people. So here are my nominees in no official order:
  1. Carolyn chose her but I'm going to have to be a copy-cat and offer up this award to Kimberly, The Nourishing Gourmet. Her blog is easy to read and offers a wealth of information that allows the reader to apply new ideas into our lives. I also love her pictures. Follow her journey to good health through real food.

  2. Melinda with One Green Generation blogs about green and frugal living. She shares tips on making small changes in the way we live to help preserve our planet and create sustainable communities for our future.

  3. Edrian is the quintessential creative blogger with her beautiful art work and etsy shop cuties. Her creativity focuses on things kids would like or parents would like for their children and she's working on her first illustrated children's book.

  4. Anne Marie is a Cheeseslave who is passionate about food. Her blog offers a plethora of information on healthy eating based upon Nourishing Traditions. She also organizes the Real Food Media blog network dedicated to slow and traditional food. Her motto says it all: "For the love of cheese. And bacon. And butter. And raw milk. And all those other things we’re not supposed to eat." What's not to love there, right?

  5. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish is an inspiration to plastic-free living, well, as plastic-free as one can get in today's world. Beth makes this challenge seem attainable and admits to her successes and disappointments. She includes information that is pertinent to living a healthier life and tips to help heal the planet and our bodies by reducing the use of plastic.

  6. The New Hunter Gatherer is Justine who adds articles, news information, videos, and shares her no-nonsense approach to frugal healthing living through Nourishing Traditions and the GAPS diet after reclaiming the health of her family through food.

  7. Katrina at Kale for Sale enticed me with the name of her blog because anyone who knows me knows that I love Kale, then it reads: "Grandpa's wooden sign hung on the oak at the top of the hill for thirty years. "What is kale?" I finally asked." and I was hooked with the answer. You'll just have to check it out yourself to find out. Love her pictures, Haiku Friday, Local Produce listing for her area, and her dedication to eating locally.

  8. Bonnie and the great researchers and writers at the Ethicurean have been a long-time favorite. This blog celebrates cooking, keeps us abreast of the laws, discusses food recalls, and honors the ethicurean in us all.

  9. Holly offers up Sustainable Suppers where you will learn everything from no-pooing to delicious healthful recipes. She shares her passion for food in her own sassy style with her very back to basics approach.

  10. Kelly the Kitchen Kop shares her real life changes to Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions eating in her family even with teenagers (and his friends) and shares tips to make it work in your family too. She runs the Real Food Wednesdays which I have enjoyed participating in of recent.
Gosh it was so easy to get these 10 and I frequent posts reguarly so I'm sure I missed some other well deserving bloggers. Please don't take offense, I'm sure this award will come your way too.

Congrats Kreativ Bloggers and thank you for making our space more fun and inspirational!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My kids love cauliflower! Bet you can't say that. Maybe you can, maybe you understand the smile that starts in your toes and draws to both sides of your face when your child asks for a fruit or a vegetable or something as unhip as cauliflower.

I admit it; I was a cauli-hater. I saw no real redeeming value in that white (so I figured tasted bad AND not high in antioxidants) cabbage-like vegetable. That was until I roasted it one day and the bowl hardly made it to the table as we all tasted and tasted and tasted. That's still our favorite and easiest way to prepare cauliflower. The kids LOVE it. I love it. Even the Husband loves it. I bet the dog would too if he ever got any but we clean the bowl. Now I buy and make two at a time to keep up with our ravenous cauli-tite.

Like Broccoli, Cauliflower is a cruciferous super-vegetable that helps ward off and fight certain cancers. Only cruciferous vegetables are rich in the nutrients isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol, all linked with reducing the risk of breast, prostate, cervical, lung, and other cancers. Cruciferous vegetables boost the immune system, support cardiovascular health, build bones, fight cardiovascular disease, fight age-related macular degeneration, and help fight against birth defects. We should all make them a part of our healthful delicious diet.

Be on the lookout when YELLOW or ORANGE and PURPLE Cauliflower is available. Broccoflower and Romanesco Cauliflower, that's the one that looks like a lime-colored crown, are also fun and different. We love to try new vegetables and in new ways but hey, when you find something you love, like roasted cauliflower, well we make that all the time.

Roasted Cauliflower Power

Preheat oven to 425F
Chop up the cauliflower into sort of even size pieces so they cook the same
Drizzle on some olive oil and toss it around to coat it. Sprinkle on some sea or grey salt.
Lay on a cookie sheet. Do not crowd it. This is important, if you crowd it, it will steam, not the delicious goodness you are looking for so don't crowd it.
Roast 15-20 minutes, maybe more depending upon the size of your pieces, until it browns and caramelizes at the tips and tops and is tender. (Fork it to be sure, you don't want it tough or chewy, should be tender and soft and delicious!) Enjoy hot out of the oven - I dare you to get it to the table without a massive dent in the bowl.

Will make a cauli-lover out of any cauli-hater, takes one to have known one.

Roasting vegetables this way can actually make any vegetable more delicious as it caramelizes it. You can chop KALE and do the same thing (again, be careful not to crowd it and WATCH IT - don't overcook it - then crunch away like potato chips.) Broccoli is great roasted too. So is sliced cabbage. Remember the secret is not to crowd the pan.

So good. So easy. Roasted veggies are a healthy food my kids love!

Some other things I do to add nutritious foods to our kids bellies:
  • Breakfast Smoothies of course - I add flaxseed meal, flax oil, or chia seeds for added omega 3s as well as a healthy amount of fresh and colorful fruits, splash of vanilla, some honey or maple syrup and maybe a dash of cinnamon to milk, yogurt or kefir.
  • I add leafy greens to stews, dinners, lunches and our favorite is adding a healthy dose of Spinach to Basil Pesto which I add to everything from brunch Frittatas to Stews to Pizza. Getting more veggies is much easier when you start the day with foods like frittata. See my post on Greens here with that recipe and more ideas.
  • We have a hot breakfast in the morning, no cold cereal, rarely hot cereal, it's usually eggs. The lutein, antioxidants, protein, are all good to start their day. Some of them like scrambled, others like the yellows good and runny. Of course only organic and preferably pastured and free roaming and not soy-fed.
  • The kids love grassfed meat and rice and of course I add shredded zucchini and other vegetables, like a stir-fry.
  • The kids enjoy (healthful) yogurt as a snack or a meal. They like dipping spelt pretzels into it or fruits. Make sure it is real yogurt, not the ones loaded with sugars, emulsifiers, fillers and rBGH. We like Seven Stars organic biodynamic brand best - the vanilla rocks but we usually get plain and add the maple syrup and vanilla ourselves.
  • We eat together. We eat our meal not several different meals. We eat together. I had to say that twice because I have seen several friends feed their kids "kid-food" first and then clean up the kids, send them away, and sit down for the adult meal. Kids need to be part of that adult meal. They need to see us taste new foods, even if we don't like it. They need to see us eat our vegetables. They need to be with us and we need to be with them.
I'm not a believer in hiding vegetables in the brownie. If that's your thing, that's cool, it's just not mine. I think that the brownie should be experienced unadulterated and pure, with very little flour and only whole wheat, and succanat, but you will not find spinach puree in my baked goods.

I will, however, hide vegetables in ground beef, meatballs, meatloaf, pesto.

I think kids should see and enjoy the color of vegetables and experience each one at least three times, yes, even under duress and threat of taking away every electronic device that they cannot bear to live without. They won't starve, I promise, well, they may for a couple days if they are as stubborn as one of mine, but hey, it's part of the adventure and eventually they will indeed eat the food you prepare for your family.

For more tips on how my children make good food decisions on their own see: How Has Real Food Changed Our Lives?

This post is part of two Carnivals:

Getting Human is the topic for today at


is about Kid-Friendly Real Food - Healthy Food Kids Love! Join the Real Food Wednesday Carnival by heading over to CheeseSlave and Join the Works For Me Wednesday Carnival by going to We Are That Family.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Come Clean Now - Green Spring Cleaning

We did it cold turkey. We just stopped buying all the "brand" name cleaners. It was a bit strange. It was many years ago when we had a housekeeper. Talk about a deer caught in the headlights!

She resisted hard. She even went out and bought some products herself but we made it clear that this was our new reality. Slowly we all learned how to use safer brands and regular household items we had on hand to clean.

Turns out that smell we have been taught is "clean" is actually toxic. We have to retrain our sniffer once we stop using chemical cleaners. Standard cleaning products are linked to infertility, asthma, and cancer. These strong chemicals can be especially dangerous to our children. According to a 1991 study, we use more than 25 gallons of toxic products per year in our homes. Indoor air pollution is often much worse than the pollution outdoors; this is due in large part to the cleaning products and air fresheners, but also is due to burning scented candles and off-gassing of new items in our home. These smells are harmful to us, our children, and our environment.

To make your home truly clean and healthy, make changes slowly. For many of us, changing brands and the way we clean (as well as the choice we make in our personal care items) is the last thing to change. It's hard to do it differently than the way our mother did it. But I encourage you to join me and many others in making this change. Do it for your health, the health of your family, and to tread lighter on the planet. Start with the worst offender, Chlorine.

Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite) is one of the most widely used toxins for cleaning. Chlorine can react with other chemicals, like ammonia, to damage lungs and the fumes are possible carcinogens. Once Chlorine gets into our environment, it forms cancer-causing compounds. Studies show a link between dioxins and cancer as well as reproductive problems, endocrine disruption, and a weakened immune system. It is listed as a "hazardous pollutant" according to the Clean Air Act and is on EPA's Right To Know List.

Chlorine is used in clothing, paper products, swimming pools, laundry products, scouring pads, in our drinking/bathing water, and of course in cleaning products. It is readily absorbed through the skin and is toxic when inhaled. In fact, it was used full strength as a weapon to destroy the lungs of soldiers in WWI. Detergents and Chlorine are the leading cause of childhood poisonings. Cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10%t of all toxic exposures according to U.S. Poison Control Centers, and nearly two-thirds involve children under six years of age who swallow or spill cleaners on themselves.

Avoid personal and cleaning products that contain:
  • Ammonia
  • APEs - Alkylphenol Ethoxylates
  • Chlorine Bleach
  • Fragrance*
  • Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate - SLES or SLS Sodium Laureth Sulfate
*When the ingredients generally list "fragrance," it is highly likely that they are hiding phthalates. Phthlates are known hormone disrupters leading to issues in fertility; they have been linked to birth defects. Plasticizers in plastic products also contain phthalates. Fragrance from pure, natural, essential plant oils are fully biodegrade and are non-toxic.

But this is a very short list and unbeknownst to us consumers, not all ingredients are listed on labels because they are considered "trade secrets." This is common in perfumes and personal care products. But watching for these key chemicals is a start.

Then there are terms that make us feel warm and fuzzy so we buy them thinking they are safer but buyer beware, the following terms are unregulated or don't necessarily mean much of anything:
  • "biodegradable" (unless it gives a clear time frame)
  • "eco-friendly"
  • "nontoxic"
  • "natural"
  • "no CFCs" - no Chlorofluorocarbons**
  • "non-toxic"
  • "organic"
**Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrochloro-Flourocarbons (HCFCs), and Halons deplete the ozone layer and allow UV radiation to get to earth (potential skin cancer). They are also a cardiovascular toxin. They have therefore been BANNED since 1978. So a note of "no CFCs" on the label of an aerosol is completely misleading and meaningless. Nowadays aerosols use Isobutane Propane and Butane and though they don't destroy the ozone layer, the latest studies indicate that they are toxic to the heart and central nervous system. Aerosols are inherently dangerous because the very nature of pushing tiny droplets into the air means that the contents can be easily inhaled and absorbed quickly into our bloodstream. As a rule, avoid aerosols.

There are now plenty of safer cleaning brands including: CitraSolv, Ecover, Oxo-brite, Ecos/Earth Friendly, Seventh Generation, and now even Chlorox has Green Works. All of these work just as well as the standard commercial brand but are safer for people and planet. Begin by replacing your standard brands as they run out with better brands or better yet, save money by making your own safe effective cleaning products (as well as personal care products) at home with simple supplies like:
  • Baking Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Borax
  • Club Soda
  • Corn Starch
  • Essential Oils
  • Flour
  • Herbs, fresh
  • Hot Water - steamer or boiling water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Lemons and Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Liquid Castile Soap - Dr. Bronner's
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Scrub Brushes, Spray Bottles and Containers
  • Sodium Carbonate or Washing Soda or Soda Ash
  • Toothpaste
  • Vinegar
Baking Soda is a great all around, nontoxic, product with many uses. It deodorizes, scrubs gently, polishes, cleans and removes stains.
  • removes tarnish from silver
  • cleans stainless steel
  • removes crayon marks from walls
  • deodorizes, neutralizing acid-based odors
  • absorbs odors
  • soothes sunburns, prickly heat and wind burn
how to:
  1. dab with a damp cloth as a nonabrasive cleanser for kitchen and bathroom and to get crayon, ink, or pencil marks off walls and wallpaper, wipe clean
  2. mix with salt for a tougher abrasive for sinks and kitchen
  3. add a cup to the laundry wash to neutralize perspiration odors and other odors
  4. add 1/4 cup to laundry as a fabric softener
  5. use as and air freshener, carpet deodorizer, and to absorb odors in the fridge
  6. make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to silver with damp cloth, rub, rinse and buff
  7. for a stronger laundry detergent and stain remover- add 1/2 cup baking soda to the detergent
  8. polish silver and stainless steel with a paste of baking soda and water
  9. soothe sunburn with a mild 15 minute bath with 1/2 c baking soda in the bath water
  10. baking soda mixed with confectionery sugar will kill the roaches - BOOYAH!
  11. mix with Castile soap like Dr. Bronners to form a gentle creamy cleanser
  12. Tub and Tile Cleaner - mix 1 2/3 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup Castile soap and 1/2 cup water. Right before ready to apply add 2 T vinegar (vinegar reacts with baking soda if you add it too early so wait a few minutes and then do it when you're ready.) Apply, wipe and scrub. This recipe is from CHEC
  13. Silver Tarnish Magic - in a clean sink put a sheet or a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, then add 1 t baking soda, 1 t salt and 2 quarts boiling water and stir. Add your silver and let soak. Voila! Rinse, dry and buff with a nice soft cloth.
  14. Maintain clean drains, mix: 1/2 cup baking soda,1/2 cup salt and1/8 cup cream of tartar. Pour it down drain and follow with hot water. Note: Use all mixture; it does not remain active if stored. (from Home Safe Home) OR pour the old box that has done it's time in the fridge absorbing odors down the garbage disposal to freshen the disposal. If you need to degrease the disposal too, after the baking soda add 1 cup of vinegar and let it bubble for 15 minutes or overnight. Rinse with hot water. (this recipe from CHEC HealtheHouse, Safe Cleaning recipes)
Borax is a natural mineral and can be used as a ant trap and another roach killer when mixed with sugar. IMPORTANT NOTE: keep out of the reach of kids and pets as it's toxic if swallowed. Cautions: use gloves with it, don't use on aluminum
  • disinfects
  • kills mold and bacteria
  • inhibits the growth of mold
how to:
  1. Disinfectant - mix together:
    1/2 cup borax
    1 gallon hot water (use 2 gallons water to clean the floors)
    for added touch add some drops of essential oil or steeped fresh herbs (don't forget to pull out the herbs before you use it)
    you can also add 1/4 cup castile soap for extra cleaning strength
  2. Disinfectant - this recipe from CHEC HealtheHouse, Safe Cleaning recipes. Mix and put in spray bottle:
    2 t borax
    4 T vinegar
    3-4 cups hot water
  3. Extra Strength Disinfectant - this recipe from CHEC Heal the House, Safe Cleaning recipes. Mix together:
    2 t borax
    4 T vinegar
    3-4 cups hot water
    1/4 t castile soap
  4. Remove Mildew in the bathroom by letting this sit on the site a few minutes and then scrubbing (from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely):
    1/2 cup vinegar
    1/2 cup Borax
    2 cups water
  5. Blood stains can be removed(this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely)by first rinsing in cold water, then scrubbing under warm water, then dip in a solution of:
    1 quart borax
    2 cups cold water
  6. Stains on clothes - pre-wash soak clothes in water with Borax (or Lemon Juice or Hydrogen Peroxide or Vinegar)
  7. Cleaner, general, mix (from Home Safe Home): Mix hot water, castile soap, borax.
  8. Toilet Cleaner:
    1 cup of borax
    1/4 cup distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
    and let it sit a few hours (or leave borax in overnight and then add vinegar the next day). Then scrub it with a toilet brush and flush clean.
Club Soda can help remove stains and can be combined with other products.
  • blot recent stain, pour on club soda, rub, wash as usual
  • pre-laundry to remove grease or wine stains - pour it on and scrub
  • apply to wine stain on carpet and rub it in, wait and few moments and sponge off
  • pour over fixtures to clean and shine
Corn Starch can be used in combination with baking soda as a deodorant under clean under arms. It has many uses, be sure to get non-GMO corn starch.
  • removes sand off the kids from the beach before they get into the car
  • removes cut hair off the kids after haircuts
  • is a safer than baby powder
  • cleans and deodorizes carpets and life's messes in carpets
  • for crisp ironing - mist on 2 T cornstarch in 1 pint water (shake before spraying) (this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely)
Essential Oils - like lavender, clove, tea tree oil (fungicide), grapefruit seed extract - 1teaspoon to 2 cups water or 20 drops per quart:
  • adds fragrance
  • has some cleaning and antibacterial power
  • use as an effective, safe air freshener
  • Herbs like essential oils can add fragrance. Steep them in the hot water. Bay leaves in the flour will keep the buggies away.
Flour is an all purpose effective abrasive that can clean:
  • chrome - use white flour on a dry rag
  • copper, brass, bronze and pewter - mix 1:1:1 Flour, Salt and Vinegar to form a thick paste. Rub on, let sit for an hour, rinse off and buff.
Boiling Hot Water is a powerful disinfectant and kills germs. Use it in the shower when rinsing it down. Scrub your cutting board with hot water and soap after each use.

Hydrogen Peroxide is also a great disinfectant and helps heal cuts.
  • Clean your cutting board with a spray of peroxide and then separately spray with vinegar or vice versa (don't combine them in one bottle. doing one and then the other is best.)
Lemon and Fresh Lemon Juice smells great, cuts grease, and whitens because it is acidic. Lemons come in their own scrubbing case - use the entire lemon!
  • neutralizes alkaline - dissolves gummy build up, tarnish, removes dirt from wood
  • cleans stains on porcelain and aluminum - dip cloth in lemon juice, polish, rinse with warm water
  • cleans copper, bronze and aluminum - rub with lemon slices, if necessary, sprinkle lemons with baking soda and then rub (this recipe from CHEC Heal the House, Safe Cleaning recipes)
  • mix lemon juice with baking soda and water to disinfect countertops, microwaves, bathrooms
  • apply lemon juice to a stain on cotton clothes then let the sun to naturally bleach it
Liquid Castile Soap like Dr. Bronners is an all purpose cleaner that can be used in a myriad of ways. It is a mild soap made from olive or coconut oil instead of the typical petroleum-based cleaner.
  • refill your hand foam soap dispensers with 1/3 to 1/2 castile soap and water
  • It cuts grease and can be used to clean almost anything.
Oil is great for furniture polish. You can use virtually any oil including olive, coconut or flax seed oil to make your own furniture polish:
  • mix oil:lemon juice in proportion 1:1/2
  • mix 1 T lemon juice or white vinegar with 1/2 cup oil
  • mix 1 t oil with 1/2 vinegar for dusting (this recipe from CHEC Heal the House, Safe Cleaning recipes)
Salt is a nice abrasive and can be used for gently scrubbing and cleaning. Add salt to a copper pan with a lemon and scrub to get off the tarnish. (this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely)

Sodium Carbonate or Washing Soda is a natural mineral related to baking soda but much stronger. It cuts grease, cleans petroleum oil, removes wax and lipstick, neutralizes odors. Cautions: use gloves with it. Don't use on fiberglass, aluminum, or on waxed floors (unless you want to remove the wax); don't use a thick paste on a painted surface or it will peel off the paint.

how to:
  1. tough jobs on glass or stone: make a paste with washing soda and water, spread it on, leave overnight but mist it some to keep it moist, rinse
  2. for a stronger laundry detergent and stain remover- add 1/2 cup washing soda to the detergent
  3. for a stubborn stains - make a paste of water and washing soda (use gloves) or use non-chlorine bleach like Oxo-Brite or another one containing Sodium Percarbonate or Sodium Perborate.
  4. General Cleaner - from Home Safe Home:
    1/2 cup washing soda
    bucket of hot water
  5. Floor Cleaner for greasy floors - mix together:
    1 cup white vinegar
    2 gallons hot water
    1/4 cup washing soda
    1 T soap
Toothpaste is a great nonabrasive cleanser (and it smells minty fresh too!)
  • use to get the white rings off wood furniture - dab it on, let it dry and gently buff off (this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely)
Distilled White Vinegar can clean so many surfaces from the hard to the soft, it shines metal and yes, it even does windows. It is acidic, it kills germs, it whitens, it cleans mildew, soap scum and grime from the bathtub, tile, shower curtains, it cleans copper, bronze and pewter
  • removes stains from cloth (clothes, furniture) - apply to the stain and then wash
  • use in bathroom - fixtures and floor
  • cleans rust - soak in vinegar overnight
  • pre-laundry to keep colors brighter and prevent fading
  • disinfect kitchen surfaces
  • kill bacteria, mold and virus in the bathroom
  • after applying baking soda water solution to "wash" your hair, apply a vinegar water solution to rinse it
how to:
  1. straight strength for cleaning rust and mildew and as pre-laundry
  2. as a fabric softener use 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle
  3. 1:1 Vinegar:Water in a spray bottle and wipe clean for lighter jobs
  4. Windows:
    1 quart of water and 1/4 cup of vinegar OR
    1 quart of water and 3 T of vinegarOR
    ratio of 1:1/2 water:vinegar (this recipe from CHEC Heal the House, Safe Cleaning recipes)
  5. Extra Dirty Windows: 2 cups of water and 3 T of vinegar and 1/2 t castile soap
  6. soak bright colors in vinegar for 10 minutes before washing in the laundry
  7. add it to soap to make a new super soap mixture
  8. Floor Cleaner - (this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely) mix together:
    1 cup white vinegar
    2 gallons hot water
  9. Toilet cleaner - leave overnight - combine 1:1:1
    baking soda
    white vinegar
  10. For cleaning up grease, cleaning expert Annie Berthold-Bond recommends a spray bottle with:
    1/2 teaspoon of washing soda,
    2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar,
    1/4 teaspoon liquid soap, and
    2 cups of hot water
  11. Clean copper, brass, bronze and pewter - mix 1:1:1 Flour, Salt and Vinegar to form a thick paste. Rub on, let sit for an hour, rinse off and buff. Clean copper with lemon juice or hot vinegar and salt.
  12. to get out Chocolate & Coffee Stains mix: 1 teaspoon Vinegar with1 quart cold water. Sponge on and wipe clean. (this recipe from Pinksunrise Family Health Center, Cleaning the House Safely)
Other cleaning tips and tidbits for eco-friendly cleaning on a budget:
  • Use cold water instead of hot water and save 85% of the energy and $ on the washer.
  • 5-10% of the electric bills are for using the dryer so line dry. Sunshine can bleach out stains and is a natural disinfectant.
  • Wipe windows with newspaper for streak-free clean.
Links for more info:
Recommended Reading:

This is part of the Green Moms Carnival. Tiny Choices is hosting the March carnival: Green Spring Cleaning

If you’d like to participate, please send a link to your relevant blog post by March 8th to: jenn AT tinychoices DOT com. The carnival will run on March 10th.

And in related awesome news, the Green Moms Carnival recently won the “Green” category at the Shorty Awards!

New Nina Planck Book - Advanced Copy Giveaway of “Real Food for Mother and Baby”!

Kelly the Kitchen Kop has several advanced copies of Nina Planck's new book "Real Food for Mother and Baby" that she is offering as a giveaway until March 13th. Link here for details.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Time-Saving Kitchen & Nutrition Tips - The Healthy Pantry

When you ditch the microwave (that's another post) and stop buying most pre-packaged foods, you start to create short cuts to having real food in a hurry. Real food doesn't necessarily take more time, I can usually get dinner on the table in 30, but it does take planning and having a good filled pantry (fresh, frozen, dry) of supplies so I know I can make anything based upon the fresh veggies or meats I have on hand. I choose organic (non-gmo) for everything except meats and fish, those are grass-fed and wild respectively.

My Pantry consists of Dry - Frozen - Refrigerated/Fresh -

  • Nutiva Organic Extra Vir...Oils: olive, coconut, palm shortening, macadamia nut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Stock, preferably fresh made and frozen but I have some of that organic chicken stock on hand just in case, don't tell anyone
  • Basic spices - sea salt, (NOTE: this is NOT regular table salt! I only use real sea salt, grey salt, river salt, we feel a big difference in our health and if we ever eat out, we can feel the difference in the sodium.) fresh black peppercorns, cumin, cayenne or chili pepper flakes, curry and curry paste, maybe some spice blends, vanilla beans and vanilla extracts
  • Canned tomatoes whole and diced (make sure it's in a lined can so the aluminum doesn't leach from the high acidity of tomatoes and only organic tomatoes)
  • Brown Rice (there are so many kinds of rice: Red, Wild, Sweet Brown, Short & Long Grain), Brown Rice Pasta (we love Tinkyada brand), Quinoa, Millet, Wheatberries, Grits (only organic), Kamut Berries, Barley, Oats (steel cut, rolled, thick rolled, Scottish, we use them all in different ways)
  • Baking supplies - flour, (I'm using the last of the organic unbleached all purpose and whole wheat flours, moving toward Amaranth Flour, Coconut Flour, Buckwheat, Spelt, Garbanzo Flour and things like that. Also having whole wheat berries I'll be getting a Vitamix to grind my own and make my own sprouted wheat - can't wait!), chocolate chips, baking powder/baking soda, yeast, chia seeds (whole and pulverized - I add them to smoothies and baked goods to add omega 3s)
  • Honey - I like YS Organic Honey and New Zealand honeys, but there are tons of lovely organic honeys each with their own qualities. I use one from Africa on meats and in sauces, it is the only honey I know of that is from a flowering tree; the flavor depends upon the flowering blossoms and organic means the bees are roaming on pesticide-free flowersWedderspoon Raw Organic ...
  • Crackers - particularly wheat-free and crunchy ones like Mary's Gone Crackers and Foods Alive Golden Flax Crackers
  • Condiments: Soy sauce from fermented nonGMO soy beans, Fish sauce, Mustard, Vinegar, Kethcup (Organicville makes one with Agave instead of sugar)
  • Nut butters: Almond, Cashew, Macadamia Nut, others
  • Fair Trade Coffee & Tea
  • Madhava Pure Organic Raw...Sweeteners we use Sucanat, I love the flavor and color of it, or Rapadura which is a brand name of the same thing, we also use in moderation: Brown Rice Syrup, Agave, Xylitol, and Therasweet from Living Fuel and
  • Organic Maple Syrup, Maple Chunks and Maple Sugar
  • Date Sugar
  • Jam, there are organic all-fruit spreads by bionaturae that are great!
  • Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna
  • Beans - canned and dried especially cannellini, garbanzo and black beans
    Snacks for kids - Fruitabu Twirls, Freeze-dried fruit like Just Tomatoes Just Organic Strawberries, things like that we have for lunchboxes and quick snacks
  • Raisins, Apricots, Cherries, and other dried fruit
  • Fair Trade Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder, I have some organic fair trade milk chocolate for the kids but they are beginning to like some of the dark ones now too
  • Seaweed stuff - Sushi wrappers, Dulse, Wakame
  • Nuts: we have a big variety - cashews, pecans, walnuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseedmeal (great for baked goods and smoothies), every kind, I keep them in the freezer to keep them fresh since they have a high fat content which can lead to them going rancid quickly
  • wild alaskan salmonFrozen fruit are great for smoothies. Any fresh fruit that doesn't get eaten gets frozen. Frozen fruit are also great to put in a juicer to make mock ice cream or even just to eat right out of the bag.
  • Frozen veggies are good to have on hand for frittatas, stews, etc. but I prefer fresh.
  • Grassfed Meats/Pastured Free Roaming Organic Poultry/Wild Alaskan Seafood - grassfed ground beef, lamb, turkey, grassfed bison, bacon, burgers, skirt steaks, salmon, halibut, a variety of cuts and kinds of meats and fish
  • Frozen pre-made meals that I made extra including Chicken & Beef Stock, Stews, Soups (lots of soups), breakfast muffins, desserts
  • I store Wheat Germ and Whole Wheat products in the freezer or anything I buy in bulk
  • Grass-fed Dairy: Heavy Cream, Milk, Butter, Kefir, Cheeses, Sour Cream, Ricotta Cheese, Yogurt (we like Seven Stars brand, I get plain and add vanilla and maple syrup) - always organic and rBGH-free and grassfed. If in Miami get Raw Milk at the Miami Coop or contact Justine with The New Hunter Gatherer or your visit the Weston Price Foundation
  • Flax oil - great to add to smoothies or salad dressings
  • Eggs - organic, preferably pastured
  • Fresh Fruits, Veggies and Herbs - LOTS of Fruits & Veggies - and a great variety!
  • Cultured Veggies, Pickles, Olives
  • Miso
  • Kombucha (have to learn how to make it myself)
  • Organic Deli Meats, but not that much since they are not usually grassfed, when I can find grassfed nitrite-free deli meats, we have our way with those
Save time shopping by going online, Amazon has lots of great groceries and organics now too, that way you can comparison shop and take your time.

When I cook an item I use a lot, I make extra and freeze it including:
  • soups - especially when veggies are plentiful (or about to go bad) like Roasted Pepper Soup, Broccoli soup, and of course Chicken and Beef Stock
  • basil spinach pesto - I freeze and then I can add that to anything from stews to pizza to frittatas or anywhere I need to add some greens and some flavor. Link here to see other GREENS tips.
  • baked goods - desserts, cakes, muffins, pancakes, waffles, all of these freeze very well and that way it's there when you need it when friends pop by
More Meal-Make-In-A-Hurry Tips -
  • make extra - use leftovers and create something new, heat them up as is for leftovers the next day, freeze them for another day
  • I'll make meatballs and freeze them uncooked to use another time: drop them into soup, braise them, cook them in the oven - ready to go and I know what went into them!
  • freeze peeled GINGER, I peel it and freeze it. It grates easily frozen, no need to thaw, and that way I always have some on had to grate into any dish with my micro-rasper.
  • freeze any fresh fruit or vegetable you don't use in time for use later
  • fresh fruits and vegetable preparation - I cut up apples and swoosh them in orange juice to keep them from browning and use as a quick snack; cut up celery and carrots and have on hand in the fridge ready to grab. The kids will grab those with nut butter as a snack. I take fresh herbs and rinse them, shake off the excess water, and wrap them in a kitchen towel and put them in a refrigerator drawer ready to use.
  • I take meat, fish, poultry out of the freezer every couple of days to plan my menu for the next several days
  • sauces make a meal, adding a sauce can change it and make it really delicious
  • extra soup can be used the next day or frozen for another day - be sure to label the frozen food with a date and what it is (maybe even the ingredients or the name of the recipe so you know what it is and what it includes in case of allergies in visitors or new allergies)
  • extra rice can be used the next day to make a chicken/beef/pork/veggie-fried rice
  • stews incorporate veggies, meats, broth, everything in one hearty bowl, I tend to make quite a bit of stews since they are fast to put together, can be crock-potted, are satisfying and nutritious.
  • breakfast for dinner - the kids love eggs, frittatas (great way to mix veggies in), pancakes, omelets, so much you can do with eggs! We tend to have a bigger lunch.
  • oh for my daughter's birthday party I made sandwiches cut up in flower and other shapes and saved all the crusts and used that to make an easy bread pudding with eggs, honey, vanilla, orange zest, milk.
  • don't toss the bones from roasted chicken, you can use that to make a rich chicken stock, add in the parsley stems that you didn't use fresh
Favorite kitchen gadgets and things I could not live without -
  • Glass Pyrex dishes. These are great for storing, come in a variety of sizes, can be used to reheat things straight from the fridge as long as you start them in a cold oven, and can even be used to store things in the freezer! There are containers, mixing bowls, all with tops and in a variety of sizes. They are glass but the tops are plastic. I just try not to overfill them so the top doesn't touch the plastic and I wait for the leftovers to cool before putting the top on the container.
  • Immersion Blender - without a doubt my number one favorite kitchen gadget is my Immersion Hand Blender. I have a Braun, 400 watts, but there are others out there. I use this for making everything including salad dressings, soups, sauces. I use it practically every day. It's easy to use, easy to clean up, and makes cooking from scratch a snap. I cannot imagine preparing food without it.
  • The Microplane Stainless Steel Micro-plane Zester I use for everything from fresh citrus zest to fresh nutmeg to frozen ginger. A must have.
  • Hand-held Grater for grating cheese into sauces, soups and sandwiches, it's easier than the big food processor
  • Cheese Slicer saves money from buying pre-sliced cheese and does a great job. Plus when you slice it yourself, it's fresher and, if you're getting cheese wrapped in plastic, the whole block has less surface area touching the plastic so less change of leaching.
  • Food Processor - it doesn't get as much work in my house but is handy to have
  • Juicer - we haven't been using it as much lately and I don't recommend it if you have a good blender like a Vitamix. The problem with my juicer is that with a family of 6, every time I juice for us it takes forever and then clean-up is not a snap, but I do believe it's important to juice veggies, especially leafy greens.
  • Blender - we use our blender practically every day to make morning smoothies for the kids. I add frozen fruit, milk, honey, sometimes a couple green leaves, chia seeds (for omega 3s), vanilla and blend BUT my goal this year is to get a Vitamix as they are super powerful for smoothies and juicing greens and for my new step into good food: grinding fresh grains
  • Cast Iron Pots and Enameled Cast Iron - of every shape and size to do the job right. if you have any nonstick or silverstone pots and pans, get rid of them and don't buy any more, they are harmful to our bodies and the planet, I'll write a post on that another time.
  • Dehydrator - this is good for everything from keeping home-made yogurt at the right temp to making your own fruit leathers
  • Silicone Spatula, Tongs, Poultry Shears, thin but wide stainless Spatula, Slotted Stainless Spoon, utensils important for the job. If you find this post or my blog helpful, I'd appreciate you linking on the affiliates the next time you want to buy something to help support my writing habit - Thank You!

For Packing Lunches:

This year my kids are back in school. We found this wonderful Montessori school and they are loving it and I do too. I do miss our family big lunches each day and the time together, but they get home so excited with much to tell me. I make the kids lunch each day and usually add a note. Planning and the proper containers make this easier.

I warm up and add leftovers to a stainless steel thermos after filling it with hot water so it stays warm. I make sandwiches on sprouted wheat bread with no nitrate deli meats or cheeses. They love yogurt and I usually add no sugar cookies or pretzels for dipping.

I make raw meatballs "batter" (meat, Parmesan cheese, oats, milk, tomato sauce, seasoning, maybe some basil pesto) and keep it in the fridge to make meatballs and rice for their lunch fresh in the morning; they love those meatballs.

I make panini sandwiches and wrap them in recycled aluminum foil. If using aluminum be sure not to use it on anything acid next to it, to buy recycled foil and to, in turn, recycle it. Aluminum is a killer on the planet to source but can be recycled indefinitely!

Some nifty things for making lunches eco-friendly and healthful include:

LunchBots Uno + Duo Set - cute new container in stainless perfect for sandwiches and snacks

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Container - these are stainless steel bottles and come in a variety of sizes and COLORS perfect for any age and personality

You'll notice what I do NOT have because the ingredients on the manufactured ones are poor:

  • Granola, Granola Bars - store ones contain soy oil, canola oil, bad fats, sugar, all to avoid and it's actually pretty easy and MUCH more delicious to make yourself, I'll post our recipe fave with pictures soon as I'm due to make more
  • Cold Cereal - they normally contain sugar, corn, preservatives, even the organic varieties have things I don't like and I just don't believe cereal is good for us, it starts our day on carbs and the grain is not natural (it's puffed or extruded)
  • Salad Dressing - so easy to make your own, so much more delicious, ones on the market are gmo, soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, even organic ones don't taste good and use bad oils, sugars
  • Mayo - though Wilderness Family Naturals makes a wholesome mayo
  • Frozen Meals and Pre-packaged foods - we make our own "pancake mix" and things like that, it's really easy and doesn't take so much time, there is just a learning curve, as with anything worthwhile in life
  • "White" stuff - plain old white sugar, white flour, white iodized salt, white rice
  • Artificial Sweeteners like Splenda, Asparatame, Saccharine - we use dates, safer sweeteners like xylitol, honey, maple syrup (lots of maple syrup!), date sugar, there are other sweet options
  • "Health" Foods and gimmicky stuff like Acai, unfermented soy stuff, power bars (except we do like Larabars, but they aren't organic so we don't induge that often)
  • Traditional Deli Meats - they contain nitrates which convert to nitrosamines that are carcinogenic
  • "Vegetable" oil like corn, soy, canola, peanut - these are all bad oils, some are even touted as "health" food but the research shows otherwise, more on that later
  • most prepackaged foods. Typical shelf stable non-organic foods contain HFCS, MSG, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colors. Organic foods don't, so it's easy for us to avoid those things but sometimes artificial flavors, MSG, non-GMO soy and corn do lurk in even organic pre-packaged foods so it's important to read labels and KNOW what you're reading.
  • Soda, even organic, it's just liquid candy so we don't buy it
  • Juices - the whole fruit and vegetable is much better than a pasteurized juice which is just full of sugar. We don't drink much juice, we have some on hand but it's not a staple that I must have nor do we drink a lot of it, not really health food
  • Potato Chips, even organic ones, the oil isn't good since they use cheap stuff for their own bottom line and the process of frying them creates acrylamides which are carcinogenic
  • any grain-fed meats or regular conventional rBGH agri-biz dairy
  • most name brands, there are some organic brands we now get but we tend to shy from big name brands just because the product quality ingredients deteriorate to make way for higher profit margins

Eating and preparing real food to me means being frugal with each item and really using everything you can, but it's not always easy. I believe in taking time in preparing and cooking food when possible. Making a meal with love adds flavor, nutrition, and to the pleasurable experience for the one making the food and those enjoying it. We all have our hurried moments, and for those days, which can be many in today's busy world, time-saving tips and being prepared with a good pantry and the right kitchen tools can help us eat healthy in a hurry.

I am really looking forward to reading all the posts for the real food Wednesdays carnival this week and incorporating more ways to save time in the kitchen from these hip, smart, eco-mamas writing these blogs.

This post is part of two Carnivals today:

Join Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family; Join the Real Food Wednesday Carnival by heading over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop

What’s Real Food?

Real food is whole, natural, and nutrient-dense.

* Organic
* Humanely raised (animals on pasture, not in factories)
* Grown locally when possible
* Whole and unrefined (real maple syrup instead of high-fructose corn syrup)
* Processed as little as possible (raw milk instead of pasteurized and homogenized)
* Nutrient-dense (enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics)
* Free of additives and preservatives
* Free of synthetic and chemical ingredients
* Not genetically modified
* Traditionally produced and prepared

In other words, butter or lard instead of shortening or vegetable oil. Real milk from a cow instead of soy milk. Real sprouted flour (ground fresh or purchased) instead of refined white flour. Real, natural sweeteners like honey or unrefined cane sugar (rapadura or sucanat) instead of white sugar.

If it’s highly processed and/or doesn’t come from nature, it’s not real food!

We’re not saying you have to be perfect (nobody is) but try to feature real foods in your recipes and minimize the junk like vegetable oil and refined sugar and additives.