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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recipe: Deliciously Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

My friend Daniela gave me the basic recipe years ago, and it's a staple in our household ever since.

You need (all organic if possible):
* 2 cups rolled oats
* 3/4 cup flour (we use whole spelt)
* 1/2 tsp baking soda or baking powder
* pinch of salt
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 3/4 cup coconut oil
* 3/4 cup maple syrup or other natural sweetener
* 6 tbsp apple sauce
* 1/2 cup raisins and/or nuts and/or sunflower seeds
* whatever else you like in cookies

Mix the oats with the flour and the baking soda or powder, then combine with other ingredients and mix well; place little heaps (with a tablespoon) on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes (including the preheating time).
You can experiment with tons of other ingredients. After using this recipe for many years I can honestly say that no batch ever tastes like the other.
Try vanilla extract, coconut flakes, cranberries and other dried fruit, any fresh fruit you like,...

And if you want to bring the cookies as a gift and want to be environmentally correct, put them in a nice fabric or cloth napkin and close with a ribbon. Looks amazing and helps the Earth!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happier Animals = Healthier Earth!

This is a not so pretty picture of a battery cage. I know the industry wants us to believe that their products come from happy, free-range animals, but in most cases they're not. Think about it!

No worries, I’m not trying to convert you into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, even though I very much support it, being a vegetarian myself.

BUT, and this is a big but, I strongly believe that we do need to change our attitude about animal products – we’re overusing them, in every aspect of our lives.
We all know how devastating factory farming is for the environment. Yet, most of us still don’t give it a second thought when it comes to consuming animal products every single day of our lives. We don’t want to be cruel, but with our lifestyle we support the cruelty of animal agriculture: overfeeding animals so that they contain more meat, produce more eggs and milk; separating them from their mothers, transporting them long distances in inhumane conditions or amputating body parts without painkillers are just a few examples.
In addition, animals raised for mass consumption, contribute more greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions than all the world's automobiles combined!
So what can one do to make things better?
There’s a worldwide vegan bake sale going on from April 24th to May 2nd to support animal issues. All proceeds go to different organizations to help support animal issues.
If you live close to Montclair, swing by the go lightly store on Fullerton Ave on Saturday May 1st from 11am – 4pm to be part of a fun global event that helps people, animals and the planet. All proceeds from this bake sale will go to for the animals sanctuary in Blairstown, NJ and PAWPAC, political action committee for animal legislation support.
I will support the event with homemade crackers (it will be the next recipe for the week!)
Other things to consider:
  • Skip animal products for at least one day per week
  • Buy only organic meats, dairy and eggs
  • Buy from local farms, if possible those that you can go visit
  • Especially when it comes to baking, be open for vegan recipes, there’s a ton out there and they’re really delicious and in most cases healthier than their non-vegan counterparts

Monday, April 26, 2010

Greener Kitchen I

I like to see my kitchen as the belly of the house, or the gut. Since the gut is so important for overall health, a green kitchen is essential when it comes to green living.
So what does a green kitchen mean exactly?
How about a place where fresh, local and whole foods are being prepared in an as sustainable way as possible and without too much waste:

  • Buy local produce rather than that which has traveled thousands of miles
  • Think about joining a local food co-op
  • Visit your local farmer’s market as often as you can (click here for a NJ guide)
  • Compost whenever possible (ask friends or family with a garden whether you can join in the fun if you don’t have your own back yard, or check with Trina (see information on the right under Things To Do Around Town) if you live in Montclair
  • I want to stress how important it is to ONLY buy organic meats and dairy, if possible grass-fed and free-range
  • Try to cut down on meats. Just one meatless meal more per week per family would do so much for the environment
  • When you shop in a store, buy as much from the bulk section as you can: not only does it save you money, it also minimizes waste
  • Try to do your shopping by bike or walking every once in a while. We do most of our shopping walking which means we do it more than once a week (there’s only so much that fits in a stroller…)
  • Avoid processed foods altogether and learn how to read labels. My rule of thumb is if it has more than 5 or 7 ingredients, depending on the product, it can’t be healthy
  • When it comes to cooking, don’t overheat and turn your fan on over the oven
  • Prefer unrefined oils over refined oils (my top choices are olive and coconut oil)
  • Save glass jars and use them for storage rather than buying more and more plastic containers, especially for liquids
  • Avoid paper napkins and use cloth instead (also at work or school)
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet full of whole foods and enjoy!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Day Around Town

What a nice day! It is our 6th anniversary and we spent it in our beautiful town, celebrating quietly and green.
We took a long walk to the downtown area and strolled around the nice green streets around Montclair.
Our first stop was at Market where we had brunch.
Market serves mostly locally grown and organic food, and it always tastes sooo good. Being at Market is such a great experience, every staff member is extremely nice and the atmosphere is very welcoming and kid-friendly.
After brunch we visited some thrift stores and then headed over to The Bread Company where we had a nice chat with Sally and got some yummy, organic stuff. If you have any dietary intolerances, this is the place for you. Will and Sally have it all, from brownies over cookies to pastries and pizza. Delicious!
How awesome to just spend the day in town walking, getting everything we need locally and chatting with all the nice people!
And here’s an idea for eating out: Why not bring your own container if you think you might get a doggie bag?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Water Kefir

The left jar is water kefir in the fermenting stage (you see the grains on the bottom and some of the dried fruit on top); the right bottle is ready-to-drink flavored water kefir

Last Sunday I went to a workshop at the go lightly store in Montclair.
The topic, presented by Green Mom Zoe, was water kefir, which is a vegan, super healthy, fermented drink you can make at home and which is loaded with tons of probiotics (the good bacteria that keeps our gut balanced and healthy).
Why do I post this here on my blog?
First of all because it is so healthy and second, because it’s easy to do and makes a DELICIOUS drink for the whole family. I actually prepare it every day with my 4 year old son and he loves doing AND drinking it.

This is Liam helping me with the preparation of the next round. We do it every single day!

It’s a green thing! You make your very own drink and save on store-brought bottles!
Here’s a quick guide how you do it, for detailed explanations and tutorials check out Zoe’s blog.
You’ll need (no metal is to be used for this drink):
  • a glass container that holds approx. 8 cups, cloth napkin and rubber band
  • plastic strainer or cheese cloth
  • plastic measuring spoon (for 1 tablespoon) and measuring cup
  • plastic or wooden spoon
  • large plastic bowl
  • spatula
  • plastic funnel
  • some glass bottles with lids
  • 6 tablespoons of kefir grains (which you can buy or get from a friend who’s doing it. I got mine from wonderful Trina Paulus, the butterfly lady, who also attended the workshop and who had some extra - they multiply!)
  • Organic sugar and organic sucanat (don’t be turned off by this – about 85-90% of the sugar gets removed due to the fermentation process)
  • Dried, unsulphered fruit such as raisins, apricots, figs,…
  • Fresh fruit or organic juice if you like to flavor your kefir
  • About 10 minutes every day
Here’s a quick guide how I do it (there's a ton of different ways and recipes):
  • Fill glass container with 6 cups of filtered water
  • Add 4 tblsp sugar and 2 tblsp sucanat and stir until dissolved
  • Add the kefir grains
  • Add about a handful of dried fruit of your choice
  • Cover container with cloth napkin and secure with rubber band
  • After 24 hours (or so J ) strain the whole content (keep liquid in bowl, grains and dried fruit in strainer)
  • Rinse container and grains (pick out the fruit and throw out) and start the process again with fresh filtered water, sugar and dried fruit right away
  • Fill kefir in glass bottles and put in fridge (up to 3 days)
  • The kefir is ready to drink, but you can flavor it if you want by adding juice to it and let it sit for another 24 hours (we love organic grape juice). You only need a little bit, so one bottle of juice will go a long way.
I’ve only been doing it for a few days and already the whole family is hooked on it!
Thank you Zoe and Jen for this wonderful opportunity! I hope a lot of people out there get interested and do it, too. Really, really easy and soooo good!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day!

Instead of putting a list together what to do on Earth Day to do good, I'd rather point out some things to stress the importance of change and being green on ANY given day:
  1. Putting garbage of any kind into a bin or flush it down a drain doesn't make it go away - it will stay on earth forever
  2. Recycling is good, avoiding is better
  3. We only have this one Planet Earth and our children and grandchildren will only have this one Planet Earth, so will their grandchildren and great-grandchildren...
  4. Even the slightest change towards a greener lifestyle does good
  5. In celebration of Earth Day, why not think of something special to do that day (and maybe once a week for the future?)
Here's our resolution for Earth Day 2010: leave as little of an ecological footprint as possible. We won't use our car tomorrow, no electricity except phone and computer (for work) and refrigerator. Uhhh, it's gonna be a romantic evening!

Happy Earth Day!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Greener House I

What can you do as an individual to switch your lifestyle to a greener one?
Well, think about it like this: every little step helps! Get started, feel good about it and try to get family and friends on the same boat.
Here are some ideas to start with (and let's start small to not get overwhelmed :-)

  • If you haven't already, use a water filter at home and reusable water bottles (our filter is from aquasana and we use SIGG and Klean Kanteen water bottles)
  • Use cloth napkins at home and at school/work and outside the house never buy disposable cutlery
  • Recycle and make yourself familiar with recycling procedures in your town (my town for example does only accept plastics 1 and 2 - but there are other ways to recycle the others, click here for more info). Here's the guidelines for recycling in NJ
  • Turn off electronic devices and lights when not in use (this is a biggie. Try to watch out for houses at night where there seems to be a light on in every single room!)
  • Switch to energy-saving light bulbs (but be very careful not to break them at all. If you do, you have to follow a very strict protocol to not pollute your living space!)
  • Reuse packaging, paper, envelopes etc. for personal use or art projects (in our family we save almost everything. I started a project with our 4-year old son Liam where I put tons of stuff like toilet paper rolls, magazine papers, envelopes, wool and fabric rests etc. in boxes that we had decorated with stickers before and called it his "Krimskramsecke" (German for "This-and-That corner). For quiet time, Liam loves to go into his room and just starts to make something out of. I was astonished to see how creative he can get!)
This is a "family-feet" mobile that we made of old cardboard, wool rests and colored paper
  • Wrap presents in fabric and wool or packaging paper that kids (or you!) can decorate. Get creative! Think out of the box - like unused clothes, funny magazine pages, newspaper,..
  • Please avoid styrofoam at any cost! BUT WHAT IF I HAVE A PARTY??? I hear you scream. Well, either just use your normal stuff (most of us have a dishwasher for god's sake :-) or try to use biodegradable products that decompost. Another option if you're having a lot of parties and not so many dishes and cutlery is PRESERVE (sold online or at Whole Foods, it's made of recycled #5 plastics)
  • Pass outgrown and unwanted clothes and toys on to somebody who might need or want them. This is also another form of modern recycling! We get most of our stuff used at either garage sales, swaps or from our friend's kids. Saves money and helps the environment
That's enough for a start. The next topic here will be THE KITCHEN!
Check back for more green ideas.

Recycled Art and Gifts

I love art. I consider myself an artsy person.
I also love, as you know, nature and Mother Earth. And I always, always like to do everything in sync, meaning not hurting the environment by doing what I love to do. So how can I do art with good conscious about the environment?
Do it with recycled materials! Let's call this ENVIRONART, how about that?

The other day, I found a very interesting looking iron thing in our garbage area. It has several rings that connect and I can't wait to get my hands on that one. When I'm finished, I'll post a picture here so you can see what I came up with.

I either use recycled materials for our house arts and/or buy supplies at garage sales (water colors, crayons, wool, threads,...)

Sometimes I feel like we live in such an overwhelming world and everybody I know really has everything (if not too much) of anything, meaning it becomes harder and harder to find gifts for people.
If I have trouble thinking of something, I often make a gift myself.
I've painted kids art and framed it (in frames I either found on the street at garbage day or got at garage sales!) or recently I sewed booboo packs (I call them FLEXABOO because I fill them with flax seeds).

This is one of the paintings I have done

And here is Liam's booboo pack. It's about 4x2 1/2" and here's how I do it:
  • Take a fabric rest (approx. 8 1/2 x3") and fold it in half.
  • Figure out where you want to sew the name if you want that and take a much lighter thread. Stitch the name in on the outside.
  • Then turn the fabric and sew around the edges (obviously this is easiest with a sewing machine, which I still don't own :-(, leaving one of the short sides open.
  • Turn your sack inside out so the name is visible and the sewing unvisible.
  • Now fill your little sack with flax seeds and sew the last side tight shot as well. And voila!
  • Put in freezer (it won't get freezing cold like regular booboo packs) and use whenever needed.
I'm also in the process of trying to crochet finger puppets with recycled wool soon. I hope it goes well - I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Food Sensitivities In Toddlers

I want to share our first son's story here.
When Liam was about one, he started to get really stuffed up in his nose and turned into a mouth breather. We saw natural doctors and were advised to cut off dairy and wheat, which at the time sounded like something I was not ever able to do.
So I cut down, but not off completely and matters got worse.
At his second birthday his stuffiness got so bad that I worried about sleep apnea and his general well-being. We saw an ENT specialist as well as an allergist. According to the ENT we should have scheduled surgery right away (she wanted to remove his tonsils and adenoids).
Liam was not suffering from infections of any kind, he just happened to have large glands and obviously something in his environment caused them to fight something that he was exposed to constantly so they never got a chance to shrink in size.
I made another appointment with Dr. Lawrence Palevsky and followed his advice 100%:
  • cut out wheat of any kind completely
  • reduce any bready, doughy stuff (breads, crusts, pretzels, crackers,...)
  • cut out dairy of any kind (milk, yoghurt, cheese)
  • reduce processed soy to a minimum (tofu, soy milk, soy yoghurts and puddings,...)
  • minimize processed foods
  • minimize sugars
Within a week of changing our diet (I put myself on the same diet since I was still breastfeeding), he got 90% better. The open-mouth breathing during the day stopped, the snoring got much, much better and you could just see how much healthier he looked.
Now that he's 4 years old, his tonsils and adenoids are still on the large side and he still sleeps with his mouth open, but his glands are "keepers" and don't need to be removed.

I will post ideas and recipes how to incorporate this kind of diet into a normal family's life on this blog.