Monday, May 31, 2010

Meatless Monday: Week Three

Well, we've had a bit of a break in Meatless Mondays as we were traveling, but we're back and ready to cook!  I'd also like to (again) point you to the Meatless Monday website. The recipes look fabulous on there! I can't wait to try their Tamari Tofu Scramble or their Chimichurri Quinoa Stuffed Artichokes

Without further ado, the recipe for this week is: 
Mixed Vegetable Curry by Madhur Jaffrey (recipe can be found here on the bbc food website - a valuable resource!)

  • ½ medium-sized aubergine, about 100g/4oz, cut into 2cm x 1cm/¾in x ½in pieces

  • 2-3 small carrots, about 100g/4oz, peeled and cut into 2cm x 1cm/¾in x ½in pieces

  • 100g/4oz green beans, cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces

  • 1 medium-sized potato, about 100g/4oz, peeled and cut into 2cm x 1cm/¾in x ½in pieces

  • 100g/4oz peas

  • 50g/2oz desiccated unsweetened coconut (reconstituted weight) that has been reconstituted by soaking in hot water, or frozen grated coconut(available from some Asian grocers), or freshly grated coconut

  • 4 fresh hot green chillies, roughly chopped (I omit these when making it for my 20 month old son, but I'm sure it is great with them in!)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 tbsp white poppy seeds (Again, I tend to leave these out as I don't readily have them on hand, but I am sure it's a great addition)

  • 3-4 medium-sized tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • 1 tbsp plain yoghurt

  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves

Preparation method

  1. Place the aubergine, carrots, green beans and potato in a medium-sized pan. Add 250ml/8fl oz water.

  2. Bring to the boil, add the peas, then cover, turn the heat to medium and cook for four minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

  3. Meanwhile, put the coconut, chillies, salt and poppy seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Add 150ml/5fl oz water and blend to form a fine paste. Set aside.

  4. When the vegetables are just cooked, add the spice paste. Stir and simmer gently for five minutes.

  5. Add the tomatoes, yoghurt and garam masala. Stir gently to mix well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

  6. To serve, place the vegetable curry into a serving dish and garnish with the fresh coriander.

I'm also a big fan of Dr. Oz (he directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and also has a hit show in the USA) -- and love his recipe for Elmo's Red Veggie Alphabet Soup. Try it with your kids! 

Reusable Sandwich Bags (Guest Post)

Please check out my post over at the wonderful site Baby Budgeting! (A fabulous resource for any parent!)

I’ve always been interested in reusable products, but it really struck me that I was throwing a lot of money, resources and products away when packing sandwiches and snacks for my son and partner, particularly the lunch time one-hit wonders. It occurred to me that we don’t throw away the containers that that we use to pack lunches into, so why the bags? So I set out to explore a few low-cost alternatives to reusable food and freezer sandwich bags.
reusable lunch bags
First, for those not comfortable with or lacking access to a sewing machine, I would highly recommend Wrap-n-Mat. It’s washable, reusable and can even act as a placemat for some fancy dining. I found mine at Nigel’s Eco Store for £4.99. You can also find tupperware without scary chemicals like Sistema’s Klip It Picnic/lunch containers that are BPA and lead free.  There are many options out there – just remember not to heat anything in plastic containers – chemicals can leach out scary stuff when heated.
Now, for those of you who are a bit more ”stitchily” inclined, you can try to make your own snazzy reusable packs. I had a piece of fabric leftover that was just the right size, so I decided to make a snack bag. For the inner layer, you can use fabric (like canvas), oil cloth or a cut up a piece of sandwich wrap (my choice for this project). I quickly sewed the 2 pieces together, stitched up the sides leaving a bit of a longer piece in the back and attached Velcro on the front and back for a secure close. For a great (and more helpful) tutorial on making your own, check out 
At 4 bags a day for my partner and son’s lunches/snacks, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year, that’s already that’s already about 1000 bags in savings!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Third Door

I am so pleased to announce that Green Families won the Third Door new business competition! (The prize includes free membership and 30 hours of free workspace/childcare, a platinum Business in a Box package, three X 1 hour consultancy sessions, laptop and smartphone.) I'm so excited and will definitely be posting about my progress.

In the meantime, check out Third Door's site - they provide professional, flexible, co-working office space, a communal social area and fully equipped Ofsted regulated childcare for pre-school children. It's a gorgeous space and I am really amazed by their childcare area! (Henry will love it!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meatless Monday: Week Two

Welcome to our Week Two Meatless Monday post. For a bit of background on why we started this:

On today's menu, a simple but yummy recipe for you:

Artichoke and Chickpea Stew
4 servings

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 110 g yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 0.4 g red pepper flakes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 248 g roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 440.2 g garbanzo beans, drained
  • 945 ml low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 g chopped fresh sage
  • 5 ml lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, cook the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes; cook until the garlic has begun to soften, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, tomatoes, artichokes, garbanzo beans, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the carrots are tender.
  2. Season with sage, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes more to meld the flavors.

I tend to keep artichokes in my "pantry" for pizza toppings (will definitely have to include the best pizza crust recipe I've ever found in another post) - so I usually just throw this together when I haven't done the shopping and am out of ideas. Super easy! I also tend to add more tomatoes than recommended, but it is really up to your preferences! 

This is also a favorite of my 19 month old son! I just omit the red pepper flakes and try to make sure I quarter the artichokes. He loves it over rice.

    or measurements for my american friends: 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 carrots, chopped
4 medium roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 (15.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Get outside!

I've always been a proponent of activities in the great outdoors (i.e.picnics, leisurely strolls under the sun etc, but it should be known that I am not necessarily talking about those with fantastic self-discipline who wake themselves up at 5am everyday because they "love to run under the sunrise"). Seeing how these simple things have had on my disposition, I therefore strongly believe in the power of activities outdoors, like gardening, to turn around one's outlook (at the very least to the value of time spent outside, if not overall -although I may have been watching too many Mr. Men episodes) which has been true for many of my extended family, who view this nature cultivation as their own therapeutic release, but also with children, who still have an innocent wonder to the magic that is nature.

And for those of us who know what it is like when their children are cooped up indoors- we see what a big difference outdoor time has on kids. And it's not just about the gardening (although admittedly that does "build character"), it's about just getting some good ol' fashioned fresh air. There truly is no maximum time a child can spend playing outdoors, running around in the grass, exploring jungle gyms and so forth - it gives them a chance to breathe, to take in and digest everything that has been bombarding them in the classroom, in their daily lives, in the high expectations of their parents) and, at the end of the day, kids need to be kids. It's the natural release valve that we all wish we could have that we cannot afford to deprive or take away from our kids (although I bet most are begging to stay in and play the new Zbox-what-have-you) and despite the fact that there are already not enough hours in a day to do what we all need and want to do, it's amazing how much just an hour, or even 30 minutes outdoors can do to our psyche, much less our stress levels - so it's not surprising that researchers are also saying it's great for mental health

So get out there - go for a walk, run, skip, jump, whatever - just go...and take your kids with you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Plastics and You!

It's become painfully apparent since I started this green living journey just how entangled we are with plastics in our lives and just what a mammoth task it is to remove it from our lives.

I had done quite a bit of research on plastics before Henry was born, especially since toxic chemicals can have such a great impact on a baby's life in that early stage when so much growing and physical/mental  development is occurring. There were the usual suspects, PVC, labeled #3 or V on the bottom of plastic containers (truly - Blue Vinyl was highly entertaining and comical, but the factoids were absolutely frightening - a must-see for anyone curious about PVC) and avoided any PVC products, especially those that would go into Henry's mouth, i.e. vinyl chew toys, which, by the way, can contain phthalates (hormone disrupting chemicals that can alter testicular development AND cause liver and kidney damage - great stuff. Reports show that some plastic toys produced in China can contain up to 55% phthalates! (I have a whole separate issue about plastics or any children's accessory coming from China but that is a book-long post for another day; just ask Cin how long it took us to buy a safe bathtub for Henry. It was ridiculous). But back to PVC, PVC can also contain BPA, which we know is a definitely a not-suitable-for-kids product.

Other plastics include Type 7, which is a catch-all "other" class but most are made from the BPA monomer. Plastics labeled 2 (high-density polyethylene), 4 and 5 have not been found to transmit any harmful chemicals into your food (but given how many times we've been wrong with plastics thus far and the fact that we've only been using plastics well within the last century, I would say that if the jury's still out, I'm not one to bet my son's life on it). PET, or number 1, used in water and soda bottles, is safer, but has been found to leach its own chemicals especially when heated (i.e. laid out under the sun) or over a long period of time.

If you'd like more info, and would like some solutions after I've properly scared you, check out this article that I found helpful when I was doing research a few years ago from 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Upcycling: Ella's Pouches

In a perfect world, we would do our best to make all of our children's food. But it isn't possible for some. Including my family. So we do use Ella's Kitchen for time to time. I really like the concept and Henry certainly LOVES them. (I only use them when we are out and only in a pinch, but H has quickly become obsessed with them-always asks for "moothie"when he sees them in cafes and stores.)

But you can NOT recycle them. I still can't come to terms with that.

Anyway, I've found a way to ease my troubled mind and hopefully raise money for charity! I've started a Brigade with Terracycle to upcycle Ella's pouches. They intend to make this adorable bib or cute bag. If you use Ella's and are interested in upcycling your pouches, contact me at and I'll send you my details to post the pouches to me or you can arrange to drop them off. I'm hoping to get local businesses involved as well, so if you have any recommendations (or connections!!), please pass along details. Thanks so much!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Meatless Monday: Week One

Welcome to our Week One Meatless Monday post. For a bit of background on why we started this:

I thought I'd offer a new recipe each week for you to try (or consider)! All will be kid-tested and meat-free. Can it get any better?

For dinner this Monday, how about:

Spinach with Red Lentils 
(serves 2-4 depending on age and appetite)

700-800 g spinach
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2 TBSP canola oil
200 g lentils
500 g vegetable stock
130 g corn (frozen is easiest)
salt, chili powder-depending on age of kids
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 bunch salad onions
150 g yogurt

1. Rinse and soak the lentils while you are getting the spinach, onion and garlic ready. Wash spinach thoroughly in cold water until water is no longer dirty, making sure you break off thick stalks. Drain and chop roughly. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet (make sure you have a lid for the skillet, or something to cover it). Soften the onion and garlic. Add the (drained) lentils and stir well. Add the stock, cover, and reduce heat. Cook lentils for about 15 minutes, until they are soft.

3. Add the corn and spinach to the lentils. Season with salt and chili if you are using and cook covered for a few minutes until the spinach leaves almost fall apart. 

4. Wash cilantro and shake dry. Chop the leaves finely. Wash the salad onions and finely slice the onions and crisp green parts into rings. Then add both and yogurt to the spinach and lentil mixture. Stir in, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately!

We serve this over rice and it's quite lovely. It's great as lentils are a plant food, so they do not contain cholesterol; and the protein derived from them is much easier to digest than the animal equivalent, or even soybeans. Next to soy beans, lentils have the highest protein content at 25%.

What do you think? Are you excited about Meatless Monday? Or maybe you're a vegetarian full-time (as one member of my family is) - share your experiences with us! Want to contribute a recipe, please contact me at! :) 

Can washing your hands be toxic?

I recently discovered that my Ecover hand wash contained Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. I know! Now I admit I am partly to blame for the oversight. I needed hand soap and quickly added the Ecover brand to my Ocado shopping. I trusted them - they are eco-friendly, etc and since I was in a rush I didn't conduct the background research. But come on, Ecover, SLS?

For a bit about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent that is a human irritant, see the Environment Working Group's Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. It's a moderate hazard on their database, but considering my toddler is going to use it and little ones are more sensitive and susceptible, I want to be damn sure it is safe. (He just LOVES to wash his hands, and would nearly every 20 minutes if I would let him.)  

It ain't easy being green. So I spent my Sunday morning looking for safe, cost-effective alternatives to the Ecover hand soap.

I found the Method Olive Leaf Moisturizing Hand Wash (300 ml for £3.99), but it contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES, a cousin of SLS), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate*, Sodium Lauromphoacetate*, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate. Not really any better than Ecover.

We've used Neal's Yard Citrus Hand Wash in the past, but for £10.90 for 200 ml it is quite a pricey selection. With 62% organic ingredients, it doesn't contain SLS or SLES,  but uses Cocamidopropyl betaine, which is a known human immune system toxicant. Augh!

I then found Waitrose's Organic Purifying Hand Wash (£3.89 for 200 ml). The ingredients include: Potassium Sunflowerate, Potassium Cocoate, Glycerin, so you don't have to worry about a scary foaming toxic agent. And not a bad price either for 93% organic ingredients.

Green People Organic Liquid Soap (£6.99 for 200 ml) clearly labels its ingredients: *Potassium Oleate (from Sunflower Oil), *Potassium Cocoate (from Coconut Oil), *Glycerin (Plant-derived), Betaine (from Sugar Beet), etc. -- with 93.89% organic products! Very transparent, very admirable in an industry of greenwashing and smoke and mirrors.

So many choices! Hope this brief overview helps! xx

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Organic Box Schemes

While we can all agree that the idea of organic veggie boxes is great, there is inevitably some practical issues that we take for granted having our groceries delivered by a large chain than the local farmer (which is learned helplessness I'm sure, but "helplessness" nonetheless).

First, I'll spare everyone the standard details as I would hope that if you're reading this blog, you're already convinced that organic seasonal produce is not only the most flavorful way to feed your family, it's also nutritious and much less taxing on the earth.

Now, onto the fun part: London is a fantastic place for organic veggie box schemes as there's a wide variety that deliver, on top of the other local London farms where you can actually go participate in the growing, much less the community plots that exist. Since the Times wrote an article on just this in 2008, I'm not going to go re-inventing the wheel, especially since they're all different and we all have different eating/purchasing/cooking habits. My top picks are also theirs:

However, I would like to say some quick words about things to look for when choosing a provider (other than basic questions like - do they deliver to my area, are they accurate with my orders etc).

1) They should all clearly mark where their produce is coming from. While organic, not all produce will be coming locally - especially bananas, so be on the lookout for these.
2) How flexible are they in their boxes? Can you choose to exclude certain veggies that show up every month of the year (and for which you only have a handful of recipes)?
3) What other products on your weekly list can you include in your box (i.e. dairy, meats, coffee, pantry items etc) and how do they compare with local organics that you normally purchase from?
4) In what condition are the fruits and veggies when they arrive? Granted most will not be as pristine as in conventional stores, but are the carrots so caked in dirt that you're paying more for dirt than for carrots?
5) How much do they give you for what you pay for? Is it worth it? I'm a firm believer that organic fruits and veggies do not equal anemic fruits and veggies.

I've been pretty happy with the Organic Delivery Company in London and would recommend it to others. I have liked how flexible they are with the boxes, the quality (and size, I admit) of their produce and the local dairy and other organic pantry items that we've been able to include in our order. It also helps that delivery is free and they include organic orange juice and other goodies if you order regularly.

Besides the standard delivery schemes, there are, as I mentioned the local farms, such as Farmaround in Richmond where you can go visit the farm and purchase your goods there. A great reprieve from city life.

Finally, there is also the option of growing your own in your garden (I believe average community plot wait times are about 2-3 years. I'm American. I don't have that kind of patience.) which we've started doing as well and these are great in fostering closeness to the earth with our son Henry while at the same time reaping some immediate rewards (anyone up for fresh mint tea? One of the great joys of a spring/summer London garden). Bon veggie!

PS. If you've ordered your organic box and don't know what to do with all your veggies, check out for great recipes and ideas organized by vegetable for quick and easy searching!