Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Organic Fruit and Veg

The chemicals in pesticides can have great impact on your child/ren's lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it is incredibly important to keep them out of our youngsters' systems.

  • To reduce your family’s exposure to toxins, try to choose organic ingredients-choosing organic will eliminate significant pesticide exposure. When this is not possible, it is especially important to purchase organic thin skinned fruits and vegetables, such as apples or potatoes since these absorb pesticides more than other produce. (Check out the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen.)
  • Try to choose food grown locally and in season (fruits and veggies grown in their natural season have less pesticide levels).

We also have to consider how to keep harmful chemicals from leaching into our food. We’re talking about plastic bibs, bottles, utensils and everything in between. And as soon as we start taking an honest look at what’s going our kids’ mouths, we’re forced to consider dummies, teethers and toys too, leaving busy parents a bit overwhelmed. But help is out there!  Check back for more posts on avoiding toxins and chemicals or contact us directly at stclair (at) for a personal consultation.

Green Tips: Saving Energy And Saving Money

We are thrilled to be working with to bring you weekly green tips. You can also see this first post over on their blog
The standard way a utility company works is through 3 pricing bands that charges a base level charge for your first 1000 kwh, a second cheaper rate for your additional usage per month and then an extremely discounted rate for your night-time energy use (normally 10pm to 8am) which can be up to 5 times lower than your base level charge. Each utility supplier is different and they all have their own slightly different versions, however they all follow the general principle.
So if we look at EDF, for example, and look at their charges for a standard user, it looks something like this, for our area of Southwest London: • 20.62p for the first 1000kwh (Band A) • 12.37p for every additional kwh • 4.94p during night-time hours
So what does this mean exactly and how do I know how much I’m saving? Because all appliances are a bit different we won’t be able to tell you exactly how much you can however we can give you a rough estimate:
The average dishwasher uses approximately 335 kwh per year, meaning that if you use it regularly during the day, you’re paying roughly £69 per year on dishwashing (335kwh X 20.62 p/kwh = £69.09). If however, you decided to run that at night, putting the cycle on as you were going to bed, it would only cost £16.55 per year (335kwh X 4.94 p/kwh = £16.55). That’s £53 in savings just on the dishwasher alone and this is assuming your dishwasher is brand new. If you have a dishwasher from 10 years ago, it will be at least double the energy consumption, and also double the energy cost i.e. £140 to run the dishwasher at peak times, or £32 to run at off peak for the year.
Let’s look at one of the most horrendous culprits – the electric shower pump. A standard electric shower pump can average a yearly usage of roughly 4900kwh – especially if you have teenagers or other shower enthusiasts in your household. You and your loved ones could be costing approx £1000 per year if you shower during normal daily hours (4900kwh X 20.62p/kwh = £1010.38). If you switched to early morning or evening then you could save up to £700 per year. You don’t even have to have a discount or voucher to help you save significant money!
We hope this brief introduction has helped to highlight the large difference that understanding peak and off-peak energy premiums can have on your utility bills and how small changes in your daily habits can add up to large rewards in your wallet.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Article: ADHD linked to pesticide exposure

I just realized that I share a lot of articles on twitter, but not all of our blog's readers are twitter users. So I hope (to remind myself) to share these articles on this blog on a regular basis.

For the first installment, see this article from CNN on

Study: ADHD linked to pesticide exposure

Children exposed to higher levels of a type of pesticide found in trace amounts on commercially grown fruit and vegetables are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children with less exposure, a nationwide study suggests.
Researchers measured the levels of pesticide byproducts in the urine of 1,139 children from across the United States. Children with above-average levels of one common byproduct had roughly twice the odds of getting a diagnosis of ADHD, according to the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Pulses and Beans

Pulses and beans are a good source of protein and they are rich in fibre. They also contain:
  • B Vitamins: necessary for healthy brain and nerve cells, normal functioning of the skin, nervous and digestive systems.
  • Calcium: good for strong bones and teeth.
  • Potassium: helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Folate: a B vitamin that our bodies don’t produce. Dry beans are our single best source of this important vitamin which helps protect against heart disease and cancer.
(One serving of beans fills many dietary requirements, including 32%DV of folate, 9%DV of potassium.)

And for a quick and easy comparison:

Amount: 4 ounces
Calories: 306
Fat grams: 20
Protein grams: 23
Fiber in grams: 0

Amount: 8 ounces [twice as much as the beef above]
Calories: 227 [discount by 10% due to high fiber content]
Fat grams: .09
Protein grams: 17.9
Fiber in grams: 15

So here are a few recipes for you to try:

Canyon Ranch Bean Salad
1/4 cup/60 ml red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup/50 g diced cucumber
1/2 cup/50 g diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup/50 g diced yellow bell pepper
1 diced carrot
3/4 to 1 small red onion
1/4 cup/30 g diced black pitted olives
3/4 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup/115 g diced tomato
1 cup cooked white beans (home-cooked or canned, rinsed and drained)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (home-cooked or canned, rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup chopped hearts of palm

In a small bowl, mix vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Beat well. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add salad dressing and toss lightly. Divide equally among 4 salad bowl.

*I've stayed at the Canyon Ranch before (BLISS) and highly recommend this wonderful summer salad. IT's a great way to get some veggies; I also add spinach when I have it on hand.

Mung Bean Casserole

½ cup (3 oz, 75 g) dried mung beans
4 - 6 medium potatoes
Oil for frying
1 onion, sliced and chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
2 large sticks of celery, sliced
4 - 6 mushrooms, sliced
2 cups (16 fl oz, 480 ml) vegetable stock
½ tsp. miso (if available)
salt and pepper to taste

Cover the mung beans with about three times their volume of cold water, and leave to soak overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 200C.
Drain and rinse the beans. Add them to a pan of boiling water. Boil rapidly for ten minutes, then turn down the heat and let them simmer for another ten minutes or until completely cooked. When ready, drain the beans and rinse in a sieve under running water.

While the beans are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil in salted water for about ten minutes, or until they're just beginning to soften.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion, and cook gently for a few minutes. Then add the carrots, celery and mushrooms. Continue cooking until the vegetables are starting to become tender. Add the stock, miso and seasoning, and cook for another five minutes.

Add the cooked beans, potatoes and vegetables to an oven dish. Cook in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes.

Chili Non Carne
From Planet Organic

125g/4 1/5 oz/3/4 c dried pinto beans
2 tsp lemon juice
1 strip of kombu (if you have it, helps with digestion)
1TBSP olive oil
1 lg onion
2 garlic cloves
175g/6oz tempeh, cut into small cubes
1 orange or red pepper, deseeded and chopped
480g/1 lb/3 1/2 c chopped tinned tomatoes
1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp salt
175g/6 oz grated Cheddar cheese

Put beans and lemon juice in medium saucepan, cover with warm water and leave to soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans. Return them to pan and add 570ml/20 fl oz/2 1/2 c water. Bring to boil over high heat and boil for 10 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to low, add kombu and cook covered for 2 hours until soft.

Meanwhile, heat a lg saucepan over mdm-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add the onion and cook until light browned. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the tempeh, orange pepper, tomatoes and chili powder.

Mash together the beans, kombu and cooking liquid and add to the tempeh mixture. Cook, covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until well cooked and the flavours have come together.

Stir in the salt and sprinkle the chili generously with the Cheddar. Serve with corn chips if desired. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meatless Monday: Quinoa

This week I thought we'd take a look at quinoa. It contains more protein than any other grain (an average of 16.2%, compared with 7.5% for rice, 9.9% for millet and 14% for wheat). The United Nations has classified this super-food as a “super-crop.” Quinoa is also a great source of dietary fiber and is high in iron, magnesium, potassium and a good source of phosphorous, calcium, vitamin E and several B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans.

Quinoa is cooked just like rice, bringing about two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it like al dente pasta. When cooked, quinoa has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and can be an excellent alternative to rice, bulgur or couscous.

I've found that kids really like it too. It's one of Henry's favorite old-reliables as it's very simple for me to whip out in a hurry. Here's one of his favorites from an old post.

Planning for tomorrow's offerings and want to try out quinoa with your family? Here are a few ideas:

Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad (from the helpful Veg Box Recipe site. I highly recommend a visit - so great when you're stuck wondering what to do with the last of your veg box!!)

Serves 4
150g quinoa
150g sprouting broccoli or broccoli florets
6-8 baby carrots (new season)
150g spinach leaves or baby chard leaves
150g broad beans, podded
Handful of pine nuts  (I leave these out for Henry)

2 tablespoons sunflower oil / walnut oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
Handful fresh herbs, chopped (e.g. parsley, thyme)


  1. Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions (usually simmering, covered, in twice its volume of water for 10 minutes, then leaving to stand for 5 minutes).
  2. Wash the broccoli and drain well. Break into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Scrub the carrots, trim the green ends and the chop the carrots into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Wash the spinach leaves and drain thoroughly.
  5. Boil the carrots in a covered pan with 1 inch of water for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and broad beans and cook for a further 3 minutes. Drain.
  6. Return to the pan with just a couple of tablespoons of water. Add the spinach leaves and cover the pan. Cook gently for 2 minutes until the spinach wilts.
  7. Mix together the dressing ingredients.
  8. Heat a frying pan (dry) until hot and add the pine nuts. Turn regularly for a couple of minutes until lightly browned. Don't let them burn.
  9. Mix together the vegetables, the dressing and the quinoa. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top of each serving.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cooked black beans. If using canned beans, drain and rinse well
1/2 cup chopped celery
Optional: 1 carrot, peeled, halfed lengthwise, sliced thin diagonally
Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh yellow or green beans
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced OR 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced, OR 1 tsp garlic powder
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or basil
1/4 cup chopped scallions
Optional: 1 large ripe tomato
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced olives

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch cayenne or chili powder


  1. The quinoa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated
  2. Soak the quinoa 10 - 15 minutes in cold water
  3. Rinse well in water several times. For each rinse, pour off most of the water and finish draining through a large fine mesh strainer
  4. Place in a 2 qt pot with 1 1/2 c. water and 1/2 tsp salt
  5. Bring to a full boil, cover tightly, turn down to low, and cook for 15 minutes
  6. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes covered
  7. Fluff quinoa gently with a fork and set aside to cool
  8. Sauté jalapeno, fresh garlic, in 2 Tbsp oil until garlic is browned, pepper and celery are softened
  9. Add the green and red peppers and sauté briefly
  10. Add the cumin and coriander, cook and stir 5 minutes
  11. Blend dressing ingredients with a whisk or shake in a jar
  12. Gently combine sautéed veggies, tomatoes, black beans, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro and scallions, and serve warm or cover and chill

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Green Company Highlight: Ecomodo

I'm pleased to share our most recent Q &A with Meriel Lenfestey, one of the founders of the innovative and green company Ecomodo. 

Ecomodo is an online service that enables people to lend and borrow each other's everyday objects, skills and spaces with confidence. They can do this for free, for a fee or for charity. Ecomodo facilitates the transaction to make good returns for all.

Mission: We want it to become the norm to make the items we have but seldom use available to other people around us.

Q.Where did the idea for Ecomodo originate? What/Who inspired it? 

A. The idea is one of those which feels so obvious. For years I've rushed out and bought things for my latest project, then they've sat and collected dust for ages afterwards. More recently, particularly with the recession and increasing awareness of the environment, I have avoided doing jobs, or trying new things when I don't have the gear. One day I was on a train, having another battle with myself because I wanted to buy something to get a job done but couldn't justify it. I looked out of the window and saw all the sheds in the back gardens along the track. I realised that the tool I wanted was probably in several of those sheds. If only there was a way to see into them. I'd pay the owners a small amount to borrow theirs instead of buying my own. The more I thought about it the more sense it made. 

I joined forces with a friend who coincidently had the same idea. We looked carefully at ways to motivate people to lend, and ways to make people confident to lend and designed Ecomodo. Enabling people to set up and join lending circles lets them restrict their lending to people they have a reason to trust, e.g. parents in the same toddler group. They can ask for deposits and insurance for extra peace of mind.

Q. What has been the response? 

A. We've had a great response although it is early days. In only 12 weeks over 500 people have signed up across the UK. We have hundreds of items listed ranging from stair gates, to pressure washers, to mosaic tools to greenhouse space. People have started lending.. money has been raised for one lender to redo their living room, for another to get solar panels, and several good causes have benefitted including a school PTA, and the Princes Trust. Borrowers have equipped themselves for camping trips, parties and to try things before they buy. Stephen Fry tweeted about us which drew a lot of attention.

Q. What are the next steps for Ecomodo? How can we help? 

A. We want Ecomodo to become a household name. To have a real effect we need lots of lending circles and neighbourhoods with many people lending and borrowing. We're concentrating all our efforts on raising awareness. We are working towards building critical mass. We need all the help we can get to pass the word around.

Q. How do people get involved/get in touch with you? 

A. I'd encourage Green Families readers to go to and click sign up. Once you've done that we can send you newsletters telling you about things to borrow and things people are asking for in your area.  

If you have a little more time, add any items you are prepared to lend and invite people you know. Think about the baby gear you no longer use but keep 'just in case', the camping gear you use once a year, any skills you can offer people, and any spare spaces you are prepared to lend out. Think about your reasons for lending. Would you want to charge anything? If so, would it be for yourself or for a good cause such as your school PTA or the NCT. Then tell everyone in the playground and all your friends. Get them adding all their stuff so that you can all see what is available to borrow.

Q. Top 3 green tips for our readers? 

  • Make your stuff earn its keep. If you don't need it any more give it away or sell it. If you do still want it then put it on Ecomodo. 
  • A community can be more than the sum of its parts when it comes to reducing environmental impact. Working together is better in every way. 
  • A green life can be a richer life. Sharing resources opens up new possibilities and builds new relationships.
So check out their website or you can also follow them on twitter

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Meatless Monday: Lentils

We love lentils at my house. I tend to use lentils a lot as they are a good source of protein and iron.

"Iron is needed by the body for the formation of blood. Good sources of iron are spinach and turnip greens, whole grains (including whole wheat bread), black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, and raisins). Eating iron-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C can increase iron absorption: few slices of tomato with your spinach salad can make a difference." 

And better yet, Henry loves them. 

I tend to make up my Lentil soup recipe with whatever I have on hand, but here's a basic one as a reminder...

Easy Lentil Soup

1 onion, chopped
60 ml olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 g dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 g dried basil
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes, depending on what you have)
385 g dry lentils
1895 ml water
15-30 g spinach, rinsed and sliced
30 ml balsamic vinegar
35 ml olive or hemp oil
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste


In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil; cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils, and add water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve stir in spinach, and cook until it wilts. Stir in vinegar and oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper, and more vinegar if desired.

And here's a fabulous lentil recipe for summer from Riverford Organic Veg

Lentil Salad with Red Peppers, Red Onions, Feta and Mint

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 4

1 cup dry lentils
3 bay leaves
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
170g feta cheese
18 Kalamanta olives

1. Pick over the lentils and discard any stones. Wash the lentils and place in a large saucepan with the bay leaves, bruised garlic, and oregano.

2. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool.

3. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Toss the vinaigrette with the lentils, onions, red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

4. Let sit for 20 minutes. Taste and season as needed with additional salt, pepper and vinegar.

This salad can be prepared 6 hours in advance up to this point. To serve, toss the lentil salad with the mint and place on a platter. Garnish with the crumbled feta and the olives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Green Products: Innocent Oils

I am so pleased to introduce Helen James, the lovely, wonder-woman behind Innocent Oils. In addition to their fabulous O'Dough (see my review here) they produce a variety of vegan and toxin-free skin care products. Helen kindly answered some questions for us about the use of botanical oils and why she felt compelled to set up Innocent Oils.

What do you recommend using on a child skin with eczema?

Childhood eczema is increasingly common these days, yet GP’s have little to offer other than steroid creams and petroleum based emollients. Intended to reduce the itch and inflammation and help prevent moisture evaporating from the skin.

This sounds all well and good until the product labels reveal the shocking chemical contents of these same creams and lotions.

As parents we do our best to ensure our kids are protected from environmental toxins for as long as possible, and most would not want to cover their children in creams containing a vast number of toxic chemicals such as steroids, alcohols, propylene glycol, paraben preservatives, pore blocking mineral oil etc contained within these same creams.

So what is a parent to do when their child suffers time and time again throughout the child hood years and sometimes way beyond?

There is no cure for eczema, but for millennia nature has provided natural alternatives which have been safely used for centuries by parents around the world to soothe eczema and manage it long term, without any toxic accumulation in the body, or long term side effects.

Hemp Seed Oil tops the list of highly beneficial alternatives for good reason. This oil contains the most ideally balanced ratio of Essential Fatty Acids required by the human body, to maintain all round good health. Essential Fatty Acids known commonly as Omega 3,6,9 are vitally important to the body because we cannot manufacture E.F.A’s ourselves. Instead we obtain them from the foods we eat.

Studies have shown that patients with chronic eczema are often lacking in Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid, possibly due to a body unable process it from the foods eaten. Omega 6 or GLA is vital for helping the body to form healthy strong supple normal skin tissue.

Without GLA the bonds between newly formed skin cells become weak and likely loosely formed when the skin appears on the surface layer, the result is broken, flaky, dry skin. Applying mineral oil based products said to ‘keep the moisture in’ can create a catch 22 situation where the skin is prevented from respiring as it should, thus allowing for the removal of toxins via sweating. If this function is disrupted it can quickly lead to further dryness and sensitivities as the skin struggles to cope.

The great thing about Hemp Seed Oil is that not only can both the seeds and oil be taken internally. It can be applied externally with remarkable effectiveness, absorbing deep into the skin tissues via pores and hair follicles to where it is needed most. Hemp seed oil products contain a beneficial amount of amino acids, and vitamin E as well. It is a natural antioxidant, and the oil doesn't stick to your skin as many oils have a tendency to do. Hemp seed oil contains ingredients that give it unique anti-inflammatory properties not often found in other oils. This, added to its antioxidant properties, allows hemp oil to detoxify and clean your skin, as well as evening out tone. Since it won't clog your pores like many other oils, you can safely use hemp seed oil to moisturize your skin, and do so without any greasy build-up.

How do botanical oils help the skin?

Our skin is the largest organ of the human body and often the most abused. Botanical Oils such as Hemp Seed Oil have tiny molecules, which are able to travel down through to the skin to the deepest layers. It is here that Hemp Seed Oil goes to work assisting the new skin cells to form strong new skin tissue that will appear on the surface layer as healthy, soft and supple, normal skin.

Petrochemical based emollients are not able to perform this function due to its large sized molecules which are unable to penetrate the skin, therefore remaining on the surface much like cling film wrap. It’s for this reason that toxic cosmetic ingredients such as propylene glycol are added. Propylene glycol readily absorbs, unfortunately it is also damaging to skin cells.

Knowing this, it seems pointless to use petrochemical based creams when a single all natural and organic botanic oil can be used long term without harm to the user, no matter how much or how often it is applied. Innocent Oils 100% Hemp Seed Oil is made from certified organic Hemp which has been refined at a low temperature for purity from

Any recommendations, for products for pregnant women and stretch marks?

A woman’s tummy stretches to its limits during pregnancy. Stretch marks appear when the skin expands beyond those limits, causing the connective tissues to break. The resulting tell tale pink or purple lines which appear, later turn silvery after the birth. The truth is that once these silvery lines appear there is no miracle repair cream to make them vanish altogether as the stretch marks are largely hereditary, however, using rich botanical oils and butters will help the skin to stretch to its full potential before damage occurs. This can greatly reduce the marks that do appear and ensure that the skin is in the condition possible. This will be a great help after the birth, to assist a speedy recovery back to its pre pregnancy state.
Innocent Oils Angel Butter contains a highly concentrated blend of rich cocoa butter and organic botanical oils, highly reputed for their soothing and softening properties for the skin.

Why did you set up Innocent Oils?

Avoiding petrochemical-based products is not an easy task these days. Having had overly sensitive skin for many years, even the most seemingly pure products would trigger a reaction, and the cost of trying and failing to find something that really worked was becoming very expensive to say the least. Worse was the sinking feeling of not being able to find a product I enjoyed on my skin and didn’t trigger a reaction.

So, I decided to take the plunge, and began learning about the raw chemical ingredients used to make our commercial toiletries while researching the raw ingredients Mother Nature already provides plentifully around the world to heal all manner of ailments.

Innocent Oils was the result, and Hemp Seed Oil was the basis of our initial toxin free skin and body care range, due to its unrivalled superb properties both internally and externally for human health and the environment.

What I learned about commercial skin care products was frankly shocking, and revealed an industry built around ingredients which are astonishingly cheap, and for want of a better word ‘thoroughly nasty,’ and with little benefit provided to the skin of the user regardless of the cost of the jar.

Sharing the knowledge I have gained is a pleasure, but to be honest without suitable alternative products that I was happy to recommend, I knew this information would be wasted. The priority is always the skin and the environment, focusing on the finest long term tried and tested ingredients known to be highly beneficial for healthy skin. Making products that are multi use and highly concentrated, and the benefits that our products can offer the skin and body. After all there is little point in paying for a fancy jar and box, if the product itself contains ingredients which do little good for the health of your skin.

Helen James

Innocent Oils

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Win a BornFree Twist N'Pop Straw Cup

We've always been great fans of BornFree's products from their bottles with the innovative air vent that really helps to eliminate colic symptoms to their trainer cups and drinking cups - all 100% free from BPA, Phthalates and PVC.

It was then only natural for us to take our son's BornFree sippy cup to the Camden Green Fair last weekend, but we certainly didn't anticipate the amount of people asking whether we sold the BornFree sippy cups.

So guess what: BornFree has very kindly offered a free give-away of their new Twist N'Pop cup to one of our readers!

The Twist N'Pop Straw Cup:

BornFree® BPA-Free plastic, 14oz. (400ml) Twist N'Pop Straw Drinking Cup features a hygenic pop-up straw mechanism for comfortable mess free drinking. 14oz body interchangeable with BornFree® bottles and cups. Suitable for 12+ months.

I highly recommend all of their products. They are safe, sturdy, easy-to-clean, and look great. All of their products are interchangeable, so you can you use a cup top with your bottles if you'd like. Less waste! Check out their website to view the whole range of options in safe and toxic-free feeding and accessories.

To enter to win, please leave a comment below on why you would like to win one of these cups. You'll also be entered again if you retweet this post! The closing date for the competition is 16/6/10. Good luck!

Cleaning Products and your Health

We've always been a big fan of eco-friendly or DIY cleaning sprays (see some old posts here and here) here at Green Families - so this article in the Guardian really caught my eye.

Household cleaning sprays 'could be contributing to rise in cases of asthma'

Scary stuff, if you ask me. But maybe this will create space for a dialogue about chemicals and the role they play in our health. So here's to choosing the healthier options (when we have the choice). 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Monday: Week Four

I embarrassingly just "stumbled" upon a new Meat-Free Monday website, this time with more of a focus in the UK. Check it out at: They seek to raise awareness of the climate-changing impact of meat production and consumption. Many people are unaware that livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – that’s more than the entire transport sector.

As it's founded by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney, it's has some big-name celebrities and chefs behind it. So I thought I'd share of one of the family-friendly recipes here.

First is Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry with:

Salad of wild rice, charred sweet corn, spiced pecans, avocado and feta MFM Recipe

This recipe is really simple and a great one to prepare in advance and assemble last minute if you’ve got friends over, and it looks impressive too. It’s also perfect as a week day supper because the rice makes it really substantial.

2 cobs of corn
150g (5.5 oz) wild rice
1 small cinnamon stick
1 red chilli, split lengthways
1 red onion
3 tbsp good red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
100g (3.5 oz) pecan nuts
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp Maldon sea salt
1 bunch coriander, chopped (stalks and leaves)
1 avocado cut into pieces
Small bunch of watercress, washed
100g (3.5 oz) marinated feta

Cut the kernels off both cobs of corn. Put a little oil in a big pan, add the kernels and fry over a high heat until charred in places. Simmer the wild rice, cinnamon and chilli in plenty of water until tender but still al dente, and strain (check your packet of wild rice for timings, and taste for tenderness). Leave to cool.
Slice the red onion and caramelise in a pan in 1 tbsp of oil until soft. Add the vinegar and paprika. When the vinegar has evaporated, remove from the heat, allow to cool and add the corn.
Toss the pecans with the icing sugar, cumin seeds, salt and 1 tbsp water. Bake at 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 for 20 minutes or until golden (keep checking to make sure they don’t scorch). Cool.
Mix the rice, sweetcorn and onion, chopped coriander, avocado and watercress together. Crumble over the feta and pecans. Serve.

(I'd leave the omit the pecans for my 20 month old, but clearly this recipe looks like a fab summer dish.)

I also thought I'd recommend something from my most favorite food blog: Smitten Kitchen

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Makes 1 thin crust 12-inch pizza

1 recipe Really Simple Pizza Dough or your favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.

Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler (a Y-shaped peeler works best here, but I only had a standard, old and pretty dull peeler and it still worked; a mandolin would also work, in theory, but I found it more difficult to do it that way), create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and be sure to try one — I bet you can hardly believe how good raw asparagus can taste.

Assemble and bake pizza: Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Either transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a floured or cornmeal-dusted tray to bake it on. Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

More ways to tweak this: Pinch of red pepper flakes (toss with asparagus), squeeze of lemon juice (over the asparagus, after you remove it from the oven), sprinkle of truffle salt or few drops of truffle oil (if you’ve got it; also at end) or up to 3 eggs (bake pizza for 8 minutes, break eggs on top, then finish cooking pizza and eggs together).

Finally, if you’ve got a grill going, this pizza seems almost destined for it. When I grill pizza, I throw the whole dough down on an oiled grill and let it cook for a few minutes on the underside. I pull it off with tongs, flip it out onto a plate and pile the toppings on the grilled side, before sliding the raw side back onto the grill. Grill the pizza with the lid down for a few minutes, or until everything is bubbly and brown.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Club: Last Child in the Woods

Most of us have heard someone mention Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, at some time or another. It's an important text that outlines the crucial role that nature plays in the lives of children.  Mr. Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder"to describe the consequence of children losing regular contact with nature (which helps to promote physical and emotional health for that matter). He sees this as a disorder of society and our modern technologies as contributing to the decline of our contact with nature.

But we don't have to take big steps to introduce nature in our children's lives, we just need to get outside-regularly. A park, a patch of dirt, some local countryside. It's about engaging our children with what matters for their health and well-being and dis-connecting (even if for 30 minutes a day) to the internet and mobile.

And it's not just good for our children, it's good for us adults as well.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Camden Green Fair!

The 20th Annual Camden Green Fair. 

CGF_logo.jpgThat's right - 20 years! And on June 6th, they will be hosting another Green Fair and BikeFest. Held in the heart of London in Regent’s Park, Camden Green Fair 2010 will be the Green Event of the year. We're proud to say that Green Families will host a table this year. A little personal PR notwithstanding, the objective of the event and the amount they have been able to achieve thus far is truly amazing. Not only does the event host 25,000 people, it is completely powered by renewable energy, none of its vendors are allowed to use anything but compostable packaging and it continues to aim for zero-waste. 

What we're most excited about are of course the kids' zone and the family activities - we can only guess what 'wellie wanging and dwilie flonking' are but they sound like good, clean, green fun. For the kiddies, there will be a 3 course vegetarian meal will be available free of charge first come first served for the  younger visitors to the event. Also new for the Green Kids area, the Performance Tent where  they can see Original Story Telling, Caboodle Performance and drama workshop and a Pan Arts  Presentation. Not to mention tons of free workshops including mobile making, willow weaving, windmill making, face painting, costume customising, growing workshop, sculpture gardening,  recycled music making, homeopathic workshops, forest schools activities (courtesy of Natural England), felting pictures, creating a flower fairy and a herbal walk around the park.  

So we certainly hope to see you all there; come by our booth on your way to the children's parade (and the FREE vegetarian kids meal) or the Ethical Fashion show or the BikeFest. It's completely free admission and runs from 12 - 7:30pm on the 6th. For more information,