Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meatless Monday Chili

Recently, I've been cooking up a vegetarian storm for Meatless Mondays for our household. While we only use meat in moderation by getting a good portion of protein from plant-based sources during the rest of the week, I think it is great to dedicate a whole day to recognizing and celebrating other healthy practices - particularly as a large portion of the world is vegetarian. (Including my partner, and it's so much easier to just fix one meal!)
From the Meatless Monday website, as many of you know, the benefits of a vegetarian diet (even if only 1 day per week) include:
REDUCED RISK OF HEART DISEASE. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low and reduce your risk of heart disease.
IMPROVED OVERALL QUALITY OF DIET. Consuming dry beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.
REDUCED CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
MINIMIZED WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
REDUCED FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
Here's our favorite, easy to prepare, vegetarian family meal. Enjoy it at your next Meatless Monday!
Chili Non Carne
(From Planet Organic)
3/4 c/125g/4 1/5 oz 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
6oz/175g tempeh, cut into small cubes
1 orange or red pepper, seeded and chopped
3 1/2 c /480g/1 lb chopped canned tomatoes
1/2 tsp chili powder (more or less depending on your preference)
3/4 tsp salt
6 oz/175g 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 medium-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. We love it with rice or quinoa for a totally healthy and tasty meal!
You can also find this post over at Greenwala!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Zero Waste Picnics

Pack a waste-free picnic and head to your favorite park, shady green space or back yard for a great time with the whole family! You can do your part for the environment by thinking carefully about the impact of items that you bring. Remember, it's the little things that matter!
Here are our favorite tips for a picnic without any environmental guilt!
  1. Take along reusable plates, cups, cutlery and cloth napkins.
  2. If you need to wrap something up, use reusable sandwich and snack bags or pack food in reusable containers like Tupperware and/or glassware. If you don't have any available, use tin foil (which can be recycled) or wax paper (which can be composted).
  3. Bring beverages in reusable mugs and/or reusable water bottles. Save money and reduce waste by not purchasing disposable water bottles.
  4. Only make as much food as you need and bring back the leftovers to compost.
  5. If your picnic is for a large crowd and bringing your own reusable plates is not feasible, go with biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery. Large groups can enjoy eating outdoors without leaving a lasting reminder in the local landfill with plastics made from renewable resources like corn and potato starch, and tableware and cutlery derived from corn, potatoes and sugarcane waste.
You can also find this post at Greenwala!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Organic Veg Box Schemes

Check out this original post over at

Organic seasonal produce is one of the best ways to feed your family, as it's nutritious and much less taxing on the earth. Apart from growing it yourself, the best way I’ve found to get my hands on good, quality produce is to sign up with a vegetable box delivery company. There are many options out there and most can be tailored to your family’s needs as many now deliver more than just vegetable boxes which makes it more economic and useful for the weekly shop.

Here are just a few options for organic delivery companies:

Abel & Cole

Delivering organic food and drink across southern England including organic fruit and vegetables, Abel & Cole offers organic meats, sustainably caught fish, dairy and freshly baked bread. It works with a network of more than 50 British producers to bring local, seasonal and organic food fresh from the grower. (Hot Vouchers also has some discounts and vouchers for them!)

Organic Delivery Company

Organic fresh fruits, juices, nuts, chocolate, and plenty more. Deliveries to the kitchen table or workplace. They also offer Fair Trade organic gift hampers, made to order. Organic Delivery pride themselves on the quality of their produce and their commitment to food miles.

Riverford Organic

Riverford offers many differnt sizes and types of vegetable and fruit boxes in addition to an amazing selection of meat, dairy, milk and eggs, kitchen pantry items, chocolates, wine and beers, even more items for your kitchen kit. They deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK.

Some good tips and 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.

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!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Guide to Biking with Young Children

Originally posted at Greenwala. Don't forget to stop by to check out 
their fabulous resources (and my weekly posts)! 

I've always loved the thrill, the independence, the wind whipping through my hair, the happiness that comes with biking. But when I put our son on a bike seat behind me for the first time - my joy turn to absolute fear. I know that I had nothing to worry about: we'd bought the most expensive child's seat with maximum suspension, lights, bell, everything. He had his helmet tight on his head. So why did I have this intense urge to run back in the house and cover him completely in bubble wrap?
Well, because the statistics aren't very encouraging: according to a KidsHealth's bicycle safety article, roughly 300,000 kids go to the ER because of bike injuries every year! So what can we do to arm ourselves? And what type of gear should we get for what should otherwise be a perfectly relaxing, environmental excursion?The number one item is fitted, secure helmet:
  • Helmets can reduce the risk of serious brain injuries by as much as 85% so it's important to get a good one. Consumer Reports recently wrote an article rating 15 to see which offered the best protection. You can read their 2009 report here.
  • The US government has created safety standards especially for bike helmets so the first thing to check when you purchase one is to see whether it has met the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (CPSC). There should be a nice sticker to indicate so.
  • The helmet should not be too big or too small (test it be tilting your child's head back and forth - the helmet should be secure) and the straps should be fastened at all times.
  • If any falls occur and the helmet hits the ground, a new one should be purchased. Falls can damage the helmet and won't protect your child if it has been compromised.
Helmets on, now what? For young children - those not riding trikes, bikes or those too small for the tag-a-longs - trailers and child seats are the best options.
  • Pros: These are particularly great for the once-in-awhile, casual cyclist, as bicycle balance is not greatly impacted, if at all, by a trailer. Most trailers can hold two children and you can also carry toys, food, books, the family dog or groceries from the store (not recommending these should be done together).
  • Cons: The down side is that trailers are a bit of a rough ride and depending on the quality of the trailer, can bump the child around a lot so it's important to shell out for a good trailer if this is the option you choose. We've heard that the InStep trailers are pretty easy to use and are good quality for their price range, particularly as they're also lightweight, foldable and stable.
Child seats:
  • Pros: Certainly one pro is that they're generally less expensive and come in a number of options (ours has built-in suspension and can recline as nicely as an airplane seat for those times when my son decides he needs a little nap). This is where you'll need to consider the amount, type and extent of your biking to choose the best that fit for you, particularly as the options include front or back, rack or frame mounted, portability, lights, suspension, recliners etc.
  • Cons: Bicycle balance and mounting - particularly as you will be bearing the brunt of the ride on any hills, it'll be important that you keep in mind how comfortable they are, the strap mechanisms that will keep them from wiggling while you ride and the flexibility in mounting and unmounting the seat when you want to go for a solo ride.
Once you have the gear, it's important that you let your child get used to the helmet and go for a handful of short, quiet rides to get your child accustomed to the seat. Then enjoy! Bike rides, though they should be taken responsibly, are fun for everyone and lead to many wonderful memories for you and your child for years to come.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

PVC-Free Rain Coats for Kids

Now that we’re officially Londoners, I have recently been preparing the family with what I would have come to learn as essential UK equipment – a public transportation (oyster) card for each member of the family (our two year-old insists on his own), an A to Z map (I’ve been too spoiled by Manhattan’s grid system), and of course, rain gear. Umbrellas aside, my life has recently been taken over by the encyclopedic search that I’ve had to undertake in order to find the perfect rain protection and in particular, rain-jackets. While adult rain jackets are more often made of sensible material, or at the very least, a type of synthetic not as toxic as PVC, almost all of the jackets for the under 12 set are made of shiny, rubbery PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which, is commonly referred to by environmental groups as “poison plastic” (
 The harm of PVC is not simply that it is man-made, leaches harmful carcinogens and is an unrecyclable item – it usually also contains a number of toxic additives that are phthalates, heavy metals such as lead (?!) that easily leach out and accumulate in increased exposure, meaning the longer a child is exposed, the more likely he will be incur a risk of brain development, an impact on the nervous system or disrupt the endocrine system. This is certainly not news to me – I have seen Blue Vinyl: A Toxic Comedy (2002) a documentary that the filmmaker, Judith Helfand embarked upon as an investigation into the toxic life cycle of polyvinyl chloride.

But, even though there are efforts to educate and encourage a more natural transition to sustainable materials, our lives are already so embedded and bombarded by the plastic conglomerates that they can operate almost entirely undetected and we need constant vigilant attention in order to make sure that the products we purchase are indeed non-toxic. I'll certainly be the first to admit that I didn't look at the material label for Henry's wellies. I just bought them in a hurry as he was running about the store in a shoe frenzy. (A trait I’m sure he inherited from my side of the family.) But frankly, even through frantic running, mothers ought to have the PVC-option clearly displayed and not have anything that challenges the large vinyl conglomerates hidden away and it’s up to the consumers to be active in order to change this paradigm. The good news is, there have been previous articles in the past helping chemical-conscious parents navigate this mire, such as the report on raingear that Planet Green did early last year. Though it seems like we’re making progress, the bad news was that all of the stores listed were US-oriented (boy did I miss America then), meaning that I was still stuck here in the UK without a suitable alternative, particularly as the alternative stores don’t have the budget to market and export their products worldwide. Back to the drawing board – but with a few leads, which eventually led me to some corner shops that coincidentally carried Hatley, one of the only 100% polyurethane kid-friendly stores. I was ecstatic – even more so than when I saw David Sedaris in New York spring of 2007 – so really ecstatic. (You can also find Hatley products from a limited number of retailers online, anywhere in the world - and they are just as fun and colorful without the hazardous carcinogenic effects of the standard jackets.)

So what was the take-away from this experience? It was tiring and certainly worth it, but surely there has to be a better way! I think the mistake is that each of us conscious mothers continues to privately research for hours on end the products best for our kids, the toxic chemicals that we should avoid, as our neighbors do the exact same thing when we should be sharing our findings so that our better product choices can be multiplied at a higher level of impact (and our research time spent on better things – a nice glass of wine, for one) that will eventually lead to greater exposure for the Hatleys of the world and certainly encourage more innovative natural products in the future.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meatless Monday: Salads!

With the heat wave here in the UK (and for my friends and family in the states experiencing similar weather-related circumstances), who wants to spend hours in the kitchen? I thought it would be good to recommend a few salads (my current obsession) to keep cool and well-nourished during this time. So here are my meatless monday suggestions for this week:

Bulgar and Bean Salad
(Includes 2 types of beans so it's good on the protein front. It also includes kohlrabi -  a good source of Vitamin C, as well as magnesium and phosphorous, which are useful in the absorption of calcium. As the UK kohl rabi season normally runs from July to November you might start seeing it in your veg boxes.)

2/3 c dried borlotti beans
1 2/3 c vegetable stock
1 c bulgar wheat
200-300 g string beans
1 kohlrabi, 1 red bell pepper
6 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
4 TBSP white balsamic vinegar (can also just use lemon juice)
1 tsp cumin
parsley (depending on your tastes, usually do about 4 TBSPs)

1. Cover borlotti beans with water and leave to soak over night. The next day, drain and transfer them to a saucepan with fresh water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook the beans until soft, but not mushy, about 1 1/2 hours.

2. Heat the veg stock. Put bulgar wheat in largish bowl and pour the stock over it, and leave to stand about 1 hour, or until soft.

3. Wash string beans and pinch off ends. Halve the beans and steam for about 7 minutes, or until firm to the bite. Drain and run under cold water and leave to drain again.

4. Peel the kohlrabi, cut first into 1/4 inch thick slices, then into strips of that thickness. Wash and cut the bell pepper into thin strips.

5. In a skillet, heat 2 TBSPs of oil. Stir in the kohlrabi and the pepper and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the string beans and fry for 2 minutes more.

6. Combine the orange juice with the vinegar (or lemon juice), salt, pepper and cumin then beat in the remaining oil. Drain the beans, combine with the bulgar, vegetables and dressing. Check seasoning. Best to marinate 1-2 hours, but not necessary. Sprinkle finely chopped parsley into salad just before eating.

Orzo, Green Bean and Fennel Salad
From Epicurious

200 g green beans, trimmed
200 g orzo
2/3 c (packed) chopped fresh dill
1/4 c olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, unpeeled and in 1/3-inch cubes
3/4 c diced fresh fennel bulb

1. Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. (Or steam them, whatever is easiest for you.) Using slotted spoon, transfer beans to plate. Add orzo to same boiling water. (Or cook below steaming beans.) Cook until tender, stirring occasionally; drain.

2. Blend dill, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice in mini processor until almost smooth. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

3. Cut beans crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in large bowl. Add orzo, cucumber, and fennel; mix in dressing. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Easy and oh-so-tasty!

Let me know what you think. And please feel free to add other salad recipes below. Or you can email me your favorites at and I'll include them in future posts. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Latest News: Schools and Nurseries in the UK expose kids to toxins

I've been thinking about the toxins in nurseries lately -- and wishing that their was some resource or certifying body that could guarantee that I was sending my son to a relatively toxic-free environment. (It's been my dream to start something like that.) I've toured my fair share of nurseries/schools here and the smell of bleach and chemicals in some is overwhelming. And when asked about their organic food practices, nurseries tend to dodge the question. (But I must say there are some schools and nurseries that really get it right though. Like the Steiner School down the road, but that is a story for another post.)

So it wasn't a shock that according to a recent study published by the University of Birmingham on the "Dust from U.K. Primary School Classrooms and Daycare Centers: The Significance of Dust As a Pathway of Exposure of Young U.K. Children to Brominated Flame Retardants and Polychlorinated Biphenyls." 

Inhabitots had a great article on  the University of Birmingham research:

Since kids spend a lot of time in classroom settings, this raises a red flag. Researchers looked for seven PCBs and three main types of brominated flame retardants: hexabromocyclododecane(HCBD), a derivative of bisphenol-A tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBP-A), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are now banned, yet they were still detected in all of the 43 United Kingdom classrooms tested.
HBCD is one of the biggest concerns. The chemical was detected in all dust samples and levels were significantly higher than those recorded in homes and offices. Even though animal studies have linked HBCD exposure to endocrine disruption, the largely used flame retardant is currently unrestricted in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom. The chemical has been identified as a concern under REACH, a new European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use.
What are we to do? Get out there and talk to your schools/nurseries. Urge them to consider a different way to clean, to cook, etc. It's important - it's for our kids' health.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recycling: Mail

Someone asked me a great question the other day:

Can you recycle the little plastic windows in envelopes? Or do you have to take the time to cut them out to recycle the envelope? (argh!)

Answer: In most places, the plastic window can be recycled. It depends on your area, but most post-consumer paper mills have systems that can take out these small amounts of contaminants.

So the US and UK, you have to check with your provider, but generally it is okay.

From UK's Royal Mail's site:

Greetings cards
Greetings cards can be included with other paper items and recycled via your local authority’s kerbside collections or at your nearest paper bank.  The cards will be recycled into newspapers, paper towels and writing paper. Please note, not all local authorities are able to collect greetings cards, so please check your local authority’s recycling website for more information.
Padded envelopes
Only padded envelopes made from 100% paper can be recycled. If yours aren’t, you can still reuse them by putting a sticker over the address and adding a new stamp.   
Window envelopes
Most envelopes with plastic windows can be recycled with the rest of your paper. If in doubt, cut out the window part of the envelope and recycle the rest. Some local authorities don’t collect any envelopes due to the glue. If this is the case in your area, simply remove the windows and add the envelopes to your compost bin.
Stamps attached to envelopes can be recycled with the rest of your paper.  As an alternative, why not start a stamp collection?
Bills and statements
Please beware of identity theft! It’s a good idea to shred all bills and statements. Then, either compost the shredded paper or recycle it via your local authority’s kerbside collections or at your nearest paper bank.
Polywrap envelopes
These are the transparent wrappers that magazines and catalogues are sometimes delivered in.  Most local authorities do not accept polywraps for recycling. However, many companies now use biodegradable polywraps.  This means that you can throw them away with your rubbish and they will degrade quickly when they’re sent to landfill.  Alternatively, you can add them to your compost bin.
Shredded mail
Although some local authorities will accept shredded paper, others are reluctant to do so for the following reasons:

  1. Shredded paper can blow away, creating a litter problem 
    2. Shredded paper can cause maintenance problems with recycling machinery  
    3. Some recycling machinery is unable to separate the shredded paper from other items 
    If your local authority will collect shredded paper, you can stop it blowing away by putting it in a paper bag or wrapping it in an old newspaper. If your local authority doesn’t accept shredded paper, one option is to not shred it in the first place so you can recycle your paper in the usual ways. Home composting is a good alternative, especially if you’re worried about identity theft. 

Exploring the wildlife in your back garden

Don't forget to visit for our weekly post on exploring nature in your back garden!

My young son has recently been fascinated by the abundance of six-legged creatures in our garden since the weather has started warming up. Aside from the occasional task of convincing him they belong out amongst the flowers and not in his pocket, we've found it to be extremely helpful in demonstrating the beauty of the outdoors and getting him to notice a world that does not belong just to us.
Ladybirds, for example, are fantastic for such an exercise. They're benign, can’t bite little fingers, are good for the garden, and colourful – which makes them easy to find. My son is particularly interested in ladybirds and follows them as they crawl on various flowers and plants. It's very encouraging when he finds one and puts it in the flowerbed. Our favourite thing to do is watch them as they crawl up and down the plant, giving us a wonderful opportunity to share our knowledge (albeit sometimes limited) of nature and the bug's role in the world's cycle of vegetation. It has also given us the excuse to encourage my little boy to smell the flowers and appreciate the different colours in nature that are used to attract the bugs. We've found this exercise to start taking hold in his head as the other day, while walking to the bus, he stopped to smell a bush of honeysuckle which demonstrates an awareness of his surroundings and the pleasure that a simple plant can bring.
Bugs have also provided my son a greater appreciation for earth and planting in general. What is currently thought of only as mud fodder or something else to throw, is treated more gently when he finds a worm, or a 'noodle' as he describes it or an ant. We recently planted a number of onion bulbs in our garden and he was extremely pleased to find worms clambering in and around the bulbs. He has also taken to placing various bugs on the sprouts that have come out since then as they are the bugs' “home” and he has been told that the bugs help the planted vegetables grow.
As squeamish as I generally am about creepy crawlies, I have to admit that the whole circus of six and eight legged creatures in our yard and increased (if that was even possible) my son's love of the outdoors. He can squat and watch and ant walk around an ant hill for minutes (which is in itself impressive) and apart from the rare 'mash it' instances, is intrigued by their movements and their sense of direction to our flowerbeds. Interestingly, I believe that these bugs have taught my son a sense of patience and appreciation for nature, for flowers and for being outside, that has shown in his recent tendencies to literally stop and smell the flowers.
For the family, it encourages us to do the same. Nature is a wonder and it’s funny that it’s the smaller creatures (the bugs, our children, etc) are capable of teaching us such a great lesson.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Staying Cool this Summer: Ice Lollies/Popsicles

Popsicles (Ice Lollies) are a real favorite of my son (and myself). I always try to have some made on hand in our freezer so we are never without a quick and cooling snack. And I like making my own so I really know what’s going into them. :) Really, I use everything from juice to fresh fruit purees with whole bits of fruit in there.

Also, using and reusing ice lolly moulds when you make your own helps reduce waste!  If you're interested, I've found a great BPA, PVC and Phthalate Free option at VUP Baby

My mom sent along a recipe for Blueberry Banana Yogurt Popsicles. (I think they’re from Martha Stewart but can't be sure.) I’ve simplified the original recipe and have excluded any sugar for my toddler. 
  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas 
  • 1 1/2 cups yogurt 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or orange 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries 

In the bowl of a food processor, puree bananas until smooth. Add yogurt, and lemon juice; pulse to combine. Remove half of the yogurt mixture; set aside.

Add blueberries to processor, and pulse until just combined. Layer blueberry and reserved yogurt mixtures into ten 1/3 cup ice-pop molds. Using a wooden skewer, swirl the two flavors together. Insert ice-pop sticks. Transfer to freezer until frozen, about 8 hours

And don't forget to dip the molds quickly in hot water to make it a heck of a lot easier to unmold.

More combos try:
Raspberries and yogurt 
Raspberry Puree with water, mint and limes
Mango and Orange (4 large ripe mangoes and 1 cup orange juice)

Do you have any recipes you'd like to share?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Club: Nature's Playground

This is one of Henry's favorite books. It's a book designed for parents, but the pictures are exceptionally beautiful. Henry will sit by himself, flipping through the pages, muttering to himself about the "nail" (snail), trees, butterflies and (gasp) kids in their boots.

Written by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, they share a great love of the outdoors with their children and, through their helpful hints and clever activities, inspire other parents to do the same with their own children. Organized by the seasons, you can find a variety of craft projects and
practical ideas to help you explore the great outdoors.

With crafts like corn dollies, twig sculptures, forest mobiles, activities like natural painting, scavenger hunts, stop and listen games, and woody bug hunts, I really believe this book is a great addition to any family's library.

If you're interested, you can purchase it at our Amazon E-Store.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Meatless Monday: July's Here!

It's the beginning of July and the weather is so wonderful for growing and sowing fruit and veg-- guess it's time to discuss what's in season this month!

As we've mentioned before, we are big fans of the Eat Seasonably Calendar. (It's such a fab and inventive resource!) Anyway, according to them, July's best includes:

  • Cherries (ahhh, so refreshing - just what you need on a hot summer day)
  • Cucumber (we like it in our water, in salads, on sandwiches - a real kid's favorite)
  • Curly Lettuce (so great for those happy summer salads you crave around this time)

Why is it important to eat seasonally?
  • More flavorful and fresher (in my opinion)
  • Helps reduce the energy needed to grow and transport the food we eat
  • Can be less expensive - and helps to support the local economy
  • You know where your food is coming from - helps to connect to land and great conversation starter about fruit and veg with your children
For our weekly Meatless Monday recipes:

What about a simple tomato and cucumber salad?

1 Red Onion
3 Large Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
The Juice of Half a Lemon
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Very thinly slice the onion. I deseed the tomatoes, but if you're in a rush just do what you want/can. I then cut the cucumber into bite size pieces and add it to the mix drizzling olive oil and lemon over the top and gently stirring it all together. You can then add parsley or basil to the salad - whatever you need to use up from your garden.

Courgette and Bulgar Salad (From the great Veg Box Recipe's site - highly recommend it!)

½ cup cracked bulgar wheat
2-3 medium courgettes (zucchini)
2-3 medium carrots
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
50g (2 oz) Cheddar (hard) cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ stock cube

Put the cracked bulgar wheat in a bowl and cover with twice its voume of boiling water. Cover with a clean cloth and leave for 25 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the bulgar wheat is fluffy.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a pan. Peel and chop the onion. Saute in the oil for 5 minutes.

Peel and crush the garlic clove. Scrub (or peel) and finely chop the carrots. Add to the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Stir often so they don't burn.

Grate the courgettes (or slice finely). Grate the cheese. When the carrots are soft, add the courgettes and cheese to the pan. Mix well, put the lid on and leave until the bulgar wheat is ready.

When the bulgar wheat is cooked, add it to the pan and mix well. Serve immediately.

Berry and Fennel Salad
(I think this is from the Vegetarian Society, but not quite sure.)

50g Walnuts
¼ Cucumber
½ Fennel, very thinly sliced or shredded
85g Watercress, thick stalks removed
1 Round Green Lettuce, washed and dried
150g Blackberries, washed and dried
150g Raspberries, washed and dried
150g Silken Tofu
6 tbsp Good Quality French Dressing
1 tbsp Caster Sugar

Preheat oven to 200C. Spread walnuts out on a baking tray and put in hot oven for about 4 minutes until lightly roasted. Remove from oven and cool.

To make the dressing: Drain the silken tofu by putting it in a bowl lined with kitchen paper and patting dry. Transfer French dressing to a small liquidizer together with the silken tofu and the caster sugar. Blend for about 30 seconds until creamy. Put into a bowl ready to serve.

Continue with the salad: Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, and then thinly slice to make half-moon slices. Mix these with the fennel and watercress

Arrange whole green lettuce leaves on four plates, and pile the cucumber mixture on top. Scatter with the blackberries, raspberries and roasted walnuts and serve, passing the dressing round separately.

You can top either salad off with Fresh Cherry Cake. (From BBC's Good Food)

If I'm perfectly honest, though, I never get around to making anything with cherries. They are just too good - and we always eat them straight away.