Monday, February 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you all have a happy Valentine's day! Do you have anything exciting planned?

In honour of today, here's a decadent but amazingly easy Meatless Monday recipe to try -- and one of my family's all time favourites:

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
Serves 4, Active Time: 40 minutes


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • bunch sage , leaves picked, half roughly chopped, half left whole
  • 1½ l vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • onion , finely chopped
  • 300g risotto rice (we used arborio)
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • 50g parmesan , finely grated

  • Directions:
    1. Before you make the risotto, heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Toss the squash in 1 tbsp oil together with the chopped sage. Scatter into a shallow roasting tin and roast for 30 mins until it is brown and soft.
    2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the risotto. Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt half the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the butter, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.
    3. Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer.
    4. At the same time, gently fry the whole sage leaves in a little olive oil until crisp, then set aside on kitchen paper. When the squash is cooked, mash half of it to a rough purée and leave half whole. When the risotto is just done, stir though the purée, then add the cheese and butter and leave to rest for a few mins. Serve the risotto scattered with the whole chunks of squash and the crisp sage leaves.

    Per serving

    609 kcalories, protein 15g, carbohydrate 87g, fat 24 g, saturated fat 10g, fibre 8g, sugar 17g, salt 0.95 g

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Green Family Highlights

I'm currently accepting nominations for green families to highlight on this blog. I think it will be a great way to inspire us all -- and hopefully give a few green tips for family life!

If you know of anyone you'd like to nominate, or wouldn't mind answering a few questions yourself about your family's green practices, please email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Plastic-Free February: Day 13

Laundry. Laundry. Laundry.

I've been researching ways to get around purchasing laundry detergent in the silly plastic packaging. (Even if we use the eco-friendly brand in the concentrated liquid, I still feel terrible about the plastic in the packaging!) Oh, and I need to use the liquid soap option for my washer so buying powder packaged in a cardboard box (while the best option) isn't a choice for us. So it looks like I might be making my own. A little DIY, anyone?

If you're like me and thinking about making my own laundry soap, here are some of the recipes I've found online:

I'd love to hear about your experiences and recommendations before I proceed. Do you make your own laundry soap? Have any tips or "recipes" to share?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eco Valentines

How do you celebrate (or not) valentine's day? At our house, we are really looking to reduce the amount of waste we produce, so there won't be any pre-packaged valentine's candy (plastic wrap - augh!!) or hallmark valentine's cards.

For my son's friends, I made used an adorable printable bear lollipop cover from Skip to My Lou. Because we made our own, we were able to avoid buying pre-made cards that were wrapped in plastic and a cardboard box. I also chose a chocolate lollipop that was wrapped in foil to help with my plastic-free february mission. For his teachers and grandparents, we made cards, cutting hearts out of scrap paper and gluing them to our recycled card stock.

I'll be making my valentines some yummy cupcakes this year and will include some chocolate-covered cherries for my dear partner. (They cherries have been soaking in brandy since Nov - part of my homemade Christmas presents - so I hope they are still usable.)

What gifts are you planning for valentine's day?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 9 & 10

The milk man. And the best of intentions.

Last Saturday I was inappropriately excited by the thought of milk in a glass bottle being delivered to our door. I had also ordered a number of other organic items including eggs, cheese (wrapped in paper) and bread (in a paper bag). And by 4:00 pm I was still waiting.

Of course I called there support line, but they were already closed until Monday. On Monday at 9:00 I called to inquire and was told it was delivered and no, they wouldn't be giving a refund. (My partner called and got a different story - so heaven only knows what happened.) They said they'd send another order along to us. So on our doorstep the next morning we found 3 glass milk jugs, an orange juice, and ryvita. Not in the reusable cool bag I ordered and missing numerous items.

This is so under-whelming. I really wanted it to work but I'm not willing to wait for a) my deliveries to get sorted and b) sub-par customer service. So I am going back to Abel and Cole's milk. While it comes in plastic cartons, I know they are amazing people and provide excellent customer service. (In fact, I chatted with them about glass milk options on their online web chat system and they said they would look into it. Immediate and generous feedback in real time! Fab!)

Do you use glass or plastic milk jugs? What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 8

Preparing for Travel.

With a 2 Year Old. (But that isn't the point of this blog. I just thought I'd highlight it for sympathy.)

With this plastic-free challenge, I've quickly learned that I need to prepare in advance for most outings big and small. So I am gearing to travel back to Kansas next week with my 2 year old (without my partner - ack!). As there aren't any direct flights to KS from London, we're stuck with a 21 hour trip. (I bet you are seriously jealous right now.) :)

I've been doing research on how to travel without creating plastic waste. Because if you think about it - everything is wrapped in plastic on the airplane. The pillows, blankets, food, headphones, etc. I was just looking through one of the best blogs out there: -- you must check it out if you haven't done so already. Anyway, she has the best recommendations for air travel which include a number of options that would be perfect for Henry and me:

1. Bring our own mugs/cups - I always do this for the both of us. It's terrible to be caught without water with a child. However, I find that I buy bottled water half-way into the trip, but this time I will pledge to find a water fountain and fill up our cups that way.

2. Take along utensils - Again, I always do this for Henry (although they are plastic utensils but at least they are not single-use). It wouldn't be so hard to pop a fork into the bag for me as well.

3. Snacks and food are a Must - Most of what I take along is in pre-packaged plastic wrapping. I really hope to attempt to make some options ahead of time and buy in bulk if I can't.

4. Headphones - Henry and I both have our own headphones so I will definitely remember these.

5. Travel pillows - I didn't realize that the pillows were single-use! Will be purchasing Henry his own travel pillow today!

6. Personal care products - here's where you have to use a clear plastic baggy. I've kept mine as well for future use, phew.

Do you travel plastic-free? Any other recommendations out there?

(And if you're interested, I wrote a post on eco-air travel back in July at Greenwala.)

Droughts, Floods and Food from Paul Krugman

One of the best (and moving) pieces I've read in a long time. As he states:

But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.

For the full NY Times column, click here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 7

I. Want. My. B-Bar.

Family life can be hard. I find that I'm normally running from one place to the other, trying to catch the bus or wrangle my 2 year old into his coat and/or buggy. And sometimes we have to eat on the go. I normally make us sandwiches (wrapped in a reusable sandwich bag!) and take along pre-cut veggies and fruit. I have a cooler lunch bag and also aim to bring cheese if I am extra organized. Pre-challenge I would also pack a pre-packaged organic children's breakfast bar wrapped in plastic. Not so healthy yet not so bad, but a special treat.

As you can imagine, someone was pretty upset that I didn't pack along his b-bar today. Changing our habits will take time, I know. So here's to a healthier, happier and more environmentally friend family. Wish us luck!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 6

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 
- or another working title - 
Why we can't always be perfect.

I'm just finishing my first week of trying to live plastic-free. And let me tell you, it has been challenging.

I'm not perfect. I was working on Saturday morning and didn't get around to the farmers' market to buy our fresh and seasonal produce. Also, we didn't get time to head down to the Whole Foods which is about 4 miles from our house to buy food in bulk so I thought I'd head to another organic shop that was closer to us. Unfortunately, as is the case with good food stores, they were mostly sold out of all their produce and didn't have a bulk foods section. (Don't worry, we drove there in our hybrid.) So we had to go to the supermarket. Blah. Even though we take our own Onya Fruit and Veg Bags (which you can buy from my Amazon store) instead of using flimsy, wasteful plastic ones, it is still hard to not buy plastic. You'll see the picture of our shopping items above. Can you find pasta without the plastic? Apricots and Raisins? Any suggestions?

*I might add that we always bring our own reusable shopping bags - so that is one solid, good, plastic-free practice we employ. Trying to focus on the positive here. :)

I know this week hasn't been the best for cutting down my plastic use. It is quite frustrating - as the perfectionist in me was hoping to be 100% plastic-free. But we are a busy family and I am doing what I can. I just hope that by sharing my struggles and lessons learned you will be inspired to consider your own plastic use. I figure the more that we can share our experiences, the more we can learn. And hell, no one is perfect, right?!

Weekly Meal Plan

I try to do my weekly menu planning every Sunday morning and love to look at other family's meal plans for ideas and inspiration. So I thought I would share my list with you for this week! 


B Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins (I always freeze leftovers for snacks)
L Barley & Wild Rice Pilaf and Feta and Grape Salad 
D Pasta with Pea Pesto 


B Carrot Muffins 
L Quesadillas and Black Bean Dip 
D Slow Cooker Lasagna and Chicken Fingers


B Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars 
L Freaky Greek Pasta and Raspberry Salad 
D Red Lentil Soup 


B Eggs and Toast
L Lunch out
D Potato Boats 


B Oatmeal
L Macaroni and Cheese 
D Pizza Night with the best dough recipe ever 

For my weekly shop, I create a grocery list that I then add to my iPhone's shopping list app and include all our meals (with recipe links) in our family's google calendar. 

As an aside, I realize this plan contains a LOT of pasta as my 2 year old seems obsessed with it right now. But I always choose whole-wheat or spelt pasta and really try to mix up the sauces and include lots of veggies with each meal. I guess as a parent you have to work with what you are given. :) Also, for snacks we usually have hummus and pita, fruit or veggie sticks. I'll write about this in a different post.

How do you plan for your family's weekly meals? Anyone care to share their plans? You can also post a link to your blog in the comments section or write to me at - I'd love to feature you!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 5

Brand Loyalty.

We've created a monster. You see, our son is completely committed to Starbucks. It started out as I would innocently get him a (free) babyccino with each cappuccino I purchased. (I am a caffeine addiction mom with a soft spot for free things. But hey, I always try to bring my own reusable mug. See pictured.) I didn't realize that over time, my dear child began to recognise their logo. In airports, in Kansas, across London, he would scream for Starbucks as he was able to easily identify their sign (not to mention all their stores are designed to look alike - we were in sunny California and it was like we hadn't left London).

Henry used to get a babyccino in a small paper cup. No biggie, I thought. But then - in a moment of weakness - I gave him an Innocent smoothie with the plastic straw and wrapper. This was before my plastic-free February challenge and while I did think about the waste (briefly) I didn't ever occur to me that Henry would want one each time we visited Starbucks. And that adds up to a lot of waste.

I'll admit: it's not Starbucks that is the problem. I could say no to my 2 year old. Easy, right. But to me, parenting takes such strength - and digging yourself out of a habit/rut can be time consuming and challenging. But no one said it was easy. So I'm going to cut back. And convince Henry that just as we turn off the lights when we leave the room, we are going to cut back on all the trash we make. (He has the most adorable eco-book that talks about these issues - and has been very good at screaming/reminding me to turn off our lights. He's also quite the recycler.)

How do you manage with your children? Any suggestions?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plastic-Free February: Day 4

You've got mail. (Sorry I couldn't resist.)

Did you know that the average household receives 224 pieces of junk mail each year? Half a million tonnes of unwanted mail is generated in the UK and it takes 3,300,000 trees to produce it! 

We try to arrange most of our bills and catalogs for online delivery to cut down on paper waste. But I didn't ever notice the amount of plastic wrap that does come through our mailbox. This picture was all the mail from today - 3 pieces wrapped in plastic! In my quest to go plastic-free, I guess I need to take a look at the whole picture. (And just be okay with trying my best!!) But there are a few things you can do to help reduce all the mail you receive:

  • Get a "No commercial leaflets" sticker for your postbox. You can usually find these from your local council or you can even make your own. 
  • Register your details with the Mail Preference Service. This service will remove your name and address from 95% of mailing lists. Registration can take up to four months to have full effect and will last until you cancel it.
  • And don't forget that most magazines can be read online -- as you can arrange to pay for online subscriptions for most every magazine.
Any other tips for reducing the amount of mail that comes through your mailbox?

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Plastic-Free February: Day 3

    Tackling our Toothbrushes...

    Henry (2 years old) has always used a Green Baby toothbrush as I have wanted to avoid plastic in his mouth. (This wooden toothbrush uses natural, hygienically treated pig hair and are comfortable on young gums and teeth.)

    But I was in a rush the last time he needed one so I just picked a plastic toothbrush up from the local pharmacy instead of ordering it in or heading down to the Whole Foods in Clapham Junction to pick it up there. (Being green takes a bit of forward-thinking, doesn't it?) He needs a new one so I'm placing an order tonight. And I am certain it will arrive without any plastic wrapping!

    As for adult toothbrushes, I think the best option is the Monte Bianco. As they say,

    "In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic that we all throw away they have developed a brush which uses replaceable heads, so when the old bristles wear out they are the only part which needs disposing of - you needn’t throw away the handle."

    What do you and your family use?

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Plastic-Free February: Day 2

    I've been thinking a lot about my plastic-free challenge. To recap, I will be:

    1: Not buying or acquiring new plastic.

    2: Not cooking with plastic or storing food in plastic.

    3: Minimizing all other plastic use.

    The easy bit for me is #2. I don't ever microwave in plastic. (Say what you will, I believe plastic does leach while cooking in the microwave. And I just don't want to take any chances, especially with my young son. Plus it's just as easy to microwave food in a glass or ceramic container.)

    I think I am going to struggle most with not buying new plastic. For breakfast, my son wanted his organic yogurt, conveniently packaged in individual portions.  Now I could just buy him yogurt from a large tub - or in keeping with the theme - I could challenge myself to make my own yogurt. Heck, Martha Stewart has a recipe. (Although you have to cover it to set in...wait for it...PLASTIC wrap!) We could also reuse the yogurt containers to make cute seed planters!

    So does anyone have any recommendations for  what to do about this?

    For tomorrow: Tackling our Toothbrushes.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011's Plastic-Free February

    I've been so inspired by other bloggers and Rodale to take the Plastic-Free February challenge.

    I'll be the first to admit I'm not perfect by any means. In my workshops and consultations, I really stress the need to be completely non-judgemental (of others and most importantly, ourselves) and do what we can with what we have in the moment. We can strive to better but always from a place of compassion and goodness. (Okay, enough of my preaching!)

    So on with the challenge:

    Rodale's plastic-free ground rules:

    1: No buying or acquiring new plastic.

    2: No cooking with plastic or storing food in plastic.

    3: Minimize all other plastic use.

    Why go plastic free?There are plenty of reasons to cut down. It's made from either petroleum or natural gas, two nonrenewable resources extracted in ways that pollute our air and water. Plastic manufacturers add chemicals to certain types of plastics that can be highly toxic, likebisphenol A and phthalates. And very few types of plastic are widely recycled.

    Is anyone else interested in joining? 
    Check out for more information!