Green Treats for Halloween

I just got back from my son's kindergarten Halloween class party...and OMG! The candy and 'juice' that were supplied... I know the teacher specified that only healthy treats - aka, no candy - should be brought. But I don't think some of the parents read the directions...

Since sugar does a negative number on our immune system - decreasing it's effectiveness for 24-48 hours - I'm not looking forward to all the sweet treats my kids are going to come in contact with in the next few months. I mean, let's face it. This time of year we are bombarded with candy and cookies and cakes and chocolate. More than enough reasons to smile and, sadly, get sick...

And I know, I know. It is fun to indulge from time to time. But colds and the flu also come around this time of year too. Could there be a correlation? Probably. Maybe. I wish there weren't - I love those DOTS candies! But maybe there are some naturally-minded green alternative treats that we can make and buy.

Here are some of my fall favs:
  • Pumpkin Nog - a friend of mine got me hooked on this savory-sweet drink! So yummy...

  • Organic Lollipops - we get these by the bag full at our local natural market. Great to have on hand especially when we go to the bank or the doctor's office (so I can trade the HFCS sucker for an organic cane juice one)

  • candy apples - except I use rice syrup. It dries super fast, so read the directions on how to heat and, while it's still warm/sticky, sprinkle with chopped nuts or dried fruits

  • apple cider - I grew up on this drink in Michigan. I don't know anyone who doesn't love a cup of hot apple cider. And if you like, add in some rum for mom and dad ;)

  • pumpkin pie cup cakes - make it the same way you'd make the traditional pie, except do it on a smaller scale. The kids love these after school as a snack and it's always the perfect portion.
To me, Halloween is more of a Happy Harvest Day, but I do dig getting dressed up and trick-o-treatin' with the kids. And this year, like in the past, after the kids pick out their handful of candy that they want to enjoy, we're donating the rest. This year our family picked Operation From The Heart - an organization who ships care package items like candy, socks and whatnot to soldiers overseas.

No matter what you do for the holiday, stay safe and have fun this Halloween!

And if you have any treat ideas you'd like to share, please do!

Can't have too much fun, right ;)

What To Do About the Flu...

With everyone stressed out about all the hype pertaining to the various cold and flu bugs going around, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure what to believe anymore!

I know that every fall we amp up our hand washing behavior to practically obsessive and avoid hanging out with anyone who looks suspicious (aka: sick). But since you can't always tell who is sick and who isn't, in our family we also increase our probiotic intake: kefir for breakfast, a probiotic chewable for lunch. And always eat vitamin C rich fruits in mass!

The other day I saw this list of links concerning different questions that pop up concerning the flu and found the info helpful in refocusing me on what information is really important. The media would want you to worry a hole in your heart about every health threat out there! But that is a health threat in and of itself.
I try to always save worrying for when the time comes to worry. And since negative vibes and worry can hurt your immune system, staying on top of your family's health should never involve running around like a crazy person.

Stay calm. Stay informed. And wash your hands.



Soup time is here....

I love Fall, specifically the food and weather of Fall. My husband and I get so excited when the weather finally changes and we can start enjoying our favorite soups. Of course living in San Diego the change in weather isn't as drastic as other parts of the country but for us it's all we know and when the evenings get darker earlier and the air has a chill in it we know it's time to find celery root in the store and start concocting new soups to add to our repertoire.
A new one that was passed to me by a good friend is a Maple Parsnip Soup. So I decided I had to share this amazing recipe.



Maple Parsnip Soup
3 Tablespoons butter (can use part olive oil)
Melt in a heavy bottomed soup pot until beginning to brown

1 pound parsnips (chopped)
2 medium onions (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
Add and saute until onions are translucent but not brown

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Add and bring to a simmer. Cook until parsnips are soft, about 40 minutes

1/2 cup evaporated milk
Add and remove from heat. Pour into blender and puree until velvety smooth.

1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (or more for spicer taste)
salt to taste
Stir in. Serve garnished with 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts or other nuts

I know that we will be trying this as soon as our weather becomes Fall, it's October 24th and still in the mid-high 70's. I'm not complaining just excited to be able to try my new recipe and need the weather to cooperate.

Making the Most of a Rainy Day...

It's been freezing and raining for three days now and looks like the forecast for tomorrow is the same. And usually by day three is when my kids start getting board of the same old toys, games, books, routine...so what's a green mom to do when you can't go outside?

I fondly remember all the games and activities my brothers and I came up out of necessity when we lived overseas. We had one TV channel, one radio channel, and sometimes no books or toys to play with since our military family was always on the move and most everything was packed up.

The most interesting and long lasting memories came from days like these where we had to come up with our own ideas and games to pass the time. Some of the best were:
  • Make a Movie
    Using our parents video recorder (remember the BIG ones? They weighed a ton!) and a blank tape, we put together some of the most hilarious skits and plays. We'd have a director, actors, lines, and costumes. The scenery had to be made - couches had to be moved, tables turned into caves, sheets into tents. Of course we'd put the house back together again...but in the meantime, our imagination was the limit and boy did we have a great time!

  • Fashion Show
    I know my little fashionista would love to do this one! Pull out all those crazy accessories, shoes, and fancy clothes and dress up as a family - or just the kids - and have everyone strut their stuff down the catwalk, uh, hallway into the living room. Take some pics, print them out, put them online, especially if you have most of your family living far away. Doing this is not only a blast, you might actually get around to cleaning out that closet and, after the fashion show is over, bag up and consign what you can live without!

  • Put on a Play
    My brothers and I would do this for guests all the time...it was fun! We'd perform all sorts of short odd ball plays that were definitely akin to making our movies, just shorter. Have songs, dances, action scenes! The kids can help write the script, pick out the costumes, choreograph the dances, and make up the songs. Tonight: a little family dinner theater in the living room!

Are Vaccines Safe?

Really...are they?

If you ask your pediatrician, more often than not, they say yes. If you ask the growing number of families opting to forgo vaccines all together, the answer is no.

But what's the truth? Is it YES or NO? Or somewhere in between?

* Are some safe? And others not? If so, which ones?

* What schedule is safe? Can I use an alternative schedule?

* And what exactly is in the vaccines? How are they made?

There are an increasing number of mothers asking these questions and more. Unfortunately, unless you have an open-minded/open-mouthed doctor, you're not going to get anything but pharmaceutical company and government scripted responses.

So then, how are we - mothers, fathers, families - supposed to make an informed decision based on informed consent when none is being given?

I came across Dr. Sear's Vaccine Book and found freedom in its pages and unbiased approach to all the questions I have concerning vax's:
  • Detailed information about the ingredients in each vaccine.
  • How different manufactures create their vaccines.
  • Which vaccines have mercury. Which don't.
  • Alternative vaccine schedules.
  • Lists of questions to ask yourself and your doctor.
  • Pros and Cons of each vaccine.
Because, let's be honest here - there are both pros and cons when it comes vaccines.

It just depends on which vaccine your talking about, which manufacturer makes it, what ingredients are in it, and in what order it's given to your child...not to mention what other vaccines should and shouldn't be given along with it.

Everyone should educate themselves about what they are injecting into their child BEFORE they get one.

And if you have questions about the H1N1 vaccine, Dr. Sears has detailed information about the ingredients and creation process of each on his website.

Check your local library for a copy of Dr. Sear's The Vaccine Book. That's where I found mine.


Pumpkin Soup with Sausage

My kids loved Green Mama Amanda's Pumpkin Pancakes so much that I thought I'd try adding pumpkin into another meal: dinner!

I was totally skeptical at first. I don't know why. I guess I've just never had pumpkin in a savory dish before. But the end result was not only a good for you soup - with all the nutritional ingredients that help you stay healthy and strong as Mother Earth puts on the chill - it was also very delicious!

And the kids loved it! Very important ;)

As always with my recipes, this is cooking...NOT baking. Therefore both the ingredients and the amounts can vary. That's why I love cooking...it's all about plus-n-minus ;)

What you need...in the order you need them
  • olive oil - enough to cover the bottom of your soup pot, and then some
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion chopped (your choice - yellow, white, red)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 carrots chopped
  • 3 celery stalks chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves (more if you like, less if you want)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 cups water (or chicken stock if you have it)
  • 10 baby red potatoes quartered (I bet sweet potato would be good too!)
  • 4 sweet Italian sausage links sliced or crumbled
  • black pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp black strap molasses (very good for you, adds depth of color and flavor)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup (high in iron & calcium, my super most secret ingredient ever!)
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • yes, it's a lot...it's soup!!
What to do...
  1. Saute onion, carrots, celery in olive oil and butter for 5 minutes
  2. add pumpkin puree and allow to mix-n-mingle for 5 minutes
  3. add water, potatoes, sausage...and everything else into the pot
  4. bring to a high boil for 20 minutes
  5. lower to a low boil for 30 minutes
  6. serve with Parmesan cheese, buttered bread, anything you like ;)
As always, have the kids help out in the kitchen and out back dumping the kitchen scraps into the compost.

Hope you have some chilly weather your way to try out this wonderful fall soup...enjoy!

:)

In the Mix! Kids & Kitchen Compost

You're making dinner, trying to get everything on the table in time, and your little one's, been brought into the kitchen by the wonderful aromas you're creating, just won't get out from underfoot...they're starving!!!

Sound familiar?

Most time I hand out little nibbles to these food crazed monsters, but by the time dinner rolls around, they aren't really hungry anymore. And when you work really hard on a meal, you just want to see everyone enjoy it, right?

Well, that's the inherited trait from my mother's Italian side of the family anyway...

If there is some way they can help with the cooking, that is always a welcomed treat. But sometimes there aren't many small jobs for small hands. So, instead of shooing them away - unsuccessfully - over and over again, I've come up with another plan. And it's something that has to get done, too, so it doubles as a time saver trick.

Instead of doing it all myself, I employ my three year old to fill up our kitchen compost bin with all the scraps that I've created while cooking. Then as a team, my five and three year old take it out back to our compost pile and deposit the soon-to-be black gold on top.

If they are in the mood to turn the pile...wow...great! Thanks kids! ;) But if not, no biggie. The task of taking kitchen scraps out to the compost pile not only takes outside, they also learn how to work as a team, and it helps to instill the truth that just because we're not eating certain parts of the veggies and fruit, that doesn't necessarily make them trash.

Taught to them young and kept as part of their daily lives, kids will see the benefits of living green first hand. Therefore they will be more apt to incorporate them later on into their own life as they grow older.

That's really good because, as we all know, it's our job to raise them greenies :)

Pumpkin patches popping up all over the place!


I'm sure you've noticed the pumpkin patches starting to open up around your town. This is just yet another reminder that soon the weather will start to cool, the evenings will be darker and best of all we get to enjoy the fabulous flavor of pumpkin! So to get you started here's two of my favorite recipes.


Pumpkin Pancakes

In a bowl combine:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


In a separate bowl mix:

1 cup organic milk

1 egg

1/3 cup organic pumpkin (I typically add more and adjust the flour for consistency)


Now mix wet and dry ingredients together, let stand for 5-10 minutes. Cook pancakes.

We like to add extra garnishes as we cook them some of our favorites are chopped walnuts, bananas, dried cranberries, pecans...etc.


Pumpkin Gingerbread

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup molasses

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup organic pumpkin


1.) Combine flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda & salt. Stir in crystallized ginger

2.) Whisk eggs, egg white, oil, molasses & sugar. Whisk in pumpkin. Fold into dry ingredients until just combined.

3.) Pour into bread pan and cook @ 350degrees for 35-40minutes.