Smells Like Fall: Sweet Potato Muffins
August 31, 2011 at 6:00 am
Oh sweet potato — you rule.
You are delicious, packed with nutrients and sweet as candy. Somehow, you can hang out with savory food too, though.
How do you do it sweet potato? Why are you so cool??
We love sweet potatoes here. We buy them frequently, especially this time of year. We love to bake them up and eat them with a little butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar and some cinnamon. But for even more portable sweet potato goodness, we like to make these muffins:
Sweet Sweet Potato Muffins
1 1/2 cups baked sweet potato*
1/2 cup milk (we use almond milk)
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups gluten-free flour (whole wheat pastry and spelt also work here — omit zanthan gum)
3/4 tsp zanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
chopped pecans, optional
*Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for 40 minutes to one hour depending on size until they are tender.
Mash sweet potatoes thoroughly. Add eggs, milk, honey, sugar and vanilla and mix. Add dry ingredients one at a time and mix until just combined.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes.
Oh Rats!! (In a Good Way)
August 30, 2011 at 6:00 am
We have recently added a new pet to our ever growing family.
Her name is Beatrix, and she is a rat.
Now if you are like me, you may be a little freaked out at the idea of having a rat live in your home. I mean, haven’t we spent centuries trying to keep these furry critters out of the public eye?
But Beatrix (Owen named her after Beatrix Potter, who used to keep many small animals in her nursery and used them to learn to sketch) actually came to us after much thought and consideration.
Owen’s half-birthday was this past weekend, and he has been campaigning hard for a small pet to keep in his room. We thought he would make an excellent small pet owner, and so we hit the pet store for ideas, worked the phones and even checked out several library books.
Other animals we considered that are often guilty of skittering around and scaring mothers: small lizards, a snake, a mouse and a gerbil.
We looked at turtles and small birds, and considered the fuzzy, stuffed cheekedness that is the Teddy Bear Hamster.
But our research kept leading back to rat. You may ask why. (I know I certainly did.)
Well, in one book, we read the following line: “Mice scare easily, pee often and bite.” (Strikethrough added for dramatic effect.)
But their rat cousins, the book stated, are friendly, easily trained, intelligent, cuddly and can even learn to respond to their name.
I also felt they were a little tougher than the other animals we were considering.
They live for 3 to 5 years, and frankly, have survived plagues, so they can probably deal with a small boy’s toilet paper tube obstacle courses and banana sharing.
And so, we have a rat in our home. And I think we are all quite happy about the addition.
At this point, you may be wondering just a bit what rat-keeping has to do with organic living. Well then here you go: Did you know they make organic rat food? Really.
And this is a rodent that has thrived for years on garbage. So maybe this organics thing really is catching on!
Speaking of rat and food, is it weird I am so excited about sharing kale and collards with a pet?
Kids in Trees
August 29, 2011 at 6:00 am
We have been reading a lot of Encyclopedia Brown around here lately.
We all enjoy the mystery books — the kids love the stories and how Encyclopedia figures it out each time. I like the way the books are laid out — perfect for reading one or two chapters at bedtime or after lunch. And, OK, I like the stories too. It is a little success for me when I can keep up with an 11-year-old kid in the solving mysteries department.
But what continues to surprise me about these stories is that being set in a different time, there are a lot of references to things that today, aren’t always universally accepted in parenting circles.
There are knives and swords. There are snake races. There’s a gun in one story, and a kidnapping in another (blamed on a clown, no less).
Can you imagine asking a fellow mom if her kid could come over for a little knife action and snake racing?
“Oh, don’t worry,” you would say, “Creepy the Clown from next door promised to help me keep an eye on the kids.”
I was reminded again last week of how much things really have changed in the past couple of generations.
We were at a playdate when a mom found a turtle. The kids gathered around excitedly. The mothers pulled out the hand sanitizer.
There is nothing wrong with sanitizing hands after touching a turtle, of course. I just don’t think the same thing would have happened when my parents were growing up.
I used to spend days at the creek with my best friend, and I can assure you — there was sandwich-eating, swimming, fish chasing and much reading of Nancy Drew books, but there was absolutely no hand-washing.
At this same playdate, a couple of kids (including my son) took to the trees to climb, barefoot.
It partially warmed my heart. It partially made that same heart skip a beat or two …
As one mom pointed out so well, “People get upset sometimes when they see my kids climbing trees. Yes, I know they could break their necks, but they don’t. They haven’t. They are having the time of their lives.”
And they were, up in the trees that day.
When exactly did we become so afraid or turtles and trees? I think when we learned a little too much.
And so, like my barefoot kid 20 feet off the ground, I continue to strive for balance in my parenting.
I hope someday to be as surefooted as he is.
A Simple Sunday
August 28, 2011 at 6:00 am
Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. It’s where all the fruit is. ~ Shirley MacLaine
A Very Good Week
August 27, 2011 at 6:00 am
An assortment of recipes, books, blog posts, or other things that inspired me this week.
One Bite at a Time
Cloth Tic Tac Toe and Checkers Game Board
Climb, Swing and Snuggle: Reading Readiness Involves the Whole Body
Groovy Dryer Balls
What is inspiring you this week? Please tell us about it in the comments below!
Three things I like to put in my travel mug and two winners!
August 26, 2011 at 6:00 am
I’m so happy to announce we have two winners for the give-aways I’m Organic hosted this week!
The I’m Organic reusable lunch bag winner is Laura who said “My favorite designs is the ‘Organic Revolution’… love it!”
The I’m Organic Eco Travel Mug Winner is Kari.
Winners, we will be in touch soon!
And now, I want to share a couple of things I love to put in my I’m Organic Eco Travel Mug:
1. Iced herbal tea. My mug keeps it cool, and the tea keeps me cool!
2. Dairy-free Chai: I use tazo tea bagsand mix the Chai with almond milk. It’s like make-your-own Starbucks, but cheaper and Starbucks only offers soymilk.
3. This one is a total treat, but I love to make this dairy-free cocoa with almond milk and top it with a dollop of coconut cream which can be made by refrigerating a can of coconut milk for about 30 minutes until the milk separates and then scooping the cream off the top. Yum!
Thanks to everyone who signed up to win our give-aways!
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Overkill Zucchini Bread
August 25, 2011 at 6:00 am
I am willing to bet that right now, as I type this, 61 out of 64 Americans have a zucchini on their counter or in their garden that they don’t know what to do with.
This is the true story of what happens when one mom, who is trying to live organically, is left alone with a chocolate craving.
It was a normal Sunday. A hint of fall was in the air. The kids were going on a bike ride with their dad, and I was dreaming of chocolate.
But how could I justifiably eat the Dutch-process cocoa powder sitting on my pantry shelf?
And that is when I thought of zucchini bread.
I make a lot of zucchini-themed treats this time of year – breads, muffins, cookies … One time, I even made cupcakes.
But this was a day when a few chocolate chips with my zucchini were just not going to make it. And so I pulled out the cocoa powder, the whole wheat pastry flour, some walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg, and I put my thinking cap on.
This is what I came up with. I decided to call it Overkill Zucchini Bread because it has a lot going on — chocolate AND vanilla? Zucchini And bananas? But somehow, it all worked out very nicely.
Overkill Chocolate Zucchini Bread
2 cups grated zucchini
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I buy it in bulk at my co-op)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup walnuts
chocolate chips (optional, but I won’t judge you)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-x5-inch bread pan. Mash or blend bananas in the bowl of a mixer. Add zucchini, eggs, honey, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add dry ingredients one at a time except walnuts. Mix until just combined. Add in about half the walnuts and fold in. Pour batter into greased bread pan and top with remaining walnuts. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until bread gently springs back. Bread will be moist. Do not overcook.
**One day left to win an Eco Travel Mug!!**
Bocce, Hot Dogs and Organic Living
August 24, 2011 at 6:00 am
I’ve written before that I did not grow up an organic child.
There were many organic-ish things my family did — we grew a garden, we kids played outside until dinner-time. We bought corn from the family that sold it on the corner of the main street in our little town. We got eggs from a farmer we knew.
One thing we did not do, was play bocce.
My dad pays bocce now, and once a year, he plays with my son (my daughter is still too young) in a Grandparents Goofy Tournament where the kids play normally, and the grandparents play according to “goofy rules” doing things like throwing left-handed and wearing blindfolds.
It is in fact, goofy.
It also reminds me of my inorganic childhood, heading to the same Italian-American social club on Friday nights, eating bowls of soft spaghetti and drinking 7-Up and Grenadine.
The best part was walking with my Uncle Porfi (we’re Italian, did I mention that?) to the bar (yup, a bar that served alcohol — where people smoked and gambled) to get a candy bar.
I could pick any kind I wanted.
So following this year’s bocce tournament, when my son was offered the club meal of hot dog, trans-fat chips, a grocery store bakery cookie and a very Midwest ”paap,” it was hard to know what to do.
Part of me was worried and fearful, because none of that stuff is healthy.
But part of me remembered the many, many Friday nights at the club, drinking plenty of pops (“the club” will always be place where Pepsi and Coke peacefully co-mingle), eating candy bars, white bread, margarine, salad dressing out of a vat in the back, poured out by an 85-year-old Italian-American who had spent the whole day stirring a tub of sauce the size of my kids’ swimming pool.
Sometimes, I think, being organic means shifting your focus. Because one thing my kid almost never needs, ever, is me freaking out.
So I let Owen eat whatever he wanted. He ate the chips and cookie. He asked for a water. He politely declined the hot dog.
When we came home, I made a lunch filled with lots of veggies and started some sauce on the stove.
There’s nothing wrong with where I came from. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting it sometimes. In fact, I think it’s good. I remember that nights at the club always made me feel part of something. They probably make my kids feel that way too.
But mostly, I like the food we eat now a lot better.
Although I do wish they would tell me sometime the secrets of that all-day sauce.
**(There’s still time to win an I’m Organic Eco Travel Mug! Stop by and sign up in the comments here!)***
Healthy Cinnamon Roasted Nuts
August 23, 2011 at 6:00 am
I noticed a little chill in the air this morning when I woke up. It is beginning to feel just a little like fall.
To me, fall always means warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove.
And one delicious and healthy way to get a daily dose of cinnamon is with these Healthy Cinnamon Roasted Nuts.
Healthy Cinnamon Roasted Nuts
2 cups nuts (we used cashews this time)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
Move a rack to the middle of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place nuts in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix agave, oil, cinnamon and salt (kids love this part). Pour liquid mixture over nuts and toss well to coat.
Bake in a glass dish (like a Pyrex dish) for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times.
The nuts are done when most of the liquid is sticking to the nuts and not in the bottom of the dish.
Transfer the nuts to parchment paper and allow them to cool thoroughly. Store in a glass jar or container.
Note: Some nuts may take more or less time to cook. It is best to roast one kind of nut at a time, and keep a close watch to prevent burning.
*** Don’t forget! there is a still a chance to win an I’m Organic Eco Travel mug this week. Sign up to win in the comments on this post. ***
Drinking more water and a blogiversary!
August 22, 2011 at 6:00 am
Water is so incredibly important for almost every function of our bodies — from moving to growing to thinking …
So why are most of us walking around dehydrated? I think there are probably lots of reasons, but one I hear most often is, “I just don’t like water.”
And why would we with all the sugary, chemically alternatives?
But pure water is so important for our health, and I know I feel better when I am getting my 8 glasses a day.
So here is something to tempt you to drink a little more water … In honor of the 1-year anniversary of this blog, which is all about making little steps, I’m Organic is giving away one of its cool corn-based eco-travel mugs. I love my mug, and I love filling it up with both hot drinks and cool icy water.
So sign up to win in the comments below, and in the meantime, give some of these ideas a try to get you drinking more water each day:
Add a squeeze of lemon and a squeeze of orange
Add a little cucumber
Try some fresh mint
Experiment with a little frozen fruit in place of ice
Set out your glasses the night before and leave a full glass on the counter or your desk to sip whenever you see it
Fill a big pitcher with icy water and garnishes to keep in the fridge
Track your water in your planner or via a phone ap like Drink More Water!
Drink one big glass as soon as you wake up
Drink another glass when you take your vitamins
If you drink a caffeinated beverage, drink a glass of water to rehydrate your system
Remember that sparkling water and herbal tea count!
How do you get enough water each day?